Tagged: FirstEnergy Stadium

The Ultimate MiLB Ballpark Experience (8/6/10)

Coming into the first week of August, we still hadn’t hit our first Reading Phillies game of the season.  But early in the week, my wife sent me an email at work about a promotion scheduled for Friday, August 6th.  We couldn’t pass it up.

The Promotion:  R-Phils Kids Club Night at the Ballpark.

Translation — camping in the outfield!  We have “camped” in KOA camping cabins, but Tim had never camped in an actual tent.

Sign us up!

We figured it would a late night, so we showed up a little late for the game.  As we entered the ballpark, Tim asked me to take some pictures of these “trophies” and other artifacts from R-Phils of the past:

1 - R-Phils old stuff.JPGI had some comp’d tickets from a rain out at the end of the 2009 season.  Our seats were in row 20 of red section 7.  Here was our view:

2 - firstenergy stadium red 7 row n seat 14 panorama.jpgShortly after we arrived, we were happy to see Hillbilly Hoff making a blue light special announcement from the top of the dugout:

3 - Hill Billy Hoff.JPGTim spent some time taking pictures.  His camera skills have improved a lot since last season:

4 - MiLB Picts by Tim.JPGI asked Tim where he wanted to camp.  He zoomed in on the Erie Seawolves’ centerfielder…

5 - camping spot.JPG…”Right where that ‘baser’ is standing.”  (BTW, Tim likes to call fielders “basers.”)

I was quite interested to see that former New York Mets outfielder, Timo Perez…

6 - Timo Perez Minor Leaguer.JPG…was playing for the R-Phils.  He ended up going 0-3 with three fly outs…on each of those three swings shown above.

The nights Roast Beef RBI guy was DH Tagg Bozied… 

7 - Tagg No Roast Beef Bozied.JPG…he failed to collect any RBIs and, therefore, we failed to win any roast beef.

Tim enjoyed his first MiLB ice cream helmet of the season:

8 - MiLB Ice Cream Face.JPGLater in the game, we relocated to the homerun trough in LF…

9 - racing in HR trough.JPG…where Tim spinted the length of the trough over and over and over and over and over.  And then a couple more times.

In the 8th and 9th innings, we found ourselves back in the infield.  Here was our quite excellent view…

10 - the blue seats.JPG…as the Seawolves beat the R-Phils.

After the game, they had a tennis ball throwing contest for charity…

11 - tennis ball throw.JPG…people bought the balls (which had numbers written on them) and then tried to throw their balls into various hoops and a basket in the back of a moving truck.

Next, it was time for some fireworks…

IMG_8938.JPG…which Tim absolutely loved.

After the fireworks, it was time to get ready for some camping!  We grabbed our tent and sleeping bags from our car and reported back to the main entrance.  Tim was psyched!

12 - let us in its camping time.JPG

We brought our gloves and we were ready to go crazy playing around in the outfield.  Camping, free reign in the outfield of a professional baseball stadium…what more could you ask for!?

Tim didn’t want to risk missing out on our spot in CF, so we sprinted out to the OF…

13 - camp site.JPG…we made it!  Sweet.  We were in the outfield…the beautiful, beautiful outfield.

And check this out, we literally put our tent up on top of the centerfielder’s spike marks:

14 - CF footprints.JPGI set up our tent…

15 - tent up time for some catch.JPG

…and it was “game on!”

Here was the veiw from the warning track in straight away CF…

16 - firstenergy stadium CF warning track panorama.jpg…with our tent right in the middle.

On the big screen behind Tim… 

17 - throwing like crazy.JPG…they showed a double feature.  First, it was the short movie “The Phanatic Goes to Hollywood.”  I don’t think anyone watched it because we were all busy playing catch and running around in the OF grass.  It was quite sight, fathers and son (and a few daughters) were spread out all over the place having a great time playing catch.

It was such an odd experience being out there in the OF with all of these other fathers and sons playing catch with tents all around us.  It was almost surreal…almost like we were in a movie or something.  In short, it was awesome.

You had to buy tickets to attend the sleep over.  They were $10/each, but kids 4 and under were free (they are free for R-Phils games as well).  So it was $10 total for me and Tim and our tickets came with a midnight meal.

We headed past the infield…

18 - infield view.JPG…and into the grandstand concourse to pick up our “dinner”…

19 - hot dogs and lemonade.JPG…ah, yeah, nothing beats some hot dogs and lemonade while laying on your sleeping bag in CF:

20 - food in the OF.JPGAfter eating, it was right back to playing catch and running around…

21 - more catching throwing and running.JPG…it was pretty funny playing with Tim.  It was almost midnight and he was a combination of ecstatic and exhausted.  But there was no slowing down in sight.

Play, play, play…

22 - more throwing.JPG

Check out how Tim was stumbling around with tiredness as he just kept playing…

By the way, my voice sounds weird in that clip because I was eating sunflower seeds while we were playing catch. Tim just kept playing and fake falling and rolling for ballls…

The entire OF was open for tents, but everyone (but us) was set up in LF or right behind 2B.  We were the lone strays out in CF, and RF was completely tent free.  Just wide open play space for all of the kids and adult-kids.

We headed over to RF and Tim practiced his accuracy by throwing balls off of the “25” and “53” in the lottery billboards…

23 - target practice.JPGHere was the view from the RF foul line…

23a - firstenergy stadium RF warning track panorama.jpg…I think the sprinklers really added to the surreal feel of the whole night.

Around midnight, people started settling in around their tents for the feature presentation.  I realized I hadn’t taken a picture of the two of us on the field, so I gave it my best shot…

24 - exhausted smile around midnight.JPG…Tim was so tired that this was the best smile he could manage in our three picture attempts.

From our tent, we could see the Reading Pagoda lit up off in the distance:

25 - pagoda lights.JPGAnd then it was time for the feature presentation — “Rookie of the Year”:

26 - movie time in CF.JPGPretty much everyone set up on their sleeping bags outside of their tents…

IMG_9023.JPG…although he looks like he is sleeping, Tim is actually watching the movie in that shot.  One really cool thing about the night (among the many cool things about the night) was that, as we laid next to each other watching the beginning of “Rookie of the Year,” Tim told me that he wished Kellan could have come with us.  I told him Kellan is too young to camp, but we can bring him next year.

After slowing down from all of the action, Tim was a goner.  He only made it about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes into the movie before he fell sleep.

I transferred him into our tent and then took a picture of the scene, now quieted down considerably for the movie: 

27 - our tent.JPGThe little guy was fast sleep…

28 - lights out.JPG….as I finished watching the movie.

Our little A-frame style tent felt so small.  Usually, you pull a little rope from each side and stake them in the ground to spread the tent out a bit.  But there were no stakes allowed in the OF!

I noticed that most people had much newer and cooler looking tents than my probably 15-20 year old tent…

29 - much better tents.JPG…I guess we’ll have to upgrade.

After the movie, people went to bed.  They turned off all of the stadium lights, but left the big screen lit up like a big night light.

I figured this was as unique of a ballpark experience as I was ever going to experience so I best make the most of it.  After all of the lights were out but our night light, and no one else was stirring, I took a final walk around the OF.

I think this is probably the most unique ballpark picture I’ll ever take:

30 - firstenergy stadium LCF warning track lights out panorama panorama.jpg

The infield and grandstand were peacefully resting up for another big day of baseball on Saturday…

31 - dark infield.JPG…here is essentially a reverse angle of the last picture that shows our night light…

32 - our nightlight.JPGFrom a deep sleep, we were awoken at 7 a.m. the next morning to the sound of the stadium PA annoucer thanking us for attending the night in the ball park.

Tim was still really tired and it took him a few minutes to finally make it out of the tent…

33 - sleepy center fielder.JPG…by then, most of the other campers were already gone!  I think they must have woken up early.  That or they are speed packers who didn’t want to maximize there experience.

Not us, we’re ballpark lingerers and experience-soaker-uppers.  So, it was time for a morning picture…

34 - after a great night.JPG…and some running in the OF…

35 - maximizing our time with more running in the OF.JPGBy the time we were all packed up…

36 - thanks RPhils.JPG…there were only two other tents left.  And, I recognized all of the remaining adults as employees in the R-Phils front office (I know them from playing softball against them).

So, we were the last remaining members of the “public.”

Oh, well.  So be it.

It was time for some more catch…

37 - wait lets throw some more.JPG…I mean, when were we going to have another opportunity to wake up in CF and play catch?  Not any time soon!  So we had to play some catch.  And we did.

Finally, we decided we better head out.  We stopped for another picture by the infield on our way to the gate behind 3B that leads to the concourse:

38 - morning infield.JPGAfter walking through the grandstand concourse, we decided we should poke our heads out one last time…

39 - good bye  FirstEnergy field.JPG…and wave a proper good-bye to our campsite.

This was one of the coolest nights.  Thank, R-Phils.  Sign us up for next year.


Minor Disappointment (AA Rainout)

1a - RBBSL Logo.jpgI mentioned earlier that I play softball in the Reading-Berks Business Softball League (RBBSL) against the Reading Phillies (and other local businesses).  Our season ended in mid-August when Herbein & Company successfully defended its 2008 League Championship.  This season, we were playing for more than just bragging rights.  Friday, August 28, 2009, would be “RBBSL Night at the R-Phils.”  The league champions would be honored on the field prior to the game.  Despite my squad’s poor showing and failure to even make the RBBSL playoffs this season (after losing to Herbein in the Championship game in 2008), we were excited for the game.  We were all set up with party seating on the LF Coors Light Party deck.  I was fully planning on a homerun landing on our picnic table while watching the game.

But there was problem.  After a nice sunny day, the skies opened up and the rain began to fall before Tim, Colleen and I even arrived at FirstEnergy Stadium.

When we reached the party deck, this was the scene:

1 - firstenergy party deck rainy panaramic.jpg

Moments later, they announced that the game would be delayed until around 7:40.

Tim grabbed his trusty bat (more on that trusty bat later)…

3 - tim and bat.jpg

…and we headed over to the covered astroturf area so Tim could take some hacks:

2 - swinging.jpg

This area is down the left field line behind the stands.  By day, this is the batting cage for the team.  In fact, see that blue fence behind Tim in the shot to the right?  Behind that fence is the netting of the cage, an L-screen, and a big cart full of baseballs.  Last season, I witnessed some naughty kids (not Tim!) sqeeze in there and take a ball out of the cart.

During games, the cage is pushed back and locked up, and the turf area is left open for kids to run around.  Also, people will pull tables over there and hang out and eat some food under cover at times.

Tim ran around on the turf and took a lot of hacks.

After a while, we took a walk around the stadium.  This is a look into the concourse under/behind the infield grandstand:

4 - firstenergy inner concourse.jpg

FirstEnergy Stadium has a great old time baseball feel going on in the concourse.  As concourses go, I really enjoy this one.

The picture to the left is taken from behind the 3B side as we are walking toward the home plate area.  The picture to the right shows the food stands directly behind home plate.

We kept walking toward the 1B side.  I think I have mentioned before that the R-Phils dugout does not connect to the club house via underground tunnel.  Instead, the players have to walk through the concourse to get to the club house.  Therefore, it was not a big surprise when we walked by the R-Phils club house entrance and found a couple R-Phils signing autographs for a bunch of kids:

5 - signing in the concourse.jpg

I’m not sure who these guys are.  But it sure looks like the picture (being held by an autograph seeker) in the bottom right corner says “Kyle,” which makes me wonder if the guy in the middle is Kyle Drabek.  It doesn’t really look like him to me.  Maybe its Scott Mathieson.  Any guesses?  The guy in the back sort of looks like hot prospect Dominic Brown, but I’m not certain.

[NOTE:  in the background, the yellow sign says “PLAYERS ARE NOT PERMITTED TO SIGN AUTOGRAPHS IN THE CONCOURSE BEFORE THE GAME.”  I guess these guys didn’t get that memo.]

We walked right on by the autographing and headed out to the open-air concourse down the 1B line.  Someone was there who I wanted to see:

6 - jayson stark.jpg

ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Stark was there selling and signing his book.  We neither bought the book nor got anything autographed.  He doesn’t know it, but I have a past with Mr. Stark.  He once made some derogatory comments about my Mariners, and I did not approve.  Therefore, unbeknownst to the author, I boycotted Stark for decent amount of time.  Maybe a year or two.

But then something happened.  Do you ever get the feeling that, despite its massive size and scope, there just isn’t enough suitable baseball content to read on the internet?  I get that feeling a lot.  Therefore, at some point, I forgave Jayson Stark and I released him from his ban.

From the picture above, you might be able to tell that Tim has not yet forgiven Stark (despite the fact he wasn’t even born yet when Stark made his offending comments).  Tim loves everyone he meets at games.  But he wanted nothing to do with Stark.  It might have had something to do with Stark commenting to us that the Mariners aren’t going to win the World Series (or some nonsense to that effect).

 After visiting with Stark, we headed over to behind the R-Phils dugout and took this rainy panaramic view:

7 - firstenergy 1B dugout rainy panaramic.jpg

Next, we went behind the stands into the open-air concourse and Tim did some dancing to the sweet sounds of a live band playing a set back there:

8 - dancing.JPG

By the way, the game still hadn’t started, the tarp was still on, and it was probably about 7:30 at this point.  Even worse, its started to rain harder:

9 - rainy tunnel.JPG

We headed back to the Party Deck, and an annoucement came over the PA system:  the game was cancelled.

We’d get to use our tickets at any future game this season or next.  But, shoot, I was hoping to get this game in with my co-workers and softball league-mates.

As the entry title suggests, it was a *minor* dissappointment.  A minor league dissappointment, that is.  Of course, I must hand it to the R-Phils.  They handled this rain out flawlessly, which is more than I can say about the last rain out game Tim and I attended (back on June 3, 2009).

I took one more picture of the rain-soaked field before we headed home for alternate plans – family movie night (“Surfs Up”):

10 - rainy deck.JPG

One final note:  the game was rescheduled as part of a double-header on the following day.  Unfortunately, it poured rain again and the doubleheader was rained out.  Therefore, the R-Phils and Bowie Baysox had to play back-to-back double-headers on Sunday and Monday.


Double-A Pedro (8-5-09)

1a - RBBSL Logo.jpgMy company has a softball team in the soon-to-be world famous Reading-Berks Business Softball League (RBBSL).  Sadly, we were eliminated from playoff contention a couple weeks back after a tough loss to the squad from EnerSys.  Last Monday, we assembled at Cacoosing Meadows for our final game of the season, another tough battle against the accountants of Reinsel Kuntz Lesher.  On the field next to us, it was a battle between EnerSys and the Reading Phillies (their front office).  As rec. league softball goes, it was huge game — the R-Phils won 10-9 and punched their ticket to the post-season while sending EnerSys home for a long winter.

After the game, I was chatting with my buddy from the R-Phils and he informed me that the R-Phils had just announced some big news…

1- Pedro on RPhils.jpg

…Pedro Martinez would be making a rehab start for the R-Phils on Wednesday, August 5th. 

Baseballtown was a buzz.  A future hall of famer was about to grace the mound at FirstEnergy Stadium.  I was in the middle of a ridiculously busy week at work.  But I decided I’d take a short break on Wednesday night so Tim and I could check out Pedro on his comeback trail.

2a - zagurski_mike.jpgBy the way, do you see the guy pictured just below Pedro on the R-Phils website?  That’s Mike Zagurski.   He’s had a cup of coffee in Philadelphia and boasts a spotless MLB record of 1-0.  A couple weeks back, my softball team faced off against the R-Phils on the night of the MLB All-Star game.  It was also MiLB All-Star break so Zagurski and a couple other professional R-Phils players came out to Cacoosing Meadows to cheer on their softball team….and to heckle mine.   Well, mostly, I think they were there to heckle us.  And they heckled us, and heckled us…and then they heckled us some more.  Ultimately, we lost the game by one run.  But the silver lining is that I can now say I’ve been heckled by someone who has pitched in the major leagues.  Not too shabby.

2 - Baseballtown Sells Out.JPGAfter our softball game, I ordered a ticket to the game online.  Entry was free for Tim (0-4 is free at the R-Phils).  It was a good thing I ordered it online because, for the first time in team history (or so I’m told) the R-Phils completely sold out.  As the sign says, they even sold out of standing room only tickets.

We actually got lucky, on the way home from work to get ready to head to the game, my buddy called and said he had four extra tickets.  Someone had given them to him, but he already had tickets.  He ended up giving them to us so we’d have reserved seats and wouldn’t have to battle the crowd for General Admission seats or standing room.  It was defintely a good thing, because check out how crowded it was at the game…

6 - packed house.JPG…see how people are using the stairs down into the LF homerun trough as standing room to watch the game?  Crazy.  It was packed!

As we arrived, they were announcing the starting line-ups.

“And pitching for your Reading Phillies, warming up in the bullpen, Pedro Martinez.”

3 - pitching for the r-phils.JPG

We headed straight to the bullpen, and got there in time to watch about two pitches before Pedro was officially “warm.”  So we walked back toward the grand stand with Pedro, his catcher and pitching coach Steve Schrenk walking right down the foul line along with us.

4 - and warming up in the bullpen.JPG

Notice that Pedro is wearing No. 41 rather than his usual No. 45.  In that last photo, Schrenk’s pullover is covering up Pedro’s number.  Based on a close analysis and comparison of Schrenk’s and Pedro’s career numbers, it probably wouldn’t have killed Schrenk to give up No. 45 for a night.  Although, it obviously didn’t kill Pedro to give No. 41 a test drive.

The R-Phils took the field and Pedro did some more warming up:

5 - warm ups on mound.JPG

And then it was time, Austin Krum stood in and Pedro delivered his first pitch in Double-A baseball since he was a 19 year old kid in 1991 pitching for the San Antonio Missions in the Texas League:

8 - 1st AA pitch since 1991.JPG

The At-Bat would not go well for Krum.

However, things would go much better for Edwin Nunez in the first inning:

9a - Edwin Nunez HR.JPG

Nunez hit a bomb that landed inside that yellow circle up there.

The rest of the inning went much better for Pedro:

  • K – Austin Krum
  • K – Reegie Corona
  • HR – Edwin Nunez
  • K – Chris Malec

 Totals:  3 Strike Outs, 1 Hit

All the while, Tim was enjoying a chocolate ice cream helmet with sprinkles:

8a - tim and ice cream.JPG

By the way, here was our view:

9 - rphils pedro panaramic.jpgNext, the R-Phils came to the plate.  Did you pay attention to the Phillies-Blue Jays Roy Halladay trade talks?  One name you might have heard tossed around was Dominic Brown.  Well, in the bottom of the first, Brown absolutely crushed a ball to tie the score up at 1-1:

10 - dominic brown gonzo.jpgBrown’s HR exited the stadium and landed out on Route 61. 

Building on his early total of three strike outs, Pedro kept dealing in the top of the second:

10 a - rphils pedro LF trough panaramic.jpgTop of the second:

  • K – P. J. Pilittere
  • K – Richie Robnett
  • ground out – Edwar Gonzalez

Totals:  5 Strike Outs, 1 Hit

Between innings, the R-Phils kept us entertained with the antics of the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor:

11 - crazy hotdog vendor.jpg

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor throws hot dogs into the stands much to the delight of the fans.  However, on this day, thrown hot dogs were not enough to satisfy the capacity crowd.  We wanted more Pedro.  And in the top of the third, he delivered again:

12 - pedro motion.jpg

Top of the third results:

  • K – James Cooper
  • K – Marcos Vechionacci
  • ground out – Austin Krum (Pedro hustles over and covers first)

 Totals:  7 Strike Outs, 1 Hit

In the bottom of the third, it was D-Bro time again — and he delivered again…

14 - dominic brown strokes a double.jpg

…not a home run this time…

15 - dominic brown double.jpg

…a solid double.  This guy is looking good.

Tim was pretty excited for two reasons…

16 - no foul balls.JPG

1) he had his glove and he was ready to catch a foul ball — but none came anywhere near us, and…

17 - roast beef.JPG

2) Our Arby’s Roast Beef batter was at the plate.  If Brian Stavisky could hit in D-Bro from second base, we’d all win free roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s — unfortunately, Stavisky didn’t come through for us.

After someone else did Stavisky’s job (no free roast beef for us), Pedro was back to the mound in the top of the fourth.

By the way, ever heard of Reegie Corona?  He plays for the Trenton Thunder.  However, last February-March, as a result of the Rule 5 draft, he played for our Seattle Mariners.  I never saw him bat on TV during the spring, so I didn’t know about his crazy wide stance.  Check it out:

13 - reegie corona.JPG

…but the important thing is that Pedro had his payback on his Double-A arch nemisis, Edwin Nunez:

19 - strike three.jpg

“Strike Three!”

Top of the fourth results:

  • K – Reegie Corona
  • K – Edwin Nunez
  • single – Chris Malec
  • ground out to S.S. – P. J. Pilittere

Totals:  9 Strike Outs, 2 Hit

After the top of the fourth, something funny happened that I thought was noteworthy.  After the ground out to end the inning, Stavisky (the R-Phils first basemen) rolled the ball back to the pitcher’s mound.  Third basemen Neil Sellers ran by the ball to the dugout.  Then, he turned around and back to the mound and grabbed the ball.  I was watching him and I figured he wanted the ball to keep as a keepsake from his game backing up Pedro Martinez.  But he went and grabbed the ball and threw it to a fan above the dugout.  I thought that was pretty cool.  He knew someone would want that Pedro-pitched ball.

Anyway, I took one last picture of the field, it was a beautiful night for baseball…

18 - nice evening.JPG

…but, as I said, I was crazy busy at work this week.  So we cut our night short after four innings so I could go home and work, work, work.   But it was an excellent four innings of getting to see Pedro pitch some minor league ball.  And the R-Phils did an excellent job playing host to a huge crowd for the night.

Pedro ended up having two more strike outs over two more innings.  He gave up a couple more tuns, one of which was unearned.  We’ll see how he holds up when he makes it to Philadelphia.  I was watching the gun throughout the night.  I saw one pitch clock in at 91 mph.  But he seemed to throw mostly curves and change ups that were in the 60s and 70s.  In fact, he had one curve that was 64 mph.