On Saturday morning, April 24, 2010, we found ourselves on the 7-train weaving our way through the roof tops of Queens, New York…
Our travels took longer than we expected, so we missed all of the Mets BP and arrived probably half way through the Braves BP. We headed down the 3B line toward the LF corner and grabbed a spot to watch the action.
In our third game at Citi Field, I finally remembered to take a photo of the home run apple while it was “up.” This apple is much bigger than the old Shea Stadium apple and instead of being in a top hat it is just in a random raised opening in center field. Its not a bad home run apple, but I favor the old Shea apple, which seemed to have more of a *kitsch* factor.
During BP, we ran into MLBloggers Joe and Alex, whom we had spent time with last October during a rain-soaked game at Citi Field. Tim just loves hanging out with these guys. The day after this game, he couldn’t stop telling his mom about his buddies (e.g., “Did you know Joe has two dogs?” “Alex shared his peanuts with me!”). Anyway, the four of us headed over to the Braves dugout toward the end of BP and one of the guys took this picture of us on the way through LF…
During BP, I noticed how the seats at the top of the LF upper deck appear to be tucked away under the out of town scoreboard…
…they reminded me of some seats we visited at Rogers Centre last season. I decided we’d have to check out those seats during the game.
Here’s a shot of Tim and Alex in deep discussion about the intricacies of peanut cracking…
Shortly before the game, several Braves came out of the dugout to stretch, run and play catch behind third base. Here is hot shot rookie Jason Heyward…
As the game started, we split away from Joe and Alex and headed toward the kids play area in center field. The Mets have batting cages and a whiffle ball field in CF, but not a playset like at many stadiums. Tim was excited to do some hitting. But on the way out to the whiffle ball field, he asked, “Why isn’t Alex coming to watch me hit?” It was pretty funny. I think he remembered that last season, Alex did just that.
The first thing we noticed was that they moved the batting cages from behind the RF wall of the whiffle ball field to behind whiffle ball infield. Before hitting, Tim worked his way across the outfield shagging balls hit by other kids:
Next, it was time to hit the soft toss batting cage…
After some hitting, we found our way up to the last row of the upper deck in deep left center field…
I was excited to see what this Jason Heyward guy was all about. I ended up photographing all of his at-bats at this game, all from different spots in the stadium. However, he hit the third pitch of this at-bat up the middle for a single…
While Tim kept piling in the nachos (like his parents, he loves nachos!), I got this picture of David Wright…
I took this picture of the big open concourse area above the Jackie Robinson rotunda…
We finally found ice cream in CF. It was packed and we didn’t want to find a place in the sun, we went down under “Shea Bridge” and Tim at his ice cream behind the bullpens.
By the way, last season, the Shea Stadium Home Run apple was stationed right where this table now sits under Shea Bridge. You can *sorta* see the field from behind the bullpens. But there are a couple flat screen TVs on the wall right above the bullpens so we could watch the game while Tim ate his ice cream. We also watched the Braves relief pitchers do some stretching.
Right when we arrived behind the bullpens, Heyward came to the plate…
After ice cream, we explored a bit more. We found ourselves in the concourse behind 1B when Heyward came to the plate in the sixth inning. He eventually walked…
After watching Heyward walk, we decided to check out another new feature at Citi FIeld, the Mets Hall of Fame in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
Tim posed with the 1969 and 1986 World Series trophies…
….it was cool to see the 1986 trophy because it was the first World Series that I really followed as a kid. However, I was rooting for the Red Sox who had traded during the 1986 season for two Mariners, Dave Henderson and my at-the-time favorite player, Spike Owen.
Tim also stared down legendary Mets manager, Case Stengel…
Before heading back up to the field level, we snapped this picture of Tim…
Finally, we went to the 3B side concourse where we watched the rest of the game from the SRO area behind the seats in (approximately) section 124:
In the seventh inning, Walla Walla Washington’s own (and former Mariner) Eric O’Flaherty entered the game for the Braves….
In the eighth inning, with the Mets leading by a score of 3-1 (the ultimate final score), Jason Heyward almost grounded into a double play (see the ball bouncing in the dirt to the far left)…
In the 8th inning, neither Jose Reyes nor David Wright could add any insurance runs for the Mets:
The only problem is that the Mets ushers religiously check the tickets of all patrons entering the field level seats during the entire game. When it got to the top of the ninth inning (with the home team winning) and they were still checking tickets, I figured it just wasn’t in the cards for this game, which was fine because we’d had a great day at the ballpark already.
But then something funny happened, with one out in the top of the ninth, Alex came walking up the stairs to the concourse. He was looking for us and he was armed with a field level ticket for a section right by the umpires tunnel. He flashed his ticket for the usher and we were all admitted to the seats with one out to go in the game. We met up with Joe just a short distance from the umpires tunnel. We had just enough time to say hi to Joe when Martin Prado (in for Chipper Jones who got hurt somehow during the game) grounded out to end the game.
Even before the ground ball reached Jose Reyes, we were standing next to the umpires tunnel. Tim called out to “Bruce!!!” as he exited the field. Dreckman reached out and set a nice rubbed up gamer into Tim’s left “Go, Deigo, Go!” glove-clad hand (as shown above, Tim likes to wear these gloves at games because he thinks they are like batting gloves). However, with the thick and slick glove on his hand, his left hand wasn’t big enough to palm the ball and he dropped it back into the tunnel. Luckily, another umpire (I think Paul Emmel) saw the whole thing unfold and he picked it up and handed it back to Tim.
Thanks, Mr. Dreckman and (probably) Mr. Emmel! And thanks, Alex, for the assist!
Tim was exited to collect his third umpire ball in as many games this season and he celebrated by balancing it on his head while sitting on the 3B dugout:
We hung out with Joe and Alex for a few more minutes behind the dugout before getting in line for Kids Run the Bases. Tim was excited to chat up his guys a little more.
While by the dugout, something funny happened. A teenage guy was behind the dugout with a baseball and he asked for an autograph from every Braves player and coach who walked into the dugout. He was getting no takers. So, eventually, he asked a Mets stadium attendant standing at the top step of the Braves dugout for her autograph. Finally, he had a taker. Then, he jokingly asked every police officer, security guard or random attendant to sign his ball. I didn’t see him get any more takers. Eventually, he asked Joe to sign his ball. Then, he asked Tim. So, here you go, Tim’s first ever autograph signed for a fan at an MLB game…
Joe helped him hold the ball steady and he wrote a shaky but legible “T-I-M” on the ball. Then for good measure (at the request of the ball’s owner), he did a little scribble next to his “signture.” Tim got a kick out of the experience.
And just like that it was time for Kids Run the Bases. The line was massively long and it took a long time to get back into the stadium. But as we entered though the bullpen area, we were afforded a special behind the scenes glimpse of the bullpen area:
To the left, that is the Moe’s Club right behind the RF wall. There is a restaurant (at least it looked like one) behind this seating area. To the right, that is the little room where the relief pitchers sit in the Mets bullpen.
I got a couple pictures before (right) and after (left) Tim ran the bases…
I also enjoy it when I am allowed to “chaperone” Tim around the bases — something I have now been allowed to do at Citi Field, Rogers Centre, Miller Park and Progressive Field.
After running the Citi Field bases, we headed out to the parking lot and Tim ran the Shea Stadium bases:
Finally, we got a picture with the Shea Stadium home run apple…
…and called it a day. We hopped the 7-train back to Manhattan, picked up some pepperoni pizza and garlic knots, and drove home. After leaving the house at 8:00 a.m. in the morning, we arrived home at about 9:00 p.m….thirteen hours well spent on another father-son baseball adventure.
2010 Fan Stats:
6 Teams (Orioles and Blue Jays; Braves, Mets, Brewers and Nationals)
3 Ice Cream Helmets (Orioles, Mets, & Nationals)
11 Baseballs (3 Brewers, 3 Nationals, 2 Blue Jays, 3 Umpires)
3 Stadiums (Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citi Field)
2 Player Photos (Jeff Suppan and Scott Olsen)
2 Autographs (Jeff Suppan and Scott Olsen)
2 Kids Run The Bases (Nationals Park, Citi Field)
Last week, I met two of the best baseball players of all time: Pete Rose and Steve Carlton. If you have a short attention span, this entry might not be for you. But if you’re up for it, here is the scoop:
Pete Rose (Friday, December 4, 2009)
I’d been looking forward to this luncheon for a couple months. Last year, I went to the first edition of this same luncheon and saw (and for about 30 seconds spoke to) Mike Schmidt. Its always fun to see one of the all-time greats up-close and personal and hear one of them give a speech. Pete Rose did not dissappoint.
Actually, I had a crazy day at work that day and missed most of the luncheon. When I arrived, Pete was already at the podium and had concluded his speech. But he continued to field questions from the audience for about 1/2 an hour. The guy was absolutely hilarious. He had every person in the place in fits of laughter.
I’ve been to a lot of charity breakfast, lunch and dinner banquets and heard a lot of featured speakers: Pete Rose was hands down the best, most entertaining and most intriguing I have ever seen. And, oddly, despite his world wide fame (or infamy), he was also the most accessible.
Last year, I approached Mike Schmidt before his speech. I was happy to get to say hello, shake his hand, and thank him for visiting our town. But it was obvious that Schmidt wasn’t totally confortable just hanging out and chatting with the public.
Rose, on the other hand, was the epitome of comfortable. After he concluded his Q&A session, he hung around and signed anything and everything that anyone asked him to sign…
While he was signing, Pete was still “on.” The guy is completely (COMPLETELY) at ease talking with ANYONE. Any question anyone had for him: he had an answer. Most people, however, just wanted his autograph. So, I just hung out next to him at the front of the autograph line and chatted with him while he signed. Eventually, the guy next to Pete in the picture above showed up to interview him (for this article) so I arranged for someone I know at the Bar Association to take my picture with Pete (thanks!) and I headed out.
I thought I’d share some of what Pete had to say, both during his Q&A session and during our post-presentation discussions…unfortunately, there were too many hilarious moments to remember them all (or even 1/2 of them), but I’ll do my best.
1. I was going to try to ask a question during the Q&A, but it ended before Pete got to me. So, the first question I asked Pete after the presentation:
“I heard a lot of TV this season that, if Jeter plays until he’s 43 or so, he might be able to break your hit record. What do you think?”
Pete was very diplomatic. I’m pretty sure that inside his head he was saying, “HELL NO!!!!” (Oh, by the way, Pete cursed at will during the Q&A session, which was just one more thing that made me think he is an authentic guy — Pete Rose doesn’t fake it). Anyway, Pete didn’t answer “HELL NO,” instead, he used some facts to lead me to the conclusion that there is no way Jeter is going to pass him. First, Jeter won’t get his 3,000th hit until he is 37 years old. That’s actually the same age Pete was when he got his 3,000th hit. Second, Pete remind me that he got 1,600 hits after he turned 35. (Actually, it looks like he got about 1,700 after turning 35 in 1976). By all accounts, Jeter would also need about 1,600 hits after turning 35. Third, those projections require Jeter to stay on his same pace until age 43, but it become a lot harder to play Major League baseball after age 41. I will have to take Pete’s word on that one. Anyway, Pete used those observations, body language and his tone of voice to indicate that he doesn’t think Jete is going to match his hit total.
I think Pete is right. Jeter has 2,747 hits right now at age 35. He needs 1,509 more hits to equal Rose. To do that by age 43, Jeter would have to average 188 hits per year between ages 36-43. Sure, Pete Rose didn’t get to 4,256 until age 45. But I ask you, do you see Jeter playing for the Yankees at age 45? And if not, do you see him playing for any team other than the Yankees? I don’t. And, I don’t. And I don’t think he’ll average 188 hits per season for 8 more years. But, hey, prove me wrong, Jeter. That would be pretty amazing.
2. During the Q&A session, Pete was talking about the 2009 World Series and he mentioned Ryan Howard’s poor performance, “I tell you what, Ray Charles could have struck out 13 times during the World Series. (Making batting motions) In fact, Ray Charles probably would have made a little contact. At least he could have heard the ball.”
World Series performance aside, Pete seemed to be generally down on Ryan Howard. He thinks the strike outs are unacceptable. He acknowledged that Ryan crushes fastballs, but he just can’t handle the off-speed stuff. He mentioned, “I’d fine my pitcher if he ever threw a fast ball to Ryan Howard. But for some reason, some managers still decide to do it about 50 times a season. They figure its early in the game, what the heck?”
3. Conversely, Pete was very impressed with Chase Utley, “The baseball was looking like a beach ball to him. Its really easy to hit a beach ball!”
4. After his presentation, someone asked Pete, “If you’d fine your pitcher for throwing a fast ball to Ryan Howard, would you fine Jimmy Rollins for hitting a home run?” Rose was perplexed: “What? No. Why would I? He’s going to hit his home runs.” It was suggested to Pete that J-Roll was struggling at the plate because he was trying to hit home runs. Pete disagreed. J-Roll isn’t trying to hit homeruns. He’s just not hitting for a high average. But even when you’re just trying to put good swings on the ball, a pro ball player like J-Roll is going to hit some home runs. So, no, Pete wouldn’t fine J-Roll.
But, this begged the question (and Pete asked it), “But just because you’re fast, does that mean you should be hitting lead-off?”
How about Alfonso Soriono someone asks? “I don’t know why in the world anyone would give him 18 million dollars.” So Pete wouldn’t hit Soriano lead off? “I’d bat him 7th. And you got to remember, he was a second basemen for the Yankees.”
5. This is when Pete made a statement that I just couldn’t endorse: “You know, the guy they love today is this ‘Ichiro’ (he pronounced it “itch-er-oh”). You know, anyone is going to get 200 hits in a season if they’re up 700 times. But, when you’re a lead-off hitter, you have one job and one job only — to get on base. Now, I had 4,200 hits, but I also walked 1,600 times [actually 1,566 times – 14th most of all-time]. He (‘itch-er-oh’) only gets about 30 walks.”
(By the way, all of these “quotes” are actually just paraphrases. Its not like I was recording the conversation.)
Okay. I stood there silent at this point. I didn’t have any need to argue with Pete Rose. He was being very cool and friendly to everyone. But, I think that Rose is off-base on his Ichiro assessment.
Yes, Rose averaged 71 walks per season compared to Ichiro’s 47 average walks per season – a difference of 24 on the positive side for Rose. But Ichiro has averaged 231 hits per season over the course of his career compared to 194 person season for Rose — a difference of 37 on the positive side for Ichiro. And, while I understand that Rose’s career numbers include his declining years toward the end, you have to realize that Ichiro’s MLB career number don’t include his numbers in Japan from age 20-26 when Ichiro was just flat out ridiculous at the plate:
As it stands today, Rose’s career on base percentage was .375 and Ichiro’s is a modestly better .378. But if you look at his years in Japan, Ichiro’s OBP increases (he was over .420 career in Japan).
One more thing, honestly, I can’t remember if Pete said “700 at-bats” or “700 plate appearances” per season. Pete never had 700 at bats in a season. Only a four people ever have (and one of them, Juan Samuel, did not get 200 hits that season). Ichiro has had 7000 at-bats exactly once in his career. Given those facts, I assume Pete meant plate appearances, not at-bats. If so, I’d note that Pete had over 700 plate appearances 6 times without collecting 200 hits.
So, while I have the utmost respect for the all-time hits king, Ichiro is the man. I wouldn’t want anyone else leading off for the Mariners. And I will reject all arguments or opinions to the contrary.
Sorry, I had to defend my Mariner. Now back to more good times with Pete Rose.
5. Pete said some things during his Q&A session that really gave you a peak into the inner workings of Pete Rose’s brain. You know what is in there? Baseball. And Winning.
First, Pete shared an extremely interesting story about why he was “Charlie Hustle.” Pete Rose’s dad (Pete Rose) was a blue collar guy and a star athlete in Cincinnati, OH in his own right. Rose mentioned that “I’m not the most famous Pete Rose in Cincinnati.”
Pete’s dad would come to games to watch Pete play for the Reds. He didn’t make a big deal about it. He didn’t come into the club house or try to capitalize on his son’s success. He just came to watch his son. Pete usually wouldn’t even see his dad at the game. Now, Pete won the NL batting title in 1968 (.335 in “The Year of the Pitcher“) and 1969 (.348). So, in 1970, Pete was already clearly a star. Pete’s dad came to the ballpark one day — I think Pete said it was a doubleheader. Pete hit well. But grounded out to second late in the game.
When Pete left the clubhouse after the game, he found his dad leaning against his car. Pete said hi to his dad. His dad responded, “In the eighth inning, when you grounded out to second, did you run it out?” Pete reflected on the game and then responded, “No, I guess I didn’t. You know, it was a good pitch and I missed it. I was mad at myself because I should have got a base hit on that pitch so I guess I didn’t run.” Pete’s father responded:
“When you do that you make me look bad! Don’t embarrass me in this town! When you hit the ball, you run as hard as you can until they hell ‘safe’ or ‘out.’ “
Pete’s dad then turned and walked away.
Pete’s dad obviously put a lot of pressure on him to do things the right way. I got the feeling that it wasn’t always easy for Rose. But you could tell he really respected and was grateful to his father for teaching him to do things the right way (well, with the exception of the gambling stuff, I guess).
6. The second thing that Pete said that really struck a chord with me what that at the end of 162 games, he was mad that the season was over. He was upset he had to go home and couldn’t play ball until the next season. That is a feeling that I don’t get from a lot of today’s players. But I think its a feeling that a lot of MLBloggers can relate to. I know that I miss the season the moment the final out is recorded.
Pete mentioned that he was at the ballpark every off day. “It was where I lived.” He loved hitting in the cages. He loved taking ground balls at whatever position he was playing or working on at the time. He just flat out loved baseball and playing it for a living. I can respect that.
7. In a non-baseball moment, Pete mentioned that he and Alex Rodriguez have exchanged text messages on a regular basis for many years. But when A-Rod started dating Madonna, A-Rod suddenly stopped returning Pete’s texts. Pete remarked, “He dumped me for Madonna!” Once A-Rod and Madonna stopped seeing each other and A-Rod moved on to Kate Hudson, A-Rod resumed his text message exchange with Pete.
8. During the Q&A session, somone asked, “Who would win in a head-to-head match up, the 1980 Phillies or the 2008 Phillies. Pete instantly responded, “They’d win. We’re all in our damn 60s!” After discussing some of the strengths of each team, Pete then commented, “Well, if it was Steve Carlton versus Cliff Lee [for Pete’s sake, we’ll pretend Lee was actually on the 2008 Phillies team], no one would win. We’d probably go nothing-nothing all night. Now, if it was Cole Hamels pitching (a BIG grin comes across Pete’s face), well, I’d like our chances.”
9. Okay, we’ve made it to the Ninth. The last story I’ll share is the big obvious story. Someone asked something along the lines of “What’s going on with your reinstatement and when (if ever) will you be in the Hall of Fame?”
The bottom line is that Pete has no clue. He said he thinks he’s being teased. For example, Selig just announced he’ll retire in three years. It didn’t sound like Rose was buying that story. He theorized that Selig is trying to wait to reinstate Rose until after Rose is too old to manage. Or, he thinks Selig is waiting until Pete dies. “But the joke’s on Selig, I’m gonna outlive him!” But, as I mentioned, the bottom line is that Pete doesn’t know when or if he’ll get back into baseball and into the Hall of Fame.
10. Oh, wait…we’re heading into extra innings. Two more brief comments. First, someone asked Pete if he’d ever hurt a catcher playing so hard. Pete responded, “Are you a baseball fan!? Where were you in 1970?“ He then told the story or lighting up Ray Fosse in the 1970 all-star game. Pete talked about the purpose of the game (“The purpose of the game is to WIN. That’s the only purpose. You play to WIN!”) and how you play the game (clean but hard). He said that, if you paid for a ticket to come to see Rose and his team play, he was damn sure going to do everything in his power to make sure you saw a win. And that is how it should be. He talked about hard (but clean) slides at 2B and pitchers brushing batters back with a inside pitch. This is all part of the game and so is running over a catcher if he is blocking the plate. In sum, Rose turned back to the guy who asked the question, “So the answer to your question, you bet I did.”
Okay, one more bonus Rose comment. At the end of his Q&A, he said, “Does someone have one more question?” A guy stood up and asked something like, “what do you think about all the discussion about wood bats vs. metal bats, etc., etc.?” Pete scans the audience, “Does someone have one more GOOD question?“
And that was my run-in with Pete Rose. I left the event a much bigger fan of Pete Rose (aside from his silly thoughts on Ichiro). He is a great lover of baseball. He is a great people person. He isn’t smug. He isn’t aloof. He isn’t better than me or you or the next guy. He’s just a guy with a lot of baseball knowledge and experience and a desire to share it with anyone interested in hearing about it. If you have a chance to go to a similar event featuring Pete Rose, I highly recommend it.
Steve Carlton (Saturday, December 5, 2009)
My Steve Carlton experience was much shorter and more ordinary, but it was cool nonetheless. Tim and I met “Lefty” at an autograph signing event at the Majestic Tent Sale at the VF Outlets in Reading, PA.
Every couple months, Majestic puts on an amazing tent sale at the VF Outlets and it is standard to have a free autograph signing event featuring a player or two from the Phillies or the Eagles. This is the second Hall of Famer I’ve run into at the Majestic Tent Sale. Last year, Michael Jack Schmidt followed his luncheon experience by signing at the Majestic Tent Sale the next day.
I learned that some people lined up to get free tickets for the Carlton signing at 1:30 a.m. the night (morning) before (of). I, on the other hand, had a connection and I landed two tickets without waiting in the cold dark and long ticket line in the morning…
…still we got to stand in the actual autograph line.
Eventually we made our way up to Lefty…
…and like Rose, he too was very nice. He’d have little 2 minute discussions with each person (assuming the person engaged him in conversation). He was extremely nice and cordial, and he went out of his way to connect with Tim.
Tim, however, was tired as could be after waiting through the autograph line. Luckily, he found some activities to keep him occupied…
Or laying his head on his mother’s shoulder.
Oh, yeah, and Carlton mentioned that he had a nice dinner the night before with Pete Rose at a local country club. That would have been an interesting dinner discussion.