Since Kellan’s birth in mid-July, our family has been crazy busy. Tim and I only went to one game in July. But we had big plans for August.
It all started on August 8, 2010, when Tim and I hopped in our trusty Prius and headed down to Camden Yards to see the Orioles take on the Chicago White Sox.
We had one major goal for the day: get Tim’s picture with former Mariners ace Freddy Garcia. I loved Freddy as a Mariner, and I thought it would be great to meet him. And what better place than at Camden Yards? I don’t know if there is another stadium where the players are as accessible as they are in Baltimore.
One problem, we didn’t have “season tickets” that would allow us to get into the main part of the stadium half an hour early. And our man with the season tickets hook-up, Camden Yards regular Avi Miller, was home ill.
So, we hung out in the shady seats in RCF for the first half hour…
…it really didn’t matter too much though. There was no batting practice and almost no one was on the field. One Oriole was running in deep RF, and he gave Tim a wave a said “hi” as he ran by at one point. A little later, a couple White Sox came out to play catch in shallow LF. I used my camera to zoom in on them, and Freddy was not among them.
When the stadium finally opened, we headed over to the 3B line to watch the remaining White Sox play catch. I did not recognize any of them…
Eventually, Mr. 68 headed back toward the dugout. He tossed a baseball to a kid in a White Sox shirt and another to a kid in a Mariners hat…
There was NOTHING happening on the field.
We headed over to LF for no apparent reason. While over there, we ended up getting a special picture — with Babe Ruth — for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt. Then we got a picture of the two of us in the cross-aisle…
We hung out over there for a while, but then I had an idea. There is something special that the O’s do before pretty much every game. The O’s Bird heads out to LF and plays a little whiffleball with kids he pulls out of the crowd. He does all sorts of funny stuff, like throwing a base when the kids are running the bases.
Its been my goal all season to get Tim involved, but it hasn’t happened. In the car ride on the way down, I asked Tim if he’d like to try to play whiffle ball with the Bird. I had to prep him for the possiblity because he takes his base running seriously. I feared that he would get upset if he didn’t understand that the Bird likes to do things such as throw the bases while a kid is running the bases. It was good that I prepped him, because he didn’t understand why the Bird would do that. I told him it was just to be funny and play a joke on the kids. Tim liked that and he was excited to try to get in on the whiffleball.
When I remembered it, I asked Tim if he still wanted to try to play whiffleball with the Bird. He did. So I suggested we head back into the stadium. Right when we made it down the LF line, I saw two O’s employees walking out with an equipment bag. I flagged them down and asked if Tim could get in on the whiffle ball action. The answer was “YES!” Sweet.
When the Bird arrived, the guy I’d asked came over and pulled Tim out of the stands…
Essentially, each kid just takes one hit and then rounds the bases. Tim was ready for the next pitch…
As Tim rounded first, the Bird ran to second base…
[TIME OUT: I have to mention that the last picture is one of my favorites. As Tim is rounding first, you can see Juan Pierre and Alex Rios walking in shallow CF, Carlos Quentin is at the far right walking toward the foul line, and a couple Orioles are playing catch in deep CF. How cool is that? The next kid actually hit the ball to “RF” and Alex Rios fielded it and gunned it back to the Bird.]
…Instead, the Bird just stood there as Tim approached to touch second. Then, the Bird grabbed the base and used it like a matador’s red cape…
Tim immediately bolted for third. He thrives on eluding would-be taggers. The Bird chased behind Tim trying to tag him…
Tim scored! And then he kept running straight back to me. He was only out there for a minute or two, but he had a blast and absolutely loved it. He wants to do it again!
After whiffleball, a former Mariners great (but not Freddy Garcia) was signing autographs down the foul line. I had totally forgot that slick fielding former M’s short stop Omar Vizquel plays for the White Sox this season. But, guess what? He does.
And here he is signing the baseball that Erick Threets had given to Tim earlier in the day:
Now here is something interesting (at least to me). We’re not big autograph guys (we’re picture guys). In fact, before reading it on other MLBlogs, I had never even heard the term “the sweet spot.” But, over the past two seasons, Tim and I have collected about 10-15 autographs on baseballs that we’ve caught at games, and Omar is the first and only player to ever sign his name on the sweet spot. Every single other player has signed his name on…whatever they call the non-sweet spot.
As I said, autographs are good, but we’re picture guys. So this was the real prize:
For the record, that is Tim and a future Hall of Famer. I know his offensive numbers aren’t all that special (actually, his hit total is pretty special), but I would put Omar Vizquel up against any short stop in the history of baseball. The guy is absolutely incredible with the glove. I seriously do not think there has been a better short stop in the game, at least during my life time. And guess what? Omar’s offensive numbers are as good or better than Ozzie Smith’s numbers. So for my money, the guy is a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Bottom line: when we weren’t able to get a picture with Freddy, this picture with Omar more than made up for the disappointment.
A few minutes later, we watched Omar show off some of his fancy glove work…
…along the foul line. Omar can catch a baseball by letting it just tap the heel of his glove to deaden the throw before his bare hand swipes the ball out of the air. Its truly amazing, and incredibly hard to do. I’ve only been able to do it a couple times in my life. I should have taken a video of it because Little O was doing it here and trying to teach his teammate (not Ramirez, but the guy out in CF) how to do it. If you ever want to learn a thing or two about catching a baseball, you should seriously consider just taking a seat and watching Omar during pre-game warm ups.
By the time the game started, we’d already had a full day’s worth of fun.
It seems like we are always on the RF/1B side of the stadium at Camden Yards. I wanted to switch it up. We started off the game in the handicapped accessible seats in the cross-aisle behind section 62. We were standing in the cross-aisle and I asked the usher which way was north so I could figure out which direct the sun would be moving. I told him we wanted to avoid the sun. He suggested we sit in the handicapped accessible seats behind the section he was working, which were shaded at the time.
Here was the view:
Tim pointed out the pitchers mound for me…
Then, Tim took over the controls of the camera. Here are some samples of the shots he took:
In the top of the first, Guthrie gave up a single to Alex Rios and a double to Paul Konerko, but escaped without giving up any runs. Buehrle sat the Orioles down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first.
The first scoring of the day occurred in the bottom of the second inning. O’s left fielder Felix Pie drove a solo homerun deep into the flag court yard in RF.
Two batters later, Cesar Izturis…
As the all-time greats go, 1,000 hits is nothing. But when you think about it, to be able to collect 1,000 hits in major league baseball is pretty special. So congratulations to Cesar.
In the bottom of the third, I was all set to try to get an action shot of Omar Vizquel adding another hit to his impressive resume (as of today he has 2,778 hits). Unfortunately, I had to settle for this picture…
…of Omar about to hit a foul ball. Omar did actually get a hit in this at bat and I did get a picture of the swing, but Tim walked in front of the camera. It would be the only picture Tim blocked on the day, and it would be Omar’s only hit. Oh, well.
A couple innings later, we found ourselves sitting in LF where this was our view:
However, we did see Omar hit again (in the top of the 5th inning) while we were in LF:
The score did not stay tied long. And we didn’t stay long in LF. Tim wanted to move back into the shade. So we went and grabbed an Orioles Ice Cream Helmet and relocated to another set of handicapped accessible seats, this time in the cross-aisle behind section 47.
Here was our view:
All of the Birdland faithful were hoping that Adam “Not Pacman” Jones could make it back-to-back-to-back RBI doubles, but, alas, he could not. With this not mighty enough swing…
By the way, Tim really latched onto Quentin during this game. During pre-game warmups we were discussing the players we were watching and I pointed out Quentin. Tim started talking about “Carlos” like they were old buddies. Each time Quentin came to the plate, Tim would mention, “Hey, its Carlos.” And after this catch, we discussed how Tim’s good friend “Carlos” caught that high pop fly.
Fan favorite Jeremy Guthrie was still in the game and he was “dealing”…
After Little O bunted this Guthrie offering foul…
Leading off the bottom of the 7th inning, Cesar Izturis started in on his second thousand hits by driving a 2B to deep LCF for his 1,001st hit. After advancing to 3B on a passed ball, Izturis scored the O’s fourth and final run of the day on a single by Brian Roberts.
Guthrie was back on the hill in the 8th inning, and he mowed down the ChiSox 1-2-3, including this harmless ground out by Paul Konerko…
While scouting out seats from the cross-aisle slightly shaded toward 1B, someone (can’t remember who) hit a foul ball DIRECTLY to the handicapped accessible seat that I had been sitting in for the last several innings. All I would have had to do was stand up and make the uncontested catch. Bummer.
Anyway, this was our view for the bottom of the ninth inning:
…and then a homerun to Ramon Castro. That made the score 4-3 Orioles. But that was all she wrote. Simon would get the next two batters (Brad Lillibridge and Juan Pierre) to secure the win for Guthrie and the save for himself.
Something else interesting happened during the ninth inning, the ushers on both sides of the umpire tunnel were actively assisting kids in trying to get an umpire ball. One usher stopped by and told Tim and a girl sitting behind us “The umpire’s name is Phil, you should ask him for a baseball when he leaves the field” while another usher on the other side of the tunnel brought three little kids down to the second row and sat them right on the tunnel with instructions to ask Cuzzi for a baseball.
Cuzzi came off the field after the final out and handed one baseball to one of the kids the usher had sat on the 3B side of the umpires tunnel. Then he approached Tim and placed a second baseball in his glove…
Thanks, Mr. Cuzzi!
Hey, guess what? It was time for Kids Run the Bases!
The O’s held the promotion exclusively for members of the O’s Dugout Club. We visited the extremely helpful and nice O’s fan assistance office to inquire about how Tim could become a member so he could run the bases. It costs $12 and comes with all sorts of goodies. But the lady in the fan assistance office (probably rightfully thinking we were in from out of town and were not O’s fans) suggested that we could probably run without Tim becoming a member of the club. So, we saved our $12 and did not join the club.
I was a little nervous because almost every kid in line was wearing some evidence of being a member of the club, everyone but Tim. But it didn’t matter. They made no effort to check to see if people were members of the club.
When we reentered the stadium to run the bases, the usher who is usually out on Eutaw Street spraying fans and giving out baseball cards was spraying people with his water bottle in the concourse. But he wasn’t handing out any baseball cards…that is, he wasn’t until we arrived.
As Tim approached to get sprayed, I said to him, “You gotta say “‘Hit me!'” Immediately upon saying that to Tim, the usher (whose name, I think, is Greg??), proclaimed, “He said the MAGIC WORDS!”…
It was time to run some bases. As Tim waited in the line at first base (the O’s were making the effort to space out the runners, which we always appreciate), I got a shot of the visitors dugout:
I got this shot of Tim stomping on second base:
Third base also cooperated with my camera:
Before heading up into the stands, we posed for a few pictures on the field, including this one…
…with the baseball from Phil Cuzzi.
- Whiffle ball in the outfield with The Bird;
- An autograph from and picture with former Mariner and future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel;
- Kids Run The Bases; and
- Father-Son fun.
Wow – It was an excellent day! Not only that, it was a truly excellent weekend of baseball fun (this was the Sunday immediately following our campout in the Reading Phillies’ outfield).
Fun, fun, fun.
Thank you, Baseball. We missed you!
2010 Fan Stats:
17 Teams (Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Angels, Twins, Athletics and White Sox; Phillies, Dodgers, Pirates, Braves, Mets, Brewers, Padres, Giants, and Nationals)
16 Ice Cream Helmets (Orioles (3), Phillies (2), Padres (2), Pirates (2), Mets, Dodgers, Athletics & Nationals)
40 Baseballs (6 Mariners, 2 Angels, 3 Athletics, 3 Brewers, 3 Nationals, 2 Blue Jays, 7 Umpires, 2 Phillies, 1 Mets, 4 Braves, 1 Orioles, 1 Dodgers, 1 Padres, 1 Giants, 2 Twins, 1 White Sox)
10 Stadiums (Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, Dodgers Stadium, PETCO Park, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, AT&T Park)
13 Player Photos (Jamie Moyer, Ryan Rowland-Smith (2), Omar Vizquel, Chad Cordero, Mike Cameron, Joel Piniero, Frank Catalanotto, Billy Wagner, Jeff Suppan, Tommy Hanson, Jered Weaver and Scott Olsen)
2 Retired Player Photos (Jim Palmer, Bert Blyleven)
1 Umpire Photo (“Cowboy” Joe West)
9 Autographs (Ryan Rowland-Smith (2), Omar Vizquel, Chad Cordero, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Joel Piniero, Frank Catalanotto (2), Billy Wagner (2), Jeff Suppan, Tommy Hanson, Jeff Weaver and Scott Olsen)
6 Kids Run The Bases (Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, PETCO Park, Camden Yards)