Tagged: Ichiro Suzuki

Spring Training IV: Player Pictures

A great thing about Spring Training is that its much easier to meet, chat and get your photo with players on your favorite team.  We love to get pictures with Mariners, and that was a major goal during our recent trip to Peoria.  So, let’s take a look at what we got.

At Mariners Spring Training the best spot for getting your picture with a Mariner is in the long strip of grass leading from the batting cages behind the Mariners administrative office to practice field M3.  There is a roped off strip down the length of the grassy area where the players walk out to the practice fields.  That is where we got most of the following pictures.

First up, we ran into Adam Moore:


1 - Adam Moore ST2011.JPGAt Tim’s first Spring Training in 2008, Adam Moore was the first professional baseball player with whom Tim ever got his picture.  So it was cool to have a little “reunion” picture in 2011.

Moments later, it was Garrett Olson’s turn to pose with Tim:

2 - Garrett Olson ST2011.JPGGarrett is a good guy.

The Mariners have two superstars — Ichiro and Felix Hernandez.  We’ve wanted to get a picture with Ichiro for a long time.  But its almost impossible.  Felix, however, is another story.  We got our picture with him in 2009 at Fenway Park.  Tim was happy to meet up with Felix again in Peoria:

3 - Felix Hernandez ST2011.JPGBy the way, this is as close as we got to a “picture with Ichiro”:

ichisan ST2011.jpgBefore this trip, neither Tim nor I had ever got our picture with a major league manager.  Well, new Mariners manager Eric Wedge was all over the place at Spring Training.  And he was happy to lean in real close and smile big for this picture with Tim:

4 - Eric Wedge ST2011.JPGNote:  In that picture, Tim is looking at me (taking this same picture on my camera) and Wedge is looking at my mom.  This was a common problem during Spring Training.  We got a bunch of pictures where one person is looking at one camera and the other is looking at another camera.  Oh, well.

Our first baseball of spring training came from Mariners reliever, Chris Seddon.  Moments later, Chris was posing for a picture with me and Tim:

5 - Chris Seddon ST2011.JPGIt was actually quite funny.  We took a first picture with Chris and me standing up straight behind Tim.  Then Chris suggested that we get down on Tim’s level, which resulted in the picture above.  Personally, I get a chuckle out of it each time I look at Seddon leaning with his hands on his knees and smiling for the camera.  Seddon also took time out to say hello to the King of Camden Yards, Avi Miller:

Thanks, Chris!

Moments later, David “The D.A.” Aardsma rolled by on his flatbed golf cart and posed for a picture with Tim:

6 - David Aardsma ST2011.JPGD.A. had surgery recently and was on crutched at the beginning of our trip.  However, by the end of our trip he was off the crutches and hobbling around under his own power.  At the end of the trip, we also got DA to sign a baseball for us:

 

ST6 - Jason Phillips (David Aardsma auto).JPG

Thanks, DA!

I was quite excited to get this picture of Tim with Mariners phenom, Michael Pineda:

7 - Michael Pineda ST2011.JPGBefore this trip, I’d never seen Pineda in person.  Let me tell you, you cannot miss him.  He is HUGE!  If he wasn’t crouched down with Tim in this picture, his knees would probably be at Tim’s head level!  (Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but he is huge).  Pineda also signed this baseball for us:

STFAN1 - Michael Pineda auto.jpgThanks, Michael!

Former and new Mariner Miguel Olivo was extremely nice to Tim:

8 - Miguel Olivo ST2011.JPGAfter signing a baseball for us, Miguel crouched down and started chatting with Tim.  He tried to shake Tim’s hand, but Tim was holding a fist full of authentic Arizona rocks.  Instead of a handshake, Miguel was treated to a look at the rocks Tim had collected during catcher’s BP.  Here is a look at the baseball Miguel signed for us:

ST1 - Chris Seddon (Miguel Olivo autograph).JPGFor our first foray into the 2011 MyGameBalls.com Photo Scavenger Hunt competition, Tim got this picture with Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik:

9 - Jack Zduriencik ST2011.JPGJack is great.  He’s extremely nice and accessible.

He always gets excited when I mention we live in Pennsylvania, where he was raised.  The first time (of many) we saw Jack on this trip, it was just barely drizzling.  Jack was passing by us when he asked me “did you bring this [the rain] with you?”  This is a common question that anyone from Seattle gets asked whenever they are in another state and it starts raining.  I personally have had to answer this question about 40,000 times in my life.  I responded, “Not me, we just flew in from Pennsylvania.”  Jack was already past me (driving a golf cart) when he heard this and he immediately stopped and came back to ask me where we live in Pennsylvania.

Another top Mariners executive (and minority owner) was usually hanging around the fields during our trip.  It was Howard Lincoln, Mariners Chairman, CEO, minority owner, and representative of the Mariners corporate majority owner, Nintendo.  This picture of Tim and Howard Lincoln is another MyGameBalls.com Photo Scavenger Hunt picture:

10a - Howard Lincoln ST2011.JPGNote:  In this picture, Tim is standing on the back of a golf cart.  If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see a tag hanging over the steering wheel that says, “Jack Z.”  Yep, that was the golf cart Jack was driving when he asked if we brought the rain with us.

As already shown in our recent entry, we had a great interaction and got several pictures with…

10 - Milton Bradley ST2011.JPG…Milton Bradley.

The day we got the Milton Bradley bat was crazy.  Its the same day we got the Luke French autograph (featured in our last entry).  It was the same day as the Howard Lincoln picture.  And it was the same day as the next six player pictures.

First up at the end of the daily workout session, Franklin Gutierrez a/k/a “Death to Flying Things”:

11 - Franklin Gutierrez ST2011.jpgA day or two later, Franklin flew back to Seattle to see a doctor about some mysterious stomach issues he has had since last season.  Franklin also signed a baseball for us:

STFAN2 - Franklin Gutierrez auto.JPGThanks, Franklin!

Next up, Mainers firstbaseman, Justin Smoak:

12 - Justin Smoak ST2011.JPGIf Smoak lives up to his potential, the Cliff Lee trade will end up being a great deal for the Mariners.  So, we’re really pulling for Smoak to find his stroke at the major league level.

This was as good as we could do with respect to getting our picture with top Mariners prospect Dustin Ackley:

13 - Dustin Ackley ST2011.JPGAckley signed this baseball for us but then had to run:

ST4 - easter egg (Dustin Ackley auto).JPGThanks, Dustin!

We also didn’t get a traditional, posed picture with Mariners outfield prospect, Greg Halman:

14 - Greg Halman ST2011.JPGHalman was great.  He really liked Kellan.  He called him “cutie.”  It was pretty funny.  By the way, that ball Halman is signing was thrown to us by Halman earlier in the day.

Thanks, Greg!

We had a nice chat with local Seattle product and all around good guy, Matt Tuisasosopo:

15 - Matt Tuiasosopo ST2011.JPGTui was extremely outgoing and fan friendly all week.  He even chatted up Tim from third base one day during infield drills.

Tim was right with us during these last five pictures, but he didn’t want to get in any of the pictures.  I was bummed about it because we’d still never had a picture with both Tim and Kellan and a player — every picture has either been one or the other.

That all changed when Ryan Langerhans passed by us.  Tim asked Ryan to sign our Greg Halman baseball and then all of us posed for this picture:

16 - Ryan Langerhans ST2011.JPGHere is a look at that baseball:

ST3 - Greg Halman (Halman, Tuiasosopo, Langerhans and Smoak autos).jpgUpper right:  Greg Halman 56, Matt Tuiasosopo 27

Lower left:  Justin Smoak 17

Lower right:  Ryan Langerhans

Thanks, guys!

At Mariners/Padres Fan Fest at the Peoria Sports Complex’s main stadium, Tim got this picture with Greg Zaun:

17 - Greg Zaun ST2011.JPGIt’s Tim’s first picture with a Padre.  See that baseball Zaun is holding?  The first 400 kids at Fan Fest got a little back pack with Mariners and Padres baseball cards, a baseball, a sharpie and some other stuff in it.  The baseball wasn’t a ROMLB.  It was some random brand with an advertisement for a baseball card shop on it.  It wasn’t a great baseball for autographs, but Tim ended up having a bunch of people sign it.  Actually, its unfortunate he didn’t use our spare ball that a fan gave Tim a couple days earlier for all of those autographs.  Oh, well, Tim was quite happy to collect a bunch of autographs on his door prize baseball.

As shown in our last entry, Kellan got his picture taken with his first pitcher, Luke French:
18 - Luke French ST2011.JPGLuke also signed Tim’s door prize baseball.

Thanks again, Luke!

Our final picture with a Mariner was this group shot with the Mariner Moose, also at Fan Fest:

19 - The Moose ST2011.JPGAs you can see, Spring Training was excellent in terms of getting pictures with Mariners.  We didn’t get our picture with Ichiro, but we knew that was a long shot, even at Spring Training.  Other than Ichiro, the only player who I really wanted to get a picture with, but failed to do so, was Mariners pitcher, Jason Vargas.  But maybe we can track him down during the regular season.  We will see.

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The Ichiro Line

We’re in Seattle on vacation and looking forward to our first home Mariners games of the season.  We’re still a few games behind in our game entries, but it seems like a good time to take an break from game entries and celebrate one of the best hitters ever —  Ichiro!

In ten seasons, Ichiro has had 200+ hits ten times.  Its as if he’s set his own Anti-Mendoza line (.200 avergae).  He’s set “The Ichiro Line” (200 hits in a season).

Its a remarkable feat.  Let’s take a look back at Ichiro’s ten seasons and see how rare a performance Ichiro has turned in ten times in a row.

Between 2001-2010, the top seasons in terms of players reaching The Ichiro Line were in 2006 and 2007, when 8 players reached The Ichiro Line.  The fewest Ichiro-Liners were in 2005 and 2008, when only 3 players in MLB reached the Ichiro Line.  Let’s check it out by year:

2001


25 - ichiromotion hit 184.jpg1.  Ichiro 242

2.  Rich Aurilia 206

2.  Bret Boone 206

4.  Shannon Stewart 202

4.  Juan Pierre 202

 

2002

1.  Alphonso Soriano 209

2.  Ichiro 208 (2)

3.  Vlad Guererro 206

4.  Miguel Tejada 204

4.  Bernie Williams 204

 

2003

1.  Vernon Wells 215

2.  Ichiro 212 (3)

2.  Albert Pujols 212

4.  Todd Helton 209

5.  Michael Young 204

5.  Juan Pierre 204

7.  Garret Anderson 201

 


20 - ichiro singles.jpg2004

1.  Ichiro 262 (4)

2.  Juan Pierre 221 (2)

3.  Michael Young 216 (2)

4.  Mark Loretta 208

5.  Vlad Guererro 206

6.  Miguel Tejada 203

7.  Jack Wilson 201

8.  Adrian Beltre 200

 

2005

1.  Michael Young 221 (3)

2.  Ichiro 206 (5)

3.  Derek Jeter 202

 

2006

1.  Ichiro 224 (6)

2.  Michael Young 217 (4)

3.  Miguel Tejada 214

3.  Derek Jeter 214 (2)

5.  Juan Pierre 204

6.  Chase Utley 203

7.  Freddy Sanchez 200

8.  Vlad Guerrero 200

 



Thumbnail image for 14 - Ichiro singles in 1st 6-12-10.JPG2007

1.  Ichiro 238 (7)

2.  Magglio Ordonez 216

2.  Matt Holliday 216

4.  Hanley Ramirez 212

4.  Jimmy Rollins 212

6.  Derek Jeter 206 (3)

7.  Michael Young 201 (5)

8.  Placido Polanco 200

 

2008

1.  Ichiro 213 (8)

2.  Dustrin Pedroia 213

3.  Jose Reyes 204

 

2009

1.  Ichiro 225 (9)

2.  Derek Jeter 212

3.  Robinson Cano 204

4.  Ryan Braun 203

 

2010

1.  Ichiro 214 (10)

2. Robinson Cano 200 (2)

 

As shown by the parentheses following certain players names above, Ichiro has a ten season streak of reaching The Ichiro Line.  The next longest streak of reaching The Ichiro Line belongs to Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Ryan Braun whose streaks all sit at 1-year.  There is very little chance that Jeter (170 hits) or Braun (184 hits) will extend their streaks to 2 years.   Cano, on the other hand, currently sits at 192 hits and is on pace for 199 hits.  Therefore, if he can scratch out at least one extra hit he will just barely extend his streak to 2 years of reaching The Inchiro Line.

Aside from Ichiro’s current 10-year streak, the next longest streak between 2001-2010 was 5-years by Michael Young (2003-07).   Since Young snapped his streak, he has yet to achieve The Ichiro Line again.

All five of the top five season hit totals between 2001-2010 belong to Ichiro:


20 - Ichiro's 149th hit of 2010 in 1st 6-14-10.JPG1. Ichiro 262 (’04)

2. Ichiro 242 (’01)

3. Ichiro 238 (’07)

4. Ichiro 225 (’09)

5. Ichiro 224 (’06)

6. Juan Pierre 221 (’04)

7. Michael Young 221 (’05)

8. Michael Young 217 (’06)

9. Michael Young 216 (’04)

10. Magglio Ordonez 216 (’07)

11. Matt Holliday 216 (’07)

12. Ichiro 214 (’10)

13. Miguel Tejada 214 (’06)

14. Derek Jeter 214 (’06)

15. Ichiro 213 (’08)

16. Dustin Pedroia 213 (’08)

17. Vernon Wells 213 (’03)

18. Ichiro 212 (’03)

19. Hanley Ramirez 212 (’07)

20. Jimmy Rollins 212 (’07)

21. Derek Jeter 212 (’09)

22. Albert Pujols 212 (’03)

23. Todd Helton 209 (’03)


35 - ichi-knocks moe.JPG24. Alphonso Soriano 209 (’02)

25. Ichiro 208 (’02)

26. Mark Loretta 208 (’04)

27. Ichiro 206 (’05)

28. Vlad Guererro 206 (’02)

29. Rich Aurilia 206 (’01)

20. Bret Boone 206 (’01)

31. Vlad Guerrero 206 (’04)

32. Derek Jeter 206 (’07)

33. Michael Young 204 (’03)

34. Juan Pierre 204 (’03)

35. Juan Pierre 204 (’06)

36. Robinson Cano 204 (’09)

37. Miguel Tejada 204 (’02)

38. Bernie Williams 204 (’02)

39. Jose Reyes 204 (’08)

40. Miguel Tejada 203 (’04)

41. Chase Utley 203 (’06)

42. Ryan Braun 203 (’09)

43. Shannon Stewart 202 (’01)

44. Juan Pierre 202 (’01)

45. Derek Jeter 202 (’05)

46. Garret Anderson 201 (’03)

47. Jack Wilson 201 (’04)

48. Michael Young 201 (’07)

49. Adrian Beltre 200 (’04)

50. Freddy Sanchez 200 (’06)

51. Vlad Guerrero 200 (’06)

52. Placido Polanco 200 (’07)

53. Robinson Cano 200 (’10)

 

There have been so many historically great hitters in Baseball’s storied-history — guys like Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, George Sisler, Wee Willie Keeler, Tony Gwynn, and Roberto Clemente — so I am not going to make as to where percisely Ichiro ranks among the game’s greatest.  But one thing is clear:  Ichiro is clearly among the elite hitters in the history of Major League Baseball.

I’m looking forward to Ichiro continuing to put on a hitting clinic for the world in 2011.  And hopefully he will once again achieve:

THE ICHIRO LINE!

Mariners and The City (8/21/10)

On August 21, 2010, the weekend after our Cleveland trip, we headed up to NYC to see our Mariners play in the Bronx:

1 - Bronx Gate 6.JPG

We were planning on seeing the M’s play Saturday, spend the night in a hotel and then get right back at it on Sunday for a second game.  Although they played the Sunday game (with a 1-hour mid-game delay), the rain washed out our Sunday plans.  But that was okay, because we packed a ton of excitement into our Saturday in NYC.

When we entered the ballpark, the batting cage was set up and a couple players (including C.C. Sabbathia) were playing catch with their kids in shallow CF behind the “bucket.”  We decided to head over to LF to see if anyone was in the Mariners bullpen.

As we walked into section 136, this was our view: 

1a - Yankee Stadium LF field level panorama.jpgWith a day of baseball just getting underway on the field, we decided it was time to take a picture for the MyGameBalls.com scavenger hunt…

2 - pink backpack.JPG…we borrowed the pink backpack from Tim’s cousin, Kate.  (Thanks, Kate!)  The funniest thing about this picture is that Tim put his glove on the wrong hand!

Then, as I watched the action in the Mariners bullpen, Tim played like crazy with a little give-away truck he’d received upon entering the stadium:

3 - WB Mason truck.JPGHe was having a blast with that little truck.  He really loved that it was a delivery truck with a removable top.  We’ll check in later to see what Tim was delivering.

Here was the aforementioned “action” in the Mariners bullpen:

4 - Moore doing work in pen.JPGPitching coach Carl Willis was throwing wild pitch-after-wild pitch at Adam Moore.  Moore was bouncing and sliding all over the place trying his best to keep the pitches in front of him.  One of the “pitches” bounced up, hit Moore in the mask and bounced over the wall behind him.

As the home team hit, the Mariners pitchers came out to play catch in LF.  Tim and I headed around into foul territory to stand behind the pitchers on the foul line:

5 - Sweeney and Wright.JPGTwo seconds after arriving there, I called out to Brian Sweeney.  He spun around, found me, and lobbed a baseball in our direction.  Unfortunately, it fell about 3 feet short and a fan of the other team reached up and bare handed it.  Sweeney looked at me and shrugged a big, “uh, oh.  sorry.”  The guy who snatched the ball 10 inches in front of my glove looked up at and made eye contact with me.  My first thought was that he saw Tim and realized he just stole a ball from a kid and was going to give it to him.

I said, “No problem, man.  Its all good.”

He didn’t say a word.  He just kept looking at me with this weird, somewhat ambiguous look.  It wasn’t a look of happiness, or shame, or gloating.  It was sort of like, “Yeah, I stole it.  Deal with it.”  Then, the second he broke his 3 second stare at me, he took off and was gone.

Soon, we were about to be gone too.  An usher started walking through the section checking everyone’s tickets and telling people to leave if they didn’t have field level seats.  Finally, he made his way to us.

I tried to sweet talk him, “can we just stay for a few more minutes?  We came a long way, we just want to see the M’s warm up and then we’ll leave.”

“Sorry,” he respond with no real remorse in his voice, “you only get 40 minutes of batting practice.”

So we slowly made our way up the stairs.  I could see an usher in every section enforcing the “you only get 40 minutes of batting practice” rule.  All of them were in the first couple rows just off of the field.  So, instead of heading into the concourse, we cut to the right around the 20th or 25th row…

6 - Circuitous route out.JPGWe walked two and a half sections into the OF seats when I spotted an usher who was mid-section and heading toward CF.  She’d already checked overyone to the right (closer to the LF foul pole) so we headed back down…you know, just for one more peak at the field.

We headed to the first row and did our best job of looking like people with $100 tickets (Note: we’re never the guys with the $100 tickets).

This was the view from the $100 OF seats…

7 - well lets take one more look.JPG

We nestled into that open spot in front of little A-Rod with the luggage tag on his hat.

I just wanted to see if Brian Sweeney would give us another shot.  Unfortunately, he was deep into CF now as he played catch with Jamey Wright.  It wasn’t going to happen.  So, I started to tell Tim that it was time to head out of there.

Just then, I heard the crack of the bat, and I look up to see a ball sailing our way.  It was probably 10 feet to my left — around where the luggage-tagless Teixeira kid is standing.  I extended my glove up to a sea of gloves (along with the blue chip guy and the guy next to Teixeira).  I thought to myself, “I have no clue if I WILL, but I really MIGHT catch this!”

BOOM!

The ball slammed into my glove.

Wow…I caught a BP homer on the fly!

 

8 - marcus thames clean catch BP HR.JPGBy the way, I was right around the green “X” several pictures above when I caught the baseball.

Tim had never seen me catch a hit baseball on the fly at a MLB ballpark.  He was super excited.  He told me (and later his mom and his grandparents on the phone) about the catch countless times over the rest of the day — “daddy jumped up super high speed right on the edge of the seats and caught the ball and the whole crowd went ‘WOAH!’ when he got it!”

It might have been his proudest moment ever of his dear old dad.

Anyway, it was time to explore the stadium a bit.

We passed through Bronx Central Station heading from the RF corner toward home plate.  As we walked, we noticed that all of the big pictures of past baseball legends were in black and white…

9 - sterile hall.JPG…then Tim looked back and noticed that the other side the black and white banners featured pictures of modern day (or closer to modern day) players that were in color.

Next, we headed up top to (I think) section 329, where this was the view as we watched Felix Hernandez play catch with Jason Phillips:

9a - upper deck view of felix and jason.jpgHere’s a close up to prove it…

10 - Felix from above.JPG…yep, it was King Felix, alrighty.

Tim requested a picture with his truck:

11 - Tim and his truck.JPGAnd then we headed down to LCF to watch some more “action” in and around the Mariners bullpen.  As we hung out in the first row of section 238, Tim played with his truck on the cement wall, which made a perfect road for him:

12 - CF trucking.JPGIn that last picture, his truck had crached into the “tree” along the side of the road.

As Tim played with his truck, I watched as some stadium workers removed the netting…

13 - odd netting decisions.JPG…protecting monument park, which seemed odd to me.  Maybe the nets are there solely to protect the fans in monument park during BP.  But I’d always figured they were also supposed to protect the monuments from getting clobbered by homerun balls.

We also watched the M’s get ready for the game.  The first ones out there were Josh Bard and Jason Phillips:

14 - phillips and bard.JPGWhile we waited for starting pitcher, Jason Vargas, to join Bard and Phillips, Tim showed off what he was hauling in his delivery truck:

15 - Tims cargo.JPGFinally, Vargas arrived.  After stretching, he played catch with Bard in the outfield:

16 - vargas-to-vargas.JPGThen they took it to the bullpen:

17 - vargas bullpen.JPGI’m a big fan of Vargas.  He’s been pitching superbly this season (with no run support).  But I was a little concerned.  He looked fine in the bullpen, but I could hear him making some comments that led me to believe he didn’t think his pitches were popping as much as he wanted them to.

I took the following picture just because I thought it looked cool that a bunch of his colleagues were standing around watching Jason warm up:

18 - vargas rolls with a posse.JPGThe M’s pitchers like to stick together and support one another.  I like it.

Finally, Vargas was ready and everyone showed him some pre-game love:

19 - go get em vargas.JPGOur seats were actually in RCF in section 201, but for some reason we decided to hang out at the back of section 238 and 239 in the LF bleachers…

20 - LF bleacher concourse diagram.JPGWe started out at the yellow “X’ at the back of section 238 (the red “X” shows where we later ending up eating nachos).  The obstructed view from out there (especially in section 239) is almost unconscionable — particularly when you realize they spent something like $1.5 BILLION dollars building this stadium.  Nevertheless, we choose to sit here when we actually had better seats.

Here was our view in the first inning:

21 - obstructed view from section 238.JPGAnd let me tell you, the obstruction came into play BIG TIME.

Not on this pitch…

22 - Ichi-jack.JPG…but Ichiro led off the game with a homerun to RCF.  Us poor suckers at the back of section 238 had no clue what was happening.  All we saw was a ball driven toward the RCF gap and out of our view.  We waited.  There was no audible signs from the crowd as to what might have happened (no cheers for an out or groans for a hit).  But then Ichiro just kept running.  He circled the bases for a homerun.  Easily the oddest homerun I have ever witnessed.  Not because of the hit iself, but because of our massively obstructed view of it.

Two batters later, the obstruction came into play again.  This time, it was a little different.  Russell “The Muscle” Branyan uncorked what I understand was the longest homerun hit so far at this new stadium in the Bronx (and the first to reach the upper deck).  It was an absolute no-doubter homerun…

23 - upper deck branyan.JPG…unlike Ichiro’s blast two batters earlier, us folks behind the obstruction knew this was a homerun immediately upon contact.  In fact, neither of the 2 outfielders in our view even moved a muscle.  We knew it was a homerun, but we had no clue where the ball landed.  In fact, I only learned that it was an upper deck shot when I saw a replay on a nearby TV screen.

So, bottom line is that at the end of the top of the first the Mariners had hit two homeruns, but we’d seen neither land in the seats.

It was time for Vargas to take the mound.  Things didn’t go well from the start.

Lead off hitter, Derek Jeter, hit a weak grounder…

24 - jeter going both ways.JPG…that Vargas got a piece of, but couldn’t secure.  Essentially, he just slowed the ball down so second baseman Chone Figgins had no shot at throwing out Jeter.

The home team would go on to score four runs in the bottom of the first on a 2-RBI single by Robinson Cano and a 2-run home run by Jorge Posada.

 Fortunately, Vargas would settle down after the shaky first inning.

Tim and I were hungry so we went to the nacho stand.  I asked for some nachos and the guy asked “with what on ’em?”  I said, “I don’t know.  What do you got?”  “Everything,” he replied.

Well, I don’t know if he really had everything, but he certainly put together some delicious nachos for us…

25 - wholly nachos.JPG…with heaping helpings of cheese, ground beef, and guacamole.  Or as Tim said, “Guaca!”

For another unknown reason, we decided to eat our nachos in the last row of section 239.  It was like we were asking to not be able to see half of the game.   Here was our ridiculously obstructed view:

26 - obstructed view from section 239.JPGI can’t imagine that there is a worse obstructed view in MLB.  And guess what?  It came into play again.

Yep, on the second pitch in the top of the third inning (this pitch!)….

27 - ichi-jack part 2.JPG…Ichiro blasted a drive that quickly sored out of our view and, moments later, into the stands in RF.  It was another Ichiro homerun, and once again we did not see it land in the seats.  (FYI, in that picture, the ball is right below Ichiro’s neck).

On Ichiro’s second homerun of the game and an RBI single by Casey Kotchman, the Mariners tied up the score at 4-4 in the third inning.  And it would stay that way until the 7th inning.

That was enough of LCF for us, we moved over to section 202 (RF’s mirror image of section 238), which was right next to the section of our actual seats (section 201 — the RF mirror image of section 239).

While there was still an obstruction our in LF, the view was much better from the back of section 202…and this ice cream helmet made it evern better:

28 - Bronx sundae.JPGWhile my camera is excellent for taking zoomed-in pictures, it just can’t compete with this monster professional lens that was standing behind us for much of the second half of the game:

29 - Ichi-Stalker.JPGThis lady was there to take pictures of Ichiro for the Kyoto News, and she probably got a much better pictures of Ichiro than these:

30 - ichi-grab.JPGIn the seventh inning, Vargas started to struggle again.  He ended up giving up another run and was then pulled with two of his runners on base…

31 - obligatory OF huddle.JPG…Ichiro, Gutierrez and Sauders did the obligatory OF huddle while Jamey Wright warmed up on the mound.  Wright then promptly allowed both of Vargas’s runners to score.  And just like that the M’s were trailing 7-4.

We decided to roam around a little bit.  As Franklin Gutierrez batted in the top of the eighth, we found ourselves on top of the view obstructing batters’ eye sports bar:

32 - bronx straight away.JPGGutierrez went down on strikes.

Just then, I looked toward RF and I noticed something new…

33 - Is That Springsteen.JPG…wait, isn’t Bruce Springsteen “The Boss”?

The team in the white-striped pajamas scored two more runs in the bottoms of the 8th.  All of a sudden, the game was out of hand.  It was a real shame because it was a great game for the first 6-and-a-half innings.

In the top of the ninth, we were ready to leave a little early to go see a bit of the city, but we had to stick around to see Ichiro’s final at bat of the day.

Mariano Rivera was brought on in a non-save situation…

34 - What you got Moe.JPG…so it was future Hall of Famer vs. future Hall of Famer…

35 - ichi-knocks moe.JPG…and our future Hall of Famer won the battle.  Ichiro hit this pitch to left field for his third hit of the day.  We would be waiting for the subway across the street when Russel Branyan hit Ichiro in for the final run of the game.

Unfortunately, the M’s couldn’t rally and they lost 9-5.

Despite the loss, it was a fun day at the ballpark.  Now, it was time to find more fun exploring Manhatten.

First, we headed downtown to our hotel.  While waiting for the No. 1 train in the upper west side…

36 - subway rat.JPG…Tim spotted a huge rat searching for a snack on the tracks.  It would be the first of many huge rats we’d see before retiring for the night.

We stayed at the Club Quarters hotel.  I knew it was downtown by the World Trade Center area, but I wasn’t sure exactly where it was located.  As we tracked street addresses on the way to the hotel, we kept getting closer and closer to “ground zero.”

When we reached the hotel entrance, we could see cranes just behind the hotel.  When we reached our room… 

37 - club quarters world trade center.JPG…and pulled back the shades, we were looking straight down into the ground zero construction site.  Ground Zero literally came right up to the edge or our hotel.  It was pretty crazy.  I figured we’d never see Ground Zero like this again, so I took a little video clip:

After relaxing at our hotel a bit, we headed out into Manhatten.  We rode the 1-Train up to 59th Street & Columbus Circle — which is right at the southwest corner of Central Park.  We brought Tim’s bat and a couple foam baseballs and Tim did some hitting in one of the baseball fields in the park:

38 - central park baseball.JPGIt was pretty cool.  A couple times some random passersby stopped to watch Tim hit.  After it got too dark to see my pitches, we packed up the baseball stuff and went on our way.  While heading south to the edge of the Park, Tim posed for a picture on one of the HUGE rocks in the Park (bottom right photo above).  He wanted to climb all over the rocks and in a play area that we passed through, but it was getting too dark to see.

We headed back into the concrete jungle of Manhatten.  We walked down 7th Street toward Times Square until we found my favorite place to grab a bite to eat in Manhatten…

39 - dinner at Rays.JPGRay’s Pizza (at 49th & 7th)!  Tim devoured a huge piece of cheese pizza…and so did I.

Then it was back into out to the street.  We made our way a couple more blocks south toward Times Square.  I took this picture as we approached Times Square:

40 - approaching Times Square.JPGWe reached Times Square at about 9:00 p.m.  It was pandamoneum.  People were everywhere:

41 - pandamonium.JPGTim was excited to be out and about and in the middle of all this action.  This picture does a terrible job of capturing his mood at the moment…

42 - Tim and a lot of people.JPG…but sadly it is the only one I took.  Oops.

In the middle of all the people, we found a guy painting an interesting picture of President Obama:

43 -  puzzling obama.JPGI always enjoyed watching the painters on the street and in Rittenhouse Square when I used to live in Center City Philadelphia.  Tim enjoyed watching this guy paint this picture.

Just down the street, we found everyone staring up at the side of a building…

44 - cant find us.JPG…watching this huge TV screen and waving to try to find where they were in the picture.  Tim was on my shoulders and I can’t find us anywhere in that picture.

At the south end of Times Square, we saw “the ball” for 2010:

45 - ball dropped and rose again.JPGI walked us down to the Times Square subway station at 42nd Street.  As we made our way underground to our train, we found this cool band playing…

46 - subway rockers.JPG…I can’t tell for sure, but it was something like a 10-12 piece band.  They were rocking pretty good.  I always enjoy the musicians in the subway tunnels in NYC.

We took the 1-Train down just a little bit to Penn Station…Hmm…I think it was Penn Station.  It was definitely 34th Street.  We’d had a plan since the morning, go up to the top of that building where Buddy the Elf’s dad works.

This building:

46a - tracking the empire state building.JPGIn the morning, Tim picked out Buddy the Elf’s dad’s building (as the “pointy” building) from the car as we made our way from New Jersey toward the George Washington Bridge.

About 12 hour later, we finally made it to the Empire State Building…

47 - empire.JPG…after waiting in an incredibly long, and frustrating line on the 2nd and 80th floors for about an hour, and then walking up the final six flights of stairs with Tim on my shoulders, we finally made it to the top of the Empire State Building at around 11:00 p.m.

48 - empire state building view.JPGThe view was pretty cool lookng north toward Central Park and Times Square.  The lights of the city were pretty cool.  The only problem was that the east, south, and west sides of the building were really windy.  An extremely tired Tim was not a fan of the wind.  So we weren’t up there all that long.

Still, it was cool.  I got this picture of the tip of the building from the observation deck:

49 - pointing.JPGBy the way, if you take a baseball bat to the Empire State Building, they’ll make you check it at a security desk on the second floor.  After we retreived Tim’s bat, we headed back to the 1-Train.  Tim fell asleep on my shoulders while waiting for the subway.  Finally, I made it back to our hotel where our long and exciting day finally came to an end.  That bed felt great after being on the go since about 7:00 a.m.

As I mentioned, we did not go to the Sunday game because it was raining (and this Stadium does not have a kids play area or really anything designed to entertain a kid during a long rain delay).  It ended up being just fine that we missed the game because the Mariners got destroyed by a score of 10-0.

After a pizza “brunch”…

52 - tim sized pizza.JPG…at Ray’s Pizza at 82nd & Columbus, we hopped in our car and were home in time to watch part of the game on TV and spend a nice Sunday with Colleen and Kellan.

2010 Fan Stats:

22 Games

19 Teams (Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Angels, Twins, Athletics, White Sox, Indians and Yankees; Phillies, Dodgers, Pirates, Braves, Mets, Brewers, Padres, Giants, and Nationals)

18 Ice Cream Helmets (Orioles (3), Phillies (2), Padres (2), Pirates (2), Mets, Dodgers, Athletics, Nationals, Indians, Yankees)

54 Baseballs (12 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, 7 Easter Eggs, 1 Yankees)

12 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, Progressive Field, Yankee Stadium)

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)

7 Kids Run The Bases (Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, PETCO Park, Camden Yards, Progressive Field)

Photo Sequences: Griffey, Ichiro & Tim

My wife’s camera has a “sequence” feature that I love to use to make “motion” pictures — like this or this or this or this or this.

When I make one of those “motion” pictures, I will typically take over 100 pictures over the course of several pitches. I just hold the button down and it goes *click* *click* *click* and so on.

This results in tons of unused pictures.

Well, I started fooling around with a bunch of my unused sequence pictures the other night and this video clip is what I came up with:

Tim liked the Griffey-Ichiro sequence so much that he wanted one of his own. So, Colleen took over the camera duties as I pitched to Tim last weekend. Here is the result:

As the credits at the end of the clips note, the songs on both clips are by Seattle rap legend, Kid Sensation, who is a friend of Ken Griffey, Jr. and a former section mate of mine at the Kingdome. You can read more about him in our prior entry “Griffey & Sensation: Two Kids Combine To Make Sweet Music.” And, if you would like to own either of these song (“Back Home” or “Ichiro!”), you can so by clicking here.

That’s all for now. We’ll be back in game action this weekend with our fifth stadium of the season and our fourth Kids Run The Bases day.

Hello, 2010 Mariners! (5/11/10)

Since opening day, we’d been looking forward to May 11, 2010:  our first Mariners game of the season.  Like in 2007 and 2008 , our first Mariners game of the season would take place at Camden Yards.

I wanted to maximize our time with the Mariners so we headed down to Baltimore in time for batting practice.  Unfortunately, it started raining as we neared Baltimore.  As we entered the centerfield seats, we found the tarp covering the field.  No batting pratice.

It was about 5:20 at the time.  Because we did not have “season ticket” tickets, we were stuck in CF until 5:30.  So we couldn’t go over to the third base foul line where Ichiro was running sprints in the outfield and a couple of Mariners were playing catch.

After about 2 minutes in the seats, Jesus Colome came out to centerfield to grab two baseballs that were sitting out there in the grass.  There were a bunch of O’s fans in the first 2 rows of the seats and we were hanging back in about the 10th row.  Colome saw us and yelled to get our attention.  He then proceeded to throw one of the baseballs nowhere near us.  Seriously, while looking me straight in the eye, he managed to throw the ball about 30 feet to our left and about 7 rows below us.  One of the O’s fans grabbed it as it ricocheted off some seats.  Colome yelled, “Sorry!” and patted himself on the chest as if to say, “my bad.”

Oh, well.

About 2 minutes later, something incredibly cool happened.  I’m going to save the complete story for later, but here is the abbreviated version.

Ryan Rowland-Smith came walking through the outfield on his way to the bullpen…


1a - RRS intended route.jpg…in that picture, Tim and I were standing at the “T&T” (Tim was on my shoulders) and I noticed Rowland-Smith as he was walking at the “RRS.”  The yellow line shows the route he was intending to walk to the Mariners bullpen.

Background Fact No. 1:  Last season in Toronto, we met RRS and he threw a baseball to Tim (twice) so Tim could catch it himself in his glove.

Background Fact No. 2:  Over the off-season, I wrote a letter to RRS to (among other things) thank him for being so kind to us in Toronto, and I included with the letter the picture my wife snapped of us with RRS.

Background Fact No. 3:  I follow RRS on Twitter where it had recently been implied that he buzzed his hair.  Check him out @hyphen18.

So, as he approached the OF wall, I yelled out, “Hey, Ryan, let’s see the new hair!”

He laughed and (without looking over) took off his hat to show me his buzz-cut.  Then, as he went through the door in the OF gate, he looked over at me and…

1b - RRS actual route.jpg…exclaimed, “Oh, hey, Man!” as he pointed at me.  He immediately changed courses (follow the new yellow line above) and came over to chat with us.

I was thinking, “Wow, RRS really likes seeing Mariners fans on the road!”  But as he approached, he said, “You wrote me that letter, right?”

To put it mildly, I couldn’t believe it!  I wrote him a letter months earlier about an interaction in Toronto and IMMEDIATELY upon seeing us in Baltimore (totally out of context), he recognized us and came right over to chat.

Here he is standing below us…

2 - hyphen18.JPG…and, to once again put it mildly, he came over to chat about something incredibly, amazingly, ridiculously awesome.  That’s what I’ll save for later.  For now, I will just note that we made plans to meet up later in the season about something I asked him in my letter.  Also, I must note that RRS is officially one of the most fan-friendly, coolest dudes ever to wear a major league baseball uniform…hands down.

After chatting with RRS, we waited five more minutes for the rest of the stadium to open (by which point Ichiro was gone), and then we headed over toward the Mariners dugout.  And guess who we ran into…

2 - tim and RRS 5-11-10.JPG…you got it:  Mr. Ryan Rowland-Smith.  Although Tim looks sorta “ho-hum’ish” in this picture, its not because he wasn’t happy to get his picture with RRS.  It was because he was standing on top of a wet brick wall and he was scared he was going to fall off.  RRS is holding him from behind to keep him steady.

We chatted for another minute or two with RRS.  And he noticed the T-Shirt I was wearing under my jersey.  It was a special shirt that Griffey made for his Mariners teammates during spring training.  You can read about it (and how my mom got her hands on one of them during spring training) in our entry Griffey the Prankster.  I told RRS that I had my mom send to shirt to me so I could wear it to this game to see if I could manage to get my picture with Griff.  However, due to the SleepGate scandal (that had just broken the day before), RRS didn’t think Griff would be out on the field at all before the game.

A few minutes later, I saw Ichiro pop out of the M’s dugout with a bat and walk over to the O’s dugout/clubhouse entrance.  So we headed over to the O’s dugout and confirmed with an usher that the M’s would be taking BP in cages back by the O’s clubhouse.

We said hi to most of the guys as they headed over to take BP…

3 - guity and lopez.jpg…Lopez said “Hi” to us, but Guti did not.   Speaking of Franklin, check out his pant legs before and after hitting.

Adam Moore said hi to us too:

5 - adam moore to cages.jpg

Here is Figgy and a coach, Sweeney and M’s PR guy Tim Hevly (they were talking about SleepGate!)…

4 - figgy tim hevly sweeney wak griff.jpg…Don Wakamatsu said hello to us, and Ken Griffey, Jr. did too.  Unfortunately, that’s the best picture I got of Griff.  As he approached, he saw my T-shirt and he said something to me that I couldn’t understand…something odd like, “Oh, so that’s what’s going on here.”  In response, I mentioned that he’d given the shirt to my mom at spring training and asked if we could get a picture.   He responded as if it was a possibility, but said he had to go hit first.  Of course, by the time he finished batting, there were 50 people standing by the dugout.  By that point, we decided there was no chance Griff would stop on his way back to the M’s clubhouse so we left to get something to eat.

There was a little raining falling at this point, so we retreated to Section 49…

6 - camden section 49 last row panorama.jpg…and dug into a big pile on nachos:

7 - nachos and movement star.jpgAs we enjoyed our nachos, Mike Sweeney started playing catch with his first basemens glove…

8 - sweeney with 1-bag glove.jpg…but he didn’t play first (or at all) in this game.

After our nachos, we headed over to the bullpen to watch Cliff Lee warm up.  Here he is on his walk to the bullpen:

9 - cliff lee to bullpen.jpgAnd here is the view from the seats right next to the bullpen in section 86:

10 - camden section 86 by visitors bullpen panorama.jpgAfter Cliff Lee left the bullpen, the relievers huddled together like they do before every game…

11 - wet bullpen.jpg…and when they broke apart David Aardsma pointed at me and said to his colleagues, “Look at that guys shirt!”  They all got a kick out of seeing a fan wearing one of Griffey’s prank shirts.

By the way, our buddy Jason Phillips is in that blurry picture and he is the guy seated closest to Tim in the picture to the right.  It was nice seeing him again.  We exchanged a few words several times throughout the day.  Its good to have him in the M’s bullpen again this season.

We continued sitting by the bullpen during the first inning, but then it started raining again.  We took refuge under cover over by where we’d eaten our nachos.  And I got some pictures of Griffey batting in the third inning…

12 - griff in third 5-11-10.jpg…he ultimately popped out to LF.

And I got some pictures of Ichiro, also batting in the third inning…

13 - ichi in third 5-11-10.jpg…he grounded out to the pitcher.

I took tons of pictures (using my wife’s camera with a sequence feature) of Cliff Lee:

14 - cliff lee motion and josh wilson grounder.jpgOn this pitch, the batter (I think Miguel Tejada) grounded out to Josh Wilson at short stop.

We got some random defensive shots: 

15 - random fielding.jpgAfter it stopped raining, we headed out to the standing room area in RF…

16 - seed boats.jpg…where Tim asked for sunflower seeds to make “seed sail boats” in a puddle.

I had to get Tim out of the standing room area pretty quick.  It was covered with huge puddles and Tim wanted to jump in every single one.  I was envisioning his little toes freezing later in the game inside wet socks.

So, we headed out to the concourse and got an ice cream helmet and a hot chocolate.  We grabbed some ice cream seats in section 10 down the 1B foul line:

17 - ICH hot choco and avi.jpgPictured at the back of the photo is a guy named Avi who we met before the game.  In addition to going to tons of O’s games, Avi reads our blog (and writes one of his own).  Thanks, Avi!  It was great meeting you.

Here is the view from our ice cream seats in section 10:

18 - camden section 10 panorama.jpgAt this point (the fifth inning), the score was 0-0 and Cliff Lee had given up only 3 hits.

Ryan Langerhans broke the scoreless tie with a lead off homerun in the fifth.  Later in the inning, the M’s scored again when Chone Figgins drew a bases loaded walk.

Here is a shot of Griff hitting in the sixth inning:

19 - griff in sixth 5-11-10.jpgGriff eventually drew a walk and came around to score.  After six innings, the Mariners led the Orioles 5-0.

From our ice cream seats, we had a great view of Ichiro in RF.  In these pictures, Ichi is playing catch between innings with Franklin Gutierrez.

20 - ichiro warms.jpgClick on that picture to see it full-sized.   In the picture to the left, the rotation of the seems on the ball look pretty cool.

Here is Tim after finishing off his ice cream and hot chocolate:

22 - ice cream seats and happy.jpgHe absolutely loved the hot chocolate.

As we sat in section 10, I noticed the same guy catch two foul balls straight behind home plate.  I decided he should go over there.  However, when we arrived behind home plate, we noticed that the ushers were essentially taking the night off.  Although there were ushers all around, they were letting people stand in the aisle and sit anywhere they wanted.  So, after an usher took our picture…

21 - classic camden yards cool tim.jpg…we headed down behind the M’s dugout to see if we could get a third out baseball.  We never did.  But we got some great up close views of our Mariners.  Here is Ichiro about to hit a double…


23 - Ichi 2B and to third.jpg…and about to be stranded on third base in the 7th inning.

And when we got home, I noticed that we’d been on TV while we were sitting in the third row behind Franklin Gutierrez:

24 - behind guity.JPGAfter Griff’s final at bat in the 8th inning…

25 - griff in the eighth 5-11-10.jpg… the crowd gave Griff a warm ovation on his way back to the dugout (it was a fly out to CF (or maybe a deep 2B or SS)).

We’d been sitting in the third row, but between innings Tim would stand in the first row above the dugout…so I snapped this picture of him:

26 - front row.JPG…and in the 8th or 9th inning, we decided to just take the seats up there in the first row.  It was crazy how empty the seats were.

Here was the view from the first row:

27 - camden section 52 row 1 panorama.jpgAfter giving up only one run and 8 hits in 7.1 innings…

28 - cliff lee exits in 8th 5-11-10.JPG…we cheered Cliff Lee as he left the game in the bottom of the 8th inning.  This was his first win as a Mariner.

Ichiro hit another single in the 9th inning…

29 - ichiro bats in the 9th 5-11-10.JPG…but once again he was stranded on base.

 It was raining very lightly, so Tim wore my glove has a mask/umbrella…

30 - shield on.jpg…which he thought was a great fun.

I mentioned already we didn’t get a third out ball.  Oddly, however, we did get a second out ball!  Here Tim is with his first ever game used ball (well, it is possible that one of the umpire balls he’s gotten has been game used, but we *know* this one was used in the game):

31 - 26th out bottom 9th 5-11-10.JPGWith one out in the bottom of the ninth and Brandon League pitching, Matt Wieters grounded out to Ryan Langerhans at first base.  Langerhans tagged Wieters for the 26th out of the game and then threw the ball around the horn.  Somehow, the around the horn attempt failed.  I’m not sure what happened.   I think that Figgins threw the ball in the dirt to Jose Lopez and it got wet or dirty.  For whatever reason, Lopez rolled the ball into foul territory.  It ultimately came to rest right in front of us.

We were the only people in the first row behind the Mariners dugout.  We were wearing all Mariners gear.  Tim’s a cute kid.  The ball was directly in front of us.  It seemed almost like we were guaranteed to get the ball.  And we did.  An unidentified Mariner reached over the railing/netting and grabbed the ball off of the warning track, turned around and flipped it right to me.

Maybe two minute later, the Mariners won the game by a final score of 5-1.  And Ichi victoriously ran off of the soggy field after high fiving his teammates:

32 - ichi and mariners win.JPGThe grounds crew immediately started to put the tarp back on the field:

33 - camden section 52 row 1 rain tarp panorama.jpgOur friend, MLBlogger, and Baseball Collector extraordinaire, Zack Hample, was at the game.  We’d spent some time with him during pre-game and then met up again after the game.  As the Mariners bullpen headed to the dugout, Jesus Colome flipped a ball to Zack and John Wetteland bestowed a second baseball on me and Tim.

Moments later, Zack’s buddy Brandon captured this photo of me, Tim, and Zack:

34 - fist bump reunion.JPGThis photo is a re-make of a picture we got moments after we met Zack in person for the first time last season — at the memorable Randy Johnson 300th win rainout “game.”  After this photo, Tim and I walked to our parking garage with Zack and Brandon (on their way to their hotel).

It was a great first Mariners game of the season that included (i) a much needed Mariners win, (ii) Cliff Lee’s first win as a Mariner (and his first since the 2009 World Series), (iii) two memorable meetings with Ryan Rowland-Smith, (iv) fun interactions with several players about the Griffey prank shirt, (v) meeting up with some cool MLBloggers, and (vi) Tim’s first game-used baseball.

I already cannot wait to see the Mariners again…next month in San Diego on the Third Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip of 2010!  See you there, Mariners! 

2010 Fan Stats:


35 - two baseballs 5-11-10.JPG5 Games

8 Teams (Mariners, Orioles and Blue Jays; Phillies, Braves, Mets, Brewers and Nationals)

5 Ice Cream Helmets (Orioles (2), Phillies, Mets, & Nationals)

15 Baseballs (2 Mariners, 3 Brewers, 3 Nationals, 2 Blue Jays, 3 Umpires, 1 Phillies, 1 Mets)

4 Stadiums (Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field)

4 Player Photos (Ryan Rowland-Smith, Frank Catalanotto, Jeff Suppan and Scott Olsen)

3 Autographs (Frank Catalanotto (2), Jeff Suppan and Scott Olsen)

3 Kids Run The Bases (Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field)

A Sunny Day At Safeco Field (7/19/08)

In 2008, we only spent parts of two days in Seattle.  In July, we went on an Alaskan cruise with 25 family members to celebrate my grandparents’ 65 anniversary.  Our ship docked back in Seattle in the morning on July 19th, and a few hours later we were at Safeco Field for our only Mariners home game, and our final Mariners game, of 2008.

Aside for the final score of the game, it was a beautiful day.

1 - welcome to safeco field.jpgIt turned out that it was turn back the clock day.  I think we were turning back the clock to 1988, as you can tell from this fake picture of Ichiro…

2 - 80srific Ichiro.jpg…it was definitely sometime in the 1980s.  Do you think Ichiro looked like that in the 80s?  I’m doubting it.

My dad, my uncle Tom, and Tim and I entered the ballpark right as the game started.  We grabbed some snacks and watched the top of the first inning from a standing room counter behind section 145: 

3 - popcorn behind section 145 at safeco.jpgWe had great seats in the field level down the 3B line in the shallow outfield foul territory.  My mom, aunt Barb, and my parents friends and co-season ticket holders, Lynn and Steve, met up with us.  But it ended up that Tim and I spent most of the game on our own, away from our excellent seats.

We first split off from our family and friends so Tim could get a delicious Ben & Jerry’s chocolate ice cream helmet.  But we ended up never returning to our normal seats because the Mariners went down 9-2 by the third inning, and the two people circled in this picture (of Ichiro stepping into the box in the top of the third)…

3a - fuzzy ichiro and red circle.jpg…ended up leaving early.  The lady saw Tim sitting on my shoulders and thought we were just an adorable father-son combo so she approached us and gave us their ticket stubs.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Indians scored three runs in the top of the first on the “strength” of terrible pitching by Miguel Batista.  The Indians first inning was highlighted by a homerun by former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo.

In the top of the second, I took this picture of Brian LaHair’s first career at-bat…

4 - brian lahair debut at-bat.jpg…the Mariners were projecting big things from LaHair — they have never materialized.  He popped out to CF in his first career at-bat.

Here is a picture of Tim checking our the stadium from our actual ticketed seats:

5 - checking out safeco field.jpg

At the end of the second, we parted ways with my family to grab Tim’s ice cream helmet.  We took it to the standing room counter just above the visitors’ bullpen.  We were standing right behind Raul Ibanez…

7 - raul in LF.jpgThis was Tim’s second career ice cream helmet and his first with real ice cream (not soft serve).

6 - ice cream helmet.jpgHe loved it.

After Tim finished his ice cream, an usher spotted us.  The Mariners are very antsy about kids sitting on this counter (or on their dad’s shoulders while standing right here) because on the other side of the counter is a 20 foot drop into the bullpen.

So we headed down the stairs and walked over to the Mariners bullpen.  Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was warming up…

8 - dickey knuckles.jpg…it was pretty cool watching his knuckler up close.  Hey, check it out, its Norm “The Sheriff” Charlton to the far right of that picture.

After watching Dickey, we headed over to RF and watched Ichiro patrol his domain – he had already had an outfield assist, robbing Ben Francisco of a hit by forcing out Jamie Carroll at second base in the first inning.

9 - Ichiro in RF.jpgThis is where we were when the lady circled in red above gave us her tickets.

When we got to those seats, Raul Ibanez was stepping into the box to lead off the bottom of the sixth.  Check out the view from these seats!

10 - rauuuuuul on deck.jpgRaul would get plunked by the third pitch he saw from Jeremy Sowers in this at-bat.  By the way, to this point in the season, Sowers was winless with an ERA in the mid-6 range.

Adrian Beltre followed Raul with a single.

11 - beltre then lopez.jpgBy the way, check out those sweet retro-Mariners uniforms.  They looked so much better than I remembered them looking back in their day.

The Mariners made a push that was too little too late.  Ultimately, Raul made his way around the diamond to score the Mariners’ third run of the game.  Beltre then scored the M’s fourth run…

12 - wild pitch scores beltre.jpg…on a wild pitch.

Check out these seats!  I loved them!

R.A. Dickey entered the game in the seventh…

13 - dickey.jpg…and then he entered the M’s dugout just below our seats four batters later after pitching a scoreless top of the seventh.

Yuniesky Betancourt led off the bottom of the seventh for the Mariners…

14 - Yuni and Tim.jpg…and, six months later, I ended up using this picture from Yuni’s at-bat to make baseball cards for all of the kids who attended Tim’s third birthday.

During and following Yuni’s at-bat, I had an excellent opportunity to take some close-up photos of Ichiro.  At the time, Ichiro was riding a six game hitting streak in games attended by Tim, but he was 0-3 so far on the day.

Let’s see what happened.   First, Ichiro’s head popped into view over the dugout roof just in front of us…

15 - ichiro appears.jpg…as Sam Perlozzo headed to the 3B coach’s box, Ichiro headed to the on-deck circle to prepare for his at-bat…

16 - ichiro arises.jpg…as Betancourt faced Edward Mujica, Ichiro tugged on his sleave, stretched, and mentally prepared to do battle in the batter’s box…

17 - ichiro prepares.jpg…and then Ichiro made his classic approach to the plate…

18 - ichiro approaches the plate.jpg…followed by Ichiro’s classic pose (which, by the way, is currently pictured on my T-shirt as I type this entry)…

19 - ichiro poses.jpg…and on the first pitch he saw from Mujica, Ichiro extended his hit streak to all seven of Tim’s Mariners games…

20 - ichiro singles.jpg…with a single into centerfield.  Unfortunately, Ichiro would be stranded on base in the inning and the score would remain 9-4 Indians until the bottom of the ninth.

In the ninth, Ichiro was up for his final at-bat following a two-out single by Yuniesky Betancourt.  Ichiro capped the day’s scoring with a 2-run homerun off of his fellow-countryman, Masa Kobayashi.  All in all, he had a great day, 2-5 with a single and homerun, 2RBI and an outfield assist.

Unfortanetly, the Mariners just could not overcome the 8 earned runs Batista gave up in his 2-innings of work.  Despite the loss, Tim and I had a great time at Safeco Field and couldn’t wait to come back in 2009.

21 - TJCs at Safeco Field.jpgGo Mariners!

Warming Up For 2008

My parents are two of the luckiest people around.  During the regular season, they live at my boyhood home about 15 miles from Safeco Field.  During Spring Training, they live at their winter home about 3 miles from the Mariners spring training home — the Peoria Sports Complex.

Before the 2008 season began, Colleen, Tim and I headed to Peoria to meet up with my folks and my Mariners for some Spring Training.

Courtesy of Google Maps, here is an aerial view of the Peoria Sports Complex:

1 - peoria sports complex aerial view.jpgAt the top center is the stadium where the Mariners and Padres play their home spring training games.  The Mariners spring training fields are below to the left.  The two fields to the far left are the Mariners Single-A training fields.  The next two fields to the right are the Mariners Double-A and Triple-A fields.  Next, is the Mariners secondary Major League field.  Above that field is the Mariners administrative building and parking lot.  Next to the administrative building to the right is the Mariners primary Major League field.  Below the primary field, is a partial field where they do infield drills.

Then on the right side, the Padres have a mirror image of the Mariners training fields.

Spring training is incredibly cool and relaxing.  One thing I love is all of the open grass between the training fields.  It is a perfect set up that allowed us to watch the Mariners run drills and take BP while my dad and I played a lot of catch:

2 - playing catch by main field.jpgThose pictures are all taken in the grass between the Mariners Major League fields and the administrative building, which also has a big bullpen set up and indoor batting cages lining the big open grass area.  In fact, you can see the bullpens behind my dad and Tim in the top two of the last four-picture set.

In the first day or two of our trip, we just watched the Mariners training.  Here is Ichiro watching Raul Ibanez taking BP on the main field:

3 - ichiro watches ibanez.jpgEvery time we went to training, we’d walk away with a new baseball or two…

4 - got some baseballs.jpg…with all of the fields around the public area, it is not unusual for random foul balls to be hit into the public area from all directions.  You have to stay alert.

On our first day there, we ran into Mariners catching prospect Adam Moore who was working out one-on-one with a coach on the secondary Major League field…

5 - Adam Moore.jpg…after he finished up, we got his autograph on one of the baseballs Tim had collected earlier in the day and got Tim’s first picture with a professional ballplayer.  Finally, at the end of 2009, Moore made the Mariners major league roster.  Hopefully we will see a lot of him in 2010.

I really enjoyed watching the Minor Leaguers…

6 - watching some training.jpg…they were always doing drills, taking BP, or playing games.

Ah, remember how I mentioned it is relaxing at Spring Training…

 

7 - now this is living.jpg…this is an ideal way to spend a morning, relaxing with your family and playing catch with your dad while watching the Mariners prepare for the regular season.

Yep, and then we got more baseballs…

minibat regularball.jpg…and Tim got Willie “Ballgame” Bloomquist to sign that little bat.

Spring Training is also good for normal bats too…

grandpas bat.jpg

…that’s a bat that my dad got from a Mariners minor leaguer.  No cracks or anything.  Just a nice fully-intact bat.  Tim and I got two bats from minor leaguers as well, both with small cracks.

Here’s another cool part of Spring Training…

8 - little tim little mariners.jpg…Mariners are always walking by 5 feet away from you.

While my dad and I would play catch, Tim would run around with his grandma…

9 - piggy backing.jpg…or would get a lot of piggy back rides.

Soon, it was time for some games, so we would head to the main stadium in the afternoons:

10 - 3 Cook Boys.jpgAll around the outside of the stadium, there were a bunch of big concrete baseballs…

11 - pushing the ball.jpg…that Tim would try to push around, unsuccessfully.

Here is a view of the main stadium:

12 - Peoria Sports Complex.jpgI’m not going to do game reports here.  Just a few highlights.

Here is a view of where we sat at most of the games:

13 - major league players minor league seats.jpg…a great view.

When we arrived at Spring Training, they’d already played a bunch of games.  And Ichiro was batting .000 (zero hits so far).  He was something like 0-20.

His luck would change as soon as we arrived.  Actually, he didn’t play in our first game.  But in his very first at-bat that Tim and I saw him have in the spring, he got his first hit of the spring…

14 - ichiro turns it on.jpg…and he got at least 1 hit in all three games we saw him play during the spring.  Specifically, he went 1-4, 2-4 with a homerun, and 1-4.

During one of the games, I took “The Ruthian” challenge:

15 - The Ruthian.jpgAnd I demolished it.

On this trip, I also was able to achieve a life long dream…

16 - the dream achieved.jpg…my first ever Mariners game (or any professional baseball game) on my birthday.  I always wished growing up that I could have rounded up a bunch of my friends and gone to a Mariners game on my birthday.  But its hard to do when you weren’t born during the baseball season.  So this was a real special treat for me.  And, as a special gift, Ichiro and Adrian Beltre both hit a homerun for me, and the Mariners got me the win.

For our final spring training game, we sat on the outfield berm…

17 - A Day On The Berm.jpg…Colleen, Tim and I all came down with a cold.  So this was an odd game sitting out there.

But we still managed to get a picture that I absolutely love:

18 - No Standing.jpgSo, Tim’s first spring training was a smashing success.  We came home with 12 baseballs, 2 bats, a couple autographs, a winning Mariners record of 2-1-1, and a lot of great memories.

BUT WAIT…our pre-season baseball wasn’t finished yet.

Several of my colleagues are big Phillies fans and share the “weekend” ticket package…or maybe its just the “Sunday” ticket package.  Whatever.  The Phillies had two more pre-season games after breaking camp in Florida.  They call it the “On Deck” series.  And one of my colleagues gave us their tickets because no one in the group was going to use them.

So, a day or two before opening day, Tim and I headed down to Philadelphia for a freezing cold game against the Blue Jays.

This was our view from our seats in Section 130:

1 - on deck view.jpgAs I said, IT WAS FREEZING!!!  So, we got hot dogs to warm us up:

2 - hotdog time.jpgAnd we were excited to see our favorite Phil, Jamie Moyer, toeing the rubber:

3 - on deck moyer.jpgAfter having such a laid back time at Spring Training, Tim re-acclimated to his Northeastern roots and jumped all over the umpire…

4 - you bum ump.jpg…”Come on you stinking bum, you need glasses or something!?”

Okay, he wasn’t really saying that.  But I LOVE that picture.  Hilarious.

It was so cold that we gave up our excellent seats and headed over to the sunny seats in the leftfield porch:

5 - LF porch.jpgStill, it was so cold that the unthinkable happened, by about the fourth inning Tim suggested that we should go home!

I was fine leaving early.  So we made a deal that we’d leave after spending one inning behind the Phils dugout watching Moyer up close.  We made our way over there in time to see Pat Burrell step to the plate…

6 - behind 1B line.jpg…of course, as he seemingly always does when Tim is in the house, Burrell hit a bomb…

7 - pat burrell.jpg…although not on this pitch.

We got a great close-up view of Moyer on the mound:

8 - moyer.jpgThen some nice fan took a picture of me, Tim and my vacation-hold-over-beard…

9 - freezing guys.jpg…which I am told made me look about 50 years older than I actually am.  Oh, well.

And with that, we called it a day, and a pre-season, and we went home and waited for our favorite holiday, Mariners opening day.