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.”
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…
…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. 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…
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…
…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…
…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…
Adam Moore said hi to us too:
Here is Figgy and a coach, Sweeney and M’s PR guy Tim Hevly (they were talking about SleepGate!)…
…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.
After our nachos, we headed over to the bullpen to watch Cliff Lee warm up. Here he is on his walk to the bullpen:
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…
And I got some pictures of Ichiro, also batting in the third inning…
I took tons of pictures (using my wife’s camera with a sequence feature) of Cliff Lee:
We got some random defensive shots:
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:
Pictured 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:
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:
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.
Here is Tim after finishing off his ice cream and hot chocolate:
He 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…
And when we got home, I noticed that we’d been on TV while we were sitting in the third row behind Franklin Gutierrez:
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:
Here was the view from the first row:
Ichiro hit another single in the 9th inning…
It was raining very lightly, so Tim wore my glove has a mask/umbrella…
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):
With 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:
Our 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:
This 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:
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)
My mom, Colleen, Tim and I were in the car driving to Safeco Field to see the Mariners take on the Yankees when Tim turned to me and proclaimed:
“Dad, the Yankees are bossy.”
Well, actually…in the three games Tim has seen the Yankees play in his life, the Yankees haven’t been very bossy. We’ve seen the Mariners beat the Yankees twice and the Orioles just a couple weeks ago beat the Yanks too. So, really, the Yankees have been pretty accomodating in the games we’ve seen them play.
We were hoping they would be similarly accomodating at this game.
We had four excellent seats in section 151 (left field). But, I also had my best buddy Paul’s two tickets in section 123 (just a couple rows back from the Mariners’ dugout). Paul was at a family get-together and was hoping to meet up with us later in the game. He never made it.
We arrived just before game time. After watching the Yankees bat in the top of the first, Tim and I grabbed an ice cream helmet (mint chocoloate chip and chocolate fudge chip) and headed over to Paul’s seats in time to watch Ichiro lead off the bottom of the first…
Tim was very protective of his ice cream:
Two more notes about that picture. First, I don’t like it when teams leave a big huge bar code on the side of the ice cream helmets. We haven’t received many bar-coded helmets. Mostly in Philadelphia. Before this week, we’d never received a bar-coded helmet at Safeco Field. And I hope we never do again.
Second, that guy in the white hat sitting behind Tim was pretty hilarious. He and this buddies were all decked out in Washington Husky gear. Just a couple hours prior, the Huskies had taken down my dad’s alma mater, the No. 3 ranked USC Trojans. (FYI, in college football, I root for my Temple Owls (GO OWLS!) and then the entire Pac-10. In conference play, I root for the UW, followed by WSU (my brother’s alma mater), followed by USC (dad), followed by whichever team is located closest to Seattle. But in the grand scheme of things, the Mariners are the only team I truly care about in any sport).
Anyway, as I was saying, that guy was pretty funny. He kept yelling at all of the Yankees (particularly C.C. Sabbathia) and saying he was going to buy them dinner at various fast food restaurants if they continued to strike out (Yankees batters) or give up hits (Sabbathia). He was going to take them to McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Time, Papa Murphy’s, Red Lobster, etc., etc.
Enough about that guy, here is the view from Paul’s amazingly awesome seats:
Paul’s family has split season tickets with another guy (Louie) who has had the tickets since 1977 (the M’s first season, and the year Paul was born). In the Kingdome, Paul’s seats were even closer (third row, I believe) but they crammed a few extra super-expensive rows in front of his seats at Safeco Field. The tickets are row 14, but I think they are only about 5-8 rows back from the dugout.
All of my action shots were coming out blurry at this game, but I got some good “batting stance” shots. Here is Jose Lopez:
And here is Adrian Beltre…
Hey, guess who stopped by our section? It was the Beer Poet:
“An evening at the ballpark, such a special treat. Nothing makes it better than a cold beer while you sit in your seat.”
His actual poems are moderately better than that, but you got the gist of it.
Young gun Doug Fister was on the mound…
In the second inning, someone or other bunted the ball off of Kenji Johjima…
During the top of the third, we headed out to CF to the play area, and I took this panaramic view as we passed behind the RF foul pole:
We got two big batches of Jim’s garlic fries…
It was about time for Tim to act silly in the seats:
That is Tim’s official “garlic is too spicy” face. As for me, I’m a huge fan of garlic. And these fries we ridiculously (in a good way) garlicy. This wasn’t garlic powder or garlic flavoring. This was full on mashed up and diced garlic bits. I think each of our orders of fries had about 5 entire garlic bulbs on ’em. When all of the fries were gone, there was still an entire hand full of diced up garlic bits in each little cardboard tray. I tried to eat all of the garlic in one of the trays, but I failed. It would have made my head explode. Too spicy.
Back to the game. As I mentioned, Fister wasn’t on top of his game. So, Don Wakamatsu pulled him before too long:
Speaking of Paul, I bet you’re wondering what he looks like, right? Well, you could look back at my entries from May when we went to a couple games together. But it would be a whole lot easier if I just posted this:
Once again, back to the game. It was a cool but pleasant night at the ball park. But late in the game, a few rain drops started to fall. The powers that be decided it was time for some indoor baseball. The following photos are very dark but they show the roof starting to creep across the field toward the 3B line:
Mark Teixeira was having good night at the plate, and the Mariners bats and pitchers weren’t doing too much. So Tim had to get creative in the seats. He decided to do some fake fishing. Here he is walking up from row 33 to row 35 holding a fake fishing pole (note that for some reason he is bare footed…he likes to feel right at home at the park):
Late in the game we ran around in the OF concourse a bit. And that is where we were when the Yankees recorded the 27th out in the bottom of the ninth. Aye, aye, aye…I was hoping Tim would never have to see the Yankees win a game in his life. Oh, well, I need to come to grips with the fact that I can’t protect him for every bad thing that might happen in life.
We have one more Mariners game this season. And with a win, the Mariners will finish the season with a winning record at games attended by me and Tim. Let’s do it M’s!!!
One more comment on the Yankees. This is the first time I’ve seen the Yankees play a game outside of Yankee Stadium since August 24, 1995. I attended that game with Paul. That game is widely recognized as the turning point in the Mariners season, after which they made a hard charge past the California Angels of Anaheim. The Mariners were 11.5 games back at the time. And in the 8th inning, the Mariners were losing 7-5. In the 8th, Edgar Martinez hit a home run off of David Cone to make it 7-6 Yankees.
But the Mariners had been perenial losers. The first two batters made quick outs in the bottom of the ninth. Paul and I started to give up on the game. In fact, we decided to leave and try to beat traffic. But as we were walking out, Vince Coleman drew a walk from John Wetteland (now Mariners bullpen coach). Paul and I started thinking about things. Junior could get another at-bat! We sprinted back to Paul’s seats (you know, the one’s I mentioned above, the ones 3 rows behind the 1B dugout). As Joey Cora, battled Wetteland, Coleman stole 2B and 3B. Cora then lined a single to LF to score Coleman and tie the game.
Up to the the plate sauntered Ken Griffey, Jr. He would see only one pitch. And we would see that pitch land in the upper deck in RF. MARINERS WIN!!!
Twenty-five days later, the Mariners had erased the Angels’ 11.5 game lead. Ultimately, the Mariners would beat the Angels in a one game playoff to claim their first ever A.L. West title.
So you ask what is the point of that long story? Well, back in 1995, we watched the Mariners beat the Yankees in Seattle free of the presence of hordes of Yankees fans. You see, the Yankees hadn’t been very good for a while. They had not made the post-season since 1981. And they didn’t have the massive traveling fan base that now accompanies them everywhere they go (and the hordes of bandwagon *fans*). At least they didn’t have them in Seattle.
It was a much more pleasant way to watch a home Mariners game. I live on the east coast and I see the Mariners on the road more than I see them at home. So, I like my Mariners home games to feel like Mariners home games. All this is to say that, this is likely my last Yankees game in Seattle.
By the way, don’t fear, the next day the Mariners would crush the Yankees to take the series 2-1. Griffey would hit a bomb.
Anyway, on our walk to the car, I took a shot of the Seahawk’s stadium, Qwest Field:
Qwest Field sits on hallowed grounds — the site of the Kingdome. I really wish Safeco Field could have been placed on the Kingdome’s site. But it couldn’t happen. The Mariners needed to play in the Kingdome until Safeco Field was ready to open in July 1999. The Seahawks on the other hand, got an upgrade, they played at Husky Stadium while Qwest Field was being built. Husky Stadium is probably better than Qwest Field.
One final note, the day after this game, we flew back into Philadelphia. As we were driving out of the Philadelphia airport, Tim again told me that the Yankees are “bossy,” and he added that they “cheat.” I told him that was not very nice of the Yankees. But then, he told me that the Yankees called him on the telephone and apologized. So, I guess that was considerate of the Yankees.
Season Fan Stats:
30 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
1 Ken Griffey, Jr. Homerun (Career Homerun No. 624, August 23, 2009 in Cleveland)
12 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, Miller Park, U.S. Cellular, and “Jacobs” Field)
24 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, White Sox, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins, Pirates, Astros, and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)
25 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (5), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees (2), Twins, Cubs, Brewers, White Sox, and Indians (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
28 Baseballs (16 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Astros, 1 Royals, 1 Indians, Yankees/Orioles 1)
MLB Closed Out (NL Closed out on 8/16/09, AL Closed out on 8/17/09)
5 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Jeremy Guthrie, Ryan Perry)
4 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
10 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, Slider (Indians), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)