Without exception, Tim and I always have a great time when we go to a baseball game. But whenever we drive to Camden Yards or Nationals Park, we pass a certain baseball/softball field on I-83 South, just a couple miles before Shrewsbury, PA, and I always look to see if a game is in progress. If a game is being played, I just know the day is going to be special.
At 9:53 a.m. on April 18, 2010 it was “game on”…
…we were about to experience a near perfect day. In fact, it would prove to be one of those “this is what life is all about” days. A father, a son, a memorable interaction with a new hero of the game, a spot in the warm sun eating ice cream, our Nation’s capitol, a future hall of famer showing he’s still got it, a game full of memorable moments, and a lap around the bases.
It all unfolded at Nationals Park…
We arrived early for BP. As we entered the seats in RCF, Nationals coach Julian Martinez was about to toss a ball into the stands. There was another father and son in the same section and as we walked down to the first row, the father (whose name I never got) pointed at us, and just like that Martinez redirected his attention and threw us a ball.
The D.C. Dad came over and said they’d already got a ball or two. It was incredibly nice of him to give us the assist. We ended up chatting for 10-15 minutes while we watched incredibly unimpressive BP by the Nats. He and his boy (who seemed to be about 8-9) live in the area, but far enough out that they were staying in a hotel for a couple weekend games. Two guys forging their own father-son memories. It was great chatting with them and I can’t thank them enough for helping us get a ball. We never know if we’ll be able to catch one at any given game. So it was great to secure the souviner. However, by the end of the day I felt a little bad that they gave up the ball for us, because we ended up having unprecedented luck. Anyway, many, many, many thanks, D.C. Dad and D.C. son. We hope you had a great weekend at the ballpark.
We split up after the Brewers started hitting. They went to explore elsewhere and we stuck around to see if Prince Fielder would be able to find us with a moon shot.
Tim was having fun spitting seeds into the gap between the wall and the seats…
…I was having fun watching all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman get in a little workout.
Then something funny happened. The man with one of the weirdest batting stances around, Craig Counsell, hit a ball through the open fence in CF into a storage area. And then someone else in the Brewers’ first BP rotation hit another ball into the storage area…
….in the picture above to the right, we were standing in the corner in the yellow circle. Counsell’s ball went into that opening and against a spare BP screen against the wall (see the red arrow). The second ball stopped right in the middle of the pavement behind the CF wall.
Within 2-3 minutes, a Nationals stadium attendant walked by and grabbed the second ball from the middle of the pavement and tossed it up to us. And 2-3 minutes later, another guy did the same thing with the Counsell ball. Both had sharpie marks across the “sweet spot”: a black squiggle on the Counsell ball and a straight blue line on the second ball.
That was it. Three balls with no effort was enough for one BP session. So we took off, and got this picture of Tim (who is sporting his “Diego” gloves and a new Mariners backpack) on our way out of the seats:
After about 10 minutes, we left because D.C. Dad mentioned several Nats sign autographs at the dugouts before each Sunday game. Tim seems to like collecting autographs since he asked Jeremy Accardo last season to “scribble on my baseball.”
On our way to the first base dugout, we walked slowly and watched the Brewers hit a little more. An usher gave Tim a baseball that was hit into the seats. Thanks to mygameballs.com, I knew that it was the 50th baseball that Tim and I have got together over the course of Tim’s first 56 MLB games. (FYI, mygameballs.com says it was our 52nd ball, but that is only because I recorded two of my Kingdome balls from long before Tim was born — had to represent for the Kingdome).
Anyway, one of my goals this season is to try to get pictures with a player from as many different teams as possible. So, after Scott Olsen signed Tim’s new “Official Practice Ball,” I snapped this picture…
Back to the play area.
After 10 minutes in the play area, Tim and I left to see if any Brewers were out and about with whom we might be able to get a picture. BP was finished and they were preparing the field. But one single player was on the field. It was a Brewer and he was signing autographs by the 3B dugout. We quickly made our way over from CF thinking all the while he would leave before we made it to the dugout. But he didn’t.
At the time, I didn’t know who it was. Tim handed his baseball up to him (the Brewers BP ball with the blue sharpie line on it) and asked for his autograph. Turns out it was Jeff Suppan — I could actually read his autograph!
I’ll admit it. I’ve never liked Jeff Suppan. I had no basis. He was just unimpressive to me. I’ve known the name for years, but never had a good feeling about him. But he was beyond cool to us. He was outstanding.
Some players just grab your baseball when you ask for an autograph and don’t say a word (admittedly some fans just hand the ball over without saying anything), but not Suppan. He greeted Tim’s inquiry with a warm, “Of course, I will, little guy.” (Or something along those lines).
As he signed, I asked him if I could stand Tim up on the railing for a picture with Suppan. In response, he focused on the standing on the railing part, not the posing for a picture part. He said, “Its alright by me!” Then, he leaned in for this GREAT picture:
And he wasn’t done yet. After the picture, he made a little small talk with Tim and then he stuck out his fist and said, “Hey, pound my fist!” Tim looked confused and opted for giving him “five.” Suppan replied, “Oh, no problem. High five!” Tim happily complied.
Its a total make over for Jeff Suppan in my mind. He didn’t have to act like that and most players wouldn’t. He went above-and-beyond the call of duty to give Tim a great experience. Based on his outstanding treatment of Tim, he is now my favorite Brewer and I will be pulling for him from here on out (unless pitching against the Mariners, in which case I still hope he gets shelled).
THANK YOU, JEFF SUPPAN! Very cool. Awesome. Outstanding!
Next, it was back to the play area. More fun.
Then, Tim and I took a little tour of the upper deck down the 3B line…and I took an unruly amount of panoramas. Here we go…
Nationals Park section 401 (last row):
Thats where we were when the game began. And it got interesting real quick. What happened in the top of the first also happened in the bottom of the second at our Pirates vs. Cubs game last season and I did a play by play. So lets do it again:
Jason Marquis made the start for the Nationals
- Rickie Weeks – single to 3B/SS
- Craig Counsell – single to CF
- Ryan Braun – single to LF (on the swing pictured below); Weeks scores (1-0)
4. Prince Fielder – hit by pitch (to load the bases)
5. Casey McGehee – walk (it looked like it hit him, but it was ball four); Counsell scores (2-0)
6. Jim Edmonds – hit by pitch; Braun scores (3-0)
7. Greg Zuan – single to LF; Fielder scores (4-0) — still no outs!
Former Mariner Miguel Batista relieved Marquis (whose ERA on the day was infinity).
8. Carlos Gomez – infield single to 3B (looked like an error to me); McGehee scores (5-0)
9. Doug Davis – sacrifice fly to CF; Edmonds scores (6-0) — the crowd goes crazy for the first out
10. Rickie Weeks – walk (re-loads bases)
11. Craig Counsell – grand slam; Zaun, Gomez, Weeks and Counsell score (10-0)
12. Ryan Braun – swinging strike out
13. Prince Fielder – walk
14. Casey McGehee – ground out to 2B — inning ended, damage done.
There you go, two season in a row now we have witnessed a 10-run half-inning.
By the way, we watched most of the inning from here — Nationals Park section 239 (concourse behind last row):
Here are a couple of Prince Fielder, who refused to go yard for us:
After the top of the 1st, we went back to the play area, where I reported to the dismayed stadium attendants that the score was 10-0 Brewers already. It was our final stop at the play area. Once again, fun times ensued.
Then it was back to the second deck in CF, where I got these action shots of Adam Dunn grounding out to Prince Fielder in the bottom of the third:
It was extremely windy at certain spots in the ballpark and it was fairly cold in the shade. But Tim still asked for an ice cream helmet. I knew we’d need to find some sunny ice cream seats…
…we found them in section 134. Tim enjoyed his real ice cream mint chocolate chip ice cream helmet. (NOTE – in a possibly unprecedented move, the Nationals are charging $2.00 for hot fudge topping this season. Not cool.).
Here is the view from the seats in which we sat until the 9th inning — Nationals Park section 134:
Tim usually likes to roam around a lot when its just the two of us, but he was very content to just hang out in these sunny seats and watch the game…
In the top of the sixth, Fielder still refused to hit a bomb for us. Instead, he popped out to Ryan Zimmerman at 3B:
Late in the game, it was time for the Presidents to race. I was excited to see if Teddy Roosevelt could finally notch his first victory. But when the CF fence opened, some make-shift Milkaukee sausages came racing out along the warning track instead of the Presidents…
…then three of the Presidents (but not Teddy) came racing out from CF too. Teddy was waiting down the 1B foul line with a couple big forks. He skewered the first three sausages and then body slammed the Chorizo. Amongst the carnage, the other Presidents raced by to beat the sausages.
In the ninth, we decided to relocate to the 3B line to see if we could get an umpire ball after the game — something we tried for once at Nationals Park last season but were denied.
First, we walked by the Nationals bullpen. A reliever was warming up. Nats bullpen coach, Jim Lett, looked up and spotted us. He motioned to us. And then fired a ball up to us, we never even asked for it. And just like that, we had our fifth ball of the day. Once last season we got 4 from the Mariners in Toronto, but this fifth baseball was totally unprecedented territory for us
Thanks, Mr. Lett!
So, we headed over to the 3B side. We grabbed some seats. This was our view from the top of section 117:
Instead, I took this shot of Adam Dunn hitting a single in the bottom of the ninth:
After the dancing, we saw some of those kids leave. So we headed down to about the 10th row. As I sat down, Tim said, “Closer! Closer!” He ran down to the first row where one guy was in the corner seat but the other three seats were empty.
Tim made this “silly face” (that’s what he called it) in this picture that shows how ridiculously good these seats are:
And guess who home plate umpire Mike Everitt threw a ball to as he approached the umpire tunnel? Were we in the twilight zone? We had amassed six baseballs!
The strangness wasn’t over just yet. It was time for Kids Run the Bases. As we watched the Brewers celebrate their win, the stadium emptied in record speed. Meanwhile, Todd Coffey started playing long toss with LaTroy Hawkins in LF-to-CF. How often does that happen after a game? Anyway, we had to head out to CF to exit the stadium and get in the Kids Run The Bases line. As we passed through the LF seats, there was literally NO ONE around. It was weird because the game had just ended 5-10 minutes earlier.
Anyway, Coffey and Hawkins finished up. Hawkins looked up. He fired his ball to us and over shot us be 7 rows. As it rifled over our heads, I thought “Oh, well. We have six baseballs! Someone else will grab that one.” I turned around, zero people in sight. Ball rattles around and deflects back to the first row. We walk over and pick it up. Seven baseballs!
Hawkins yells, “Sorry!” No problem, LaTroy.
What a weird day. We made almost no effort and walked out of Nationals Park with seven baseballs. A new Cook & Son record.
Then it was time! Kids Run the Bases. We love it.
We got a couple more pictures on our way out of the stadium…
…what a day. We had so much fun its ridiculous. We even had fun on the walk to the car.
A couple minutes later, Tim was fast asleep.
2010 Fan Stats:
4 Teams (Orioles and Blue Jays; Brewers and Nationals)
2 Ice Cream Helmets (Orioles & Nationals)
10 Baseballs (3 Brewers, 3 Nationals, 2 Blue Jays, 2 Umpires)
2 Stadiums (Camden Yards, Nationals Park)
2 Player Photos (Jeff Suppan and Scott Olsen)
2 Autographs (Jeff Suppan and Scott Olsen)
1 Kids Run The Bases (Nationals Park)