We woke up at the downtown Miami Hilton on the morning of Saturday, September 1, 2012, with 8 hours of kill before our second and final game of the weekend at Marlins Park. We threw on our beach clothes, hopped into the Crown Vicky, and headed off to nearby Miami Beach.
We parked along Ocean Drive. As I was paying for parking people were taking pictures in front of the building right across the street from our car. Turns out that it was Gianni Versace’s house (left below):
Some bad stuff happened on the sidewalk in front of that house back in the 90s. Check out that Versace Wikipedia link to read about it. After Colleen got a picture with the Versace mansion, we had some fairly unimpressive breakfast at a sidewalk restaurant. That big thermometer (above right) was right across the street from our breakfast table and people kept getting pictures in front of it. So after breakfast, Colleen and the boys joined in the fun.
And then it was off to the beach:
I am not a beach person at all. But South Beach is awesome! The water is warm and there are hardly any waves at all. Lots of fun.
I splashed around a bunch in the water with Kellan, but Tim spent most of his time searching for sea shells…
…and then he posed with a rescue waver runner before we headed out.
After we had our fill of the beach, we headed back to the hotel so Kellan could get a quick nap. But he had no interest in it. So we headed to our hotel’s rooftop pool:
The pool at the Miami Hilton is really cool. And you can see Marlins Park from the deck.
Around 3:45, we packed up and headed out to Marlins Park. This time, the Cook Family was at full strength. And, for the record, Marlins Park was Colleen’s 14th MLB stadium (old Yankee Stadium, Memorial Stadium, Veterans Stadium, Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, PNC Park, Fenway Park, Citi Field, new Yankee Stadium, Nationals Park, Progressive Field, Rogers Centre and Marlins Park).
We parked at the CVS again. In fact, the parking attendant remembered us and intentionally had us park in the exact same spot as the night before. These pictures should be flipped, but here are a couple views of the Marlins parking garages as we approached the stadium:
The picture above to the right is the view across NW 7th Street as we approached the mid-block crosswalk. The picture above to the left is the end of that same parking garage from the little street approaching the ballpark, and that is a big art piece on the side of the parking garage.
The day before we turned to our right and walked toward the home plate gates. At this game, we turned left, and headed toward the left field corner. As we circled the corner, we walked by a “Boletos” window…
…and found some bamboo trees around the corner.
There is a big side walk area behind the LF side of the ballpark, and the sidewalk is littered with the artistic *remnants* of the words “ORANGE BOWL” sunken into the sidewalk. Tim and Kellan decided to pose with ever letter that was accessible to foot traffic:
Along the left field outer wall of the stadium, there is an entrance for the Clevelander Night Club:
If we had Clevelander tickets, we could have entered the ballpark already, but we didn’t. The sad thing is that we could see the Marlins inside taking BP. Only the select few with Clevelander or certain other “premium” tickets ever get to see the Marlins take BP in Miami. That’s too bad.
As we approached what I will call the Centerfield gate, I turned around and took a picture of the boys and Colleen with several of the sunken letters behind them:
Amazingly, while there were a lot of people milling around outside of the Clevelander, there were zero people in line at the CF gate. So I hopped in line, and Tim and Kellan played with some green lights set into the sidewalk:
I didn’t realize this until working on this blog entry, but the gates are colored (signs, etc.) and feature lights set into the ground. And those colors all match the colors of the concourse corresponding where you will enter the stadium. For example, Tim and Kellan were playing with green lights and the signs on the CF gate were green, and when we ran into the ballpark, we entered the green section of the ballpark. And if you look at our last entry, you’ll have to take my word for it that we exited the ballpark in the yellow section of the ballpark and there were yellow lights on the ramp down to the ground level outside. That’s pretty cool. Well thought out, Marlins. Good job!
We had ten or so minutes to kill, so Tim and I played catch at the gate:
Check out this nice catch by Tim:
He’s chalk-full of good catches these days.
As we stood at the front of the line, this was our view through the gates:
This is a much better entrance than the RF gate. In RF, you have to slowly wind your way up a spiral walkway (sorta spiral, at least). The CF gate gives you a straight shot right up some those steps and into the CF concourse.
So, Tim, Kellan and I headed right down into section 36. Almost immediately, a groundskeeper walking through the outfield tossed a baseball up to Tim.
And just a few minutes later, another baseball was hit to the warning track near us. Tim got Josh Edgin’s attention and Edgin tossed the ball up…
…and Tim made a great grab. The ball from the groundskeeper was thrown over Tim’s head and we picked it up off of the ground. But Tim gloved the ball from Edgin cleanly, and it marked the very first Tim that Colleen had ever seen Tim catch a baseball completely on his own at a baseball game. By the way, she had stayed up at the top of the section and took three of those pictures from behind us.
Right after Tim caught the baseball from Edgin, Kellan got all excited and stood on the wall with his glove over his head yelling for more baseballs:
It was pretty cute.
We had only been in the park for a few minutes by this time, ten at the most. During that time, one of the Mets hit a homerun into section 40 along the RF line. Section 40 was completely empty and I thought it might be a good spot to go to try to catch a BP homer on the fly, so we all headed over there.
As Tim, Kellan and I walked into the section, there was an usher standing on the stairs right along the foul line…
…he pointed to two different spots in the empty rows of seats and lo-and-behold there were two baseballs just waiting to be found. We grabbed them and then headed down to the front row to watch more BP. I thought that was really cool of the usher, and quite fan friendly. We have found very few “easter eggs” at MLB games. It seems like most teams have their ushers clear out easter eggs before fans can find them. So it was really cool that this usher kept tabs on the baseballs and then pointed them out to us.
In addition to pointing out the baseballs, the usher was a really nice guy. He chatted with us a little more as we hung out in his section.
Colleen followed us into the section and several other fans, maybe 10 or so, followed her. There actually ended up being a decent little gathering of fans down there.
Several Mets pitchers were running from the RF foul line to CF and Kellan was still hoping that someone would toss him a baseball:
Ready for the blurriest picture I’ve ever posted on this blog? Here we go:
This shot was taken during possibly the 3 most interesting seconds of BP. A Mets batter hit a homerun to our right (closer to the bullpen). It was going to land 10 feet to our right and a row or two behind us. There were several fans right where it seemed like the homer was going to land. I didn’t even make a move for it. There was no chance of me getting over there. But then, magically, it slammed untouched into a folded up seat between all of the fans and took a crazy ricochet toward the foul pole. I flung my hand up and – BOOM! – barehanded the baseball as it tried to whiz by my head. Immediately upon catching the baseball, I turned around (as shown in the picture above) and looked at the ball and another baseball whizzed by me. As you can see in the picture above to the left, right as I barehanded that homerun ball, Tim was calling out to Jon Neise. Neise tossed a ball up to Tim but threw it over his head. It hit the seats right in front of me. The ball rattled around on the floor for half a second before we scooped it up.
So, we very quickly got four baseballs in section 40. I figured that was good enough. So we did a little exploring.
First, we took Colleen up to the upper deck seats above section 40. Colleen though the “concourse” up there was quite bizarre so she snapped our picture:
We took a stroller through the upper deck seats. Here is what Marlins Park looks like from section 140:
While we were up there, I noticed something I had not noticed the day before – there is a “Marlins Park” sign above the RF upper deck seats:
I found out later that Colleen took our picture as me and the boys walked across the upper deck seats:
Before heading down from the upper deck, I got a panorama from the SRO behind the seats in section 134:
After we got our fill of the upper deck, we headed down and over to the SRO area behind the homerun statue. There were three Mets standing down below us but we only recognized one of them, Chris Young. Like Tim in t-ball this season, Chris Young wears number 55. So that made Tim happy. Tim decided to try to get Young to toss a ball all the way up to us. But it was clear it wasn’t going to happen. So we swung around to the LF seats.
Here was our view from the end spot in the first row of section 32:
We were right above the Clevelander, but you wouldn’t really know it. All we could see below the LF bleachers were a bunch of blue awnings:
We were still relatively close to Chris Young and Tim was still hoping that Young would toss a baseball up to him. But Eric Langill beat Young to it:
Young did eventually *try* to toss Tim a baseball…
…but things were a bit complicated. First off, where we were in the front row it was only about two feet deep. We were past the last seat and there is just a little extra space that is…just sorta *there* The point is, there was a big bright lime green wall directly behind us. Plus, most of Tim’s body was behind the front wall of the section – you know, the wall that keeps people from falling down into the Clevelander.
All this meant that Tim was a really small target for Young to hit. Add to that fact, the fact that Tim really likes to makes catches on his own. He doesn’t like me swooping in to make a catch when he thinks he can make it on his own. So, when Young air mailed the ball over Tim’s head, although I could have easily stepped forward and caught it right above Tim’s head, I hung back and hoped Tim could reach the ball. When it flew over Tim’s outstretched glove, I tried to play the ricochet off the wall, but it bounced oddly off the wall and the family a couple seats down from us snatched up Tim’s Chris Young baseball.
Tim was pretty bummed out about it because he really wanted to catch a baseball from Young. I felt bad for Tim not being able to catch the baseball from a fellow number 55. But, assuming Tim was going to catch the baseball from Young, I was going to give the Langill baseball to that family anyway. So at the end of the day, missing the baseball was a wash.
As BP started to wind down, we headed over to the LF corner. It looked a little like this over there in section 29:
There were a couple BP homers scattered in the Marlins bullpen. I figured we would hang out there until someone wandered out to the bullpen. As Randy St. Clair made his way down the LF line, an usher came through and told everyone they had to leave unless they had tickets for that section. I pointed out St. Clair and mentioned we were hoping he would toss up one of the baseballs in the bullpen. The usher gave us the blessing to stay put.
And when St. Clair passed by below…
…he stopped and tossed the one baseball right below us to a kid just down from us. He then disappeared and five seconds later reappeared holding up a baseball and calling out to Tim. It took St. Clair a couple attempts to get the baseball up to us. His first toss wasn’t high enough and actually bounced out onto the foul warning track. But St. Clair ran over and grabbed it and made a better toss.
Before heading out, I snapped a picture of the smaller scoreboard behind section 29:
An usher had told Colleen that some Marlins would be signing autographs behind the LF seats prior to the game. We had noticed them doing this before the game the night before. Unless it was Mike Stanton…I mean, Giancarlo Stanton, I had no interest in waiting around on them. We never did end up seeing any Marlins signing autographs over there, but we did see these guys:
Those guys were hanging out taking photos right by the “Taste of Miami.” Colleen wanted to check out the T.o.M. While doing so, we noticed that there was a door leading out to a little landing outside. We headed out there to get a picture of Colleen and Tim with the city behind them:
And then we headed up the big escalator…
…to the upper deck.
We were essentially just walking around so Colleen could see the stadium and we could kill some time before the game started. But I did have one thing I needed to do up in the upper deck. I had not got a panorama all the way out by the RF corner. So we walked all the way around the upper deck so I could get this panorama from section 302:
We were getting really close to game time. Colleen and Tim wanted to grab some food and Tim wanted to show Colleen the bobblehead museum so we split up. While they did those things, Kellan and I headed to our seats.
As I surveyed the area and took some photos, Kellan snuck some of daddy’s diet pepsi and guarded my seat:
Here was our view of Marlins Park from section 3, row E:
By the way, I should point out that row E is the third row off the field in section 3. The front row (row C) has only two seats. Row D is four seats wide. And Row E is eight seats wide. We had the four seats right on the aisle (seats 8, 7, 6, and 5). The face value of these tickets was (I believe) $35/ticket, but we picked them up on stub hub for $13/ticket. I could have actually got the seats directly one row behind us for $11/ticket, but I opted for being a little bit closer to the field.
The was one reason and one reason alone that I picked these seats: they were the closest we could get (well, closest without spending a lot of money) to the ball boy. My goal was for Tim to get a live game foul tossed up to him from the ball boy.
Here’s a nice view of the Marlins homerun statue:
Colleen got some food at the Taste of Miami and Ti got a big trough of fries, and then they headed over to the Bobblehead Museum:
When they reached our seats, Tim shared his fries with Kellan and Colleen took tons of pictures of it:
For the second day in a row, Tim was pulling for the Fish. On the hill for the Marlins was Tim’s number counterpart, Josh Johnson:
Johnson pitched a gem for eight innings. And this was our view from section 3:
Colleen took lots of pictures during the game, like this…
…, and this:
The Marlins took the lead in the bottom of the third inning when Bryan Peterson hit an RBI double – 1-0 Marlins.
Around the fourth inning, Tim wanted to explore a little bit. So we all took to our feet and hit the concourse. Heading toward home plate through the 1B side concourse, we past a Guest Services booth and a bank of escalators leading up to the club level:
Just past the Guest Services booth there was a random bar…
…and some equally (nee…more) random art on the wall above the concourse.
Remember those buried “Orange Bowl” letters outside the stadium? Well, in the concourse down the LF line, the Marlins pay tribute to the Orange Bowl on one of the stadium’s support beams:
You know what else they have on lots of the support beams circling the field? Marlins Park signs:
Down the LF line, we found an escalator heading down below the field level concourse. I asked the usher guarding the top of the escalator what it was all about, and she explained it was the entrance to the Clevelander. You need a Clevelander ticket to enter the Clevelander, but not simply to ride the Clevelander escalator. This is what the Clevelander entrance looks like from the escalator:
When we resumed our walk around the field level concourse, we saw something hilarious:
Aye, aye, aye…
We continued walking single file from LF toward CF:
In that last picture, Colleen is wearing Kellan’s hat.
We stopped in RCF so I could get a panoramic shot from the concourse behind section 35:
Before returning to our seats we stopped by several concession stands, and all of them had computer error dialogue boxes displayed on the menu boards:
Most of the menu boards had that error box and no prices for any of the food. I guess that is one potential drawback of technology; an old fashioned manual menu board never has an error that prevents it from doing its one and only job.
Anyway, the menu board errors did not prevent us from getting some tasty ice cream for the boys:
There was some more scoring in this game. In the top of the fifth, the Mets tied the game up at 1-1 on a Josh Thole groundout.
In the bottom of the sixth, Jose Reyes and Carlos Lee hit singles and then Giancarlo Stanton followed with a single of his own, but his single was of the RBI variety. So that put the Marlins up 2-1.
Stanton got stranded on base, but that didn’t prevent me from getting some Giancarlo base running photos…
… while he was making a mad dash for 3B as Donovan Solano flew out to CF for the third out of the bottom of the sixth inning.
Before the top of the seventh inning, I noticed that the Marlins employ a umpire-look-a-like usher whose job it is to run out to shallow CF to deliver between-inning water to the actual umpires:
Lucas Duda led off the top of the seventh with a ten pitch at bat, which included five foul balls. This, I believe, was the first of those five foul balls:
Duda hit that foul ball right down the 1B line. It evaded the fans down the line and was snared by the ball boy in fair territory right down below us. The ball boy no-look tossed the baseball into the crowd and I just barely caught it while reaching up as high as I could over my head.
I won’t lie. I was pretty darn excited about this foul ball toss-up. I bought these specific seats with the specific goal of getting a foul ball tossed to us from the bat boy, something that we’ve never got before. I actually could have got the seats immediately behind our seats for $2 less per seat. But I went for the slightly more expensive seats that were just a little closer to the field, and it paid off big time. It is doubtful we would have got this foul ball if we were one row further back from the field.
And, hey, bonus! Since the baseball was used in the game at Marlins Park, it was a Marlins Park inaugural season commemorative baseball! Hooray!
Thanks, Lucas and Ball Boy!
Here’s a random picture for you:
Throughout our two games at Marlins Park, I kept wondering what the heck that yellow line was for on the LF foul wall. The line is ten feet into foul territory. If a ball hits just behind it on the green wall, its foul, not a homerun. I just don’t get it.
Heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, things were looking pretty good for the Marlins. Josh Johnson had given up only three hits all night and the Fish had a 2-1 lead. But they weren’t satisfied.
With one down in the bottom of the eighth, former-Met Jose Reyes drew a walk off of Ramon Ramirez. While Carlos “El Caballo” Lee stood in, Reyes swiped second. And then El Caballo dinked a little hit into RCF:
Neither Mike Baxter nor Andres Torres could come up with the ball, and Reyes motored right around third and crossed home for a seemingly valuable insurance run:
Everyone was happy about the Marlins’ lead, including Colleen and Kellan:
I was stilling waiting for a Giancarlo Stanton long ball…
…unfortunately, he followed Lee with a double-play grounder, instead.
The Marlins win was seemingly in hand. So many of the Marlins *faithful* headed for the doors, which was nice because almost the whole row behind us opened up for Kellan:
Here’s another random shot:
How weird is it that you can see the legs of the people in the front row through the fish tanks?
At 105 pitches for the night, Ozzie Guillen (who we never really noticed while we were at Marlins Park) in decided Josh Johnson had done enough. He turned the game over to his non-Heath Bell closer, Steve Cishek. Unfortunately, it was not Cishek’s night.
Daniel Murphy lead off with a single to RF. David Wright followed with a single to LF. After Ike Davis struck out swinging, Lucas Duda hit a single to CF.
All of Josh Johnson’s hard work was erased: Murphy and Wright both scored on Duda’s single and the score was all knotted up at 3-3.
I missed all of that nice action with my camera. Instead, after the Mike Baxter fouled out, I got an action shot of Cishek pitching to Andres Torres:
It looks like Lucas Duda is stealing 2B on that pitch, but he’s not. He waited for Torres to collect four balls, and then he walked to 2B.
And that brought Kelly Shoppach to the plate. On the second pitch he saw from Cishek…
…, Shoppach sent a hard grounder back up through the box. The ball quickly made its way out to Marlins CF Justin Ruggiano who was running hard ready to scoop the ball up and throw home, but…OOPS…Ruggiano ran right by the ball and it kept rolling DEEP into CF.
I thought it was going to result in an error-assisted in the park homerun. But Shoppach doesn’t have the wheel, he only made it to 3B. But Duda and Torres had no trouble finding the plate.
Ruggiano’s body language told the story:
Aye, aye, aye…
The Marlins were two outs from a 2-run win, and now they trailed the Mets 5-3.
Randy St. Clair came out to deliver the bad news to Cishek:
“Hit the showers, kid!”
And in sprinted former-closer, Heath Bell:
Bell struck out the only batter he faced (Scott Hairston).
As the Mets warmed up for the bottom of the ninth inning, I took this picture of Mike Baxter playing catch with the ball boy:
I took the picture because that is essentially right where the ball boy was standing (although he was running in the general direction of the 1B dugout) when the ball boy tossed the Lucas Duda foul ball up to us.
Speaking for foul balls, the ball boy got another during the bottom of the ninth and he flipped it up to no one in general. It was going to land right on the other side of the railing between section 3 and section 4 (to our left). Tim hopped up and reached over the railing. I thought he had a chance to catch it…that is, he had a chance until a 20-ish year old fan sitting in the front row completely leaned over Tim…
…and crushed Tim’s arm against the railing. Amazingly, (although he too missed the ball) this guy was totally oblivious to the fact that he crushed Tim’s arm on the railing (and, just in general, smashed into Tim).
Way to go, cool guy!
Frank Francisco took over for the Mets in the bottom of the ninth and he set the Marlins down 1 (Greg Dobbs), 2 (Donovan Solano), 3 (John Buck).
Game, set, match: Mets.
After the game wrapped up, we made our way down to the front row corner spot and got a nice family picture:
But our night wasn’t over.
We relocated over to the front row behind the 1B (visitors) dugout…
…and watched Billy the Marlin entertain the crowd a bit.
Then the Marlins opened up the roof…
…and BOOM GO THE FIREWORKS:
It was a decent little fireworks show (nothing compared to an Indians Rock’N’Roll Blast) with a really strong finale.
After the fireworks wrapped up and we prepared to head for the exits, I snapped a picture that I had meant to take earlier in the day:
See how that green wall comes down to a point just past the visitors’ bullpen in RF? Well, it looks like the aisle running up the left and right sides of that wall connect at the point of the wall. Yeah, it *looks* like that…but looks can be deceiving.
In fact, the aisles to meet at the point of the wall, but a railing blocks off the passage way. So to get from one section to the other, you have to go up to the concourse and then walk 50 feet or so down to the next stair case.
Anyway, it was finally time to leave.
People were heading up the stairs to the concourse. But I sensed an opportunity for one last Marlins Park exploration. I noticed there was a tunnel leading down below the field level seats at the back of the moat (between sections 5 and 6). So we stayed in the first row and walked across toward section 6).
We were the VERY LAST fans to leave the seats down there in the moat, and an usher rewarded Tim for this accomplishment in the form of our final baseball from Marlins Park:
We headed into the tunnel under seats and it looked a whole lot like this:
That tunnel took us back to the main tunnel that circles under the ballpark. We turned right in that main tunnel and found a bunch of big colorful pictures of (mostly) current Marlins:
Tim posed with the best of them – Giancarlo Stanton!
And then we were funneled out of the ballpark through a little bar area that is open (I think) to people with 1B-side premium seats:
When we finally made it outside the ballpark, there was a concert in progress (just like the night before):
I gotta give credit to the Marlins. They’ve created a very fun post-game atmosphere with these little outdoor, post-game concerts.
As we walked toward our car, I noticed an entrance to the main Marlins Team Store. The “team store” (and that really has to be put in quotes) at Sun Life Stadium was light years beyond pathetic.
But the team store at Marlins Park is a legit Major League TEAM STORE (worthy of all caps):
Not wanting our Marlins Park experience to end, I continued to take pictures as we walked toward our car. Here is Tim and the Marlins Park roof:
Here is a view from the northwest corner of the ballpark:
And, finally, a night time shot of Marlins Park from the CVS Pharmacy parking lot showing the roof rolled back over in the *open* position:
Here is my official assessment: Marlins Park is an 80,000,000,000% improvement over Sun Life Stadium.
Good job, Marlins!
We really had a great time at our two games in Miami.
BUT WAIT! OUR WEEKEND TRIP WASN’T YET COMPLETE. SCROLL DOWN FOR A FEW BONUS PICTURES.
2012 C&S Fan Stats
|23/21 Games (Tim/Kellan)|
|18/17 Teams – Tim – Mariners, Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves|
|37 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Mariners 5, Phillies 4, Orioles 5, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2, Pirates 3, Nationals 2, Marlins 4|
|1 Ice Cream Glove! – Nationals|
|129 Baseballs – Mariners 22, Marlins 7, Mets 21, Nationals 8, Phillies 7, Umpires 6, Orioles 13, Athletics 2, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 6, Red Sox 6, Rays 10, Pirates 3, Rockies 2, Braves 1|
|22 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park 2, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 9, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park 1, Shea Stadium ’08 2, Nationals Park ’08 2|
|12/12 Stadiums – Tim – Safeco Field, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park, Marlins Park; Kellan – Safeco Field, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park, Citizens Bank Park, Marlins Park8/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Mariners Moose (2), Sluggerrr, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Oriole Bird (2); Kellan – Fredbird|
|7/2 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Jeremy Guthrie, Evan Scribner, Stephen Pryor, Shawn Kelley, Scott Cursi; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist, Stephen Pryor|
|2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck|
|9 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki, Evan Scribner, Felix Hernandez, Shawn Kelley, Steven Pryor, Josh Kinney|
On 9/2, we spent a bunch of time in South Beech, where we did some swimming at the beach and saw some cool birds:
And some more cool birds and a Lambourghini:
On 9/3, the big event of the day was our trip to the Miami Seaquarium, where we got to hold some really cool birds:
But best of all, we hung out with a dolphin:
Hooray for dolphins!
It has been a long and busy off-season. On Saturday, April 14, 2012, Tim and I kicked off our 2012 baseball season with a game between the Mets and Phillies in Philadelphia. I had been looking forward to this game like crazy.
I had originally planned to take both boys to Baltimore on Saturday, April 7th, but I didn’t realize it was Easter weekend and we had a house full of family. So we had to wait a whole week to get our first taste of major league baseball for the season.
I’ve been extremely busy at work this off-season. And our house has been crazy. Having two boys is awesome. But it is way harder than having one boy. Tim and Kellan get along great most of the time. But they also create non-stop action, tons of brotherly competition, a healthy dose of yelling and chaos, and they require a lot of discipline…or at least a lot of correcting. Don’t do this, that, or the other thing. Stop doing this, that, or whatever.
Baseball season provides something that the rest of the year generally does not. Something I really needed. Extended periods of father-son time in an environment that Tim and I just really enjoy. No chaos. Tim and I have gotten so good at attending games. We’re an amazing team. Hardly any discipline is needed. It is just fun and relaxing days connecting with my boy and sharing our mutual love of baseball. So let’s get to it.
The morning started with opening day of Tim’s first year of little league (which is the newest chapter of Tim’s life, extremely exciting, and will be up next on this blog). After opening ceremonies, we hopped in the car, grabbed a happy meal from McD’s…
…and headed toward Philadelphia. I was loving baseball season within the first fifteen minutes of our drive. It was a completely unchanged experience despite the six month break. Tim and I had great conversations the whole ride down, except of course for during the 15 minutes that we spent battling each other to see who could sing the best Gotye “Someone I Used To Know” (Tim’s favorite song). Tim won! As my wife will tell you, I’m a horrible singer. By the way, Tim’s best comment during our drive was his description of what college is: “college is where there are lots of boys and lots of girls and you find out who you are going to marry.”
We pulled into the stadium – paid our $15 to park. Pulled on Tim’s new Ichiro jersey…
…and sized up our destination: Citizens Bank Park!
Bring on the baseball.
We grabbed a spot second in line. We started up a nice conversation with the guy behind us, another guy excited to be back at the ballpark for another year. And within a few minutes, a young man approached and asked, “Are you Todd?”
It was a 12-year-old boy named Harrison who was at the ballpark with his father, Seth. Another father-son having a great day with the sport they love. Harrison reads our blog and leaves comments from time-to-time under the name “Philadelphia45.” It was great to get to know Harrison and Seth a little bit.
Tim loves hanging with older kids, and Harrison was no exception. Here they are hanging out at the gate – timed exactly when Tim blinked (oops):
When the gates opened, we went our separate ways, but we’d meet up again with Harrison and Seth. Tim and I headed to left field. We were among the very first people into the seats. And within a few minutes, a Phillies batter lined a foul ball into the roped off seats down the 3B line. An usher grabbed it and spotted Tim from a long way off. He siliently (so Tim didn’t realize it) called us over to the “chain” and handed Tim his very first baseball of 2012:
Thank you, Sir!
We have somewhat of a routine for the BP at Citizens Bank Park. First, we set up shop right down the line, in the very small piece of foul territory that is open at the beginning of BP. Here was our view:
There was a Mets player…I think he was a player, although he was wearing shorts and no jersey…hanging out below us. And I notice something very odd…
…he had a glove with “Todd Helton” embroidered on the thumb. I asked him why he had a Todd Helton glove and he responded, “Because he gave it to me.” “Oh, that’s really cool,” I responded.
Soon (as pictured above), Johan Santana showed up and started running from the foul line to CF. At one point, he was approaching the foul line when a Phillies batter hit a long grounder right to him. I called out, “Hey, Johan!” When he looked up, I pointed at Tim and he started to motion like he was going to throw it to Tim. But Tim was holding his glove in his throwing hand for some reason. So, Johan pointed…or maybe he nodded…at Tim and then threw the baseball to me. I handed it over to Tim and we both called out a loud and excited:
Thank you, Johan!!!
Wow, Johan Santana. That’s a great toss-up. Very exciting for our first toss-up of the season. But in retrospect, our next toss-up would be about ten times more exciting.
We hung out in the same spot until they opened the rest of the stadium. We watched Cliff Lee do some running…
…and we chatted with Harrison and Seth who had joined us shortly after the toss-up from Santana. They had also caught two baseballs already – one from Michael Stutes who I really want to connect with some day on a toss-up because he once heckled my softball team while he played for the Reading Phillies.
Normally, when the rest of the stadium opens, Tim and I head out to the “pizza wedge” in RCF. But the Mets have a commemorative baseball this season that I was really hoping we could get from one of the Mets pitchers warming up down the line. So we relocated (along with Harrison and Seth) to the corner spot down the LF line:
We ended up standing right behind Tim Byrdak. I was excited. I have wanted Tim to get a baseball from another “Tim” ever since we got one from umpire Todd Tichnor. Maybe this would be the day!?
When Mets coach Ricky Bones (I love that name!) walked by, Harrison asked for a picture. Bones told Harrison to hold on and when he returned about 10 minutes later, Tim was a co-beneficiary of Harrison’s request:
Thanks, Mr. Bones!
And then things got REALLY exciting! Tim Byrdak and his partner finished up playing catch. A Mets batter had hit a grounder that rolled to a stop about five feet from Byrdak’s feet. As he grabbed the ball to throw it in, while pointing at Tim, I shouted out, “Hey, Tim, how about throwing a ball to another Tim!?”
It worked. Byrdak turned around and tossed the ball at Tim. Tim has made amazing progress with his catching skills over the last two months, but I was nervous and anxious and excited all at the same time as the ball sailed toward Tim. What would happen?
Without hesitating, Tim reached out and made a nice one handed grab with his glove. A clean catch with zero assistance from his dad:
When the ball stuck in Tim’s glove I was ecstatic. I literally jumped in the air and shouted, “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!” I was so happy and proud of my no-longer-so-little guy. All offseason, we’ve been talking about how he’s going to catch a baseball (or baseballs!) on his own this season, and we’ve been talking about trying to get a baseball from a Major League “Tim” for years, and it all came together in one moment and sheer awesomeness.
It was truly perfect and completely made my day.
Some of our hugest “thank yous” ever to Mr. Timothy Christopher Byrdak!
We’ve been fortunate enough to get a nice collection of baseballs at MLB games, but this one definitely ranks right up there at the tippy top of the list as one of the best.
On the natural high of the toss-up from Mr. Byrdak, Tim and I decided to report to the pizza wedge.
Here’s a tip. When relocating to another section of the ballpark, walk through the seats, not through the concourse. That’s what we did and…
…Mike Pelfrey rewarded us with a baseball in deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep center field.
Before hitting up the pizza wedge, we visited the Phillies hall of fame area so Tim could grab the different metal baseballs that have finger grips for different types of pitches, and then spit some seeds down…
…into the bushes in the batters’ eye. And then Tim called Richie Ashburn “saaafe!” in our first MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt picture of the season.
The pizza wedge was dominated by a family a four with two 13-14 year old’ish girls who got some love from the players (as did “mom”), before Mets coach (and former player for numerous MLB teams) Tom Goodwin hooked Tim up with our first pizza wedge ball of the season:
Note: the balls from Pelfey and Goodwin followed the more traditional, point at Tim and throw to Dad method…although, Tim made an attempt at the Pelfrey ball, but it was too high and sailed over his glove and into mine.
There was still more BP, but we were done. Tim wanted to play some games. The speed pitch, for some reason, wasn’t open. But we played the trivia game and the running in place game…
…in the deep LCF concourse. This season, instead of handing out slips of paper that say you played one of these games, you collect stamps in the little booklet that Tim is holding in the above picture. I’m not sure what you get when you fill it up with stamps. We’ll see later in the season.
After some game time, we headed up the steps toward the upper deck. We got this picture of Tim on the second deck with a view of the bullpens and Ashburn Alley behind/below him:
And then we headed to the back row of section 302 for what we determined must be the farthest seat from home plate:
Yep, make that two pictures checked off the 2012 Photo Scavenger Hunt list!
While up there, of course, I got a panorama from section 302:
And then we headed back down to the second deck for our first father-son picture of the season:
Thank you to a nice usher who snapped the photo. As my Little Grandma would say, “Jiminy, Tim is gotten huge!” Remember when he used to look like this? It is fun looking back at game photos and seeing him grow up before my eyes.
Actually, he’s done some much growing that I was concerned he would be too tall for the kids’ play area. But fear not…
…plenty of growing still to do before he is shut out of the play area.
Tim was excited after posing for that picture, he told me “I can even come back and play when I am seven!”
The game started while we were at the play area. Soon, we grabbed some nachos…
…and our seats in section 104:
The Mets were already winning 1-0 on a David Wright homerun to LF.
We spent a lot of the game (we’re mobile so not all of the game) sitting behind this dude…
…named “Duda,” Lucas Duda, and this other dude named….
…Hunter “Ugliest Mechanics In Baseball But Monster Power” Pence.
After nachos, it was time for Tim’s first ice cream helmet of the season. We took the scenic route to our favorite ice cream lady at Citizens Bank Park…
…that’s the view from Section 242¸by the way.
Most of the teams in Tim’s little league are sponsored by local businesses, but one is sponsored by today’s Phillies starter, Vance Worley (who used to play for the Reading Phillies):
Big thanks to Vance for supporting our league, but this, unfortunately, was not his day.
On this pitch, Vance got Jason Bay to ground into a double play…
…but a run scored making it 2-0 Mets. Duda was up next and he clubbed a 2-run homer to make it 4-0 Mets.
How about a random shot of British Columbian-born, Gonzaga University-alum Jason Bay:
Guess what? Tim still likes ice cream hemlets…
…and our lady still makes a huge helmet.
The Phillies have not started strong this season. And I noticed something…the fans do not seem to believe in them as much as in the last couple years, at least at this point with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both on the DL. Check out the patch of empty seats with the Phils losing 4-0 in the top of the sixth inning:
I never saw that last season at Citizens Bank Park.
Tim wanted to visit the team store. On our walk around the stadium, we noticed this nice mosaic art piece in the concourse:
While Tim and I were talking about the little Phanatic in the mosaic, the real Phanatic’s mom showed up on the scene. I pulled our my camera and it refused to fire when the Phanatic’s mom patted Tim on the head. Instead, the flash delayed the shutter and it didn’t take a picture until the Phanatic’s mom stuck her hand in my face with an exaggerated “Hi, Dad” wave:
So I got a rare close up of the Phanatic’s mom’s hand!
Shortly thereafter, Tim became the owner of a new stuffed Phanatic:
We stopped by the play area on our way back to RF, but it was just closing down. Sad news. So we headed back to the now hardly half-full RF seats. Between innings, an usher took this shot of me and Tim:
By the way, Tim’s eyes were starting to look puffy because he was battling serious hay fever, which has been a daily battle for the last couple weeks.
The Phillies really did nothing offensively in this game. Well, next to nothing. They did get a single on this pitch to Juan Pierre:
If you look closely, you can see the baseball heading toward RF in that picture.
It is almost impossible to get an umpire baseball in Philadelphia (it would be easier if you had seats in the Diamond Club), but it was our first game of the season so, heck, we were up for the challenge.
We relocated to the concourse behind section 130. For a while, we stood behind the camera man…
…where we saw Ruben Tejada drive in pinch runner Mike Baxter…
…off of Michael Stutes:
And then we watched David Wright…
…and Ike Davis…
…make outs for the Mets.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Tim and I slid into nearly ideal seats for making the umpire ball attempt:
The umpire Alfonso Marquez (shown in the background) would enter a tunnel at the home plate end of the dugout, just to the right of the guy in the light blue Phillies t-shirt in that last picture.
We had a great view of Jimmy Rollins, as he grounded out:
And a great view of Hunter Pence, while he struck out:
There were tons of empty seats in RF as Jon Rauch pitched to the day’s final batter John Mayberry:
Mayberry ended the game in the ideal umpire attempt manner – a high pop up that allowed us to get into position while the umpire had to stay at home plate.
We slid all the way into the second a row and stood at the little railing separating the really nice seats (dugout) from the ridiculously nice seats (Diamond Club). Tim and I both called out “Alfonso” when he stopped on the grass just short of the warning track to wait for his colleagues. He heard us call his name and fired an absolutely beautifully rubbed up baseball to us:
And then he left.
We lingered for a bit and then headed toward the LF corner on our way to the exit. Tim was tossing the umpire ball into his glove over and over while we walked. I noticed that there were two ballgirls down the LF line and I asked Tim if he wanted to get a picture. He said yes, and then yelled and started running.
I thought he was running to the ballgirls, but he had missed his glove and fired his new umpire ball under some seats and it disappeared. We couldn’t find it anywhere, but fortunately, a nice fan pointed it out and we retrieved it from a tray of peanuts (or some type of food).
Fifteen seconds later and we would have missed getting this double ballgirl picture, which was taken mere feet from the spot where Tim caught the baseball from Byrdak about 4-and-a-half hours earlier:
A pose with his umpire ball and Citizens Bank Park sign…
…and with the Harry Kalas statute…
…and then we were “outta there!”
It was an incredibly awesome first day being back at the ballpark. I can’t wait to fold Kellan into the mix for our first 3-guys game next weekend.
I know why Ernie Banks always wanted to *play two* — hip, hip Hooray for Baseball!
2012 C&S Fan Stats
|1/0 Games (Tim/Kellan)|
|2/0 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets; Kellan – N/A|
|1 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1|
|6 Baseballs – Mets 4, Phillies 1, Umpires 1|
|1/0 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park; Kellan – N/A|
|1/0 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones; Kellan – N/A|