I woke up on May 2, 2008 with no plans except to put in a solid day at work. Soon, my plans would change.
I received a call in the morning. One of my collegues has a brother who is an executive in the Phillies front office. Tim and I would be joining a group of guys later that night in one of the Phillies Hall of Fame Club suites:
Tim and I had never been to the Hall of Fame Club. Citizens Bank Park has two levels of suites. The normal “Suite Level” is just above the field level and is accessed through a “no frills” suite level walk way. You can see that here.
The HOF Club is above the 200-level seating. The “concourse” for the HOF Club isn’t a concourse at all. Instead, its a indoor “Club” with a bar and couches, etc., etc.
For some inexplicable reason, I failed to take pictures of the HOF Club as a whole. But, I did take a picture of a wall of baseballs in the club…
…the wall is pretty cool. However, the balls clearly aren’t game balls or even batting practice balls. They were never used. I think it would be more impressive if the balls were rubbed up with mud and/or scuffed so you knew they’d seen some action on the field below the HOF Club.
I also took a zoomed in picture of the bottom of the bar in the HOF Club…
Anyway, the bat bar is pretty cool. But, again, the bats obviously aren’t used. I think it would be pretty sweet if they’d upgrade the bar with game used bats with scuff marks, pine tar stains, player signatures burned into the barrels, etc., etc. Still, its a cool bar.
So, we made our way into the suite. The Phils were hosting the Giants. The Phils jumped out to a quick lead in the first inning when Jayson Werth singled, stole second, and was driven in on Chase Utley’s 12th homerun of the still young season.
As the Phils were holding down the Giants’ offense, Tim was scarfing down delicious suite food. After a jumbo hot dog main course, Tim moved on to a seemingly never ending dessert course. Here he is showing off our “suite” view of the game and his first “sweet” tasting chocolate covered pretzel:
This may well have been Tim’s first chocolate covered pretzel of his life, but it wasn’t his last of the night. He would have just kept going, so I had to step in and stop him after 2…or maybe 2-and-a-half…pretzels.
He was a happy, sugar filled little boy…
One note about that picture. You’ll notice I am not wearing my usual all-Mariners attire. I opted for the red Rawlings T-shirt and my Reading Phillies hat because I was essentially a guest of the Phillies at this game. There was no way I was dressing Tim up in Phillies garb (actually, I couldn’t if I wanted to he doesn’t own any). But I felt too bad to have us both in all-Mariners gear with no Phillies representation.
Anyway, we were having a great time as the game progressed. We split time between the three rows of seats in the front of our suite and the indoor section of the suite. As I mentioned, Tim was all hopped up on sugar and was full of energy…he was so excited he was literally running laps around the suite — as you can see in this short video clip.
As Tim ran laps of the suite, I spent some time chatting with our bartender. (Oh, yeah, our suite had its own bartender). He was a nice guy. He was a school teacher at a high school in the city. His wife let him work for the Phils part-time in the evenings. He usually worked somewhere else in the stadium. Somewhere with a better view of the game than from behind the bar at the back of the suite. He described his part-time job as getting paid to have season tickets to his favorite team. Nice.
So, after I shut down the chocolate covered pretzels gravy train…
…Tim moved on to big chocolate chip cookies. Yeah, its a tough life for young Timothy.
Each time Pat Burrell strode to the plate, I told our suitemates that he would almost certainly hit a homerun because he always hits a homerun for Tim. But the Giants kept him in the yard each time I made my announcement.
Late in the game, Tim kept graviting toward the bottom corners of the suite seating area. When I headed over to see what was going on, I found Tim…
…in deep conversation (well, “deep” for a 2 year old) with one of the stadium attendants working in the 200-level. He moved back and forth between the bottom corners of the suite chatting up this lady and another lady stationed below the other corner of the suite. Eventually, one of them gave Tim a little plastic Philly Phanatic figurine.
Sadly, like our last night game, Tim started getting mighty tired late in the game. Then something bad happened, Kyle Kendrick and Ryan Madison combined to give up three runs in the top of the seventh and the score was tied. Eventually, we headed into extra innings. Tim just couldn’t make it any longer.
Leading off the top of the tenth, former-Phil Aaron Rowand hit a solo-homerun off of J.C. Romero. That was it for us. With Tim having already reached the point of exhaustion, we headed to our car.
As we made our way to our car, Romero gave up two more hits but retired the Giants without surrendering any more runs. When we reached our car and I was strapping Tim into his car seat, we could hear the crowd chanting “M.V.P.! M.V.P.! M.V.P.!” Chase Utley was up. Soon the crowd erupted. I turned on the radio and learned that Utley had singled with one out. Ryan Howard struck out looking for the Phils’ 26th out of the night.
Then, on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, with 2-outs, a full-count, the Phils trailing by a run, the mighty Pat Burrell fulfilled my prophesy. He hit a 2-run walk off homerun to send the Phillies-faithful (and me and Tim) home happy.
Ah, good times.
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:
At 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:
Those 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:
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…
…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…
Ah, remember how I mentioned it is relaxing at Spring Training…
…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…
Spring Training is also good for normal bats too…
…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…
While my dad and I would play catch, Tim would run around with his grandma…
Soon, it was time for some games, so we would head to the main stadium in the afternoons:
Here is a view of the main stadium:
Here is a view of where we sat at most of the games:
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…
During one of the games, I took “The Ruthian” challenge:
On this trip, I also was able to achieve a life long dream…
…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…
But we still managed to get a picture that I absolutely love:
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:
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:
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…
We got a great close-up view of Moyer on the mound:
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.
On Sunday, September 9, 2007, we gathered in Philadelphia for Tim’s 7th game and Jamie Moyer’s 600th.
All of the Cooks were in attendance:
Ah, how young Tim used to love that pacifier. It’ll make a couple more appearances here on this blog in the future.
Along with us were our friends, the Grecos:
We sat in Section 235, Row 9:
This was our first time ever sitting in the 200-level at Citizens Bank Park. I really liked these seats. Row 9 is actually the last row in that section and directly behind the seats is a concrete wall so we were able to stand up as much as we wanted without blocking anyone’s view behind us. Plus, we were in the shade most (if not all) of the hot day.
Speaking of views, here was our view:
Check out how empty the stadium was on a Sunday afternoon game during pennant race! At this point, the Phils were still six games back. Of course, they would go on to win the East with a record of 89-73 thanks to a historic choke by the New York Mets.
In 2009, after winning the 2008 World Series, Citizens Bank Park never looked this empty. Not even close. The place was constantly packed to the rafters with fans.
Anyway, back to the game. I was excited because this was the first time Tim ever got to see Jamie Moyer pitch…
Moyer cruised through the first five innings pitching shut out ball. It was great, Tim was having a blast…
Meanwhile, the offense was clicking against a struggling Dontrelle Willis. Pat Burrell went 2-4 with 3 RBI and his 215th career home run. Carlos Ruiz went 3-4 with 2 RBI and his 9th career home run. Jimmy Rollins, Tad Iguchi and Aaron Rowand all also had multi-hit games and scored 4 runs between them.
With the game seemingly in hand behind the Phils 8-0 lead, it was time to get some shots of the kids…
And of course we had fun watching the Phillie Phanatic blast hot dogs into the stands with his big, high-powered hot dog gun…
…the sight of a foil-wrapped hot dog spinning around in the air as it descends into the crowd always cracks me up. One of these days I have to glove one of those dogs. That would certainly be memorable.
The wheels fell off for Moyer in the bottom of the sixth. He gave up home runs to Hanley Ramirez, Jeremy Hermida, and Mike Jacobs, and that was all she wrote for Moyer on this day. But it didn’t matter. He had all of the run support he needed to guide the Phils to the victory.
Tim’s look of concern as the Marlins mounted their too-little-too-late come back…
…soon gave way to a big smile as he witnessed the Phillies bats power Moyer to his 229th career victory.
Yep. It was a good day.
By the way, do you notice how I’m wearing a Phillies T-Shirt in the picture above to the left? I planned to (and in fact did) meet up with the Phillies Senior V.P. of Marketing, Dave Buck, to talk about the Baseball Log during this game. I work with Dave’s brother and I figured I’d wear a Phils shirt for the occassion. I still wore my Mariners hat, which Dave said he could respect. (Side note: the Marlins sixth inning rally took place when I was off meeting with Dave).
Although nothing came of the meeting with respect to the Baseball Log, Dave hooked us up with extremely awesome tickets (for which I was quite grateful) to an upcoming game against the Rockies, which will be my next entry…coming soon.