Tagged: Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies Run The Bases Presented By Tim (5/1/10)

Back in March, I did an entry of satellite images of the ball parks we plan to visit in 2010.  The first four stadiums I listed in order and for the fourth game I mentioned, “Next, we’ll be sticking closer to home for a very special game at Citizens Bank Park.”

On May 1, 2010, Tim and I attended that very special game, and it turned out to be way more special that I imagined in the first place.

Let’s start with an explanation of why I said it would be special.  If you look at our 2010 season goals (or our blog in general), you’ll see that we love Kids Run The Bases days.  Coming into 2010, Tim had run the bases at Progressive Field (2008), Camden Yards (2009), Rogers Centre (2009), Citi Field (2009-10), Miller Park (2009), and Nationals Park (2009-10).

We’ve never been able to line up a trip to Seattle that coincided with a Kids Run The Bases day.  So it is understandable that Tim has not run the bases at Safeco Field.

On the other hand, our failure to run the bases at Citizens Bank Park made no sense.  It is, after all, the closest MLB stadium to our house.  But in 2009, each of the kids run the bases days was on a business persons special day games.  I couldn’t justify taking a day off of work to go to a day game in Philadelphia.  So Tim was precluded from running the Citzens Bank Park bases.

I was perplexed at why a kids run the bases promotion would be doubled up with a business persons promotion.  I have a colleague whose brother is the Phillies Senior V.P. of Marketing & Advertising Sales.  So, I asked him about this odd situation.  His brother had no answer…and life went on.

Fast forward to 2:28 p.m. on January 19, 2010, I’m diligently working away at my desk when I receive an email from my colleague that simply said, “Just for you.”  It was a forward, so I scrolled down and found the following message from the inner-sanctum of Phillies management:  “we added a run the bases on a weekend for your friend – may 1st.” 

YES!!!

On Friday, April 30, 2010, my colleague called to make sure we were going to the game.  His brother had called to remind him that they put this on the schedule for Tim so he hoped we’d be there.  Of course!  While the schedule said “sponsored by Modell’s Sporting Goods,” as we drove toward Citizens Bank Park we knew this Kids Run The Bases day was really brought to the kids of Philadelphia by Tim Cook.

Thank you, Phillies, for listening to the fans!

So lets get to the actual game.  We arrived early for our first ever BP at Citizens Bank Park.  A guy in a golf cart met us at our car and drove us to the LF gate.  He also gave Tim a little green Citizens Bank pig key chain…which Tim named “Snortle.”

Outside the LF gate, Tim got his picture with a statue of Steve Carlton…

1 - tim and steve carlton statue.JPG…which by my count makes Carlton the second person with whom Tim has got his picture with the real person and his statute (the first being Michael Jack Schmidt).  He also got his picture with Joe Brown’s statue in the parking lot (that was actually after the game).

With Snortle in hand, we headed into the ball park.  We had three goals for BP, two of which we would achieve.

First, get our picture with my all-time favorite pitcher, Jamie Moyer.  Unfortunately, Moyer was in deep center field where the seats are maybe 15 feet above the field.  No way to get a picture with a player there.  So we just went out and stood near him.

2 - moyer 5-1-10.JPGRight after I took this picture, Tim yelled, “Hi, Jamie Moyer!”  Moyer made eye contact with us and gave Tim a nice wave with his glove.  Not just a little flip.  A legit “hi, how you doing” wave.  Very cool.

Soon thereafter, the Phils all started running toward the dugout, which is where we should have been.  We might have been able to get Moyer’s attention while at field level.  Anyway, I put Tim on my shoulders and we started to make our way toward the Phils’ dugout knowing that Moyer would be long gone by the time we got there.

That is when goal number 2 sealed the deal on not achieving goal number 1.  Our second goal was to get a baseball.  We’d only ever got one ball in all of our games at Citizens Bank Park.  We made no real effort during Phils BP.  We were just watching Moyer.

Then, as the Phils started running in and we started making our way toward the RF corner, I saw a Phils player on the field yelling up into the stands.  I’d later figure out it was J.C. Romero.  There were people lining the first and second rows and we were in row 4.  Romero was motioning “up and over” with his finger.  But it looked like he was motioning toward the very back of the section.  I had no clue what he was doing.  But he kept doing it.  Finally, I said, “US!?!?!?”  He said, “Yeah!”  And held up a ball.  Tim and I walked up to about row 7 and J.C. Romero lobbed…

3 - ball from jc romero.JPG…our second baseball ever at Citizens Bank Park directly into my glove.  I handed it up to Tim and the crowd was happy to see the Phils reliever find a worthy recipient for the baseball.  Our first ball at Citizens Bank Park was from Rockies first base coach (and former Mariner) Glenallen Hill.  And we got a ball from Jimmy Rollins in D.C. last season.  But this was our first baseball from a Phillie at a Phillies home game.

Thanks, J.C. Romero!

Goal No. 1 – failed.  Goal No. 2 – complete.

Third goal, get Frank Catalanotto’s autograph.  That might sound like an odd goal, but there is a back story (which we’ll get to).

The Mets were stretching in front of their dugout.  We ran over there.  I wrote out a quick and to the point sign…

4 - catalanotto sign.JPG…Tim grabbed the sign and popped up onto my shoulders.  Literally within 10 seconds, we were communicating with Frank Catalanotto and arranging to meet in the first row about 30 yards down the 3B line.  We got over there and we chatted with Frank, he signed our sign (shown above) as I dug through my backpack, and he posed for a picture with Tim…

5 - tims first batter frank catalanotto.jpgBut here is the real goal achieved….

6 - first pitch with catalanotto.jpgThat, my friends, is a picture of the first pitch of the first MLB game Tim ever attended back on September 12, 2006.  Frank Catalanotto, playing for the Blue Jays, was the batter and he took a called strike from the eventual winning pitcher, Gil Meche.

I told Catalanotto the whole story.  He thought it was awesome and he was SUPER COOL to us.  It was awesome.  For a non-game-related moment, this was one of the coolest and most memorable moments I’ve experienced at a ball park.

I have to give HUGE, HUGE gratitude to my dad for having the forethought to snap this picture while we were celebrating Tim’s first game.  I absolutely love that he captured this moment for Tim and I am estactic about the idea of Tim having a picture of his first MLB pitch signed by both the batter and pitcher.

Hmmm….the pitcher.  Gil Meche, be on the lookout for these two Mariners fans!  Hopefully we can work it out this season.

At this point, the Mets hadn’t even started hitting yet.  But it was blistering hot in the seating bowl and we already accomplished all of our BP goals except the Moyer picture, which wasn’t going to happen.  So we took refuge in the shade…more specifically, in the kids play area:

7 - kids play area 5-1-10.JPG…in that upper left picture, see that teenager in the upper tube?  That guy works for the Phillies.  His job is to control the traffic going down the slide.  In the bottom right picture, Tim took “my order” about 2 dozen times and pretended to hand all sorts of food items out of those little holes to me

We went back to the play area several times throughout the day.

After our first play session, we headed toward the concourse behind home plate where I wanted to visit the ticket office.  On the way, we got this picture of Tim and a fake Phanatic:

7b - tim and phake phanatic.JPGThe Mets were still taking BP when we made our way back down the concourse on the 3B side of the stadium.  Check out this pre-gram crowd:

7c - busy pre-game concourse.JPGWe made our way down to the Phils dugout to see if Moyer was around.  He wasn’t.  But then Roy Halladay popped out of the dugout and made his way to the bullpen and then the OF grass just outside of the bullpens…

8 - halladay warms.JPGHalladay was another factor that made this game special.  He went head-to-head against the Mets Mike Pelfrey and dominated throwing a complete game shutout.

After watching Halladay stretch a little, we went to our seats in section 104:

10 - tim from our citz bank seats 5-1-10.jpgIn those pictures, Tim is standing in the seat directly in front of ours.  By the way, although he was a little sweatball, that is water from the water fountain on his shirt.  He was having some water fountain difficulties just before these pictures.

Here is the actual view from our seats — Citizens Bank Park section 104, row 14, seats 4-5:

12 - citz sec 104 row 14 seats 4-5 panorama.jpgThey were really great seats.

But we started the game in one of the many standing room areas behind the 3B field level seats.  We were there to get our first close-up look at “Doc” Halladay.  And this is what it looked like:

13 - Halladay Motion.jpgFirst inning, fly out, fly out, strike out.

Then we grabbed an ice cream helmet for Tim and a couple drinks for both of us, and headed to our seats…

14 - ICH and nachos 5-1-10.JPG…later, we grabbed some nachos.  Good ballpark foods!

Jayson Werth stood almost right in front of us in RF.  Here is what our view of the three outfielders looked like from our seats:

14a - phils outfielders from out seats.jpgI brought my wife’s big fancy camera that takes quick sequence shots so I could get the Halladay shots above.  I brought it out again for Raul Ibanez.  Although I didn’t get anything too special of Raul, the shots are funny when you look at a bunch of them together…

15 - werth hopping for ibanez.jpg…do you see it?  Its Werth.  He looks the same — mid-hop — in every picture.  There were more than this and he always was mid-hop just like that.  It seemed like an odd little hop to me.

Although he gave up three hits in the early innings, Halladay was dealing all day:

18 - halladay deals from the OF.jpgEarly on, Pelfey was matching him pitch-for-pitch.  But then came the fourth inning when the Phils offense did some damage.

Chase Utley started it out with a single:

16 - utley singles in the 4th inning.jpgRyan Howard then drilled one to RF for a single moving Utley to second:

17 - ryan howard line single in 4th 5-1-10.jpgJayson Werth then hit an RBI single that found a bit of Alex Cora’s glove.  Had Cora gloved the bloop single, it probably would have been a triple play because Utley was already around 3B and Howard was just a couple feet from 2B.

With two outs in the inning and a 3-0 score, things got real interesting.  Tim had done a great job sitting in the seats for 3.5 innings.  So I promised we would go back to the play area right after the third out.  I packed up our belongings, including my glove.

Shane Victorino then hit a a three run homerun that I came within inches of getting.  Here is another panorama from pre-game:


19 - citz sec 104 row 14 seats 4-5 cellphone panorama.jpgI was in seat number 4.  Seats 1-3 were empty giving me a clear path to the aisle.  The homerun landed in row 13 just across the aisle from us.  The crowd collectively botched catching the ball and it fell to the ground.  There was a girl in the first seat and I sort of dove over her in an effort to grab the loose ball.  But as my hand was reaching toward the ball, the guy in the green hat (to the far right in the picture above) reached down and grabbed the ball cleanly by his feet.  As I reached for it, I knew that guy would have to bobble it on the bare hand grab for me to have a chance.  It was pretty exciting, but I missed out.  Who knows what would have happened if I had my glove on my hand.

After the homerun, Tim asked me, “Did you smash your head when you jumped in there?”  It was pretty funny.  (FYI, as I type this, Chase Utley just hit a homerun off of Johan Santana that landed in Section 104 right around our seats).

After the inning, we headed back to the play area, which was over run by kids.  It was kid pandamonium.  And eventually Tim came out of the play set holding one shoe in his hand.  He claimed that he got in a kid traffic jam in the tubes that de-shoed him.  That was enough of the play area for Tim.  So we got those nachos pictured above and headed back to our seats.

While we were in the play area, Rauuuuuuuuul Ibanez hit a two run triple to bring the score to 8-0 Phillies.  Pelfrey was long gone.  In the eigth inning, Frank Catalanotto pinch hit for the second Mets pitcher (Raul Valdez)…


19b - catalanotto grounds out.jpg…but he grounded out.

The Phanatic was pumping up the crowd…


20 - phanatic pumps up crowd.JPG…and everyone was going crazy because the Phils were (by this point) winning 10-0 and their new ace, Roy Halladay, was set on cruise control:

21b - halladay delivers utley charges.jpgAnd 10-0 was the final score.  Halladay’s line:  9 IP, 3 Hits, 0 ER, and 1-4 at the plate.

We watched the top of the 9th inning from the concourse behind the 3B dugout.  When the game ended, we made our way down to the first row and we were in a good position to get a ball from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa.  Well, as good as you can be without being in the diamond club.  But Kulpa gave one ball to a 20-something girl in the diamond club and his line-up card to a guy standing with the girl…and then he was gone.

No problems.  It had already been an extra-special day.

I took this panorama as the crowd started to clear out…

21 - citz section 130 front row panorama.jpg….at home plate you can see the Phillies workers setting up for Tim’s special run around the bases.  He stayed put as the bullpens cleared out and headed to their respective dugouts.

A couple Mets approached the far end of the 3B dugout and threw a couple balls into the crowd.  But we were all alone at the other end of the dug out (still at the spot from which I took that last panorama).

One of the ball tossers was Mets bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello.  For some reason, after throwing two balls into the crowd on the far end of the dugout, he walked down toward us and entered the dugout just below us.  At the time, he had nothing in his hands, but a catchers equipment bag over his shoulder.

22 - bullpens call it a day.JPGWe were just standing there minding our own business when Racaniello took his first step down into the dugout.  Right then, he looked up and saw Tim sitting on my shoulders.  He looked at us like, “Hey, I got something for you.”  He stopped and dug around in his bag and pulled out…

22b - citi ball and snortle.JPG…a 2009 Citi Field inagural season baseball, which he tossed right up to us.

Thanks, Dave!

By the way, that is Tim’s green pig “Snortle” sitting on top of the Racaniello baseball.

It was time to run the bases.  We made our way to the RF gate.  On the way, I took this panorama from section 142…

23 - Citz section 142 approx. panorama.jpg…and this one from section 144:

24 - citz section 144 row 16 panorama.jpgAnd an usher in CF took our picture:

25 - TJCs at Citz 5-1-10.JPGKids were already circling the bases.  But we had to stop by the Phillies Wall of Fame, which is blocked off during games so fans don’t heckle the relievers in the bullpen (I guess that is the reason, at least).  Here are some famous Phillies from the field and booth:

26 - kalas and schmidt.jpgHere is the view of the bullpens from the wall of fame area — visitors on top, Phillies down below closer to the field:

27 - bullpens.jpgAfter waiting through a really long line and walking through a tunnel below the stands in RF foul territory.  Then we walked out onto the RF foul warning track for the first time…

29 - phillies RF foul warning track.jpgOf course, I got some shots of the dugouts…

30 - phils visitors dugout and on deck circles.jpg…and threw in some shots of the on deck cirles for good measure.

Then, Tim was off to the races:




31 - tims phillies run the bases 2.jpgOn the drive home, Tim would regale me with the story of how he passed that kid in the red and white outfit.

The Phillies were great because they didn’t have a mob of workers kicking you out the second your kid crossed home plate (like some teams who will remain nameless).  So I had time to take this field level panorama…

32 - citz on field behind home panorama.jpg…and this picture of Tim standing next to the brick wall directly behind home plate…

33 - citz wall behind home plate.JPG…and for good meaure, we got a couple more pictures as we made our way down the 1B line warning track toward the exit in shallowe LF:

34 - phillies post base running.jpgAs we left the seating area, the Phils had workers handing out this certificate:

35 - philllies run the bases certificate.jpgI thought that was a great touch.  None of the sixth other teams whose bases Tim has run have given out these certificates.

Great job, Phillies!

All-in-all, it was a great day at the ballpark and Tim was fast asleep only a few miles into our drive home.

2010 Fan Stats:

4 Games

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

4 Ice Cream Helmets (Orioles, Phillies, Mets, & Nationals)

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

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

3 Player Photos (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)

 

Hello-and-Goodbye, Shea Stadium (9/7/08)

When early September 2008 rolled around, I thought to myself, “Self, Tim has never been to Shea Stadium and it is about to close.  Let’s not let that happen without getting Tim up to Queens.”

So, early in the morning on September 7, 2008, Tim and I hopped in the car and made our way up to Manhatten.  As is my standard practice, we parked on the upper west side.  We then walked with Tim on my shoulders from approximately 84th & Amsterdam to 42nd & Seventh Ave.  After a 7-train ride from Times Square station to Willets Point, we arrived at Shea Stadium.

1 - shea exterior.jpgIt was a day-night doubleheader.  We would attent only the day game.  As we made our way up to our seats in Upper Reserve section 10, Row M, the visitors’ dugout (occupied by the Phillies) welcomed us to Shea:

1a - Welcome to Shea.jpgIf there was batting practice, we didn’t make it in time for it.  As we made out way to out seats, the grounds crew was putting the final touches on the field.  We decided to head up to the last row…

2 - climbing to top of shea.jpg…to see the sights.  And I was interested to discover that we could see the Empire State Building off in the distance in Manhatten…

3 - shea empire state building.jpg…that’s it just above the bill of Tim’s hat.

And here was our view of Shea from the upper deck:

4 - shea upper reserve section 10 panorama.jpgAt least as I perceived it, Shea always got a bad rap.  Particularly, because everyone glorified Yankee Stadium (which to me was utterly unimpressive — particularly when compared to the other “old” ballparks, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park).  Anyway, I always liked Shea Stadium.  I probably attended 8 games total at Shea between 2000-2008 and I always found it to be a much more pleasant place to watch a ballgame than its neighbor in the Bronx.

Some kind Mets fan agreed to take our picture:

5 - TJCs at Shea.jpgNote how Citi Field appears to be about 2 feet away from Shea beyond the outfield fence.  I was both amazed and saddened the following April when Tim and I attended our first game at Citi Field and we discovered that Shea was already demolished and hauled away.

Soon, it was time for the game to begin.  The atmosphere in the stadium was electric.  The Phillies and Mets are pretty big rivals.  Entering the day, the Mets were leading the Phillies atop the N.L. East by two games.

The pitching was an epic battle between two “old goats” — my favorite pitcher of all-time, Jamie Moyer, and future Hall of Famer, Pedro Martinez…

6 - Moyer v. Pedro Martinez.jpg…by the way, “old goats” is Pedro’s description of himself and Moyer, not mine.

Early on, both old goats were dealing…

7 - Old Goats Dealing.jpg…my man, Moyer, would keep it up giving up only 2 hits and zero earned runs in 7 innings of work.  Pedro, however, would struggle starting in the second inning.

In the second inning, Pedro walked Jayson Werth.  Former Mariner Greg Dobbs followed with a double, Matt Stairs with a sac fly, and Carlos Ruiz hit a double.  And just like that, the Phillies led 2-0.

Two batters Pedro did manage to retire in the second were Ryan Howard and Jamie Moyer…

8 - Howard Whiffs Moyer Grounds Out.jpg…Howard looked silly flailing at several pitches and ultimately striking out.  Moyer at least put the ball in play.

It was a big snack day for Tim.  We started off with some french fries.  Then, it was time for a Shea Stadium Mets ice cream helmet:


9 - Shea Ice Cream Helmet.jpgA couple innings into the game, we decided to explore the stadium a bit.  I knew this would be Tim’s only chance to ever see Shea.  So I wanted us to see what it had to offer.

Here are a couple stadium views from inside the concourses and ramps on our way down to the field level…

10 - concourses.jpg…I think that picture to the left is pretty interesting.  It shows that Shea Stadium had two sets of ramps circling the stadium.

Moyer was still pitching a gem.

11 - Moyer continues to deal.jpgWith a win in this game, Moyer would run his record to 13-7 on the season and it was his 243rd win of his excellent career.

Since the stadium would soon be history, I wanted to document as much of it as possible.  Here is a stadium map that hung inside the concourse behind section 31 in the Loge level:

12 - loge level map.jpgI had never done much exploring at Shea before.  But I knew there were some standing room areas down each foul line.  So that’s where we headed out in RF.

13 - RF field level standing room.jpgAs you can see, the standing room area is in an inside concourse with a screen in front of it.  Back in 2003, I watched almost an entire game from the corresponding standing room area down the LF foul line.  Its a nice little spot.  Interestingly, that other game I watched from the standing room area was also part of a Sunday doubleheader and it was also a 7 inning, 2 hit, zero earned run win by Jamie Moyer.

Tim and I hung out there a little while so Tim could run around in circles.

Here is a panoramic view of Shea Stadium from the seats closest to the standing room area:

13a - shea RF corner field level.jpgNext, we started to make our way toward home plate.  On the way, I saw this interesting ketchup and mustard packet dispenser…

14 - ketchup mets mustard.jpg….which I thought was pretty interesting.  Seems like most stadiums have ketchup and mustard pumps, not little packets.  I wonder if someone bought this ketchup and mustard contraption once the Mets started trying to sell off any-and-everything from Shea Stadium.  Actually, if you want one of these, click here.

We saw that there were plenty of empty seats toward the home plate area.  This wasn’t a planned doubleheader and it wasn’t a make-up of a game from early in the season.  No.  This game was supposed to be played the night before.  In fact, we had planned to attend the game on September 6th.  Anyway, it appeared that some of the people who planned to attend the game on the 6th couldn’t make it on the 7th.  And we were the beneficiaries.

I snapped some pictures of the Phillies stellar corps of infielders on our way to our final seats of the day…

15 - phils infielders.jpg…Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmie Rollins each had one hit on the day.  But the big hitting star of the day was Greg “The Dobbers” Dobbs who was 2-4 with a 3-run 4th inning homerun off of Pedro Martinez.  He also scored 2 runs.  After the 4th inning, the Phillies led 6-0.

And here are our final seats of the day in (I believe) section 215:

16 - infield box seats.jpgAnd here is my best effort at patching together a panoramic view from these seats:

17 - shea 1B field panorama.jpgIt was a great spot to see the action up close…

18 - Pedro Feliz at bat.jpg…like this pitch to Phils third basemen, Pedro Feliz.

And it was nice to see Mets first basemen and big-time slugger, Carlos Delgado…

19 - Mets infield.jpg…who went 0-4 on the day.

Here is a shot of the Phillies dugout and the Mets logo behind home plate as Shane “The Flying Hawaiian” Victorino approaches the plate:

20 - Victorino approaches plate.jpgPedro Martinez only lasted 4 innings and left trailing 6-0.  A host of Mets relievers finished off the fifth through ninth innings without giving up any more runs.

Moyer lasted 7 innings before Scott Eyre came in and gave up the only two Mets runs in the 8th inning.  The Phillies won the game by a final score of 6-2 to move to 1-game back of the Mets.  In the nightcap, Johan Santana beat Cole Hamels and the Mets re-took a 2-game lead in the N.L. East, a lead they would build to 3.5 games a few days later and then squander to miss the playoffs completely.

This was the 14th to last game game at Shea Stadium.  It was great to add Shea to Tim’s baseball stadium resume.  We got one more picture to commemorate the day…

21 - TJCs lower Shea and cowbell man.jpg…by the way, in that picture “Cow-Bell Man” is standing behind us.  He let Tim clank his cowbell during the game.  “MORE COWBELL!”

On our way out of Shea Stadium for the final time, I took a picture of the four seating decks above the field level…

22 - 5 levels of Shea.jpgOn this sign, Mr. Met thanked the exiting crowd for coming out to Shea Stadium:

23 - goodbye from shea.jpgThe crowd made its way out of the Stadium, many of them like us never to return.

24 - Goodbye Shea.jpgThe next time we traveled to Queens, it would be to visit the new Citi Field, and many people like us would miss the simple and stripped down charm of Shea Stadium and its brightly colored seats.

Goodbye, Shea Stadium.

2008 Roadtrip, Game 4: Nationals at Phillies  (8/19/08)

We woke up on the morning of August 19, 2008 at home.  But the baseball roadtrip wasn’t complete just yet.  Tim, my dad and wife relaxed around the house all day while I went back to work.  In the evening, Tim, my dad and I headed down to South Philadelphia for the fourth and final game of our first baseball roadrip:  the Washington Nationals vs. the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

The entry will be a little light on the pictures because, although it was my dad’s first game at Citizens Bank Park, I’d been there plenty and, following my first game ever at Great American Ball Park and Progressive Field and probably my third game ever at PNC Park, Citizens Bank Park just didn’t seem that special or in need of photographing at this game.

We parked in the Phillies lot to the northwest of the ball park and made our approach…

1 - approaching from NW.jpg…we were in for a shock.  Veterans Stadium was always at about 50% capacity when I went there and, while Citizens Bank Park always had good crowds, I’d never felt the need to pre-purchase tickets to a Phillies game.  Yet, for this Tuesday night game against the Nationals (a team 25 games out of first place), all that was left at the ticket office was standing room tickets and “foul pole” tickets.  We made the silly mistake of buying the $24 foul pole tickets rather than the $14 standing room tickets.

Tickets in hand, we entered the park and walked around so my dad could see the lay of the land…

2 - random shots touring around park.jpg…I took some random pictures.

Before heading to our seats behind the RF foul pole, we headed up to the rooftop bleachers walkway where you can get a good elevated view of the ballpark from centerfield…

3 - citz CF sun deck panarama roadtrip.jpg…it looked something like that…well, exactly like that, actually.

Then we headed up to our seats.  The late afternoon sun was blazing down in our eyes as we headed into our row of seats…

4 - foul pole seats in section 205 row 10.jpg

My dad and Tim were sharing a pretzel and were ready for some baseball.

So, how about that foul pole thingy the ticket salesman had mentioned.  Here it is, the official “foul pole” obstructed view from Citizens Bank Park section 205, row 10, seat 15:

5 - foul pole view.jpg

Well, its not too bad.  It could be worst.  For instance, if we were sitting in seats 13 or 14 instead of 15-17, we would have had a straight shot at the bulky part of the foul pole.

Here is a closer look of our view of home plate:

6 - foul pole and home plate.jpgActually, looking at it now, I doesn’t seem too bad.  But it was pretty annoying.  I was instantly thinking, “why in the world didn’t we go for the standing room tickets?”  Really, it didn’t make any sense.  That was what Tim and I usually got anyway.  I think we got these because my dad wanted to have an actual seat — he’s old fashioned that way.

Anyway, we didn’t stay here long.  In fact, I’m not even sure if we were still here when Willie Harris staked the Nationals to a 1-0 lead with a solo home run off of Joe Blanton in the top of the first inning.

I know, however, that we certainly were not in the foul pole seats anymore by the bottom of the second when former Mariner Greg Dobbs hit a sac-fly to score Ryan Howard and even the game at 1-1.

So, if we weren’t in our foul pole seats, where were we?  You guessed it, we were in our usual $14 standing room spot.

One our way down to the field level, we swung by and said hi to an old friend who was “hanging out” in the field level 3B concourse…


7 - moyer in concourse.jpg…my dad hadn’t see the Mariners all-time “Wins” leader since his 2006 trade to the City of Brotherly Love.

It was time for an ice cream helmet…

8 - holy huge ice cream helmet batman.jpg…we went to our usual lady midway down the 3B line.   Its as if she doesn’t know how to turn the ice cream machine off.  She loads up a single ice cream helmet with enough ice cream to fill two helmets.  As you can see, with two ice cream helmets worth of sprinkles topping the chocolate monstrosity, Tim greatly approved.

If you are looking for this uber-generous ice cream lady, go to the Old City Creamery behind section 137…

4 - citz directory.JPG…then go to the counter space around the corner in the hallway and look for an old lady.

As happy as Tim was to have a mountain of ice cream, it was too windy for him at our standing counter space in the field level concourse.

So, with the score 4-3 Nationals, we relocated again to our final spot of the night.  The standing room area behind section 243 in the LF porch.  This spot was great because (i) it wasn’t windy, (ii) the seats behind us were elevated 5-6 feet so we could stand there without bothering the people sitting in the top section, and (iii) there was a big open handicap accessible seating area right in front of us with one one in it.

Of course, Tim wanted to play in that big open area…

9 - impromptu play spot.jpg…and this provided a very unique experience.  The fans in Philadelphia are famous for being…well…not all that nice or polite.  But on this night, they’d come to Tim’s aid.  Tim was happily playing around in the big open space, not bothering anyone, when an usher who was working the ailse way between sections 243 and 244 came to kick Tim out of that area.  She didn’t look happy or nice.  She bent over to stearnly address Tim when from all around us we heard, “HEY, LET THE KID PLAY, LADY!!!!!!  LET HIM PLAY!  LET HIM PLAY! LET HIM PLAY!!”

It was great.  The usher was obviously embarrassed by the public attention for trying to rain on a young boy’s parade.  I could see a switch go off in her head.  She turned to the crowd and yelled something in her defense…I can’t remember what it was.  And then she told Tim to “be careful.”

By the end of the night, Tim was literally making her do races back and forth across the length of the handicap area — from section 242 to section 244.  She ended up giving him a souvenir Phillies hat (I’ve never actually let him wear it).  It was a pretty awesome turn of events prompted by the crowd coming to Tim’s defense.

As a side benefit, since she couldn’t kick Tim out, a couple more kids came to play with him.  And she couldn’t kick them out either.

Maybe due to the outpouring of brotherly love flowing from the LF porch area, the Phillies decided to send the entire crowd home happy.  Down by one run in the bottom of the seventh, the Phillies tied it up at 4-4 as a result of singles by Pat Burrell and Greg Dobbs followed by a sac-fly by Chris Coste.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies took their first and final lead of the game on a solo home run by Jayson Werth.

Brad Lidge then nailed down the save — his 31st save of the season in 31 save opportunities.

It was official, happiness all around.  We celebrated by making that usher take our pitcher in the once-forbidden handicap accessible seating area:

10 - 3 successful roadtrips.jpgAnd with that, we headed home and called it a (very successful) roadtrip.

Didn’t get enough roadtripping?  See our Second Annual trip here, here, here, and here.

Stay tuned in June for reports from The (Third Annual) Great Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip of 2010.

Sitting On 599 & Eating Ice Cream

On June 2, 2008, the stars appeared to be aligning themselves for something wonderful.  I’d been watching with anticipation the past month.  I saw the possibility.  But could it really happen?

Then the day arrived.

Ken Griffey, Jr. and the Cinncinati Reds arrived in Philadelphia.  It would be Tim’s first opportunity in his life to see my all-time favorite player.  And if Griffey could connect for a homerun, it would be his historic 600th blast.  It all seemed too good to be true!

Sadly, it was.

I questioned whether the Reds would sit Griff so he could hit number 600 in Cinncinati.  But the Reds had 7 more games before returning to Cinncinati.  There was no way he would sit 7 games.

At this point, Tim was not quite 2-and-a-half years old.  He really wasn’t good for BP and a full game yet.  That was just too much.  But, we headed down to Philadelphia early for this one.  I wanted to maximize our time in Griff’s presence.  But when the Reds took the field for BP, Griff was nowhere to be seen.  This wasn’t promising for our chances of seeing number 600.

In fact, it ended up that Griff’s knee was acting up.  He was not in the line-up.

Anyway, as I said, Tim wasn’t really a BP guy yet.  So we did a little touring around the ballpark before the game…

1 - exploring citz bank park.jpgHe pushed his stroller all the way up the winding ramps up to the upper deck in the RF foul corner.  I took this shot as we turned the final bend in the ramps.  That’s Lincoln Financial Field in the background.

I think this was Tim’ first time ever being in an upper deck of a ballpark.  He was a little *iffy* about it.  I’m not sure if it was because he was uncomfortable being up so high or if it was because the sun was blazing down in our eyes.

2 - upper decking it.jpgSo we asked a nice patron to take our picture…

3 - TJCs up top.jpg…and then we headed for lower grounds.

We got some french fries and found a nice spot behind Section 106 at one of the many standing counters ringing the field level at Citizens Bank Park…

4 - getting read.jpgTim was much happier back on the field level.  So we waited for the start of the game (and confirmation that Griffey would not be playing).

Seeing Griff play and getting a chance to witness No. 600 was the entire reason we attended this week-night game.  With our hopes and dreams for the night spoiled (he would not even pinch hit), we needed to make the night special in some other way.

So, sitting behind Section 137 at Citizens Bank Park, we started a grand tradition…

5 - first ice cream helmet.jpg…we shared Tim’s first ever ice cream helmet!!!

Do you notice there is an extra spoon in the helmet?  This being Tim’s first ice cream helmet, he had not yet realized they were too good to share with his dear old dad.

I’d been watching the Reds pretty regularly for 8 seasons by this point (solely to watch Griff), so I was pretty familiar with their team.  While standing down the LF foul line in Section 137, it was a straight shot out to Adam Dunn.

6 - Dunn Griffs Cinci Buhner.jpg

In Griffey’s world, Dunn was to the Reds what Buhner was to the Mariners:  Griff’s friend and big Texan power hitting neighbor in the outfield.

That last picture was taken in the bottom of the first inning and the Phils were already getting business started.  After Shane Victorino singled with one out, Chase Utley staked the Phillies to a 2-0 lead with a 2-run homerun.

For about an inning and a half, it was as if there was no game being played at all.

7 - serious about ice cream.jpgTim was lost in the chocolate-vanilla swirled goodness of his first ice cream helmet.

After Tim finished his ice cream, we headed over to the home plate area, a little off toward first base, so we could get a peak into the Reds dugout…


9 - no griff in there.jpg…we couldn’t find Griff in there.  Yep, on the Griff-front, the night was a total bust.  But we had fun nonetheless.

Tim loves the kids playset at Citizens Bank Park.  In the 18 MLB ballparks Tim and I have visited, I’m pretty sure that it is objectively the best play area…

10 - phils playset.jpg…at some point, I always find Tim cranking on that wheel up on the second level.

By the way, for perspective for anyone who hasn’t visited Citizens Bank Park, those steel beams above Tim in that picture are supporting the winding walk way up to the upper deck where Tim was pictured above with Lincoln Financial Field in the background.  The play area is just to the outfield side of the main 1B side entrance to Citizen Bank Park.

Back to the game, in the top of the 4th inning, as Tim played in the play area, I watched on the Dads’ flatscreen TV as rookie Jay Bruce (the man who was playing RF in Griffey’s place) hit his third career homerun in this third career game.

We headed back out to the field level for the bottom of the 4th in time to see Pedro Feliz (2-run) and Chris Coste (solo) hit back-to-back homeruns off of Bronson Arroyo…

12 - hooray and cotton candy.jpg…Tim cheered on as he ate cotton candy (it was a high calorie night for Cook & Son), as the Phillies took a 5-1 lead. 

Late in the game, Tim wanted to play around in the field level concourse.  I snapped this picture of him hiding in a steel beam…

13 - hiding in the beams.jpg

…he always enjoys standing in these things at Citizens Bank Park.  He enjoys the little things in life.

We also ran into three nice ushers out in the concourse who each gave Tim a little souvenir:  a Philly Phanatic figurine, a little wood baseball bat keychain, and a Cole Hamels baseball card that was magically pulled from behind Tim’s ear.

Between a solo shot by Juan “Fireworks” Encarnacion in the fifth and a 2-run double by Dunn in the sixth, the Reds would score three more runs on the night, but Coste’s homerun would be enough for the Phillies.  In the bottom of the ninth, Brad Lidge nailed down the save 1-2-3 with two strike outs.  On June 2nd, Lidge’s ERA was still only 0.75.

Over the next two days, without Tim, I’d make two more efforts at witnessing Griff’s 600th homerun.  But he rode the bench both days.  His knee was still bothering him.  He pinch hit late in each game and walked twice on a combined 9 pitches.  I only saw him swing the bat once between the two games.  Both at-bats were incredibly intense.  The whole stadium was on its feet.  Philadelphia fans can be rude and crude and mean.  But I was extremely proud of them at these games.  They understood they had the chance to see history and I think a lot of them wanted it to happen despite the fact it would have been terrible for the Phillies in both games.  At the end of the final game of the series (the only game I didn’t attend and the only one Griffey played), the entire stadium gave Griffey a standing ovation.

Sadly, he went on to hit his 600th homerun in South Florida before a pathetic and heartless crowd.  It should have happened before one of those great sell-out crowds in Philadelphia, but at least his wife and kids were able to be there for the historic blast in Florida.

Giants vs. Phillies, Citizens Bank Park Hall of Fame Club Suite (5/2/08)

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:

1 - citz bank tix 5-2-08.jpgTim 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…

2 - Hall of Fame Club Wall of Balls.jpg…here is a closer view…

2a - Wall of Balls Odd Close-up.jpg…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…

3 - Hall of Fame Club Bar of Bats.jpg…honestly, I must have been off my game.  How in the world did I not take a picture of the entire bar area?

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:

4 - chocolate covered pretzels.jpgThis 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…

5 - tim and todd and more chocolate pretzels.jpg…I think he’s gazing at me so lovingly in that picture because he was so happy that I introduced him to chocolate covered pretzels.

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…

6 - suite cookies.jpg

…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…

7 - how you doing.jpg …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.

The Cubs at Citizens Bank Park (4/11/08)

Remember Tim’s First MLB Anniversary game on September 12, 2007, we went with our friends Tim and Gabe?  Well, on April 11, 2008, Tim and I met up with Tim and Gabe once again and headed down to Citizens Bank Park to see the Phillies take on the Chicago Cubs.

The boys were having a blast before we even reached the stadium:

1 - loads of laughs in the car.jpgSomeone had given me four sweet tickets in Section 111, Row 23…

2 - 4-11-08 tix.jpg…which is down the first base line at Citizens Bank Park.

The seats were awesome.  Here was the view…


3 - greg dobbs ends the third.jpg…as Greg Dobbs grounded out to end the third inning.

The Cubs jumped out to an early lead when Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez hit back-to-back solo homeruns in the first inning.

We did lots of eating all night.  First, Tim started off with some hard pretzels we brought from home…

4 - baseball and pretzels.jpg…he even shared some with me!

Next, Tim moved on to some candy that Gabe had brought…

5 - candy.jpg…I can’t really remember what it was.  But that little guy loves candy!

Then, the funniest part of the night…

6 - dining on neighbors fries.jpg…Tim turned around, made friends with the 12’ish year old girl behind us, and then ate a bunch of her french fries.

While Tim was making friends with the french fry girl, I made friends with the guy sitting next to me.  I had to chat with him and get him to let me try on his glove…

7 - neighbor with dwight gooden spalding signature model glove.jpg…once I noticed he was sporting a near mint condition Spalding Dwight Gooden signature model glove.  The very same glove that I had from elementary school through high school.  It is the last non-Rawlings glove I’ve ever owned.  After I replaced it with a wonderful little black Rawlings, I surgically altered that Spalding glove.  I made it into a Trap-Eze (although it didn’t turn out nearly as good as my Rawlings Randy Johnson RBG10B-turned-Trap-Eze.  Unfortunately, I don’t have that mock-Trap-Eze anymore.

In the bottom of the 4th inning, the Phils were still losing 2-0 when Pat Burrell came to bat.  I looked over at Tim and proclaimed, “Tim, its Pat Burrell.  Maybe he’ll hit a homerun.  He always hits a homerun for you.”  Next pitch, two-run game tying homerun.  A guy behind us leans forward, “You should bring him to games more often!”

Pat “The Bat” would go 2-4 on the night with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored.

Wait, there were more snacks…

8 - tim and gabe in section 111 row 23.jpg…popcorn.  I’ve always thought that is a hilarous picture of Tim.

It was still 2-2 when hard hitting pitcher Carlos Zambrano…

9 - carlos zambrano at the plate.jpg…grounded out to end the top of the fifth.  And then the Phils would take the lead.  In the bottom of the fifth, former Mariner Greg “The Dobbers” Dobbs hit a run scoring double to center field.

The Cubs tied it up again in the top of the sixth with a solo homerun by Alfonso Soriano.  The Phils took the lead again (for good) in the bottom of the sixth on a double by Pat Burrell and a single by Carlos Ruiz.  In fact, that would cap the scoring for the evening.

There was one other fun on-field event that I can’t remember when in the game it happened.  As a huge Mariners fan, I love Sweet Lou Piniella.  I was hoping that Lou would go crazy and get tossed out of this game so Tim could see the Master at work.  It almost happened.  Lou stormed the field at some point during the game, but, alas, cooler heads prevailed and he returned to the dugout before getting tossed.  Still, it was great to see Lou doing his thing.

At this point in his life, it was difficult for Tim to stay seated for an entire game.  (Well, actually, it still is today).  At almost 2.5 years of age, Tim was much better at staying in the seats when accompanied by another kid.  But still, he got antsy late in this game.  So we took to the concourse for some exploring:

10 - walking the concourse.jpgTim was excited to find an unattended John Deere truck in the concourse out by the right field corner of the concourse.

11 - john deere.jpgNo one was around to tell Tim not to pretend to drive the John Deere.  He had a great time.

But he was really starting to get tired so the four of us headed out a little bit early.  So, we missed Brad Lidge nailing down his second save of the season — back when Brad Lidge was unstoppable.

On the way out of the ballpark, Big Tim suggested that we stop by the LF foul corner and pick up some “Schmitters.”  At this point in my life, I had never even heard of The Schmitter…

12a - The Schmitter.jpg
Don’t know The Schmitter?  Here’s a little info I found about it online —

The Schmitter.jpgThe Schmitter:

Ingredients:
1 servings Kaiser Roll
1 servings Lean Sirloin Tip Beef Steaks
1 servings Genoa Salami
1/2 serving 1000 Island (2 Tbsp)
1 servings Fried Onions
2 servings American Cheese
1 servings Sliced Tomato

Instructions:
brown sandwich steaks and salami. Layer in kaiser roll, cheese, steak,dressing, fried onions, salami, tomato, then more cheese.

Ah, the Schmitter hit the spot.

By the way, Gabe took that picture of Tim and his Schmitter.  Moments later, the boys were out…

12 - sleepy in the car.jpg…yep, it was a good night at the ballpark.

Warming Up For 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really enjoyed watching the Minor Leaguers…

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

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

 

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

Yep, and then we got more baseballs…

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

Spring Training is also good for normal bats too…

grandpas bat.jpg

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

Here’s another cool part of Spring Training…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a view of the main stadium:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 - The Ruthian.jpgAnd I demolished it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was our view from our seats in Section 130:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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