Coming into the first week of August, we still hadn’t hit our first Reading Phillies game of the season. But early in the week, my wife sent me an email at work about a promotion scheduled for Friday, August 6th. We couldn’t pass it up.
The Promotion: R-Phils Kids Club Night at the Ballpark.
Translation — camping in the outfield! We have “camped” in KOA camping cabins, but Tim had never camped in an actual tent.
Sign us up!
We figured it would a late night, so we showed up a little late for the game. As we entered the ballpark, Tim asked me to take some pictures of these “trophies” and other artifacts from R-Phils of the past:
I was quite interested to see that former New York Mets outfielder, Timo Perez…
The nights Roast Beef RBI guy was DH Tagg Bozied…
Tim enjoyed his first MiLB ice cream helmet of the season:
In the 8th and 9th innings, we found ourselves back in the infield. Here was our quite excellent view…
After the game, they had a tennis ball throwing contest for charity…
Next, it was time for some fireworks…
After the fireworks, it was time to get ready for some camping! We grabbed our tent and sleeping bags from our car and reported back to the main entrance. Tim was psyched!
We brought our gloves and we were ready to go crazy playing around in the outfield. Camping, free reign in the outfield of a professional baseball stadium…what more could you ask for!?
Tim didn’t want to risk missing out on our spot in CF, so we sprinted out to the OF…
And check this out, we literally put our tent up on top of the centerfielder’s spike marks:
…and it was “game on!”
Here was the veiw from the warning track in straight away CF…
…with our tent right in the middle.
On the big screen behind Tim…
…they showed a double feature. First, it was the short movie “The Phanatic Goes to Hollywood.” I don’t think anyone watched it because we were all busy playing catch and running around in the OF grass. It was quite sight, fathers and son (and a few daughters) were spread out all over the place having a great time playing catch.
It was such an odd experience being out there in the OF with all of these other fathers and sons playing catch with tents all around us. It was almost surreal…almost like we were in a movie or something. In short, it was awesome.
You had to buy tickets to attend the sleep over. They were $10/each, but kids 4 and under were free (they are free for R-Phils games as well). So it was $10 total for me and Tim and our tickets came with a midnight meal.
We headed past the infield…
Play, play, play…
Check out how Tim was stumbling around with tiredness as he just kept playing…
By the way, my voice sounds weird in that clip because I was eating sunflower seeds while we were playing catch. Tim just kept playing and fake falling and rolling for ballls…
The entire OF was open for tents, but everyone (but us) was set up in LF or right behind 2B. We were the lone strays out in CF, and RF was completely tent free. Just wide open play space for all of the kids and adult-kids.
We headed over to RF and Tim practiced his accuracy by throwing balls off of the “25” and “53” in the lottery billboards…
Around midnight, people started settling in around their tents for the feature presentation. I realized I hadn’t taken a picture of the two of us on the field, so I gave it my best shot…
From our tent, we could see the Reading Pagoda lit up off in the distance:
…although he looks like he is sleeping, Tim is actually watching the movie in that shot. One really cool thing about the night (among the many cool things about the night) was that, as we laid next to each other watching the beginning of “Rookie of the Year,” Tim told me that he wished Kellan could have come with us. I told him Kellan is too young to camp, but we can bring him next year.
After slowing down from all of the action, Tim was a goner. He only made it about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes into the movie before he fell sleep.
I transferred him into our tent and then took a picture of the scene, now quieted down considerably for the movie:
Our little A-frame style tent felt so small. Usually, you pull a little rope from each side and stake them in the ground to spread the tent out a bit. But there were no stakes allowed in the OF!
I noticed that most people had much newer and cooler looking tents than my probably 15-20 year old tent…
After the movie, people went to bed. They turned off all of the stadium lights, but left the big screen lit up like a big night light.
I figured this was as unique of a ballpark experience as I was ever going to experience so I best make the most of it. After all of the lights were out but our night light, and no one else was stirring, I took a final walk around the OF.
I think this is probably the most unique ballpark picture I’ll ever take:
The infield and grandstand were peacefully resting up for another big day of baseball on Saturday…
Tim was still really tired and it took him a few minutes to finally make it out of the tent…
Not us, we’re ballpark lingerers and experience-soaker-uppers. So, it was time for a morning picture…
So, we were the last remaining members of the “public.”
Oh, well. So be it.
It was time for some more catch…
Finally, we decided we better head out. We stopped for another picture by the infield on our way to the gate behind 3B that leads to the concourse:
This was one of the coolest nights. Thank, R-Phils. Sign us up for next year.
I mentioned earlier that I play softball in the Reading-Berks Business Softball League (RBBSL) against the Reading Phillies (and other local businesses). Our season ended in mid-August when Herbein & Company successfully defended its 2008 League Championship. This season, we were playing for more than just bragging rights. Friday, August 28, 2009, would be “RBBSL Night at the R-Phils.” The league champions would be honored on the field prior to the game. Despite my squad’s poor showing and failure to even make the RBBSL playoffs this season (after losing to Herbein in the Championship game in 2008), we were excited for the game. We were all set up with party seating on the LF Coors Light Party deck. I was fully planning on a homerun landing on our picnic table while watching the game.
But there was problem. After a nice sunny day, the skies opened up and the rain began to fall before Tim, Colleen and I even arrived at FirstEnergy Stadium.
When we reached the party deck, this was the scene:
Moments later, they announced that the game would be delayed until around 7:40.
Tim grabbed his trusty bat (more on that trusty bat later)…
…and we headed over to the covered astroturf area so Tim could take some hacks:
This area is down the left field line behind the stands. By day, this is the batting cage for the team. In fact, see that blue fence behind Tim in the shot to the right? Behind that fence is the netting of the cage, an L-screen, and a big cart full of baseballs. Last season, I witnessed some naughty kids (not Tim!) sqeeze in there and take a ball out of the cart.
During games, the cage is pushed back and locked up, and the turf area is left open for kids to run around. Also, people will pull tables over there and hang out and eat some food under cover at times.
Tim ran around on the turf and took a lot of hacks.
After a while, we took a walk around the stadium. This is a look into the concourse under/behind the infield grandstand:
FirstEnergy Stadium has a great old time baseball feel going on in the concourse. As concourses go, I really enjoy this one.
The picture to the left is taken from behind the 3B side as we are walking toward the home plate area. The picture to the right shows the food stands directly behind home plate.
We kept walking toward the 1B side. I think I have mentioned before that the R-Phils dugout does not connect to the club house via underground tunnel. Instead, the players have to walk through the concourse to get to the club house. Therefore, it was not a big surprise when we walked by the R-Phils club house entrance and found a couple R-Phils signing autographs for a bunch of kids:
I’m not sure who these guys are. But it sure looks like the picture (being held by an autograph seeker) in the bottom right corner says “Kyle,” which makes me wonder if the guy in the middle is Kyle Drabek. It doesn’t really look like him to me. Maybe its Scott Mathieson. Any guesses? The guy in the back sort of looks like hot prospect Dominic Brown, but I’m not certain.
[NOTE: in the background, the yellow sign says “PLAYERS ARE NOT PERMITTED TO SIGN AUTOGRAPHS IN THE CONCOURSE BEFORE THE GAME.” I guess these guys didn’t get that memo.]
We walked right on by the autographing and headed out to the open-air concourse down the 1B line. Someone was there who I wanted to see:
ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
Stark was there selling and signing his book. We neither bought the book nor got anything autographed. He doesn’t know it, but I have a past with Mr. Stark. He once made some derogatory comments about my Mariners, and I did not approve. Therefore, unbeknownst to the author, I boycotted Stark for decent amount of time. Maybe a year or two.
But then something happened. Do you ever get the feeling that, despite its massive size and scope, there just isn’t enough suitable baseball content to read on the internet? I get that feeling a lot. Therefore, at some point, I forgave Jayson Stark and I released him from his ban.
From the picture above, you might be able to tell that Tim has not yet forgiven Stark (despite the fact he wasn’t even born yet when Stark made his offending comments). Tim loves everyone he meets at games. But he wanted nothing to do with Stark. It might have had something to do with Stark commenting to us that the Mariners aren’t going to win the World Series (or some nonsense to that effect).
After visiting with Stark, we headed over to behind the R-Phils dugout and took this rainy panaramic view:
Next, we went behind the stands into the open-air concourse and Tim did some dancing to the sweet sounds of a live band playing a set back there:
By the way, the game still hadn’t started, the tarp was still on, and it was probably about 7:30 at this point. Even worse, its started to rain harder:
We headed back to the Party Deck, and an annoucement came over the PA system: the game was cancelled.
We’d get to use our tickets at any future game this season or next. But, shoot, I was hoping to get this game in with my co-workers and softball league-mates.
As the entry title suggests, it was a *minor* dissappointment. A minor league dissappointment, that is. Of course, I must hand it to the R-Phils. They handled this rain out flawlessly, which is more than I can say about the last rain out game Tim and I attended (back on June 3, 2009).
I took one more picture of the rain-soaked field before we headed home for alternate plans – family movie night (“Surfs Up”):
One final note: the game was rescheduled as part of a double-header on the following day. Unfortunately, it poured rain again and the doubleheader was rained out. Therefore, the R-Phils and Bowie Baysox had to play back-to-back double-headers on Sunday and Monday.
Tim and I have racked up a lot of miles this season taking day-trips on the weekends to MLB games in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and New York. Those trips range between 1.5 to 3 hours one way. What we had not done, however, was take the 10 minute drive to see our local minor league squad, the (AA) Reading Phillies. Today was the day.
Anyone looking for an authentic Minor League experience — a slice of Americana — head on over to Reading, Pennsylvania to check out the R-Phils at First Energy Stadium. And you can’t beat the prices — $8 for a General Admission ticket and free for kids 4-and-under.
I picked this game for several reasons: (i) we didn’t have a MLB game planned for the weekend, (ii) it was Kids Run the Bases day, and (iii) I wanted the Camo R-Phils hat they were giving away to the first 2,500 adults.
Unfortunately, when we entered the stadium, the hats were all gone. So, hatless, we walked through the concourse and to the Coors Light Left Field Deck. Out by the deck, there is a special entrance for partyn deck folks. I noticed that they had TWO hats left. I talked one of the girls into giving me one of them. I like it:
We started the game by picking up some french fries and two dollar-dogs and heading to the trough in left field (that’s what I call it, not sure if it has a real name):
This would be a pretty sweet place to catch a home run. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen one hit to LF while I’ve been in the trough.
Behind the trough there is an elevated picnic area with lots of tables and private boxes.
Here is the view from the trough:
Here is a closer look:
Tim likes the trough because its like a big straight away made for racing. Plus, it conveniently has a “finish line” painted at one end:
Why do you think they painted the yellow line across the floor in the trough? I can’t see that line ever coming into play. You can’t see it from the field. Its out of the sight of any TV cameras. Plus, the ball is either fair or foul when it crosses the top of the fence — it is irrelevant whether a ball lands on the fair or foul side of the line on the deck behind the fence. I think its only real utility is as a finish line for Tim to use for racing me in the trough.
So the whole LF areas is a big deck. What, you ask, is in RF? A little swiming pool (above the Power Ball sign):
Why, you ask, is there a traditional Japanese pagoda on the hill in Reading, PA? The Answer: your guess is as good as mine. There just is.
Here is the scoreboard in CF:
Now, you might be wondering why it is the 10th inning and it still looks like 1:05 in the afternoon. Well, the game from Saturday night was suspended due to rain with a 1-1 tie score. So we had to finish that game (2-1 loss in 11 innings) and wait for crew to prep the field before the regularly scheduled game started.
It was nice to get some bonus baseball, but the delay ultimately proved to be too much for young tired Tim. Plus, it skewed his game schedule like nobody’s business. We ended up getting his ice cream helmet before the game even started — real chocolate ice cream with sprinkles:
This picture shows Tim eating his ice cream “in the shade” as he requested. We were in the back row of the grandstand.
The regularly scheduled Sunday game finally got going at 2:20. I took a couple panoramics of the field:
And Tim did some smiling and pointing:
…and we took more panoramics:
Then we took to our feet and got some action shots — here is Phils top pitching prospect, Kyle Drabek:
. . . and here is some Harrisburg Senators (AA Expos…oops, Nationals) dude getting blown away by a high fastball from Drabek (with one of the R-Phils’ many mascots watching on):
I’d never realized that there is standing room at the top of the grandstand and a walkway that runs behind the pressbox from one side of home plate to the other. Tim liked running back and forth back there. Here is a plaque on the wall by the press box:
As you can see from the plaque, “Broadway” Charlie Wagner played for the Red Sox. He was also Ted Williams’s roommate back in the day. And he was a regular at Reading Phillies games until he passed away in 2006.
How about another action shot?
This is Michael Taylor. The little program guide said that in May Taylor was named Phillies Minor League Player of the Month for the third consecutive month. I looked up Taylor’s stats on MiLB.com from last season and he hit .346 with 19 HR and 88 RBI. So far this season, he is hitting .332 wiith 10 HR and 42 RBI. Not too shabby. Watch for him in a MLB park near you in the future.
Finally, we took in all of the zaney on-field entertainment that you get with minor league baseball:
Now, here is the interesting thing I learned today. Sometimes, it can actually be easier to drive 100+ miles to a game. I really wanted to go to this game because it was Kids Run the Bases day. We love Kids Run the Bases day. However, when we go to Sunday games in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York or D.C., Tim naps in the car on the way to the game. However, with only a 10 minute drive to the park today, we were going with no nap. Add in the extra 2 innings played at the beginning of the day from the rain-suspended game from the night before and the 1/2 hour of field prep between games and it was a long day at the park. Tim was deliriously tired by the 7th inning. So, we missed Kids Run the Bases. Still, it was a great day at Baseballtown.
I’ll leave you with one more picture. Here is a big picture of FirstEnergy Stadium with labels showing the former R-Phils to go on to the Major Leagues since 1967:
Here are some highlights:
1967 – Larry Bowa, Robin Roberts; 1970 – Bob Boone; 1971 – Mike Schmidt; 1980 -Ryne Sandberg; 1981 – Julio Franco; 1995 – Scott Rolen; 1999 – Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell; 2001 – Carlos Silva, Brett Myers; 2002 – Ryan Madson; 2003 – Carlos Ruiz; 2004 – Ryan Howard; 2005 – Cole Hamels.
Not too shabby.
So, I have a three year old son, Tim. He is my partner in crime when it comes to baseball adventures. We (read, I) have set a couple “fan” goals for the 2009 baseball season. This weekend, we start our quest to achieve those goals. So, I guess I should let you know what some of those goals are. I won’t burden you with all of our goals, but here are the top three (in order of importance):
2) Have Tim complete the MLB circuit – see each of the 30 teams play live. Tim is 3 and he has seen 20 teams. To complete the circuit, he needs to see the A’s (May 1-3), Rangers (May 4-5), Royals (Aug. 17), Tigers (May 31), Red Sox (July 3-4), Rays (April 12), Dodgers (May 12), Padres (April 19), Astros (Aug. 14) and Braves (May 10).
3) Visit 11 stadia (stadiums) – Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Wrigley Field, The HHH Metrodome, Miller Park, U.S. Cellular, Fenway Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, and (New) Yankee Stadium.
Tim and I will start the quest tomorrow as we visit Camden Yards to see the Rays and Orioles. I love Camden Yards. I’ve go there at least once a year every year…since probably 2000. Its an awesome park. I always get the cheap seats in straight away center. Its an excellent view of the field and you get all of the sights and smells of Eutaw Street (and Boog’s BBQ) just behind the seats.
Tim and Ken Griffey, Jr. at Camden-Yards.
Its odd for me to go to game that does not include the Mariners, Ken Griffey, Jr. (when he was on the Reds and White Sox) or the Phillies (the closest team to our home). I’ve decided that I’ll root for the Orioles. They have a couple ex-Mariners (all the young studs we gave up to get Bedard) and, in case the M’s are in the wild card race at the end of the season, I think one more win in the O’s column and one less in the Rays column would be good for the M’s.
We got a jump start on our season today by attending a short bit of the Reading Phillies game today. The R-Phils are our local AA team. They’re the jewel of the Phillies’ farm system, and of the Eastern League.
I know some of the R-Phils front office staff from playing softball against them in the Reading-Berks Business Softball League. They’re good guys who have a lot of fun. And they put on some great Minor League entertainment at FirstEnergy Field.
Tonight, they had the Phillies Phanatic and the World Series Trophy in town. Anyone could get a free picture with the Trophy. Tim and I wore some Mariners gear so the Trophy could get familiar with the M’s. I told Tim that the next time we visit the World Series Trophy, it will be in Seattle. Let’s hope that days comes some day soon.
Speaking of the M’s. They’re in first place!
Strong D, strong pitching, timely hitting…and all this without Ichiro, who is ripping it up in extended spring training with the Mariners low Minor Leaguers. I can’t wait to see my M’s in Seattle next month!