I’ve been pretty busy lately and I’m lagging behind with my game entries. So, a little untimely, I present the grand finale of The (Second Annual) Great Cook Father-Son-Grandson Baseball Roadtrip of 2009.
This was a big game for us. Royals vs. White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on the south side of Chicago. With this game, we could check the Royals off of Tim’s list and, at age three-and-a-half he would have officially seen all 30 MLB teams play live. I was pretty excited about the accomplishment and I had a little something special planned. Ever since watching Curious George receive a frozen ice cream “trophy” from Chef Pischetti, Tim has loved trophies. And he’s asked me a bunch if he would ever be able to win a trophy somehow. So as a surprise, I had a special trophy made for the occassion. More on that in a bit.
We started out the day at our hotel by O’Hare airport. It was nice not to have any long distance driving this day. We decided to spend the day playing around at the hotel. A little swimming in the pool followed by a little baseball in a patch of grass outside. Here is a shot of Tim’s pitching motion:
He headed to the game early to catch some BP. The line to get into the parking lot was slow moving, so Tim and I hopped out of the car and played some catch in the parking lot while my dad parked the car:
We headed into the park and the Royals were already hitting. We missed the White Sox completely. That was fine. My goal revolved solely around the Royals. Because they were the 30th and final team for Tim, I had a goal of trying to get a picture of Tim with a Royal player and his Trophy. More specifically, I wanted to get his picture with one of the three former Mariners now playing for the Royals — Gill Meche, Willie Bloomquist or Yuniesky Betancourt. My ultimate goal was Gill Meche because he pitched (and won) Tim’s first game back on September 12, 2006.
My dad went off to explore the park a bit and Tim and I went down to the field behind 1B. I scanned the field for Meche, Willie or Yuni. Within a couple minutes, Willie ran out onto the field from the Royals dugout and started taking ground balls at 2B — his new primary position now that Yuni has joined the Royals.
We were probably 125 feet from Willie. Any time Willie looked remotely in our direction, I shouted his name. My thought was to simply get his attention and motion for him to come over to the stands. My hope was that he would come over after taking grounders. He looked in our direction a couple times, but there were no signs of him being inclined to come over. BTW, I figured he probably thought I wanted to get his autograph.
Eventually, a batter hit a weak grounder that rolled to a stop in the grass about 20 feet into the OF grass between 1B and 2B. After Willie fielded a fungoed grounder deep in the hole between 1B-2B, he ran over to the ball sitting in the grass, picked it up and fired it directly to us.
Here was our view (with the arrow marking the flight of the ball thrown to us):
We certainly appreciated the ball from Willie. But it wasn’t what we were looking for. Unfortunately, Willie figured (whatever we wanted) the ball should suffice. After he finished taking grounders, he ran back into the Royals clubhouse.
I then spotted Gill Meche in the OF, but there was no possible way to get anywhere near him. I never saw Yuni on the field. Alas, my goal of getting Tim’s picture with a Royal and his trophy failed.
But don’t worry, we survived the minor dissappointment.
After checking out the scene behind the Royals dugout and chatting with a stadium attendant, we turned our gaze to CF where we noticed this:
The Man In Yellow — our MLBlogs friend and Milwaukee home run catcher extraordinaire, Nick Yohanek a/k/a the Happy Youngster.
I asked Tim if he wanted to go say “Hi” to Nick and we enthusiastically answered in the affirmative. So we headed out there. On the way, we witnessed Nick catch a homerun ball.
When we got out there, my dad was standing near by. We said hi to Nick and introduced him to my dad, whom he had not met the day before in Milwaukee. Nick then introduced us to a MLBlogger named Ben a/k/a Jerseyboy. I didn’t realize at the time, but I knew about Ben. He has a ridiculously huge collection of authentic MLB jerseys. Something like 1,500 of them. I was actually the first person to ever comment on Ben’s blog back a couple months ago, when I suggested he add a vintage Spike Owen Mariners jersey to his collection.
As we chatted, BP ended and then it started sprinkling. We took refuge in the concourse where we continued chatting, I realized Ben was the guy with the jerseys, we sampled the U.S. Cellular Churos, and I took this panaramic:
After a few minutes chatting in the concourse, the PA announcer told us the start of the game was being delayed for about 40 minutes. My dad decided to go somewhere or other — probably the team store to buy a U.S. Cellular ball. Tim, Ben and I decided to tour the upper deck so I could take some panaramic views.
On the way, I took this picture of the upper deck concourse, which due to the interesting lighting I thought looked pretty cool:
From the LF corner of the upper deck:
On our walk from LF to RF, we stopped so I could buy some nachos and drinks (complete with League Policy violating caps). We sat in the upper deck and chatted while Tim destroyed our nachos:
That’s Ben in the Royals’ jersey. On the right, as we chat and Tim scarfs nachos. On the left, chatting with my dad in RCF following the conclusion of BP.
Ben and I realized we share a common practice. We both help ourselves to copious amounts of pocket schedules at each stadium we visit. While walking the upper deck, we both filled our pockets with White Sox pocket schedules. (Following the season, I think I’ll put together an entry showing the schedules I have collected this season).
Soon, the grounds keepers prepared the field and it was time for baseball. We headed back down to the field level and parted ways. Ben hooked up with Nick, and Tim and I joined my dad in our seats down the 3B line (not far from the foul pole). Mondays are half price ticket days at The Cell, so we got a good deal on some good seats.
Here was the view of Mark Buerhle from our seats:
The lead off batter for the Royals was none other than “Willie Ballgame”:
Pictured above to the right is Willie’s first at bat in the first. To the left, Willie took over at short stop a couple innings into the game after Yuni Betancourt was drilled by a foul ball in the Royals dugout. Between Big Willie and Big Willie is a picture of the ball Big Willie threw to us during BP.
Early in the game (maybe even the first inning, not sure now), Tim wanted to play catch. We headed out to the RF concourse as Yuni came to bat and fouled a ball off the plate:
A few moments later, Tim and I were playing catch when Yuni yanked a bomb into the White Sox bullpen in LF. Tim and I went over to check out the situation. We could see the HR ball sitting in the bullpen. So Tim hopped onto my shoulders and we walked down to the first row between innings to gaze upon the ball — and to be in position in case someone in the bullpen decided to toss it into the crowd.
As the bottom of the inning was about to start, we headed back up the stairs to resume our game of catch. That’s when a *first* happened, I heard a voice:
Alex – “Are you Todd?”
Todd – (turning to see young Alex K) “Yes.’
Alex – (To Tim) “And you must be Tim. Hi, Tim. (To me) Hi, I’m Alex. I read your blog and knew you’d be at this game.”
Although I had previously recognized and introduced myself to several MLBloggers at games (specifically, Zack Hample and Nick), this was the first time anyone had ever recognized me and Tim from our blog. I gotta say, it was somewhat funny and cool. I like that MLBlogs has created a community of people who end up running into each other while out at the ball park. And this game had a lot of them.
Anyway, I quickly realized that I had seen Alex before. In fact, I recognized Alex from an article I’d read recently on MyGameBalls.com — click here. Alex is a young Hample-in-Training and is already quite adept at obtaining baseballs at MLB games. You can read about his adventures (including his baseball road trip that crossed paths on this night with our baseball road trip) on his MLBlog — RiverAvenue. (By the way, up above in the picture of Nick in CF, Alex is standing a few feet behind Nick wearing his Royal blues — shortly after that, he would catch a homerun ball that is documented with excellent photos on his blog).
Alex and I began to chat a bit. A few seconds later, Nick showed up. Alex and Nick needed to get to work on their efforts at retrieving the Betancourt home run. But first, we needed to get a picture together:
(make that a picture with poor lighting).
Tim and I went back to playing catch. This is where we played (with the arrow pointing to where Tim stood and the photo taken from where I stood):
After a few minutes, we headed back over to see how Alex and Happy were making out. Right then, some White Sox batter blasted a home run into the same bullpen. Tim and I ran down the stairs in the off chance it would bounce up to us. But it didn’t make the seats. Then a White Sox bullpen coach ran out and grabbed the new home run ball and threw it over Happy and Alex and into the very seats they’d just been occupying in about row seven. The coach then gestured toward Betancourt’s home run ball with a foul look on his face. He looked up at the crowd and plugged his nose like Betancourt’s home run ball stunk. He then scampered back into the bullpen seating area. It was a funny scene.
Alex then accompanied me and Tim to the ice cream stand where Tim and I got our White Sox ice cream helmets. We then said our good-byes and Tim and I rejoined my dad in the seats for some ice cream and more baseball:
…I’d tell you who these pictures are of, but I’m not sure. They’re Royals, but not former Mariners. So its hard to say. By the way, did you notice those three characters sitting in the second row behind the Royals’ dugout? One of them caught a foul ball sitting there. I’ll let you track down their game entries to figure out which one of them got the foul ball.
Tim got all jacked up on his ice cream and started having a blast in the seats:
After a bit, Tim and I decided to go check out the OF concourse some more. We found a bunch of cool “trophies” out there:
A portion of the batters eye has a cut out where the the camera men are set up. I stuck my camera through the cut out and took this panaramic:
The White Sox were staked to a modest lead. Bobby Jenks was warming up in the Chisox bullpen. I realized the game was about to end and we’d never visited RF. So, we took a last picture of Tim along the front row railing by our seats…
…and a shot of Jenks as he ran out to the mound…
…and then we took off for RF so I could take this panaramic…
…we continued circling the concourse and ended up in the exact same spot where I’d taken the first rain delay panaramic while chatting with Ben, and we got there just in time to see Jenks finish off the Royals for the White Sox win:
It was time to head down to the Royals dugout for a little trophy presentation — Tim loved it:
In case you cannot tell, the trophy says:
Timothy J. Cook
30 MLB Teams
Sept. 12, 2006 – Aug. 17, 2009
I love the picture in the upper left. He is trying to make a 3-0 with his fingers to represent seeing 30 MLB teams…but he was having a little trouble with it. He had to concentrate real hard.
So there you have it, our second annual baseball road trip. It was, in a word, excellent. With the exception of not getting a picture with a Royals player, the trip met all of my expectations and goals. The most important of which is further detailed in an entry I posted immediately upon our return to the hotel after this game — Milestone Achieved.
I am now officially looking forward to The (Third Annual) Great Cook Father-Son-Grandson Baseball Roadtrip of 2010.
Season Fan Stats:
25 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
11 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, Miller Park, and U.S. Cellular)
24 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, White Sox, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins, Pirates, Astros, and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)
21 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees, Twins, Cubs, Brewers, and White Sox (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
22 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Astros, 1 Royals)
MLB Closed Out (NL Closed out on 8/16/09, AL Closed out on 8/17/09)
4 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Perry)
3 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
9 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)
August 16, 2009 – Road Trip Day 3:
On the third day of the road trip, we awoke in Hixton, Wisconsin and headed east for the big city, Milkaukee, and a date with the Astros and Brewers at Miller Park. With this game, Tim would close out the National League. In fact, after this game, Tim would have seen every MLB team play live expect for the Kansas City Royals.
Now, if you’re looking for Miller Park, you have to drive down a long road – I-94 – passed Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet, Tim and Tom’s Cheese Shop, the Mousehouse Cheesehaus, Jim’s Cheese Pantry, the Wisonsin Cheeseman Outlet Store, and many, many, many other Cheese-Mega-Outlets. But don’t worry, you’ll find it. It is just past the place with the cheese. Its on the right. You can’t miss it. (Just follow the guy with the three-foot cheese disk strapped to the hood of his car).
In fact, it looks like this:
You also shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it because there will be about 20,000 people tailgating in acres of parking lots all around the Park. About 20,000 people hoisting Miller High Lifes and BBQ’ing brats while playing various object-tossing games and sitting in large circles of fold-up lawn chairs.
Once we found Miller Park, we hopped a ride on a stretch golf cart that took us to the Friday’s restaurant enterance to the Park. When it opened, he headed inside to find the field set up for batting practice (keep in mind this was a sunday day game) and two Astros playing catch in left field wearing shorts and micro-fibre t-shirts.
Since there was no other action going on at field level, we strolled up behind the guy who was closer to the stands. I didn’t recognize him. However, the back of his t-shirt had “31” hand written on a little white square of fabric and his shorts had “20” written on a similar little white square of fabric. Utilizing my crack research skills, after the game I looked up the roster on ESPN.com and MLB.com. One of them listed no one as number 20 and a gentleman named Bud Norris as number 31. The other, listed no one as number 31 and the same Bud Norris as number 20. And one of them provided a picture, in which I could easily recognize the t-shirt and shorts wearing ball player as none other than Bud Norris.
Tim was on my shoulders as my dad, Tim and I pulled up behind Mr. Norris. He glanced over at us and I asked, “You guys hitting today.” “No,” was his reply. “Hmmm…, any chance we can get that ball after your finished playing catch?” No answer.
We watched Bud and his colleague play catch for a bit. When they finished, they were only a short distance a part and the other guy ended up with the ball. He started to walk away and Bud went over to him and grabbed the ball. He turned around, made eye contact with me and fired a strike into my waiting glove.
“Thanks, Bud.” Hands down, the best “Bud” to ever walk the field at Miller Park.
A minute later, we started walking toward home plate, just checking out our surroundings. This was the view:
After watching a couple other Astos play catch and work on some mechanics by the 3B dugout, we made our way behind home plate and got this group shot:
And I took another panaramic view:
By the way, at this point, it was a little after 11:00, and it was hotter and muggier in Miller Park than any facility has any business being at 11:00 in the morning. The roof was closed, but the OF wall was open. It already felt disgusting. It would only get worse.
Note to the Brewers: air conditioning and fans. Look into ’em.
Next, we headed out to RF where the Brewers pitchers were starting to warm up. And my dad dropped a stack of receipts onto the RF foul territory warning track. Luckily, Brewers bullpen coach Marcus “Helping” Hanel was there to lend a helping hand.
With a shiny new baseball in hand before the Brewers even started taking BP, Tim decided he had no interest in BP. Instead, he would dedicate his pre-game time to playing catch with his dad. We found a nice spot in the RF concourse where no one cared if a father and son had a catch (for half an hour or so):
Note: in the middle picture, Tim is inspecting the ball after it acquired a stray piece of Miller Park lint. I had to help him remove it. It was a stubborn piece of Miller Park lint. After playing catch, we decided to walk around the park a bit. We headed to LF.
Now, I did not acquately document this with photos, but there is NO field visability in CF at Miller Park. They have really tried their best to hide the field from anyone who might be walking between RF and LF. There is a walkway behind the batters eye and scoreboard, but all you can see back there is a lovely view of Milwaukee out the windows and a big black canvas wall hiding the field.
LF isn’t much better. There is a Friday’s restaurant that has a porch. If you’re not in the restaurant, you can stand in the walkway behind it (I have a pitcher of this below), but a bunch of diners will be sitting between you and the field. Then there is the “inside” portion of the restaurant that completely blocks a big section of LF from the view of passers-by in the concourse.
So, we headed to the LF loge (second deck), where we could see the field! And Tim posed for this picture:
This was the view (not too shabby):
Next, we headed back to the field level and returned to home plate. Former Mariner (and a guy who is still loved by the Mariners fans) Mike Cameron was taking his turns in the cage. I snapped this picture of him because I thought it was even cooler than when Harold Reynolds used to carry his hat in his back pocket during at-bats:
Next, we headed out to RF foul territory where there are a bunch of attractions for the kids. Like this big baseball…
…which doubles as a photo booth in which you can make your own Brewers baseball cards. We did it twice, as shown above. For $2 you get two cards (of a single picture — i.e., we got two Tim Cook cards and two Tim, Todd and Jim cards).
Next to the photo ball, there are replicas of the racing sausages and a game where kids can race the sausages down a 40 foot track by peddling:
There is also a big baseball glove in which you can sit for a picture:
They have a fake dugout where you can stand with a fake Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun…
…and they also have a smaller version of Bernie’s home run slide, a contraption where kids can race a fake Cory Hart (I think that is his name), and some clowns painting faces (which I am against) and making balloon animals (which I am for).
As I mentioned, the heat…or better yet the humidity in the Park was staggering. So, we found a nice corner of the Park by the RF enterance where it was nice and cool. While we were over there, I noticed some plaques on the wall, one congratulated the people of Milwaukee for setting a new MLB attendance record in 1953. Then I found something a little more interesting…
…its a giant picture on the wall of Prince Fielder giving Nick “The Happy Youngster” Yohanek a high five after the Brewers won the wild card last season. For those of you who don’t know him (and if you follow my blog, you most likely do), Nick is “Brew Town’s Ballhawk.” The dude is ridiculous when it comes to catching Major League home runs. He currently has 51 to his credit. You can see some of his work by clicking here. (While I am promoting Youtube video clips, you might as well click here too).
Tim and I met Nick back in June at Camden Yards. He is a top-notch guy.
Anyway, how cool is that picture? That would be too cool to be featured in a huge piece of art work at your home field. Congrats, Nick. You deserve it.
Next, we decided to grab some lunch and eat it in this nice cool corner of Miller Park. Since we were in Milwaukee, I decided to act like a local:
Brat, Miller High Life, Cheese Fries helmet.
Hands down, that was the best brat I have ever tasted. Amazing.
While I do not know for certain, I am going to tell myself the cheese on my fries came straight from the Cheese Chalet. It tasted like some classy cheese. And how about a cheese fry HELMET!!!? What a great idea. I am an advocate for more foods in helmets.
Tim enjoyed his hot dog…
After we ate, my dad went to the team store to buy a Miller Park baseball — something he does at every stadium he visits — and Tim and I went to the upper deck to take some stadium pictures. Here is what we found:
Right field loge:
…right field upper deck:
…first base upper deck:
…behind the plate upper deck:
…Hey, do you see what I see? Out in RCF? In the exclusive “Tundra Territory” section? A little speck of yellow? Could it be? The Happy Youngster? We’ll have to wait and see…
…left field upper deck:
While taking our tour of the upper deck, Tim and I missed the first pitch of the game. So, here is the second pitch…
…and as an added bonus, below the second pitch I have included a picture of Lance “The Big Puma” Berkman fouling off a pitch.
Next, we headed back toward our seats in RF. As we passed behind the view blocking batters eye, we heard the crowd go crazy, so we ran into this little blocked off eye sore in RCF just in time to watch Ryan Braun circle the bases following a homerun:
Just to the left of this little eye sore was the yellow speck I’d spotted from the upper deck behind home plate. But I didn’t know how to get in there to check to see if it was Happy. That section is gated off and guarded by an attendant during the entire game.
However, as we passed by, we saw a lady trying to take a picture of her husband standing in front of the field by the gate. The guard offered to take their picture, and to take it on the other side of the gate, from the super exclusive Tundra Territory walk way. After he took their picture, I asked him, “Could you take our picture up there as well?” He said, “no problem”:
While up there for the picture, I peaked around the corner and spotted that speck, that yellow speck from the upper deck:
Nick and I chatted for a bit and he thew Tim some baseballs. Although he wasn’t wearing his pajama pants, Nick also endorsed Tim’s decision to wear pajama pants to the ball park.
After a bit, Nick and I parted ways, and confirmed that we would most likely see each other the following day in the south side of Chicago.
Finally, we made it to our seats and this was our view:
It was time for ice cream helmets…
Our seats were right behind Astros RF Hunter Pence:
Around the 4th or 5th inning, Pence hit what was originally called a home run. However, after reviewing the hit on instant replay, the umpires reversed the call. As far as I can recall, it was our first time ever seeing an instant reply review. Later in the game (different at bat), Pence would hit a home run that would count.
By the way, one interesting thing about Miller Park is that the ball girl down the 1B line plays catch with the right fielders (for both teams) between innings. I have never seen that before.
Roy Oswalt pitched for the Astros:
Toward the 6th or 7th inning, we decided to wander around and watch the game from standing room spots around the ball park. Here is my dad watching the game from the aisle way behind the Friday’s porch seating:
And here is the Brewers bullpen just on the other side of the Friday’s porch:
As we made our way of the the 3B side of the field, the Brewers bullpen started to implode;
I figured I should get some shots of the Brewers’ big guns — like Ryan Braun (pulling back a bunt attempt in this photo):
Although Prince hit a home run in this game, this was neither the swing nor the at bat.
This game was a Kids Run The Bases game. My dad asked an attendant where and when the line started to form for running the bases. We were pleased to learn that runners get to line up inside the stadium (so we could still watch the game while in line).
On the way to the line, my dad took our picture with four of the five sunning sausages:
Tim definitely liked these sausages.
Next, it was off to the line. It was disgustingly hot, humid and sweaty in Miller Park by this time. As we watched the bottom of the ninth inning from very near the front of the huge run the bases line, I found myself rooting against the Brewers. I didn’t want them to tie up the game and send it to extra innings. If that happened, I feared we would have to leave to escape the humidity in Miller Park before running the bases.
Luckily, with two outs, Prince Field (the tying run) hit a bat to the base of the RF wall, but Hunter Pence hunted it down and snared it in his glove on a leaping play.
And just like that, Tim and seen every team in the National League play live!
Now, it was time to run the bases. I saw a couple other parents running with small children. I decided I’d try to get on the field with Tim. I asked the lady standing by first base if I could guide Tim around the bases. She said I could if I held his hand as we ran.
So I did.
But, as you can see, my grip wasn’t quite tight enough and Tim blazed out ahead of me on the base paths:
Somehow, between me and my dad, we couldn’t manage to get a single clear picture of Tim running the bases. Oh, well.
We then finished off our Miller Park experience by getting our traditional post-base running dugout picture…
…a three generations of Cooks on field picture…
…and a picture with a “trophy” of the greatest ball player ever to strap a Milwaukee jersey to his chest:
And then we walked to the car, and drove back to Chicago for the final day of our baseball road trip.
Despite the oppressive heat inside Miller Park, the third day of our trip was a smashing success.
Season Fan Stats:
24 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
10 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, and Miller Park)
22 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals Marlins, Pirates, Astros and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)
20 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees, Twins, Cubs, and Brewers (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
21 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, and 1 Astros)
5 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, AL East, and the National League)
4 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Perry)
2 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
9 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)