Archive for July 6th, 2009

The Great Baseball Road Trip – Extra P in your seat.

I’m not going to rehash the story Brian has already told so well. I’m just going to add in the photos I took, along with some captions, since I was only there for the Baltimore portion of the trip.

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Camden as viewed from OMDQ’s seats. The seat I actually paid for would be right in front of the railing all the way to the left. This marks the first time I’ve ever been forcibly moved to a better seat in a ballpark in my life.

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Here’s OMDQ with two friends and his brother. I thoroughly enjoyed all of their company, but if I don’t write down a name or say it fifty times in my head, I forget it almost immediately. Including my own.

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Here’s the mean old usher who made us all move. In his defense, a near-sellout at Camden these days qualifies as a PRETTY BIG DAMN DEAL. Sadly, I suspect it was more for the post-game fireworks than for the team.

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Now, don’t think I wasn’t having any fun after I moved back down to my solitary seat. The people-watching was excellent from my vantage point on the causeway. This lady was like the female Homer Simpson, with her giant orange beer fist and chef’s cap.

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I still can’t really explain this one. The game was D.C. vs. Baltimore. Why were we graced with the presence of a squadron of boozed-up Phillies fans? Do they really need to lord their championship over other long-suffering fans like this?

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What is it about the Young Men’s Christian Association that sports fans love so much? These young ladies seem to believe that it might be fun to be there.

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The guy on the left was so drunk he looked like he had suffered a stroke. (I’m going to feel really bad if he had, but he DID maintain a death-grip on a succession of bottled beers throughout the game). The lady on the right thrilled me with her neck tattoo.

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This guy’s title confused me a bit. Is he in charge of alcohol *rules* compliance? Because god help him if he is. On the other hand, if he’s just in charge of getting people to comply with alcohol, he’s got the easiest job on earth.

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Brian did come down and chat with me after my row cleared out a bit (the massive scoring binge by the O’s in the 6th took care of that). One reason he was probably glad he didn’t sit near me the whole time: he only had to endure one of these dumbass self-portrait attempts.

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It just doesn’t get any better than this. Seriously.

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This was how the evening ended. Sort of a warmup act for Independence Day. A huge portion of the crowd stayed for this, but the traffic leaving the stadium still wasn’t too bad. Which I was extremely grateful for, since I had run my gas tank almost empty trying to get there in time for the first pitch. I asked a cop where the nearest gas station was and booked it over with a few drops to spare.

Yeah, I got home late. And yeah, I felt it the next day, but I don’t care. It was worth it.

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The Great Baseball Road Trip of 2009: Day Two – June 26 – Baltimore

I don’t know how ballplayers do it. I woke up on Friday morning in a darkened hotel room. For about fifteen seconds, until I thought to roll over and look at the clock, I literally had no idea where I was or what time it was. (It was 10:42. Nine hours of sleep never felt so good.)

Friday was probably the day I was looking forward to the most. Not only were we going to see a game at Camden Yards, which I’ve always heard good things about but never before visited, but we were also going to be joined by Extra P for the second annual Bus Leagues Baseball Organizational Summit. Though his seat wasn’t with ours, he WAS in our section, and we figured that we’d have plenty of time to hang out and tell blogging war stories well into the night (“Why, I remember where I was in Aught-Seven, when Cowherd took down The Big Lead. It was a Tuesday. The day dawned gray and grim, and I knew something rough was in the offing…)

Before the game, however, we needed sustenance. Chris had been talking all week about CiCi’s, a reasonably priced pizza buffet about ten minutes from the hotel. Tim wasn’t feeling well and had some homework to do, so he stayed behind at the hotel while Billy, Chris and I went to lunch. We had a little trouble getting there – the VZ Navigator on my phone wasn’t recognizing the address and I am ridiculously inept at reading a map (which is why I have GPS in the first place); OF COURSE I belonged in the front seat – but made it after about half an hour. I’d like to think the additional time in the car whetted our appetites. Once there…who knew there were so many different kinds of pizza, and all in one buffet line? Joe Croce, Mike Cole, I salute you.

We made it back to the hotel in one piece, relaxed for a while, and headed to the ballpark. Our parking pass directed us to Lot D, which was located directly in front of MT Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. As we walked around the stadium, Billy spotted a wall with a bunch of names on it. We went over to take a look, figuring it had something to do with players, only to be disappointed when we realized that it was just a list of people who had purchased Personal Seat Licenses when the stadium was being built. Talk about disappointment.

baltimore war memorialThat disappointment was tempered as we approached Camden Yards, however. After Billy crossed the street illegally, against the direction of two attendants who were directing traffic (he insisted that he heard one of them say, “Go,” so he went – and waved when he got to the other side of the street), we found a nice war memorial just outside Eutaw St. It was a beautiful setup that more than made up for the disappointment of the PSL “monument”.

From there, we entered Eutaw St. It was still early, so we were ablemo vaughn plaque to walk around and explore without too much interference from other fans. Billy was especially interested in finding the baseball plaques that Extra P had written about last month after his previous trip to Camden Yards. I realized he had found them when I went to say something to him and saw that he had drifted twenty feet away and was staring intently at the ground. I left the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame or whatever it was I was checking out at the time and followed his lead, wandering around with my head down for the next five minutes. More than once, I crouched in the middle of the soon-to-be-crowded walkway to take a picture with my cell phone.

Our seats were located in the leftfield grandstand, just off the foul line (Chris was very reassured by the fact that he had to look up, rather than down, to see the top of the foul pole). The Orioles were hosting the Nationals, so we figured attendance would be light and we could find better seats as the night went on. Until then, we spread out in our row, the four of us taking up six or seven seats (Chris and I are big guys; we like our space, if at all possible). Quite possibly the highlight of the night came during the National Anthem; somebody (okay, me) forgot to tell Billy that the crowd shouts, “OH!” just before the last lines. I was looking at the back of his head and I could practically see the disgusted look on his face. It was great.

Extra P joined us sometime after the first pitch, grabbing an empty seat in the row in front of us until their rightful owners arrived to boot him back to our row. We were sitting there, talking and minding our business, when an usher suddenly appeared at the end of the row.

“I need to see your tickets.”

“Sure,” I said, reaching into my pocket and forgetting momentarily that Extra P was in the wrong seat. As the usher looked at his ticket, I noticed four people standing on the steps at the end of the row.

“This isn’t your seat here. Your seat is down there,” he said, waving toward the front row and reaching for mine and Tim’s tickets. “You need to sit in the seat number on your ticket. We’re close to a sellout tonight. This isn’t general admission!”

It reads like he said it nicely. He didn’t. We moved closer together as Extra P gathered his stuff and found his seat. When the dust cleared, somehow, there were only three seats at the end of the row. This did not make the usher happy.

“You NEED to SIT in the SEAT NUMBER on your TICKET,” he repeated. “We’re close to a SELLOUT tonight. It’s not GENERAL ADMISSION out here.”

I tried to explain that the four of us were together, so we would be within a four-seat range rather than specific seats, but he wasn’t overly interested in listening to me at that point, which is one of the few things that can get me mad. I was starting to heat up when Billy led the way by sliding down into an empty seat next to him. Chris, Tim and I followed suit, and further crisis was averted. But still, it was a frustrating moment, mostly because the group whose seats we were sitting in hadn’t said anything to us before grabbing the usher. All they had to do was say, “Excuse me, I think you’re in our seats,” and we would’ve moved over without debate. Their first move was grabbing the usher, however, and his attitude only served to make the problem worse.

We left a few minutes later to grab some food (and because I really wanted to make the people next to us stand up). My destination: Boog’s, the BBQ place on Eutaw St. that Extra P had written about so glowingly for ESPN. I’d smelled it earlier and needed to get me some of that, regardless of the prices, which are a little high (I think it was $9 for a pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, and beans). Billy followed his nose as well, and we agreed afterward that it did not disappoint. Unbelievable quality. I even ate the beans.

You can't tell from this picture, but I'm standing a row above Extra P, who is trying to keep himself from falling over backwards

You can't tell from this picture, but I'm standing a row above Extra P, who is trying to keep himself from falling over backwards

We went back to our seats a couple innings later and watched the suddenly potent Orioles lineup light up the Nationals pitching for eight runs in the sixth inning. An inning later, I moseyed down a couple rows to talk with Extra P (all the while, expecting the usher to look up, see me, and order me back to my seat). The game ended surprisingly quickly (just a smidge under three hours), we enjoyed a post-game fireworks show (that explains the 45,024 in attendance), and that was that. On the way out, I suggested we look again for the ultimate baseball plaque, the one marking the spot where in 1993 Ken Griffey Jr. became the only player to hit a ball off the warehouse. We had looked earlier with no luck, but Extra P had at least an idea of where it was and so served as our guide. After a few minutes of searching, he tracked it down, much to the delight of Chris, the biggest Griffey fan I know.

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Outside the ballpark, we went our separate ways, Extra P on the road to Virginia, our merry band of travelers back to the hotel. There was a bar next door, so we headed over for a drink (sadly, we were too late to get quesadillas). One beer turned into two, then a few shots, and by the time the bell rang for last call I was pleasantly buzzed for the first time in recent memory. We were still hungry, though, so Billy drove us to a nearby McDonald’s to pick up some food (which did not have a dollar menu), then it was back to the hotel. Billy went to bed and Tim tried to get some work done while Chris and I worried about what was truly important in life: looking up as many of the Seinfeld videos as we could remember from the previous night. At some point, half-sober and three-quarters asleep, I decided I needed to post. It didn’t go very well.

So ended Day Two.

Jamie McOwen Extends Hitting Streak To 42 Games, Teammate Alex Liddi On Pace For Triple Crown

Jamie McOwen extended his hitting streak to 42 games today with an RBI single in the fifth inning of an 8-0 win over Visalia.  He is hitting .352 for the season and .500 over his last ten games.

As good as McOwen has been, his teammate, third baseman Alex Liddi, has been even better.  Liddi currently leads the California League in runs, hit, doubles, homeruns, runs batted in, batting average, slugging percentage, total bases, and OPS.  According to one source, only two players have ever won the Triple Crown in the California League: San Bernadino’s Ruben Gonzalez (27 HR, 101 RBI, .308 BA) in 1989 and Reno’s Jose Vidal (40 HR, 162 RBI, .340 BA) in 1963.

Liddi, a 20-year-old native of San Remo, Italy, is hitting .384 with 15 homeruns and 43 RBI in home games this season.

Unfortunately for the Mavericks, the historic accomplishments of its members aren’t bringing fans to the ballpark.  One day after packing more than 4,800 people into the seats, McOwen’s quest for a 42-game hitting streak was carried out in front of just 888 people.  The season average stands at just over 1,700.

Come on, good people of Adelanto!  Get out there to the ballpark and witness history!

The Great Baseball Road Trip of 2009: Day One – June 25 – New York to Baltimore

Thirteen years of driving experience has taught me that it is never a good thing if you can look at your tire and see exposed steel.

The good news? It wasn’t my tire. The bad news? It happened in the middle of New Jersey, within shouting distance of Pennsylvania, and for a few awful minutes I thought the vacation I had been planning with my friends for months was over, almost before it had started.

Let’s start from the very beginning. That’s a very good place to start. The date was Thursday, June 25. My brother Tim and two of my friends, Chris and Billy, had left at 4:30 AM on an epic road trip that would take us through nine states, three major league ballparks, two sketchy hotels, countless highway rest stops, and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

citifieldBy eleven, we had arrived at our first destination – New York City, the borough of Queens – and parked in a lot less than a ten-minute walk from New Shea. We took pictures of the planes taking off from LaGuardia, donned our non-Mets gear (Sox hat for Billy, Sox visor for Tim, Notre Dame hat for Chris, and Natinals hat for me), and hoofed it over to the glistening, shiny new stadium. As it came into view, I realized that I had never really seen anything like this. Remember the scene in Gladiator where Russell Crowe and the rest of the small-town gladiators went to Rome and saw the Colosseum for the first time? “I didn’t know men could build such things,” Djimon Hounsou says. Before Thursday, I had only seen Fenway Park and Veterans Stadium; as soon as Citi Field came into view, overwhelming in its hugeness and beauty and modernity, I understood the feeling that Hounsou’s character was trying to convey.

Inside, we stopped off at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to have our picture taken as a group. If I ever return to Citi Field, one reason will be to revisit this area and view it in greater detail. The interior of the stadium was so overwhelming at first that all I remember is the big number 42 that served as a backdrop for everyone’s photos; I know there was much more to it.

After this first stop we headed up to our seats in Section 533. I had bought them off at StubHub with the intention of keeping costs down; as we kept climbing higher and higher into the sky, however, past the 200s and 300s and 400s, we noticed that Chris was starting to look a bit perturbed. It was then that the truth came out: he is afraid of heights. (He had made a comment about it when I told him I was thinking about buying tickets in the 500s; I thought he was joking.) As you can imagine, this posed a slight problem in a the upper reaches of the stadium, where the seats basically rose skyward on an almost vertical plane. I needed a rope and a Sherpa to make it all the way the top.

If nothing else, our obscenely high location allowed Chris to sneak in a few of the better one-liners of the day:

“I am literally at eye level with the New York skyline.”
“I know the foul pole is about thirty feet high. We’re at least twenty feet above it. That can’t be good.”
“You know you’re high up when birds refuse to fly above you.”

And my personal favorite:

“If popups never go higher than where you’re sitting, can you still call them pop “ups”?”

Section 533 was also where we met the young fan Chris later dubbed “the Mets Historian.” In his early 20s, clad in a Johan Santana jersey, a beer in the cup holder in front of him, he first made his presence felt when we returned from an early game sojourn around the lower levels, commenting on the fact that none of us were wearing Mets gear. We ignored him and his extremely quiet friend until the top of the fourth, when he voiced his displeasure over a leadoff walk to Chris Carpenter. Billy, sitting several seats away, piped up (in full instigator mode), “But it was a good walk.” The Mets Historian looked over at him and said, “Hey, I’m on my way to getting drunk, so you may not want to mess with me.” Since it was not our goal to engage in fisticuffs, especially at this ridiculous height where Chris would surely be less effective, we stopped talking.

A couple innings later, the Mets Historian looked back at me and said, “I’m calling a double play right now. He hits into a double play, you owe me a beer.” After the batter singled, he turned around again and said, “Hey, you win. I would’ve owed you a beer – but we didn’t shake on it!” Thanks for the tease, Mets fan. By the time the seventh inning stretch rolled around, he was chatting amicably with Chris and Billy about random stuff (Chris took to calling himself a “Baseball Gandhi” for his ability to bring Red Sox fans and Mets fans together in perfect harmony). Apparently, he knew his stuff (including the reason why they used to take the caps off of soda bottles before giving them to fans), which led to the nickname.

The Mets Historian eventually left and K-Rod entered the game with a 3-2 lead (I had never been in the ballpark when a marquee closer entered the game. His music caught me by surprise). He retired the first two batters before walking Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. Yadier Molina came up, and I was sure that the stiff breeze that suddenly appeared, blowing out, was going to be a deciding factor in things. Molina couldn’t get the ball up high enough for it to make a difference, however, lining out to left to end things.

According to the box score there were 41,221 people in attendance that day, which made for an extremely enjoyable exit from the ballpark. We got out as fast as we could, getting back to the car just in time to sit and wait in traffic. Billy and I sat in the front, since we planned on switching off as soon as we were out of the city; I was going to drive the rest of the way to Baltimore. As we were sitting at the exit, waiting for the lot attendants to let us out, a car came flying up on our right, the driver yelling, “I’ve gotta get to work!” Fortunately, a third attendant was standing there, holding a red flag, an umbrella, and talking on her cell phone. Never before have I seen someone so clearly bad at her job. The guy in charge yelled at her, she fumbled everything around, and eventually managed to hold the flag out in front of us, prompting Billy to say, “Yeah, I know what I’m supposed to be doing.” Oh, and she was still talking on her phone. I kinda hope she got fired.

After awhile, we got back on the road. We hoped to make Baltimore by about eight and figure out what to do from there. It came down to catching a minor league game in Aberdeen, finding somewhere to watch the NBA Draft, or crashing at the hotel. The traffic in New York was pretty serious, but we eventually made it through and pulled into a rest stop to make the driving switch. Tim came up front while Billy went to the back to crash.

He was nervous about me taking the wheel, since nobody else had driven to that point. As I was backing out of the space, a car horn sounded, prompting him to shoot up in the back seat and shout, “Brian, what are you doing!” I assured him that nobody was honking at me, I was an experienced driver, and that everything was going to be fine.

We got back on the highway and everything was going great. I enjoy highway driving and told Tim that I could probably go for hours on this type of road. Everyone was relaxed.

All of a sudden, I heard a noise and the car started shaking. It sounded like we were driving over rumble strips, which would have been totally fine, except I was in the middle lane. Tim immediately yelled at me not to use the brakes (I was starting to slow and making sure to keep the wheel straight; there was nobody around us, which helped) and directed me to the right side of the road. Luckily, we found a grassy spot just past the guardrail. I eased off the highway and we got out to inspect the damage. You guessed it: tire shredded, steel exposed. Prognosis? Negative. (I wish I had a picture of it. Why didn’t I take a picture? Oh, right, because I was two seconds away from throwing a massive temper tantrum on the side of the Jersey Turnpike.)

I tried calling AAA to get some assistance, since we were, you know, stranded on the side of a major highway. It was hard to get through to them, partly because I was pretty angry with myself for causing this (even though it quickly became apparent that I hadn’t hit anything; the tire had just succumbed to the pressure of several hours of stop-and-go city traffic and highway travel) and partly because I wasn’t sure exactly where we were – I hadn’t noticed the number of the last exit we passed and the one sign we could see was just far enough away that we couldn’t be sure what it said. Eventually, we figured out that we were on the New Jersey Turnpike, which was bad news: AAA couldn’t help us because they weren’t allowed to service that stretch of road. While I was struggling to find all this out, Tim went ahead and called the police, who sent someone from the Department of Transportation to help us out.

Our Savior arrived in a yellow van with a flashing bar light on top. The spare was usable, but we couldn’t get far on it. We were still too far from Baltimore for that to be an option, and all the stores we tried calling were closed for the day. It was looking pretty dire when the Savior said, “You know, we may have a tire back at the shop.” One phone call later – “Yep, we do have one” – and he was on his way to get our new tire, with Chris as collateral. While we were waiting, Billy shocked the hell out of me when he looked at me and said, “So, are you still good to drive?” I figured I’d be tied to the luggage rack after what had happened. When they returned about 45 minutes later and put the tire on, however, I gladly took the keys and we got on the road again after a nice two-hour interlude.

It would be so nice if the story ended right there, with us overcoming this hiccup and charging into Baltimore two hours later as conquering heroes. (That’s not even foreshadowing. That’s just me telling you what’s up.) It was almost nine o’clock by this point, which put us in Baltimore around 11:30. With all the highway driving we had to do, I figured we could probably cut off a little of that time and get us there by eleven o’clock at the earliest.

Throughout much of trip, I kept a mental list of people I wanted to call on Monday morning and yell at. AAA made the list, as did the New Jersey DOT. There were others, I’m sure. Within a couple hours, the highway departments for both Delaware and Maryland had made it as well. Why? Because both states somehow thought it would be a good idea to take four lane roads – one of them a bridge – and close down all but one lane for “construction”. Making it even better was the fact that it didn’t look like there was any actual construction taking place – we eventually decided that Delaware was sick of being picked on by all the other states and chose to fight back by setting up cones to create a “construction zone”. Whatever the reason, we were stuck there for an hour.

The Maryland traffic was even worse because we had stopped in between and Billy had offered to pick up dinner for everyone, but we figured we’d grab something in Baltimore and turned him down. An hour later, we were sitting motionless in traffic, wondering how, exactly, we got to this point. (Some of my time was spent on such introspection; the rest was devoted to the car in front of us, which had a rack with three bikes on the back. I knew we could peddle out of there faster than we could drive, it was just a matter of who would be left behind.) Fortunately, Chris and his encyclopedic knowledge of useless stuff was in the passenger seat, in charge of keeping me awake (the only time I had slept all day was a twenty-minute nap on the way to New York. By 12:30, I was seeing purple unicorns). Somehow we got on the topic of Seinfeld, and for literally hours he went through every episode he could think of. He had me laughing so hard that while falling asleep was no longer a concern, driving off the road in a fit of glee certainly was. On the bright side, for the next three days, we recited this scene approximately 3,215 times:

It never got old.

As you might have guessed, we made it to Baltimore – five hours late, but we made it. We found our hotel, checked into our rooms, and immediately crashed.

So ended Day One.

This Week in Bobbleheads – Week 14

Hope everyone had a terrific holiday weekend.  This week has in store a team who is finally doing a bobblehead giveaway for their first time ever; in fact they are doing 2.  Let’s find out who that team is, along with the rest of the week:

Willamsport Crosscutters 7/5/09 Charlie Manuel – First 1,000 – The insanity is finally over with the last farm team to produce the 2008 WS Champ.

Oneonta Tigers 7/6/09 Sam Nader – First 1,000 – Co-founder of the famed franchise that when it was Yankees produced John Elway.

Memphis Redbirds 7/7/09 John Gall – First 1,500 – Popular career minor leaguer who never seemed to stay in MLB long enough to get noticed.

Portand Seadogs 7/7/09 Justin Masterson – Versatile Red Sox pitcher can start or relieve becomes immortal.

Washington WildThings 7/7/09 TBA – First 1,000 –

Oneonta Tigers 7/8/09 Sid Levine – First 1,000 – Other co-founder of the long time Yankee, now Tiger affiliate.

Nashville Sounds 7/9/09 Ryan Braun – First 1,000 – Last stop before Milwaukee for this 2009 All-Star.

Quad Cities River Bandits 7/9/09 Barack Obama – First 2,000 – This night also features $2 beer and soda. What a stimulus package.

Lexington Legends7/10/09 JB Holmes/Kenny Perry Dual – First 1,000 – Apparently there was a tie in the “Legends of Lexington” fan vote so a dual bobblehead was decided upon.

Missoula Osprey 7/10/09 Firefighter – First 750 – The bobblehead will be dressed in the firefighter’s traditional hard hat, with a yellow shirt, green pants, and will be carrying a backpack and pulaski.

Tulsa Drillers 7/10/09 Bobby Jones/Ivan Rodriguez/Bubba Smith Triple – First 1,000 5 and over – Triple bobblehead dedicated to Drillers legends of the 90s.

Arizona Diamondbacks 7/11/09 Chris Snyder – First 25,000 – A candidate for the final NL all-star spot in 2009.

Fresno Grizzlies 7/11/09 Scott McClain – First 2,500 – He’s Minor League Baseball’s active career home run leader, and now he’s got his very own bobblehead!

Jacksonville Suns 7/11/09 Clayton Kershaw – First 3,000 – Even with the Dodgers leaving Jacksonville for Chattanooga, their legacy remains with this current Los Angeles pitching stud.

Kinston Indians 7/11/09 Scout (Mascot) – First 1,000 – Wonder if there will be any protesters not liking an indian in resin?

Norfolk Tides 7/11/09 Mark Reynolds – First 2,000 17 and under – The neighborhood stars series is in its 2nd season with Reynolds leading off.

Quad Cities River Bandits 7/11/09 Steve Dillard – First 2,000 – Dillard was once a Red Sox utility player, now a manager with a bobblehead, go figure!!

Stockton Ports 7/11/09 Archie Gilbert – First 1,000 – The well travelled Gilbert has taken 3 organizations before being bestowed upon.

Beloit Snappers 7/12/09 Paul Molitor – First 500 – Get there early for a rare piece of Brewer/Twin history.

San Francisco Giants 7/12/09 Brian Wilson – First 20,000 – No it’s not the Beach Boys singer, but the mohawk is a nice touch.

Tampa Bay Rays 7/12/09 Carl Crawford – First 10,000 14 and under – Kinda ironic that this is being sponsored by Tobacco Free Florida. Does that mean there is an epidemic of juveniles that light up?

Tri-City Valleycats 7/12/09 Henry Hudson – First 1,200 – 2009 marks the 400th aniversary of his famous crossing of a river bearing his name.

Wisconsin Woodchucks 7/12/09 Woody (Mascot) – First 500 – Another pose of the popular Woodchuck.

Saturday the 11th also marks my 45th birthday. Unfortunately no close giveaways for the day but I’m sure my day will be just as enjoyable.