Archive for the ‘Ballparks’ Category

Bus Leagues Road Trip: PNC Park, Part Deux

Just over two months after my first visit to western Pennsylvania with my brother Tim and two friends, I went back to the Keystone State, this time with my wife. Our anniversary was Friday, we both had a three-day weekend for Labor Day, and the free Pirates tickets I won in June were burning a hole in my pocket, so we each took a couple extra days off and planned a trip. She originally wanted to go to Amish country and see the sights, but I vetoed that plan as too expensive. So she opted for Plan B: two nights in Philadelphia, followed by a trip to Pittsburgh to see the Pirates.

Now, we try to keep it loose around here when it comes to the topics we cover. Generally, if something is even tangentially related to minor league baseball, it has a shot. But I’m pretty sure that there is no possible way to connect our time in the City of Brotherly Love, which was mostly spent touring historic sites, to the Bus Leagues. So I’m not going to bore you with those stories.

Okay, I’m not going to bore you much.

In fact, I’ll just do bullet points on some of the interesting stuff so we can get through this quickly and get to the Pirates stuff. I know that’s what you care about.

— We played it by ear in terms of a departure time and didn’t get on the road until about noon on Friday. Little did we realize at the time that our route, as planned by VZ Navigator, took us through the Bronx. We hit New York at about 4:30, just in time for bumper-to-bumper, Friday afternoon, rush hour traffic. Never again, I tell you. Never again.

— To get to our hotel in Philadelphia, we had to drive down a cobblestone road. My wife thought this was the coolest thing ever; all I could think of was the fact that parts were probably falling off the car from all the shaking.

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— I come from a small town of about 5,000 people and have never lived in a city with a population of more than 90,000. Let’s just say that Philadelphia (population 1.4 million, plus tourists) was just a bit overwhelming, even for a short stay.  Big city living is definitely not for me.

— We ate dinner at the Hard Rock Café on Saturday night and were served by a waiter who resembled, in spirit if not in looks, Vince from “Employee of the Month.” It’s like he watched the movie and decided, “You know, that dude has it together. I’m gonna act like that from now on.” I bet he drives an ’81 Honda.

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— If you go to Philly for the historic attractions, make sure to visit the National Constitution Center first, then move on to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. We did it the other way around, and while Independence Hall was amazing, the NCC was the place that really got me fired up with some good old-fashioned, “Proud to be an American” feelings. It would’ve been awesome to bring that patriotism into Independence Hall with me, rather than going in right off the street.

— I loved the interactive nature of the displays in the NCC, but two things rubbed me the wrong way: one, some of the information needed to be proofread: New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s first name was misspelled in one area, and another exhibit featured an apocryphal story about Muhammad Ali throwing his Olympic medal in the river after being denied service at a restaurant (pretty sure that story was made up at the time and has since been proven false); and two, no pictures allowed, which was too bad because there was an absolutely outstanding exhibit featuring statues of Declaration of Independence signers. (I did make my wife turn on the camera to snap the picture you see above; it was just too cool.)

— Didn’t get to see the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the Second Bank of the United States (a pity, since it was right across the street from our hotel), or Citizens Bank Park. Maybe next time. I did, however, get pictures of the Rocky statue and the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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And that, friends, was Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Pictures 174We left the Omni Hotel early on Sunday morning and proceeded west on I-76. The nice thing was that we were on 76 for 270 miles, which was good because I hate having to worry about changing roadways and which lane am I supposed to be in and that type of stuff. On the other hand, it sucked because we were on 76 for 270 miles. That’s almost five hours. And there were tunnels.

Pennsylvania Pictures 165(They have signs leading up to the tunnels to prepare travelers for entry. One of them said, “Remove Sunglasses,” which made sense to me because you don’t want drivers wearing shades inside a dark tunnel. My wife didn’t see it that way, instead taking it as a sign that the state of Pennsylvania was trying to impede here personal freedoms, which led to her yelling loudly at one point, “Stop telling me what to do, Pennsylvania!”)

We got to Pittsburgh at about noon, parked at our hotel right across the street from PNC Park, and walked over to take a look around before the 1:30 game. From reading up online, I realized that there were a bunch of things we had missed in June and I wanted to make sure I saw them on this trip. The highest priorities were the statues of Willie Stargell and Honus Wagner. We’d seen Roberto Clemente’s outside the centerfield gates, but had never crossed paths with Pops and Hans. Also, there was supposedly a statue of Ralph Kiner inside, just outside Section 135. This would have been really cool to see, if we could have found Section 135. Alas, Kiner was not meant to be.

What we did see as we came through the gate on the third base side was even Pennsylvania Pictures 208cooler.  We had been unable to find Stargell and Wagner right away, which was sort of disappointing.  Immediately inside the gate, however, was a statue of Josh Gibson.  Further investigation revealed more Negro League greats – Oscar Charleston, Judy Johnson, Satchel Paige.  It was unexpected because nothing I had read had mentioned this area, but I wasn’t complaining.  Just one more thing that the people who designed PNC Park did right.

On our way up to our seats, we saw the famous prize wheel that was really the reason we were there in the first place.  My wife wanted to take her chances at winning a visor, so of course we waited in line to spin it again.  She didn’t get what she wanted – it landed on a Willie Stargell plate (with a sticker on it that says it may be poisonous to food).  For my turn, I gave it a whirl…and ended up on the square for free tickets.  There’s no way I’m traveling from Pittsburgh to New Hampshire three times in less than three months, so…somebody else will get to enjoy a Pirates game this month.  Two’s my limit.

Our seats for this game were in the infield grandstand, on the 300-level, which provided an even better view than I could have imagined:

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If someone wants me to believe that this is not the most beautiful ballpark in America, they’re going to have to convince me.  Outstanding.

Also outstanding was the way St. Louis centerfielder Colby Rasmus covered all that ground out there.  I know ballpark crowds aren’t the best judge of fly ball depth, but there were at least three or four times where a batter hit one deep, a roar went up from the crowd, and Rasmus just cruised back and handled the play effortlessly.  He also came very close to throwing a runner out at the plate, playing a line drive in front of him and uncorking a great throw that was just a second or two late.

Rasmus’s counterpart and fellow top prospect-turned-rookie Andrew McCutchen had a good day as well, finishing 2-5 with two runs scored and coming about as close as Rasmus to gunning someone down at home.  He was also one of the players featured in a video Q&A on the scoreboard in between innings.  The question was, “What would you do if you were president?”  A few different players gave the usual answers – “lower taxes” is the one I remember – but McCutchen got on the screen and started laughing.  “Oh, man,” he said,” Can I just sit back in the Oval Office, put my hands back, be like, man, president.”

I think Andrew McCutchen might be awesome.

Oh, and one of those runs?  The game-winner, scored when he came around from second on Garrett Jones’ drive into the left-center field gap with one out in the bottom of the ninth, a ball that Rasmus wasn’t able to outrun.  McCutchen crossed the plate with the Pirates’ second run of the inning, erasing a lead the Cardinals had gained on a Rick Ankiel homer in the top half, and immediately impressed me again when he led the charge to meet and celebrate Jones near second base.

I think Andrew McCutchen might be one of my favorite players.

The Pirates had lost eight straight leading up to that game and were merely postponing the loss that would give them a record seventeenth consecutive losing season, but for that moment, they might as well have been Little Leaguers celebrating after a big, well-earned win.  It was nice to see them display such heart in a game that meant relatively nothing in the grand scheme of things.

A few other notes from the game: Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass started throwing hats from the booth into the stands late in the game – a lady in the row behind me dove for one, missed, and I had to catch her; Neil Walker picked up his first major league hit in the eighth inning; my wife got a sunburn – on one side of her body; I’ve seen the Pirates play twice this year, and Paul Maholm has started both games.

On our way out, I took a few more pictures of the Negro League statues (it had been too sunny earlier to get good ones) before we went out the left field gate to see the Willie Stargell statue.  It was just as impressive as Clemente (which we saw from a distance but didn’t visit up close):

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I tried to get a picture of just the statue, but it was a madhouse.  Even while these kids were posing, a father was getting ready to jump in and take a picture with his daughter.  So, I get a picture of Pops with a couple of random kids.

After I took my pictures, we walked the hundred yards back to our hotel to relax for awhile before going out for dinner and finding the Wagner statue.  We decided to go to Jerome Bettis Grille 36, mainly because it was within easy walking distance.

We had to wait for about fifteen minutes for a table, but it was well worth it.  The waiter was friendly, the food delicious, and the atmosphere good.  As my wife said, “I like that it’s Jerome Bettis’ place, but it’s not like, ‘Look at me, look at me.’  It’s not showy.”  And it was inexpensive, too, which was a big deal because cash was running low by that point.  The only thing I noticed that might be worth criticizing was the service – a table of six people next to us had their food brought out over a period of about ten minutes, so some people were eating while others sat and watched.  Our waiter said that when it gets really busy, the kitchen can have a hard time keeping up.  Really, though, the food was so good that it didn’t matter.  I would’ve waited.

On our way back to the hotel, we asked a guy at a valet booth about the remains of Three Rivers Stadium.  He pointed back in the direction from which we had come, where Heinz Field loomed, and said, “Well, there’s that parking lot over there, and they left up one of the gates.”  He went on to tell us a little bit about the demolition – Heinz Field was built so close that they had to take special precautions when Three Rivers came down – and answered a question I had about Forbes Field (home plate is still located in one of the buildings on Pitt’s campus), and we were on our way again.

And then, finally, Honus Wagner.  He was literally parked right in front of the main entrance to the ballpark, smaller than the other two but higher because he is on a pedestal.  The picture came out a little darker than I would’ve liked, but tell me this doesn’t look cool:

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With that, the sightseeing portion of our trip essentially came to a close.  We went back to the hotel, passed out by 9:30, and slept for about nine hours in preparation for the ten hour drive home on Monday.  It was a long drive, fortunately light on traffic (we specifically avoided New York City and its traffic), and absolutely nothing of note happened.

The end.

What’s This – A Contest?

Well, sort of.

My wife and I went on a trip to Pennsylvania this weekend, making stops in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  I’ll have much more from the stop in Pittsburgh, including words AND pictures, but for now, let’s just leave it at this: we signed up to spin the prize wheel again and I won free tickets.  Again.

(Well, the slip says, “Discounted tickets”, but when I went on the web site to check, it said they were complimentary.  They’re probably free but upgradeable for a few dollars. Just my disclaimer.)

Unfortunately for me, I don’t think I’m going to get to Pittsburgh again before the last home game on September 28.  Fortunately for you, the readers, I’m offering them to you.  All you have to do is be the first to send me an email at onemoredyingquail@gmail.com.  My wife and I are traveling home today, so I’ll send the web site and entry code to the winner later on tonight.

The winner will also have the chance to write a post for Bus Leagues about their experience.

Just for reference, here are the remaining games on the Pirates schedule (all promotions except tomorrow’s are listed on the team’s pocket schedules and subject to change; news of tomorrow’s promo was brought to us by bobblehead guru Eric M:

Tuesday, 9/8/09 vs. Chicago – 7:05 – Arnold Palmer Bobblehead giveaway
Wednesday, 9/9/09 vs. Chicago – 12:35 – Pirates Alumni Autographs
Friday, 9/18/09 vs. San Diego – 7:05 – Pirates Fleece Blanket
Saturday, 9/19/09 vs. San Diego – 12:35 – Pirates Gold Cap
Sunday, 9/20/09 vs. San Diego – 1:35 – Kids Day (Pirate Parrot Build-A-Bear Workshop Day)
Monday, 9/21/09 vs. San Diego – 7:05
Tuesday, 9/22/09 vs. Cincinnati – 7:05
Wednesday, 9/23/09 vs. Cincinnati – 7:05
Thursday, 9/24/09 vs. Cincinnati – 12:35 – Pirates T-Shirt Thursday
Friday, 9/25/09 vs. Los Angeles – 7:05 – Fans Vote Bobblehead
Saturday, 9/26/09 vs. Los Angeles – 7:05 – Skyblast III featuring Zambelli Fireworks and Foreigner in concert
Sunday, 9/27/09 vs. Los Angeles – 1:35 – Fan Appreciation Day
Monday, 9/28/09 vs. Los Angeles – 12:35 – 2010 Magnetic Schedule/Pirates Alumni Autographs

One More Note On Tonight’s Night At The Ballpark

One of the things Dan and I talked about was next weekend’s series against the Portland Sea Dogs.  Those games always draw big, but none may be bigger than the Saturday contest, when Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch for the Sea Dogs in the first game of a doubleheader at Merchantsauto.com Stadium.  Rumor has it that over 9,000 tickets have already been sold (which would break the team’s previous attendance mark of 8,903, set this year when John Smoltz came to town).

I’m amazed at our good fortune with this.  Not only did I buy tickets to that same doubleheader last week, before the Matsuzaka news broke, but I managed to get decent seats as well.

Those tickets and the expected crowd were on my mind as I left the ballpark tonight.  Literally, as I passed the ticket window, I thought to myself, “I should see if I can get the tickets now…no, just get them the day of the game…there are going to be almost 10,000 people here that day…I don’t want to deal with Will Call when 10,000 other people are dealing with Will Call…I’m gonna see if I can get the tickets now.”

Not only could I get the tickets now, but the guy working the window was the same one who handled my frantic call after I bought just two and managed to get me two more.  I reminded him of the basics of my story and told him how impressed I had been with the service, at which point he impressed me again by saying, “I’m just glad it all worked out so the ladies were able to come to the game as well.”

This amazed me because I hadn’t mentioned that specific detail of my story when I walked up to the window, which meant that he had remembered from our previous conversation.  So either I’m the only one who calls the Fisher Cats ticket office to order tickets or the dude has a great memory.  Either way, I appreciated the personalization to the transaction.

Why Don’t More Teams Hold Minor League Games At Major League Parks?

I’m not sure how common things like the “Futures at Fenway” and “Road to Wrigley” games are, but they’re the kind of events I would like to see major league teams sponsor more often.

What’s not to like?

–Players get the chance to ply their trade on a major league field.  For some guys, the prospects, it might be their first opportunity to check out the on-field atmosphere in the big leagues; for the guys that won’t quite make it that far, it’s a nice story just to be able to say they played in a major league park.

–Front offices get to see how some of the organization’s best players respond to the pressure of playing in front of larger crowds than they will see in the minor leagues.  More than 30,000 people were at Fenway on Saturday; you think Theo Epstein and Andy MacPhail weren’t keeping an eye on Lars Anderson and Jake Arrieta to see if they maintained their composure? (Official attendance for both games was about 16,000, but I’ve seen that 30,000 mentioned in more than one place.)

–Fans get the opportunity to visit a major league ballpark for slightly more than minor league prices, but certainly not major league prices.  I went to the Cape Cod League All-Star Game at Fenway a few weeks ago and it was amazing.  Not that I remember much of what happened (it was raining; the game was called after the top of the fifth) – it was just awesome to be sitting in great seats at Fenway Park for just $10.

Maybe the Red Sox and Cubs are special cases given the historic nature of the ballparks in which they play, but I’m not so sure.  I’d be willing to bet that many fans would be willing to spend up to ten dollars to see the future of their franchises in action in a major league ballpark.

Fandom Auctioned: SOLD! for $14.99

bandits mascot jcBanditsI’ve managed to come down pretty decisively on one side of most of the sports arguments of my day (I’m against municipal levies to pay for ballparks; I don’t mind the designated hitter), but this one still gets me into ferocious internal arguments with myowndamnself.

Should a fan ever renounce his love for his team? For me, personally, the answer is no. How can I expect to hang with my wife for the rest of my life if I can’t even put up with the mild agita that each doomed Royals season brings me? And yet, there’s a part of me that says it might be OK for the more feckless amongst us, because some owners render teams unworthy of undying love, and I hate to reward that kind of behavior. The old “small market!” chestnut has been blown to pieces as the likes of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays turn burgeoning farm systems into quality major-league contenders. It simply appears that some billionaire owners are too cheap to give back to their fans in any meaningful way.

Pittsburgh Pirates fan Brad Davis, fed up with the Buccos’ tendency to trade away every player that ever gave the team a fighting chance to win, put his fandom up for auction on eBay. The slightly tattered artifact was picked up by the Low-A Quad Cities River Bandits, who know how to spot a value pick in this constricted market. They paid just $14.99 for a slightly-used vintage fan. And Brad gets a friendly small-town Bus Leagues club with an awesome stadium to call his very own.

There’s only one real problem I have with the way this played out. The auction story was cute and all, but I can’t help feeling that Davis could have stayed within his own farm system if he wanted to see great Pirates draft picks before they were traded. But I guess he needed a clean break.

Word of warning, though. Once you go Bus Leagues, you’ll never go back, Brad.

The Great Baseball Road Trip of 2009: Day Three – June 27 – Baltimore to Pittsburgh to Harrisburg

The Pittsburgh Pirates are a joke as a baseball team and an organization (and that hurts to say, seeing as Amherst, New Hampshire’s own Neal Huntington is the general manager), but this must be said: I could see a game in every ballpark, major and minor, in the world and I’m not sure I would ever find another one as beautiful as Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. From the exterior view (where you’re driving down the street, come to a traffic light at the foot of the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and BOOM, ballpark at ten o’clock) to the interior view (with multiple gold-colored bridges rising up in the background), it’s just a fantastic place to enjoy visually.

pittsburgh bridges

My biggest regret about our road trip is that we didn’t get into Pittsburgh early enough to see any of the sights around the city. I would have liked to see where Three Rivers Stadium used to be, or visit Carnegie Mellon University (where the home plate from Forbes Field still resides). It was a hit-and-run visit, however; we left Baltimore around eleven, got to Pittsburgh just in time to check out the ballpark and see the game, and burned rubber for our hotel outside Harrisburg right after the game.

roberto clemente statueWe parked near the ballpark and walked over, crossing the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which was closed to automobile traffic. There’s something strange about walking down the middle of the street in broad daylight. I kept waiting for a car horn to sound behind me and obscenities to be sent in my direction. When we made it to the other side, we were greeted by an awesome sight: a huge statue of Roberto Clemente as he was completing his swing and preparing to run to first. Milestones from his life and career were engraved into the base; a miniature baseball diamond was set up around his feet, with each “base” housing a sample of earth from someplace close to Clemente: his birthplace of Carolina, Puerto Rico and his two major league homes with the Pirates, Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium.

Before entering the ballpark, we separated for the first time on the colon warming uptrip. Billy, an avid outdoorsman, wanted to kayak down the mighty Alleghany River, so he broke off for an hour or so and went off on his own little adventure (he went as far as Heinz Field) while we went inside to watch batting practice. The first thing I noticed was that when you walk inside, the bullpens are RIGHT THERE. I hope Roman Colon likes an audience while he’s getting his work in, because he certainly had a sizeable one. We then ventured into the left-center field bleachers, which was being peppered with batting practice homeruns. Chris looked like he could’ve stayed there all day, but unfortunately we were in direct sunlight and I could feel myself baking, so I suggested we walk around and check out the rest of the place.

Some team employees were running a game under the bleachers where you spun a wheel and won some sort of prize. Chris and I signed up. He went first and won a hat that we had to walk clear across to the other side of the ballpark to retrieve. I followed and won a coupon for two free tickets to a Sunday-Thursday game of my choosing. My first thought was to give it away as a prize to one of our loyal Bus Leagues readers, but it will probably turn into a nice Labor Day road trip for my wife and I. Don’t worry, I gots other stuff for you people. We’ll get to that some other time.

After we walked to the other side of the ballpark for Chris’s hat, Billy caught up with us and we just soaked in the beauty of the place for a few minutes. Someone suggested moving closer to the field to take some pictures – batting practice was still going on – so we walked the main concourse until we were parallel to the dugouts and made our move.

Billy went down the steps first. For some reason, Chris and Tim were lagging behind. As I approached the steps, an usher popped out of nowhere and gruffly asked, “Something I can help you with?”

My first thought was, “Oh, no, not again.” What I actually said was, “No, we’re just looking to head down closer to the field and take some pictures before the game.”

PNC viewWithout another word, the usher gave an “Alright then son, go get ‘em” smack on the arm and walked away. I started laughing and continued down the steps. Billy had seen the usher and I talking and waited for me – he joined my laughter and we came to a sort of wordless agreement that the staff here blew the other two places out of the water. When we got to the bottom, I asked another usher about the seating capacity. He told me it was 38,000+ and they were close to a sellout tonight, with the fireworks and all (fireworks! Nobody said anything about fireworks!). If there was one area of this trip where we got just plain unlucky (besides, you know, the whole tire blowout on Day One), it was that we somehow chose games that featured two of the biggest crowds Camden Yards and PNC Park will see this season.

Our seats, then, ended up being in the general admission area in the left field bleachers. Decent seats with reasonable potential for homerun balls, but since they were general admission we lost the opportunity to get up and move around, for fear of losing the seats we had. Still, a small price to pay for a decent view of a surprisingly decent game. It was also a throwback night, with the Pirates dressed in Homestead Grays uniforms and the visiting Royals in Kansas City Monarchs gear. It was fitting, as my comment to Chris before the game was, “You know, this would be an outstanding matchup…if the year was 1979.”

homestead grays unis

(You may have noticed that with the exception of the first game, we somehow chose to see four of the worst teams in major league baseball. I have no idea how this happened.)

The saving grace of this game was supposed to be Zack Greinke. I had read that the Royals were sending Kyle Davies down and going with a four-man rotation, which meant Greinke’s turn would come on our Saturday. On Friday, though, Billy checked and saw that the Royals starter was still TBA. Coupled with rumors I had read that Bruce Chen would be getting a call-up, that seemed like bad news. “I’ll bet they’re waiting until after the game to make a roster move,” I said at the time. I’m not right often. I was right that time. We got Bruce Chen.

In the first inning, Nyjer Morgan reached base. Chen threw over once with a pickoff move that didn’t seem all that impressive. Next thing we knew, he was throwing over again…and Morgan was racing toward second. He was out by a mile. Later in the game, the same thing happened – Morgan reached base, Chen threw over, Morgan was already off to the races and out by a mile. For whatever reason, as Chris said, he just wasn’t picking up the move.

In the fourth, Chris made a bold prediction: we still hadn’t seen a homerun in almost two and a half games – Delwyn “Don’t Call Me Delmon” Young (also known as Delwyn “I’ve Never Thrown A Bat At An Umpire” Young) was going deep. At this point, Delwyn Young had four career homeruns…so of course you know that no sooner were the words out of Chris’s mouth than Young jacked the fifth homer of his career to dead center. It was just that kind of weekend.

group pic with clemente

Yadda yadda yadda, the game ended, the fireworks show was awesome, we got a group shot in front of the Clemente statue, Chris took the wheel and got us out of Pittsburgh. Our plan was to drive to Harrisburg, crash for a few hours, and head up to Cooperstown in the morning. This time, I kept Chris awake with inane conversation and approximately 352 renditions of “Once, twice, three times – ahh, ahh, ahh, oh, the humanity!” And it was a good thing, too, because there is nothing to see on the highways that cut through western and central Pennsylvania. Nothing. There were a lot of tunnels, however, which served no better purpose than to completely mess up Chris’s mind.

(For the sake of comparison, here are the videos my brother took of the fireworks in Baltimore and the fireworks in Pittsburgh. I think the latter show was better, but that’s just my opinion.)

Things started to go wrong as we approached Harrisburg, or whatever suburb of Harrisburg our hotel was in. The exit that we were supposed to take wasn’t there, so Chris got off the highway and found a convenience store where I could ask for directions. The young lady who helped us out was quite drunk and wearing a dress that left little to the imagination, but she was very pleasant and her directions for the street we were looking for were perfect. Unfortunately, we didn’t exactly follow them and had to call the hotel for help. When we got to the hotel, we were informed that there was an error in the system: since we were arriving after midnight, the system had marked us as a no-show and released our room. We still HAD a room, but the night desk clerk was new and couldn’t figure out how to get us checked in without double charging.

Chris was ready to sleep in the car by the time everything got squared away. We headed up to the room that the clerk had put us in for the few hours we would be there, opened the door, and immediately noticed that it had not been cleaned. There was trash lying around, the bed was unmade, the lights were on. It looked like somebody was still staying there. I went back to the office, got another key (for the room next door), opened it up, inspected it, and reported back with what I deemed to be the most pertinent information: “Well, there’s no dead hookers in the bathtub.” Billy and Tim grabbed the beds, Chris and I found space on the floor, and we proceeded to sleep for approximately 150 minutes before hitting the road for beautiful Cooperstown, New York.

So ended Day Three.

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.