Posts Tagged ‘fireworks’

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.

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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.”

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(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.

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.

griffey plaque

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.

Bus Leaguers Work on the 4th

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We here at Bus Leagues have the usual thanks to hand out on Independence Day.

Thanks to the Founding Fathers for having a dream of freedom. Thanks to the farmers and merchants who answered the call and fought against overwhelming odds to realize that vision. Thanks to everyone who has fought to preserve that freedom, with pen or sword, since then.

I was thinking today, as I considered whether to take my family out to a ballgame to get our fireworks fix, that we should thank the players, execs, ticket sellers, on-field promotions personnel, and mascots who head into work today to make sure we all have a good time. For most of us, the holiday means extra time off from work to spend with our families and our grilling apparatus. But in baseball, more often than not, it’s game day.

So thanks, Bus League pros. We owe you one. Have a cold one on us after you’re done cleaning up the popcorn and spilled drinks. And enjoy those fireworks. They’re for you, too.