SeeAll30.com – Road Tripping To All 30 MLB Ballparks

SeeAll30.com – Road Tripping To All 30 MLB Ballparks

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Interesting Stats From My #SeeAll30 Trip…

30 games in 30 parks
366 singles by 202 different players (most: 8 by Pedroia of BOS)
103 doubles by 88 different players (most: 3 by Saunders of SEA)
12 triples by 12 different players
63 HR’s by 50 different players (most: 5 by Saltalamacchia of BOS)
Total number of runs: 282
Number of times teams sent at least 9 men to the plate in 1 inning:  10.
I saw 2 Grand Slams: 1 by Youkilis (BOS), ironically against the team he would later be traded to (CHW) & 1 by Reddick (Oak – his 1st career GS), ironically against his former team (BOS).
Longest HR was 448ft by Stanton (MIA) @ Coors Field (I called this HR just seconds before he hit it).
1 Triple Play, my 1st ever (by TOR in KC).
I saw 8 different players play for 2 different teams: Inge (DET/OAK), Pence (PHI/SF), Scutaro (COL/SF), Victorino (PHI/LAD), Lee (HOU/MIA), Ramirez (MIA/LAD), Gonzalez (BOS/LAD) & Maholm (CHC/ATL).
I also saw a player start a AAA game 1 night and play in the majors the next night: Blackmon (Colo Springs/COL).
I got 3 extra inning games: CHC/CIN (10), MIA/HOU (12) & MIA/AZ (10).
I had 2 doubleheaders: Wrigley Field/Miller Park & PNC Park/Progressive Field (I did see the 1st ever doubleheader at Chase Field, but neither of those games counted towards my 30).
Team I saw the most: the Red Sox, whom I saw 6 times @ 6 different parks going 3-3: Target Field (W), US Cellular Field (W), Fenway Park (W), Tropicana Field (L), Angel Stadium (L) & O.Co Coliseum (L). I also saw them at Safeco Field this season, but not part of the 30 & for a total of 10 games.
I saw 54 different starting pitchers: most starts by 1 pitchers was 3 by Buchholz (BOS) who I saw go 1-1.
I saw the 1st ever (and so far only) time opposing pitchers have faced each other on their birthdays: 5/3 @ Great American Ball Park: Dempster (CHC) vs Bailey (CIN).
People I met who work in baseball: Mark Shapiro (President of the Indians), Larry Lucchino (Owner/CEO/President of the Red Sox), Art Howe (former Manager), Heidi Watney (sports reporter, formerly with NESN), Kirk Gibson (Manager of the Diamondbacks), Willie Bloomquist (Diamondbacks), Bruce Bochy (Manager of the Giants) & Luis Gonzalez (former Diamondback, now in front office for AZ).
I got to walk on 2 different fields: Chase Field & AT&T Park.
I signed several copies of the book I co-wrote (“The Fastest 30 Ballgames…”), with the coolest signing being at Fenway Park (got a cool pic of the book with the Green Monster behind it).
I met several Ballpark Chasers.
I was there the night the Guinness World Record of getting to all 30 MLB Ballparks the fastest was broken by Chuck Booth (4/28 in BAL).
I got to sit in a suite for my 1st time ever (4/25 in CLE).
I got my 1st ever tattoo (before a game in MIN, it’s a Boston “B”, saw the Sox win that night).
The total time for all 30 game: 90 hours & 3 minutes (just a tad over 3 hour average).
The total attendance: 894,627 for an average of 29,821/game with the highest being 8/30/12 @ Dodger Stadium 54,621 (Vin Scully Bobblehead night), the lowest being 4/25/12 @ Progressive Field (Cleveland) 10,552.
States: 34 (plus 1 District & 1 Province) – WA, MN, KS, MO, IL, WI, IN, OH, MI, WV, PA, KY, MD, NY, NJ, DE, CT, MA, TN, VA, GA, AL, MS, LA, TX, FL, OR, ID, UT, WY, CO, NM, AZ, CA, – DC & ON
Games: All 30 MLB Ballparks but a total of 44 games (40 MLB & 4 MiLB)
Miles Driven: 1st part: 13,104 & 2nd part: 4,846. Total: 17,950 miles driven.
Miles by Air: 3575 (3 flights – SEA-MPLS, MPLS – KC & CHI – SEA)
Tolls: TOO DAMN MUCH! Didn’t keep track, would estimate about $355+ (only $5 on 2nd trip)
Fastest Game: 2:16 @ Citi Field – Diamondbacks vs Mets
Longest Game: 4:19 @ Minute Maid Park – Marlins vs Astros (12 innings)
Best Park Experience: AT&T Park, Fenway Park & Citi Field
Worst Park Experience: Turner Field
Best Nachos: Minute Maid Park in Houston (Buffalo Chicken Nachos)
Worst Nachos: Marlins Park in Miami &/or Angel Stadium in Anaheim

These include all games I went to, not just official 30:
Tickets: $673.50 for 32 games (got 8 comp’d tickets) for an average of $21.05/ticket. MiLB – $47 for an average of $11.75.
Parking: $598 33 games (parked for free for 7 games on West Coast run) for an average of $18.12/game. MiLB – $5 (for 1 game, with 3 games parking for free) for an average of $5.
Fouls/BP/HR balls: 4 – 2 MLB – 1 BP in San Diego  (running my streak to 3 consecutive games I have got a BP ball in SD, all 3 I have ever been to there) & 1 BP in San Francisco (given to me by Luis Gonzalez) & 2 MiLB – 1 foul in Albuquerque (PCL) & 1 BP in Tucson (PCL)
Inside The Park HR: 1 – Justin Upton at Chase Field on August 25, 2012 – My 1st ever Inside The Park HR.
After Game Concerts: 2 – both at Chase Field – MercyMe & Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers
Stadium Giveaways: 5 – 1 in Phoenix an “I saw all 18 innings” pin for those who went to both games of 1st ever doubleheader @ Chase Field, Vin Scully bobblehead @ Dodger Stadium, Twins Umbrella @ Target Field, Frank Robinson mini statue @ Camden Yards & MLB Network drawstring bag @ Citi Field.
Balks: 3 (all on Buchholz on 5/16 in TB)
Mascots I Met: Sluggerrr (KC), Raymond (TB) but also Teddy (DC) & Lincoln (DC), The Legends at Chase Field (Gonzalez, Grace, Johnson, Williams) & Baxter (AZ).
People who had a character portrayed of them in “Moneyball”: 2 – Mark Shapiro (in Cleveland) & Art Howe (in Houston)
Games where it rained (w/ or w/o a roof): 8 – SEA, BAL, DC, HOU, MIA, MIA, TB & ATL

Who I Saw (official 30 games only):

Boston Red Sox 3-3
Miami Marlins 3-2
Arizona Diamondbacks 1-3
Chicago Cubs 2-1
Colorado Rockies 1-2
Oakland Athletics 1-2
Baltimore Orioles 2-0
Toronto Blue Jays 2-0
Kansas City Royals 1-1
Cincinnati Red 1-1
Pittsburgh Pirates 1-1
Texas Rangers 1-1
Los Angels Angels 1-1
Atlanta Braves 1-1
Cleveland Indians 1-1
Seattle Mariners 1-1
Milwaukee Brewers 1-1
Philadelphia Phillies 0-2
San Francisco Giants 1-0
St. Louis Cardinals 1-0
San Diego Padres 1-0
Tampa Bay Rays 1-0
Washington Nationals 1-0
New York Mets 1-0
Houston Astros 0-1
New York Yankees 0-1
Los Angeles Dodgers 0-1
Minnesota Twins 0-1
Detroit Tigers 0-1
Chicago White Sox 0-1

 

My 2nd Trip Of The Year… By The Numbers!

This second trip, the back half of my #SeeAll30 Summer, was AMAZING!  I had so much fun going to games and meeting all sorts of people.  Was just incredible! :)

Days: 21
Ballparks: 11 (7 MLB & 4 MiLB)
States: 9  (WA, OR, ID, UT, WY, CO, NM, AZ, CA)
Games: 20 (16 MLB & 4 MiLB)
Miles Driven:  4,846 for an average of 231 miles/day
Rental Cars: 1 – Toyota Camry
Tolls: $5 – on the last morning of the trip no less.
Tickets: MLB – $186.50 paid (but I did get 5 games comp’d for a total of $345 face value – average of $69) for an average of  $16.95.  MiLB – $47 for an average of $11.75.
Parking: MLB -  $110 (for 9 games, with parking for*FREE* for 7 games) for an average of $12.22/game.  MiLB – $5 (for 1 game, with 3 games parking for free) for an average of $5.
Fouls/BP/HR balls: 4  – 2 MLB – 1 in San Diego & 1in San Francisco (given to me by Luis Gonzalez) & 2 MiLB – 1 in Albuquerque (PCL)  & 1 in Tucson (PCL)

The rest of these stats are MLB only (16 games)…
Hits: 290 for an average of 18.125/game
Runs: 145 for an average of 9.0625/game
HR’s: 43 for an average of 2.6875/game
K’s: 224 for an average of 14/game
Attendance: 477,196 for an average of 29,829
Highest Attendance: 54,621 – Dodger Stadium on August 30, 2012 – Vin Scully bobblehead night.
Lowest Attendance: 17,239 – Chase Field – Marlins vs Diamondbacks – Tuesday, August 22, 2012 – Game # 1 of a doubleheader.
Time: 47 Hours & 2 Minutes for an average of 2 Hours & 56 Minutes
Wins: 6 Visitor & 10 Home
Streaks: 3 Visitor wins (Padres sweep in Arizona) & 4 Home Wins
Fastest Game: 2:20 – Chase Field – Marlins vs Diamondbacks (Game # 1 of doubleheader)
Longest Game: 3:50 AT&T Park – Diamondbacks vs Giants (10 innings)
Inside The Park HR: 1 – Justin Upton at Chase Field on August 25, 2012 – My 1st ever Inside The Park HR.
Players/Managers/Ex-Players I met: Willie Bloomquist (D’Backs), Kirk Gibson, Bruce Bochy & Luis Gonzalez – plus Heidi Watney (formerly of NESN).
Best Park Experience:  AT&T Park – met everyone listed above, had field passes, got my name on the big screen + had good seats!
Worst Park Experience: If I had to choose, though I enjoyed them all, I would say O.co Coliseum.
After Game Concerts: 2 – both at Chase Field – MercyMe & Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers
MLB Fields I Walked On: 2 – Chase Field (August 25, 2012) & AT&T Park (September 3, 2012).
Stadium Giveaways: 2 – 1 in Phoenix (an “I saw all 18 innings” pin for those who went to both games of 1st ever doubleheader at Chase Field) & Vin Scully bobblehead at Dodger Stadium.

I Got To See Mike Zunino’s Professional Debut…

A couple days ago, yes, on Friday the 13th, I made the 13 mile drive from my house to the Everett Memorial Stadium in hopes of seeing the Dust Devils vs Aquasox game that night.  As luck would have it, after making us sit there for almost 2 hours after the rain stopped and the tarp was removed from he infield, the game was called because the field was deemed “unsafe for play.”  My feelings on why they waited so long to call the game really don’t matter, but I honestly feel it was a money grab.  They knew they had the people here and that the concessions were still pumping out lots of food/drinks.  As I walked out I heard them announce “We will still have fireworks at 9:15pm and the food stands and beer tent will remain open.”  DUH!  Kinda makes it obvious, don’t ya think?  I also heard them announce that we could exchange our ticket for any future game at any time.  I decided that since I wanted a ticket to the Saturday game, the next night, I better stand in line at the ticket booth and get mine now… just in case.  As I exchanged my ticket I was told that Saturday’s game will be a doubleheader, 2 games for the price of 1.  What was supposed to be the Seattle Mariner’s 2012 #1 Draft Pick’s first professional game ended up being my first ever rain out after going to well over 1,000 games between MiLB & MLB.

Saturday afternoon, I headed to the ballpark around 3:15pm.  The gates didn’t open until 4pm, so I had to stand in line for a while, but as always I got a free parking spot and that made it worth it.  Shortly after the gates opened, I entered the General Admission section down the 3rd baseline and took my “usual” seat, section 6, row 4, seat 1. Somewhere close to 4:30pm, I headed over under the grandstands to where they post the line ups for the current game.  As I made my walk that way I saw people running to a spot behind me.  When I looked back, sure enough, there was Golden Spikes Award winner Mike Zunino, signing autographs.  I took my time walking over there and when I got there he looked up, said Hi and I asked if he would be so kind to sign my scorecard for me.  I welcomed him to Everett, wished him good luck and a great time while he was here and told him I look forward to following his career.  As he thanked me he reached out with his huge hand to shake mine and that sucker engulfed my hand!  Nice kid…

After filling out the rest of my scorecard, I headed back to my seat to watch the game.  Before long they announced the starters, who were all joined on field by a local little league player, the National Anthem was sung and it was time to play ball!  Game time was 5:05pm for game # 1 of the doubleheader and I was a bit surprised to see there was hardly anyone there.  Of course this was a makeup game, where your Saturday ticket got you in for both the makeup and regularly scheduled game.  However, considering what was gonna happen today, it really surprises me that more people weren’t there to see it.  No matter how many people were there, just before the National Anthem, future MLB star, Mike Zunino took his spot behind the plate.  As he got there he reached out that big right hand of his to shake hands with both umpires working today’s game and he was there, crouched down in position, as the very 1st pitch was thrown in his very 1st game as a professional baseball player.  The thoughts and emotions that much have been running through his head.  My guess a lot of it was relief, just glad to finally be playing the game that he loves, especially after last nights rain out.

Zunino’s 1st professional AB took place as he came up 2nd in the bottom of the 2nd inning.  After watching 3 straight pitches nowhere near the plate go by him, he was green lighted on the 3-0 count and he took a pitch that was low, but drove it down the line past the 1st baseman and into the corner and when it was all said and done, he was standing on 2nd base with a double as his 1st hit of his professional career.  He would later score his 1st run ever as well as the Aquasox 1st run of the night.  His next AB was in the 3rd inning, he drew a walk and for the 2nd time in 2 innings, he scored.  His final AB of the night would come in the 5th inning where he grounded out to short.  He only managed 3 AB’s in this shorted 7 inning make up game, going 1-2, with a 2B, BB and 2 runs scored.  Not to shabby for your 1st professional game as he helped the Aquasox win 6-3.

Between games we were told the 2nd game would start at 7:50pm and we were entertained by Roberto The Magnificent, who did several things like juggling flaming batons.  When it came time to announce the starting lineups, I was a bit disappointed to see that Mike Zunino was not playing in game # 2.  However, it was still baseball so I stayed for the game and watched as the Aquasox swept the shortened doubleheader, winning the late game 5-1.

As I walked out of the park, I found myself right behind Mike Zunino, who looked up at me and said “Hey”.  I shook his hand again, congratulated him on his 1st professional game and we talked for a few about the game as we walked towards the gates that allowed him to get to the locker room and me to the parking lot where I parked my car.  Along the way several people ask him for autographs.  At one point, at the top of the stairs, he got stuck there and asked people if they would let him out so I could get by and out.  I told him not to worry about it, no rush, as I was enjoying watching him interact with people and knowing good and well when he makes it big in the Major Leagues, I will be able to talk about that moment :)

As I walked out of the stadium and out to my car, I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer he will be a member of the Class A Everett Aquasox.  I can’t imagine it will be too much longer, but am hoping he will be around for their next home stand, July 24-29th, so I can ask him to sign the great picture I took of him getting his 1st professional hit…

 
Here are a few of my pictures from Mike Zunino’s 1st professional baseball game:

 

 

My 1st trip of the year… by the numbers!

When my plane landed in Seattle at 9:52am on Saturday morning, that officially ended my first baseball trip of 2012.  What a freaking amazing trip it was though!  I will eventually write up full reviews of every day/ballpark of the trip, but until I get that time, here is a look back… by the numbers!

Days: 30
Ballparks: 23
States: 26 (plus 1 District & 1 Province) – WA, MN, KS, MO, IL, WI, IN, OH, MI, WV, PA, KY, MD, NY, NJ, DE, CT, MA, TN, VA, GA, AL, MS, LA, TX, FL – DC & ON
Games:
24
Miles Driven: 13,104 for an average of 436.8 miles/day
Miles by Air: 3575 (3 flights – SEA-MPLS, MPLS – KC & CHI – SEA)
Rental Cars: 3 – Dodger Ram in KC, Chevy Malibu in CHI & Chevy Malibu in DAL (had to exchange cars in DAL due to it needing a service because of almost 9K in miles driven)
Tolls: TOO DAMN MUCH! DIdn’t keep track, would estimate about $350+
Tickets: $487 with 3 free (CLE, NYY & NYM) for an average of $23.19
Parking: $488 for an average of $20.33
Hits: 412 for an average of 17.16/game
Runs: 213 for an average of 8.875/game
HR’s: 51 for an average of 2.125/game
K’s: 345 for an average of 14.375/game
Attendance: 696,887 for an average of 29,036.96/game
Highest Attendance:  48,201 – Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on May 11th (C.J. Wilson vs Yu Darvish)
Lowest Attendance: 10,552 – Progressive Field on April 25th vs Royals.
Time: 70 hours and 14 minutes for an average of 2:55/game
Wins: 11 Visitor & 13 Home
Streaks: 5 Visitor wins & 5 Home Wins
Fastest Game: 2:16 – Citi Field D’Backs vs Mets
Longest Game: 4:10 Minute Maid Park Marlins vs Astros (12 innings)
Balks: 3 (all on Buchholz on 5/16 in TB)
Triple Play: 1 – my first ever in KC on 4/20
President/CEO/Owners Met: 2 – Mark Shapiro (Cleveland) & Larry Lucchino (Boston)
Mascots Met: 2 – Sluggerrr (KC), Raymond (TB) but also Teddy (DC)  & Lincoln (DC)
People who had a character portrayed of them in “Moneyball”: 2 – Mark Shapiro (in Cleveland)  & Art Howe (in Houston)
Games where it rained (w/ or w/o a roof): 8 – SEA, BAL, DC, HOU, MIA, MIA, TB & ATL
Best Park Experience: Fenway Park & Citi Field
Worst Park Experience: Turner Field!
Best Nachos: Minute Maid Park in Houston (Buffalo Chicken Nachos)
Worst Nachos: Marlins Park in Miami
Fouls/BP/HR balls: ZERO! NADA! NOTHING! ZIP!
Stadium Giveaways: 3 – MINN (Twins Umbrella), BAL (Frank Robinson mini Statue) & NYM (MLB drawstring bag).

Philadelphia – Citizen’s Bank Park – Ballpark #12

Much to my surprise, when we got up and got ready this morning, Chuck was full of life. Last night all his planning, all his worries, all the struggling he did to achieve what he did, it finally paid off. I honestly thought he would be just absolutely wiped out this morning. Nope! He was awake and ready to head to Philly with more energy than I was. His trip was over. He broke the Guinness World Record, previously held by himself, and now he was going on to support me on my journey to #SeeAll30.

It’s only about a 2 hour drive from Baltimore to Philadelphia, which after the drive we had to get to Baltimore, would feel like nothing! The weather as we left town wasn’t that great. It was still overcast with the occasional shower. However, just before we got to the City of Brotherly Love, the clouds parted, the sun came out and it stayed beautiful the rest of the day.

I love Philadelphia. Being the history buff that I am, I have been there several times. Philly is a city where you can hardly walk down the street without bumping into something of some great historical significance. Since we had a Sunday afternoon game to get to we didn’t have the time to enjoy Philly like I would have loved to have but I did make sure we took the scenic route to the ballpark. I drove us by Independence Hall, saw the building where the Liberty Bell is housed, Ben Franklin’s grave, the US Mint, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the giant steps that Rocky ran up, also home of the Rocky statue) and of course both Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteak stands at the corner of 9th Street & Passyunk Avenue. We didn’t stop to eat though as this time we had our sights set on something at the ballpark that was a suggestion of our friend, fellow Ballpark Chaser, Doug Miller.

My 1st game at Citizen’s Bank Park was back in 2005. It was the 1st game of a doubleheader for me that included the ESPN Sunday night game in Washington DC at RFK (Mets vs Nationals). Ever since that game I have really enjoyed myself in Philadelphia. The lone exception was in 2009 when my buddy Bob was traveling with me and we stopped here for a game. The only reason that game wasn’t as fun was because it was pouring down rain the entire game!

As we got to the park, we entered via the center field gate and after our usual quick restroom break, we made our way over to the stand that sells “The Schmitter”. If you have never been to a game at Citizen’s Bank Park and got yourself one of these, you are missing out. As I said before, I had been to a few games here, but never had one because I was also going for the cheesesteak (be that before going to the park or while at the park). Doug Miller has bragged up The Schmitter to me for a few years now. Knowing Doug the way that I do, I understand him and fully trust him when it comes to food selections because we are like brothers from another mother when it comes to “Road Chow”. We both want to try the local foods. We both won’t settle for “the same ole, same ole”. I will admit that Doug is a bit more adventourous than I am as illustrated by his stop at “Cooperstown” in Phoenix a couple years ago where he took on “The Big Unit” a 22 inch hot dog covered in chili with a side of fries. He made it just over 18 inches into it before he had to call it. There is no way that I would have come even close to that. With that said, let me say once again, I trust my brother Doug when he gives me suggestions on foods to eat when I am on the road (see again KC and “Oklahoma Joes BBQ”).  The Schmitter, which has Salami, roast beef, American cheese, mayo, sweet pickle relish, ketchup, butter, onion and tomato on a Kaiser roll was, honestly, to me, is a bit of a disappointment.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It tasted great.  However, it was quite tiny for the price tag ($9.50) and huge hype that includes long lines to wait in just to get your hands on one (not as big as a disappointment as the “Crab Fries” though, also at Citizens Bank Park).  If the lines weren’t so long, this would be totally worth it.  Then again if waiting isn’t a big thing to you, by all means, have at it :)

The game itself was a good one.  Matt Garza for the Cubs vs Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies.  Garza tossed 1 hit ball through 7 innings, while striking out 10! The Cubs had a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the 9th when they brought in Marmol.  This is where things got interesting.  He gave up 1 hit while walking 3 and luckily getting away with only 1 run as he got Victorino, the potential tying run, to ground out and end the game.

As per usual, we left the park as soon as the game was over.  We had a long drive ahead of us up to Hartford, CT.  The drive, just over 4 hours, wouldn’t be that bad, but late on a Sunday afternoon, you just know that the traffic as you head through the outside of New York City will not be fun.  It wasn’t!  After a couple hours just sitting there in traffic, barely moving, paying way too dang much in tolls, driving on terrible highways and a quick stop at Wendy’s for dinner, we got to our hotel in Hartford a little over 6 hours after leaving the park in Philly.  We would not be deterred.  Tomorrow we were going to Boston.  The Crown Jewel.  Fenway Park.  The game I have been waiting for!

 

Baltimore – Oriole Park @ Camden Yards – Ballpark #11

With Chuck driving, we hit I-70, and we were on our way towards Baltimore.  This was going to be our longest drive of the trip.  Between me not feeling feeling so hot and knowing that this was the final push for Chuck, today had all the making of either being a terrible day… or an amazing one!

I was mesmerized by the countryside…

I gotta say the first 7 hours or so went by fairly fast for me as I was able to get a decent amount of sleep while Chuck took care of business.  Other than gas or the quick restroom break, our first real stop, just as the sun was coming up, was on the outskirts of Columbus, OH (Hi Bob!) at a Waffle House for breakfast.  Ever since I have known Chuck he has talked about his love for Waffle House and their not only good food, but cheap good food.  I couldn’t disagree with him as I have been to many over the years, but it had actually been a few years since my last stop at one, so I was ready when we pulled in.  Thankfully they weren’t too busy and we got our food really fast. Chuck had the rib eye steak, eggs & hash browns and I opted for the traditional biscuits & gravy with a large orange juice.

Breakfast was just what we both needed to get us motivated as we jumped back on the highway with Baltimore in our sights.  This time, I was driving.  Feeling much better, I was was excited to be back behind that wheel.  I much more prefer to drive when I am on a road trip.  I don’t do too well as a passenger.  We were looking at roughly 420 more miles that would take us through the rest of Ohio and parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania & Maryland.  We had already gone about 417 miles and seen parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and half of Ohio.  If today’s drive did nothing else, it sure gave us a good cross section of this fine country.  We’d drive about 837 miles and get to see parts of 7 different states. Not too shabby for 1 day.

Knowing that we would be getting into the Baltimore area a few hours before the game, we really didn’t rush things at this point.  We took our time at rest areas to stretch our legs and take some deep relaxing breaths of air.  We would walk around reading the different tourist related signs or just enjoy the scenery.  There was 1 rest area in particular, in Maryland, that had an amazing view of the valley and a river right out in front of it.  I just stood there, looking. I was mesmerized. This was historical ground.  The Civil War was fought in this part of the country and as I stood there looking out at the beautiful countryside I could only imagine what it must have been like back in the late 1800′s to have to walk through there on your way to your next battle.  It kind of put things in perspective, ya know?  Chuck & I were in “battle mode” trying to get from one ballpark to another to make games.  Yet, when those kids walked through here, they were headed, most likely, to their death at the next battle.  The longer I stood there looking, the more I could almost see them marching along side the river.  It’s a moment that, while it might be silly to some, I will cherish for how it made me feel… thankful.

As we pulled into our hotel out by the airport in Baltimore, 2 things hit us: 1) we were finally in Baltimore and 2) there were police cars right outside the lobby door, WTF?  The later didn’t last long as even before we could get out of our car to go check in, the officers came running out of the door, jumped in their cars and with tires squealing, were gone!  We still have no idea what was going on, but it didn’t matter.  All we wanted to do was check in so we could grab a shower, relax a few minutes and head into town and that is exactly what we did.

We were just outside of Camden Yards, looking for a parking spot, so we could meet a friend, Roger Ratzenberger, at the Sports Legends Museum, when it started to rain.  It wasn’t a heavy rain, but it was a steady rain for sure. After meeting up with Roger, we walked over to the ticket window where another friend, Lori Martini, was going to meet us.

Camden Yards is one of my favorites of the newer parks…

We got our tickets and stood just outside the Eutaw Street gate talking about Chuck’s situation.  See, according to Guinness you can only enter a ballpark ONE time, unless that second time is to finish a game that was postponed previously. If you enter a ballpark and the game is called due to rain, you are SOL!  I had spent a few times on the phone with Chuck during this trip, and back in 2009, discussing this so I knew he had a choice to make.  However, it hit him and I don’t know why it didn’t hit me first, that if he missed this game, the best he could do is TIE so there was no reason not to try it.  As he said, “A tie is like kissing your sister”.  That makes perfect sense, so in we went hoping for the best!

As we walked in the gate we were handed a box with a really cool looking Frank Robinson mini statue.  They had honored him earlier in the day with the 1st of a few statues that will be placed around the ballpark.  It was amazing to me how many people came, got their statue and left.  Maybe it was the game, maybe it was the fact they were playing the Oakland Athletics (I say watch out for these guys, Moneyball baby!) or maybe it was just that people wanted to be able to sell theirs on eBay, but there was a lot of people walking back out after being handed their box.  No matter, I put mine in my backpack and when I did I noticed the umbrella I got as a stadium giveaway in Minneapolis at Target Field… SCORE!  Btw, Lori ended up with several of these statues, a big black garbage bag almost full actually and plans to sell them on eBay.  Good for her, I hope she makes a killing!

I am no stranger to rain at Camden Yards.  At one of my two games in 2010 it not only rained, it POURED!  I got soaked to the bone, but enjoyed every moment of it.  In previous years I had also been at least 2 other games where it rained.  This time, thanks to the Minnesota Twins, I was prepared for it.  As Chuck & Lori did the usual pregame walk around the ballpark, I sat there in the 1st row in center field with my red, white & blue umbrella over me, eating my BBQ sandwich from Boog’s and talking to Roger about not only baseball but the trip so far.  Since it was raining, they didn’t have batting practice, so we had plenty of time to just sit there and talk before the pregame ceremony to honor Frank Robinson, which was attended by some of the greats like Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and even Hammering Hank Aaron!

The good news is that despite the rain, the game would be starting on time.  I got to admit that I think that really surprised us all, but we were all for it.  Come game time it was really dark, but 1st pitch was at 7:06pm and the game was on!  Now all we had to do was hope for an early Orioles run and make it to the middle of the 5th and in the bottom of the 2nd, we got just that as the O’s put a 5 spot on the board for a 5-0 lead. Baltimore added another run in the 3rd and by the time we hit the middle of the 5th, it was 6-0 Orioles and Chuck had broke his previously held Guinness World Record for getting to all 30 Major League Ballparks for a full game the fastest.  The record, which was 24 days, was now officially 23 days!  There was 26,926 people in attendance tonight, yet there was only 4 of us that knew why the 4 of us were high-fiving after the last out of the top of the 5th.  There was only 4 of that knew that history had just be made.  There was only 4 of that really cared at that moment and that’s all that mattered to us.  At that moment it was as if the black clouds and rain had gone away.  It was time to celebrate and celebrate is what we did as we all took to Twitter & Facebook to share the good news. At that point the game almost because secondary to us.  I can tell you that as we celebrated, the Orioles put another 3 runs up in the bottom of the 5th and then each team tacked on 1 more later in the game before it ended, with it still raining, as a 10-1 Orioles win.

Celebrating his World Record with Chuck, Lori & Roger…

Once the game was over, we took our time walking around Eutaw Street getting pictures.  We went over to the plaza area in right field, by the flag poles, to get pictures of all of us 4.  We did what we could to prolong the celebration before the ushers eventually told us we had to go.  They had to be miserable with it still cold and raining, but not us.  We were having a great time no matter what and it continued as we left the ballpark.  Eventually we had to head our separate ways, but we made plans to meet up again in a few days for another game.

As I got to my car, by myself since Chuck was helping Lori get stuff to hers, I sat there thinking.  Thinking what it must be like to be Chuck right now.  Even though you planned a trip that would have you shattering the Guinness World Record (it was originally set to be a 30 in 20 run) and that didn’t happen thanks to flight problems (a delay in Texas and 2 cancellations), but you yourself ran a perfect schedule… you still managed to break the record!  I sat there wondering what that felt like and couldn’t wait to hear what Chuck had to say when he got there.  As soon as he climbed into the car, after having him sign my ticket stub from the game “30-23″ (the only one of these collectors items in existence), I looked over at him, smiled and said, “Congrats, how do you feel?” I think he summed it all up best with his 1 word answer.  I felt there was nothing else to be said, so after he said it, we just laughed and we pulled out of the parking garage with “Believe” once again blasting.  What did he say?  Well, he said he was feeling…. “Tired” :)

 

St. Louis – Busch Stadium – Ballpark #10

Since we were able to sleep in a little bit this morning, I was glad that I could actually get some sleep.  This was one of the very few mornings where we didn’t have to be up and out the door before the crack of dawn and I was going to take full advantage of it. Our drive to the game in St. Louis would only be about 4 hours today, so we decided to just take it easy and be on the road between 11:30am-12:00pm.  This, to us, on this trip especially, was like being incredibly lazy.  However, we both knew that we would be paying for it tonight after the game at Busch Stadium as we would have to leave right away for our drive to Baltimore.  That drive, at best, would be about 14 hours and we would lose an hour as well as we went from Central to Eastern Standard Time.  That drive was going to be brutal and we both knew it.  It was the drive that we had in the back of our minds all along.  We both knew what would be riding on the drive, but we never really spoke of it.  Again I say, thankfully this morning we were able to sleep in a little bit… we were going to need it!

The drive down to St. Louis was pretty routine.  We hit a couple areas of light rain, but was nothing to worry about and the closer we got to the city, the more the clouds seemed to be parting.  This was a good thing.

The Blue Cheese Chips from Caleco’s

As we got to town, just before 4pm, I wanted to hit up a place just up the street from the ballpark that I had last been to in 2006 and was still dreaming about.  It is no surprise to anyone that has ever read anything that I have written before that I am a bit of a foodie.  I love to check out places that I have seen on either “Diners, Drive Ins & Dives” or “Man vs Food”.  I also love to talk to locals and see what places they might suggest that aren’t so well known with the tourists and give them a try.  On my last trip through I got to spend 3 nights here and one of the places I was told to check out was called “Caleco’s”.  It’s a cool little bar a few blocks from Busch Stadium one way and the St. Louis Arch another way.  Its right on the corner of Broadway & Chestnut and is the perfect place to grab a pregame bite & brew.  I knew it wouldn’t take much to convince Chuck into going there as it was a quick walk to the ballpark if anything were to delay us, though I honestly didn’t see that happening.  As we walked in there couldn’t have been more than 4 people sitting in the bar area, which was great for us.  We grabbed a seat at the counter, ordered up a couple drinks (me my usual beer, Chuck his usual orange juice) and we eventually ordered food.  Chuck stuck with the tamer french fries, I went with what I had been craving for so long, the Blue Cheese Chips!  They are fresh sliced potatoes, fried to perfection, drizzled with a blue cheese sauce, on a plate surrounding a small bowl of blue cheese dipping sauce. O-M-G!!  I have tried something similar to this in several places around the country since I first had these, but nothing has even come close to the original.  I can’t tell you what they do, because I don’t know, but Caleco’s Blue Cheese Chips are amazing!!

As we sat there eating I could see Chuck nervously watching the weather outside.  The winds had picked up, quite a bit, and we even saw a couple different spots of a light shower.  We had to get this game in.  We were already in St. Louis, just a few blocks from the ballpark, we were there waiting.  From where we parked our car the red brick of Busch Stadium was just on the horizon.  It couldn’t rain now.  It just couldn’t happen.  If it did, it meant that we would have to make this game up tomorrow and the best Chuck could do is TIE his previous record of all 30 MLB ballparks in 24 days.  After our amazing adrenaline filled drive from O’Hare airport to U.S. Cellular Field yesterday, it just simply couldn’t go down this way, could it?  I tried not to think about it but I found myself looking at the weather maps on my iPhone.  I just needed to see what they were forecasting for us.  As I did, Chuck went outside to take a look at the skies around us.  He spent about 10 minutes or so out there on his second trip outside.  I don’t know what he was thinking.  I’m not really even sure I wanted to know what he was thinking.  I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to be this close to something.  This close to something so amazing.  All the planning.  All the traveling.  Everything you did that got you to this moment… only to see rain headed our way.  I don’t believe I ever want to know what that feels like.  I know what it felt like for me at that moment. I am just on an all 30 MLB ballpark tour, doing it in 1 season.  Not trying to complete it in 23 days.  If we missed St. Louis tonight and had to make it up tomorrow, that would push my Baltimore game from tomorrow to May 12th, which means I would have to (by myself) drive from Houston to Dallas to Baltimore in consecutive days.  That was something I did not want to do… so it couldn’t rain on us now.  It couldn’t go down this way.

Busch Stadium is a beautiful ballpark.

After we finished our food, we headed up the road a couple blocks and parked in the lot directly across the street from the Center Field gate to Busch Stadium.  The only thing that stood between us and ballpark #29 for Chuck and #10 for me, was 2 sidewalks and Clark Street.  We sat there in the car watching the clouds quickly rolling by.  It was about 6:15pm when we noticed the skies starting to get lighter and lighter.  This brought a smile to both our faces and the energy came back to Chuck.  He never fully lost it, but you could tell he was down a bit.  As for me, I didn’t know it yet, but I was starting to get sick…

We got ready and walked across the street and as we did, with each step I started feeling worse and worse.  I had no idea what the issue was, but I just felt really blah!  I found myself a bench to sit on for a couple minutes, told Chuck to look around and I would be good to go soon.  I sat there a bit, adjusted the velcro strap on my leg brace and this is when I realized that I was incredibly swollen!  I do not recall, ever, being as swollen as I was at this point in time.  This was even worse than back in Detroit after my drive in from Minneapolis.  This was bad. However, what could I do about it right now?  The only way to relieve this problem was to put my feet up and rest, yet I couldn’t do that anytime soon.  No, I was about to spend the next 3+ hours walking around and sitting at the ballpark.  By the time Chuck walked over to me and asked me if I was ok, I put a smile on my face and told him, “Yeah, let’s go” and into the park we went.

As per usual, we did our walking around before the game started, took our pictures of us being there, pictures of the scoreboard and then we were headed to our seats.  This is what we always did, but this time, there was a problem… I was feeling worse, much worse.  After standing there watching first pitch, and a couple more, I told Chuck I would meet him at the seats, that I was going to go get me an ice cold water, or maybe a Gatorade if I could.  As I walked back out into the concourse, all I could think about was finding a place to sit down. I looked and looked but could find no such place, so I headed into the men’s room and directly into a stall I went.  My heart was racing, my face felt like it was on fire and my legs were the size of tree trunks and were hurting with each step I was taking.  Something was wrong, but I didn’t know what, so I called my wife to talk to her.  I knew me, the more I thought about it, the worse it would get.  I needed her to talk some sense into me and calm me down.  To let me know I had nothing to worry about and that I would be ok… however, she wasn’t answering her phone.  I sat there for a while waiting for her to call me back.  I knew it was her day off, but I didn’t know what she was doing exactly.  Eventually I had to go get something to drink.  I thought that even though I was swollen, maybe I was becoming dehydrated.  I wasn’t drinking the amount of water than I normally did, so maybe this was the problem.  I eventually found a stand selling both water & Powerade, so I grabbed one of each and found myself a place to stand and watch the game while drinking them down.

Smiling, even though I was feeling terrible…

It was a few innings into the game before my wife called me back and I was able to tell her what was going on.  She really didn’t know what to tell me either, except for what I already knew, that being swollen like I was was NOT a good thing.  What I eventually did was wait until it was an official game and with a text to Chuck and my hands full once again with Powerade, I headed back across the street to the car to kick back and put my feet up on the dash in hopes of being able to relieve some of the pain in them.  In the hour or so that I was there, I had to walk up to the port-a-potty at least 6 times!  Between taking a double dose of my water pills and getting my feet up, I was getting the fluid off of me.  The problem is that the game would soon be over and we would have to hit the road again, but I was going to get as much of it off me as I could and go from there.

By the time the game was over and Chuck got out to the car, I was feeling a little bit better, thankfully.  However, I had no desire to drive.  I was in need of some sleep.  I don’t know, and probably don’t want to know, how many extra pounds of fluid I have been carrying around on me today, especially before I went back to the car tonight, but between it and my heart racing (and what we could only assume was my blood pressure being up sky high), I was a tired puppy!  I was glad to hear Chuck say that he would lead off and drive as far as he could so I could hopefully get some sleep.  That would help, I knew it would…

As for the game, the Brewers jumped on the Cardinals Westbrook for a run in the top of the 1st, but come the home 1/2 of the 2nd, tied it up and took the lead at 2-1.  In the 3rd inning it just got out of hand as St. Louis sent 12 men to the plate, 7 of them getting hits, and scoring 8 runs for a 10-1 lead.  By the time this one ended, the Cardinals  had 13 runs on 15 hits, but not a single home run in the bunch.  They did manage 2 doubles (Carpenter & Molina) and 1 triple (Schumaker) though.

The biggest things I will take away from my game in St. Louis at Busch Stadium are: 1) Busch Stadium is beautiful.  It didn’t take me coming here tonight to know that though.  No, you get that as soon as you make your first walk up to the ballpark.  The design of the park is what you will first see.  The steel and red brick are awesome.  I know they are pretty much overused around the major leagues, but the truth is that here in St. Louis, they do something special with it.  Their entry ways are very cool as well, so inviting. 2) The fans in St. Louis might just be the best of any of the 30 Major League cities.  Again, this is something that I have known from previous games, but it is true. Their passion for not only their hometown Cardinals, but the game of baseball I believe is unmatched anywhere.  I have been to several games in St. Louis, at new & old Busch alike, in both good years and not so good years, yet the fans are always there.  Always cheering on their Red Birds.  Always so friendly. There is something special about going to a game in St. Louis (especially vs the Cubs), and this time through was no different. 3) Another thing I love about going to games in St. Louis is how easy it is to get there and how easy it is to get back on the Interstate after a game.  I know this really has nothing to do, directly, with the ballpark, but it’s an overall plus in my opinion.

Visitors 7, Home 3

I didn’t take many pictures at this game since I wasn’t feeling too hot, but here are 3 links my pictures from Busch Stadium from 3 games: April 27, 2012, August 26, 2006 & August 25, 2006.

 

Team123456789RHE
Brewers (9-11)100000000170
Cardinals (13-7)02802001X13150
W: Westbrook (3-1) L: Gallardo (1-2)

Boxscore

Chicago – U.S. Cellular Field – Ballpark #9

My job after the game at Progressive Field was to drive Chuck & Lori to the airport in Cleveland so they could get a car for Lori to drive back home to Brooklyn the next day.  The plan was for me to drop them off and then wait in the cell phone waiting area for them to meet back up with me and I would use my GPS to get us to our hotel.  Fairly simple, yeah? Not so much.  Due to several things out of our control, that didn’t happen so easily. Before I knew it, it was pushing 1am and they were just now on their way to meet me.  Thankfully our hotel wasn’t but a few miles from where I had spent the last almost 2 hours waiting, so it didn’t take us any time to get there.  Once we got Lori’s stuff moved over into her car and started the walk up to our room, I was like a zombie.  It had been a LONG day and the upcoming day looked to be just as long.

After getting a few short winks and as I stumbled my way to the shower, I started adding it up and I think I managed about 2 1/2 hours of sleep, if I was lucky.  Chuck, on the other hand, didn’t get any sleep at all.  He was up all night filling reports, posting things on Twitter & Facebook and just generally living off adrenaline as he did  a lot.  I can’t do that for long and since I couldn’t sleep on our drive to Cincinnati, and I was driving to Chicago (not flying), I had to get as much as I could and well, it wasn’t much at all.  Thankfully, as per usual on this trip, by the time we pulled out of our hotel, I was jacked and ready to take on the world!  Traveling with Chuck, it was easy to get excited about what we, more so he, was doing.   With “Believe” blasting, we hit the road headed for The Queen City.

The drive, which took us diagonally across the state of Ohio from the Northeast to the Southwest via Columbus (Hi Bob!), went fairly smoothly.  We did run into a little rain, but wasn’t anything to worry about really.  As a matter of fact, the closer we got to Cincinnati, the clearer the skies got and that hotter it got!  By the time I was dropping Chuck off just outside of Great American Ball Park (about 11:05am EST), it was so humid & muggy I was glad I got to stay in the car with the A/C blasting! :)

With the package delivered to his next ballpark, it was time for me to make my way up to Chicago.  The drive from Cincinnati to O’Hare on the North Side of Chicago is just a tad over 300 miles, or about 5 1/2 hours with a couple short stops.  Chucks flight wasn’t due in until 5:30pm (CST), so with having plenty of time to get there, my first stop would be at a Skyline for some chili dogs.  I hit up the first one outside of time, just thru the drive thru, grabbed a couple dogs and a side of chili.  My theory is “it’s always better to be early, than to have to rush around like a chicken with your head cut off because you are running late”, so I wasted no time getting back on the freeway.  I was North bound and down and making great time.  The drive through Indy was cool, got to see Lucas Oil Field.  The last time I had driven through Indy they were just starting to build it.  With the Super Bowl having been played there last year, that was pretty neat.  I wish I could have taken some time to go check it out, get some pictures and all, but I didn’t want to waste the time as I wanted to get into Chicago with plenty of time to spare so I could maybe grab an early dinner or just simply hit the cell phone waiting lot and get some rest waiting for Chuck’s call.

Car hauler that was on fire on NB I-65 in Indiana

I was getting pretty close to the rest area in Lebanon, Indiana (mile marker 148 on NB I-65) when I decided a short stop was in order.  Not only did I have to use the facilities, but I really needed to get out and stretch my legs for a bit.   I felt that with a stop here, I should be able to make it to O’Hare with only 1 more stop.  As I walked up into the building, I took a second to glance over at the traffic on the highway and to my horror I saw everyone coming to a STOP!!  I had no idea what was going on, but I had to go, so I did and as I walked out, the line of cars stretched as far as I could see from the north to the south.  This is NOT good!   As I walked back to my car I overheard a couple people talking about a car hauler that was on fire up the road and saying how they expected this to take a long time to clear.

As I jumped into the line on the highway and just sat there, I watched the time of arrival on my GPS just keep on ticking.  The longer I sat there, the later my arrival would be and the more rushed I would have to be. Finally, after sitting there and hardly moving (most of the time I had the car off with the windows down for a breeze) for well over 90 minutes, we started to go.  Before long we passed that car hauler that had most certainly been on fire and we broke free.  I was soon back up to the speed limit and just a little over.  Any chance I had of any free time in Chicago before picking up Chuck had now been wasted.  Even though my GPS said I should get to ORD by 4:45pm, a full 45 minutes before Chucks flight was scheduled to arrive, I knew Chicago traffic and I knew that was NOT going to happen!

I was on pace for a 4:52pm arrival at ORD when I made my last stop, to make my bladder flatter and fill up the gas tank, in Merrillville, IN,  which is just south of Chicago.   From that gas station to ORD was about 57 miles.  Knowing it was going to be rush hour in Chicago as I attempted to get from south of town to the north and back down south again, my anxiety was really kicking in!  I had talked to my wife on the phone several times on this drive and I kept telling her that even though I know it wouldn’t be directly my fault, it was making me sick to think that there was a chance that Chuck would not make the game tonight because of me! No matter what I was feeling, I had to push on and after filling up the tank and getting back on the interstate, my new arrival time was 5:04pm.  If I could get lucky and make it through the traffic of Chicago and be at our pick up spot at ORD (same place as we used when we came through last Saturday) and only lose 26 minutes of time, I would beat Chuck to the airport and all would be great.  Yeah, we all know that wasn’t going to happen and even with me knowing Chicago pretty well and doing some fancy driving, I was still about 25 minutes out when I got a call from Chuck that he was at the pick up location and waiting for me.  Wouldn’t you know it, his flight got in early.  That is normally a good thing.  However, on this day, it just added to my already mounting anxiety!

I did the best I could, I took exits that people weren’t knowing I could take a side street and gain time, which helped.  However, it was still 5:52pm as I picked up the package and we started the drive to U.S. Cellular Field.  I had been told by a local friend in Chicago when I asked if it would be possible to make the drive from ORD to The Cell in 90 minutes that time of the evening, “Possible? I would say improbable”.  I had known this for a couple months. I had known that having only 90 minutes to make this drive more than likely would mean that we were in trouble.  That if we only had 90 minutes to get Chuck to the game, there was a good chance his streak might end on the streets of Chi-Town headed to the ballpark.  This has been in my head for months and it was especially ringing in my head as I realized that I had only 73 minutes to get Chuck there before 1st pitch!

The “Exploding Scoreboard” at The Cell.

As we made that familiar drive out of the airport and back on to I-90, my mind started racing.  I knew I had 21 miles to go and now 70 minutes to get him there.  I also knew that the traffic headed inbound (to the city) was worse than outbound (I had seen it on my drive in).  I knew that no matter how calm Chuck was acting right now, he was raging inside and I HAD to get him to this game!  I would NOT allow his streak to die on my watch.  At this point, it just looked like it wasn’t going to happen.  I have to admit that the next 40+ minutes were kind of a blur really.  All I can honestly recall is taking an exit off I-90 and working us through a bunch of side streets.  It was one turn after another, just going until I hit another light and turning again.   I have driven in Chicago a lot over the years and I honestly cant say if that helped me or not, because this was one of those moments were I was kinda “In The Zone”.  I was just driving.  Hoping that my memory of the streets we were passing would help get Chuck to the game faster than sitting on the interstate.  It was a calculated risk.  One that could backfire on me big time.  However, as we passed Montrose Ave, then Belmont & Fullerton, I knew we were doing good.  If I could just get us a bit further back down south, I could then make our way over and jump back on I-90 and we might have a shot at this!  I was starting to get really nervous now.  Hoping for some good mojo,  I looked over at Chuck and told him the odds were about to roll into our favor.  As we hit Roosevelt and then took the right onto Union, I could see the on ramp ahead of us.  With a glance at the clock, I could see that as long as I was right, as long as the highway was running smoothly now, we would have this!  As we got on to the freeway and made our way up to the speed limit, I let out the biggest sigh of relief I have ever let out!  From this point we were about 2 miles from the ballpark and the smiles that were on our faces as we saw the sign reading “U.S. Cellular Field” were ginormous!  Not only did we take on the Chicago traffic monster… WE KICKED ITS ASS!!!!  As we pulled up outside I told Chuck to get out and get in the ballpark, I would park the car and meet him inside.  As he jumped out of the car I looked at the clock again, it read 6:48pm.  I had got Chuck to the ballpark 17 minutes before 1st pitch.  We had done the “improbable”!!  Are you kidding me?!?  What a freaking rush that was!  Heck, I had plenty of time to park the car, change into my sweats, put my shoes and leg brace on, walk in and I was still standing behind home before the 1st pitch was thrown.  56 minutes… I just got Chuck from O’Hare to U.S. Cellular field in 56 minutes, via car, in Chicago’s rush hour traffic.  They say it couldn’t be done… but *I* did it!  His streak was not going to die on my watch!

As for the game, well this past Saturday as I was about to walk into Miller Park with the guys, my phone blew up from people texting me to see if I was at the Mariner’s game in Seattle that afternoon.  Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox had thrown a perfect game vs my hometown Mariners.  No, no I wasn’t there.  However, tonight, here in Chicago, Humber took to the mound for his first time since being perfect and my Boston Red Sox lit him up!!  The first batter he faced, Mike Aviles, drew a walk to end his attempt at a 2nd straight perfect game.  2 batters later, Dustin Pedroia ended his shot at a 2nd straight no-hitter.  After Pedroia both Gonzalez & Ortiz followed with RBI hits and his shut out was gone and the Sox had a 2-0 1st inning lead.  In the 3rd inning the Red Sox just played add on with a Grand Slam off the bat of Kevin Youkilis, which was followed by a solo shot from Jared Saltalamacchia making it 7-1.  Before the game was all said and done though, Salty would go deep for a second time and the final score would be 10-3 Red Sox, my 2nd Boston win of the week & trip.

I was SOOOOOO cold!

The biggest things I will take away from my game in Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field are: 1) It was freaking COLD!!  It was soooo cold, that I actually didn’t finish taking score at this game because my hands were frozen! It was 39* at game time, clear skies, with a serious & gusty wind!  I tried moving to a few different locations from behind home, down the 1st base line to the foul pole and couldn’t find a spot to sit where I was able to get away from the wind.  I finally found myself sitting in a rather tiny box seat, just before the right field foul pole, eating dinner.  I had the nachos, duh, and they were ok.  However, as you might expect, they got COLD in a hurry!  It just kept getting colder as the game went on, which really sucked because it was ladies night at the ballpark.  There was lots of women, all very well covered up!  Bummer!  2) That Chuck got held hostage in the upper deck.  See, when I dropped him off, he went in, and made his way up to our seats.  There was no way I was going to climb up to the upper deck at The Cell.  Wasn’t going to happen.  That upper deck is so steep… NOPE! What I found out is that once you are in the upper deck at The Cell, you can’t leave to come back down to the main concourse.  You can only leave, if you are going to leave completely.  Heck, you’re not even allowed on the main level if you have an upper deck ticket… whoops!  See, I just walked in like I owned the place.  My bad, huh? ;) and 3) The South Side of Chicago isn’t all that bad.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, the ballpark itself is a monstrosity that even though it’s not that old, really needs to go to make way for something more modern.  But I have been told for years how bad it is going to White Sox games.  How ‘you take your life into your own hands’ by going to a game there.  I actually learned this lesson back on May 2, 2002, when I was there for a game vs the Mariners (the one where Mike Cameron hit 4 HR’s and he and Boone went back-to-back 2x in the 1st inning, the only teammates to do that, ever), wearing my M’s gear and I was surrounded by teddy bears.  I in no way felt like I was in danger at all.  Tonight I wore my Red Sox gear and again, didn’t feel like I had anything to worry about, at all.

Shortly after the game I met Chuck at the car in the parking lot and we hit the interstate headed south.  Just what I needed, more driving.  However, we wanted to get as far south, headed towards St. Louis, as we could tonight so as to make tomorrow that much easier of a drive and hopefully allowing us to sleep in a little bit. The forecast for St. Louis tomorrow wasn’t looking too promising at all, so I was pretty sure Chuck wouldn’t be getting my rest tonight being worried about that…

Visitors 7, Home 2

Here is a link to my pictures from U.S. Cellular Field.

Team123456789RHE
Red Sox (8-10)20502000110121
White Sox (10-9)101100000370
W: Doubront (1-0) L: Humber (1-1) S: Tazawa (1)

Boxscore

Cleveland – Progressive Field – Ballpark # 8

The Suite Life… mark that off my Baseball Bucket List!

When we got to Progressive Field I dropped Chuck & Lori off at the main gate to pick up our tickets at will call. As I mentioned while we were in Milwaukee, the Cleveland Indians had heard that we would be coming through for a game on the 25th and emailed Chuck about putting us up in their “Social Media Suite”. Tickets for us would be left at will call, so as I dropped them off, I went looking for parking. Had this been our only game of the day, we would have been here much earlier than this. However, since it was the back end of a doubleheader, well, I had to fight to get a parking spot. This seems crazy to me as the attendance at Indian’s game, even though they were leading their division, was quite miserable. This leads me to think that parking there just plain sucks no matter what, ya know? The only other time I had been to Progressive was when it was still called “Jacob’s Field” (though I still often call it Jacob’s Field or my favorite, “The field formerly known as Jacob’s”) and my friend Christie was navigating that day, so I really don’t remember where we parked, but I know it was close. No matter, I found a spot for $12, parked and started my long walk to where I was to meet up with the other two.

As I got close Chuck met up with me letting me know that Lori went ahead and went in while he waited for me. We walked & talked our way to the main gate while taking a few pictures along the way. As we got there, we went in, hit the restroom (which was already out of paper towels – reminding me of the Indians from “Major League”), did our usual walk looking around as we made our way up to the suite. I have never been in a suite, not during a game (I’ve toured a few during ballpark tours), and had mixed feelings about watching the game from there. For starters, it was not going to be just us, there were going to be several other people, about 12 of us total. Then there was the fact that if I wouldn’t be comfortable in a seat there, would the others with us be into the game enough where we could actually enjoy it? Things like that. But overall I was glad I was getting to experience a suite for the first time. Felt strange that it would be in Cleveland, with the Indians, a team I have never liked… but hey, a free ticket and potentially great experience is what this is all about.

The view from my seat in the Social Suite.

We rode the elevator up to the suite level and headed for our suite. As we walked in we found Lori there along with a few others. Shortly after we got there, Ann (our awesome suite host for the night – who works in Communications for the Indians) came in and introduced herself. She just happened to be carrying with her the game notes for tonight as well as her very own Lori Martini bobblehead (long story about that I will post at a different time). That was kinda cool. Since we got there later than we had originally scheduled, but still plenty early, we thought we had missed our chance to go the Press Lounge and enjoy the buffet in there. We soon found out that we were wrong and most of us headed that way.

The Press Lounge buffet was awesome! I thought it strange to be at a ballpark on “Dollar Hot Dog Night” and not have at least 1 dog. Well, there on the buffet was a grill filled with regular dogs, like from the $1 dogs, and some rather yummy sausages. Other things on the buffet were different kinds of salads, a cheese tray, some veggies, different fruits, parmesan crusted jo-jo’s, awesome lemon chicken and more. I knew where to start, with the hot dog (sausage actually), but after that, holy cow! It was so much and so good! I’m not even going to mention the dessert table, because it was filled with all sorts of yummy creations… several of which I just had to try! The group of us sat there talking about everything from who we are, how the trips been going to the Indians and who could forget the discussion about “Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard”. I was told that it is so good, it is practically it’s own food group. They weren’t kidding, it might just be the best mustard I have ever had. Glad I got to try it. After we ate, filled up our drink cups again, grabbed a small plate of desserts, we headed back to the suite.

When we got back to the suite, just before the game was to start, Ann came up to Chuck & I to tell us, “There is a special guest coming to meet you between the 3rd & 4th innings, make sure you are here for it.”  I got excited!  Who could it be? Knowing it couldn’t be a player, I figured it had to be Slider, the Indians mascot.  That would be SOOOO cool!  I mean, I got to meet Sluggerrr in Kansas City, so wicked!  I went on to grab me a seat at the 3rd, top, counter outside the suite doors.  It was a great view of the ballpark from there.  There was 3 rows on each side with 3 nice office style chairs per section.  Behind me, inside by the window, there was were 2 high sitting chairs/stools.  On the other side, behind the glass that actually opened to enjoy the fresh air, were another 2.  Inside there was a few nice comfy seats, a sink and counter top and the best feature of all… a private restroom! :)

The Social Suite group with Indians President Mark Shapiro.

Chuck spent a good portion of his time inside talking to everyone in there and sure enough in the 4th inning I heard the suite door open, looked back to see Chuck waving me in.  As I looked up, there stood our “Special Guest”.  It was the Indians team President, Mark Shapiro. HOLY COW! Now, I am not an Indians fan, per se, but I was really excited about getting the chance to meet him. This is a guy that has a job that only 29 other people have.  That’s pretty cool!  Plus, Reed Diamond (who plays Damien Karp on “Franklin & Bash”) played him in the movie “Moneyball”.  This is where things got crazy for me, as I was torn.  I wanted to watch the game, but I also wanted to be able to join in the conversation.  When Chuck introduced me to him he promptly made a gesture towards my hat.  I was wearing my Mariners hat, so I told him, “Sorry, but that is my home team as I live 35 minutes from Safeco Field.”  He laughed, reached out to shake my hand and said, “It’s ok, don’t worry about it.”  We spent the next 3+ innings standing there talking to him about everything from Chuck’s trip, my trip, traveling, baseball, players, the ballparks and so much more.  It was actually funny to see the reactions when the others in the suite looked up and saw who we were talking to.  Was pretty cool that everyone got to spend some time with him as well.  I finally took the chance and asked him, “What did you think of Moneyball?” he smiled and said, “You remember that scene where Billy Beane comes to my office for that meeting?”  I said, “Sure, where we were introduced to Jonah Hill’s character, yeah?”  He went on to say, “It never happened!  As a matter of fact, while I am good friends with Billy, he has never been to my office. Beyond that, that was the year before I became the GM.  But it sure looked good, didn’t it?” Wow, really?  Yeah, it looked good!  We went on to talk a little more about the movie.  After that, we got pictures taken with him and then a group shot before he had to go.  That was wicked cool though!

After Mark Shapiro left, we went back to watching the rest of the game.  As for the game,the Royals took a 2-0 lead in the top of the 1st on a 2-run jack by Billy Butler and never looked back.  They added another 2 in the 5th and tacked on another 4 in the 9th to go on to win 8-2.  The only thing really notable about the game, besides the Royals 4 homers (2 by Butler, 1 each by Hosmer & Gordan) was the fact that Kansas City snapped a 12 game losing streak with the W!

After the game we hung around the suite a little longer, watching the really small crowd file out of the park, taking more pictures and just savoring the final moments of our time at Progressive Field.  I have to say that I had a great time in Cleveland and I really look forward to going back again.  To be a part of something like their Social Suite was very cool.  Some of the people I met that night I am still in contact with via Twitter, which is cool.  To be able to be there and sign their “Social Suite 2012″ banner with not only my name but my twitter handle, @SeeAll30, was something I will never forget (you can see that banner in the group photo, in the back on the right… I also have a better picture of it in my photo collection via the link below).  Thank you to Ann & the Cleveland Indians for such a great experience and thank you to Mark Shapiro for coming by to say “Hi”!

As the 3 of us made the long walk out of the ballpark and back to the car, it was like a dream sequence.  This trip that has been so amazing just keeps getting better.   I dared to ask if there could possibly be anything out there to top this night? When we finally made it to our car, we were all so tired.  It had been a long day.  I had driven from Detroit to Pittsburgh, went to a game there, drove us to Cleveland and hit a game there all in 18 hours.  What made me even more tired with looking ahead to tomorrow where I would be getting up early to drive Chuck to Cincinnati, dropping him off for a game and heading straight up to Chicago to pick him up at O’Hare Airport and get us to the game on the South Side.  Just thinking about that made me exhausted… but before we could check into our hotel to get some sleep, we had to get to the airport here in Cleveland, get Lori a car to drive back to Brooklyn.  That was easier said than done!

Visitors 6, Home 2

Here is a link to my pictures from Progressive Field.

Team123456789RHE
Royals (4-14)2000200048110
Indians (9-7)000001100250
W: Hochevar (2-1) L: Jimenez (2-1)

Boxscore

Pittsburgh – PNC Park – Ballpark # 7

Sunrise as I go through Townsend, OH...

Thankfully I got about 4.5 hours of solid sleep last night.  I really needed that.  I could have slept longer, but as per usual with me, I was afraid I would oversleep the alarm clock. As a result I laid there awake for about 30 minutes or so before I just decided to go ahead and get up, get ready and hit the road.  I guess I should have just stayed in bed because it was a morning of mistakes.  It actually started last night when I put my laundry bag in the drain sink for my friends washing machine.  Of course I had no idea about that until this morning when I went to fold my laundry and repack it.  That’s a lovely thing to walk up to as your laundry dufflebag is soaked, along with everything still in its side pockets including your portable sat radio and other random electronics.  To top that off, I guess I left this morning without my toiletries bag. Just lovely!

I did hit the road, right around 4:30am.  I had to scrap some ice on my windshield first and let the car defrost inside.  That was unexpected, but then again, it was cold last night and this is the Detroit area and its just late April, should have expected it.  The drive to the airport in Pittsburgh went quite smooth.  I love being out on the open road like this, especially since I was feeling much better.  I would dare say that I was back to my almost normal self.  I have said for years, “I never feel more alive than when I am behind the wheel of a car, just driving out on the open road somewhere…”  That is exactly how I was feeling this morning.  Got to experience a beautiful sunrise even.  Life was good.

I only stopped a couple times on the drive, once for gas and another to use the restroom and get me something for breakfast.  I opted for a protein shake and bar. I figured I best eat something remotely healthy this morning, didn’t want a repeat of yesterday for sure.  Thanks to only 2 quick stops, I got to the airport about an hour before Chuck & Lori were to land.  This gave me time to drive around, make sure I had our route down to get us to PNC Park without delay and most important, top off the tank so when it came time to leave PNC I wouldn’t have to worry about gas on our way to Cleveland for the nightcap tonight. I was actually sitting at the gas station right near the airport when I got the call from Chuck saying that they just landed and to be outside in 15 minutes – 10-4 good buddy!

Once I reacquired the “Maple Leaf” , the 3 of us were on our way to the game at PNC Park.  As I drove, it’s about 20 miles from the airport, I got updated on Chuck’s road stories from his games in Detroit, Oakland and Tampa.  When we got to the ballpark we quickly realized that Chuck was going to be having a serious case of deja vu as there were tons of school buses parked all around.  In 2009 when he was here on his streak attempt, game # 1, it was “Kids Day” and thanks to his driver blewing it big time and he missed his flight to Detroit for game # 2.  Day # 1 and he had already had to change his schedule thanks to something out of his control.  That is just how it goes.  However, this time he had the Big Dog driving for him, I wasn’t about to let him miss his game in Cleveland tonight.  With a quick getaway in mind, we grabbed a parking spot close to the home plate entry and headed in.

PNC Park in Pittsburgh...

PNC Park has one of the best views, if not the best view, in all of the majors from behind home plate.  It is often ranked as # 1 or close to it by people who have seen all 30 major league ballparks.  I took a lot of heat from family when I said this after my first visit in 2003, but I just don’t get peoples fascination with PNC Park.  Ok, so I get that it’s so much better than old Three Rivers Stadium, I really do even though I never made it to Three Rivers.  However, from a fan perspective this ballpark is whacked!  Where to start… hmm.  Let’s see.  How about the fact that when I walked in this time at the home plate gate (read: main entry to the ballpark) I came face to face with a big set of stairs to climb.  Now, it’s not that I cant, but with my back and the brace on my leg, I prefer not to risk it.  Knowing this, I asked an usher working there a simple question, “Where are your elevators located?”  Pretty straight forward, yeah?  Not to him.  He looked at me as if I was from Nebraska or something! He asked me what I meant by that.  That kinda confused me, honestly.  I didn’t know what to say, so I asked the same question again.  He then turned to another usher and asked him that same question and that guy replied, “We don’t have any.” Um, what? No elevators?  How is that possible.  As I questioned that, that 2nd usher walks over and says to the 1st one, “You’ve worked here 10 years, have you ever seen an elevator here?”  I then asked them, “If I come wheeling up in a wheel chair, how am I supposed to get up to the main level?” To my shock and amazement they both pointed to the rather steep ramp that winds up to the main level.  ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?!?  As I started to head towards the stairs one of the users yells out to me, “You might be able to get them to let you use the elevator at the suites entry, but I cant promise you they will.”  I just shook my head and took my time on the walk up.  Here is the thing though, it don’t get much better once you are up on the main level.  If you want to walk around the entire ballpark you have to do so on different levels.  As you make your way to the outfield area, you have to either go down stairs or an escalator.  There may have been an elevator close by somewhere, I honestly stopped looking at this point.  So, if you walk down the 3rd baseline from home, you have to go down 2 levels to get to the lower seats in the outfield.  Same thing in reverse, if you happen to come in the center field gate, you have to go up 2 levels to get to the main level behind home.  This makes absolutely no sense at all in any way shape or form!  Beyond that, if you happen to get tickets to the bleachers, you may not be on the main level.  No, you might be in the upper section and if you are, the *ONLY* way to get to them is, yes, you guessed it: STAIRS!  Earlier today I tweeted this to everyone following me on Twitter : “It’s official!! PNC Park is the most handicapped UNfriendly park in the majors.” I still maintain that the designers must have been stoned when they come up with the design for this place. Oh well, that’s just my opinion.  Other than that, yeah it has a great view, the statues are really cool.  The location right on the river is neat and all.  Despite all the bad, I would still gladly take in a game here any chance I got.  There is no doubt about that.

The view from home plate at PNC Park...

Just before the game started Chuck & Lori met me at our seats in the bleachers (upper section) with drinks and a big ole pizza box.  Chuck had been telling me about this pizza.  Not that it was so great, but that it was a great deal.  Gotta say that for $12 it was a very big pizza.  The view from our seats wasn’t too bad at all.  The weather was good, partly cloudy skies, but with a breeze that kept it a tad chilly until the sun really broke through and at that point my jacket had to come off because I got hot.  The game itself was a pitchers duel into the 7th inning with James McDonald of the Pirates throwing a No-No through the 6th.  He lost it in the 7th on a bad, bad, bad scoring call.  What should have been an E5, went as a hit.  Certainly no help from the hometown scorer there.  He also gave up a run to the Rockies that inning, which brought smiles to our 3 faces, not because the Pirates were losing, but because there was finally a run on the board and someone was winning.  See, extra innings is not a good thing when you are on a streak like Chuck.  We needed a quick game so we could get to Cleveland for tonight’s game.  As it was, the Pirates tied it in the B7th on Alvarez’s 3rd HR of the season that went out to RCF.  At this point, I got up and started my slow walk around the park, up those 2 levels, to the home plate area.  I wanted to be able to take my time, but leave in the plenty of time to be able to get to the car, swap my shoes/leg brace for my crocks and be ready for when Chuck & Lori come out running.

I got to the car, got changed and was sitting in the car listening to the bottom of the 9th as the Rockies closed it out for a 2-1 win.  A few short moments later Chuck & Lori jumped in the car and we were on our way to Cleveland long before most people even got out of the park.  Part of what helped us was the fact that today was a single ticket doubleheader, so a lot of people just stayed put for the 2nd game.  I also noticed several people just getting there too.  Either way, we were on the road headed for Cleveland without issue. The drive to Cleveland is just over 2 hours, about 130 miles, from PNC Park.  It went off without a hitch as we drove straight through…

Visitor 5, Home 2

Here is a link to my pictures from PNC Park.

Team123456789RHE
Rockies (9-8)000000110230
Pirates (7-10)000000100199
W: Reynolds (2-0) L: Resop (0-2) S: Betancourt (6)

Boxscore

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