The Shoestring Catch

6/11 US cellular field/ white sox game
June 11, 2009, 11:30 pm
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White Sox Fascism

White Sox Fascism

There is plenty of parking at US Cellular Field… if you’re a multimillionaire.  At $23 a pop, the White Sox offer the most expensive ballpark parking we have come across.  We refused this extortion and found some free parking 10 blocks away in front of a hardware store.  There are some very enticing free parking spots in residential areas right next to the ballpark, but they are tow-away zones during White Sox games.  These traps are well marked, so just make sure you are paying attention.

This game was our first rain-delay experience; the 1:05 PM start was delayed a full three hours.  To pass the time, the Sox were kind enough to play a documentary of their 2005 World Series victory on the jumbotron.  I’m sure this was a treat for your average White Sox fan, but it was quite frustrating for the boy from Houston.  It really made me wish they hadn’t canceled Mark Buehrle’s slip-n-slide show.

The worst part of the rain delay, and US Cellular Field in general, was we were trapped.  Why?  Because “500 Level ticket holders cannot access other levels of the ballpark”.  Fans with the cheapest seats in the park are not allowed to walk around the main concourse, try to catch batting practice homeruns, or look at any of the statues or memorials in US Cellular Field; they have to march straight up to their nosebleed seats.  It’s like riding steerage on the Titanic.  Even during the two hour rain delay the gate attendants would not let us walk around the park.  I asked one attendant why we couldn’t go to the main level and he pointed out that we might try to sneak into some better seats.  I told him that it is every baseball fan’s right and duty to try and sneak into better seats, but he did not reply.  The cheapest White Sox ticket is more expensive than any other park’s cheapest (face value) ticket, and it doesn’t even grant you access to the whole park.  It was enough of an outrage to make us all vow to never to return to US Cellular Field.  It’s a fine park, but we will not stand for their blatant elitism.

Our first rain delayed game almost turned into our first extra innings game when Curtis Granderson tied it up with a two run homerun in the top of the ninth.  Thankfully Scott Podsednik of all people had a walk off hit in the bottom of the ninth.  We were all cold, wet, and fed up with the man; it would not have been a good time for extras.

US Cellular Field did have some great hot dogs; I will give it that.  At $4.75 they were also fairly reasonably priced.  I had the Brat, Eric had the Italian, and Andrew had the Polish.  This might be my favorite picture from the entire trip:

Italian. Polish. Bratwurst

Italian. Polish. Bratwurst


6/9 Progessive Field/ Indians Game
June 10, 2009, 6:43 pm
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Foul Ball!

It finally happened.  After 7 ½ games Andrew finally caught a foul ball.  It was thrown by former Cy Young Winner Cliff Lee and hit by current Kansas City Royals “slugger” Miguel Olivo (no, but seriously, would you have been able to tell me that Olivo already has 10 homeruns this season?  His two walks more than make up for this power surge, but it’s still an interesting stat).  A foul ball is the best kind of souvenir.  It’s free and it comes with a great memory already attached to it.

Progressive Field is probably the most nondescript ballpark we have visited so far.  There is nothing wrong with it, but at the same time there is nothing that really stands out about it.  The scoreboard is top-notch however, and it is the only one I have seen so far that displays both OBP and BBs when a hitter is up to bat.  This feature really helps keep Miguel Olivo’s 10 homeruns in perspective.  Progressive Field on a Tuesday night was also the emptiest ballpark we have visited.  We tried to use this to our advantage by sneaking into some very good seats along the first baseline, but even though we succeeded in sneaking into the seats, the section was so empty that the attendant noticed us later and said, “excuse me, you guys don’t look familiar.  Can I see your tickets?”  You don’t look familiar?  The park was so empty that this guy could identify every ticketholder in his section in a police lineup.  Oh well, if we hadn’t gone back up to our nosebleed seats, Andrew would never have caught the foul ball.

Speaking of foul balls, this game was just two days before the infamous fowl ball game where the Indians won in the 10th due to seagull interference.  In my notes from Tuesday I just wrote “seagulls?”  They were flying around and landing in the outfield during our game, and I wondered if they would ever come into play.  I had no idea.

6/7 comerica park and tigers game
June 10, 2009, 5:39 pm
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Liam at Comerica Park

Liam at Comerica Park

Today was Kids Day at Comerica Park, so there were more ankle biters at the stadium than we have been accustomed to on this trip.  Honestly, I wish every day was Kids Day at every ballpark in America.  The more dads that take their 10 year old sons and daughters to the ballpark, the better off the sport (and America in general) will be.  On Kids Day at Comerica Park, children 14 and under are entitled to free face painting, free rides on the carousel and merry-go-round, a post game run-the-bases, and the chance to win one of four bicycles given away at different points throughout the game.  They also get a free promotional item.  This week the free promotional item was a Justin Verlander adjustable cap.  Eric really wanted one of those hats and even stooped as low as telling the vendor he was 16, but the cutoff was 14, and she wasn’t buying it anyway.

Comerica Park is just the latest in a string of really great ballparks we have visited.  There are awesome larger-than-life tiger statues outside the gates, the aforementioned carousel and merry-go-round for the kids, and great views of the field from all over the park.  We bought “obstructed view” seats because they were the cheapest, but they weren’t obstructed at all.  There was a metal railing in front of our seats, but I would have gladly paid extra for this convenient footrest.  The park, as well as most of downtown Detroit for that matter, was also very clean.

Chone Figgins hit a homerun to a little dip in the right field fence to leadoff the game.  I’m all for quirky ballpark dimensions, but this one really seems to have no point.  It’s not even aesthetically pleasing.  As of this posting, that “dinger” is Chone Figgins only homerun this season.  By making a cut in the wall like that, the Tigers are basically asking light-hitting leadoff men to embarrass them.

I was excited to get to see young fireballer Rick Porcello throw for the Tigers, but the hero of this game was pinch hitting reserve outfielder Clete Thomas.  His at bat music “Song of the South” seemed wildly inappropriate in the heart of Motor City, but no one seemed to care after he belted a game winning grand slam in the eighth inning.

Toronto 6/6
June 10, 2009, 4:53 pm
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Liam and CN Tower

Liam and CN Tower

We got to Toronto around 10:00AM and walked around the city for awhile before our 1:00PM Royals vs. Blue Jays game.  Toronto has a very large Chinatown and we got turned around once or twice while exploring.  Apparently the CN Tower was the tallest free-standing building in the world until 2007.  I’ve got to tell you though– it doesn’t look that tall in person.  We thought about taking a tour, but at $20.00, tickets were way out of our price range.  As unimpressed as I was with CN Tower, I thought the Rogers Centre was amazing.  As the first stadium with a fully-retractable roof, it is architecturally significant, and a nice place to watch a game.  This Astros fan thanks you for paving the way Canada.  When the roof is open, as it was for our game, you also have a good view of downtown, and especially of CN Tower.

The game was nothing special.  It’s hard for a National League boy to get too worked up over Royals vs. Blue Jays, but I am very glad we made it up to Canada.  We were supposed to couchsurf with a guy in Toronto, but he sent me an email saying he couldn’t host us because his two Swedish female couchsurfers were staying an extra week.  I can’t say that I blame him for kicking us to the curb, but it did put us in a bit of a bind.  With no place to stay in Canada, we just started driving towards Detroit, hoping something would materialize.

Rogers Centre

Rogers Centre

Fenway Park 6/5
June 10, 2009, 4:40 pm
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Liam at Fenway!

Catching a game at Fenway Park is the closest thing to a religious experience I have had on this trip. I am not a Red Sox fan, but being in that cramped ballpark screaming and cheering and singing Sweet Caroline sent chills down my spine. It was cold and drizzling the whole night, but the park was packed from first pitch to last.

I blew my no-purchases-at-a-game policy out of the water for this one, but it was worth it. I had a Fenway Frank, a souvenir soda, and ice cream in a bowl shaped like a Red Sox batting helmet. The cup and bowl will probably end up as my only souvenirs from the entire trip, so I cherish them.

We had the misfortune of sitting directly behind some unruly Texas Rangers fans at the game. Three of them were nice enough, but one of the guys, a 21 year old junior from Fort Worth attending Boston University, screamed and yelled the entire time. At one point he tried to get into an altercation with Andrew, but we are above such nonsense. I don’t have any problems with someone rooting for their team in an opposing ballpark, but this kid was completely out of line. The worst part was that he gave the Boston fans a bad impression of people from my great State of Texas. We tried to apologize for his conduct on behalf of Texas, but it was difficult. At one point an usher asked him to sit down and stop swearing, to which he replied, “I’m being harassed!” We all burst out laughing because if anything, he was harassing everyone around him. Actually, Eric burst out laughing because he thought the kid’s reasoning for not sitting down was “I have a rash!” We corrected him later. I was impressed with how well the Boston fans tolerated his misbehavior; I honestly thought somebody was going to curb stomp him, especially after the Rangers won the game. The surrounding patrons did taunt him back, but nothing too out of line. At one point a group of girls sitting behind us started chanting “Swine Flu! Swine Flu!” at him and the rest of his Texan pals. I alternated between thinking this was hilarious and horribly inappropriate.

Although I remember that little prick better than any other aspect of the game, just being at the park was a wonderful experience. If you are a true baseball fan, you have to go to Fenway Park. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Boston Day I
June 5, 2009, 1:49 pm
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We got into Boston around 2:00PM and drove around the city for awhile trying to find cheap parking.  After this failed we drove over to Fenway and found a $1/hour meter near the park.  My guess is that this meter will not be available on game day.  A one hour tour of the park only costs $12, so we decided to take one.  Andrew was giddy the entire time.  We got to see the press box, sit in the original seats in the grandstands, stand on top of the Green Monster, and check out the fairly new right field rooftop section.  I was happy we got to see the park before the game because I don’t plan on leaving my seat during the game.  At most parks I like to do a walk around during the game, but at Fenway I want to sit in my seat and absorb as much baseball goodness as possible.  After the tour we moved the car to a meter near city hall and walked some of the Freedom Trail.  We saw Paul Revere’s house, Cobb’s Hill Cemetery, Faneuil Hall, and taverns that date back to the 1700s on our walk.  I think we are going to try to see the USS Constitution tomorrow, and perhaps the Harpoon Brewery.  Whatever we do tomorrow, we are definitely taking the subway into town so that we don’t have to deal with parking the car.

Yankee Stadium
June 5, 2009, 1:46 pm
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New Yankee Stadium is an absolute marvel.  Everything you have heard about it is true.  It is a baseball palace the likes of which the world has never seen.  However, Yankee Stadium is fundamentally, a stadium.  Every other altar of the game we have visited so far has been either a park or a field.  These words, and the places themselves, evoke a more pastoral sentimentality.  Camden Yards, Citizen’s Bank Park, and Citi Field are so open-air that I often forgot I was in a building while watching a game.  Yankee Stadium does not capture this feeling.  I am sure this is intentional on the Yankees part, but it is interesting to note.  For example, the views onto the field from the main concourses are very limited.  This is because there are huge concrete grandstands stacked on top of them.  Also, to get to Monument Park (which was closed by the time we got to the game) you have to travel through what feels like a small concrete tunnel.  It is actually a large concrete tunnel, but when it is packed with people it can feel tiny.

Our seats were way up in the nosebleeds above left field in section 431B.  The upper deck was decently filled for a Tuesday night game, but it was embarrassing to look down and see completely empty sections right behind home plate.  I just can’t believe that the $5000 tickets aren’t selling.  But seriously, I hope whoever came up with the Yankees pricing structure has been fired and blacklisted from baseball.

The best thing about sitting in the nosebleeds is all of the colorful people you meet.  There was a group of seven shirtless guys with Y-A-N-K-E-E-S painted across their chests a few rows away from us.  In the top of the first inning a stuffy attendant told them that they had to put their shirts on.  In response, one of the gentlemen yelled out, “so we get a new stadium and now we can’t have any fun?!?!”  The entire section cheered, and the attendant left, but not before she had convinced them to at least put their shirts around their necks.

The worst thing about sitting in the nosebleeds is also all of the colorful people you meet.  There were four guys, about our age, sitting right behind us that shouted drunken obscenities throughout the entire game.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a beer at the game (if you can afford it) and some good natured heckling, but these guys were sloppy drunk and not the least bit clever with their shouting.  Where was the stuffy attendant on this one?  I don’t want to say they ruined our game watching experience (the Yankees winning did that), but they did make it more difficult to concentrate on baseball.