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.

Orioles Game Highlights
May 30, 2009, 5:11 am
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100_1282Tonight was the Major Leauge debut of Orioles uber prospect Matt Wieters. He was supposed to be the focus of the game, but when your starter goes 8+ innings, Luke Scott homers twice, and you win 7-2, people tend to overlook the rookie catcher who goes 0 for four with a strikeout. However, it was one of the most exciting 0 for four performances I can remember. The Oriole faithful were on their feet for every Wieters at bat and chanting “MVP!”. On the very first pitch of the game, Josh Anderson laid down a bunt, which Wieters fielded cleanly and threw to firstbase to record his first Major League assist. I can’t help but wonder if Jim Leyland called that play just to test the rookie’s nerves. It seems like the kind of thing a veteran opposing manager would do to test a young buck’s mettle.

I mentioned that everyone was on their feet for all of Wieters’ at bats, but at least two of these were tailcoat-riding standing ovations. You see, Wieters had the good fortune of hitting behind the red hot Luke Scott, who went 3 for 3 with a walk, a grand slam, and a solo homerun. The crowd might have stood up for Wieters on his own merits, but they were already standing for Scott. They were also in such a good mood from Scott’s antics that they barely noticed when Wieters flied out to end two separate innings.

Another Wieters note: Apparently he has chosen AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” as his at bat music. Wieters certainly has the right to pick any song he wants, but I find this a particularly curious choice. I mean, is there any stronger song/player association in baseball this side of Mariano Rivera/Enter Sandman than Trevor Hoffman/Hells Bells? Maybe Wieters didn’t realize this, or maybe he just really loves Hells Bells and didn’t care. Either way, this is exactly the kind of story that the “real media” would make too much of, blow out of proportion, and drive me crazy with, so I am dropping it immediately.

In a development that surprised no one, and saddend at least me, Dontrell Willis was awful tonight.

Baltimore Logistics
May 30, 2009, 4:31 am
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We left Silver Spring at 5:00PM. It is only a 30 mile drive to Baltimore, but with rush hour traffic and a thunderstorm, the drive took us the better part of two hours. For some reason I thought we would be fine on traffic since we were driving into Baltimore, but because everything is so close to everything else on the east coast, that also meant we were driving out of D.C. We were delayed because of rain, but that same rain delayed the start of the game, so we didn’t miss anything. It was a very “chicken and the egg” experience.

There was some very convenient $20.00 parking very close to the ballpark, but because this is the budget trip, we parked at a meter on the corner of S. Pine and W. Baltimore in the University of Maryland at Baltimore Medical Center. The meters in Baltimore cost $1.00/hour and run until 8:00PM on Mondays-Saturdays. Since we pulled into our spot at 7:03 we were only on the hook for a $1.00 of parking fees. It was a bit of a hike to the ballpark, but it was worth the money saved. Because of the University, this also felt like a fairly safe location to leave my car. We passed several police officers and many med students in scrubs on our walk to Camden Yards.

Apparently tonight was student night at the ballpark and all of the upper deck tickets were available at a discount with a valid student I.D. Since we are all less than a month out of college, we still have our I.D.s and we took advantage of this deal. All of the upper deck tickets were “sold out”, but we were able to buy $6.00 Standing Room Only tickets. This ended up being the best of all worlds because it was the cheapest ticket we could have bought, and because of the rain, there were plenty of empty seats for us to scavenge.

Something else we did not know (this is starting to become a theme of the trip) is that Friday night is fireworks night at Camden Yards. We were treated to a lovely 20 minute fireworks display after the game. It was a nice, unexpected bonus.