Monthly Archives: June 2012

6/24 – Marlins Ballpark: Miami Marlins vs. Toronto Blue Jays

The past few days in the Sunshine State haven’t been very sunny… pretty tropical stormy as a matter of fact. It’s been raining on and off since we got here on the 23rd, and now Tropical Storm Debby has produced strong winds, flood warnings, and even a couple tornadoes in the middle of the state. But nothing’s stopping us from seeing our baseball games! … Actually the only reason we were still able to go to the game today was because the field at Marlins Ballpark is under an 8,300-ton retractable roof made of steel. And once again – my dad and I are not holding hands in this picture…


This roof (which only takes about 14.5 minutes to open or close), along with the huge glass panels in the outfield (which are also retractable), allows the feeling of natural outdoor baseball when weather permits. And when these huge glass windows are open, you can see the downtown Miami skyline just 2 miles in the distance. I don’t know if it was because of the weather, but when these windows were closed at our game, they looked like a type of frosted glass design so we couldn’t see the city.

The shape of the stadium and the view of it from the outside give it a very contemporary, almost futuristic look, unlike some other newer ballparks that opted to go with a retro design with all brick and concrete. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria actually asked the architects at the notorious stadium-designer firm, Populous, to “make a piece of art” and he wanted his venue to be “different and experimental.” And that’s exactly what they came up with. It’s an elliptical structure – different than any stadium we’re seen so far – with ramps gradually inclining around the outer walls, and windows and glass panels of various shades of blue and green give a modern, aquatic impression very fitting for both the Miami setting and the Marlins organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is actually the inaugural season of the venue, and construction was only finished in March of this year. The Marlins have shared Sun Life Stadium with the NFL Miami Dolphins and the NCAA Miami Hurricanes football teams ever since they became an organization in 1993, so this is the first time they have a home of their own. And they really went all out to illustrate this point, with so many unique features all around the ballpark. For example, there are fish aquariums embedded in both sides of the wall of the backstop behind home plate. One is 34 feet long, the other is 24 feet, and both are protected by bullet-proof glass and contain a combined 1,500 gallons of seawater filled with dozens of colorful fish and coral (not my picture below).

The most prominent feature of the venue is the most loud and elaborate thing I’ve seen in all the parks so far. It’s about 70 feet tall with lights flashing blue, green, orange, and yellow; fake palm trees, flamingos, and water move around at the bottom, and 2 giant marlins circle the display whenever a home team player hits a home run (and when the team wins). I personally prefer the less flashy displays like the rocky geysers in Anaheim or the classic Big Apple that rises at Citi Field for the Mets, but the Miami locals love this presentation and I think it represents the culture of the city very well. I also thought it was pretty cool that along the concourse by the field-level entrances, each concrete pillar had a picture of one of the starting players (or the starting pitcher) of that day… which is obviously customized before every game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bobblehead Museum is an awesome touch to the concourse, too, displaying 588 different bobbleheads in a large glass display case with about 8 shelves. The figurines range from historic baseball legends, to current stars from around the league, and even to team mascots.

The Food:

With Miami being a culture significantly defined by its Hispanic roots, Marlins Ballpark offers such a wide variety of food from different Latino communities. Deep-fried, cheese-stuffed cornbread patties known as arepas are a popular Colombian and Venezuelan food available, and the Medianoche sandwich is a pork, ham, and Swiss cheese sandwich originating from Cuba and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, we decided to go with a classic Cuban Sandwich (very similar to the Medianoche) from the “Taste of Miami” food area in left field. It was one of the blandest, tasteless Cuban sandwiches I’ve ever had, and I actually didn’t even want to finish it.

But once again, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this other food item we got was one of the best things I tasted all summer. It was the Chicharrónes, which are bits of fried pork rinds (skin and fat). They are sometimes eaten in tacos or gorditas in Mexico, but many other countries like to just cut off chunks of pork, fry them, and eat them as is. That’s how they were served here, and it was the most perfect combination of a crunchy, salty skin, along with chewy, tender meaty parts. It was amazing.

The Game:

Along with the new stadium, new name, and new team logo, the Marlins made some drastic additions to their ballclub, including all-star closer Heath Bell, mouthy manager Ozzie Guillen, and one of the best shortstops in the game (who I absolutely despise), Jose Reyes. Mark Buehrle has pitched both a no-hitter AND a perfect game in his career, and was also added to the team this year. He pitched a good game today, going 7 scoreless innings against Blue Jay Jesse Chavez whose start is just the 2nd of his big-league career. Mike… wait no, Giancarlo Stanton, is one of my favorite players in the league, as one of the hardest hitting guys out there… I don’t get how he hasn’t been in a home run derby yet. Jose Bautista led the league with 43 homers last year, and is currently leading now, so it was cool to see him play too.

Final score: Marlins 9, Blue Jays 0

Starting pitchers: Mark Buehrle (W) – 7 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 0 ER, 7 Ks; Jesse Chavez (L) – 6 IP, 7 H, 0 BB, 6 ER, 6 Ks

Homers: John Buck, Greg Dobbs

And look, we were on the jumbo tron again! Well, my dad and sister were while I was taking a picture of it… my sister’s the one with the goofy face at the top middle and my dad is to the right of her. You can sorta see my left eye to the left of the red shirt guy’s belly.

Next stop: Tampa Bay Rays 6/28

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6/19 – Chase Field: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Seattle Mariners

It’s so damn hot! Milk was a bad choice…

Okay I guess I can’t get away with Anchorman references anymore since we left San Diego, but it was 106 degrees when we arrived in Arizona yesterday. We drove about 6 hours from southern California, with really cool views like this most of the way:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we stopped to “sight-see” a bit, too. But with the dry desert heat literally frying my face off, we couldn’t spend much time visiting our long-lost cacti friends.

After dropping our stuff off at the hotel and returning the rental car, we went straight to Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. Like Safeco Field in Seattle, it has a retractable roof for the more pleasant days. But today was not even close to one of those days, so we didn’t get to see what the stadium looked like with the roof open.

The stadium designers used the desert sun to their advantage, with solar-paneled awnings around the park providing shade and absorbing heat for an efficient power source for some of the lighting and kiosk stations outside of the venue.

Not only was Chase Field an enclosed arena, but it was air conditioned too! Huge vents line the top of the upper deck, with some on the second deck as well. It was probably 70 degrees inside, but I actually heard an employee say she was cold… I guess room temperature is uncomfortable for Arizonians (Arizonites? Arizonans? San Diegahns… yeah that’s right, one more Anchorman joke)

We arrived about an hour early and the venue was pretty empty still, so we took a lap around the concourse in no time. And I don’t know if it was the enclosed roof providing this illusion, but I felt much closer to the field from the concourse area compared to other ballparks, even from the outfield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Food:

From what I’ve read, the trademark food of Chase Field comes from the small food stands called Hungry Hill Sangwiches. They offer a couple types of sausage and pepper sandwiches like many other ballparks, but my dad went with a shaved beef sandwich with peppers and onions which he said was great. I chose the meatball and marinara sandwich, which doesn’t look very appealing here but was actually amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sandwiches weren’t very big, so I had to get something else in the 7th inning. My Uncle Jay emailed us a article called “The Craziest  Major League Baseball Hot Dogs of 2012,” and Chase Field had one called the Enchilada Dog: stuffed with cheese and chili and topped with spicy remoulade and pico de gallo. And this sounds amazing, but I actually saw a food stand with 5 different dogs on display that I just couldn’t look away from. Thus, yet another tough food decision… but I went the easy way and just asked the cashier at the counter to give me his favorite one. It was a thick, foot-long beef dog topped with BBQ short ribs, fried onions, and cheese – cleverly called the “BBQ Short Rib Dog.” The ribs were tender and sweet which counteracted the snap of the hot dog perfectly. The bun was a bit dry and crumby, but it was still an awesome dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Game:

Our 3rd base side seats were 23 rows back on the field level and gave a great view of the whole park. It wasn’t a very crowded audience, but the fans got loud and into it pretty often. And there were actually a surprising amount of Mariner fans present, who you could easily hear during the silence of the home team audience. We already saw both of these teams play this summer (Mariners at home and the D’backs in Anaheim), but this time was especially cool because Ichiro went 4 for 5, including his 2,500th career hit in the big leagues (which could be one of his last big hitting milestones, as he’s most likely coming to the end of his outstanding career very soon… his next homer will actually be his 100th, though).

After the 5th inning, giant-headed Diamondback greats (Mark Grace, Matt Williams, Randy Johnson, & Luis Gonzalez) race around the field, similar to the Presidents in Nationals Park. And like Teddy Roosevelt in DC, Mark Grace has never won a race since the tradition started. And in honor of Aaron Hill hitting for the cycle the night before, Matt Williams came from behind and won the race. Not very fair, but a cool way to honor the historic feat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With some average pitchers on the mound, there was a lot of scoring early. And after 3 homers from each team, the score was tied at 9 at the end of the 9th, taking us into our second extra-inning game of the summer. Only one more inning was needed, with the Mariners scoring 3 in the top of the 10th. Power-hitting Justin Upton has been struggling lately, and struck out for his third time of the day (including a bases-loaded try) to end the game.

Final score: Diamondbacks 9, Mariners 12

Starting pitchers: Daniel Hudson (ND) – 4 IP, 10 H, 2 BB, 7 ER, 6 Ks; Erasmo Ramirez (ND) – 4 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 5 R (4ER), 5 Ks

Homers: Gerardo Parra, Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager, Brendan Ryan

And look, my dad was on the jumbotron! That’s his hair on the bottom left!

Next game: Miami Marlins, 6/24

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6/18 – PETCO Park: San Diego Padres vs. Texas Rangers

The last of our California stops brings us to PETCO Park in sunny San Diego. And if it wasn’t for Matt Cain’s perfecto in San Fran or the amazing Skeeter dog in Anaheim, today’s venue might actually be my favorite so far. It may not have the sheer beauty of AT&T Park, or the extravagant décor of Angel Stadium, but it has such a wide range of unique elements that gives it its own charismatic impression unlike any other.

First of all, it sits right in the middle of one of the most popular neighborhoods of the city, similar to the way Fenway and Camden Yards do in Boston and Baltimore, respectively. Situated in the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego, it’s surrounded by dozens of popular bars, shops, and restaurants. And that’s perfect because from what I’ve read, it’s a good idea to eat something before getting to the stadium since they have nothing better than an average wienerschnitzel to offer. We stopped at a place called Lucky’s Lunch Counter literally right across the street, and I got Tyrone’s Midwest Crispy Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. The pork was really thin, but it was double the size of the toasted bun, so I actually had to fold it in half to make it all fit on the sandwich. And it was the perfect combo of crispiness and juiciness, topped with pickles and onions.

The coolest part of Petco Park is its incorporation of the Western Metal Supply Company Building into its layout. And this is another similarity to Camden Yards, with its use of the B&O Warehouse into the stadium design (the same architecture firm designed both ballparks). This hundred year old brick masonry building was in line to be demolished in order to make room for the Padres’ venue, but is actually protected as a historic landmark. Conveniently, only the exterior of the building is mandated to be conserved, so the Padres organization turned the first floor into a huge gift shop, the second and third floors into luxury suites, and the fourth floor into a restaurant. The suites and restaurant have balconies with seats protruding from the building, with portions even over the left field corner of the field. And some bleachers were added on the roof of the building, too, which give a unique view from left field, some 80 feet from the ground. The best part of this structure is that it is actually integrated into the playing field: the southwest corner of the building forms the left field foul pole! If a ball hits the wall to the left of the corner, it’ll take a sharp bounce into the third base foul seats, and if it hits the building to the right of the corner then it’s a home run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The concourse area around the stadium is also probably the coolest I’ve seen yet (and I’m showing you photos from later in the night here, so don’t get confused by the back and forth day/night pictures in this post). White steel trusses, light gray concrete walls, and frosted glass railings give a modern impression, along with plenty of trees and plants scattered all over for a natural charm everywhere you look. There are even long, green strands of vines hanging from catwalks overhead and scaling the walls all over the park. The field level concourse is extremely spacious, and almost completely wide open so you can see right out to the streets and city outside the venue grounds. And every couple sections on the second-level concourse, there’s a bridge leading away from the field direction into separate structures containing restaurants, shops, and bathrooms, which was cool because they were divided from the normal walking area of the concourse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the center field wall is a couple other unique aspects of the ballpark. Just on the other side of the fence is The Beach, a giant sandbox area where kids can play (and hopefully not get hit by a homer) while their parents sit and watch from “The Beachers” just past that. And right behind these outfield bleachers is a “The Park at the Park,” an up-sloping grassy field where families can lay out blankets and throw a ball around, accompanied by a mini baseball field to the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atop this grassy knoll is a 10-foot statue of one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game: Tony Gwynn. Known as “Mr. Padre,” this 15-time all-star led the NL in batting average in 8 different seasons (playing from 1982-’01), and his .338 career average is the highest by any big-leaguer since Teddy Williams. The statue was unveiled in 2007, three years after the stadium opened.

Speaking of Ted Williams, he was born and raised in San Diego. He played for the Pacific Coast League Padres and led them to a league championship victory in just their second season in southern California (1937), when he was just 19 years old. He finished up his monstrous Hall of Fame career in Boston, but this is where it all started.

Above the center field batter’s eye wall sits the retired numbers of past Padre greats. Steve Garvey (#6) led San Diego to their first World Series in 1984; Tony Gwynn (#19) doesn’t need much more said about him, other than the fact that the address of the stadium is 19 Tony Gwynn Drive; Dave Winfield (#31) played 22 spectacular seasons for 6 different teams; Randy Jones (#35) is the only Cy Young Award winner with a career losing record (100-123); #42 is of course Jackie Robinson (didn’t play for the Padres, but his number is retired everywhere); and the most recently retired number is 51 for Trevor Hoffman, one of the greatest closers to ever pitch, racking up 601 career saves.

The Game:

Our second-level seats were on the first base side, and were actually angled towards the mound which was awesome (compared to Anaheim, which were completely straight ahead). And the upper deck sections are actually separated from each other, and we were against the railing next to a gap on our left, which provided a pretty cool view straight down to the field (and we didn’t have to deal with people walking past us).

This is actually our third time seeing the Padres on this West Coast trip (in Seattle and Oakland, too), but it was interesting to see how devoted their fans are… especially since they’re arguably the worst team in baseball. But we were really excited to see the Texas Rangers, because when they’re on their “A” game, they can easily be the BEST team in baseball. Josh Hamilton didn’t start because of some kind of illness, but with big-time players like Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus, and Mike Napoli, it was bound to be a hard-hitting game. On the contrary, 3 total runs were scored (all in the first inning): 2 by the Rangers, 1 by the Padres. We did see Jason Marquis’ 1,000th strikeout though!

Final score: Padres 1, Rangers 2

Starting pitchers: Jason Marquis (L) – 7 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, 10 Ks; Matt Harrison (W) – 6 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 4 Ks

You stay classy, San Diego!

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6/17 – Angel Stadium of Anaheim: LA Angels vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

We spent our Father’s Day at Angel Stadium, which in our opinion is the better of the LA ballparks for a multitude of reasons (and it’s not just because it was once owned and magically renovated by the Disney organization). The venue is gorgeous inside and out. The home plate gate, shown above, is flanked by two enormous metal Angel baseball caps (complete with New Era tags on the sweatbands indicating the 649 1/2″ sizes), and is accompanied by over-sized baseball bats and banners of some current stars on the team. The parking lot even contains another Anaheim landmark: the 230-foot tall “Big A” tower with an electronic halo at the top that is illuminated with every Angel win. It was originally used as a scoreboard, situated behind the center field wall, until 1980 when it was moved to allow room for the construction of 23,000 more bleachers, for LA Rams fans, who played here from ’80 to ’94. These bleachers were eventually taken down again, but the Big A stayed in the lot. And inside the ballpark is probably the most well-known aspect of the Angels’ home field – the fake rock formation with running waterfalls in left center field. Robin Williams referred to it as a “miniature golf course on steroids,” but it looks a little more extravagant than that when a hometown hitter goes yard, initiating a 100-foot geyser and fireworks show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Weekend Shadows:

Shortly after finding our seats, we started talking to a couple sitting next to us. We exchanged stories and found out that Ben and Sarah have also been touring the California ballparks – but as a honeymoon trip, after getting married at home plate of Miller Park (the Brewers’ stadium in Milwaukee, where they live) in May!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were at AT&T Park Thursday night (the day after us), and were actually at the Oakland game the same time as us Friday night, and the Dodger game with us last night too! It was great to meet these nice people from Milwaukee, who overwhelmed us with plenty of food recommendations for when we finally end our summer trip with Miller Park in August. Maybe we’ll even meet up and go to a tailgate there, which they said is something we just can’t pass up in Beertown, USA.

The Food:

I was so ready to have something tasty to share with you after being very disappointed by the Dodger Dog yesterday. And here I am, about to describe the single best in-stadium food item we’ve had all summer. Yes I know, bold statement… but just wait. Clyde “Skeeter” Wright may have been an average pitcher in his big-league days (1966 – ’78), but this Tennessee-born BBQ boy opened up a stand right inside Gate 1 that’s much more than mediocre. I’ve read about the pulled pork sandwich, and my dad wanted to try the BBQ beef. But when we saw someone walking away with what we found out was known as the “Skeeter,” we couldn’t pass it up. It was the best of both worlds: BBQ pulled pork AND BBQ beef… all on top of an all-beef foot-long hot dog. With some spicy brown mustard to counter the sweet barbecue flavor, it was perfect. And I’ll even treat you to a picture of yours truly stuffing his face.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the game, we took the trek back to Downtown LA for some of the best ramen I’ve ever had, at Orochon Ramen in Weller Court. Adam Richman of Man vs. Food took the Special #2 Challenge, where you must finish a huge bowl of level-2 spicy ramen in just 30 minutes (spiciness is ranked from 1-7, 1 being the hottest). He succeeded in the challenge and got his picture on the wall, but I could barely finish a level-3 bowl (more-so for the amount of food over the spiciness), so I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get my face up there.

The Game:

The field level seats are very roomy, you barely even have to stand up to let people walk past you. However, they’re not even directed towards the mound, so from where we were sitting down the 1st base line in the outfield, we had to turn our heads almost all the way to the left to see the pitch. But with Mark Trumbo (and later Torii Hunter) and Justin Upton taking turns in right field, we had a pretty cool close-up of some of the game’s best. And the entire Angels team is a superstar roster – with Albert Pujols in his first year in Anaheim and young’ns like Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos starting their careers in huge ways. It was pretty cool we saw Pujols go yard, and if it wasn’t for Angels fans being so bad at waiting till an at-bat is over to get up and stretch, I actually would have gotten a shot pretty close to bat-on-ball contact! Still got some cool ones, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final score: Angels 2, Diamondbacks 0

Starting pitchers: Garrett Richards (W) – 8 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 0 ER, 5 Ks; Ian Kennedy – 8 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 2 ER, 6 Ks

Home run: Albert Pujols

Next stop: Petco Park (San Diego Padres), 6/18

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6/16 – Dodger Stadium: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Chicago White Sox

Los Angeles: beautiful weather, beautiful sights, beautiful people. And it’s all been showcased in and around Dodger Stadium for the 50 years of its existence. The venue is literally built on top of the Elysian Hills known as Chavez Ravine, bringing a natural charm to every angle of the stadium, even starting in the parking lots. They’re scattered with palm trees and elaborate landscape designs, and surrounded by views of the LA skyline and San Gabriel Mountains on the horizon. Even after entering the enormous ballpark (capable of hosting an MLB-high 56,000 fans), the mountains are easily seen on a clear day through the huge center field opening from almost every seat in the park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the 3rd-oldest ballpark in the country, I find it pretty cool that they do so many things to preserve the classic appeal that it’s held for 50 years. For example, it’s entirely repainted every offseason, and there is a full-time landscaping crew to maintain its scenic beauty year-round. But I was extremely surprised to find no statues of  any of the past greats of the Dodger organization. The only tributes paid are small white circles of retired jersey numbers above the outfield bleachers, for guys like Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Tommy Lasorda, and of course Jackie Robinson (you can kind of see them in the pictures above).

The only downside I can think of to the ballpark itself is the fact that they don’t allow you to enter any levels other than the one you have a ticket for. We parked behind the home plate gate – which is also the highest point of access from the parking lots – but walked down about 5 flights of stairs around the stadium to get a good picture in front of the “main” gate behind center field. And we were going to conveniently enter from there and take a nice tour around the concourse, but were continually denied at every subsequent level all the way back up to the top where we started. We also apparently missed out on some of the best food options down on the field level, including the trademark Fairfax Sandwich from the famous LA deli known as Canter’s (most likely not as good as the original by West Hollywood). I had to settle for a Dodger Dog… and no offense to its enormous fan base, but it was a very average hot dog to me. So average, I didn’t even make the effort to take a picture for you guys.

The Game:

We had seats in the reserve section (upper deck) right behind home plate, so had really cool views of the whole park. And after the sun went down, there was a weird feeling that the stadium was just completely surrounded by darkness, because nothing was visible but the clear night sky through the openings in the structure… no lights or city skyline or anything.

Although superstar Matt Kemp has been injured, we got to see MLB home run leader (and most likely candidate for AL comeback player of the year) Adam Dunn, and a couple of pretty good pitchers in Chad Billingsley and Philip Humber (who threw a perfect game for his 2nd start of the season).

Final score: Dodgers 4, White Sox 5

Starting pitchers: Chad Billingsley (L) – 6 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 5 R (4 ER), 4 Ks; Philip Humber (W) – 5 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 4 ER, 4 Ks

Next stop: LA Angels of Anaheim (vs. Arizona Diamondbacks)

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6/15 – O.co Coliseum: Oakland A’s vs. San Diego Padres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 8th game of our MLB stadium tour takes us across the San Francisco Bay into Oakland to see the A’s at O.co Coliseum, short for Overstock.com Coliseum, previously known as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and most recently termed by me as Crappy Concrete Coliseum. And I’m not just describing the venue, but everything around it too. We rode the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train over from our hotel, and once we entered Oakland, all we saw for miles around us was industrial warehouses, cargo containers, and run-down neighborhoods. There was a perk though: an elevated ramp led us right from the BART station, over the vacant, sketchy, fenced-in lots, to the stadium a few hundred feet away. It was definitely cool to visit the site of some history though, like the extraordinary comeback from worst to first – along with an MLB record 20 straight wins – in 2002 under GM Billy Beane (described in the book and movie Moneyball), after the team had to get rid of superstars Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen, for a much, much cheaper roster.

The Coliseum is the third oldest baseball stadium (originally built for the Raiders in 1966), being used by the A’s since they moved from Kansas City in ’68. It can seat 63,000 fans during football season, but during baseball season there are huge tarps covering most of the upper deck seats, creating the illusion that there are only 15,000 empty seats instead of 40,000 (A’s fan attendance averages only about 20,000). Walking around the arena certainly gave us a different feel compared to the other stadiums we’ve been to so far. For instance, my dad and I could have held hands and skipped around in zig-zag formations because of how empty the concourse was. But we didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also circled the whole venue and saw a lot of the same restaurants over and over again, getting the idea that they were okay selling a small variety of food items. But that really wasn’t such a bad thing, because it offered us a good chance to get some of the classics. There were burger shacks, nacho stands, garlic fries, sausage sandwiches (the Linguisa Sandwich from Saag’s is apparently the trademark), and of course hot dogs. And the dogs are actually known to be the thickest and juiciest in all of baseball, so we opted to try them. Miller’s 1/3-pound “big dog” lived up to its name, and was perfect with the standard ketchup, onions, and relish.

And this wasn’t in Oakland, but I want to throw in a bit about the food trucks we stopped at earlier in the day in downtown San Fran (I feel like a hot dog just isn’t enough food for a blog post). I think there were about 7 different trucks in this sketchy alleyway, ranging from Indian to Eastern European to Jewish soul food. We ordered from the Fins on the Hoof truck, with a motto of “Where the sea meets the barnyard.” We split a crawfish/andouille sausage poutine (fries topped with crawfish and andouille sausage), and a pork and beef meatball sandwich. So much for eating healthier outside of the ballparks…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Game:

It was cool to see veteran Coco Crisp and hard-hitting Josh Reddick (who’s leading the A’s in runs, hits, average, slugging %, OBP, and bases) in action… but other than that I wasn’t especially excited to see any certain players (we also already saw the Padres play a few days ago). And there were a couple of no-name pitchers on the mound, which led to a good amount of scoring early on. Brandon Moss had a 2-run homer in the 5-run 1st, and Reddick hit a 2-run triple in the 4th.

And we found the greatest A’s fan in the park: an old man with a cape and a propeller cap playing the banjo, walking through all the sections yelling “We’re number one!” He seemed like he could have been a little off, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Final score: A’s 10, Padres 2

Starting pitchers: Travis Blackley (W) – 6 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 2 ER, 3 Ks; Anthony Bass (L) – 5.1 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 9 R (7 ER), 3 Ks

Home run: Brandon Moss

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6/13 – MATT CAIN’S PERFECT GAME at AT&T Park: San Francisco Giants vs. Houston Astros

I’m going to go against the grain a little and start with describing the game before talking about the ballpark and the food. Because MATT CAIN THREW A PERFECT GAME!!!  Cain, the quiet ace of the San Francisco Giants ballclub this year (with Tim Lincecum struggling), sat down all 27 batters of the Houston Astros in order. This is just the 22nd perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball, and the 1st time in the 130 years of the Giants baseball organization that one of their pitchers did it!!! I still can’t believe we were there. Here’s a link to the video my dad took of the final pitch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci1U27ka03E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m getting butterflies just thinking about the atmosphere, the fans, the noise. The crowd went wild for every strike, every foul ball, every play, pretty much starting in the like the 4th inning. I know I’m not the only baseball fan to do this, but after every hitless inning (even starting after the 1st), I think to myself, “hey there’s a no-hitter so far.” And this thought slowly became more and more realistic as Cain retired the batters of the 2nd inning, the 3rd, the 4th, the 5th… and that’s when I try to ease my excitement and not jinx it. Plenty of pitchers have gone this far and blown it… Roy Halladay alone has brought a few no-hit bids into the 8th and 9th innings before allowing the first hit. It’s weird though because one of the San Fran fans next to me was literally cheering, “Come on Cain! Throw a perfect game!” starting in the 3rd inning. I certainly wouldn’t have said a word about it if everyone else around me was completely quiet.

And then there’s THAT play. I thought it came in the 6th inning when Chris Snyder hit a long, high fly ball to left field, bringing Melky Cabrera back to the wall to make a semi-jumping catch into the fence. But this was nothing compared to the 7th inning full-count line drive to right center field. Jordan Schafer ripped the ball, and right-fielder Gregor Blanco ran at least 60 feet to make an insane catch, diving onto the warning track. Even Matt Cain said after the game that he thought the center fielder, Angel Pagan, was the only one even close to being able to get there in time, but Blanco came out of nowhere to make one of the most historic perfect-game-saving plays ever (not my picture below, I wish).

Matt Cain struck out a career-high 14 batters, tying Sandy Koufax for the most strikeouts in a perfect game. I’m watching SportsCenter as I write this, and I’m hearing long-time baseball analysts and commentators claim that this can very well be one of the greatest pitching performances and baseball games of all time, if not definitely in the top 3. Here’s Cain’s career-high 14th strikeout.

Final score: Giants 10, Astros 0

Starting pitchers: Matt Cain (W; perfect game) – 9 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 14 Ks; J.A. Happ (L) – 3.1 IP, 11 H, 1 BB, 8 ER, 5 Ks

Homers: Melky Cabrera, Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco

The Ballpark:

I was definitely looking forward to seeing AT&T Park more than a lot of the other stadiums on the tour. It’s got a retro-modern feel to it, with the classic brick facades joined with steel framing and huge glass windows. I love it’s location in the South Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, with the China Basin Channel of the San Fran bay just feet from the outfield concourse. The notorious McCovey Cove is the portion of the channel just past right field, named after long time Giant (1959-’73, ’77-’80) first baseman Willie McCovey, who’s one of just 4 San Francisco players in the 500-HR club. He hit 521, 3rd most behind Barry Bonds and Willy Mays (and Mel Ott hit 511). Since the park opened in 2000, there have been 84 total homers that have reached McCovey Cove (60 by Giants), 35 of them off the bat of Barry Bonds* (asterisk needed?).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can kind of see in the above/right picture that there really isn’t much room between the field and “The Cove.” The right field wall starts at just 309 feet from home plate, but is 24 feet high to make up for it (in honor of Willy Mays, who wore number 24). The shortest distance to the Cove is just 370 feet.

Another awesome part of the venue is the 80-foot Coca-Cola bottle, which houses several slides and a mini playground area for kids underneath it. And next to the Coke bottle is the “Giant 1927 Old-Time Four-Fingered Baseball Glove.” Elevated terraces surround these two “Giant” attractions, which offer a unique place to hang out and watch the game.

There’s some cool memorabilia too, which I always love to see. There were some game-worn jerseys from the 2010 World Series, and even the final out of the series (which they won) thrown by closer Brian Wilson to strike out Nelson Cruz of the Rangers.

 The Food:

We took a walk around the ballpark to see all the different food options, and I literally felt my saliva gradually building up with every item I saw. The King Street Carvery served turkey, beef brisket, and pulled pork sandwiches; Doggie Diners offered classic nachos, pretzels, peanuts, and of course hot dogs (some even wrapped in bacon); the Crazy Crab Wharf sold signature grilled crab sandwiches (and crab cocktails… ew?); and I can’t leave out the overwhelming aroma of Gilroy’s Garlic Fries. But we ended up deciding on a Louisiana Hot Link Sausage from the Say Hey Stand by our section. I threw on some ketchup, sauerkraut, onions, and relish to compliment the spiciness of the sausage link… and it was awesome.

The Club Level actually had a “fresh market” stand, serving different types of produce like fruit and antipasto. And next to it was a mini-cupcake stand with flavors like red velvet, peanut butter cup, chocolate on chocolate, white on chocolate, coconut, and carrot (I got the first 3). A perfect dessert. I also found it pretty interesting that there were Ghirardelli vendors with backpacks of hot chocolate connected to a hose walking up and down the section aisles. I love the guy’s face in this picture.

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6/12 – Safeco Field: Seattle Mariners vs. San Diego Padres (and lots of food beforehand)

So this is going to be one of those posts not just about the baseball game, but about the whole day leading up to it (mainly about the food we ate and food-related activities we did along the way). Our first stop of the day was the Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle, filled with hundreds of businesses, farmers, musicians, artists, craftsmen, and street performers. The area wasn’t the busiest I’ve seen it, but the notorious Fish Market was buzzing as usual, with people crowding around watching the guys throw fish to each other, from the ice shelves straight into the hands of another fishmonger ready to wrap it and sell it. I couldn’t get a good picture of the action, so I got one from the amazing internet machine in case you wanted to see.

We ended up grabbing a bagel with lox and cream cheese, and although it was no New York bagel, it was still great (especially with the fresh salmon). My dad and I then met up with my Uncle Jay and Aunt Akiko for some lunch at a Korean/French fusion restaurant in Fremont called Revel. Easily one of my favorite meals of the trip so far, we ordered a bunch of dishes to share – including a hearts of palm and spinach salad, with lentils, smoked peanuts, and miso vinaigrette. The sweetness of the hearts of palm and the vinaigrette mixed great with the saltiness of the peanuts. And this Korean-style pancake with asparagus, feta, almonds, and kalamata olive was a perfectly light, fried dish to go along with it.

These were my two favorite dishes, though: a smoked tea noodle bowl with roasted duck, pickled raisins, and duck cracklings (bits of fried skin… best part); and a rice bowl with pieces of albacore tuna, fennel kimchi, and escarole.

And to make it an even better meal, we tried two kinds of fried dumplings: short rib dumplings with pickled shallot and scallions; and chick pea dumplings with kale, roasted cauliflower, and a mustard yogurt sauce. I preferred the short rib dumplings, but even though I’ve never liked chick peas, those dumplings were also amazing.

When I first visited Seattle in 2008, my Uncle Jay took me to Theo Chocolate, “the first fully organic, fair-trade (they couldn’t stress that enough), bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the United States.” On that first trip, I only got to try their multitude of flavors, but this time we took a tour of the actual factory (which is the only Theo factory there is, shipping all over the world to Whole Foods stores and to whoever wants to purchase their chocolate online). We were led by an extremely perky, sugar-happy tour guide who described a little history of chocolate and how the cocoa beans they receive direct from farmers all over the world go through a long process of cleaning, roasting, crushing, mixing, refining, heating, cooling, and wrapping – right in their store! Confections and caramels (shown below) are cut and separated by hand before being boxed and sold fresh for just a ten-day shelf life.

We got to wear pretty sweet hair (and beard) nets too, because apparently people don’t like hair in their chocolate.

And now, for the last bit on food of the day… Aunt Akiko made a Japanese pancake known as Okonomiyaki (similar to the pancake at Revel), but Hiroshima style with layers of batter, cabbage, pork, noodles, egg, and topped with Okonomiyaki sauce. So good!

I did have a grilled salmon sandwich at Safeco Field, but actually forgot to get a picture… it wouldn’t have looked to great anyway, though, because I didn’t get coleslaw on it (so it was just salmon and tartar sauce – I know, I’m weird with my condiments).

But finally, for the actual ballpark. I have been extremely excited for a while to see Safeco Field, because of it’s unique retractable roof. This was a bit of a change for the Mariners, after having played at the Kingdome since the ’70s (along with the Seahawks and SuperSonics). In 1995, there was a lot of talk about the struggling Mariners having to leave Seattle because of financial issues… until a historic late-season run, coming back from as many as 13 games behind 1st place and winning their first ever AL West Division title (and defeating the Yankees in the AL Division Series behind Edgar Martinez). After this famous postseason surge by the M’s, faith was restored in the team, and it was decided that they would build a brand new stadium just for them.

The retractable roof is the coolest part of the venue, allowing baseball to be played indoors if the Seattle weather holds true to it’s reputation, and can be opened or closed in just 10 minutes for the classic feeling of outdoor ball!

There were some awesome memorabilia items around the concourse, like Ken Griffey Jr.’s original locker stalls from the Kingdome when he played there from ’89-’99, and even the original home dugout bench from Sicks’ Stadium used from 1938-1979 by the Seattle Rainiers, Angels, and Pilots. Some of Lou Piniella game used items are displayed, too, including a jersey, bat, and a baseball card and newspaper cutouts.

The Game:

The stadium was almost completely empty, even the field-level sections around where we were sitting. But that’s fine with me, because we got to see one of the best pitchers in the game up-close: Felix Hernandez. I loved his “King’s Court” fan section by the left-field foul pole, holding up signs and chanting “K! K! K! K!” leading up to a would-be strikeout pitch.

Seeing the Mariners in a losing situation is pretty much only surprising when King Felix is on the mound (which was the case last night), but seeing them rally from down 5-1 in the bottom of the 9th inning to make it 5-4 is even more surprising. It was fun to watch, but they couldn’t get the one more to force extra innings.

Final score: Mariners 4, Padres 5

Starting pitchers: Felix Hernandez (L) – 6 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 5 ER, 3 Ks; Clayton Richard (W) – 7 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 3 Ks

Home Run: Michael Saunders

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6/9: Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Just so you know, my dad and I are NOT holding hands in that picture. But anyways, the last of our local day trips takes us to Baltimore to see an interleague game between the Orioles and our Phillies. Camden Yards has always been at the top of my list of must-see ballparks, because of it’s location right in the middle of the city (walking distance from the Inner Harbor), and it’s distinguishable right-field view with the huge B&O Warehouse in the not-so-distant background. This 8-story, 1,016-foot long (longest building on the East Coast) railroad warehouse dates back to 1899, but was renovated and turned into team offices, shops, and restaurants when the ballpark opened in 1992 (it wasn’t really used since the early ’70s anyway). Right in front of the warehouse is the unique concourse area known as Eutaw Street, which is a wide pedestrian walkway filled with food stands and kiosks, just over 400 feet from home plate. The cool thing about this area is that it’s open to the public when the team is away, so you can get an up-close view from right-field whenever you feel like it. Although the stadium is just a month older than I am (20 years), the designers wanted to bring the retro style of baseball venues back, almost entirely made of brick (after previous stadiums like the Rogers Centre and US Cellular Field decided on the modern metal and glass look). Below, this view from our seats shows right field, with the huge B&O Warehouse in the backdrop. And the picture on the right shows Eutaw Street before the game, also giving a good idea of the distance between the right-field bleachers and the warehouse. We weren’t lucky enough to see it ourselves, but apparently people get hit with batting practice homers all the time while just walking through this crowded concourse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The farthest hit ball at Camden Yards is the only one to hit the warehouse on the fly. It was hit by Ken Griffey Jr. at the Home Run Derby on July 12, 1993 and was launched 465 feet. As you can see from the pictures, it traveled over the bleachers, over Eutaw street, and hit the wall about 7 feet from the ground. These brass baseballs are scattered all over the ground of Eutaw Street, showing the roughly 60 home runs that have reached the concourse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right in front of one of the Eutaw Street gates is a cool statue of a teenage Babe Ruth, who was born and raised just blocks away from the site. And instead of finding statues of past Oriole greats, there are large sculptures of the six retired team numbers (Frank and Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken, Jr.). Eddie Murray, #33, is one of only 3 MLB players in history to reach 500 home runs and 3,000 hits in his career, joining none other than Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Food:

Camden Yards offers a lot of the American classics: hot dogs, burgers, and barbecue. We wanted to visit an authentic crab shack after the game, so we just grabbed our pre-game food at the Jack Daniel’s food stand. My dad got the ribs, I got the beer-can chicken, and we split a Bacon-on-a-Stick. The chicken was definitely my favorite, but the bacon was a tender, thick strip slathered in a Maple-glaze.

After the game was over, we made our way to one of the best crabshacks in town, LP Steamers. After just a half-hour wait, we were seated at a table completely bare except for a large sheet of parchment paper, 2 wooden mallets, 2 butter knives, and a big bucket to throw our shells into. We ordered 2 dozen medium-sized blue crabs between the two of us (maybe a bit much), and got cracking. They were completely covered with Old Bay seasoning, looking like they were grabbed straight from the beach. Amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Game:

Being a Phillies phan this year hasn’t been the best experience, sitting 8 games behind first place as I’m writing this. So we were really hoping to see a good game, and maybe even a win over the home team Orioles (especially after seeing the Phils lose at home when we saw them last week). Rollins, Thome, and Luna homered for the Phillies in 3 consecutive innings starting in the 3rd, but after an Oriole was called safe at second on a debatable call of Rollins’ foot coming off the base, and an error on top of that, the O’s scored their 2nd and 3rd runs to tie it up at 3. With another run scored later on by each team, we went into extra innings and the Phillies decide to throw BJ Rosenberg for his major-league debut. He struck out the first batter he faced and had a perfect 11th inning. But in the bottom of the 12th he gave up a walk, then a walk-off homer to Adam Jones… what do you know, the first walk-off of our summer tour is against the Phillies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Score: Orioles 6, Phillies 4

Starting Pitchers: Tommy Hunter (ND) – 7 IP, 8 H, 0 BB, 3 ER, 2 Ks; Vance Worley (ND) – 6 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 ER (3 R), 5 Ks

Homers: Jimmy Rollins, Jim Thome, Hector Luna, Adam Jones

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6/6 – New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays

No matter how much I may dislike the majority of New York-based sports teams at this point of my life, going to Yankee games is always a nostalgic and memorable experience for me. Riding the crowded subways into the city and smelling the hot dog and pretzel vendors on the way to the stadium reminds me of the many Yankee games I went to as a kid, being raised by a mostly Yankee fan family. Any fan of baseball can appreciate the feeling he gets just from being in the presence of so much history and greatness. And even though this is one of the newest stadiums in the big leagues (2009), you still get a sense of the authentic, long-time tradition associated with Yankees baseball. When this venue was built, the designers were sure to include much of the same recognizable traits of the old ballpark, including the frieze around the top of the upper deck and the architecture of the exterior facade.

Monument Park was literally brought over from the old stadium, and placed just on the other side of the center field wall (protected from homers by a net). This is one of the coolest parts of the venue, with 5 huge granite blocks (with plaques of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Miller Huggins) flanked by long walls of the retired Yankee jersey numbers. The back wall is full of dozens of other plaques portraying other Yankee greats. And in the middle of this wall is the 7×5 foot plaque of late 37-year owner of the Yanks, George Steinbrenner (heavily debated because of it’s overwhelming dominance in the exhibit). But I personally prefer the close view of the field from Monument Park over George’s big noggin (both shown below).

But now for my favorite part of blog.. the food. First off, I don’t want to offend anyone by saying this, but I don’t think I’m very surprised that the worst possible food for my body was found here in New York City. But I really don’t care one bit, because it was also the most amazing combination of meats and treats that I could ever imagine. We started with a Lobel’s prime rib sandwich straight from the in-house butcher – thinly cut slices drenched in gravy and topped with horseradish sauce, in between buns softer than the softest buns you’ve ever felt (that was the best comparison I could think of, I’m tired).

Now my dad and I certainly aren’t ones to keep eating past the point of satisfaction… ok maybe I am, but he’s not… but when we walked passed a concession stand with a menu listing Fried Dough, Fried Twinkies, Fried Oreos, and Fried Hershey’s Chocolate, we needed some dessert. We decided on the Fried Hershey’s, which was literally an entire bar of chocolate battered and deep fried to the point that the chocolate was warm and gooey in the middle, but the surrounding dough was still so light and crispy. And of course it was showered with powdered sugar.

And although we regrettably didn’t have enough room for this monstrosity afterwards, I think I had a heart attack just from looking at the Yankee Doughnut Burger. Yes, you read it correctly… doughnut… burger…  a beef patty with cheese, sandwiched between two glazed donuts. Why couldn’t I be born with two stomachs  😦

The Game:

One of the coolest things I’ve seen at Yankee Stadium is something called Roll Call, when the fans in the right field bleachers (known as the Bleacher Creatures) collectively chant every starting Yankee’s name in the 1st inning until he gives them a wave of acknowledgement. Right-fielder Nick Swisher – always loving the center of attention – actually turned around and gave an elaborate salute to the crowd when they called his name.

Our second-level seats were down the 3rd base line just 2 rows from the edge, giving us an awesome view of the whole ballpark. Apparently most of the seats in the park are wider and roomier than most stadiums, which I could definitely notice compared to the other venues we’ve visited (I’d love to try out the $1,200 seats behind home plate one day though).

My dad took like 3 pictures during the game, and he was lucky enough to catch this homer off Cano’s bat in the 4th:

Final score: Yankees 4, Rays 1

Starting pitchers: Ivan Nova (W): 8 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 5 Ks; Alex Cobb (L) – 7 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 4 ER, 4 Ks

Homers: Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano

Categories: 30 Ballparks, One Summer | 1 Comment

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