Walking Off with Deep Friars

Game 25: Petco Park, San Diego, CA

Cincinnati Reds vs San Diego Padres – Monday, July 29, 2o13


We flew out of Seattle yesterday morning and arrived in San Diego around 12:30 PM. We then took a shuttle to our hotel, but our room was not ready yet. So we dropped off our bags and walked over to the Gaslamp Quarter to get something to eat at San Diego’s Hard Rock Café. By the time we returned from lunch, we were able to check-in to our room. We were really exhausted and took turns taking a nap and working on the Mariners blog. Finally, around 5:30 in the evening, we posted the blog and walked to PETCO Park that was only a mile or so away from the hotel.

We got to the ballpark about an hour before game time. So we walked outside, took pictures, bought a Padres cap and ball, and then went inside. As we walked in, we saw the statue of Padres manager/broadcaster Jerry Coleman in his airman gear. The inside of the park is really beautiful. We saw kids playing softball on a miniature playing field near a grassy knoll, on top of which was the statue of Padres great Tony Gwynn. We also saw a street named after Gwynn outside the stadium.

We finally walked over to our seats that were located just six rows back from the right field line about half way between first base and the wall. The view was awesome and we could see the players really close up. It was cool to see the Padres right fielder playing catch between innings with the ball girl. When the lineups were announced, we were surprised that the Reds were playing without two of their super stars, Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips. This sure seemed like a different team than the one we saw just a few days ago in LA. But Padres starter and San Diego native Sean O’Sullivan was all over the place and lived dangerously as he struggled to throw strikes. After getting the first two hitters out in the first inning, he gave up a double and then walked two to load the bases. Somehow, he managed to get out of that jam. In the third inning, his defense bailed him out as right fielder Will Venable leapt up to grab an incredible catch to rob Jay Bruce. It reminded us of the spectacular catch that Endy Chavez made for the Mariners the day before. O’Sullivan didn’t seem to have much on his fastball and his balls to strike ratio was not good at all. Yet, he managed to hang around for six innings giving up just one run. The Reds scored in the fifth when Derrick Robinson led off the inning with a triple, and then beat out a throw to the plate after Cesar Izturis hit a grounder to first. It looked like the 1-0 lead might stand up after all as the Reds held the Friars scoreless through eight innings. Seven of those were pitched by starter Mike Leake, who is also a San Diego native. Leake, too, looked shaky at the beginning, but settled down after the third.

Then came the improbable bottom of the ninth with flame-throwing All Star closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound. We saw Chapman last Thursday in LA and he was unhittable. Here again he was pumping fastballs in triple digits. He was, however, missing his spots. After a gritty seven-pitch at bat, Yonder Alonso worked a lead-off walk. Next up was Chris Denorfia who was inserted as a pinch-hitter by manager Bud Black. Denorfia squared up on the very first pitch he saw, a 98 mph fastball, and launched it over the center field wall for a walk-off, two-run deep fly that sent the fans into cheers and set off fireworks. This was Denorfia’s first career walk-off home run and it was estimated to have travelled 423 feet, a new PETCO Park record for a walk-off homer. Chapman and the Reds were stunned as the Friars came from behind to beat them 2-1. We also got to see our first walk-off big fly! How about that?!

There must have been some kind of weird celestial alignment on this night because we found out later that there were two other walk-off home runs and a walk-off triple elsewhere in the majors (including a solo shot by Jason Giambi for the Tribe)!

After the third inning, we walked around the ballpark and took more pictures from different spots. The attendance was low, reflecting the Padres’ standing this season, so we had, pretty much, a free run of the place. We could sit just about anywhere we wanted as we went around. It’s a pity, though, that there were not more people at the game. We really liked PETCO. The place seemed opulent with spacious concourses and a wide selection of food and drinks. There didn’t seem to be a single bad seat in the house.

Following the game, we walked back to our hotel, downloaded the pictures, and called it a night. Tomorrow, we head home. We’ll catch up with you from there. Cheers!

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“Base-ically” Fun!

Game 24: Safeco Field, Seattle, WA

Minnesota Twins vs Seattle Mariners – Sunday, July 28, 2o13

We took an evening flight out of Oakland and arrived in Seattle just after 10 PM on Saturday. Our longtime friend, M. V. Thomas, whom we haven’t seen in ages picked us up at the airport and took us to his home. The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast, with Thomas and his family (wife Latha, daughter Dimpu, and son Nihal), of idlis, sambar, coconut chutney, mangos, and cherries. We then went downtown with Thomas and Nihal. Our first stop was at the Experience Music Project (EMP), created by Microsoft co-founder and Jimi Hendrix fan Paul Allen, that was housed in a most unusual and architecturally distinctive building (it’s kind of shaped like a guitar). What a fabulous place! When you first walk in, you see a towering tree built entirely with musical instruments that goes all the way from the ground floor up to the third floor. For fans of rock music, this place is Nirvana (pun intended)! There was a huge section on this legendary Seattle-based grunge group as well as Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Foo Fighters, among other bands, that enjoyed mega-success and worldwide fame. There was another section of equally fascinating displays of memorabilia celebrating Seattle-born guitar hero Jimi Hendrix. A substantial portion of the third floor was devoted to “Women Who Rock,” and contained many individual stalls with beautifully displayed memorabilia of women artists like Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Madonna, Cher, and Tina Turner, to name just a few. There were also many interactive areas where fans could play different instruments, mix music, etc. The four of us actually took part in a simulated rock concert known as “On Stage.” We formed our own band called “The Eds” and played Purple Haze by The Jimi Hendrix Experience to a packed and wildly cheering, but completely imaginary, crowd. We even have a poster of our performance and a DVD to prove it! Why the Eds you ask? That’s because one of us (Luca) is a huge fan of the cartoon show Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy.

After EMP, we drove to Safeco Field and got there about ten minutes before game time. It was a beautiful day, sunny and pleasantly warm. We picked up Mariners caps and balls at the team store, and after the grown-ups got their microbrews, headed to our seats that were located in the third tier behind home plate. These were great seats with terrific views of the entire field! We could easily tell balls from strikes and were in on all the action! A nice Sunday crowd of over 35,000 also added to the exciting atmosphere.

The game was a beauty. The Twins drew first blood in an exciting second inning. Ryan Doumit hit a deep fly ball that hit right fielder Endy Chavez’s glove before spilling into the right field fence and then on to the field. It was ruled a double. Twins manager Ron “Gardy” Gardenhire immediately came out of the dugout and asked the umpires to review the play, which they did. This was the first time that we saw a baseball game stopped for an instant replay review. Three umpires left the field and the fourth stayed behind. After reviewing, the initial ruling on the play was upheld and Doumit stayed put at second. Any disappointment that Twins fans might have had was laid to rest right away by the very next hitter, Chris Colabello, who crushed the first pitch he saw to dead center for a two-run homer. In the third inning, we saw a miraculous catch by Chavez in right field, who leapt up to rob Colabello of what might have been his second home run of the game (and a potential three pointer). In the bottom of that frame, the Mariners got a run on a sacrifice fly by Kyle Seager that scored Brad Mills. They then added four more in a loud fifth inning to take the lead. Michael “The Condor” Saunders led off the inning with a mammoth solo shot to right to tie the game. Later in the inning, rookie Nick Franklin launched a monster three-run homer to right that also scored Henry Blanco and Mills. The Twins clawed back in the sixth inning. Clete Thomas hit a grounder up the middle that scored Doumit from third. They visitors closed the gap to 5-4 on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly that scored Colabello. The Mariners added an insurance run in the seventh when Franklin hit another homer, this time a solo shot, to right center. That made it 6-4, which ended up being the final score of the game. With this win, the M’s split the four game set with Minnesota. Their manager Eric Wedge, recovering from a minor stroke, must have been very pleased. There was a nice video of get well wishes to him during the game. Robby Thompson was the acting manager in this one and we found out later that Wedge actually came to the ballpark to visit his players before the game. We like Wedge. He and many of his staff used to be with the Indians just a few years ago.

After the third inning, Nihal and the two of us – Thomas decided to stay back for a bit – walked around the stands. We saw the action from various points and took plenty of pictures. Later on, Thomas joined us and we toured the Mariners Hall of Fame and Museum that is just off the level one concourse. That was really cool. We then grabbed something to eat and watched the rest of the game from behind home plate close to the field.

It was “Kids Run the Bases Day” at the ballpark, so after the ballgame, we joined the long winding queue that went all the way up and then back down again through the right field gates. (Along the way, we looked down at the train tracks and saw a cargo train carrying giant fuselages of jet planes! Not surprising, given that Seattle is the home of Boeing.) Before long, we came through the doors and onto Safeco Field! We were actually walking onto a major league ballpark!! Wow!!! We made our way to first base and soon the two of us (not named Thomas or Das) sprinted from first to second, then to third and finally to home! It was an incredible experience!!! We then took some more pictures from inside the field before heading out. As we didn’t have time to walk around the ballpark before the game, we did it on our way out, taking pictures galore.

Thomas retrieved his car from the parking lot and the four of us drove around Pike Market for a while before stopping at the Hard Rock Café for drinks and pictures. We then headed off to see the Space Needle. We got a glimpse of this iconic Seattle landmark earlier in the day because it was right next to EMP, but wanted to go back to get a better look. We thought about going up to the top, but it was getting late and the lines were long. So we took pictures from the outside instead. We also got to see parts of the colorful Glass Garden that is also in the same complex. Finally, Thomas took us to Ananda Mela, an annual Indian festival/fair organized by the Indian community in Seattle. There, we enjoyed great music performed by an amazing live band that fused Indian and Western styles with a highly octane, energetic beat! We also sampled a variety delicious and authentic Indian food. All in all, it was a fabulous experience to cap off a wonderful day!

We returned home from the fair, tired but happy. One of us (Luca) still had some energy left to get in a video game with Nihal, but after that, we packed up and went to bed. We had to get up early to get to the airport in time for our morning flight out of Seattle.

We’ll see you tomorrow after our next game. Bye now!

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Bringin’ the “A” Game

Game 23: Overstock.com Coliseum, Oakland, CA

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs Oakland Athletics – Saturday, July 27, 2o13


We spent much of the morning working on the Giants blog and after posting it, checked out of our hotel, put our bags in their storage, and took the shuttle to the Coliseum. As we got there about 45 minutes before game time, we walked around the ballpark and took a lot of pictures. The A’s, who originated in Philadelphia before moving to KC and finally to Oakland, have won nine World Series (including three in a row back in the mid-70s) and there were banners all around the park highlighting the accomplishments of their legendary stars (like Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rickey “The Man of Steal” Henderson, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, and Dennis “Eck” Eckersley, among others). It was a gorgeous day, sunny but cool. Perfect baseball weather! We then went inside and found our seats that were behind the third base line. On the way to our seats, we met up with two former Thamattoor students, Cici Cancelliari ’11 and Tyler Parrot ’13, who were also at the game with their families. We knew they were going to be there. They were sitting in the same section as we were and just a few rows back.

This game, a battle between division rivals, was just as exciting as the one yesterday. It was “Turn Back the Clock to 1969” day and the A’s took the field in their bright yellow -green retro uniforms. They also showed a replay of the 1969 Moon Landing on the scoreboards. In the second inning, the Angels jumped ahead on a solo shot to right field by Josh Hamilton and nursed their 1-0 lead until the seventh. Then the A’s roared back. With one man on, they brought in catcher Derek Norris to pinch hit. Norris, who has never had a hit in 14 tries as a pinch-hitter, crushed a sinker over the left field wall to put the A’s up 2-1 and the stadium erupted in cheers. The home team then added another run on a double by Jed Lowrie that went over the head of the right fielder and scored Coco Crisp (former Indian) from first. The Angels went quietly in the next two innings and the Australian closer Grant Balfour had a 1-2-3 ninth to save the 3-1, come from behind win for the A’s and their starter Tommy Milone.

Being in a small market with a limited budget, the A’s have somehow managed to field interesting and contending teams, year after year. They even made a movie “Moneyball” about their 2002 season (the season they set a record 20-game winning streak) with general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt). The pundits wrote the A’s off at the beginning of the season, but here they are in first place in the AL West. Good for them!

During the game, we did the usual. Walk around the ballpark taking pictures and catching the game from different parts of the stadium. We saw posters of the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Woodstock all over the concourses. After the game, we spent some time with Cici, Tyler, and their families and then took the shuttle back to our hotel. We collected our bags and rode the shuttle again to the airport to catch a flight to our next stop.

We’ll be in touch tomorrow. So long!

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Giant Errors

Game 22: AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA

Chicago Cubs vs San Francisco Giants – Friday, July 26, 2o13


After two wonderful days in LA, made possible entirely by the extraordinary hospitality of Jamie and his family, it was time for us to say our goodbyes and head to our next stop. Jamie drove us to the airport yesterday morning and we took a short flight that brought us into Oakland before noon. We checked into our hotel, worked on our blog, and were on our way to San Francisco by 2 PM. About a half hour later, we were walking down the Embarcadero by the ocean en route to Fisherman’s Wharf. Along the way, we saw the site of America’s Cup and the tour boats taking people to Alcatraz. We also had a terrific view of the Bay Bridge (unfortunately, the Golden Gate Bridge was on the other side and we did not have the time to make it over there). We had lunch at San Francisco’s Hard Rock Café at the Wharf and then took in the Wax Museum (going to be taken over by Merlin Entertainment next month) and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, both of which were nearby. Afterward, we took a trolley to the train station and took a MUNI from there to AT&T Park, We arrived about twenty minutes before game time but decided to walk around the ballpark first before going in. After all, this is the home of the current World Series Champions (and they also won it all in 2010)!

There is really only one way to describe the ballpark. STUNNING! Sitting by the edge of the ocean, this is easily the most aesthetic ballpark we have been to yet and we can see why so many people rave about it. It’s easy to get there by road, rail, and there is even a ferry that brings people to the game from across the bay!

The view from inside the ballpark was just as FANTASTIC. We had seats up in the View Box right above home plate. We sat across from the large centerfield scoreboard and there was a magnificent backdrop of the ocean all the way from behind right field to well past center. There were many sailboats and other watercraft around, which only added to the lovely scenery. To top it all off, the game was sold out (217th consecutive sell-out) and the atmosphere was electric!

The game, too, was white-knuckler all the way through. Starting for the home team was Matt “Big Sugar” Cain and he pitched his heart out. So did Edwin Jackson, the Cubs’ star starter. The first run did not score until the sixth inning as the Cubbies went up 1-0 when Nate “The Great” Schierholtz doubled and scored on a grounder up the middle by Starlin Castro. The Giants wrested the lead by posting two runs in the seventh, but the highlight of the inning was a huge base running blunder that would come back to haunt them later. Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval drew a one-out walk and the next hitter, Hunter Pence, doubled to put runners on second and third. Then, Jackson intentionally walked Brandon Belt (not sure why) to load the bases with just one out. That brought up the struggling Jeff Francoeur who has had a terrible season so far (he was led go by KC earlier this season), but he blooped a hit to right that scored Sandoval and Spence. However, when the throw from Schierholz in right field passed the catcher, Belt tried to score. Unfortunately for him and the Giants, the ball bounced straight to Jackson who was backing up and he caught Belt in a run down and tagged him out. James Russell, who relieved Jackson after that play, walked Brandon Crawford but struck out Andres Torres to end the frame. Still, the Giants were up 2-1 and the home crowd was really into it.

Then came the shocker!

In the top of the ninth, Giants closer Sergio Romo gave up a lead-off single to pinch-hitter Julio Borbon and then walked Dioner Navarro to put two men on with nobody out. The crowd began to get restless. Romo gave them some hope by striking out David DeJesus and getting Junior Lake to ground into a force out. The Giants were one out away from winning, but it didn’t happen! The next hitter, Anthony Rizzo, sent a screamer to first that completely ate up Belt as it went between his legs, past his glove, and into right field. Two runs scored on the play and just like that the Cubs were up 3-2 and the crowd became eerily silent. Belt, who is usually a solid defender, was charged with the costly error and combined with his base running gaffe, the poor guy had a miserable day. The Giants did try to make a game of it in the bottom of the ninth. Sandoval led off with a single but Pence and Belt flied out to center. Belt’s fly ball looked like it might leave the yard, but it was caught at the warning track. There would be no redemption for him in this one. Finally, Francoeur lined out to left to end the game. What a contest!

During the game we walked around the ballpark, taking pictures, and enjoying the view from different angles. We saw kayakers lurking in the bay presumably waiting to pounce on home run balls but there were none in this one. It was really chilly though, especially with the strong ocean breeze, and it felt like a fall day in Maine.

We also got to hang out with Claire Herbig ’13, a former Thamattoor student, who was at the game with her grandfather. Although we were in different sections, they were close together and we spent the late innings watching the game with the two of them. They actually came to the game on the ferry. Cool!

After the game, we walked around the ballpark some more and took pictures of the statues of Willie “The Say Hey Kid” Mays, Willie “Stretch” McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando “Peruchin” Cepeda, and a seal that honored the former Minor League team, the San Francisco Seals. We then made our way back to Oakland via the MUNI and BART and got home well after midnight. After downloading the pictures, we went to bed.

There’s another game coming up tomorrow. See you then!

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Dodger Blues

Game 21: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Cincinnati Reds – Thursday, July 25, 2o13


We went with Jamie yesterday morning to Hollywood and along the way, he pointed out to us many of LA’s attractions (The Beverly Hilton Hotel, The CNN Building, The Roxy, Hollywood High School, Will Rogers Memorial Park, The Viper Room, The Laugh Factory, The Hollywood Palladium, FOX Studios, and The Capital Records Tower). Luckily, we found a convenient parking spot at one end of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We walked up and down Hollywood Boulevard and took pictures of the stars along the way. As it turned out, a star was being added in honor of five-time Emmy Award winner Peter Falk (known for his role as TV detective Lt. Columbo), and we saw the cameras and stage set up for the induction ceremony. Later, we went back and took a picture of the newly installed star. We spent much of the morning visiting Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and Grauman’s (or TCL) Chinese Theater. We then had lunch at the Hard Rock Café and took more pictures there. Fortunately for us, all of these places were within walking distance of one another along the Boulevard. After lunch, we walked around some more, taking pictures, and suddenly ran out of battery power in our main camera. So we headed to Starbucks to charge the camera and get some coffee and lemonade. Afterward, we drove up a side street to get an obligatory picture of the famous HOLLYWOOD Sign.

We then made our way to Dodger Stadium and got there about 45 minutes before game time. As usual, we walked around the outside of the ballpark for a few minutes and took pictures before going in. The Dodgers were having a promotion honoring Vin Scully and we each got a bobblehead of the legendary broadcaster at the gate. We slowly made our way to our seats that were located in the second tier above the right field line close to the foul pole. It was a perfect evening for baseball and the view was fantastic! It was especially nice to be in a sold-out stadium with over 53,000 fans on full throttle.

The Dodgers franchise, with a payroll in excess of $220 million, is the most expensive team in major league baseball and they got off to a slow start this year. Lately, however, they have been one of the hottest teams around. They came into the game having won 23 of their last 28 games, including ten straight on the road, and leading the NL West.

For this first game back home since the All-Star Break, the Dodgers had their top pitcher Zack Greinke starting for them. Greinke had never lost to the Reds in his career and was going for his 100th win. The Reds had their own ace Mat Latos on the mound and as the line up cards were shown on the big screen, we knew we were in for a big treat. Both teams were studded with stars (The Dodgers manager, too, was Yankee star Don “The Hit Man” Mattingly).

The scoring began right away. In the first inning, Xavier Paul, a former Dodger, took it to his old team by launching a solo home run to right center that put the Reds up 1-0. In the second inning, the Reds added another run when Cesar Izturis blooped a single to center to score Todd Frazier from third. We were a little surprised because with two outs in the inning and a 3-1 count, we thought Grienke was going to intentionally walk Izturis to get to the pitcher. The home team got a run back in the fourth to make it 2-1, when Adrian “Gonzo” Gonzalez hit an RBI groundout that scored Yasiel Puig from third. Puig had singled earlier and then got to third base on a throwing error by center fielder Shin-Soo Choo. The Reds, however, came back to get two more in what was an ugly sixth for the Dodgers. With two men out, Grienke hit Brandon Phillips and the next batter, Jay “The Beaumont Bomber” Bruce, who has historically struggled against the Dodgers’ right-hander, crushed a curveball over the left center field fence to put the visitors up 4-1. The Dodgers got a run in the eighth when Gonzalez hit another RBI groundout, this time scoring Carl “The Perfect Storm” Crawford from third. In the top of the ninth, the Reds got that run right back when Choo hit an infield RBI single to second scoring Devin Mesoraco from third. In the bottom of the ninth, we saw the Reds’ flame-throwing closer, Aroldis Chapman, come in and throw incredible fastballs in the 98-102 mph range to preserve the 5-2 win (although the Dodgers did bring the tying run to the plate.)

This was a fun game from the get-go. As usual, we walked around the ballpark during the game, watched the action from different vantage points, and took many pictures. We also got to try the famous Dodger Dogs that were really good. As Tribe fans, we were especially excited to see three former Indians – Choo, Phillips, and Jack Hannahan – all now playing for the Reds, on the field.

After the game, we went back to Jamie’s home, packed up for our upcoming trip, and turned in. We will be at another game tomorrow. See you from there! Bye for now!

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Halo Better

Game 20: Angel Stadium, Anaheim, CA

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs Minnesota Twins – Wednesday, July 24, 2o13

We arrived in LA just before 10 PM on Tuesday after a long direct flight from Boston. The flight was delayed by a couple of hours at Logan, but we still made good timing. Jamie Shaum ’13, a recent Thamattoor Lab graduate, picked us up at the airport and drove us to his home. On Wednesday morning, Jamie and the two of us drove down to Anaheim – a trip that took just over an hour – and we were at Angel Stadium about a half hour before game time. We picked up a couple of Angels caps and a ball and walked around the ballpark for a few minutes before going in.

It was a day game and a hot one. Our seats were just above the bullpen in left field where the sun beat down.  There was just enough occasional breeze, however, to provide some relief.

The game turned out to be an intense pitcher’s duel with many interesting moments toward the end! Pitching for the Angels was their ace Jered Weaver and the Twins countered with Mike Pelfrey. Weaver expended 22 pitches to get out of the first inning. Yet, amazingly, he pitched eight innings, shutting out the Twins and giving up just two hits. At one point, he retired 19 batters in a row. Pelfrey was nearly as good, but the RBI single he gave up to Albert Pujols in the first inning, proved to be one run too many. There were some interesting moments in the ninth. The Angels closer Ernesto Frieri walked Clete Thomas to lead off the inning and then hit Doug Bernier to put two men on with nobody out. The home crowd began to groan and the handful of Twins fans around us were licking their chops. Then came one of the strangest plays that we have seen. Twins slugger Justin Morneau hit a pop-up to the pitcher’s mound but, as no infield fly was called, Frieri let the ball drop intentionally, then picked it up and got a double play to erase Morneau at first and Bernier at second. The Twins were hopping mad and there was a bit of postgame back and forth between their manager Ron “Gardy” Gardenhire and the umpiring crew chief Ted Barrett. Still, the Twins had Thomas at third with two down and then Frieri walked Ryan Doumit to further increase the blood pressure of the Angels fans. The next batter Chris Herrmann, however, struck out to end the game. So we got to see a 1-0 game in which the only run was scored in the first inning!

There was additional excitement in the ninth when a streaker ran onto the field.  We saw a security guard hold him down as another guard body-slammed the guy. Before long, there was a pile of security guards on top of the intruder and for a moment, it looked like we were in a football game. The streaker was eventually taken off the field and the game resumed.

During the middle and late innings, we walked around the ballpark and took many pictures. We got to see the game from different angles and it also was nice to be out of the sun for a while.

After the game, we drove back with Jamie to his home and it took us a bit longer to get back with all the traffic along the way. We had dinner later in the evening with Jamie and his family at a lovely Italian restaurant. But we had dessert at Jamie’s home. His mom, Dr. Melani Shaum, made a delicious sour cherry pie that looked and tasted great! After chatting with Jamie and his wonderful family for a while, we turned in for the night.

See you all tomorrow!

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The West Coast Swing

First of all, thanks to Professor Dina Merrer for providing us with a perfectly apt title to this blog. We got our flying shoes on and are heading out to the other side of the country today. We are looking forward not only to the games, but also to hanging out with friends, old and new. Hope you, too, will be able to join us cybernetically over the next few days as we travel up and down the coast to catch some second-half baseball.

We’ll check in with you tomorrow after our first game on this trip.

Cheers all!

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A Trip of Nines

We flew out of Chicago yesterday morning and arrived in Boston around 11:00 AM. Then, we got on the bus to Portland and got a car ride home . This was quite an amazing trip! On this leg, we saw nine games in nine different cities over nine consecutive days (6/14 to 6/22). How appropriate is that for a baseball trip? Remarkably, the weather co-operated during all of the games, and we got to see some spectacular ballparks and plays. Honestly, there was not a single ballpark that we did not like. Now that we are back home, we are already looking forward to our next round. We will take a short break and resume our tour on July 23rd. Hope you will be able to join us then. Cheers!

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Squeezing (in) the Cubs

Game 19: Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Houston Astros vs Chicago Cubs – Saturday, June 22, 2o13


The limited hours of sleep over the past couple of days finally caught up to us. We slept right through the wake-up alarms in Kansas City and by the time we got up, drove back to the airport, returned the rental car, and made it to the terminals, we had missed our flight. Thankfully, we were able to get on another flight that left about three hours later, and by the time we got out of the Chicago airport, it was well past 1:00 PM. That meant we had less than two hours before game time. Trying to watch a game at Wrigley was proving to be quite a challenge. The last time we came here to see the Cubs, back in April, the game was rained out.

We took the shuttle to the hotel, but they had no rooms for us yet. So we posted our Royals blog in the lobby, deposited our bags at the front desk, and took the shuttle back to the airport to catch some form of public transportation to Wrigley. We debated whether to take the subway or a cab from the airport. As we only had 35 minutes left until game time, we decided to take a cab. Big mistake! We got stuck in traffic for nearly an hour and it was so bad that we asked the cab driver to let us off about four blocks away from the ballpark. It seemed faster to get there on foot than wait for the traffic to clear. By the time we made it to our seats, two innings had gone by. Fortunately for us, we hadn’t missed any scoring.

Soon after we got there, the Cubs put up a pair of runs in the third. Wellington Castillo led off the third with a single to center off Astros starter Bud Norris. The next batter Darwin Barney reached on an error by third baseman Matt Dominguez, who tried to force Castillo at second. The Astros followed with another error when catcher Carlos Corporan, while trying to pick off Castillo at second, threw the ball into centerfield that allowed both runners to advance. After pitcher Travis Wood grounded out to third, former Indian Luis Valbuena lined a single to right that scored Castillo and Barney to put the home team up 2-0. The Cubs then loaded the bases with only one down, but could not plate any more runs.

The score became 3-0 in the fifth on a solo home run by Nate “The Great” Schierholtz to right field. This is the second time we have seen Schierholtz homer on this trip. He hit one out in Citi Field last Friday. In the very next frame, the Astros came right back. After two men were out, the Cubs starter Wood gave up three consecutive hits. Jose Altuve and Chris Carter singled, and they both came home on a three-run homer by J. D. Martinez to left. Just like that the game was knotted at 3-3. The Cubbies had a great chance to regain the lead in the eighth. Alfonso Soriano hit a one-out double to left and the next batter, Anthony Rizzo, was intentionally walked. Then, Soriano got picked off in a controversial call. Still, the Cubs managed to load the bases with two outs, but came away with nothing to show for it. Their hitting with runners in scoring position has not been very good lately. Almost on cue, the Astros scored in the ninth. Justin Maxwell led off the inning with a double to left off Cubs closer Kevin Gregg. The next hitter, Dominguez, laid down a sacrifice bunt that pushed Maxwell to third. Next up was Ronny Cedeno put down a perfect safety squeeze that scored Maxwell and broke the tie. The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the ninth against Astros closer Jose Veras and took a 4-3 loss.

So we got to see a perfectly executed squeeze bunt in the ninth inning that scored the game winner! Awesome!!

During the game, we walked around the stands and took pictures. This is a gorgeous ballpark. Old, steeped in history, and still in great shape. The famous ivy-covered outfield walls are beautiful and we also got a picture of Cubs right fielder Schierholtz crash into it with his face, while catching a deep fly ball. Giant modern-day scoreboards, that are at other stadiums, have no place here. The main scoreboard over centerfield looked ancient, but seemed to really fit this place, which is the second oldest ballpark in the majors after Fenway. Wrigley will celebrate its centennial next year.

The atmosphere was great, too, with nearly 39,000 fans in attendance on this very pleasant afternoon. The stadium looked jam-packed. Not bad for a day when the Blackhawks were getting ready to play the Bruins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals across town. It was especially interesting that many apartment complexes around the ballpark had stadium seating on their rooftops with a great view of the action on the field. We were told that these rooftop seats, which are unaffiliated with Wrigley, have been a source of contention and litigation between the Cubs and the apartment owners.

After the game ended around 6 PM, we stayed back to walk around Wrigley and take more pictures. We usually do this before the game, but today, as we noted earlier, was different. It was just as well because we got some really nice pictures with fewer people around. There were statues of Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks of the “Let’s Play Two” fame, legendary Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, Billy “Sweet Swinging” Williams, and Ron Santo. There were also many tiles around the walkway honoring former Cubs stars like Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins and Sammy Sosa, among others.

We then got on the subway to the airport and took the shuttle back to our hotel. The ride back to the hotel was most interesting. The shuttle driver, Steve Staatz, told us a really cool story. It turns out that he was a highly regarded high school athlete back in the day and in 1969, he played in a Catholic League All-Star Game at Comiskey Park, the former home of the Chicago White Sox, and hit a home run in the game. Then, in 2008, his son Brian Staatz (who is one of a twin) played a high school game at U. S. Cellular Field (current home of the Chicago White Sox) and also hit a home run. That is the only father-son combination to hit home runs at White Sox ballparks! How cool is that? 

Once we got to the hotel, we retrieved our bags from storage and checked in. We then had a Thai dinner delivered to our room (we already covered the Hard Rock Cafe here during our April visit), packed, and turned in for the night, as we had an early morning flight to get back home.

We’ll catch up with you soon. Bye for now!

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A Royal Mess

Game 18: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO

Chicago White Sox vs Kansas City Royals – Friday, June 21, 2o13


We took an early flight out of St. Louis and arrived in Kansas City before 8:00 AM. We rented a car at the airport and drove to our hotel. The lady at the counter was really nice and found us a room to check-in early. We took turns taking a nap (we were really tired!), posted the Cardinals blog, and then drove to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM)/American Jazz Museum. We got a combo ticket for both places, stepped across the street to a Louisiana Cajun diner for lunch, and then got started at the NLBM.

The NLBM is a fantastic place! If you are a baseball fan, or even a history buff, and haven’t seen this place, please put it on your bucket list. It tells a remarkable story of the beginning and end of the Negro Leagues with amazing displays of the teams, players, owners, and other key events of the times. We started our visit by watching a short documentary titled “They Were All Stars” narrated by Oscar-winning actor James Earl Jones. It was so well done, we ended up getting a copy of the DVD at the store. We then got to walk through time, thanks to the thoughtfully laid-out exhibits that progressed in chronological order. There was a statue of Rube Foster, the man who founded the Negro National League, at the beginning of our walk and we learned about the many teams that played including the hometown’s Kansas City Monarchs. There were individual stalls of the many famous players of the league like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige, and Buck O’Neill, among others. Just about everything you might have wanted to know about the story of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s modern-day color barrier in 1947, is chronicled here. As it turned out, the film 42, his story of Robinson’s ascent to the Dodgers and history, was first screened at this museum, the day before it was released nationwide. Harrison Ford, who played Branch Rickey (the man who signed Jackie Robinson), and Chadwick Boseman, who played Robinson in the movie, were on hand for the screening. It’s a fabulous movie and a potential Oscar nominee. Whether or not you are a baseball fan, you will likely enjoy it very much. We were also especially proud of the Cleveland connection to the league. The Indians owner Bill Veeck, signed Larry Doby who became the first African-American player to play in the American League (less than three months after Robinson made his debut with the Dodgers), and Satchel Paige, who became the oldest rookie in the majors at the age of 42! Both Doby and Paige were on the Indians team that won the 1948 World Series! Wow!! We finally got to see, near the end of our visit to the museum, the Field of Legends – a replica ballpark with statues of some of the more prominent players of the leagues in their respective positions. This visit was truly memorable!

After the NLBM, we went to the American Jazz Museum that was right across from it. This, too, was quite a place. At the front of the museum was an alto saxophone that was signed and donated by President Bill Clinton. Inside there were beautiful and rare exhibits of jazz pioneers such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker, among others. We also learned about the different instruments used to create jazz, and how rhythm, melody, and harmony come together to make this beautiful and distinctive genre of music.

We then took a ten-minute drive to Kauffman Stadium, and got there about an hour and a half before game time. It was fun to see fans tail-gating at the parking lot. We also got a good view of the Arrowhead Stadium next-door, home of the Kansas City Chiefs. As usual, we walked around the outside of the park first and took pictures. It was another hot and humid day. Thankfully, once we went in, we were able to get into the Royals Hall of Fame, which was air-conditioned. There we listened to a talk about the team’s history by a man in early-1900s baseball gear sporting a Rollie Fingers-type mustache. We then saw a really well made short film of the Royals that essentially underscored some of the things that we had just heard in the lecture. Once the movie was done, we continued to tour the Hall, see the many exhibits, and take more pictures. We saw Gold Gloves and Cy Young Awards won by the Royals players and, of course, their 1985 World Series trophy. This is definitely George Brett territory! Pine Tar, World Series, and all.

We finally got to our seats that were in the second row down the left field line near the foul pole. The view was great! Starting for the Royals was Jeremy Guthrie who was actually Cleveland’s first round pick out of Stanford University in 2002. After five years with the Tribe, he was let go, but has managed to stay in the Bigs as a starter. Today, however, he was going to have a rough one. The game began with a lead-off walk to Alejandro De Aza followed by a double to Alexei Ramirez. The next batter Alex Rios sent a grounder toward Miguel Tejada who threw out De Aza at the plate when he tried to score on the play. Chicago, however, was relentless. The next batter, Adam Dunn, walked to load the bases and then Guthrie served up another walk to Paul Konerko that brought in Ramirez from third for the first run of the game. Chicago scored another run in the inning on Conor Gillaspie’s sac fly to right that scored Rios and made it 2-0. Things got pretty ugly for the Royals in the top of the third. The inning started with three straight hits to left field. Ramirez led off with a single and was promptly brought by Rios who hit a double. Dunn followed with an RBI single that scored Rios. Then, after Konerko lined out to center, Gillaspie singled to right. The struggling Guthrie who, as a Royals starter, has never lost to the White Sox, was lifted after just two and one third innings. Former starter Bruce Chen came on to relieve Guthrie, but there was no relief to be found. His second pitch to Dayan Viciedo was crushed to left for a three-run homer that put an exclamation mark on the carnage. Chicago added two more in the sixth to make it 9-0 when De Aza smacked a two-run homer to right, behind Gordon Beckham’s double. The Royals escaped the shutout in the bottom of the inning on Eric Hosmer’s solo shot to center. The final score of the game was 9-1.

We walked around the ballpark during the game and took more pictures from various angles. This is a beautiful ballpark with an unusual scoreboard with fountains on either side of it. After the game, we stayed back for the fireworks, which were spectacular. That, along with the fact that this was a Friday game, probably explained the large attendance of nearly 34,000 fans.

After the game, we drove back to the hotel and turned in. Our next game is the last one on this leg. We will see you soon from there. Bye now!

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