I am nearly out of time on my vacation. While the impetus for my two weeks off was the United States Bowling Congress’ annual Open Tournament in Reno, I certainly also watched a lot of baseball, visiting Coors Field in Colorado and AT&T Park in San Francisco. I actually started the trip a little early, helping out by recording statistics at the Washington State High School baseball championships for 1A and 2A out in Yakima. The eight games I watched there, plus the other three games I went to in the last couple weeks (and I go again tonight) add up to 83 innings of baseball.
So let’s start in Yakima.
High schoolers play seven innings, not nine, so that made things a little easier than I had anticipated, but I was still worried about periods of crazy substitutions. I set up shop in the press box for the eight games and got to work. I didn’t have any rooting interest – and you’re supposed to keep out of openly rooting for anyone while you’re up there anyway – so I was mostly there to enjoy the art form and make decisions about hits and errors.
It was a strange tournament; we saw a couple of 9-6 fielders’ choice plays and copious baserunner substitutions. In high school play, any starting player may re-enter the game once if they are substituted out. Additionally, if a pitcher or catcher reach base, they may be lifted for a Courtesy Runner and re-enter defensively, so a lot of changes were made throughout the day.
High school teams also don’t have the same division of labor between pitching and hitting that pro teams do and they also have fewer players. They also keep the DH rule, but he may replace another non-pitching fielder. In one game, the DH was there for the left fielder and then the left fielder came on to run for the DH. The result meant that the team lost its DH and the left fielder dropped into the lineup in his place.
Walking into the park was a little different experience from normal; the woman who took my ticket also inspected my bag. Then I walked straight into the park from there. There were no stairs or anything, just walk on in, when you see this:
You could watch the game in Colorado from virtually everywhere around the park, it was very open, similar to Safeco. The park itself also seemed to have a great deal of pride for their relatively young team. Sorry about the blur, I took these with my phone.
There were many of these in the halls around the park with different players and their gold gloves, silver sluggers, and other achievements. If the Yankees did this, I think it would bother me and would just feel boastful, but there’s a humbleness to the Rockies approach here.
I decided that I could totally be a Rockies fan that day. They lost, so in a sense, it was familiar.
On to Reno! Though I didn’t visit the Aces ballpark (AAA – Diamondbacks), I did bowl well enough to cash in the Open. That’s probably another post for another blog.
The end of the trip took me to AT&T Park in San Francisco. I feel like AT&T gets talked up to the point where it’s supposed to be on the short-list of the Best in Baseball, where Coors is kind of forgotten about. It’s certainly a pretty park, but I found my first view of the field to be a little less than breathtaking. Once you get in the park at the home plate entrance, you have to wind your way up four ramps and it puts you out into the “promenade level,” which is full of concession stands and booths.
I was able to get to AT&T when the gates opened and I took a bunch of photos around the ballpark and there were a number of great places to hang out, like this shot, from approximately my Seattle Season Ticket Location:
I wound up sitting behind the Giants’ bullpen down the left field line, which got frustrating while wanting to follow the game. It was hard to watch game pitches between the warming up pitcher, catcher, coach, third baseman, third base coach, etc. Stephen Strasburg pitched for the Nationals during the game and went 6 innings of one-run ball while Washington pulled away.
What I think I learned more than anything else in going to the Giants is that seating location is really important, and I’m a big fan of the club level and the lower three or four rows of the upper deck, especially around the infield.