SECTION 331

Pushing a Giant Baseball Up a Hill and Watching It Roll Back Down Since 2008

Phantastic Phillies Phuntime Adventure

Yes, I really typed that. In public.

I am back in the air now, after spending yesterday in DC looking at memorials and really testing my back/leg. I did well without the cane, which I have not really had to use a lot the past few days. I think I am currently paying for it, though; Dulles was a difficult walk/stand for me. At least the TSA is kind enough to give you a wooden cane when you go through the scanners, so that was helpful. I should be OK after a decent night’s sleep in my own bed, which I am very much looking forward to. Currently, I have an all-day air pass for the laptop, and I plan to make great use of it. Ready to see some Philadelphia pictures? Away we go!

After the tire incident, we were back on the road by around noon, heading to Philly. I was tired after a really bad night of sleep, but the garage got us fixed and on our way. They also stole our unopened pint of rum. Not cool. We stopped at Maryland House, a travel plaza somewhere in, I assume, Maryland, and loaded up on water and food, and then used my Motel 6 app to find a place in Essington, not too far outside of Philadelphia. There was a smidge of a delay in checking in, due to some housekeeping issue or something, but eventually we did get a room, dumped our stuff, and got back on the road. A very short period of time later, we were sitting in a mostly-empty parking lot at Citizens Bank Park.

IMG_4289

 

IMG_4291Rick spent part of our wait dealing with the insurance company, while I poked around on my phone and took in the quiet, windy atmosphere. There appeared to be a storm moving in, and I hoped it would not rain. I snapped some photos while I was waiting..

IMG_4290Mr Baseball himself, Connie Mack. Rick asked who he was, and I brought back a discussion we had a few days ago about the Philadelphia Athletics and the white elephants. Mike Schmidt is honored on the grounds as well.

IMG_4292IMG_4293We sat near the third base gate for about 20-30 minutes before we realized that there were quite a few fans who were headed to a specific area down the opposite end of the stadium. I can’t remember if we asked someone or figured it out on our own, but eventually we decided to go with the stream, and wound up at the entrance for Ashburn Alley.

IMG_4294My obligatory picture of center field (we just kept entering fields from center. Not sure how that worked out, it just happened.

IMG_4296The first thing I had to do was hit up the Team Store. So we meandered over, and ran into Harry Kalas.

IMG_4295I wound up with a thin hoodie that is super comfy (and now has a water ice stain on the string that I hope never washes out), and some Hello Kitty stuff, along with a barbecue sauce that I don’t have a picture of currently. I think I posted something on Twitter about it. After the Team Store, we went back towards Ashburn Alley, because I was after a Tony Luke’s.

IMG_4297All the Philadelphia logos over the years. I have no idea why I found this fascinating, but I did. If you look in the third window from the left, you can see me taking the picture. Rick is next to me in the fourth window.

IMG_4298The man himself, Richie Ashburn. There were probably a bunch of sculptures I missed, but we walked almost all the way around the main concourse and I didn’t see anything. It can be extremely overwhelming, to get everything in the two hours between gates open and the game; and while I don’t mind moving around Safeco during the game, I didn’t want to miss a single bit of the pre-game festivities at any of these games, nor a bit of the games themselves. It was a hard line to walk.

We found the Tony Luke’s, and I looked desperately for a guide on how to order, but didn’t see it. Every cheesesteak place seems to have their preferences on what to call things. I got a Whiz wit with onions, but didn’t order it that way. They didn’t yell at me or send me to the back of the line, so I consider that a success. This thing was the length of my forearm, and I housed it in about five minutes, but not before taking this picture to send to Tom, who was very jealous that I got to have one, while not so jealous about the fact that it was at a ballpark, of course:

IMG_1523The bell. This thing lights up and moves back and forth for a win. I have video of that, but took it sideways so now I have to go do some research on how to fix that so I can post it here.

IMG_4299It was Asian Pacific Celebration Night at the park, so we were treated to a lot of performances. This was the first one (again, video will be posted later); lion dancers! Rick had never seen any lion dancers before (the hazards of living in a smaller area in Virginia, perhaps), and I love them.

IMG_4300IMG_4301I had promised myself that I would drink a Yuengling in Citizens Bank park, and I made good on that promise after my sandwich, standing next to Bull’s Barbecue (which smelled amazing, by the way) while the lion dancers walked by.

IMG_4303IMG_1524Rick and I walked along the remainder of the concourse, until we ran into the third base entrance again, where there were dancers balancing glasses of water extremely successfully

IMG_4304It was approaching game time, so we decided to head up to our section, which was 211. This is at a Terrace Club level between third base and right field, without paying Terrace Club prices. I think I got them for around $36 apiece. But first I had to take some above shots of Ashburn Alley.

IMG_4305IMG_4306I love that other fields have areas like The Pen. The Pen would be ten times more awesome if it was open, but then I’d have nowhere to sit in left field, so they can keep it the way it is. I don’t mind, Mariners. Here is a stitched shot of the whole park, taken from our seats:

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 11.43.38 AMThe pre-game festivities started with some dancing:

IMG_4310And some drumming (video later)…

IMG_4311And some stretching…

IMG_4313IMG_4314And some more dancing, only this time with the Phanatic…

IMG_4318I feel I need to say a few words about the Phanatic. I have heard and see a lot of hate for this mascot, and given the fact that I am generally sort of creeped out by amorphous, non-animal creatures that really aren’t anything in particular, I was unsure how I would react to him as part of the team. But Phillies fans love the Phanatic. And by love I don’t just mean, yay, he’s their mascot, I mean they really love him. Cheers every time he was on the field. Laughter every time he did something like hassle the field guards (video later) or check out the on-field dancers, clapping when he drove the ATV around the grass. Phanatic shirts. Phanatic hats (fuzzy green winter-style hats with tubular noses). I thought we loved the Moose in Seattle, but I clearly had not seen anything yet. It actually endeared him to me a bit; and while I have no plans to go out and buy anything with him on it, I love that the fans have embraced a mascot the way the Philadelphia fans have. I might have just gotten lucky at this one game, but it was nice to see.

IMG_4319The National Anthem was sung by an Asain choir, as the sun broke through the clouds just before going down. The wind had picked up a bit, but it was still mostly warm.

IMG_4322And Phillies starter for the night AJ Burnett and the bullpen high-fived and fist-bumped to their respective game-starting positions.

IMG_4323Burnett and the evening’s catcher, Carlos Ruiz.

IMG_4324Burnett taking his first throws of the game.

IMG_4335And Mr Ryan Howard doing Ryan Howard stuff at first base…

IMG_4332Tony Gwynn Jr takes a swing.

IMG_4338The Marlins traveled up from DC to annoy me, and Rick hates all things Florida, so we were totally on the Phillies side all the way. The Marlins also loaded up the bases twice; there might have been a third in there somewhere, but they did walk in a run, just like in DC against the Nats. Fear not, Mariners fans, we really don’t have the worst team in baseball right now. Not saying that the Marlins are the worst, but some of the things they did and didn’t do in DC and Philly were just atrocious.

IMG_4340Jimmy Rollins takes first base on a single.

Chase Utley steps up to the plate.

IMG_4342And swings his way into a force out for Rollins, obtaining first base for himself.

IMG_4344And Ryan Howard comes to the plate!

IMG_4345And that was when things went all weird in the first. Howard took a walk, and then Marlon Byrd doubled to score Utley. Then Dominic Brown singled, and Howard scored. Byrd attempted to score, but was thrown out at the plate to end the first inning. Not a bad start. The wind was in full effect by this time. It did die down later in the game, but it was blustery out for the first few innings.

IMG_4348Carlos Ruiz stands guard while Jarrod Saltalamacchia has more difficulty wrapping his name around another jersey.

IMG_4353Utley takes as a ball goes high and outside.

IMG_4354Marlins starter Jose Fernandez. Fernandez lasted until the bottom of the 5th, when he gave up a triple, three singles and two runs. Not the best way to leave the game, but it was absolutely necessary for him to be taken out at that point. The Marlins had two runs, but compared to Philly’s six, it would have been an awful idea to let Fernandez try to work things out.

IMG_4368Meanwhile, the Phanatic was in the stands over right field, riling up the fans and making grandiose gestures.

IMG_4374The stadium at night…

IMG_4385Burnett lobs one at a Marlin.

IMG_4387In the top of the 5th, Burnett threw a wild pitch that allowed Marcell Ozuna to take second. He then walked both Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee, an there had to be a meeting at the hill.

IMG_4394Apparently, Burnett strained a groin muscle or something similar, so he was pulled from the game in favor of Jake Diekman, handing the ball to manager Ryne Sandberg as he left the mound.

IMG_4395Jake Diekman finished the 5th for Burnett and threw the 6th as well.

IMG_4399In most parks, the batter’s eye is kind of boring’ a black or blue or green wall. But at Citizens Bank, they clearly take pride in their batter’s eye. It’s very pretty. If there was a wall somewhere else, I completely missed it (and if someone knows that this is not the eye, let me know), as all there was in center really was this:

IMG_4389There was a break in play for more dancing, and some of the cutest little girls you’ve ever seen. Of course, the Phanatic had to get in on the fun as well.

IMG_4405And during the 7th inning stretch, some bhangra dancing, Phanatic included.

IMG_4410Mario Hollands was in the game pitching for a very short while; so short I didn’t get a picture of him. He was replaced by Antonio Bastardo. Rick: “Bastardo?!??” Yep.

IMG_4414IMG_4415And then Steve Cishek came in for the Marlins in the bottom of the 8th. I don’t know where I have seen Cishek before, I feel like I have but I can’t place it. Maybe last time the Marlins came to town, after their field was commandeered for a U2 concert? I can’t remember. Anyway, Cishek has a crazy delivery. I have video of it, but until I can get that uploaded, here are five pictures that give you an idea of what it looks like:

IMG_4425IMG_4423IMG_4428IMG_4419IMG_4424Did the Marlins try to win? Eh, kinda, I guess. I mean, they were at the game, they were on the field, and they were playing baseball, but it just wasn’t going to happen for them this time, either. The Phillies bested them 6-3, and that is when I got to see a familiar face, one I haven’t seen in quite some time. Since moving from Boston to the National League, this guy has all but fallen off my radar. Thankfully. I never liked seeing him in Seattle, but now that he’s on “my “side, I’m OK with him.

IMG_4434With a three-run lead, Paps came in for the save, and he got it.

IMG_4436 IMG_4438IMG_4436IMG_4443And down went the Marlins, one, two, three. Everyone went nuts because that’s our job, and I was at that point 2 for 2 with being at winning home team games. The bell started lighting up and “ringing” and moving…

IMG_4450Just before the end of the game, I noticed what looked like a series of plaques over center field. It was near where I had eaten my sandwich on the left side of the batters eye in the above photo, and sort of above and off to the left side of the bullpens (or right, depending on what way you’re looking). Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I suggested we leave from the Alley, since the car was more or less out there anyway. And it was the Phillies Wall of Fame. There was an usher type, a young guy who was standing blocking my way as I tried to barrel down there to take a photo, and he put his hand out and told us he was trying to close the area. I put on my best puppy dog face and said “I came all the way from Seattle for this game, and we didn’t see this area until just now because we were sitting up there (pointed). Pleaaaase??? I promise; I just need three photos and I’ll be quick!” He regarded me for a moment before saying “OK, go ahead”, and waving me through. So here are my last three photos from the night:

IMG_4451IMG_4452IMG_4453And that was my trip to Citizens Bank Park! It sprinkled on us a little in the 8th inning, but since we were kind of sitting under an overhang we didn’t get much of it. It had stopped by the 9th, and was a clear drive back to the hotel in Essington. Oh, and I had a water ice, cherry, because that is what you do in Philly, outside of the cheesesteaks and Yuengling. At least, that’s what I do in Philly.

IMG_1530Seattle needs to figure out how to make these happen; water ices are absolutely amazing, and we need them here for the summer.

Well, that’s it. I hear the Mariners clobbered the Rangers down in Arlington like 7-1 or something? Nice work, boys. I don’t know that I will make it home tonight in any shape to watch any of the game; my big plans after I land at 6.15 later today are to do laundry and fall asleep as soon as humanly possible. There are still more trip photos and stories of a Really Awful No Good Very Bad Orioles Game from Sunday that was nearly painful in its scope of loser-ness. Yeowch! Back later with more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day at Camden Yards. Bats. Very Dangerous. YOU Go First.

And we have wifi!

This morning started off with a hefty dose of sleep, which I badly needed. We gathered our things and got ready to leave, and I got my standard gear on for Orioles games:

IMG_1535I’ll be wearing this when the O’s come to Seattle as well.

We stopped for some cash, drinks and snacks at a nearby gas station after checking out, and got on the road back to Maryland. The drive was not too bad. A lot of slowdowns and general business, but I would expect that on a Saturday anywhere. It didn’t take us long to get back to the Baltimore area, and I had already called ahead for the Motel 6 reservation in an area about 11 miles outside the city, so we were set to go.

We found the hotel, but couldn’t check in until 3, so drove around looking for a coffee house. There weren’t any. This area seems devoid of pretty much anything except car dealerships, some sort of mall that looked pretty uninvited, a lot of strip malls, gas stations, and general blah. Not finding even the Panera Bread that we thought was on the area via Google, we went back to the hotel, and discovered that there was a bar in the Days Inn above the 6, so went up there, figuring a quick drink and hanging out for an hour, and then we could check in, drop our stuff off, and get going. The bar turned out to be Paradise Indian Cuisine, which wasn’t so much a bar as a restaurant and party space rental. There was a buffet, and we were the only white people in there, and I have to say, the food smelled and looked amazing. If it were not for me wanting ballpark food, I would have gladly consumed my weight in curry and pakora ans samosas. Instead, I nursed a Kingfisher, and Rick and I chatted while people watching and checking out the cricket match on TV over the bar.

Around 2.40PM, we went back down to our own motel, and were able to check in, load our luggage into the room, and hop back in the car to go the stadium. Google maps has literally saved our bacon; were it not for this application, I never would have found a towing company for the tire the other night, and I think we would have gotten lost far more than would be comfortable for me. It’s been a gift. We followed ourselves on the blinking blue dot until we wound up on Russell Street, home of both Camden Yards, and MT& something-or-other Bank Stadium, where the Ravens play.

IMG_4456IMG_4458We had to drive all the way around the stadium, but did find parking, right across the street, for a miracle price of $10. Let me repeat that, parking across the street from the stadium for TEN. DOLLARS. None of this $20-$55 price gauging that happens on 1st Ave in Seattle. Ten bucks, a friendly traffic control officer to help you back in, boom, book it, done. From the car, we took walk back around the stadium towards Eutaw Street. I took a bunch of pictures…

IMG_4459IMG_4460There was an area on the corner of Russell and Camden Streets that had a lot of bars that clearly catered to pre-game fans. Brian Roberts has his own statue there, Gold Glove and everything.  EDIT: BROOKS ROBINSON. Sorry, you guys, I was exhausted.

IMG_4461IMG_4463And the Eutaw Street courtyard…

IMG_4466Me and Cal Ripken’s number, making friends:

IMG_4469We wound up going into the gift shot at the Sports Legends Museum, but I didn’t realize that it was for the museum specifically, and then Rick pointed out that there was a larger Team Store inside; he has been to the Yard before, he has a friend who is a huge Orioles fan. So we went to the ticket office to buy tickets for Sunday’s game, and then just sort of hung out in this area, waiting for them to open the gates.

IMG_4470IMG_4471Waiting was torture. Especially once the food vendors started cooking. The smell of barbecue, hot dogs, and burgers was absolutely out of control, and I have been eating lightly or really saving my appetite for ballpark food the past few days. Around 5PM, our bags were checked and the gates were opened, and we were finally allowed inside the gates.

IMG_4472The Orioles Hall of Fame. All the greats from the teams history are here out over center field. It is fascinating to me to see such a storied history. The Mariners are such a young ballclub, we have our greats, but not like this. I wanted to go into the Team Store to make my bank account regret ever living, but first of all, a picture of the field. This seems to have been my modus operandi for this trip, as for whatever reason, we have wound up going to the center field entrances of all three parks.

IMG_4473Did I mention what an amazing day it was for a ball game? I have had incredible luck; I was really concerned about the possibility of a rainout, given that it was snowing in a lot of the areas over here only three weeks ago. But we have had nothing but pleasantly warm weather the entire time I have been here; even yesterday’s game in Philadelphia, that was plagued by a lot of wind and a small sprinkling of rain towards the end of the game, was still pretty warm out. I decided to snap a few quick shots of the tail end of Orioles BP…

IMG_4476IMG_4474IMG_4477…and then we hit the Team Store, along with everyone else. What a zoo! I was hoping to find a thin hoodie like I got at Citizens Bank the other night, but no dice. I did find their Hello Kitty section, and nabbed a 3/4 sleeve shirt with an O’s patch on it, along with a pair of socks:

IMG_1544Once the Team Store was done, we were going to try and get into Dempsey’s and have a nice leisurely sit-down lunch, but there was a 25-minute wait, and I just didn’t think I could cover much ground if I had to wait that long. I’d feel too hurried to eat. So we decided against it (we’ll try again before Sunday’s game), and wandered in the direction of the main gates. I nabbed a beer that at this late hour I cannot remember the name of – I want to say it was a Goose Island Honker Ale; I just remember the goose heads on the taps – and we investigated the main concourse, strolling towards the area our seats were in.

IMG_4478IMG_4479We nabbed Rick a whiskey at one of the bars along the way. Fun fact; you can have hard alcohol anywhere in the stadium. I am not sure if it has to do with Maryland’s liquor laws or what, but it was kind of nice. I’d like to be able to grab a margarita at Edgar’s and take it to my seat, but we’re not allowed. At Camden, you can just walk around with your drink, whatever that drink may be. It was kind of refreshing. After looping almost around to the Eutaw Street area again, we decided it would be best to grab some food and head to our seats. Rick got a dog and some waffle fries (really good waffle fries), I got a Chesapeake crab roll. It was delicious. Expensive at $16, but delicious.

IMG_1541We found an usher, who escorted us to our seats, rather than just tell us where they were. When we got there, he took a towel and dusted them both off and left. We discovered later that this is an extra service, and that tips are apparently expected. I don’t know how much to tip for something like this, particularly when I am perfectly capable of finding and dusting off my own seat. We saw a lot of bills exchanging hands. I got our seats from a season ticketholder on StubHub, and they were nice and cushioned, which was pleasant for my back. But I have never in my life given any money to someone for showing me something I was well and capable of figuring out myself. I don’t mean to be a bad customer, but I have discovered on this trip that there is a lot of very odd tipping etiquette. I’m from the Northwest; I tip for food service, drink service, and coffee service. Anything else is unfamiliar. In any event, this is where we were sitting:

IMG_4480And the Warehouse, across the way:

IMG_4481I had hoped to get my picture taken with The Bird, but no such luck. I am sure it is my unfamiliarity with the ins and outs of the field, but The Bird didn’t seem to appear anywhere but on the field. He is also responsible for putting the rosin bag on the mound, but not before a few animated antics:

IMG_4494IMG_4495And just then, who should I see but Brandon Morrow! I had completely forgotten that he was still in Toronto.

IMG_4498He went out of the dugout and stood on line for the National Anthem, and then just as quickly, disappeared back into the dugout for the remainder of the game.

IMG_4499The Canadian National Anthem was sung by a choir for the Jays, and then our own National Anthem. I had been given the knowledge that at OPACY, the “OH!” in the phrase “Oh say does that Star Spangled banner yet wave…” was sung at loud volume by the whole park. I am glad I remembered, and yelled it out like a pro.

And then, the game started. Bud Norris took the hill for the top of the first, and made quick work of the top of the Jays order.

IMG_4502IMG_4503IMG_4505And of course, one of the reasons I became an Orioles fan, outside of my brief glimpse into the awesomeness that was Chad Bradford, our dear gone but not forgotten, Adam Jones!

IMG_4506I miss you Adam Jones. The hot second where Erik Bedard was amazing for one game was never worth what we lost by sending you to the east coast.

IMG_4509Jose Bautista, taking a good look at some Norris tosses. Bautista suffered the taunts of an Orioles fan, who was very loud and yelled in a very odd sort of Brooklyn accent, “JOOOEEEYYYYBYAAATS!” every time Bautista would come to the plate. It was annoying at first, then it just became funny. I don’t know that I have ever heard anyone use a player’s Twitter handle to heckle them, but this guy was ready, willing, and loud enough that Bautista had to have heard him at least a few times.

IMG_4513Nick Markakis takes a low pitch over the plate.

Adam Jones singles, and then messes with opposing pitcher Drew Hutchison while at first…

IMG_4515IMG_4516Drew Hutchison has a very bizarre set position. I love pitchers because everyone is different. Batters are all different too, and guys like Kevin Youkilis are always doing something weird with the bat or their batting stance or something about their plate rituals, but there are a lot of really bizarre ways that pitchers choose to gain success. Hutchison looks like he’s expecting someone to dump cold water on him from behind at any moment.

IMG_4522And then, a tiny kick, post-throw.

IMG_4523And Nelson Cruz was suited up in tonight’s lineup as well. I know there were some vastly differing camps on this guy within the Mariner fandom; a lot of people didn’t want him, but still more people did, and it didn’t seem like any situation the Mariners would have made would have made everyone happy. So the Orioles saved us some trouble, and took Cruz for themselves. Cruz went 1 for 4 tonight, in the DH slot. It sort of just is what it is, and one game doesn’t change my opinion of him one way or the other.

IMG_4529There was a play at first where instant replay on the screen clearly showed that Oriole Steve Lombardozzi was out at first; Edwin Encarnacion’s foot never left the bag. But for some reason, the ump called Lombardozzi safe. The Jays rightfully challenged it. I am getting very tired at this point in writing (it’s after 2AM EST), but I believe the call was upheld. I am not sure what the point of replay and being able to challenge is worth, if a call that the entire stadium can see with the naked eye in a slow motion replay is upheld by professionals who are partially responsible for the outcome of the game. I was on the O’s side, but it was simply a bad call, end of story.

IMG_4532Shortstop JJ Hardy takes a bad swing at a dirtball.

IMG_4540Bud Norris was relieved by Evan Meek, who pitched the 8th inning, after Norris successfully kept the Jays shut out.

IMG_4542

And then who should show up on the hill for the Jays but another guy I miss, Steve Delabar!

IMG_4548IMG_4549Monster arms!

IMG_4551And then it was the top of the 9th. 1-0 Orioles, and Tommy Hunter came in to pitch. The people in back of us were convinced that this was it: Hunter in, game over. But that’s not how it played out. I wish I could tell you that Hunter put up the good fight and went 1-2-3 and the game was over. I wish I could tell you that. But baseball is no fairytale world. And a lot of the time, what you want doesn’t happen. Hunter came in and did well, alright: he got both Adam Lind and Dioner Navarro to pop up and fly out. We were on our feet, this was it; the Orioles were going to clinch this, right here and now. But you know what? Colby Rasmus doesn’t care about what we want, and that is why we can’t have nice things like smooth, nine -inning pitchers duels. Nope. Rasmus looked a 98MPH 4-seamer right in the face and sent it screaming over right center to tie the game.

IMG_4556Todd Redmond relieved Steve Delabar, and boom, boom, boom, three Birds down and onto the 10th.

Fortunately for yours truly, the Orioles management team dug up Darren O’Day, and let him do that weird thing he does for the top of the 10th. I love that weird thing he does.

IMG_4561IMG_4564IMG_4562O’Day was replaced by Zach Britton, who I failed to get any photos of because I started to wonder if we would ever, ever get out of there at this point. But the 11th inning went quickly, and then the 12 inning went quickly for the Jays, and then the thing that I had been wanting to happen actually happened. A walk-off. A dramatic walk-off. Not a dinger, because this was just how the game was going to go. The Jays decided to keep Todd Redmond in maybe slightly longer relief than they should have. And Redmond faltered. A first pitch 91MPH sinker was all Steve Lombardozzo needed, and he hit it to center fielder Colby Rasmus, who was unable to get it back in play before Lombardozza made it all the way to third base. It seems somewhat fitting that the guy who is responsible for me having to be up so late to write this post is also, oddly, the guy who gave the O’s the win.

IMG_4566You see, Todd Redmond likes his low 90s sinkers. You know who else likes low 90s sinkers? David Lough, who smacked a single to left field to drive in Lombardozzi, much to the joy of those of us still present, and Lough’s teammates.

IMG_4567IMG_4568IMG_4570There were some other things I feel I cannot leave out. Apparently, Rick and I were on TV multiple times this evening, due to the location of our seats. Every time a right handed batter stepped up to the plate, Rick and I were on TV. Look no further than this Tweet from a helpful fellow baseball fan for proof! We also received numerous texts from Rick’s father and a friend, telling us to quit making faces or stop taking pictures. Very funny. There was also an incident late in the game where Edwin Encarnacion let go of his bat, sending it right at us. It passed through the gap between me and the people who were sitting two seats away, and hit a Jays fan sitting behind us in the knee. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a baseball bat thrown at you by a major league player, but it is -and please excuse my language here- fucking terrifying. I vaguely remember one of the thoughts going through my head being something to the effect of  ‘well, this is it, now I’m a statistic’, but fortunately the spinning piece of solid ash or maple did not hit me at all, and caused the poor Jays fan only minimal damage to his leg. The horrible thing? The usher took the bat from the fan and gave it back to the Jays dugout! If it HAD hit me, you’d have to pry it out of my cold dead hands. I prefer to keep my attempted murder weapons, thank you. As we left the stadium, I asked him if he was OK, and he showed us his leg, with a reddish bruise on the side of his knee. He said it was OK, it just really hurt when it hit the bone. He kept looking at the usher down front, so I hope that he was going to make a play to try and get the bat back from the dugout. He deserves more than the ice pack they gave him for his troubles, and Encarnacion better autograph that thing for him.

It is just four minutes of 3AM as I am committing this to publish, and I will be up at 9 tomorrow, so we can get ready to check out and go have an early brunch/lunch at Dempsey’s before tomorrow’s game. I have a lot of other things I need to do and take pictures of there, and I am glad we have tickets for tomorrow’s game. Upper deck, 300 level, so nothing terribly fancy, but it will be sitting a little more my general style, and I am looking forward to it. Let’s go, Orioles!

Phillies Post Postponed

We got back to the hotel to find that the internet had been down shortly after we left and isn’t scheduled to come back until tomorrow, likely after we are gone. Check out is at noon, so if it’s up when I wake up, I will try and get something up then; but video and photos are absolutely impossible to put up right now; I can navigate to various sites, and write if I want, but even my own photos here don’t upload at all; just a Spinning Wheel of Death. And there are many photos and actually quite a bit of video from this one tonight. So I need a nice quick connection if I want to get anything done at all.

At the moment, though, I can completely and overwhelmingly verify that I had a blast, the Phillies won, and getting in and out of the area was relatively easy from our hotel. So things have gone pretty smoothly today, and it looks like I might actually get a full night of sleep tonight, which comes at an excellent time, given that the holy pilgrimage to Camden begins tomorrow. I can hardly wait!

Washington Nationals and The Tire Incident

Writing to you from Baltimore. I was supposed to be writing from Philadelphia, and this was supposed to be done last night. But more on that later.

Yesterday Rick came to get me from the Motel 6 in Springfield, VA, and we drove to a Metro station to get into the city.

IMG_1493While fast and efficient, the DC Metro has to be the most confusing and difficult to use public transit system I have ever been on. Ticket prices are not exact, the adding-on of money to paper tickets vs. plastic passcards seems meant to stymie the out-of-towner, and in general it’s just kind of a pain in the ass. But it got us where we needed to go, which was, well, right here:

IMG_4142I am not sure what street this is, but it’s closed to traffic, much like Occidental in Seattle. It was a beautiful day – around 60 or 65 degrees, and I didn’t even wear a jacket, which is good, because I didn’t bring one with me. As we approached the stadium, it became more apparent that we were at the center field entrance.

IMG_4143As we approached the gate, one of the field employees came up and complimented my hair, asking if it was done for the game and I was a really dedicated fan, or if it was always that way. I told her it was always that way, and as we walked past with thank yous and “Enjoy the game!”, Rick snickered “Heh, she thinks you’re a Marlins fan.” This is when it became apparent to me that my jersey was unbuttoned, so it could, indeed, have said Marlins. I buttoned up, post haste.

We got into the park and were met with sculptures!

IMG_4144That is Rick, taking his own photos.

IMG_4145And then a wall of Nationals off to the side against one of the parking garages:

IMG_4146And center field, where people were already watching the Nats take BP!

IMG_4147I was having a hard time finding the email that was sent by Mr Lintott to figure out what the barbecue place was we needed to eat at, but the Red Porch was right there, and there was seating, so after a quick browse in the center field Team Store looking for a stuffed Screech (and not finding one), we decided eating was for the best.

IMG_4149The food there is not bad at all. I had a Greek salad that featured avocados, watercress, corn and something else that I’m too tired to remember right now that wasn’t Greek, but as a salad it was really good. Rick had a margherita pizza, but I was too busy housing my salad and drinking my 20oz glass of Yuengling to ask how it might have been. The waitress was super friendly, but was unable to tell us where to find the “W” pretzels that I was after.

IMG_4150The Marlins, taking batting practice.

IMG_4151Outside the Red Porch stands a plaque to commemorate lives lost in the Navy Yard shooting last year:

IMG_4148We walked around the stadium after lunch, towards right field, and found an escalator to the upper deck, where there was a sort of party atmosphere by the handful of people who had shown up as early as we did. A DJ, what looked like one or two places with a full bar, and some swag stands. At about right field, the deck runs out for the public, and you have a sort of Terrace Club situation with special tickets and indoor food and such, but I took some pictures.

IMG_4152I tried to stitch a panorama shot together here:

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 9.42.05 AMIt’s not my best work, but you get the idea.

The Mariners have several different sizes of Moose, so I figured the same would apply to Screech. Unfortunately, it does not. There seemed to be two options; either a Pillow Pet, which would have required us carrying something large around, or this little puppet guy, who I absolutely do not regret paying for:

IMG_1499Adorable!

After figuring out there wasn’t much farther we could go, we went back downstairs and proceeded on the main concourse over right field. Near the front gate, we saw this thing:

IMG_4155The wheels all spin and it plays a version of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. I have video, but unfortunately no time to upload it to YouTube right now.

We came across the Wall of Dreams, which I couldn’t stand up long enough to read all of; if you’ve never had sciatica, walking is usually OK, but standing is nearly impossible. It hurts a lot. So I took pictures:

IMG_4157IMG_4158IMG_4159IMG_4160IMG_4161Without having had the chance to sit and read the enlarged photos in detail, it appears to be a history of baseball in the DC area? Someone correct me if I’m wrong. In any event, I wish I could have enjoyed it more while I was there; but my spine rules everything around me right now, and it just wasn’t possible.

Rick and I had been lightly bantering up to this point as to whether or not the “W” pretzel actually existed. We asked our waitress at the Red Porch, but she didn’t seem to know what we were talking about, and every single kiosk up to that point had just regular pretzels. Internet service is spotty with AT&T (sorry, it’s true, you can be terrible, guys), but we stopped and I looked on the Nats site, because I was convinced I was not crazy. Section 106, Hometown Pretzel Company is what we were after, and after more walking, we found them!

IMG_1500VICTORY IS MINE!

At this point we were about half hour away from game time, so went and found our seats in 114, row V. Screech and some of the Presidents were greeting the fans down front:

IMG_4162IMG_4163And the view from our seats:

IMG_4164At a Washington Nationals game, listening to the National Anthem, with a military color guard. They don’t do patriotism “light” here at all.

IMG_4165And then it was time to play ball!

I can officially say I know absolutely no players on the Miami Marlins. Not a one. The starting lineup was so unfamiliar to me, they might as well have been announcing keynote speakers at at an industrial parts convention. But I know a few Nats. So here are some pictures of the team I was rooting for. A team in red, I might add, which really messed with my general paradigm. The Angels and Rangers have ruined me forever.

IMG_4167Brycer Harper! His jersey was by far the most popular at the stadium, unless you count the fans wearing this guy’s name on their backs. You guessed it, the one and only Stephen Strasburg:

IMG_4169IMG_4170IMG_4171IMG_4176IMG_4178IMG_4180I took SO many photos of him. I won’t post them all here, because it would take me forever.

IMG_4186Jayson Werth, ignoring the ball flying up and outside (you can see it over his right shoulder). Werth was a hero of sorts on Wednesday night, when he hit a grand slam against the Marlins in what I believe was the bottom of the 9th inning. You don’t see that every day…or do you? More on that later…

In any event, Werth worked his way to a walk, and spent some time messing with the Marlins starter.

IMG_4188 IMG_4190Harper in left field:

IMG_4192Werth in right:

IMG_4195Bryce Harper’s sweet swing:

IMG_4196IMG_4197Ryan Zimmerman, third basing like it’s his job:

IMG_4199Strasburg, up to bat. The pitchers batting thing always gets me. I don’t mind it, it’s just not what I’m used to. It doesn’t seem to bother Strasburg, who struck out 12 bats yesterday in 6 &2/3 innings of 1-run ball, a solo shot given up to Marcell Ozuna, right before he was pulled in favor of Jerry Blevins.

IMG_4204And then we go to see the President’s Race! Lincoln won, and nobody fell down.

IMG_4207Bryce Harper running and reaching. I don’t remember what inning this was, to be honest.

IMG_4214IMG_4215Strasburg did have a couple of issues. The Marlins spent some time taunting him at first.

IMG_4223IMG_4228He never did get the pickoff, but he was definitely ever-vigilant about it.

The Nats bullpen, relaxing in the sun, waiting for their turn:

IMG_4230They got their chance soon enough. Strasburg was taken off the mound after allowing two on with two outs. It was painful, but I stood up and applauded him. It was an honor to be able to watch him play.

IMG_4231Strasburg was relieved by Jerry Blevins.

IMG_4237Blevins has an odd little leg lift and kick:

IMG_4238IMG_4239At one point, I spotted Doug Fister!

IMG_4252In the bottom of the 8th inning, with a 2-1 game, things got weird.

The Marlins reliever Arquimedes Caminero managed to load the bases. Then this happened:

The Marlins then did what I thought at the time was either the bravest or the dumbest thing they could possibly do; they left Caminero in.

IMG_4262It turned out to be the dumbest thing, because Ian Desmond stepped up to the plate and did this like a boss:

Two grand slams for the Nats in two days. If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it.

I don’t really know what happened with the rest of the game. The Nats brought their closer in and that was that, Nats win it a wonderful 7-1. I have photos of him as well, but not a lot of time right now, because…

After the game, we took the Metro back to the car, stopped off at a Baja Fresh for dinner, and got on the road. Somewhere after the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, a truck with an unsecured load started losing stuff all over the place. Large metal chunks of something, I’m not sure what. We ran over it, and the back driver’s side tire was completely destroyed. I Googled a nearby garage, but they were having a busy night, and I was told they would come as soon as they could. A patrolman was called to get us and the truck driver to exchange information, and the truck driver drove off, while Rick and I sat on the side of I-895 for a good three hours or so. Rick’s tire rim was completely destroyed, but the garage got us a hotel to stay in, which is where I am writing from now. If it had not been for the fact that there was a three-car wreck in front of the garage itself, we might have gotten to sleep much faster, but like they say, go big or go home. We are both fine, if not extremely annoyed and tired. No injuries were incurred.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, and we found out that the insurance of the truck company will likely not cover the damages; it was apparently Rick’s “fault” for not avoiding the stuff in the road, but the driver I guess has zero culpability to secure his scrap metal in the state of Maryland? I don’t know, but things aren’t looking good for reimbursement. Always an adventure, road trips. We are waiting for the garage to come and get us, the car is ready to go. An hour or so towards Philly and another hotel, and hopefully a relatively uneventful evening for both of us. I have been in worse situations, so I am taking everything as it comes and have remained – if you know me – miraculously calm under the circumstances. Whatever the case, I feel I have earned the beer I am planning on having later, and anything else positive that happens today and on the rest of this trip. I feel we are both in need of some good luck at this point.

 

 

Mariners Fan Conquers Virginia, Eats at Nando’s, Falls Asleep on Own Face

I made it!

Landed in Dulles yesterday, and got wheelchaired to the luggage carousel. Pro-tip; you’re supposed to tip these folks. I had no idea. I didn’t have but two dollars on me the whole day yesterday, so the guy that got me at Dulles wound up with two of mine and two of my friend Rick’s, puppy dog eyes from me, and profuse apologies. Apologies also to the folks who did me up in Seattle and San Francisco. No wonder the gal at SeaTac was looking at me so funny, but I figured it was the hair. Lesson learned.

So yesterday I learned that Dulles airport is actually in Virginia. I was about a B student in geography, but that was many years ago. We drove around back roads to get around some pretty awful interstate traffic, and wound up at a Nando’s Chicken in Springfield. Or maybe Woodbridge. I am almost not sure where I am now, and I’ve stayed the night here. Generally speaking, while on the road, unless I’m at the places I’m supposed to be, I don’t know where I am and I don’t care as long as I’m safe; this Motel 6 off a highway seems to fit the bill.

A delicious dinner was had (seriously, if you live over here and have one near you and like spicy food, you have NO excuse to not go to one), a pint of Jack Daniels and some small cans of Coke were procured, and we ventured off to find the place I’m staying now. Some road confusion and general swearing later, and we found ourselves in the lobby of what initially appeared to be a rather sketchy Motel 6. I just used my phone to pinpoint myself, I am apparently right off I-95 in Springfield, VA. The very patient man at the counter gave me a double room for the price of a single, and then free wifi because I forgot to pay for it with the room charge. His price? A good review on a survey they will email to me. I have no problem with that. This room, while looking vaguely like a military barracks, is clean, and the bed is nice on my back.

After I checked in, Rick helped me get my stuff up to the room, and we sat around doing some internet stuff for the trip ahead and talking about baseball history while I had him check out my posts from my Cooperstown trip a few years ago. It was at this point that I discovered that today’s ballgame will be started by none other than Stephen Strasburg! I really wasn’t interested in anything other than seeing a ballgame today; I have no love or hate for the Nationals, I just figured that since I was going to be in the area anyway, I might as well see a ballgame. But this??? THIS is awesome. I will now spend the next few hours figuring out if wearing a Mariners jersey to this game is going to look supportive or sad. 101 in 2008 represent!

I think I fell asleep somewhere around midnight or slightly after, after telling myself I was only going to lay down “for a little bit”. I woke up in the middle of the night face down on the bed, drooling as only the classiest lady can, with GameDay open to the Ms/Angels shutout, the TV on, and all the lights still on. A few hours later, and I am still kind of tired, but too excited for my day to sleep any further. I need to shower off the plane from yesterday and get ready for adventure!

We will be taking the Metro to the field. Due to the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC this weekend, traffic may be horribly snarled, and it is likely better safe than sorry as far as transportation into the city. Also, it will save us from having to shuck out money for parking.

My goals today; barbecue that has been recommended by Robert Lintott from 7500 to Holte, a “W” shaped pretzel, my first-timer’s certificate (if not for children only), and a stuffed version of the Nationals’ mascot Screech.  LET’S GO NATS!

 

Mariners Home Opener From 25,000 Feet

First, a bit of a warning; I found out the hard way on the Seattle-San Francisco leg of my trip that sitting in airplane seats with a slipped disc/sciatica is no picnic. I was able to grab some food and take some pain medication, so this is a caveat that if anything sounds weird in this post, I am blaming it entirely on a capsule of oxycodone and the whopping three hours of sleep I got last night. If I had had a choice, I would have opted for a later flight; but it was either 6AM, or get to DC after 11PM today, and I need to have dinner at Nando’s tonight – need to – so 6AM was my option.

So how about those Mariners, eh? If you weren’t at the game, I am sorry, and if you didn’t watch it on TV either, you surely missed a wonderfully suspenseful and eventful opening day.

I got out of work around 3.15PM, planning to walk to the stadium and meet Tom at Jimmy’s. Before I left, I got a text from him saying that Jimmys’ was wall-to-wall people, and that he’d meet me at the Pyramid beer garden instead. It was windy and raining, and I am still using a cane to get around (in the event you haven’t been playing along on Twitter, it’s Robinson Cane-o), so in an effort not to make my life a mess of difficulty by carrying a golf umbrella and walking with a cane, plus my bag, I opted to take the 21 to the Edgar Martinez stop, walk carefully up the stairs, and meet Tom at Pyramid, where I really enjoyed the daylights out of an Apricot Ale as we sat near the loading bay in the rain. Then we went across the street to the stadium.

Around 4.40PM, there was a countdown from the 710 ESPN booth near left field, with people yelling “Happy new year!” and the gate horns blowing to signify that the field was open. We went to the center field entrance, donated a few dollars and change to the Red Cross folks who were out collecting for the devastation in Oso, and got inside. I waited in line – painfully – for a beer from my favorite bartender down in The Pen, and Tom and I stood around while I drank it and chatted with a pair of alcohol enforcement officers I always say hi to down there. When I was done with my drink and it became abundantly apparent that amateur hour had started (I stood and watched as a fellow in his mid-20s was nearly unable to make his mouth with his glass, and still had another full glass in his possession), we went to the elevator to get to the main concourse, and then up to the 300 level.

Our seats were in 341, so after procuring yet another beer (I’m on vacation, shush), we went to our seats. It was a pair of view box seats, which honestly I didn’t realize I had purchased, and the view was fantastic. It was nice to just sit up there as the seats filled in, watching the grounds crew make a giant “2014″ with Diamond-Dri behind second base, and the other preparations they normally go through.

IMG_4067Around 6.30, it was time for the pre-game ceremony, started by a countdown that was followed by a lot of cheering and general freaking out by all present.

IMG_4068IMG_4069Tom helpfully noted that this spells out “SOS”, which, he felt after the past few years, is severely appropriate.

And again, as every year, we had the red carpet out for the boys, with some season ticket holders lining up for their run:

IMG_4070And Felix!

IMG_4071And a terrible picture of Tom Wilhelmsen, low-fiving the training staff!

IMG_4072And lots and lots of explosions. The home opener is like a Michael Bay film.

IMG_4074IMG_4075And the military band for the National Anthem, because we’re super patriotic like that here in Seattle, the land of equal marriage and marijuana for all.

IMG_4078And more explosions, while our boys are all lined up on the field.

IMG_4080

Robinson Cano was the winner of the 2013 Silver Slugger Award, and while I am of course super happy for him, it seems odd that Jack Zduriencik and company should be presenting the award to him for things he did while in New York. But I don’t really mind. We could have nobody worthy of a Silver Slugger at all. I am just glad he’s on our side now. In spite of any misgivings I may have had about the actual deal we made to get him, I am solidly a Cano fan. He was good when he was with the Yankees, there is no reason to think, based on what I have seen so far, that his performance won’t continue, at least for a little while.

IMG_4083We have three rookies in thebullpen this year, and it’s nice to see they are being treated accordingly!

IMG_4086That is a terrible photo, but you get the idea.

Part of the evening’s pre-game ceremonies included a big nod to our dear Seattle Seahawks, who, if you recall, won an Actual SuperBowl this year! I of course was hoping for Green Bay to top the 49ers in the playoffs, but that did not happen in what I can only describe as a very funny text conversation between me and my friend Rick (whom I am flying to meet right now), in which he was convinced the Packers were going to best San Francisco. Of course the 49ers came back towards the end of that contest, in what I refer to as a just-my-luck kind of game. Then some other stuff happened and the Seahawks won the SuperBowl in an amazing rout of 48-3 or something ridiculous like that. Yeah, yeah, it’s not my game. But I got caught up in the fervor of it all, too, if only because every year the SuperBowl means that we can all relax because baseball is around the corner. Anyway, some pictures of the fellows responsible, as they walked across the field to the strains of “Bittersweet Symphony”. With the trophy, even!

IMG_4087IMG_4088IMG_4089

After that, it was time to start. I decided to go grab one more drink, figuring the lines would have calmed down by then. I’m kind of glad I did, because the Angels lit James Paxton up like a candle, taking three runs from him in the top of the first inning. I figured that it was still early, but also, that we were still watching the Mariners, and in spite of their amazing road 4-2 trip, I am definitely preparing myself for when things go horribly, terribly wrong. What better opportunity than the home opener?

IMG_4092Our man Cano taking some hacks.

I am huge fan of consistency and reliability, and so with all the roster changes from year to year and sometimes month to month,  it makes me happy to see familiar things at the ballpark. These two groups of fans, The Four Old Bats and Amy the Ichimeter lady and her family, always make me feel like I’m truly at home in Safeco Field. I just love knowing they’re there. When it was announced that Ichiro was going to New York, Amy was the first person that popped into my head. You don’t find fan devotion to that extent very often, nor do you find it reciprocated by players; I understand that Ichiro has given Amy a pair of his shoes, among other small baseball tokens of appreciation for her fandom. You don’t see a player/fan relationship like theirs every day, and I look forward to seeing the ‘Meter out over right again when the Yankees visit us this year.

IMG_4096IMG_4097

The game certainly did start off poorly, but it didn’t stay that way for long. Corey Hart proved to be the man of the evening last night, hitting two home runs – one with two on base, and the other a solo crush over left – that really helped us out. It is such a rare thing for the Mariners to have a DH who actually H’s; I could not have been happier with Hart’s performance last night.

IMG_4100Mike Zunino, getting a small lead on Albert Pujols.

IMG_4099Pujols and Zunino in their reversed roles. I have come to really like Mike Zunino. He and Brad Miller have been turning this into a really exciting season so far for me. I don’t know if it’s the fact that they both seem to have been doing pretty well at a major league level so early in the year, or their general upbeat attitudes towards being here, or both…probably both. Just glad to see us fielding another team that I think I’m going to really like no matter what. The last time that happened was in 2009, so I feel I’m about due.

Jamex Paxton left in the middle of the 6th inning due to what they are calling a strained latissmus dorsi. I hope it is nothing more than a strain and does not, in fact, mirror Stephen Pryor’s early season issues from last year. In any event, as sad as it might have been that Paxton was settling down and pitching well, holding the Angels to only those first three runs, he was replaced by Yoervis Medina, who was replaced by Danny Farquhar, who was replaced by this guy!

IMG_4113IMG_4112IMG_4116Who doesn’t love a good Tom Wilhelmsen?

IMG_4106Justin Smoak, yelling at someone after his 5th inning double. Smoak was in fine form last night, going 2 for 4, and driving a run in. I am just checking the box as I write this, and Corey Hart was 4 for 4! Something I didn’t key into last night. Very impressive. We don’t get that much here in blue and gray country.

IMG_4120Mike Zunino, smacking a ball into the dirt. I don’t mean to make with the Zunino overkill, I just like how this one came out.

After Corey Hart sealed the thing for us by hitting his solo jack in the bottom of the 7th, and the Mariners relievers had all managed to keep the Angels from advancing their runs any further, Fernando Rodney came in with the best entrance song and best graphics I have seen in a while. Very simple blue and white graphics, with plenty of video of Rodney looking at the camera in a menacing fashion. Because hes’s good at that. Maybe as he notches more saves for us, they can add some action shots of him striking out some opposition. I loved the song that went with it as well, though as I sit here drugged up and sleep deprived, I can’t remember what it was or sounded like, just that I liked it a lot.

IMG_4129Rodney walked two before getting his save, but he really does have a very no-nonsense approach to pitching, and he looks scary doing it. Last night that might have been the kind of scary we as Mariners fans don’t want to see, but the end result was a win, and while it was a bit much for my heart in places, everything came out well for us in the end.

IMG_4137IMG_4138IMG_4133And that was all she wrote. Mariners win it, 5-3.

i wanted to get a shot of the on-field celebration, but it was late and I knew I probably wouldn’t get to sleep until midnight, so we left as fast as my very tired lower half and cane could carry me, and got to the car. Tom got total rock star parking, for free, in back of the new building kittycorner from the home plate entrance, so we got back home pretty fast. All in all, it was a great evening, and I would not have had it any other way.

On a personal note, I have noticed that there is something very distinctly different about how I am treated at the park by other people, depending on my mode of transportation. So far, I have been there in both a wheelchair, and using my cane but walking. In the wheelchair, I got a lot of looks from people that seemed to say “oh dear, she’s dying”. With the cane last night,  and wearing my jersey, an older woman walking behind me into the restroom asked “So is that your special section that they take you back to if you’re lost?” I told her that it was the section that I first had my season tickets in, which of course is the truth. The look on her face and her half-embarrassed laughter told me that she perhaps thought that I would not have responded to her in clear, concise English. I have a lot more sympathy for people who are confined to wheelchairs or need some other sort of assistance with their mobility, and a bit of ire for anyone who would ask another human being that question, in public, with their mouths. I have the privilege of finding it amusing and being able to laugh it off as just another encounter with someone rude, but I am willing to bet that there are a lot of people who go to that ballpark that are probably pretty tired of being talked down to. So, if you’re one of the people doing the down-talking, knock that shit off, OK?

Other than that? I had a great sausage for dinner, bought a ton of Hello Kitty-dressed-as-Mariners stuff:

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 12.20.55 PMAnd I also had one of the best red whips of my life. Nothing beats fresh red licorice. So good! As we walked to the car, cries of “Let’s go, Mariners!” could be heard all over, and I got that feeling that you get as a sports fan after you’ve just had a truly magical night at the ballpark. A truly wonderful afternoon and evening.

Next stop, Washington Nationals Park!

 

The Mariners Are Coming Home Soon!

The last few days have been kind of a blur. Friday was a bad pain day for me. I was looking forward to coming home and watching the game, but Oakland “fixed” that for me by not tarping their field earlier in the day, rendering the grass and dirt a slushy wet mess, and me and other Mariners fans gameless. You would think, with what is likely a multi-trillion dollar business, MLB could afford to build their Moneyball darlings a new park to play in. Billy Beane has certainly saved them enough money in talent. This is not to slam the A’s, by any stretch. Baseball is a business and sadly, sometimes not for the better. The A’s have done well for their city and fans the last few years. They deserve better than what they’re getting.

I missed yesterday’s Felix start unfortunately; I had the wedding of a dear friend to go to, and was not home for the game. But I hear it was Felix’s 27th-or-so game with 10 or more strikeouts, and there were more home runs from the offense. Judging by the score of 3-1  and hits given up on both sides it wasn’t an easy win by any stretch, but I have no problem, a win is a win, and the King is still the King.

Today was Erasmo Ramirez on the bump against Sonny Gray. If memory serves, Gray was pretty good last year, so at the outset of the game things looked like a good match. Today was a little league day at the park, and the kids had all been apparently given A’s woven bracelets. Through the broadcast, there was a very high-pitched whistling sound, and Shannon Drayer Tweeted that apparently the children had figured out how to turn them into whistles. Ryan Divish Tweeted shortly thereafter that there was actually a whistle attached to the thing. By the top of the 2nd listening to the broadcast, I wanted to claw my face off.

I had to eat in order to take medication, and I chose the top of the second to do so, during a commercial break. I was in the kitchen making a sandwich when the Mariners pulled in their first two runs of the game, scoring on Abraham Almonte and Brad Miller singles. There was another run brought in in the top of the 3rd for the Ms, but it only took one bad pitch to Brandon Moss with two men on base to even the score entirely. Pitching down the middle to Brandon Moss is a horrible idea.

In the bottom of the fourth, Sam Fuld smacked one to Abraham Almonte, but Almonte didn’t make it. Brad Miller swooped in and picked it up on the bounce, and blindly threw to first, where Justin Smoak gloved it and tried to tag Fuld out as he ran back to first, having failed to make it to second. The call was challenged. Replay showed an iffy call of out, and after review, the umps decided that in fact, Fuld was out at first. I am still dubious, but the call stands.

Erasmo Ramirez gave a single to Eric Sogard, a walk to Coco Crisp and a single to Josh Davidson in the bottom of the 5th. He was replaced by Chris Young, who was originally supposed to start on Friday. Young was working with no outs, and that worked against him. Sogard had scored on the single, and then Crisp scored on a Jed Lowrie groundout to center. Score 5-3, A’s.

Young was replaced by Dominic Leone, who was just called up to serve in relief. Leone could have done better, but he also could have done a lot worse; a hit a walk and a strikeout isn’t anything to shake a stick at, especially with a team like the A’s. He held Oakland to their five runs, and was replaced by Yoervis Medina, who started the bottom of the 8th inning by serving up a nice fat hittable 2-seamer to Yoenis Cespedes, who sent it over the wall in center. Score 6-3 Oakland. The Mariners offense had been put to bed for the rest of the game, and Jim Johnson came into the top of the 9th to shut everything down. The A’s took the series, but we are 4-2 for the road trip, so I’m not going to complain. The Mariners can now come home and bring baseball back to Seattle for real this time.

It’s going to be a busy next 48 hours for me, but the next time there is writing in this space, I am hoping it will be from 35,000 feet in the sky. Virgin America has wireless, and it is my intention to do my home opener blog post from the sky so I can get some sleep after the game and before I have to be at the airport at 4AM or so. I am not sure that the reality of this trip has quite hit me yet, and it’s crazy even to think about, that I’m finally going to get to do this. Stay tuned to this space as I attempt to bring the east coast west. And hope to see you all at Opening Day on Tuesday!

 

Fridays at Safeco

I watched some of last night’s game; I opted to go out for dinner with friends at 7. It was both a good and bad choice. Matador West Seattle is pretty good, but they were crowded last night and the service was leisurely. Not slow, mind you, it just was far more relaxed than I might have wanted at the time; great for dinner and conversation, not so great when you want to make it back to see at least one inning of Roenis Elias’s pitching; in fact, I walked back in the door as the 6th inning was progressing and had already missed him. I hear that the home plate umpire had it out for us pretty good, though, and I know the A’s took a one-run game from us in the bottom of the 9th. I wanted to stay up for the end of the game, but I had a busy day physically yesterday, and by that time, I had tried to get off the couch to get some water and my knees were not having any more of it. So off to bed I went. I will catch him on his third start maybe; I will be on the east coast when his second occurs.

There was so much I wanted to do with this post, but I am running out of time this morning before I have to go get ready for work. My focus was going to be food this time out, but I’ll have to save it for another time. Instead, some random photos like usual…

IMG_0772Remember these days, you guys?! Let’s hope they are over, over, over!

IMG_0689I need to start using Instagram more frequently. I have completely dropped off of it recently, and I actually really enjoy it. I think the idea that I have to load up a program for the filters and can’t just snap something off and send it (therefore the process being much slower) stifled me a bit from taking pictures. I want to get back into that again. People make fun of Instagram as something that pseudo-artists use, but I just find it fun.

IMG_0730I once ordered an Ichi-roll in the Hit It Here Cafe. I got maybe one of the best sushi rolls I have ever had at Safeco Field (because the chef up there does not mess around), and he made the wasabi into little baseballs! I was by myself while waiting for a friend and had nobody to share the moment with. It was adorable.

I am still – hilariously or sadly – working on my Phillies Citizens Bank preview post. Time and injury and general laziness due to both have conspired against me. I will give it another shot, maybe later today or over the weekend sometime. Before the Ms game and dinner last night, I found a Red Sox/Orioles game on the MLB Network, and watched it for about half an hour before it hit me that I am going to be in Camden in just over a week. I also saw some photos via email of Eutaw Street, and the crowds and shops and restaurants there. I am anticipating having my mind absolutely blown by everything. This is ridiculously exciting for me, and I’m going to try to bring that to this space.

If you haven’t already followed me on Twitter, you best get to that!  I will be doing some live-Tweeting of my travel and various parts of my trip, and of course lots and lots of pictures of everything. I actually managed to allot time for writing  after games, so there will be plenty of storytelling going on, as much as I can manage. I’ll be moving the Twitter widget to the top of the sidebar here to make it more obvious for people who don’t have Twitter and just want to see some things. My phone goes where I go, so it basically amounts to a bit of extra content.

Other than that, it looks like we have a Chris Young start today. He goes up against Dan Straily, who I somehow managed to miss in the multiple series we played with the A’s last year, so he, too, is  an unknown to me. Hopefully the umpire shift will see us getting fewer awful calls at the plate. Have a great Friday, everyone!

 

Everett AquaSox Release Promo Schedule

Here are the pertinent details!

Everett, Wash. - The Everett AquaSox are excited to reveal the 2014 Promotional Schedule. Fans can look forward to many unique giveaways and promotions as the AquaSox celebrate 30 years in Everett, including seven fireworks shows and three different baseball cap giveaways, as well as a Father’s Day celebration on June 15.

To celebrate 30 years in Everett, July 26 will be Turn Back the Clock Night as the AquaSox wear special themed jerseys that will be auctioned off during the game. Other jersey auctions will include a Pink at the Park Night and jersey auction on June 27, as well as the Sox annual Frogstock and tie-dye jersey auction on August 23.

Several annual fan favorite events return in 2014, including Bark in the Park on July 22 where fans are encouraged to bring their dogs to the ballpark, Frogstock on August 23 complete with a post-game fireworks show, and Root Beer Float Day on July 6 where fans can purchase all-you-can-drink root beer floats for just $6 as part of a fundraiser for the AquaSox Community Fund.

There is something for fans of all ages, as the AquaSox Kids Club returns in 2014, as well as Kids Run the Bases on every Thursday-Sunday game (excluding firework nights). Fans 60 and up are invited to join the Silver Sluggers Club; members receive a ticket to every Wednesday game and a cap for only $16 and enjoy Baseball Bingo every Wednesday. Weekly specials, including Tasty Thursdays with $2 hot dogs, peanuts, sodas and 12 ounce Coors Lights, and Military Sundays with discounted ticket offers for active and retired military also return in 2014.

The upcoming season, beginning on June 13th is the club’s 20th season as a Seattle Mariners affiliate. Single game tickets will be available on-line on May 13 and in person starting at the AquaSox Offices on May 16. The complete AquaSox Promotional Schedule, including dates for the Fleece Blanket giveaway, Kid’s Baseball Glove giveaway, Seahawks Themed Cap giveaway and more, is available by clicking here.

The AquaSox Home Opener is June 13 at 7:05pm versus the Hillsboro Hops. Season tickets, group outings and both 12 and 16 game packages are available now, and single game tickets will be available online starting May 13 and in person on May 16. Call (425) 258-3673 or visit the AquaSox office at 3802 Broadway in Everett for more information.

 

In Mariners news; HOLY CATS! I went out for a few pints at Beer Junction in West Seattle with friends last night, so missed a few innings of the game, but got to watch the rest of it, and I have to say, that was amazing. The first sweep of the Angels in Anaheim since 2006. Lloyd McClendon was shown on screen a few times, and he looked, frankly, sort of perplexed. Don’t worry, Lloyd, we are all there with you; and it is totally OK to smile a little bit, though. Winning baseball games is fun! Last night’s game was also my first chance to see new guy Joe Beimel, since I had to crash out early the night before. I see the Angels did take a few away from Hector Noesi, but we had such a lead by the end of the game it really didn’t matter. Corey Hart and Mike Zunino both whacked some balls over the wall, and Michael Saunders almost twisted his ankle getting to a fly-out, but came up smiling with the ball in his glove. There was also an Angels hit that wound up getting stuck in the padding of the back wall, which is something I have never seen before, so the whole thing was just a spectacle all ’round.

Tonight though, we are going up against the Oakland A’s, with the lower half of our starting rotation, and Roenis Elias makes his major league debut. I have the option of going to meet some other friends out for dinner at a place I have never been before, but depending on how I feel physically, I think I might stay home to watch the game. I made it the four blocks to a major bus route this morning, then walked the two blocks to work from the stop downtown. This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s the first time I have taken the bus to work in about three weeks, and it put me out physically a bit. I will have to see how things shake out after another bus ride (some of the Metro seats are like sitting on a board, for someone with sciatica). I know baseball has just started, but I have also spent a lot of time homebound lately, so the opportunity to get out and about is tempting. I really want to see Elias, so that may very well win out.

Alrighty, back to work.

Mariners at Angels, Going Well; My Internet Not So Much

I had to catch up on Walking Dead’s remaining two shows of the season before switching to the game, but was able to join the Mariners in progress in the second inning, as Erasmo Ramirez dealt some balls to the Angels. As I’m starting this post, I’m not sure how long I will last for this game. I’m still pretty beat from staying up for last night’s Anaheim smackdown, and I’d like to say that is enough for me, but CJ Wilson just made a very grave error in judgement, and walked Robinson Cano to load the bases for a switch-hitting Justin Smoak, who cleared everything out with a double and gunned the score to 4-0 in the top of the third. That makes me terribly giddy, and I might have to force myself to stay up.

I am trying to keep my expectations narrow and reasonable, but it’s fun to see an actual threat in our lineup for the first time since Ichiro’s guaranteed infield singles, and really, the first time in my history as a fan of this team. Clearly, opposing teams already know better than to give Cano a pitch, but the fact that it feels like Justin Smoak is already doing better in just two games than he has since he got here a few years ago is encouraging and hard not to get excited about. I know, I know; it’s still early, and I’m being hyperbolic. Just very excited for the return of the game.

Our wide lead didn’t last long. Raul Ibanez now wears an Angels uniform, which pains me to even look at. I didn’t mind him in New York, and definitely not in Philadelphia, and I’m sure glad he’s still playing because I have always liked him, but the Angels are far more detrimental to the Mariners than either of those teams could ever be, and it just sucks to see him in Angels red. Ibanez hits a dinger or two on occasion, and that is what he did to an Erasmo Ramirez 2-seamer right over the wall in center to score a based Josh Hamilton. Then Hank Conger popped up into the middle of a charging Cano and Abraham Almonte, and Stefan Romero, and nobody called anyone off and the ball dropped in the grass. Conger made it safely to first and Howie Kendrick took over the second bag. Ramirez got out of the inning successfully, but Lloyd McClendon already had Hector Noesi warming up in the bullpen, in anticipation of something going wrong.

Around this time, my internet crapped out on me; Comcast is the bane of my existence, but as they have basically monopolized the city of Seattle, we don’t have other options, without shelling out for a dish, which I am just not feeling like doing. Brad Miller took CJ Wilson long for a solo dinger in the top of the 6th after Ramirez finished pitching a nice solid 5th inning with no runs. Corey Hart nabbed an awkward swinging “bunt” single (can you really call it a bunt? He was clearly swinging away), and was all smiles as he reached the bag while Angels third baseman David Freese went to pick up the ball, muttering what I’m pretty sure were swear words. Dustin Ackley and His Magical Beard took a nice giant chunk out of the 4th pitch Wilson threw at him, and bounced it off the back wall of the field, scoring Hart. Score 6-2 Mariners.

And now comes the part where I have to admit defeat and go to bed. I’m not taking anything for granted with this game; our bullpen could implode, our defense could do the same, but Erasmo Ramirez is still on the hill in the bottom of the 6th inning, so maybe this won’t go so poorly for the Mariners after all. It is difficult to write when our internet keeps failing and the TV broadcast itself is digitizing and flickering in and out and I’m done fighting it for today. Ramirez just handed a 5th strikeout to Raul Ibanez, and I need to get some rest.

Mariners Open House Adventuretime

So last night was Opening Day for most teams in MLB, and the Mariners did their biggest-sports-bar-in-the-world impression, and had an open house for fans to come and watch the game on the big screen, while enjoying food and a lot of other regular amenities the lower decks of the park have to offer.

I left work a smidge early to drive back home and get Tom, and we parked down off 1st Ave S to go sit at Hooverville for a bit and have a drink or two while waiting for Jessica to join us. We were also joined – quite by surprise – by none other than sometimes-S331-contributor Daniel Carroll, and after two drinks and some general conversation, the four of us left for the field around 5PM.

Due to my back issues, I am a slow walker, and standing is nearly impossible. I decided to hit up the office over home plate and see if we could get me a wheelchair. After some discussion as to what my problem was that I would need one, and some lighthearted joking around with one of the staff, a gentleman with a nametag that read “Jim P” showed up, and we discussed what my options were. He informed me that generally speaking, the normally wheel you to your seat, and then it’s up to you to figure it out from there. I told him that I had hoped we could sort of “rent” it for the evening so that we could move around the park and talk to people and such. His response: “I’ll see what I can do!”  So at my request, he wheeled me down 1st Ave and then down past The Pen entrance and to the CF entrance, the two of us chatting about the stadium and such as Tom and Jessica followed (Daniel had departed to meet his folks up on the Terrace Club level). We waited for the gates to open, got our bags searched, Jim P. made sure we all three got our True to the Blue shirts, and then told us that we could have the chair for the evening, so long as someone had an ID card to exchange for it. Jessica gave him her Civil Air Patrol ID, and Mr P. said that we should just bring the chair back to Guest Services and that was all we needed to do! I really cannot express how much this meant to me, because my evening was the difference between having and not having that chair. So Jim P., wherever you are, thanks a ton for your help. It was much appreciated.

After our guide left us to our own devices, Tom immediately put the chair into a wheelie position for Jessica to take a picture.

So we traveled around The Pen, said hi to some of the employees there (I’m a frequent flier at Edgar’s during the season), and got some beer and just hung out for a bit. My friends Su and Patrick showed up, as did none other than the Mariner Housewife herself, Moira Koskey, who came up from Portland for the event.  We all sat or stood around and chatted, made jokes at my expense, and waited for the game. At around game time, Tom, Su, Jessica and myself did the elevator thing to the Moose Den, wheeled around the outfield, and found a place to sit for a bit over section 143 for the first 3-4 innings of the game. I had some garlic fries, because why not, and things were generally OK in the temperature department up until maybe the bottom of the 4th or so. Around that point, everyone was cold, so we decided to take a walk around the warning track. In all the times I have been to Safeco, I have never done this. It is normally not open for just walking around during Fanfest, and while it was open last year for strolling purposes, I had season tickets and wifi access for blogging, so I was up in the Terrace Club until later in the evening.

Another elevator trip and some under-the-stadium walking later, and we were on the warning track. We wound up hanging out in center field, watching the game above us from where Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders have taken many a crash into the wall. This was all fun and great until I started getting even colder, and the four of us decided that perhaps a little more food was necessary; specifically, the new fried pickles that are now served at Swingin’ Wings, which is in the same spot as the old crepe place used to be.

I have to say, I miss the crepes. I didn’t have a ton of them, but it was nice to know it was an option, because they were light and the fruit ones made a nice sort of treat if you didn’t want to go nuts with ice cream or candy. The pickles are good, though - nice giant spears with a light cornmeal batter, they are served with a thin blue cheese dip. Not for the faint of heart. Literally. Jessica and Su and Tom got the fried cheese curds, which were great, but it was definitely a situation where all of our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We watched a clip of Vladimir Guerrero throwing out the first pitch earlier in the evening. Guerrero had signed a one-day contract so that he could retire an Angel. This makes me happy beyond measure. I spent my formative baseball years scared to death of every Guerrero at-bat, regardless of who was on the mound for the Mariners. Guerrero has my utmost respect as a player, and I’m glad he got to retire in the place that made him known to me.

By then, though I was tired, in a bit of pain (sitting is no picnic, either), and too cold to stay any longer. We took the elevator again up and around the right field side of the park, and turned in the chair, got Jessica’s ID back, and slowly (because that is the only way I could do it) left Safeco Field, as the game was starting into the 7th or 8th inning. Tom and I walked back to the car, and I made it as far as Hooverville down 1st before I simply couldn’t walk anymore, so Tom got the car and we went home to watch the rest of the game – complete with massive offensive explosion against reliever Kevin Jepsen in the top of the 9th inning. Because of that inning, Jepsen’s ERA sits at a cool 67.50. I’d feel bad, but I just can’t. It was nice to see hitting from the Mariners, regardless of how poorly Jepsen might have been pitching.

I woke up this morning feeling OK physically – though still in pain – and finding that I am keenly interested in purchasing a walking cane for my trip east. The chair was fun, but I didn’t feel like I had much control over where it was that I was going (even though Tom is a good driver), and I need my own mobility, if I can get it.

So major thanks to the Mariners’ employees for all their help. I wish I could have stayed longer, but my back is going to control me for a bit. Best case scenario, last night was a test run for the real deal next Tuesday; because I won’t be leaving that game. Go Ms!

 

The Mariners Have Themselves a Roster

And now we are nearly there! I took a screen shot from Ryan Divisih’s article, but you should go and read it anyway, because Divish is awesome, and it’s an article at the Times you don’t have to subscribe to, if you’re not already subscribed. Here is who we are to start the season:

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 7.35.47 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not ridiculously fond of our starting rotation, it’s true. But if all goes well, we won’t be dealing with it for long, and once Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker come back, maybe some re-arrangements will also be made in the bullpen. Or not. I honestly don’t mind the bullpen as it is now. I like our catchers, I like our infielders, I like the outfielders, with the exception of Corey Hart, who I simply haven’t seen that much of or heard that much about within the context of this team to make a decision on. Overall, I’d say I’m good with this the way it is. Baseball can start now, and it’ll start tomorrow, and let’s get this circus going!

I watched Chris Young’s 4 & 2/3 inning start yesterday, wherein he allowed two hits, a run, and no walks. Quite a few people have commented on Young’s height, with Jeff Sullivan making this comment a few days ago when Young was brought into the fold. It would be easy for an American baseball player – most of whom start at 6′ tall – to look tall in a crowd of notoriously shorter people, but you can actually see his height on TV, when he’s standing around or next to other baseball players. The guy is huge. Yesterday was the first time I have ever seen him pitch, and while there is certainly reason to be skittish abut his multiple surgeries and the fact that he hasn’t seen lengthy major league playing time since 2006, but the guy says he’s feeling good (because they never say anything else), and he is active without pain (which means he’s doing a whole lot better than I am, frankly), and we don’t really have any other options right now. I look forward to seeing what he can do here in Seattle. As Lloyd McClendon mentions in that article, due to his height he might have some throwing advantages angle-wise. It’ll be fun to see.

On a small personal note, I am feeling slightly better today. I am not by any means fixed or done with sciatica, but we’re getting there, slowly. I am still concerned about my trip east, but there is nothing I can do about any of this at this point, so I am going to suck it up and be a leaf on the wind. A sore, annoyed, crabby leaf, but a leaf nonetheless.

Fridays at Safeco

I have a bit of personal good news, though it’s technically still too early to tell. I wound up getting an appointment at a DO’s office yesterday, and had it confirmed that I have true sciatica; the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae are doing  little dance on the largest nerve in my body. So he sent me home with the suggestion that physical therapy is no longer really needed because this has to work itself out, and several prescriptions. Your humble narrator is now doing steroids for the next ten days! I promise not to destroy the evidence, but by April 8th my 300-level from-the-stands glovework should be fantastic! Bring it on, foul ball hitters! All jest aside, I am hoping this does me some good, and have embraced the possibility of crutches or wheelchairs out east, though it will absolutely have to depend on how I’m feeling by next weekend. To try and even out all this medical nonsense (I have been in doctor’s offices and clinics more in the past two weeks than ever in my life, it feels like), I went and picked up my new jersey. I don’t really have a lot of money right now, but something positive was needed. So I had Tom drive me after work to STT Sports, and picked up my custom-lettered Mariners togs:

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 4.33.56 AMI promise that in no way does this indicate that my head has gotten too big; I have been wanting to do this for ages, even when I had a larger lull in writing last year; it just didn’t feel like the right time. This also means I am now out of custom things I wanted to put on jerseys. I guess I could do my own name, but that feels like a little too much like wearing a “Hello, My Name Is ____” sticker, and I’m not sure I want to do that; though it does put a crimper on any plans I might have had for a custom Sounders jersey…plus, it might cause some vague hilarity while I’m sitting in left field this summer.

Jerry Brewer has a new article up, echoing my sentiments from the other day about bringing up players too early, though he targets Roenis Elias specifically. I am hoping Elias sees a few starts, then Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker feel better and come back, and Elias can spend more time in Tacoma working any possible kinks out. It might not work like that, and it might, so I am hoping that the Mariners are truly intending to use Elias like they should: as a sort of Band-Aid while the rotation we were meant to have heals. Again, as we get closer and closer to Opening Day, I harbor no great expectations for this team, but honestly I would be thrilled if we hit .500 or over. My glory days are 2009.

So every summer since I think 2010, my family comes up from Baker City and Portland OR, and we go to a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon ballgame. We try and sit in some good seats, get there early to enjoy some beer in The Pen, and my mother gets her yearly baseball hot dog. It has been planned for this year, to now include my sister-in-law’s sister and husband, who live up in Bellingham. It’s a lot of fun, and something we are guaranteed to do as  family unit, since both Tom’s and my brother’s wife Allison’s parents live out east, so holidays are kind of hit-or-miss depending on vacation time and whose turn it is to host. This last year, we went towards the very end of the season, during Fan Appreciation Night on a Friday, which was also a fireworks night and a Felix Hernandez start. I try to get the most bang for my buck. We got Terrace Club seats, and I actually won a jersey, which has never happened in like, ever.

IMG_0069Tom, my father, and my mother. This September was weirdly cool, so jackets were definitely needed. I am hoping this summer will be nice and warm, because I am just about done with all of this rain.

IMG_0070My brother, giving me stink-eye. We generally spend some time watching batting practice, until my mother can’t stand standing anymore, and then we go sit and drink beer by the fire over center field. I think this bit is becoming a slight tradition as well.

IMG_0071A really awful photo of me and the Moose! I’d like to get a better one some day. I have lost a few pounds, and have a new jersey to show off, y’know. Also hoping to get a picture with the Orioles Bird; I am not super big on getting my picture taken with people or things, but the Bird is an actual goal. I have to admit that I am a little terrified of the Phanatic, however…

IMG_0073My mother, sitting in The Chair of Royalty. One thing I love about this chair is that no matter how crowded it might be, people will actually stop in their tracks or attempt to walk around the back of whomever is taking the picture. It creates this weird sort of public barrier of respect which is both amazing and wonderful and I love it.

I neglected to get any shots of Allison or her sister and brother-in-law. I think I might have gotten some video on my phone, but I don’t currently have time to upload that. This year, it is going to be difficult to choose a game, given that I am running low on vacation time due to the couple days I spent off work last week due to my back, and Tom has quite a few trips out of state for work. But we’ll figure something out, even if it means that we have to wait again until September. It’s one of my favorite parts of any given year, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

 

 

My Stupid Back is Indifferent To the Mariners Rotation

I’m still suffering from a pinched sciatic nerve, and the only way to make it better is to sleep, so rather than writing – which I should be doing – I go home and sleep with pain meds and muscle relaxers. It’s hard to pay attention to baseball when your life revolves around pain meds and muscle relaxers, no matter how much you like baseball. Then again, right now I like pain meds and muscle relaxers too, and I can’t enjoy much of anything while I’m feeling like this, so they win.

Looks like Abraham Almonte got his roster spot, thankfully. Stefan Romero did, too, which is great. I am hoping that this is not another rush-too-soon situation, along the lines of what happened with Brandon Maurer last year. I liked Maurer, but I really like Almonte, and I would be kind of bent if he wound up needing more time at triple A a month into the season (which, knowing my luck, he might; I will prepare myself accordingly). Endy Chavez and Humberto Quintero were released yesterday, but per that link above, Chavez decided to stick around and play in Tacoma, so that’s nice. Endy’s good utility defensively, and he hits a ball every once in a while. We got a guy if we need a guy.

As for our rotation…I don’t even know where to start. Randy Wolf is gone per release due to a change in deal the Mariners offered that he felt was not worth it. Shannon Drayer has the full story with quotes and the whole deal here. After reading that, I kind of can’t blame Wolf for taking off, because he is right; once Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma are back and healthy, he would very likely have been the third wheel, as it were. Yet another case of the Mariners making friends and influencing people, it would seem, but this time I don’t blame either party for making the moves they did. Wolf wants to pitch, Zduriencik wants his rotation to be the best it can be all year long. It’s kind of a bad deal for Wolf, but it had to happen. Scott Baker also was released at his own request. Scott Weber at Lookout Landing feels that this is a shock, but I haven’t heard anything good (or really, anything at all) about Baker at all the past few weeks, so I can’t say I feel one way or the other about it. Not being able to listen to ST games this month due to radio issues, I have no opinion on Baker at all either way. Good luck to them both.

So now I guess we wait and see what happens with the roster finalizations, which absolutely have to happen in the next five or so days. Five days until Baseball That Counts. Can you dig it!

I will be at the Mariners Open House event this upcoming Monday. I know for sure that my friend Jessica is coming, and the other  ticket will likely go to Tom. One, the other, or both of them may have the “pleasure” of pushing my sad ass around Safeco Field in a wheelchair, unless some miracle happens in these next five days, and my back fixes itself or gets fixed. The fact of the matter is, I cannot stand up well and walk without a vast amount of burning pain shooting down my left leg, which is annoying in the least, and unbearable at the most. I will never ever again chalk up sciatica as mere “back pain”. It’s so much worse than that. The wheelchair thing is definitely not my preference, but it may have to be the way things are that day. I am hoping to be all or mostly better by the home opener, as I have no desire to have my friend pushing me around stadiums out east, the saddest go-cart in the world. Here’s to hoping my insurance covers durable medical equipment.

Additional note: I hope to grab some time to work on my Citizens Bank Park preview post this weekend, while Tom is down playing a show in Mexico. I can’t believe this trip is coming up so fast!

Fridays at Safeco, On The DL

Starting on a personal note, this has been an interesting week. Some of the vertebrae in my lower back have managed to twist themselves into doing this obnoxious thing where they press on my sciatic nerve. I have heard of this condition before, and while it sounded painful, I had no earthly clue exactly how painful it truly is. Until now. Last Saturday I was very happy to see Orioles, Mariners and Phillies games all in a row on TV, until I started cleaning the house and managed to get into my current predicament. So this week has been nothing but an endless slew of muscle relaxers, painkillers, physical  therapy, as much in-office work as I can tolerate, and as much rest and prescribed stretching as I can stay awake for, while taking muscle relaxers and painkillers. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, seriously. It has been a nightmare for me, as I am someone who values my freedom of movement and my ability to do what I want, when I want, how I want all the time.  Rather than writing up game recaps or talking about anything baseball-related, I’ve been hazily paying attention to anything that hovers into my field of vision, promptly forgetting it, and really really hoping I can get rid of this or at least make it tolerable over the course of the next two weeks.  I have places to go, things to do and people to see, and I would prefer to do it with my back and without its drunk friend Sciatica. Yuck. I tried to get up early this morning to write this, but the kittens got trapped in the bedroom, and my alarm clock got unplugged, and my life sounds like a really awful 1980s sit-com now here are some pictures…

One of my favorite yearly events the Mariners do is of course Turn Back the Clock Night. The further the clock goes back, the better. The 1980s one was alright, because they played some decent music, but I really enjoy decades prior, particularly the 40s, 30s or 20s. This last year I believe were the Aughts, between 1910 and 1920. The stadium was devoid of modern music or other distractions, there were no cues for the crowd to clap, and in between batters being called up was this kind of wonderful summery crowd murmur, with the breeze hitting the Terrace Club and making the 90-some-degree temperature tolerable. MarinersVision is still on, however, but with a bit of a difference with old-tymey-looking team photos and other tidbits of news about the time period being emulated. It’s a very different atmosphere at a game, and frankly I find it quite relaxing.

IMG_3170The “Seattles” and “Spokanes”…not really names that inspire fear in the heart of the opponent, but then again, nobody’s really all that worried about the “Mariners”, either, I suppose.

IMG_31781910s or not, The Ackley Boys were still there, hanging out in the 300 level with their assorted gold letters. I hope they have used the offseason wisely and managed to create an “N” for “Cano”. They’re going to need it.

IMG_3191Raul Ibanez talks with second baseman Darwin Barney during a lull. I love the old look uniforms, but they never seem to fit the modern players like they did the players from yesteryear. I love seeing old photos of these grown men that look like little kids wearing ill-fitting baggy wool uniforms running around the bases with hats that barely fit their heads. Given my bent towards fashion from that time period, my mother always says she thinks I was meant to be born in a different time. I think she’s right; but there is no way you could get sushi at a ballpark in 1922. I think I like it here better.

The Mariners play the Padres in another exhibition game tonight. I am going to try and stay up to watch for as long as my medication will allow me to. I do like a good challenge. Meanwhile, tomorrow night at 1AM PST, the Diamondbacks open up the baseball season in Australia with a game against the Dodgers in Sydney. I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that this started on the 31st of this month, but apparently things are getting underway sooner. I am actually glad about this, as it means that the Open House event at Safeco will not be attended on as much of a lack of sleep as I was thinking I was going to get. I am the winner!

 

EDIT: I am so very awful with time zones. Damn. Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers is actually on tonight. At this rate, it will be a miracle if I’m able to watch actual live games on the east coast when I’m actually there.

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