Let’s Talk About the Maple Grove

The Maple Grove has its roots in last year’s Blue Jays series. Daniel decided he wanted to troll the Blue Jays with Hunter Pence-style signs. Since I go to a lot of games with him, I came along for the ride, held some signs myself, talked to the handful of Jays fans who approached us and got the joke (some really, really don’t get it. At all.) and just generally had a good time at Safeco. We did it again this year, but it has now turned into a completely different animal; that of a cheering section for Canadian pitcher, James Paxton. “Big Maple”. A group of friends wanted to get together and cheer him on during the final game in the last Jays series, so brainstorming occurred, and it has taken on a life of its own! They did it again last night while I was stuffing my face full of Mexican food in Wheaton, and I think that it will likely continue until the time may come when Paxton is no longer on this team. I did want to share a few photos from the Jays series that I grabbed here and there during what would be the Jays taking the series from the Mariners. But we still had fun.

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It was sort of the same crew yesterday, via pictures I have seen. But I need to say, this is making me homesick. I have had a wonderful time here, and it has been smooth as butter; our travel and planning has worked out very well. But I am ready to smell the briney air in Seattle again and work in my garden, get back to my job and the cats and, of course, go to Mariners games.

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Tampa Bay Rays At Chicago Cubs, Game 1 Of 2

Today has been a rough day, so this might be quick and dirty. I didn’t sleep well last night out of excitement, and then we wound up spending most of the day in some very hot and humid weather. Sunblock helped (I still got burnt!), but I am absolutely exhausted. I also didn’t wind up taking many photos; Wrigley is an old ballpark and we were 8 rows from the field. The seats are forward-facing, rather than tilted at an angle for game-viewing purposes, so anyone taller than me (which is just about anyone, really) provided me with a bit of an obscured view. That said? I had an absolute blast. If you haven’t been to Wrigley, you really need to fix that at your earliest convenience. It’s a small park, but the crowds are fun, just about everyone is wearing Cubs gear, and everyone there seemed super friendly and chatty.

Karen and I got up very early in order to take the train into town. We had to take the Metra from Wheaton into Ogilvie Station, which is the end of that line, then walk a bit to the station on Randolph to grab the L. The L does not seem as awful as a lot of people claim, though I only rode it twice, and will only ride it twice again on Friday. I possibly have a sweeter view of it as a public transportation device than those who ride it every day.

As we traveled along the line, we collected more and more Cubs fans until the train was pretty packed and we reached the Addison stop, and it was time to get off. We walked down some steps off the outdoor platform and through some turnstiles, taking shuffling steps behind a bunch of our fellow fans. It was not until we reached the corner of the park that I realized how hot it was going to be, and how many people were there and in how small a space. The sidewalks were packed on all sides of the streets around the stadium, a slowly moving sea of blue and white and red. We made our way down the sidewalk through the crowd and then to a merchandise store just across the street from the home plate entrance and the big red sign. The crowd in the store was pretty thick too,  but I finally found a decent shirt with what Karen kept referring to as the “angry bear” on it, made of light material and with a flattering cut. I paid for it, threw it on, and we went back out to see if the crowd had abated. It had not. Just opposite the park though, was a bar called The Cubby Bear that seemed to not have a lot of people around it (and we had around 15 minutes to kill anyway), so we opted for a drink while the lines went down. It turned out to be a good idea; the place was a mostly empty music venue with air conditioning and friendly bar staff. When we finished our beers, the lines to get into the park had gone down significantly. It was time.

IMG_8217IMG_8218IMG_8220The Chicago River, the L tunnel, Wrigley Field.

We got our bags searched, went through the metal detectors, and started thinking about our food and drink options. Wrigley is surrounded on the outside by a tunnel, like Miller Park, but the tunnel goes all the way around; there is no view of the field from the concessions/merchandise area. Thinking we could make it all the way around the field, we tried, but got cut off by staff near a left field area; apparently, you don’t go out to what would be LF/CF/RF in Safeco without tickets for those sections. I am thinking this is because the seating out there is a bit of a free for all, as I mentioned earlier. Foiled, Karen brought up first game certificates, so we asked a staffer about that, were given directions, and got my official newbie paperwork. Then it was time for food and drink. And what are you going to have at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL? A Chicago style hot dog, of course:

IMG_8221It was immediately pointed out to be that I commited a faux pas by putting any amount of ketchup on the thing, but if that’s not how you eat it, don’t provide ketchup. I’m solid with my choice. It was also absolutely delicious. Those little peppers have just enough kick to make a difference; and to warrant a vodka lemonade slushy (which is extremely popular here, clearly, they’re everywhere). After that, it was out to the seats, which were absolutely amazing to sit in. Historic Wrigley Field!

IMG_8222IMG_8223IMG_8224IMG_8225You can see the bleachers known as “the rooftops” across the street over the outfield.

The Rays gave a worthy effort, pulling up three runs in the first few innings of the game. And for a while, it looked like the Cubs might be facing a shutout. But there was some sort of announcement or ad indicating that if the Cubs scored in the bottom of the 6th, everyone would get free Italian beef sandwiches from Buono’s. Thinking surely this could not happen, I settled in and just took in some of the atmosphere. Then it did; Jon Jay hit a dinger to plate two runners already on, tying the game. This seemed to light a fire under the crowd, and the air had a bit of a spark to it suddenly. That might have been the fact that we were sat in the direct sunlight and I felt like I was on fire and in a hot shower the entire game, but I choose to believe it was Cubbies magic! With two men on, Ian Happ struck a single up the middle to plate both of them. More energy in the air. Anthony Rizzo put the fork in the Rays with a two run double, and the game was complete at a final score of 7-3. Well done everyone!

IMG_8226IMG_8227IMG_8228IMG_8229IMG_8230IMG_8236IMG_8237IMG_8238It was very hard to get pictures without someone’s head popping up in front of me, or a food vendor blocking my view. The hazards of different ballparks, I suppose. We also got treated to “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”, sung by ex-Bears kicker Robbie Gould, from the press box below a caricature of, who else, Harry Carray.

IMG_8232After the last out, I got treated to what is apparently tradition at Wrigley, a three-minute singalong to a catchy little ditty called “Go, Cubs, Go”. The words to the chorus are not difficult to pick up, and everyone sings; it’s really fun. I may have to brush up on my lyrics to the rest of the song, in case Friday’s game turns out as well as today’s did. Finally, everyone around us was “flying the W”; in spite of the difficulty in seeing, it is easily one of the best ballpark experiences I’ve had. Cubs fans are really one of a kind, and you really don’t get an idea of that until you’re there.

IMG_8239IMG_8240IMG_8241IMG_8242We took our time waiting for people to file out; small parks and small walkways equals a longer wait time and more of a bottleneck getting both into and out of the stadium. To take the path of least resistance, we wound around the left field to see whatever we could see. We wound up seeing all the statues and the yard on the street side of center field. There were shirt and merchandise vendors, street musicians, panhandlers, fans, and general chaos. But people’s moods were light, I didn’t see any fights or any of the things I might have been warned I might see. And with my blue shirt with the red bear on it, I blended in perfectly. I felt like I fit in, and like people were welcoming.

IMG_8219IMG_8243IMG_8244IMG_8245IMG_8250IMG_8251As we came back around full circle, we squished back into the Addison St L station with everyone else. We passed more shirt vendors, and an overweight fellow in sweatpants selling JellO shots off of his porch for $2. I didn’t see any takers for this, which is probably for the best. A quick walk back through the city to Ogilvie Station and back on the train, and back to Karen’s for some of the best Indian food I’ve had in ages. For being such a homogenous area (white folks, mainly), Wheaton has some great ethnic food; I have also had tacos from Fire It Up! which is a fantastic place that locally sources all the stuff they serve from around the area.

Tomorrow is the Art Institute, some sort of dinner, and then Hamilton at the Private Bank Theater, before we go home and wake up early again on Friday to take in another Cubs game, this time against the Pittsburgh Pirates. We’ll be sitting in the upper deck and in the shade (thankfully), and I should have plenty of time to recap that one; Saturday is going to be a bit of downtime for both of us. I think we need it; I am going to need a vacation from my vacation!

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Brief Wrigley Field Preview

I am up way too early after not enough sleep; clearly, I may be a little excited for today’s ballpark journey. Wrigley will be the oldest and most historic ballpark I have ever been to. I hadn’t had the time to do much research, what with work and flight anxiety and everything else going on over the last two months that has been taking up my time and energy, but I had to do a little bit of research before going, just to make sure I had a decent idea of what all was there. I’m aware that Wrigley is smaller than other parks, with around 41,000 seats available; I don’t know if that includes the rooftop seats, but since Safeco is around 5000 more than that, I expect it to feel a little small.

It looks like Wrigley’s amenities are going to be maybe a little different than what I am used to. Most bathrooms are ADA-accessible. Food and drink options might be a little more limited (it still looks like there are a lot of good choices on hand), but they have Chicago dogs there (of course), and a place called Pork and Mindy’s has set up shop with a lot of very delicious-sounding sandwiches; we may have to split some food the two days we are here. The bleacher seats are first-come-first-served, which blows my mind, since every park I’ve ever been in (both major and minor league) is definitely assigned seating. There are some statues to see, and Karen tells me there is a decent team store across the street, which is my initial target destination, since I’d like to suit up properly before the game(s) this week. Tailgating is not going to be a sight I see here; Wrigley is right in the middle of a neighborhood and there simply isn’t space for it – this much I know from having driven past it back in the 90s while on tour.

This should be a fun trip. We’re taking some trains and will be there a little early, but I have zero problem with that. I just want to get there and take everything in. I’ve been looking forward to this part of the trip for a pretty long time. Karen has been a gracious host and I could not have done any of this journey without her. We are already talking about me returning the favor next year, as I have made her an honorary fan by gifting her a Mariners coffee cup (that’s how it starts; one piece of merchandise, and you’re on the baseball exchange program!) And now I am off to get ready for a very important day.

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Orioles At Brewers, Miller Park

Today was the big travel day, and it could not have gone better if we had tried. We got up and got ready, took a route around the already-ongoing Wheaton 4th of July parade, and wound our way through surface roads to I-94 northbound to Milwaukee. We stopped for Starbucks and White Castle, the latter of which neither of us had ever had (and frankly, was a good snack, I don’t care what kind of intestinal distress jokes may be made), and hit the road for the last 20 miles to the city.

Milwaukee is a small-but-major city. Lots of brickwork buildings and a few skyscrapers. The highway leads straight to the field, and we were guided into lot G for General Parking by some helpful fellows in neon vests. Much like at Guaranteed Rate, the personnel there told us exactly where to park, down to the space; it has just occurred to me that this is extremely helpful for tailgaters, and Milwaukee is also good at this event, maybe better than Chicago.

IMG_8163.JPGThis picture was taken before the lot was full, and does not give any idea of the burning charcoal and cooking meat smells that permeated the air. People were blaring music, drinking, and playing that ubiquitous midwest game, cornhole. Everyone seemed friendly and relaxed.

The general parking lot is a river away from the stadium; the Menomenee River, to be exact. You get to walk over a bridge that connects the lot to the field grounds.

I had tried to make a plan so that I could see stuff that I wanted to see, buy stuff that I wanted to buy, and still make it into our seats by or around first pitch. Ninety minutes isn’t a long time to make all of that happen, and there are a lot of distractions along the way. We decided to walk along the left field/third base side of the park to the home plate entrance. This allowed us to see the Wall of Honor. There are also many plate tiles along the outside of the stadium, honoring important figures in Milwaukee Brewers history. I’d be remiss if I didn’t grab a shot of Bob Ueker’s plate. Or anything with Hank Aaron, really. Also included in this wall were Richie Sexson and Jeff Cirrillo right next to each other. But that will have to wait for me to be able to get the pictures off my iPhone.

We had planned to go into the home plate entrance, but we still had a good 15 minutes before the gates opened, and the line was stretching out into the parking lot on that side of the field. Under the clock tower, however, was a very short line of people. We walked up and asked if we could still get into the park there. They told us that yes, we absolutely could, and that it was sort of their “secret”. We thanked them, and spent the next 10 minutes in the shade, watching Orioles fans and Brewers fans alike chatter amongst themselves. Even got into a pleasant discussion about the Hall of Fame with a guy in a Brewers shirt behind us.

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Once inside, we were basically on the main concourse. Miller Park is not as open as a lot of other parks I have been to. There are points on the main floor where you get a view of the field, but mostly you are walking through a bit of a tunnel with windows on the one side that look outside the park. We wound our way towards left field, and eventually to the open bit of the concourse around the outfield, and into one of the team stores, where we looked around until the crowd became a bit prohibitive numbers-wise. Walking around the main level, we found a wall of autographed baseballs, collected for quite some time by one fan and donated to the field. It is touted as a chance for ordinary fans to be featured amidst players. The attendant there had a map available for us to look up the players, though we did peruse the fans as well. Some of the balls featured had art of people’s babies, a tiny footprint, and the scrawly writing of children thanking their fathers for a first ballgame. Among these (and others) were the signatures of none other than Casey Stengel, Wade Boggs, Willie Mays, and the great Satchel Paige.

On the other side of the entrance the autograph wall is on, is an area featuring players from Wisconsin, and a great small exhibit about the All American Girls baseball teams from the area. Karen’s favorite baseball movie is A League of Their Own, so this was a cherry on top of what was a pretty decent day already.

Having done a bit of research on food and whatnot, I had decided that I was interested in having a Mudpuppy Porter. Miller has done some updating of their food and drink park-wide. The Local Brews bar stand in section 207 has a ton of local beers, and seemed like the place we needed to head to get a taste of Wisconsin. So we kept on walking around the outfield. Ran into some Orioles taking batting practice along the way.

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A ramp leads up to the Loge Level, where there is a sort of Terrace Club-style level that is open to the public. The decks in Miller are much more shallow than at Safeco, and there are more of them. This makes for some really good views of the field at the lower levels. We hung out there long enough to drink one pint and grab another. My two choices were the Mudpuppy Porter, and something called Bat$shit Crazy, which was a coffee brown ale (and very good as well). After hanging out a bit and taking in the scene upstairs, we walked back downstairs to make our way around the lower concourse, where I bought a good amount of Hank the Dog merchandise, and we found our seats in section 132. Row 15 put us really close to the action, and it was time to play ball.

Spoiler alert; the Orioles lost this one 2-6. Additional spoiler alert, I did not quell my Orioles love. So I was the weirdo down front cheering for both teams. But we were sitting on the visitor’s side, so it sort of worked out, and nobody got weird about it. It was a really fun game to be at, and the Brewers got four home runs, so Bernie Brewer had to go  down the slide in his Uncle Sam outfit as many times. I have a photo I managed on the iPhone, but again, that will have to wait until a later post. Ubaldo Jimemez was starting for the Birds, and Eric Thames was ready for him. Also, Adam Jones got a few hits and of course is just great anyway.

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The Brewers also have a good number of numbers retired. This strikes me as odd, as if memory serves, they have been around just as long as the Mariners have…and are, in fact, spawned by a Seattle team. The Brewers have also have had a greater number of more well-known players, so perhaps this would explain the retirements.

It is getting late as I finish this up, and we have to be up bright and early to make a train to get back into the city for our first leisurely day at Wrigley. Long story short, the Orioles lost, I had a lot of good food and drink (we did split a brat and an order of cheese curds with Stadium Sauce), we got a lot of sun (but not too much), and everything I wanted to do at this park I totally did. It was a great day. The drive back was nice and easy, and we wrapped up the day with some salad (my poor midwestern-food-filled guts) and continued watching GLOW on Netflix (watch it if you haven’t, it’s great), and I really just can’t talk enough about how much fun I’ve been having.

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Oh yeah; the sausage races! Chorizo won.

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Texas Rangers At Chicago White Sox

We got off to that early start today, and I am feeling it hard; it’s 7.15PM Chicago time, so 5.15 PST, but I didn’t sleep much and we just spent all day in very humid, direct sunlight (yes, sunscreen, though my nose and cheeks are a bit pink). I am absolutely exhausted, but I had a great day, so that’s merely a statement of fact and in no way a complaint. Today was fantastic. The Sox got murdered by the Rangers, but I had a great time.

Karen and I started off with a quick cup of coffee and some heavy slathering on of sunscreen, followed by a 55-or-so-minute drive. She lives in Wheaton, IL, for distance reference. Traffic was decent for a Saturday in a busy city; and since we had a parking pass, it was easy to get to where we needed to be. Parking at Guaranteed Rate (hereafter referred to as GR, because I cannot bring myself to keep typing that name) is easy, but also a little overwhelming for a Seattle girl like me. There are staffers who tell you exactly where to go, right down to the space. I kind of like this, it makes it easy and hassle-free. Many people were already there, and they were tailgating; team flags, barbecue grills, beer, games of cornhole, some music. People seemed to be having fun and the mood was light.

We were parked on the right field side, so wandered towards home plate along a sidewalk full of people. Wind had picked up, and it was very warm out. I was looking for a team store, but GR is a very odd field; everything exists within the park, and it can be a trek to get inside. I did pick up a little stuffed Southpaw mascot, and then we  got in a line for a special event near home plate. A host kindly directed us towards gate 3, where we stood in the sun a half hour longer than we should have, per the website and a few Sox fans in line with us. A woman near us collapsed just as the gates were actually starting to open. Emergency personnel came to her rescue, and fans in line were gradually shuffled inside, where we were all given dark blue Hawaiian shirts made of a very not-heat-friendly material and White Sox logos and mascot cartoons on them. There were other fans with other versions of this shirt, so we figured they’d done similar promos before.

IMG_8089Home Plate entrance art.

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In GR, you have to walk up a winding ramp or go up an escalator to get to the main concourse. I’m not sure what is hiding under the park, but it seemed like an awful long way walking up to get “down” to a main level. Once upstairs, it didn’t seem like we had walked all that way (we opted for walking). The main concourse is nice and airy, though dark, and instead of one big team store, there are several, including a ’47 Brand store; unfortunately I didn’t discover this until I had already made the purchase of a Sox sport tank top (I love ’47 Brand). My disappointment did not last long, however, there was still a lot to see. After I’d gotten and changed into my tank top, Karen picked up a Cuban sandwich that we split, along with a couple of pints of beer interestingly named “Daisy Cutter”. It was hoppy but good in the heat. I would have taken pictures of these things, but we were both tired and starving. They did not last long.

IMG_8091The view from over left field.

IMG_8092The Patio is part of Kraft Cave, and requires a special ticket to get in; but on days like today, you have to sit in the direct sunlight all game long, and your view is obstructed by a fence. 

We asked for directions to the Rookies’ Corner, where we got our first timer certificates; as a Cubs fan, Karen had also never been to GR; but she did a very good job of camouflaging herself, even going so far as to buy a Sox shirt at Target. We were virtually invisible in our new environment. We continued walking around center field, and found their player sculptures.

You can see the bottom picture there, the shirts they were giving away. Mariners colors, a little bit.

IMG_8095.JPGAn old Comiskey shower. It still works, and looked like someone had doused themselves recently.

We continued walking around the main level just to get a feel for the place. It feels sort of closed in, but you’re still very aware that you’re outside. When we had made it back to the area where we’d come in, we continued up the ramp to the 500 level where our seats were. This provided us with a spectacular view of the city.

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Everything is sort of contained inside the park on the upper level; Safeco has food and shops and stuff sort of outside the seating area, where you can get views of the city; at GR, you’re routed inside a tunnel with all that stuff, and the seats are on the other side; think the lower levels of Century Link. While it is enclosed, it is a nice respite from the sun, which we were about to get way too much of.

IMG_8100Starting Sox pitcher Derek Holland and his fancy holiday socks. Unfortunately for Chicago, Holland’s pitching was not enough to provide a win. IMG_8101IMG_8102The press box with retired numbers (above) and new digital pinwheels, an homage to Bill Veeck and his “exploding scoreboard”. We did see Jose Abreu hit a home run, so the pinwheels spun and fireworks went amok. 

Before we were in our seats, however, Karen procured two more pints of beer, and some off-the-cob elotes, and I got The Heater, the jalepeno dog with coleslaw and sriracha mayo. All were excellent (we split that too). The PA blared ACDC’s “Thunderstruck”, and the it was time to play ball.

Things started off well for the Sox. With Abreu’s two run tater in the first. But Texas resonded with a run of their own in the second after Holland loaded the bases, and then in the 5th with a vengeance; a double plating a run, and then an HR to plate both runners, and the score was 4-2. With the Rangers hitting, Karen and I decided something icy was needed, so we went to get some vodka lemonade slushies that were light on the vodka but heavy on the slushy, and those kept us cool in for another inning or two while the sun jumped from cloud to cloud. Holand was replaced by Chris Beck in the 6th after Roughned Odor took first base, and Beck gave Mike Napoli three pitches he couldn’t hit before one he really, really could.

IMG_8103IMG_8104IMG_8105IMG_8106IMG_8108IMG_8109IMG_8110IMG_8111IMG_8112IMG_8113IMG_8114IMG_8116IMG_8117IMG_8118IMG_8120IMG_8121. With the score 6-2 in the Rangers’ favor, and with the Sox playing the way they did today, Karen and I figured we could take another casual stroll around the field. Neither of us had any stake in this game, and it was just unbearably hot out, we’d both had enough. But not before we witnessed three Italian beef sandwiches racing each other in center field with Southpaw encouraging them…

IMG_8115.JPGAnother leisurely stroll down the ramps, and back to the 100 level, where we ran into more statues on the other side of a food kiosk called The Frozen Zone (or something similar)…

I don’t know why I took two pictures of Mr Comiskey, but I did. After waiting for people posing with the statues to get some clear shots, we went down the right field ramp to check out Kraft Cave, our destination for tomorrow’s lunch and drinks.

The Cave is a lot like what if The Pen was under the stadium and had better seating and a really bad view of the game. I don’t know how many people reading this might have gone to the Bullpen Pub back before it was Edgar’s, but if you did, the Cave is like that, but larger and nicer; like a sports bar. It is packed with people in their 20s and 30s, all of whom seemed well into their drinks by then. We walked around to get a feel for the place, taking everything in, and then I happened to glance at one of the TVs and notice that the score was a horrifying 10-4 in the 8th in the Rangers’ favor. We had a choice to make; we could either walk back up the ramp and see if the feckless Sox had some life in them to come back from that kind of deficit, or we could get while we were on the street level and go grab dinner before heading home. We chose the latter. We are going back tomorrow, I had seen quite a bit of stuff I wanted to see, and we were sunned and crowded out. Tacos for dinner and a drive through Karen’s neat little neighborhood later, and here I am finishing up this post and ready to get to bed at 9, just as the Mariners are starting another game against the Angels at home.

It was a really good day, but I am losing steam. I’m going to get some rest, and we’ll do it again tomorrow.

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In Chicago

Quick note; I flew OK after a week of really bad anxiety (I thought I was over that, but apparently not so much), and am now safe and sound in the Windy City. Turbulence was bad on this side, but I managed to keep all my bodily fluids contained.

I have woken up at what is basically 6AM my time after going to sleep at what was around maybe 1AM PST. This may be the earlist and with as little sleep as I have ever woken up for baseball, with the exception of when the Mariners and Diamondbacks were both in Japan. Camera battery is charged up and loaded, I have removed any possible security-offending items from my bag, and I am ready for whatever it is I’m about to do. Will be needing to re-read my own stadium preview to remind myself of what I’d had planned to do while here. It’s been too much in too few weeks to prepare for this and my still-reasonably-new job.

I wish I could have made it happen on the plane, but there won’t be any preview of Wrigley. I am going to break from my own personally-enforced desire to do those posts and just let everything wash over me, with my friend Karen as my guide. It’s not my preference, and I should be able to do a little bit of research in the interim, but time is a factor for real now, and if I’m honest, I just want to enjoy a good week’s worth of vacation after a fairly tense and busy last two months of work.

But I’m still going to take photos today, so you’ll get those later; weirdly, all of the games we are going to are day games, and I was fooled by the promotion of “White Sox Hawaiian Shirt”, because my brain automatically appends the word “night” onto promotions, since we have so many night games. Imagine my surprise yesterday at SeaTac when I discovered that no, I could not sleep in because I hadn’t paid attention to the actual game time on the tickets. So I have to be flexible and make sure I get more sleep tonight, but until then, onward to the White Sox!

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Miller Park Stadium Preview

I had a friend come visit this weekend and took her to her first Mariners game. It would have been nice if the Mariners could have won against her former temporary home of Houston (and she wanted them to), but the Astros are still quite formidable and it just wasn’t going to happen. We still had fun though, and I had some garlic fries for the first time in a while. The sunset was gorgeous, the weather was nice, it was a good night.

Less than five days now before I leave for Chicago, and still so much to do.  This is the first time I will be away from home for a 4th of July; it’s not a holiday I am passionate about by any stretch, but usually I am home or at a nearby friend’s place, doing what everyone else is doing that day; hanging out and grilling, maybe having a few drinks, and enjoying the weather. This year? I’ll be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at a Brewers game being played against the Baltimore Orioles. Normally when I do these trips, I try to book a game against a team I don’t really care about, so I feel comfortable cheering on the home team; I told myself a while ago for these outings that if I’m in your stadium, I’m on your side. I tried to get around having to be against the O’s, but it was the only week that the White Sox, Brewers and Cubs were all going to be home within the same relatively short time, so I did what I had to do. I do mean to cheer on the Brewers, of course; but right now my biggest fear is being the only one in my section clapping for an Orioles bomb or a double play without realizing it until it’s too late. Maybe I’ll try to keep myself occupied with fried cheese curds and my camera so I don’t pull a faux pas on foreign soil.

I had a look around the Brewers website today and it looks like there is no shortage of stuff to do at Miller Park. Like other stadiums this year, they have done a revamping of their food and drink options, to better reflect the area they’re in (link, as I cannot hyperlink because of some dumb work firewall: http://milwaukee.brewers.mlb.com/mil/ballpark/food-and-beverage/).  I have a hard time choosing what I’m going to eat at most stadiums; with limited time and limited knowledge, making a decision on just one meal is difficult; but the Brewers have solved that problem for me by making those fried cheese curds available, so barring any other discoveries when I get there, either that’s my lunch, or Karen and I can share an order and find something a little more substantial to add to the fray.  They also have a beer called Central Waters Mudpuppy Porter that I’d like to try. It’s nice to see a beer list where the letters “I”, “P”, and “A” are not prominently listed (sorry, fellow Northwesterners, IPA tastes awful).

Speaking of puppies, I had until this morning completely forgotten about Hank! Bernie Brewer makes sense as a mascot, but muppet humanoids are a little freaky, so I am looking forward to picking up some Hank memorabilia. If you are not familiar with Hank and his adorable story, you can find it here: http://stories.barkpost.com/meet-hank-the-milwaukee-brewers-new-mascot/.  Hank has his own merchandise kiosk over right field, and I intend to drop by and see what sorts of trouble I can get myself into. Stuffed Hank, please? You have made a sale, my friends!

A bit of disappointment on gate opening  times, sadly. Miller Park opens only an hour and a half prior to game time, giving me little chance to leisurely get into everything I would probably want to see. A meal at Friday’s Front Row is probably out, since I want to also take in the monuments, Wall of Honor, and if time allows, maybe Bob Ueker’s “Last Row” statue, but that one is on their Terrace level, and I’m not sure if that is open to the public (the website isn’t clear). The later opening gates may force me to make some cuts in what I really want to do around the park, which is technically fine – the Brewers are not one of my teams – but I’m coming a long way to do this, so it’s kind of a bummer that I might not get to see everything. We do have a parking pass, which I had the forethought to pick up with our tickets, so that could make things a little easier as far as getting to the stadium, but I’ll need to really make sure I look at a map so I can cram everything into the first hour and get food and actually be able to watch the game. It looks like a lot of the Hall of Fame-type exhibits are around home plate and third base, so maybe it will be  manageable, since that is the approximate area our seats are in; there is something called the Home Plate Plaza, which I am assuming is an open spot for the public art and other bits of interest for the team.  They also have an All American Girls Wall of Honor, Autograph Alley, and retired uniform numbers of multiple players.

A Google image search for Miller Park shows what looks like a gorgeous brick, steel, and glass building with a clamshell-style roof enclosure. I would love to be able to see a game outdoors, but the weather in that area is going to be a little iffy – lots of heat and thunderstorms – so we’ll see. I’m not sure how many the park seats, but it looks larger than Safeco. The upper deck also has seats over LF – think another two tiers of seats over the bleachers in our park here in Seattle. And windows everywhere! Four decks of seating make for an impressive structure. I expect to be blown away when actually there, it looks incredible in photos. I have no idea if they have anything planned for the 4th, or if the windows even allow for fireworks to be set off, but it won’t matter; there will be baseball, it’ll be a great new experience, and I can hardly wait.

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