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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Go Call Your Dad

I am still working on cleaning up my photos on the laptop, battling the ridiculous iCloud in the process. I have less than two weeks to do previews of both Miller Park and Wrigley Field and go through about 4 more years of pictures; this doesn’t sound like much but it is a daunting task. My photos are bits of my life, and I am trying to maintain the storyline as I took pictures of it, and choosing what goes and what stays is really difficult and time consuming. I am hoping that by the All Star Break, I will be able to return to this site more frequently and with more pictures.

Today is father’s day. My father is still alive, but Tom’s is not. I wrestle with this a little every year. When Tom’s dad took his own life in 1999, Tom and I were still two years away from even meeting yet. I never knew him. I see him in Tom and in Tom’s sister Kate, and he was clearly an excellent father to both of them, and would have been a fantastic grandfather to Kate’s kids. My own father would be an excellent grandfather to our kids, if I had chosen to have any; but living in increasingly-expensive Seattle and being married to a musician isn’t exactly a kid-friendly situation, and that part of my brain that was supposed to make me want kids (I guess? Is that how it works?) never woke up. And I’m OK with that, always have been.

My father was surprised by my sudden turn to watching baseball as a part of my life; most of my family is, and if you’ve ever seen me at the ballpark, you would know that my appearance kind of belies my fandom. One of the Jays fans we spoke to during that series thought I was there on a lark, and was quite shocked to find out that I had been a season ticket holder/regular at the park since 2008. My dad likes trying to organize a yearly family ballgame, and we were doing OK for a few years, but it has been a difficult thing to do, what with everyone’s schedules. Last year fell by the wayside; this year might too; Tom’s been taking every job that comes his way, and festival season is happening now, which means a lot of flights to a lot of far off places, and a lot of weekends away. My brother and sister in law are on the go a lot, as are her sister and brother in law, who live up in Bellingham. So this year may fall by the wayside as well, which is a shame. I love being at the park with my family, since we have kind of scattered and it’s a good few hours by car for any of us to visit each other.

But that’s not why I’m writing, really. I’m writing because I read this amazing piece of work by Amanda Cumming this morning, and it hit me really hard. My friend Julie just lost her father the other night to a heart condition. My friend Katie’s father is dealing with the end stages of that devil cancer. Our parents are the people who most shape us, who help us be who we were, are right now, and will be. My father played a big part in my life, and I see wonderful dads in all my friends who have kids. My friends’ kids are going to do great things some day, because they all have fantastic men raising them or men in their lives who are helping inspire them to grow up and be good people.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but Mandy’s article there really affected me. So do yourself a favor; read it.

Then go call your dad.

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Guaranteed Rate Field Preview

Things have been quiet here, I know. I lost my camera battery for a year, then discovered that my laptop is way too full of photos (have been trying to move them to a USB stick, it’s taking forever), and am trying to get everything squared up for my trip in less than a month. I just transitioned to a new job, and a lot of the time wind up either working through lunch or wanting to get as far away as possible from my desk, which doesn’t do me any favors as far as getting the time to write. Also, I think I have been having WAY too much fun on Twitter with all the good folks there, so this space has fallen by the wayside, which frankly kinda sucks.

But I am leaving for Chicago on June 30th after a day of work, and the following Saturday  my friend Karen and I are going to go to a White Sox game. I am lukewarm on the White Sox and most AL and NL Central teams, so I think that is another thing contributing to my apathy on this, but that is neither here nor there. In keeping with my self-driven tradition of trying to research where I’m going, I’m finally getting around to stadium previews. So let’s do this, shall we?

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 10.40.08 AM.png

One of the first things I always look at is food, of course, and Chicago is a well-known food mecca. The one thing you’re going to notice first on the food drop down on the White Sox home page is the amount of cylindrical meat products on the docket, followed by the descriptor “Polish”. This is to be expected, and I’d be disappointed if it was anything else. They also have tacos, burgers, Cuban sandwiches, and a lot of places that are helpfully named after their locations; Batter’s Eye Brewhouse, Batter’s Box Beer, Dick Allen’s Rooftop Dogs (and Polish, natch). Of particular interest to me is Southside Sandwiches in multiple sections that serves an Italian beef sandwich; though I can’t decide if I would rather have this particular Chicago delicacy at a place other than a ballpark. Beltin’ Bill Melton’s Brats and Sausage has something called “The Heater”, a picture of which (along with a bunch of other information that I literally just found on Google) can be found here.  A jalepeno dog with coleslaw and sriracha mayo? I think I’m in love!

I allow myself two beers per game on these visits, mostly so I can remain alert and actually enjoy the game and see the things I want to see most. I am hoping to try some Chicago or Midwest-specific beers, though The Pen at Safeco is currently under Coors’ control, and we have a lot of Leinenkugel already. Guaranteed Rate apparently has quite a few places to stop for “assorted craft beers”, so I will be looking around for something I can’t get here. At the link posted above, there is also a space called Craft Kave that serves some ridiculously crazy looking burgers and a good selection of porters and stouts, my beer preference (though very few things beat a good Manny’s on a hot day). Further reading over the link above shows that I literally could have just posted the link and not done so much writing on my own. Bacon on a stick in the 500-level? Yes, PLEASE. Seriously, if you’re going to a Sox game, click that link and spend some time checking it out, the author has provided photos and in-depth descriptions of what to have and where to go. Also, I think I may need to grab a bite to eat soon here myself; just reading all of this is making me hungry!

Another thing I like to check out is various stadium art or landmarks. A few of these don’t appear to be accessible unless you’re on one of the fancier levels of the park. This is pretty par for the course, we have a lot of cool stuff to see at Safeco at the Terrace level that you just can’t see unless you’re ticketed there. There is a sculpture park over center field, much like at Camden. Should be easy to get to, as it looks like GR does feature a walkaround main deck.

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 11.33.26 AM.pngMinnie Minoso sculpture, courtesy Daily Herald, used without permission.

GR also has a first timer’s certificate place called the Rookie’s Corner over section 154, and if you don’t think I’m going to make a beeline for that area, you’d be wrong. At Camden, I was the oldest person in line, but I didn’t care; that Orioles certificate is on my wall in a frame at home. It’s little stuff like that that make a visit to any stadium a little more fun. Also on that level is a Comiskey Park shower. Why? No idea; but it’s a point of interest, and I’m going to take a picture of it. There is the old ballpark homeplate and something called Loretta’s Lounge around the right outfield area. The old homeplate is the place where that was when Comiskey was still standing. It is currently out very close to an area used for parking. Reminds me of how Sick’s Stadium home plate is still out in front of Lowe’s on Rainier Ave here in Seattle. Very cool.

Guaranteed Rate (not for nothing, that is just a terrible name though) also takes an odd approach to their decks. Safeco has 100, 200, 300, GR has 100, 300, 500; which made me think we were sitting up higher for the first game on July 1st than we actually are. I went for cheaper when I got our StubHub tickets, and wound up sitting in approximately the same place Daniel and I are sitting this year; Section 331. Only in Chicago, it’s 535 (soooo close to the bacon in section 529) the view is about the same. I am hoping to get some nice height-advantage pictures up there. Sections go from home plate “clockwise” down the third baseline and back around. Every stadium has a learning curve, and GR will be no exception. My issue right now is that I’m not sure if we are going to wind up at one or two White Sox games yet. The tempation to spend a lot of time at the park is great, but Karen and I haven’t seen each other since the 90s, and Chicago is a big place with lots of other things to do (and unfortunately, South Side, my focus on this trip is mainly Cubs-oriented).

So that’s that. I hope to have a lot more to bring back with me after the game on July 1st, which is Hawaiian Shirt Night (I love lucking out on a promo night with these trips), and many more tales to tell. Most of the trip will be ballpark-focused. There is even the possiblity that one of the nearby minor league teams might be in the vicinity that week, so maybe I’ll get to go check one of those out as well. But Karen is also keen on taking me to Hamilton and I am interested in the Chicago Art Institute, and maybe some other fun, if I can squeeze it in. This is going to be my last baseball trip for a while, probably; at least a couple of years. So I want to make sure I get in as much fun as possible while I can.

Now, I have about an hour and change before the Mariners try to sweep up the Tampa Rays.

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Refuse To Abuse 5K At Safeco Field (Request For Donations)

It’s that time again! Our little team is back together, and ready to go walk and run another 5 KM around, inside, and over Safeco Field. It’s a great event for a good cause, and we would surely appreciate it if you would help us out by donating to help fund the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the good work they do to take care of the men, women, and children who might need their help. You can donate anonymously if you wish, and all donations go directly to help this wonderful organization. You may or may not be aware of it, but the chances are very high that you know someone who has been affected by domestic violence in some way or other. Maybe you yourself have been involved in such a situation. We want to remove the stigma of DV and make sure that those who need help can receive it. Funding of this organization is very important.

If you can’t donate, please share our link. I’m not trying to win any prizes here, I’d just like to make sure we get the word out to anyone who might want to help us out. Some members of Lookout Landing are also participating this year last I heard, something I think is wonderful, and fully encourage. I can’t find their donation page or I’d link to it. Ours can be found here.  If you want to join the team, you most certainly can do that; we welcome everyone and anyone, of all walking/running levels. The runners in our group do their thing, and the rest of us maintain a good pace while chatting as we walk through the main concourse, the suite level, up and down both ramps, and around the back and sides of the park and the parking garage (you really do go all over Safeco Field). Registering for the race is easy and not too expensive; $40 before the June 15th, $45 after to the day of the race.

So please consider a donation, asking others to donate to us, or joining us in our walk/run! Your consideration is very much appreciated.

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Cheney Stadium Trip

Since the last time I wrote in this space, the Mariners are 10-8; so perhaps the rough start has been just a small bump in the road. It is tempting to remain skeptical – and my skepticism is still there, for I am a Mariners fan – but even as I sit here and type this, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager have both hit dingers off Danny Salazar in Cleveland, and have gained a 3-0 lead in the first inning.*

Last night, I made a spur of the moment decision to go to a Rainiers game. It’s been several years- I believe the last time I was down there was for Jaimie Moyer’s start against Danny Hultzen (if I remember correctly it was indeed Hultzen), and they have made several changes around Cheney Stadium since then. Two really fantastic commons areas (party decks!), a fire pit, and another area you can reserve for parties under which is nestled the Rainiers’ bullpen out over left field. We were able to move from our seats to go check out the area over the third baseline, where there is a large bar with beer and liquor, an independent brewery cart, and three food trucks (Greek, barbecue, and cookies)! The other deck over the pen was rented out by three different groups, so we weren’t able to check it out last night. It almost feels like a tiny Safeco Field there now.

I went off my dietary restrictions (I didn’t have much of a choice; for as nice as Cheney is now, it’s still serving fairly typical baseball food) and gave the taco stand on the 3rd base side of the stadium a try. I recommend the taco plate; you have a choice of chicken or beef (I chose chicken, it has a bit of a red mole’ flavor to it) and the plate comes with beans and rice (which I cannot vouch for, as I declined that option) for around $9. They have a condiment stand with Valentina’s hot sauce, too, which made things even better. Cheney also features a Kidd Valley (with hand-dipped foot long corn dogs and garlic fries, of course), a place to get pizza that isn’t Little Caesar’s, a red hot stand, wings, and another option that I can’t recall off the top of my head. There are at least two places to get all variety of beer in cans or draft. This is a vast improvement since I was there a few years ago. They’ve done an excellent job with everything. Views of the field and game remain top notch, as always. I will definitely be trying to get down there more frequently, they have really and truly stepped up their game. The Rainiers beat the Sacramento River Cats a slim 2-1, but Leonys Martin was on the roster batting first, and it was fun to see some of the guys I was only able to hear about during spring training. Also met up with some of the good folks from Mariners Twitter/Lookout Landing. It was a fun night out. Everything was topped off with fireworks, and we had a really pleasant drive home. In any event, I highly recommend a visit to Cheney if you haven’t been lately. It’s a far more pleasant experience in a minor league stadium than it maybe used to be.

*The Indians then took the lead  in their half of the first on some horrible pitching and fielding by the Mariners. I have been writing this while the game is in progress, obviously. Seattle is currently struggling in the bottom of the 5th with a one run game in stormy Cleveland. Yovani Gallardo seems to be holding his own after a rough first, but we need more hits and runs, as per usual.

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A Small Bump In The Road?

This is going to be a short one. Tom lost his phone in Russia, which means I have to go sit inside SeaTac this morning for however long it takes him to get through customs. Fun, fun.

I knew from the moment he started talking that Jarrod Dyson would be a good fit for this team. When he took a seat on the dugout at FanFest and began fielding questions from Dave Sims and Aaron Goldsmith, he had a calm dignity to him, and spoke with the kind of authority you’d expect of someone who’s been playing the game at a major league level far longer than Dyson actually has. He had a way of engendering confidence; and the clips shown of his speed during his tenure with the Kansas City Royals didn’t hurt either. I was unaware, however, that his wit was one of the reasons Jerry Dipoto decided we needed him here.

Probably overstating a fact, but the Mariners have had a bad week. It’s early on, yes; and I am still very much on board here. But it’s difficult to parse things when you’re so excited for a team that has all the pieces to be a fantastic team (in Mariners terms) and they are falling so short of fantastic. It is funny, though, what a little objectivity from a player can do, so I will continue to be on board, because the ship has left the dock already and it’s a bit far to swim back at this point. We’re not sinking, the leaks are still repairable. Have a seat next to the pool, order a margarita; it’s going to be a long cruise.

I will be glad to be leaving work at 11 tomorrow. I love the feeling of being a little responsible and then packing up and heading out towards Pioneer Square. The atmosphere in the pubs is already electric with people who have taken the opportunity to do some day drinking, and Mariners gear is everywhere you look. The thing I like about sports that I never got out of my days as a musician is the cameraderie, and that feeling of a unified front. Especially here in Seattle, even fans of the opposing team are friendly and everyone plays well with others. It’s supposed to be partly sunny with thunderstorms tomorrow (topping out at around only 49F temperature-wise), and my friend and I may not last long at the top of the row in the left field bleachers because of that, but it won’t matter much because baseball will be back in Seattle. Go Ms!

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