Tagged: Ballparks

Final Mini-ballpark tour stop

“Speed, for a pitcher, is like looks for a girlfriend. It is meaningful, but not determinative.” – Bill James
The above quote is from The Mind of Bill James – How a Complete Outsider Changed Baseball by Scott Gray. I was reading this on the plane trip home and decided it explained the game I just saw on Wednesday night perfectly. It was final game in our mini-ballpark trip at Shea Stadium.

Zito

We saw Barry Zito shut down the powerful Met lineup like they were the Bad News Bears. I thought the above quote was appropriate because both starting pitchers (the Mets started Tom Glavine) failed to exceed 85 MPH on the gun, but both were very effective, mixing their pitches, speeds and keeping the ball on the corners. Zito did not allow any runner to reach third base, and no one reached as far as second after the second inning except a stranded leadoff double by Lo Duca in the 7th. It’s hard to have a rally when you don’t have any runners in scoring position. Glavine must be doing something right since he will end his career north of 300 wins, something that extremely few pitchers will do from now on. After a two out, two run rally in the first, Glavine and Mota only allowed 5 hits the rest of the game.

Wright

Before the game, I marveled to my wife about the strength of the Met lineup, particularly for a National League team. Then they went out there and laid a goose egg. The Big 4 of Reyes, Beltran, Delgado and Wright managed only two hits between them in fifteen at bats. There were very few hard hit balls for either side.

Barry Bonds singled and scored a run, but the offensive story was Pedro Feliz, who drove in all 3 Giant runs with a 2 run single in the first and an RBI triple in the third. Rich Aurilia, entered the game hitting only .244, but had a 4 for 4 night, to supply the rest of the Giant firepower. After the third inning they only got one hit other than Aurilia. The other big story was that the Giants used Brad Hennessey to close out the game in the ninth rather than turning to the hot tempered head-hunter, Armando Benitez. The game was a quick, relatively uneventful affair punctuated by both pitchers throwing strikes in their repertoire of slow, slower and slowest.

Shea Stadium

I didn’t realize they were building a new stadium to begin use in 2009. I liked the drawings as it appears to resemble Ebbets Field from at least one vantage point. Shea is an older stadium with very little special features, which reminds me of the 60’s and 70’s cookie cutter, multi-use facilities Veteran’s Stadium, Three Rivers and Busch. It’s the last of these to be phased out in favor of a new ballyard. I liked the Stadium for the following reasons:

Zshea

1) Its ingress and egress were great. We got there about 1 hour before game time and were able to pull into a reasonably priced parking lot with almost no hassle even though it was rush hour. When we left, we were able to get out of our seats quickly, to the parking lot and out the gate immediately. I didn’t think this was possible in New York. Despite the surrounding neighborhoods being a little scary, I guess it makes sense to put the new Citi Park right next door.

2) The seating was modern with good sight lines. I was able to get seats in the Mezzanine right behind home plate for less than face value. What I don’t understand was why there weren’t more people there. OK, it was a Wednesday night, but there was a great pitching matchup of Zito vs Glavine. The Mets are leading their division and the Giants are formerly from NY, so I would expect a good crowd. Down the lines, no one was in the upper deck, so there were at least 10,000 empty seats. In USA Today the following morning, it reported that the Stadium was sold out, but that can’t possibly be true unless there were 10,000 no shows. I know there are less Met fans that Yankee fans by a long shot, but was really surprised how they failed to support their division leading team. If they build it, will they come?

3) They also sang “Sweet Caroline” in the 7th inning stretch. Am I missing something? When did this become a baseball song? Neil Diamond is so …………70’s! I thought Boston was weird for singing this golden oldie that my grandmother liked. This song is a major league beating!

4) I found the people at the stadium well mannered and funny. Everyone was helpful about directions and other assistance. The crowd didn’t have much to get excited about, but occasionally, got a “Let’s Go Mets” chant rolling. A few had blindfolds that said “Boycott Barry” on them, but I couldn’t get a good picture. After the game, some fans were dancing to the “bucket drummers” and singing a fun version of “Let’s Go Mets” which we thought was pretty entertaining. We also enjoyed the “Meet the Mets” song played earlier in the game. I thought they made that up on “Seinfeld” but it did make me laugh.

5) Say what you will about the Mets, but they do have 2 World Championships in their 45 year existence, which is two more than our local heroes, in addition to several other World Series appearances. If they weren’t in the shadow of the Yankee Dynasty, they would have a lot more loyal fan base.

6) The Diamond Club at Shea is weird. You can’t see the field from it! What is the use of having a bar / restaurant at the stadium if you can’t see the field at all? As long as the Stadium has been there, you would have thought that would have been remedied by now. Hopefully they will figure that out with the new field.

7) Their scoreboard was simple and effective, with more information on out of town games than most of the others I have seen. It even identified the umpires, so you could boo them by name if you wanted to.

Zsheanew

That’s it for my mini-ballpark trip of 2007. Hopefully in 2008, we will visit Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to finish off the Northeast and Mideast section of the country. In 2010, a whole new crop of stadiums will come on line, so we will be back to New York.

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Day 2 of mini-ballpark trip – Fenway Has Got to Go!

The People’s Republic of Massachusetts Welcomes You – I really expected to see a sign like this somewhere. Texas is the antithesis of New England and that had me in a foul mood as we drove up to Boston from our New Jersey home base, although I was looking forward to seeing Fenway Park. The trip took 4 hours in light traffic. Our hotel was in Cambridge right next to Hah-vahd, so we pahked our cah there and took the subway to Fenway on Memorial Day. (Sorry I am posting this a bit late. I wanted to get out of Boston alive before posting this.)
View from my SeatsFenway1_2

We didn’t have tickets, and I knew this was going to be tough. As we walked the 4 blocks from the subway to Fenway, numerous guys were asking if people had extra tickets. None were selling except one guy who wanted $150 per ticket for field box tickets way out in the outfield. I walked around Fenway three times until I finally found someone selling grandstand tickets somewhere in the vicinity of home plate. I won’t mention what I paid for them, but suffice it to say it was some where between a ridiculously expensive baseball game ticket and a super bowl ticket.

Fenway_schill

Fewway_lee

This was another great game. Curt Schilling VS Cliff Lee pitting two of the division leaders against each other. Pitching dominated early (which was great because they are both on my fantasy team) but the Sox broke through in the 4th for a 2-0 lead, which increased with a Manny laser beam HR that just cleared the monster. The Tribe got on the scoreboard in the 6th, but Kevin Youkilis hit an inside the park home run (a rare sight) in the 7th to keep the lead at 3. After Schilling was taken out, I mentioned to my wife that here was the Tribe’s chance. Sure enough, they rallied to load the bases with one out, but only got one run, stranding 2 runners. Back to back doubles got the Sox an important insurance run for a 5-3 lead going into the ninth. Papelbon came on to preserve the lead, but walked the leadoff hitter and allowed Barfield to double off the Monster to bring the winning run up to bat with nobody out and Grady striding to the plate. After Sizemore popped out, the Indians’ hottest hitter, Casey Blake got his turn. Then the controversy began.

Fenway_groundout

On a 2-2 count, Blake checked his swing and the ball hit him. The home plate umpire sent him to first base to load the bags. The Red Sox players erupted. We thought the controversy was HBP or foul ball. Then the home plate ump and Francona conferred with the first base umpire, and he gave a fist signal, indicating that Blake had swung at the pitch and was out. The ball hit him so it was dead and he didn’t need to be thrown out at first. If I were the Tribe’s manager, I would have been tossed. There is no way that Blake swung and this terrible call killed any momentum the Indians had. Papelbon converted the save by striking out the frigid Travis Hafner, whose night ended oh for five with a golden sombrero (4 K’s).

Here are my hot sports opinions on Boston and Fenway Park:

1) Fenway Park needs to be replaced ASAP. It needs to be bulldozed and replaced with a modern stadium with similar dimensions. I don’t see how a refurbishment would work. The Green Monster has character, but as a right handed line drive hitter I would have hated playing there. It turns pop flies into homers and doubles, while laser beams are converted to singles and doubles. The rest of the stadium is one quagmire after another. The entrances, walkways and exits were tiny, creating a logjam with a crowd of only 37,000, making it seem like 80,000. The demand for seats far exceeds the 37,000 capacity making tickets only available for season ticket holders and wealthy people. The only kids present were with their rich yuppie parents. You didn’t see the normal dad and his son going to the game at the spur of the moment like you see at every other major league ballpark. I love old stadiums like Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium, but Fenway needs to meet Mr. Wrecking ball.

Yawkey_way_2

2) Yawkey Way was a beating. It is open until 3 hours before game time, then closed off for an hour until the gates open 2 hours before. My wife was enjoying the air conditioning in one watering hole while the area was closed off while I was on my search for tickets. After I got my tickets, it took a long time for me to figure out the only way to reach her was to wait for the gates to open and plow through the mass of humanity or go through several back alleys and find the rear exit of the bar. This really ticked both of us off. There was a special atmosphere around the ballpark, but give me Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field any day. Numerous bars outside the park, you can go broke fast. Driving to Fenway isn’t an option. Parking is hard to come by and costs $35 and up. No place to tailgate. Frankly, I think Frog Alley at TCU football games has a better gameday experience.

Chairs_2

3) Seating – The grandstand area was one of the few areas to sit anywhere near home plate. The chairs in this area are made of wood and appear to be the original seats installed before World War One. I know they can’t be, but they look and feel that bad. For their location, these are the most uncomfortable seats in all my stadium travels. I would have expected to see seats like this on Alcatraz.

4) Music – Boston is sorely lacking in songs played at the ballpark. Singing along with ”Sweet Caroline” is the worst tradition around. Playing “Dirty Water” after the game is probably second. The person singing “God Bless America” tricked it up so bad, I almost wanted to boo her after the song, but didn’t want to disrespect America (like she did).

5) The Fans are definitely the most obnoxious in all of Baseball. It could have something to do with their winning streak and 13 game lead in the East, but Boston fans make me long for the relatively “friendly” fans of Yankee Stadium. Maybe it’s just because they are made up of yuppie frontrunners, but there were not many redeeming qualities here. Now I understand why the Boston fans at Rangers games are the most obnoxious – they think it is normal fan behavior. I thought people from California were pretentious, but Boston takes the cake, calling Fenway “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” (Wrigley – no contest) and Boston “The Athens of America” and generally having that superior air about themselves.

OK – I have told you the bad news. I need to be positive and give a few opposing viewpoints.

1) Good Chowder – We had Chowdah twice and both times it was great.

2) History – Boston has more American history in a 1 square mile than in all of Texas combined. We did enjoy walking the Freedom Trail on Tuesday since we decided this would be our first and probably last trip to Boston. We liked the north end of town with all the Italian eateries.

Washington_2
Boston Common

3) The Boston Common was a very relaxing oasis in the center of Boston.

On to Shea Stadium on Wednesday – I am pumped about the pitching matchup – Glavine VS Zito. – We have been blessed with the greatest weather, pitching matchups and close games we could have asked for. Let’s hope this game is equally exciting.

The “Summer of Tom” continues!

2006 Has been a great year and we are only halfway through it. My family now refers to the summer of 2006 (and 2006 in general) as “The Summer of Tom”.

I DECLARE THIS – THE SUMMER OF TOM !!!!!

The_summer_of_george006

If you will recall, on Seinfeld, George Costanza, upon getting news of the death of his fiancée (who he really didn’t want to marry) goes out with Jerry and declares himself a free man, loudly shouting – “I hereby proclaim this ………The Summer of George!” Although I bear no resemblance to George, I have always thought that the “Summer of George” was the second best concept to come from his character. The first is (of course) Festivus, but it’s not Festivus season right now. While talking to Jerry, George goes on to say that he will now be free to sit around his apartment with his shirt off, watch TV and eat hunks of cheese removed from a piece as big as….. something (his head?).

Needless to say, I have higher aspirations than George.

First there was my new job I started in January 2006. I love the job and I am exactly what our company needs in this position. My employer is very successful and generous with its employees. My boss is a great guy to work for and has been very helpful in getting me integrated. Having known the owners and management for over 10 years also makes me feel great about the company. This was the lynchpin for the “Summer of Tom”, because if I was at my old job, with the poor performing company which required a lot of travel, the “Summer of Tom” would have never happened. As soon as I was hired, the new 62 inch DLP HDTV showed up at our house and with it officially began, the “Summer of Tom”

My wife has always wanted to do something with our backyard. It has been an eyesore ever since we put up the first swing set (and later a fort). I have always wanted a pool, but between the yard being so small and hard to reach from the street, we thought that it would be tough to have a conventional, in-ground pool. We were planning on having a graduation party for Andrew and we needed to do something. I cleared out the old fort, leveled the ground, built a deck, erected a gazebo over it, bought new patio furniture and then added a large above ground pool (48 in deep, 12 feet by 20 feet). I even bought a “planter” which could be suspended from the house. If it were for plants, it would not be mentioned in the Summer of Tom! The “planter” is strong enough to hold about 20 beers or sodas and the ice to keep it frigid in the Texas heat. I can access said beer while standing in the pool. I also bought two floats. A large one shaped like a baseball glove and a second ring that in addition to having a pillow, has a pocket that can hold about 6 cans and ice, so I don’t even have to stand up to get a beer if I am using that floatie. Everything was in place for the party and we had a great time. After the party, I discovered that if I lift the blinds in one window of our game room, I can watch our big screen from the pool quite clearly at night. Later I bought some wireless outdoor speakers. Now I can watch the TV with sound from the pool or just listen to music either on the porch, in the pool or by the gazebo. The next step will be to add some additional landscape pavers and maybe a misting system for the gazebo. I don’t think Gaye will let me have a mini-fridge on the Gazebo.

The next step was vacation. Due to a lack of advance planning, we could not use our timeshare and we had only a 10 day period to take a family vacation. I don’t know how I did this, but I convinced Gaye to go on the baseball vacation (see previous blog entries for details). At this point, the entire family started talking about the concept of “The Summer of Tom”.

Now, for the latest addition to the family. Because Gaye has been such a trooper, teaching and coaching tennis at Nolan, and sacrificing a month of her summer to go to an ECAP training class towards getting fully certified, I decided that she should at least have more fun driving to school. She is not the minivan mom anymore and now that both boys can drive their own cars, her days as the team bus are over. I have always wanted to get a sports car but could never afford it, until now. I will admit that I also bought this because I wanted to have fun driving, so it still falls under the “Summer of Tom” theme. This past Saturday we picked up our brand new BMW Z4 3.0si Roadster

Beamer2
She thinks it’s her car – don’t tell her!

Rarely have I even thought about what color car I wanted, but in this case, Gaye and I decided we had to go with the Montego Blue with Beige Leather. Although I enjoy driving my 530i, this car has opened my eyes to how fun driving can be. We drove it to Dallas for dinner the night we got it and to Aledo for a party the next day. It was awesome! I did almost have a heart attack when Matt drove it to 7-11 with his friend (with my panicked approval).

Yesterday we picked up our summer exchange student, Jack Armstrong. Jack is here with 16 other students from Northern Ireland with the Ulster Project. For the next month, they have almost daily activities for the Ulster teens and their US partners. He and Matt will be doing everything together from taking a ROPES class, going to Six Flags, Burger’s Lake, San Antonio, the Ballpark in Arlington and many other fun activities. At some point, I need to sit down with Jack and teach him about this baseball thing. August will be here before we know it.

What else lies ahead in the “Summer of Tom”? Stay tuned!

Ballpark In Arlington Advice – Please comment with advice on your home park!

If you read my previous post about my summer vacation plans, I’m sure many of you have some advice on what to do in different cities, where to sit in the new ballparks and what food / drinks are a requirement at certain locations.  I would really love to hear suggestions of real baseball fans.  Since I live in arlington and go to Ranger games all the time and sit everywhere from a corporate box to the bleachers, I can give you some ideas if you come here.

Before I tell you some of the bad things, here is the good part.  The ballpark in arlington (BPIA) is great.  The architecture has some southwestern roots and the design is similar to the modern retro parks like Camden Yard.  It’s hard to believe it already 12 years old.  Be prepared for a big offensive game as the ball carries very well, particularly to right center field and to the right field home run porch.  Rainouts are rare because it rarely rains and when it does, the field drains very well.  It’s worth the price of admission to see Mark Teixeira, Michael Young and Hank Blalock, who make up the most powerful infield in the majors. 

Arlington

It’s hot here! If you are going to a game from May through September, you will need to hydrate and use sunscreen if you are in the sun.  First base and right field tend to be in the shade more.  Upper deck in left field and the third base side get the most sun and should be avoided lest you spend half the game staring into the setting sun and burning to a crisp.  Day games are death unless it’s an abnormally cool day (very rare).  There are very few day games scheduled after May, but if there is one, do not go there.  During the summer it will still be in the high 80’s at night, so be prepared for a hot night.

Getting to the ballpark – arlington is the largest city in the country without public transportation.  You have to use a car or a shuttle to get there unless you are at one of the few hotels in walking distance – Courtyard by Marriott and larger Marriott.

Parking – Considering the lack of development around the ballpark, parking is a ridiculous $10 to park a loooonnngg way from the ballpark.  Valet Parking isn’t too expensive but getting your car after the game can be a problem.  If your hotel has a shuttle, use it even if you have to pay. 

Seating – As the Rangers fall off the pace, good seats will become more plentiful but don’t count on them for a Yankees or Red Sox series.  For me, the best value is the upper deck in the 6 or so sections behind home plate, but in the first 4-5 rows.  You can usually get 2 for 1 during week days with a promotion.  I think April and May is with Dr. Pepper.  If you bring an empty can to the park you can get these seats 2 for 1.  If you choose the first base side, you will be some of the few people who can see into the visitors bullpen.  I like behind home plate toward the third base side so I can see in the Ranger dugout and it’s easier to see the Jumbotron.  The view picture of the ballpark on this page is from the upper deck.  Don’t sit under the home run porch or in the bleachers because you won’t be able to see the main scoreboard or the Jumbotron.

Food – The cost of food at the Ballpark has skyrocketed of late and the quality has declined.  They used to have really good Bar-B-Q, but it’s not that great anymore.  I recommend the Ranger tater – a baked potato with cheese, onions and Bar-B-Q on top.  Since water costs the same as soda at over $3 a pop, drink beer!  If you wrangle a ticket on the club level or a season ticket with rights to the Gold club (it will be stated on the ticket), you need to eat and drink there.  Real Margaritas and better nachos are only the beginning of the better food.  In the club level, workers will take your order and bring food to your seat.  If you like being waited on, go for it.  These tickets are usually available because they are expensive and are discounted less often.

Ballpark secrets –

  • The legends of the game museum in the ballpark is worth your time.  It’s not cooperstown, but then again what is?
  • Rawlings Resaturant in Right field – avoid at all cost.  Seats are the worst in the house and the food is only slightly better than ballpark fare.
  • If you are in the cheap seats and need either shade or a breeze, there are 2 places to go 1) The upper deck, particularly in the last few rows will get you any breeze that exists.  Most areas also offer a lot of shade.  2) After the lower bowl section, there is another section with numbers in the 100’s.  If you are behind home plate, you will notice a few stairwells leading up one level. Head up there and see if there’s an available seat.  You will have to move down a section or two away from the Gold Club on either side. There is a lot of room to stand behind these sections and still get a great view and a good breeze.  In addition, you may be able to grab a vacated seat. 

Please give me your advice on visiting Wrigley, Comerica, Skydome, Jacobs Field, PNC, Comiskey and New Busch Stadium.  Thanks for your help!

Memorable New Ballpark Trip Planned!

You will love our planned vacation for this year. My wife agreed to this last night and both boys are on board. We didn’t go to florida this year for spring break, but will be driving as much we would driving to florida, but spread it over the whole week. YES – It is the always threatened, never agreed to – Baseball Trip.

My kids have never traveled much to the Midwest, where both my wife and I grew up, so we are taking them to visit peoria (where I grew up), a few aunts & uncles (convenient additional excuse) – and 7 major league ballparks – 6 of which I have never been to for a game.

Let’s check out the map, shall we? (in best Clark Griswold voice):

1) fly to St. Louis (ridiculously low airfare due to Southwest battle – $98 roundtrip pp)

2) rent a family truckster in STL (insist on rally fun pack and avoid Antonio Farkus AKA Huggy Bear)

Wrigleyfield

3) drive to Chicago by way of Peoria and watch a Cub game at Wrigley (Atlanta) – sing Danke Schoen in that day’s parade

Comerica

4) drive to Detroit and watch a Tigers game at Comerica Park (Cleveland) – lunch at hockeytown usa while hangin’ wit my homies on 8 mile road

Skydome

5) drive to Toronto and watch the Jays at Skydome (2 games White Sox and Boston) – catch terrance and phillip live while saying things like aboot and eh

Pnc_park3

6) drive to Pittsburgh and watch the Pirates at PNC Park (Brewers) – Drink Iron City Beer and reenact russian roulette scene from the Deerhunter

Jacobs_field

7) drive to Cleveland and see the Indians at the Jake (White Sox) – visit Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Drew Carrey

Comiskey_park

8) drive to Chicago and see the White Sox at New Comiskey (Rangers) – Mix in obligatory museum trip before hitting Ditka’s (Da Bears!)

New_busch_stadium

9) drive to St. Louis and see a Cardinal – Cubs game at the brand new Busch Stadium – Travel to the top of the arch.

10) fly home

I told my wife that if she wanted we could take an additional side trip to Milwaukee to visit Bernie Brewer at Miller Field, but that probably won’t happen.

Have I lost my mind?