The Perfect Ballpark

Matt Jackson wrote a column for myGameBalls.com entitled “The Perfect Park”, and it got me thinking about what my ideal ballpark would be. I came to the conclusion that my ideal park would a combination of all of my favorite architectural elements from the current MLB ballparks. Yes, *** ALL *** of my favorite elements…

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In case you missed anything, here’s what my perfect ballpark has…

  • The Ivy from Wrigley Field
  • The warehouse from Camden Yards
  • Lower Bleachers from Wrigley, second level of bleachers from Yankee Stadium
  • The cool section of bleacher seats at Target Field that slants down from left to right
  • High-Res scoreboard from Nationals Park
  • The center-field bridge from PNC Park
  • The outfield swimming pool from Chase Field
  • The Batters Eye from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
  • The Trees from Coors Field
  • The center field warning track hill from Minute Maid Park
  • The “Red Porch” section in left-center from Nationals Park
  • The Boat from Great American Ballpark
  • The double-decker bullpens from Camden Yards
  • The Rock Pile from Angel Stadium
  • The home run slide from Miller Park
  • The St. Louis Arch from Busch Stadium
  • The Coke bottle and glove from AT&T Park
  • The Green Monster from Fenway Park
  • The “Western Metal Supply Co” section from PETCO Park

So that’s my definition of the “Perfect Park.” Yes, it is the tackiest stadium in history, but that’s exactly why I like it. BTW, most of these photos come from The Cook and Son Bats blog. Take a look — it’s got one of the most extensive compilations of stadium panorama’s on the net.

Note: Don’t zoom in on anything in this photo. You’ll see tons of really sloppy Photoshop work!

Church Dodgeball Tournament!

Recently my church hosted a men’s Dodgeball tournament. Yep, Dodgeball, the classic kids game that is now banned at many schools because it might hurt someone’s feelings to get hit with a ball and be declared “out”.

There were 10 teams competing, each with 10 guys. Every team had to have 4 guys under the age of 30, 5 guys over the age of 30, and 1 guy over 55. I was the team captain, and I put together a pretty stacked team. We showed up to the tourney is camo and called ourselves the “Band of Brothers.” All the other teams came up with wacky names, including one called the “Crushing Crocs” that wore hats shaped like an alligator’s jaw.

Games were 4 minutes long, and the first part of the tourney was a complete round-robin. We started off slow going 2-2 in our first 4 games but then won 5 straight to finish the round-robin at 7-2. It was a ton of fun….and really challenging. Balls were flying at you from all angles, and the court was pretty small so a lot of the throws were from pretty close range, making catching balls really difficult. My strategy was to stay in the back and try for catches, and then when our team had most of the balls I would rush the center line and try to peg someone. Like I said, tons of fun.

The teams were then seeded for a single-elimination bracket. We got the #3 seed. We dominated the next two games and found ourselves in the championship game against a pretty tough team. That game went back and forth and came down to a one-on-one showdown. A guy named Glen, at 52 years old, found himself matched up against an 18 year old from the other team. Glen threw a ball at him but didn’t get much on the throw. In fact it was kind of a lob. But instead of catching it the other guy decided to block it with a ball he was holding, and when he did so he accidentally dropped the ball. The rule is if you try to block and drop the ball, you’re out….so that gave us the win and the championship.

Here I am afterward with Andrey, one of our team members. The “trophy” is nothing more than a balloon wrapped in tinfoil.

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We also got our team photo on a plaque which supposedly is going to be mounted in the men’s bathroom.

Good times…

9/19/10 at Camden Yards

My friend Anthony who lives less than 100 yards away walked over to my house at 7 am and we took off towards Baltimore. There was no traffic at all and we arrived at Camden Yards at 10:30. We had some time to kill so we got some drinks at the Inner Harbor:

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If you look closely you’ll notice I’m wearing a myGameBalls.com t-shirt. At about 11:30 we headed over to the gate and took a few photos with the Babe Ruth statue:

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Did I mention I was basically the only Orioles fan in the ballpark? And yeah, Anthony is a die-hard Yankees fan. We still managed to have a lot of fun despite rooting for opposing teams.

There was no BP so the next hour and a half was pretty boring. Here’s Anthony by the dugout:

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He’s a military guy from Oklahoma and has been stationed in Virginia for about 2 years. We met at church and after becoming friends he moved into my neighborhood. Really cool guy. He’s married with 2 young kids.

That’s it for pictures. Our seats were in the upper left field corner but after a couple innings we moved down and sat right next to the foul pole in foul territory in right field. Those seats were great, and the game was a good one. The Yankees were ahead most of the way, but Mariano Rivera came in and blew the save in the 9th on a Luke Scott home run (Interestingly, the Scott homer landed not too far from us, just over the right field scoreboard, and smacked an old guy right in the forehead on the fly. Thankfully he was OK). The O’s ended up winning in the bottom of the 10th.

We drove the 4 hours back to southeast Virginia, mostly listening to NFL games on the radio. Overall a really fun day, and it would be my last game in 2010.

9/4/2010 at Camden Yards

Jennifer, Knowles, and I spent Labor Day weekend at my parents house in Northern Virginia, and the highlight of the weekend of course was going back to Camden Yards for the first time since May.

We got there early and Knowles and I decided to go to batting practice while Jennifer, Mom, and Dad went to the Inner Harbor. Here I am waiting outside the center field gate:

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Before the gates opened I also got to catch up with a few members of myGameBalls.com, which is a fantastic website by the way:

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From right to left, that’s oriolesmagic, mhersl, and gu3.

During BP I snagged 3 baseballs, 2 on the fly and 1 off the bounce. There were a lot of homers flying into the seats, so it was definitely a fun BP.

During the game we sat in the upper deck right behind home plate. Here’s a photo of everyone (except me):

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If you’ve missed out on previous blog entries, that’s my wife Jennifer, my nephew Knowles, my Dad, and my Mom (from left to right)

It was a great game highlighted by a ton of home runs. The Orioles hit well the whole game and put up 8 runs to win 8-4. We watched the final inning from the flag court in right field, where we saw something pretty cool: Brad Hawpe of the Rays hit a homer to right-center, and a little kid caught it on the fly. It was pretty unbelievable, and it got written up for myGameBalls.com Here and Here.

7/9/10 at Oakland Coliseum

We took a 5-day vacation to San Francisco, and unfortunately the Giants would not occupy AT&T Park (one of the coolest ballparks in the country) during those 5 days. So I had to settle for the Oakland Coliseum.

My dad and I took the subway to the stadium and would later be joined by my mom and brother Brian. My wife and Brian’s wife both chose to skip out on baseball in order to go shopping in downtown San Francisco.

We got to the ballpark just as the gates were opening, and I would get to take in some batting practice for the first time since May. I parked myself in the left-center field bleachers, which are raised up a good 10-15 over the top of the fence and situated a similar distance behind the fence.

I arrived just as Torii Hunter was launching balls into the bleachers, and I was able to track down two balls that landed in the seats. On one of them I was blocked by a railing so I had to lean way over the railing and then dive down onto the ground to come up with the ball.

After that, batters from both teams pretty much stopped hitting homers, so there wouldn’t be any more good opportunities. Here I am with my two BP balls:

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My mom and brother arrived shortly thereafter and we took our seats on the lower third base side. Overall it was a great game. A total of six home runs were hit and the game went into extra innings. The Angels pulled ahead with a home run in the 10th inning and held on in the bottom of the inning for the victory.

This was just the first day of our West Coast vacation. The next four days would be spent touring San Francisco, taking a drive down the coast and stopping at the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, visiting Alcatraz prison, touring the Winchester Mystery House, and just hanging out with the family. Good times!

6/13/10 at Wrigley Field

This was my first time watching a “Sunday Night Baseball” game live, and I was pumped to see the Cubs battle their cross-town rival. We hit a ton of traffic on the drive from Milwaukee and arrived at Wrigley without much time to spare before the first pitch.

Our seats were in the very back of the section directly to the right of the press box in the upper deck. The view actually was pretty good:

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Before the game started, the Chicago Blackhawks were honored for their NHL Championship. They got to show off their Stanley Cup, and for a brief moment the Cubs and White Sox fans were united. Later, the Blackhawks would sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch.

A quick background story before I continue: I’ve always wanted to see a no-hitter, and I root for it from the very beginning of every single game I go to. Whenever the first inning goes by without a hit, I always turn to Aaron and say, “Too early to start talking about the no hitter?” It’s kind of a running joke between Aaron and I. Of course, inevitably the no-no gets broken up the very next inning.

So when Ted Lilly retired the side in the first, I issued the comment again. “Too early to start talking about the no-hitter?” Then when Gavin Floyd also didn’t allow a hit in the first, I went one step further. “Too early to start talking about the DOUBLE no-hitter?”

The second inning went by without a hit from either team. No hits again in the third. The fourth? Yep, still no hits. I kept expecting someone to get a hit, but it just wasn’t happening. By the end of the fourth, I began to wonder if I was witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime game.

At that point, there wasn’t really any type of no-hit frenzy running through the crowd. I was pretty pumped, but everyone else was just enjoying the pitcher’s duel. But after the fifth inning came and went with no hits, things started to change. Fans started to stand and cheer on big 2-strike pitches. Fans started high-fiving each other after every out. You could really start to feel the excitement.

Both pitchers got through the sixth inning and STILL neither had given up a hit. It was truly unbelievable. A DOUBLE no-hitter through six innings! By that time the stadium was in a playoff-type atmosphere.

When Lilly got through the seventh, the place was electric. Everyone could sense that sometime amazing was happening. In the bottom of the inning, though, one-half of the no-no would be no more. Alfonso Soriano ripped a double down the left field line, ending Floyd’s quest for history. He came in to score on a base hit, putting Ted Lilly 6 outs away from a no-hitter.

The crowd started to get on its feet on every batter, and erupted after every out was recorded. Lilly cruised through the inning, and Cubs fans throughout the park were absolutely going nuts. Three outs to go!

The crowd was on its feet for the start of the ninth, ready to witness history. We started chanting “Teddy, Teddy, Teddy” (even though I don’t think he’s *ever* been referred to as “Teddy”), and the chant quickly spread to a big portion of the upper deck. Then, in a matter of seconds, my dream came to an end.

Juan Pierre lined a single up the middle, officially ending Ted Lilly’s bid for a no-hitter. I was crushed, as were most of the Cubs fans in attendance. We were so close. So close.

Regardless, the fans were still really into it because it was a one run game and the game was on the line. The Sox managed to get runners on second and third, and Carlos Marmol came in to try to save it. He struggled a bit with his control but was able to get the final two outs to secure the Cubs’ victory.

The “Go Cubs Go” song started blasting over the loudspeaker, and thousands of Cubs’ fans joined in the singing. What a great game! Other than an Orioles/Yankees playoff game I saw back in the 90’s, this was easily the best game I’ve ever seen live. A great ending to our 2010 MLB Road Trip.

On our way back to the car, I ran into this guy:

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We headed back to the hotel, and the next morning I caught a flight back to Virginia. Overall, this was probably the best MLB Road Trip I’ve been on. Next season, there’s talk of hitting up Detroit/Cleveland/Pittsburgh.

5/13/10 at Miller Park

We had to wake up at 5:45 to make the 6 hour drive from Minneapolis to Milwaukee. It was a Sunday morning and there were pretty much no cars on the road so we made really good time. We pulled in to the Miller Park parking lot at 11:15 where we met a couple of Jeff’s friends who live in the Milwaukee area. They decided to treat us to burgers, dogs, and drinks:

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The weather was great, and the parking lot was full of people tailgating, throwing around baseballs and frisbees, and playing cornhole. It went on pretty much right up until game time, but I left at 12 to enter the stadium and meet up with a friend:

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Yep, it was the legendary “Ballhawk Shawn”, a Milwaukee ballhawk who has snagged over 900 balls. There was no batting practice and there wasn’t even anybody throwing on the field, so at this point there wasn’t much ballhawking going on. Shawn had snagged two balls at that point via toss-ups but that was it. It’s too bad there wasn’t any BP — I had been looking forward to seeing this guy in action.

Shawn and I headed over to the seats behind the third base dugout and hung out there while the Rangers warmed up. I decided to stay there and catch the first half inning. I got this shot of Josh Hamilton as he took the field:

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After the first I joined Aaron, Jeff, and Marshall at our seats in right field. Pretty good seats, but I got a chance to upgrade for a few innings in the middle of the game. Shawn texted me and said he had convinced the usher to let me join him in the front row of a special section in center field. It is an exclusive section with 3 or 4 rows of recliners (yes, recliners!) and some padded seats in front of the recliners. I headed up there for 3 innings starting in the 4th, and this moved proved to be beneficial in more ways than one.

First, I got to talk to Shawn some more and hear a few of his ballhawking stories. Second, something pretty cool happened while I was up there…

Prince Fielder came to bat in the bottom of the 6th and hit a moonshot toward center field. It was clearly going to hit the batter’s eye for a home run, and my mission at that point was simple: get on TV. I leaned over the railing flailing my arms around, trying to do anything that might pick up the attention of the cameras.

The ball bounced back on the field, and as Julio Borbon picked it up, I realized that he might decide to throw it into the crowd. Shawn of course was all over the situation, waving and yelling “Julio, over here!” I had no idea what his name was at that point so I was just flailing my arms and yelling “Hey…Hey…Hey!!” But at the perfect moment, just as Borbon was turning towards the crowd, we made eye contact. Once I knew he saw me I flashed my glove, and then bam, he threw an overhand toss right to me.

I went a little overboard at that point, running around and holding the ball up to the fans in the bleachers, then to the fans in the upper deck, then to the fans across the stadium. Then I high-fived Shawn, and started to feel bad that I had gotten the toss-up over a guy who had done his homework and actually knew the Rangers’ names. He didn’t seem to mind, though, and congratulated me on the snag. Here I am with the ball:

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I rejoined the guys in right field, showing off the home run ball. I tried to get the ball authenticated by Guest Relations but encountered a guy there who really had no clue what was going on.

The Rangers were up big by the end of the 8th, so we decided to leave early because we had another game to catch. In a few hours we would be at Wrigley Field watching Sunday Night Baseball.

6/12/10 at Target Field

We had to make a 4 hour drive for this game from Madison, WI and it rained pretty much the whole way.  We knew batting practice would be rained out and were worried that the game would be too.  Still, we wanted to be early because the Twins were giving out free cowboy hats to the first 10,000 fans.

We got there a tad later than we wanted to but we were pretty sure that the rain would keep enough people away for us to get our cowboy hats.  I got my ticket scanned and immediately saw that the concourse was absolutely packed with people in cowboy hats.  I saw a Twins’ employee folding up a cardboard box so I asked him “hey, can I get my hat?”

“Sorry, we’re all out,” he said.  I was angry.  Really angry.  We checked the other gates but they were all out.

The concourse was packed and the rain had slowed to a drizzle at that point, so Jeff and I headed up to our seats in left field:

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The stadium is awesome. Open concourses everywhere. Lots of cool places to stand and watch the game. The seats in our section have tons of leg room and are elevated above the row in front significantly so your view is never blocked.

Here’s Jeff, Aaron, and Marshall before the game:

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Just before the game started, we were greeted by two fans who’d had a bit too much to drink:

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Luckily they only stuck around for a few innings. At one point I told the guy I was from Virginia, and he was like “Ohhh yeah Virginia….like Virginia Slimes.”

Virginia Slimes?” I said.

“Yeah you know, the cigarettes”

“Umm, you mean Virginia Slims?”

“ohhh…yeah right…Virginia Slims”

We all got a pretty good laugh about that one.

The game was great. It was close the whole way, and the Braves ended up pulling it out in the 9th inning on a squeeze bunt. First time I’ve ever seen a squeeze bunt live.

After the game we ate at a great burger place and then headed to the Sheraton for some much needed rest. We would need to leave at 6 the next morning for a long drive to Milwaukee.

6/11/10 at Wrigley Field

This was the first game of my annual baseball road trip with Aaron, Jeff, and Marshall.  I woke up at 4:45 to catch a flight to Chicago (connecting in Atlanta), and arrived in the Windy City at 10:00.  I picked up the rental car and went the other guys at Doug’s hotdog stand, one of the “100 Places to Eat Before You Die”.

When I saw that the line was 100 feet out the door, I should have aborted the mission.  To make a long story short, I waited in line for 45 minutes before finally tapping out because it was almost 12 (1:10 game).  My friends?  Yeah, they were enjoying their dogs and fries while I suffered in line.  Oh well, it was on to Wrigley…

Simply put, the four of us are cheap and refuse to pay for parking.  It was a crowded, sold-out game and 1 hour to game time, so our only option was a spot about 2 miles away.   45 minutes later, we finally found our seats:

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That’s Jeff in the Cubs hat, and the guy next to him is his friend Wes who lives in Chicago and met us at the game.  Here’s a shot of me and Marshall:

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And man, Wrigley Field is just about the most beautiful ballpark I’ve ever seen:

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The Cubs got hammered in this one but there were over 20 hits recorded in the game so it was pretty cool to see a game with so much offense.

The coolest part of the day was seeing Alfonso Soriano hit his 300th career home run:

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I have emails to prove that I predicted way back in February that we would see him hit #300.

After the game we realized that we hadn’t taken note of where we parked the car, and it took over an hour to find it.  Hot and tired, we found a restaurant with some great Barbeque, and after dinner we made the drive to Madison, Wisconsin where we would spend the night.


6/5/10 at Nationals Park

This was a family outing.  I attending this game with my Mom and Dad, my wife Jennifer, father in-law Phil, and nephew Knowles.  Before hitting up the stadium, we went to see my Grandma and play some scrabble:

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There was also an antique car show going on in the parking lot:
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After that, the men headed to the stadium for BP while the women stayed home to meet us there later.  BP wasn’t too crowded at first but the seats gradually filled up, mostly with Cincinnati fans.  Here’s a shot of Phil and Knowles during BP:

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By the way, it was brutally humid.  I was soaked with sweat by the end, and didn’t snag a single ball.  It was fun though.  Jay Bruce put on a show, hitting a couple balls that I estimated at over 500 feet.

We headed up to our seats behind home plate and got this shot just before the game began:

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Then we settled in to watch the game.  At the end of the first inning, I got the chance to meet District Boy in the concourse, a myGameBalls.com ballhawk who has snagged over 500 balls:
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It was a pretty good game but the Nationals ended up getting crushed.  Mike Leake pitched a great game for the Reds.

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