Ballpark Reviews · Baseball Games · Baseball Road Trippin' · The Majors

Baseball Road Trip: Game 7 in Baltimore

Our visit to Baltimore’s beautiful ballpark marked the seventh stop on our trip and the second of eight consecutive games to finish our trip.  Oriole Park at Camden Yards was the trend setter for all the new downtown stadiums that have popped up in the majors in the last couple decades.  After visiting, we can see why the idea caught on in other baseball cities.

Just a few blocks from the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, the stadium sits among the downtown buildings right next to the large B & O warehouse.  This large brick building serves as the backdrop behind the right field fence and concourse and also houses the Orioles offices.  We entered in the center field gate and made our way down Eutaw Street, a wide concourse that runs between the warehouse and the right field seats.

We hit up the famous Boog’s BBQ in right field – we had the pork and beef sandwich platters which were pretty reasonably priced and tasted great.  They were even better once we found the BBQ sauce.  As we did many times throughout our trip, we shared a picnic table with other fans enjoying their dinner before the game.  We had some fun conversations over dinner with other random fans (more to come on this in our write up of the Mets game).

For the second night in a row, we scored front row seats.  This time we were in the front row in the right field seats.  The Orioles were playing the Mariners so we had a front row view of Ichiro and all of his stretching.  It is no coincidence that we were surrounded by many Asian fans and Ichiro even turned around a few times to all the chants of “Ichiro” coming from our section.  There were no home runs hit in our direction but a ball was hit about 10 feet to our left that caromed off the out-of-town scoreboard.

We had to make our exit in the top of the 8th inning to get on the road – we had a 5 hour drive to NY ahead of us so we had planned to leave at 9 pm before the game even started.  Camden Yards is a great place to catch a game and it is very high on our list of stadiums to revisit in the future.

Up next are the new parks in the Big Apple.  Here are the photos from Baltimore…

Ballpark Reviews · Baseball Games · Baseball Road Trippin' · The Majors

Baseball Road Trip: Game 6 in Washington D.C.

We switched gears from Canadian baseball played on fake grass to the just-opened Nationals Park in Washington D.C. for our sixth stop on this roadie.  Having just opened its doors and field for play at the beginning of the 2008 season, this is one of the most beautiful parks we have seen on this trip.  You might be thinking that it just seemed nice since we had just come from Toronto, but this place was great.

We ended up at this park on Tuesday, June 9, the same day as the MLB first-year player draft.  So we were greeted with free Draft Party 2009 shirts as we walked in the gates.  Leave it to the perennial cellar dwellers to have a party for the draft.  We were right at the gate as they announced Stephen Strasburg as the first pick, by the Nationals of course.

Unfortunately, we caught our nation’s capital on a bad night.  There were heavy thunderstorms rolling through from about 5 o’clock until around 8:30.  First pitch was delayed from 7:05 to 8:50 so we had plenty of time to check out the features of this new park.  There was a great kids area complete with hitting and pitching activities and a display for us nerds on the physics of baseball.  They also had a SingStar game set up (basically video game karaoke) which we could have done without, but overall, if you have to be stuck in a rain delay, this is a good place for it.

We scored from half price tickets that night through a twitter friend’s tip (thanks @khudak11 and @Teddy26Nats ) so when the game finally got started we got to enjoy our front row seats on the field level.  We ended up just on the foul side of the left field foul pole.  We didn’t get any action down there as far as foul balls go, but we had to leave after the 5th inning so Chiquita could get her beauty sleep so we could have missed something in one of the later innings.  Overall this ballpark is high on the list of fan-friendly venues.  Although it is unfortunate that the team has played so poorly, as it would be nice to see this facility getting some good use, it’s nice to see America’s Pastime finally at home in such a nice ballpark in our nation’s capital.

Oh yeah, in addition to baseball, there are a few other things to see while you are in DC – some old buildings, museums, and tons of security guards and police officers.

Here’s our photos from this game…

Ballpark Reviews · Baseball Games · Baseball Road Trippin' · The Majors

Baseball Road Trip: Game 5 in Toronto

Our visit to Comerica Park and the Tigers was followed by a whirlwind day of driving from Detroit to Toronto to Niagara Falls to Williamsport, PA.  Technically we can say that we visited Toronto, but we were only there long enough to park the car, buy food and tickets, and watch the game between the Royals and Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre (Canadian spelling of course).

A typical baseball game at the Rogers Centre is played indoors.  However, we attended a weekend day game and were treated to an open roof complete with a view of the CN Tower – Toronto’s version of the Space Needle.  It is no shock that the word “blue” is in the team name, because just about everything inside the stadium except for the fake grass and dirt is blue.  This color scheme mixed with the height of the stadium on all sides of the field makes for a pretty lifeless feel to the ballpark.

The stadium was built in 1989 but they must have redone some of the concourses since then because the field level concourse had some nice areas.  We ended up buying food outside the ballpark but we pulled up a table inside the stadium right next to a quaint market style food court.  Other highlights include a sports card vending machine and a playground of which Gigi could not get enough.

My life is a little closer to being complete after catching my first foul ball at this game.  We were standing at the top of the field level section in Fastball Alley – Vin Scully’s name for the sections between home and first that get all the foul balls from hitters who can’t quite catch up to the heater.  Gigi had run off towards the next section over and a ball bounced into the concourse just as I reached her so I snagged it.  Not very dramatic but totally awesome anyways.

Next stop, our nation’s capital.  Here are some snapshots from our trip to see the Jays, eh…

Ballpark Reviews · Baseball Games · Baseball Road Trippin' · The Majors

Baseball Road Trip: Game 4 in Detroit

The Motor City.  Motown.  Rock City.  Our fourth stop on our 13-game circuit was Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. We arrived at the stadium just as the gates opened and made our way to the Beer Hall where we had some dinner.  We each had our first ever beer at a baseball game and as good as they were, we will probably never have another one in the interest of saving eight bucks a pop.

Comerica Park was one of the most family-friendly parks that we have seen so far.  Chiquita even got a ball from one of the ushers – he told us that Curtis Granderson hit it out of the park in batting practice.  For baseball purists, the game was a great one.  Ervin Santan of the Angels and Justin Verlander of the Tigers kept the game scoreless for the first 8 innings.  The Angels pulled it off 2-1 and then we were treated to a Friday night fireworks show – which were launched from center field.

From Detroit we headed to Toronto (more on this game coming up) and then we are off for a couple days in Washington DC as we begin a stretch of 8 days/games in a row starting on Tuesday.

Here are the pictures from Detroit…

Baseball Games · Baseball Road Trippin' · The Majors

Baseball Road Trip: Game 3 in Chicago (White Sox)

Unfortunately, Chiquita did not recover as quickly as we had hoped from being sick. After taking her to urgent care and getting a prescription in Chicago on Monday just before the game, we decided that only I (David) would go to the White Sox game (a little late) and check out US Cellular Field.

I took the Red Line (train) down to the south side of Chicago and arrived at the game in the top of the 5th – I was surprised that the game was so far along for only being an hour old. At that point the A’s were up 2-1, but I got to experience the exploding scoreboard in the bottom of the 5th when A.J. Pierzynski hit a solo home run. The brain child of Bill Veeck, the scoreboard looks like something straight from the Barnum and Bailey Circus but it is quite a sight when a Sox player goes deep. Jim Thome lit the scoreboard again in the bottom of the 8th with a three-run homer. This broke the 2-2 tie and prevented extra innings – which turned out to be a great development for the fans as a light rain started to fall as the last out of the game was made.

Monday is a great night to catch a White Sox game as most of the tickets are half price. I took in the last few innings as I made my way around the field level and watched the wave travel around the park at least 5 times. White Sox fans seem to be pretty passionate which was good and bad for the players. Alexei Ramirez was booed heavily for not getting a sacrifice bunt down, but Jim Thome was given a hero’s welcome as he circled the bases after his game-winning blast.

US Cellular did not have near the same feel as Wrigley Field, but it was a nice place to catch a ballgame. The next leg of our journey war canceled due to Chiquita’s infection. We were supposed to head on to St. Louis on Monday, but instead we decided head back to Indiana a little early to hang out with family for a few days. Luckily, we were planning on being in Indiana after going to St. Louis so we will only miss one game.

Here are a few pictures from my night on the south side…

Ballpark Reviews · Baseball Games · Baseball Road Trippin' · The Majors

Baseball Road Trip: Game 2 in Chicago (Cubs)

Yesterday morning we walked around Lincoln Square, the neighborhood where we are staying, had lunch at the tasty Bad Dog Tavern, and even got a little taste of Chicago’s Mayfest as well (thanks random guy for giving us a few free food tickets!).

Chiquita took a good nap and then we headed out to Wrigley Field. We got to take the “L” train, which is Chicago’s mostly-elevated train system. Taking public transportation is something we really enjoy; unfortunately so does the rest of Chicago. We had to wait for a second train to Wrigley because the first was too jammed-full.

After a nice treat at the Starbucks across the street from the ballpark (free, thanks to our friend Melissa who used to work there!), and a quick gander at the Wrigleyville Fire Department (the “fighter-fighters,” according to Chiquita), we entered the hallowed grounds the Cubs call home.

This was the only game where we’ll get to see the Dodgers on our trip, and it was a good one for the L.A. fans! This was our third game at Wrigley Field, but did include some first for us– our first with Chiquita, our first Cubs night game, and our first time seeing the Dodgers play there.

Here’s the photos from our first day in Chicago…

Unfortunately, Chiquita came down with a bit of a tummy ache last night, so we’re taking it easy today and hoping we can still make it to at least part of the White Sox game if she’s feeling better later today. Travel can be hard on a little one but hopefully she’ll be up on her feet again and ready to go soon.

Ballpark Reviews · Baseball Games · Baseball Road Trippin' · The Majors

Baseball Road Trip: Game 1 in Milwaukee

We’ve officially begun our road trip! Thursday night we flew in to Indianapolis, then drove to stay the night with family about 45 minutes away.

Chiquita got to play with her cousins the next morning and then we headed out on the road up to Milwaukee! The Brewers game was great. We really liked the extremely family-friendly ballpark, Miller Park, and were surprised to find a sell-out crowd and an exciting game.

The only downfall to this was we didn’t have tickets for this game yet. Thankfully, we were able to snag a couple of “standing-room only” tickets which worked out fine with the stroller. You’ll be able to see from the pictures how much fun stuff Miller Park has to offer. You’ll also notice that the guy from those funny “Miller High Life” commercials was there to throw out the first pitch and sign autographs which was pretty appropriate considering the ballpark’s namesake.

After the game we drove down to Chicago where we are staying a few days with a friend. Unfortunately, we had a bit of a sleeping incident that night; since Chiquita took a nice 2-hour “nap” on the drive, she was wide awake when we arrived in Chicago and decided to stay that way until 3 am. Eventually she gave in and we were able to sleep in and almost get a full night’s sleep.

Here’s the first batch of pictures…

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for live updates as we go!

Ballpark Reviews · Baseball Games · The Majors

Padres at Dodgers~ May 1, 2009

We had a great time as usual at Dodger Stadium! This was our first time taking a toddler, and despite the age of the stadium, it was pretty doable with a stadium. A couple of downfalls for a young fan was the lack of elevators (only a couple at the whole place!) and unfortunately no kids’ concession stand so we had to settle for buying Chiquita a $5 hot dog.

For the first time ever, we got there before the gate opened! We were stoked to get to see a little bit of the Dodgers’ batting practice and then also hung around to watch the Padres practice for my brother’s sake. Dodger Stadium now opens up the center field wall so fans can get a warning-track view of the players getting warmed up. What a treat for the baseball-loving family!

We went on a fireworks show night and it was a great choreographed show with a Las Vegas theme. We’ve been to a few fireworks nights at other locations and I must say that I’ve never seen a ballpark allow the fans down on the outfield grass during the fireworks! We couldn’t make it all the way down there from the Top Deck with a stroller but we still had a great view.

Here are some pictures from the game!

Ballpark Reviews · Baseball Games · The Majors

Petco Park Strikes Out

Daddy's Girl

Here’s the first installment of our review of ballparks from the family perspective.  As you will see from the letter below, we received less than average service and flexibility from the ballpark staff at Petco Park.  This is the actual letter that I emailed to the Padres.  I will keep you posted on whether or not they provide a response.

Unfortunately, I have two pieces of negative feedback regarding our experience at Petco Park on Tuesday, April 7, 2009.  I attended this game with my wife, in-laws, and 23-month old daughter.

Let me preface my first comment by stating that I understand the stroller check-in policy at Petco Park.  Upon arriving at the landing below our seats in section 315, we noticed that none of the wheelchair companion seats were occupied.  As we have done at the accommodating and family-friendly Coors Field in Denver, CO [more on that in a later post], we pulled the stroller next to some of these unoccupied seats in hopes of leaving our daughter in her stroller during the game.  We were told by an usher that we had to purchase special tickets in order to sit in these seats.  While the usher told us exactly where to go to purchase upgraded seats, we were completely baffled by the unwillingness to be flexible and accommodate our family, which includes a small child.  Additionally, it was obvious that the game was not a sellout and we were completely sensitive to the fact that someone may eventually occupy the seats.  As it turns out, the seats were never occupied during the game.

I can anticipate that your reaction to my first comment will be something like,”Our ushers are trained to send customers to their ticketed seats” or,”We agree with the usher’s recommendation to direct you to a ticket window.”  I want to reiterate that I understand the ballpark ticket policies, but we were extremely disappointed at the ballpark staff’s unwillingness to be flexible, given our situation.

While the ushers were quick to make sure that we did not occupy the wheelchair companion area, they failed to provide us the proper service once we checked our stroller in and took our seats in row 10 of section 15.  As you know, this is actually the second row of this section.  All throughout the game (especially during play) spectators were going up and down the stairs at the bottom of the section, standing at the top of the stairs, and holding cell phone conversations while obstructing our view and the view of several other fans around us.  I spoke to an usher regarding this activity and she told me that it’s “hard to control” at the upper level.  She explained that it is controlled at the lower levels of the ballpark.

In addition to the obstructions created by the uncontrolled spectators, our seats did not provide a complete view of the playing field.  Our view of home plate was obstructed by the railing of the heavily traveled stairs and our view of right field was cut short by the lower portion of the third deck.  We believe that the seats should be discounted and say “obstructed View” on them.

It is our hope that you will use these comments to provide a better experience for future visitors to Petco Park.  I look forward to hearing your response to our concerns.

Despite our complaints, we still had a great time at Petco Park during Opening Week. That was our first time visiting the Padres’ ballpark with Chiquita, and that always makes for a very different experience than just going by ourselves. The photo above is one of my favorites. It really captures how our daughter is definitely becoming a baseball fan at a young age.

Petco Park does have some great amenities for families such as the Park in the Park (the grassy area out behind the outfield), a kids’ concession stand, a mini baseball field, a sandy “beach” area right behind the right field wall, and fun Petco mascots. They also have an amazing food deal right now where you can get 5 items (hot dog, coke, cookie, popcorn, & peanuts) for only $5! Not to mention, it’s in a great location, being right downtown in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.

Here’s the slideshow from the game.

And I still haven’t forgotton about more Spring Training details, that will be coming soon!

Baseball Games · College Ball

Waiting for Strassy

Last Friday (the 13th), we ventured out to take in some college ball down at Tony Gwynn stadium on the campus of San Diego State.  While we consider ourselves serious baseball fans, we may not have attended this particular game had it not been for all the hype surrounding SDSU’s starting pitcher, Stephen Strasburg.

Stephen Strasburg

Strassy – as Strasburg is affectionately known at the ballpark – was selected as a preseason All-American before this, his junior, season after being Mountain West pitcher of the year following his sophomore campaign.  (Check out his bio page on the SDSU Athletics website for a complete list of his many impressive accomplishments and accolades).  We had seen the reports of him striking out 18 batters in 8 innings against the University of San Diego the previous week so we felt inclined to make the trip south and catch a glimpse of this hard-throwing righty.

After settling into our seats (near the end of first inning, but more on that later), we quickly realized that Strasburg was the real deal.  We did not have a radar gun but we heard rumors that he had hit 101 mph with one of his pitches during the early part of the game.  Throughout his seven innings of work, Strasburg left several UNLV batters looking very foolish as they swung late at his high-90s fastball and were left with the bat on his shoulder when he dropped his curveball in for called strike 3.  He ended up with 14 strikeouts before calling it a night, but not before putting on a show for the 2,000+ fans in attendance.

While Strasburg’s performance was worth the price of admission (only $7 for adults and $5 for seniors over 55), the overall ballpark experience left much to be desired.  We arrived on campus (what we thought would be) early enough to park, buy some tickets, and find some seats in time to catch the first pitch at 6 pm.  The waiting started with the 20-person deep line at the parking permit dispenser in the garage.

After twenty minutes of buying the permit, putting it in the car, and walking to the ballpark we were greeted with a box office line that literally stretched the width of a football field (the stadium borders a football practice field so this measurement is very accurate).  While waiting in line, we could see the outfield scoreboard light up with a large “K” three times in the top of the first inning.  After another twenty minutes we finally made it to the ticket window.

It was the bottom of the first inning when we finally found some seats down the third base line.  Most of the seats at Tony Gwynn Stadium are general admission so we were able to find some seats at the rear of a section that allowed us to park Chiquita’s stroller nearby.  This was probably the only high point as far as the stadium operations were concerned.  The long lines for the parking garage and box office were supplemented by only two open concession stands and one BBQ booth (which ran out of tri-tip just as Nicole was at the front of the line).

We should have arrived earlier to the ballpark in anticipation of a larger crowd.  Having never been to a game at SDSU, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect.  According to one of the security guards, the games are only this crowded when Strassy is on the mound.  The bottom line is that the stadium operations personnel were totally understaffed and unprepared for a Friday night crowd with their star pitcher on the mound.  Apparently we are not the only fans with these sentiments.  Check out this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune to hear their take on how the evening went.

We ended up taking in a good baseball game and the atmosphere was definitely family-friendly.  I suppose a combination of better planning on our part and theirs will make for an even better experience if we venture down to SDSU again.

View our photo album from the game.

Strasburg 14 Strikeouts