baseball culture · Baseball Memories

How a Girly Girl Became a Baseball Fan

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I always like to tell people,

“I married into a love for baseball.”

My parents and brother give me crap because as a child I was your average luke-warm-fan-of-the-home-team {Padres} but when I married, I married into a love of the game, and a love of the Dodgers.

I always liked baseball. My brother and I even once scored tickets from a family friend to a very exciting playoffs game. But I never really knew or understood the game fully.

When David and I got married we lived on a half-a-shoestring budget. We had no cable but our college town happened to have a station on the Dodgers Radio Network, so we listened to just about ever Dodgers game on the radio (so old-school, huh?).

It was then that I “met” Vin Scully and began to learn all the ins and outs of the game, got to “know” the players and some of the Dodgers lore and history, and basically fell in love with America’s pastime.

Here are a few things I love about baseball

-it’s (essentially) a summer sport, so it invokes feelings of long, warm days
-it’s a mellow, relaxing game, most of the time.
-other times it is so exciting that you worry your husband will fall off the top deck at Dodger Stadium because he’s jumping and cheering so enthusiastically.
-it’s a family thing for us (we have quite the extended family of baseball fans).
-it has a rich American history.
-it’s become a global game, especially in countries where they speak my other language.
-the culture, players and fans are generally pretty down-to-earth; the vast majority of pros are not known for their extravagant lifestyles (superstars aside)
-it spans all ages and generations.
-it’s a family-friendly sport.

I’d consider myself a pretty sport person, tolerant of almost every sport, but here are a few factoids on why I would definitely categorize myself, 29-year old crafty, stay-at-home mom of a girly, as a bonafide Baseball Fan…

-I’ve been to 20 out of 30 Major League Baseball parks.
-I’ve been to several Spring Training games, in both FL and AZ.
-I’ve been on a 3-week long road trip to a dozen games across the Midwest and East Coast.
-I allow a collection of bobbleheads in my master bedroom.
-I attempt to run a baseball blog with my hubby (we’re not very consistent with it yet though, but stick with us, we have some great ideas in the works!).
-I play fantasy baseball. With my mom. (we totally tanked last year. my father-in-law whipped us all. we vow to pay a little more attention to our team this year). :)
-my daughter (who went to her first game at 3 weeks old)’s favorite color is Dodger Blue. And she loves Manny.
-I even find myself watching baseball when David’s not home!

Can I get a shout out from any other female fans? How did you get turned on to baseball?

We’re headed out to catch a few Cactus League games this weekend- looking forward to some sun and some foul balls! And you can bet our little one will be stoked to see Manny!

Baseball Games · The Majors

Dodgers vs. Angels

Here are some photos from a game we went to last year on June 20th, 2009. We love going to Angel Stadium (Gigi and I particularly like the Rally Monkey), especially when we get to see the Dodgers play there. The “Freeway Series” is always a fun rivalry. Angel Stadium will always be special to our family since our little Gigi went to her first baseball game there almost three years ago.

We used to live really close to Angel Stadium and would even ride our bikes there to catch a game. Here’s a parking tip… if you get there early enough there are a handful of free parking spots on Orangewood just east of the 57 freeway. Just walk under the freeway, over the bridge and there’s a gate where you can walk in to the stadium.

Here’s the photos from that game… a little reminiscing to get us thinking about the excitement of a new season.
http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

baseball culture · Baseball Movies

Baseball Movies: Eight Men Out

Today my brother pointed out that there are only 78 days until the 2010 MLB season begins… woohoo! As we get ready for baseball, we wanted to share some “reviews” of baseball movies. Some our family favorites, some are new to us.

We got things going this week with the classic (new to us), Eight Men Out.

Eight Men Out ReviewThe Movie

Eight Men Out is the story of the eight players on the 1919 White Sox who allegedly threw the World Series; they were also known as the “Black Sox.” The movie was made in 1988 and is full of well-known actors in their earlier days, several of whom will appear in other baseball (or sports) movies such as Charlie Sheen, David Strathairn, Christopher Lloyd and D.B. Sweeney (if you count The Cutting Edge as a sports movie).  This movie is a great one to view before watching Field of Dreams (more on that classic later) as it gives a little history of that tainted team, and specifically “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

His Take

Perhaps the most interesting part of this movie is emphasis on the role that the whole team played in the scandal.  Shoeless Joe Jackson is typically the the one associated with the scandal because he was the best player on the team.  As a competitor, it’s difficult to believe that professional athletes actually took part in a scheme of this magnitude.  The cast is great and the baseball scenes are believable, which is important for the credibility of this historical baseball film.

Her Take

John Cusack is one of my favorite actors, so right off the bat I knew I’d like this one. Seriously though, I liked the history lesson, and the interpretation on whether questionables like Buck Weaver and Shoeless Joe were really involved in the fix. The one thing I wonder is… what if MLB and the commissioner were as hard on “cheaters” now as they were 90 years ago? We’d be out a lot of superstars, that’s for sure.

Family Take

Put the kids to bed for this one. It’s a drama that would be over the heads of young ones, although an older kid who’s interested in the history of the game might like it. The language isn’t too bad, but be sure to consider ethical issues present like gambling and drinking during prohibition.

photo credit: puck36

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

Baseball Road Trip: Game 13 in Cincinnati

The famous saying goes,”All good things must come to an end.”  Unfortunately, this was true for our trip of a lifetime.  Our final stop on this tour of America’s great ballparks brought us to Cincinnati and the Great American Ballpark.  This home of the Reds is situated right up against the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati.

We made the trek across Ohio from Cleveland and arrived in downtown Cincinnati with plenty of time to spare.  We even had time to make the quick jaunt across the river and add Kentucky to our list of states visited on this trip.  While we didn’t have time to see much in our five-minute drive in the Bluegrass State, I am sure that there are tons of great things to do and see there (except for Major League Baseball, of course).

To take full advantage of the river view, we bought seats in the upper deck right behind home plate.  Because the demand for Reds tickets is not exactly off the charts, we were able to score some handicap seats so we didn’t have to check Chiquita’s stroller.  These seats not only afforded us a great view of the field, but they looked out over the river.  Had it been sunny, the view would have been more spectacular.

As our luck would have it, we found ourselves in a rain delay after the first inning.  However, the rain delay experience at the Great American Ballpark was unlike any other we had seen. We got to experience some of the hardest, densest rain we had ever seen.  Fortunately, we made it into the covered concourse area in time to avoid the downpour and lightning.  Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals attempt to field an NFL team in between jail terms, sits about a half mile west of the ballpark.  On a sunny day it can easily be seen from the upper concourse.  Not on this day.  The silhouette disappeared as the rain fell in massive amounts.

After huddling in the upper concourse for a while, we made our way down to the field level and were very pleased to find a large wall full of flat screen TVs playing all the other games from around the league that night.  Due to the rain delay, the area was packed with soaked fans, but the sight of seven simultaneous baseball games brought smiles to our faces.  After at least an hour delay, the game against the Braves eventually resumed.  Since we had a two-hour drive ahead of use, we had to call it quits in the fifth inning.

Leaving that last stadium was a bittersweet moment.  We had begun to live the dream of seeing America’s pastime in all corners of the country.  The teams, players, fans, conversations, bratwursts, rivalries, subway rides, stadiums, and baseball had taken us on a great journey.  We have aspirations to visit the remaining ballparks in the next couple years (I think there are ten left).  If the opportunity presents itself for this type of trip, there should be no hesitation.  You never know what you will see in America’s ballparks.

Enjoy the slideshow of our great trip’s last game.

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

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

Baseball Road Trip: Game 11 in Pittsburgh

Our stop in Pittsburgh was short and sweet.  We arrived just before first pitch and headed out of town after the game ended.  Such is life for us hard-core road trippers, but we were able to (mostly) enjoy PNC Park and the game between the Detroit Tigers and the host Pirates.

This stop got off to a strange start when we had to walk by the gay rights rally taking place in downtown Pittsburgh.  Then as we made our way to the box office we were greeted with a funky smell that had Nicole and I both wondering if someone lost their lunch while waiting to buy tickets.  (Insert your own joke about the Pirates poor performance here – mine sounds something like this: the fans aren’t supposed to get sick until after they see the Pirates play).

On a good note, we chose a game that included $5 off each of our tickets so we ended up with field level seats for merely $15 each.  On top of that, Chiquita received a Pirates ice cream bowl as part of the Kid’s Day promotion.  I think this is a plan to get kids thinking positively about the Pirates from a young age.  Jam your kids full of ice cream and when they are done, the Pirates logo will be waiting for them at the bottom of the bowl.

We indulged in some of Willie Stargell’s famous French fries and again found ourselves standing with a random family as we ate our lunch.  Chiquita had a great time playing with a stroller and hanging on the guard rail with a few other kids from Pittsburgh.  I attempted to buy Chiquita some cheap food from the kid’s concession stand but the line was at least three innings long so I quickly bailed and she got some of our lunch.

Unfortunately for us out-of-towners, it was Turn Back the Clock day at PNC Park.  It was bad enough that the Pirates and Tigers players didn’t have names on their jerseys, but add an old-fashioned scoreboard and you have a lot of confused fans.  Even some of the native Pittsburghites/Pittsburghians/Pittsburghlars were bummed on the lack of names.  To add to that old-fashioned feeling, all of the banner boards were turned off and the PA announcer only announced the upcoming batter so there was a strange simplicity to the game that gave us a strange feeling that we were missing something.  I guess that’s what corporate sponsors and intrusive advertising have done to sports.  While this may have normally been refreshing, it was unfortunate that our one game in Pittsburgh was on a day when no one was identifiable and there was a completely different ambiance than (we think) there normally would be.

The setting for a ballpark does not get much better than that of PNC Park.  Just beyond right field is the Allegheny River.  Beyond that is downtown Pittsburgh, which can be seen from anywhere in the ballpark with the best view coming from the upper deck behind home plate.  Although it opened in 2001, PNC Park has an intimate feel to it.  There are only two levels of seats and the press box is above the upper deck behind home plate.  This is a great design and makes for a great fan experience.

Overall our brief experience in Pittsburgh was pleasant and we hope to return there someday and get the full modern Pittsburgh baseball experience.

Here are the photos from this stop…
http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

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

Baseball Road Trip: Game 10 in Philadelphia

We followed up our visit to New York with a trip to the home of the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.  Yes, I do still harbor some hard feelings from last October when they ended the Dodgers’ playoff run, but we had to visit Citizens Bank Park since we were so close.  I now harbor some more hard feelings toward them since we experienced another ridiculous rain delay on Saturday, June 13, as they took on the Red Sox.

This was another “premium” game so we found ourselves scouring Stubhub for tickets once again.  The seats we ended up with were not bad – second row of the upper deck in right field.  However, we only stayed there for the top of the first inning.  It started pouring in the middle of the inning, which came about 40 minutes after the first pitch as the Red Sox pushed five runs across before the Phillies came to bat.

We retreated to the concourse with everyone else that didn’t have a seat under an overhang.  We eventually found our way over to the Guest Services window and waited there for updates on the weather forecast.  Our perseverance was rewarded when we were upgraded to some handicap companion seats on the field level in the center field concourse.  By the time the game started up again, we were left with only enough time to stay until the 5th inning.  This trip forced me to break my baseball purist rule of never leaving a game early a few times – stupid rain! That’s what happens when you have a two-year old in tow and a two-hour drive ahead of you.

Typically, the visiting fans are outnumbered and therefore cannot be heard over the home town fans.  Not so with “the Nation”.  Allegiance was split nearly 50-50 between Phillies and Red Sox with a slight edge going to the Phillies.  Fortunately for the Red Sox faithful, there was much to cheer about as the Sox smoked the Phils 11-6.  Once again, many beer-fueled arguments led to several fans being ejected and that was just that we could see from our seats.

Our family highlight was probably the Phillie Phanatic racing across the outfield before the game on his ATV.  Chiquita made sure we saw him on his “truck” each time he zoomed across the field to steal some sound equipment or make fun of Dustin Pedroia’s small stature.  We had to buy that $6 bowl of ice cream so we could get the souvenir bowl that it came in to commemorate Chiquita’s love for this famous mascot.

This is one of the many new parks that includes a play area for the kids.  Chiquita loves playgrounds and this one did not disappoint her.  We did not try the ballpark food (other than the aforementioned ice cream) because we stopped at Geno’s in south Philly to grab some cheese steaks before the game.  Apparently the authentic sandwiches are made with Cheez Whiz, but we opted for the provolone. Still delicious.

We were in Philadelphia just long enough to see the Liberty Bell and catch the rainy game, but we had a great time at this stop.

Here are the pictures from this leg of the journey…
http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

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

Baseball Road Trip: Game 8 in NYC (Mets)

The 2009 season marked the opening of two brand new ballparks for the New York teams. Overshadowed by the publicity surrounding the “House that George Built” up in the Bronx, Citi Field can definitely hold its own as a first-class facility. This $850 million home of the Mets sits adjacent to the site Shea Stadium occupied up through last season.

Our stop at Citi Field marked the first of three consecutive nights of marquee matchups – not coincidentally, we forked over the most dough for these three games on Stubhub.  This Thursday night matchup renewed a great NL East rivalry as the defending World Series champs Philadelphia Phillies were in town finishing up a 3-game series.  After a long day of traveling from upstate New York, checking into our hotel, and catching the right subway, we arrived at Citi Field shortly after the first inning was underway.

We were uncertain about whether the game was going to be started on time since it had rained off and on for most of the day.  The rain held off but most of the game was played in a fog that made the game feel like it was being played in a swamp.  Fog did not dampen (get it, dampen?) the spirits of fans of either team.  There was much bantering between the few Phillies fans that made the trip and the Mets faithful.  Most of the exchanges went something like this:

Phillies fan decked out in 2008 World Series gear emerges from stairwell with beer and hot dog in hand and makes his way up the stairs to his seat.

Mets fans: “Phillies suck!”, “Go back to Philly”, or “Cheese steaks are a high-calorie snack completely void of nutrition.”

Phillies fan: “Worlds Champs, buddy.  Thanks for choking again last season.”

Mets fan shouts more of the same as the Phillies fan takes his seat and points to the World Series logo on his hat.

Aside from these friendly exchanges, there were some good eats at Citi Field.  I thoroughly enjoyed the grilled sweet Italian sausage and Nicole was pleased with her selection of clam chowder.  We experienced a beautiful moment while again eating our dinner at a shared table with some Mets fans.  While describing our road trip to one of our meal buddies, he referred to us as his hero.  You heard it right, we are baseball heroes!  Ok, maybe he didn’t mean that literally, but we were flattered that someone else thought our endeavor was awesome.

The game turned out to be just as great as the atmosphere and the food.  Much to Nicole’s dismay, the game went to extra innings tied at 3.  We decided that Chiquita’s sleep was more important than seeing the end of the game so we took off at the end of the 9th inning.  Raul Ibanez hit a three-run jack in the 10th and the Phillies took the series from the Mets (I saw it on Sportscenter later that night.)

The Mets have a beautiful new ballpark and the next stop on our grand tour will be in the Bronx at the new Yankee Stadium.  Here are the photos from the Mets/Phillies experience…
http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649