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Home of the (evil) Philadelphia Phillies
Believe it or not, I didn’t always hate the Phillies. One of my earliest baseball memories is watching Darren Daulton in the 1993 World Series, don’t ask me why that name sticks out, but it just does. I was even on a little league team that took the name Phillies (even though I desperately wanted to play on the Marlins). My childhood hatred was mostly directed toward the Atlanta Braves, the most dominant team in the NL East, and baseball in general, throughout the 90s. It wasn’t until I was in college that I began hating the team, mostly due to a co-worker’s insane degree of love for the Phils. Now that I live in Maryland, the proximity of the state of Pennsylvania doesn’t help things either, meaning I have to deal with fans of Philadelphia teams all year round. Couple in their bad fan reputation and their winning ways the past five years and you’ve got yourself genuine hatred for the division rivals.
The face of evil?
All that preamble just to say that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to going to Citizens Bank Park. I decided that I would wear my Marlins jersey to the park, but I was genuinely worried that I’d have to weather insults, jeers, thrown beer, or possibly worse. I mean, three days before I was set to visit the park, a fan was arrested for vomiting on an off-duty police officer and his children. I had no idea what I was in for, but after coming out of it alive, I’ll begrudgingly admit that Citizens Bank Park is one of the nicest parks I’ve ever been to.
The batter's eye is really nice looking.
Like all ballparks designed after Camden Yards, CBP (as it will be abbreviated from here on out) was designed with that faux-retro aesthetic in mind. It means lots of brick, lots of open spaces in the concourses, and plenty of sight lines pointed toward the plate. When you’ve got a nice, historic organization like the Phillies, you can afford to go this route. I think that’s the chief reason why Nationals Park stands out among its peers. The team had no real history, so there was no reason to call back to the olden days of the Senators (although they probably should have). Philadelphia’s park features statues of Phillies greats scattered throughout the entire park, a restaurant dedicated to Harry Kalas, and whole regions, like Ashburn Alley, named for the organization’s greats.
I always want to call it Crashburn Alley because of the Phillies blog with that name.
It’s an unspoken rule that all of the new ballparks need some kind of gimmick to make them stand out, architecturally, from their peers. Camden Yards has the warehouses, Citi Field has the Ebbets Field rotunda, Nationals Park has that weird, circular scoreboard, and CBP achieves this with a giant, replica Liberty Bell beyond center field. Whenever a home run is hit by the home team, the Liberty Bell actually rings, kind of like the Big Apple that rises out of the outfield after Mets home runs. It’s a neat little quirk that does give the park some flavor.
This one is cracked too?! What are the odds?!
Another little visual thing that I love are the flower planters along the left field wall. There’s not much more to say about them other than that they’re very pretty and add much needed color to the otherwise dominant red and green in the park.
I like flowers. So what.
Also like other new ballparks, a lot of CBP’s food options are actually local restaurants. There is a Chickie’s & Pete’s stand, one local cheesesteak restaurant is rotated into the park each year, and the ice cream comes from the local Turkey Hill Dairy. Unlike some other parks, CBP has a super liberal policy about food from outside the park. So long as there’s no glass, they’ll allow it in the ballpark. I saw a guy who was bringing in three boxes of pastries. The people sitting next to me pulled out sandwiches from a local deli, an entire bag of potato chips, and drinks to go with their meal. I’d like to see more blue collar policies like this with respect to out of park food. Sure, you lose a few sales at the concessions, but you earn so much goodwill I think it’s worth it. I wish I’d known how liberal their policy was, I had a whole cheesesteak hidden in my pockets.
I didn't know I was supposed to try the Crab Fries here. Next time, I guess.
This year Nationals Park started having a starting nine group of children come out before the players to add some local flavor and help introduce the team. I saw the same thing in Japan a few times, but in Japan and at CBP, they intelligently have the players each come out holding a baseball. When they reach their tiny counterparts, they sign the ball, give it to the kid, and then the kids leave the field after the National Anthem plays. Everyone loves kids. This is always a success no matter where I see it done.
Like all other ballparks, they grab (cheap) local talent to do things like sing the National Anthem.
No article about CBP is complete without mentioning the most ostentatious feature of the ballpark, the Phillie Phanatic. The green monstrosity is one of the more controversial mascots in baseball. His antics have made a few enemies, most notably Tommy Lasorda, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they’re mostly harmless pranks that seem to go a few steps beyond what mascots in any ballpark would do. It’s the kind of thing that fits the city of Philadelphia and their team aesthetic well and it’s insanely funny 99% of the time. In the one game I witnessed, I watched him mock Marlins players throwing, attack the Marlins broadcaster, get shoved by Hanley Ramirez, steal fan caps, mess up countless people’s hair, and ride all around in his little car. He’s a pretty cool mascot, even if he is evil.
This is my absolute favorite picture that I got of this evil bastard.
Citizens Bank Park is a great place to see a game, what can I say? The fan base is passionate and devoted to the team, the park is nice and new, and they have great food policies. They’re also ridiculously close to Maryland, so if you’re a local reader, you really should just pop up there if you’re interested. I was there and back before midnight after the game.
Another reason I'm sure I loved this park: Check out the Marlins score right now. This gap did not appreciably close all night.
It’s time for Wednesday Morning Night Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.
Instead of the usual sports roundup today, it’s going to be a battle of the new stadiums. That’s right, it’s Yankee Stadium vs. Citi Field!
A view of Citi Field from the parking lot
Yankee Stadium from the subway platform
When you’re the New York Yankees, you’ve got certain expectations attached to your new stadium project. Yankee Stadium, even with all the revisions and reconstructions throughout the ages, stood for baseball history, really. Its departure was significant. Along with Fenway and Wrigley, Yankee Stadium stood tall in the face of the new ballpark craze. Yankee Stadium was the House that Ruth Built. You don’t get to be much more important than that. So it goes without saying that there was plenty to be said against building a new ballpark in this era of retro-new baseball stadiums. It would have to ostensibly be exactly what it was while trying to improve itself in every way. As someone who’s never been inside old Yankee Stadium, I can’t definitively say that they succeeded on that front, but anecdotal evidence seems to support that fact. Looking at the shell of the old park right next door, I’d be hard-pressed to argue with that assessment. The Yankee organization succeeded in taking the old and turning it new, but it begs the question. Why?
A view of the old. Tough shoes to fill for the new.
Make no mistake, Yankee Stadium is a joy to visit. It’s state-of-the-art and every surface almost sparkles, it’s so new. The fans seem mostly enthusiastic about the new park and they come to see the games in droves.
"I sold my kidney to afford a ticket!"
Right when you enter the ballpark, you see precisely where the millions have gone. There are bright, high definition televisions everywhere and an overall regal atmosphere throughout the interiors.
Yankee Stadium is very shiny and new. It certainly looks like a lot of money was spent.
Unfortunately, all those shiny new additions to the ballpark seem to have taken its toll on the common man. In the current global recession, it seems rather ridiculous that the cheapest seats in the ballpark cost $14. Doesn’t seem that outrageous until you realize that those $14 seats are right next to the batter’s eye, a huge restaurant that obstructs the view of the opposite end of the outfield. You read that right. You pay $14 and you can’t even see Damon on the left if you’re sitting on the right. There are TVs up on the walls to allow you to see what’s going on the other side, but it seems like a major oversight. The next cheapest are the nosebleeders in the outfield for $23 and it goes up from there to over $1000 the closer and lower you get. It seems designed to bring in more money to the already bloated franchise, but at what cost? Do you think the working man with his two kids can afford a day at the ballpark at these prices? $92 just for admission, not to mention any food (which is also overpriced) and you’re looking at an expensive night just for three hours of entertainment.
A beautiful screen, but at what cost?
That being said, you can’t blame them too much for the extravagance. The park is beautiful and the Yankees are a rich team with rich fans. In the back of the park, by the bullpens, lives the Monument Park, commemorating the greats in Yankees history. In fact, the whole park is filled with historical reminders that go a long way in reminding the fan that this team is serious business. I’m making it sound worse than it is above, it’s really a solid location to catch a game of baseball. I’ve gone into the home run business plenty on this site, but let me say that I personally saw two go over that infamous right field wall (one by Cano and one by Rodriguez). It’s funny to me that this park can give up so many while Citi gives up so few. As of this post, no Met has more than six home runs in their own ballpark.
"It's really a solid location to catch a game of baseball." -Dan Mesa
Unburdened with a stadium fondly remembered, Citi Field also stands right next to the park that housed the team since the 1960s, the abomination known as Shea Stadium. That place was such a generic, character-less hole that the public was more than happy to see it torn down and replaced. Thanks to the lack of love for Shea, the ballpark designers were free to get creative and they came up with this unfortunately named little gem.
I'll bet not one of those says "We will always miss Shea."
Corporate sponsored names pretty much stink for all ballparks (I don’t mind Tropicana Field for some reason, maybe it’s because that’s synonymous with oranges for me?), but what doesn’t is the inspiration for the new ballpark (what a crappy segue…). Modeled after Ebbets Field, former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the first thing you see after you are padded down or EM wanded by security (I kid you not, they were padding down incoming fans), is the Jackie Robinson rotunda, a beautiful callback to Ebbets and a worthy celebration of the man to break the color barrier in baseball.
A monument to Jackie Robinson is nice, but all the Dodgers gear can confuse. "Hey Dad, aren't we here to see the Mets?"
My friend Lee pointed out that a monument to a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Mets stadium is kind of out of place. I’m inclined to agree, but the space is so beautiful and the cause so important that I can neither fault them nor be mad about the inconsistency.
Urinals from the future!
I don’t really have anything bad to say about Citi Field. Prices are still more expensive at the ballpark than others in smaller markets, but that’s just New York, I guess. The urinals look kind of funny, I guess, the outfield wall is colored black and orange, making it look like the Giants play here, and they’ve still got the same problem with airplanes flying over and disrupting the calm of the game.
Wouldn't be a Mets game without planes taking off and landing.
The park feels smaller than Shea, and for a reason, they cut out about 15,000 seats, but it really does the ballpark some major good. Gone are the super steep stairs and feelings of vertigo up in the nosebleed section. The diminished size and the warm feeling that brick evokes gives the park a homey, intimate feeling that the cold concrete of Shea just didn’t offer and the aloof, superior atmosphere of Yankee Stadium just can’t match. One of the major tenets of the retro-new ballpark craze is to have ridiculous corners and unique parts of the park that really bring the home to home-field advantage and make for a unique park. One look at right field in Citi and and rational right fielder would faint. There are so many odd angles, an overhanging patio (hitting it counts as a home run, even if the ball bounces back into the field), and super-high walls that help keep the home run numbers down, but will undoubtedly increase the number of triples given up in the park.
Right field is full of insane angles. BONUS: Clay Zavada's mustache is on the big screen.
Even the backstop is made of brick, making getting home on a wild pitch that much harder. BONUS: This picture is following Angel Pagan's game-winning, first-in-his-career grand slam.
The best thing I can say about Citi Field is that it rekindled my love for baseball. Entering the ballpark I was feeling some fatigue from the long season. By the end of the game, I was pumped for my upcoming baseball trip to Japan and I couldn’t wait to get back home and watch more baseball this season. How can you not love a ballpark that reminds you of everything you love about the game?
The only welcome holdout from Shea, the home run Big Apple
New York City is lucky to have not one, but two great new ballparks this season and they both succeed at the goals they were shooting for. Yankee Stadium is everything it was, almost down to a ‘T’ and to its own detriment while Citi Field was allowed to be something completely new and chose to embrace its past. Maybe I’m just a sucker for brick (I love you Camden Yards!), but Citi Field just feels more like baseball to me.
Winner: Citi Field
It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.
The American Ballpark Tour continues this month with my first visit to a relatively new baseball stadium, Nationals Park. First opened for the 2008 season, the park is home to the struggling Washington Nationals (3-10 as of today) and actually presents one of the better baseball stadiums I’ve ever been to.
As part of the new park boom kicked off by Camden Yards, Nationals Park features a lot of those quirky design choices that are standard in new ballparks. The new “it” thing is to give each stadium something unique to them to make them stand out from everywhere else. This is clearly an inspiration from the most classic and iconic baseball parks, like Wrigley Field with the Ivy or Fenway with the Green Monster. This is why Minute Maid Park has a bizarre hill in center field, Camden has those great warehouses, and Citi Field has that Ebbets Field-esque rotunda and facade. The Nats didn’t go as much for the retro-feel of Camden or any of those brick ballparks like Citi, but instead went with a more modern, clean, American look. In the shot below you can see some of its features, the curly W mowed into the field, the blue seats, red, white, and blue banners, the glass walls, and the Presidents Race, but the American feel is completed with cherry blossom trees, view of the Potomac, Capital Building, and Washington Monument, depending on where you sit, and statues of baseball greats Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson, and Frank Howard.
In the top-right of this shot you can see the Red Loft, a bar section of SRO seats that has a pretty neat circular LED display that shows varying information about the game. This shot also shows aforementioned cherry blossom grove.
The scoreboards are state-of-the-art and have a pretty neat glowy, curly W clock on them. You can also see the out-of-town scoreboard in the bottom of this shot.
One of the best parts about the park that isn’t really conveyed in my pictures is the open feel of it. There exists only the bare minimum of outer walls to keep the park structurally sound to keep an open air feel within the park. This allows a refreshing breeze to flow into the park (a little too refreshing on Sunday for the upper decks…brrr) and also ensures that you, more or less, have a view of the ballpark no matter where you are in the complex as you walk around. The lower decks also have neat little SRO counters that you can lean against to enjoy your food and get a more intimate view of the ballgame than your $5 tickets might allow in the grandstands.
The Nationals, back when they played at RFK, birthed the greatest event ever with the Presidents Race, which continues in Nationals Park today. At every home game, during the fourth inning, the giant caricatures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt come bounding out from center field and go racing toward the home dugout. Here’s an idea of what the caricatures look like, but with smaller heads:
In this shot you can see what Jefferson actually looks like on the field along with part of Lincoln:
As you can imagine, ridiculous antics usually ensue. At the game I went to, Jefferson totally checked Lincoln into the wall, allowing Washington to take an easy win. For some hilarious reason, the organization decided that Teddy Roosevelt should never win. For the three seasons that the president caricatures have been racing, Teddy has NEVER won a race. The few times that he’s managed to actually not get distracted and make it in first, he’s usually disqualified for cheating by driving a golf cart or taking a zip line in. He’s also been sabotaged by various other mascots to keep him from winning. Another hilarious personality comes from Lincoln. Turns out that Honest Abe isn’t so honest when it comes to a footrace. Lincoln has a strong desire to win and will do whatever it takes to get his way, cheating by tripping or even, as some suspect, juicing! You can see more pictures and footage about the Presidents Race at the Let Teddy Win blog.
Is Nationals Park more charming than Camden? No, but I get the feeling that it’s on purpose. Rather than go with the traditional retro-baseball look of Camden, the designers opted to architecturally match DC instead and create something uniquely American in their ballpark. There are also tons of great food options in the ballpark, many of them are even restaurants that you can find throughout Maryland, Northern Virginia, and DC. I’d rank this ballpark up there with the best on my list. It’s a far improvement to RFK and it’s close to Camden on my list of favorites. For $5 a ticket in the grandstands, you really have no excuse not to go.
Oh yeah, Domo-kun made his way to this park too.
My brother put some more photos up. Here are some more of my faves.
Adam Jones evaluating his bat
Longoria going for the catch
The drama of the windup
Ballgames aren't all excitement every moment
My brother took a lot of Longoria pictures partly because we were sitting close to him, but mostly because he's my favorite player.
About to make the out at first
I love the moments in action shots that just seem physically impossible.
Kinda like this one
Baseball-themed ads are funny
Aki makes the grab while Bartlett watches on
The Rays didn't have a great hitting day...
15 April may mean the tax man is coming around, but I like to think of it from a better perspective: Jackie Robinson Day. That’s right, on 15 April 1947 Jackie Robinson debuted for the Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers, finally breaking the color barrier in baseball and paving the way for civil rights in America. Jackie Robinson was a hero and I’m glad that baseball honors him each year on this day by allowing players to wear Robinson’s league-wide retired #42.
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
Now for the standings and predictions:
Toronto Blue Jays 0.5 Games Back (GB)
New York Yankees 2.0 GB
Tampa Bay Rays 2.0 GB
Boston Red Sox 4.0 GB
Surprising as the standings are today, I don’t think this can realistically continue throughout the year. The current bottom three are just too good for this to stay like this all year. A more realistic October looks like:
Most of sports news America has the Jays above the Os and the Rays anywhere between first and third. I think the Rays outplay both the Yanks and the Sox and I’ve seen the Orioles do some major slugging. Even with the rotation difficulties they’re projected to have, I think their offense might be able to make up for it, but not enough to beat the Yankees. If the Yankees can’t get their act together with their bullpen and starting pitching (CC is looking better, but Wang is awful), things could be further shaken up.
Atlanta Braves 1.0 GB
Philadelphia Phillies 2.0 GB
New York Mets 3.0 GB
Washington Nationals 6.0 GB
The Nats are off to an awful start, mostly thanks to the incredible Florida Marlins who are a MLB-best 6-1 right now. They’re riding high off of good hitting and pitching, but I don’t think they have the depth to stay that high. Their hitting is a little too inconsistent and the rest of the division is just so darn good. That being said, I don’t think that the Phils can win the East again, mostly thanks to an ailing Cole Hamels, so I see them coming in definitely behind the Mets who have a rebuilt bullpen. Nats will continue to suck. The Braves are good, but I don’t know if they’re contenders yet. We’ll have to see as the season progresses.
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox 0.5 GB
Detroit Tigers 1.0 GB
Minnesota Twins 1.5 GB
Cleveland Indians 4.0 GB
Trey Hillman is doing a heck of a job with his Royals so far this year, but I don’t think they can stay atop the Central all year long. I predict that the newly rebuilt and re-motivated Tigers will do much better, Cleveland will continue to suffer from whatever losing disease they have (no starting pitching), and the Twins will suffer some major losses thanks to Mauer’s injury. Here’s how I see it ending up:
I think I might be wrong with the Twins and Royals, but we’ll see when I reevaluate at the All-Star break.
St. Louis Cardinals 0.0 GB
Cincinnati Reds 1.0 GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 1.0 GB
Milwaukee Brewers 3.5 GB
Houston Astros 4.0 GB
This one is harder for me to predict cause it’s the division I know the least about. The Cubs are on top, as most would predict, partially thanks to my boy Fukudome doing his part again. I really hope he stays strong all year this time. The Cards are tearing it up with Pujols and I think they’re a lock for second in this division. Despite being everyone’s dark horse for the NL Central, I don’t think the Reds can outplay the Cubs or the Cards. Pirates are doing well out of the gate, but for how long? The Astros just stink and the Brewers can’t compete without the pitching they had last year.
Oakland Athletics 2.0 GB
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2.5 GB
Texas Rangers 3.0 GB
If you would have told me at the end of last year that the Mariners would be atop the AL West at any point I would have called you crazy. Some key things have changed out west, making it an open division. Injuries plague the Angels bullpen, the Athletics are just mediocre, and the Rangers stink, but somehow Wakamatsu, the new Mariners skipper, has pulled his team together to make them compete. Maybe it’s the return of Griffey, Jr. or something Wakamatsu’s putting in the water, but the team is jiving together much better and it shows.
IFF the Angels starting pitching is out for an extended period of time.
San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers 1.0 GB
Colorado Rockies 2.5 GB
Arizona Diamondbacks 3.0 GB
San Francisco Giants 3.5 GB
The Padres are off to a great, but unmaintainable start. No offense and no pitching means no winning. They’ll fall back in place. The rest of the West is pretty ugly too. San Francisco has great pitching, when Lincecum isn’t sucking, but no offense. The Rockies lost Matt Holliday, and the D-Backs have Webb on the DL. LA is easily the best in the division.
Arizona is only high if Webb comes back soon. Otherwise they can’t hold on.
Those are my early season predictions, but we’ll see how well I’m doing come mid-season and adjust from there.
Pictures from the 10 April game:
Longoria at 3B
View of Camden from our sweet seats
I like this shot of Aki, even though he's in the background
Preparing for the next pitch.
Sonnanstine getting ready to throw
Rounding the bases
Adam Jones hit well that night.
Looks like a diving miss
Scoreboard in the 2nd. Zobrist up to bat
Good hit and baserunning
Domo-kun was at the game too
A vital part of the game experience: park vendors
The end of Hendrickson's windup
Gross coming in Pete Rose style
I'm convinced this mental misstep cost us the game. Way to go Kapler...pay attention to the game!
Loosening up to make the calls
Nice, Japanese-style swing. Good work Aki
AKINORI IWAMURA! Seriously, try cheering that three times fast.
Infield meeting to slow down the O's. Longoria doesn't pay much attention, but Aki, Bartlett, Navarro, and Peña do.
One of Longoria's two homers for the night.
A disappointing loss, but a great time had by me and my friends.
When Schneider tagged me in her version of this I almost pulled a Linus Torvalds (http://torvalds-family.blogspot.com/2009/02/25-things-about-me.html), but instead I decided not to do one at all.
Then I came across two “25 Random Baseball Things” articles and fell in love with the idea as a way to release pent up excitement about the upcoming baseball season. Hope you enjoy it..
1. Baseball was the first team sport I ever played. To this day I don’t really understand what motivated my father to sign me up for the game. My grandfather is afraid of playing catch due to an incident where he got beaned, my dad is mostly apathetic toward sports in general, including baseball, and my older brother hated little league baseball. My best guess is that we were living in the mostly Cuban (at the time) Hialeah where little league baseball is the predominant sport.
2. I always wanted to play catcher as a kid, but I never got the chance to. I wasn’t ever going to be a pitcher, but I figured that catching involved the second most amount of action on the field. Instead most of my time was spent in the outfield, where I did a pretty good job, and one glorious season at second base. Whenever I play softball or baseball, I will usually play catcher or second base, unless the team needs me to play outfield.
3. My favorite team is the Florida Marlins and I still remember going to a game at Joe Robbie Stadium, as it was called then, to see them play in April of 1993. This was the first professional baseball game I ever attended and was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me before then until I actually walked on the field some years later.
4. I very quickly developed an intense hatred for the Atlanta Braves that still sticks with me to this day. It’s no coincidence that I also despise the Florida State Seminoles who share the absurdly racist and obnoxious tomahawk chop chant. Last year I found out that my uncle used to be a Braves fan since they were the closest team to Florida before 1993. I still feel deeply betrayed by this fact, even though he is now a Marlins fan.
5. When my family moved to Oregon sometime in 1995, I experienced something of a baseball Dark Ages that I didn’t really kick until 2003 and didn’t fully kick until last year, despite moving back to South Florida in 1997. Between 1995 to 2003 I went to one AAA baseball game (Portland Rockies), two pro baseball games (Seattle Mariners and Florida Marlins), one spring training game (Tigers at Yankees) and watched almost no baseball on tv.
6. I’m very ashamed to say that I maybe watched one or two of the games of the 1997 World Series, neither of which were Game 7. To this day I still root against the Cleveland Indians, partly because of that World Series, partly because they remind me of the Braves, and partly because living with Ohio-native Dean Strelau in 2007 allowed me to gloat about snatching two National Championships away from Ohio State, which led to a general dislike of any team from Ohio.
7. I quit playing baseball and started swimming competitively in 1998, a decision that I regret to this day. Sure, I wasn’t a very good ball player at that point, considering I did it mostly for fun, but I wish I had stuck with it. In case you were wondering, I wasn’t a very good swimmer either.
8. In that final season, my team played in a tournament against a team that traveled over to the states from Japan. We held our own for the first two or three innings, but eventually they got the best of us. I still remember that we had to use Japanese-style balls, but we didn’t have Japanese bats, which had some sort of rough coating on them that made them a bit different. I have a sneaking suspicion that we might have played a little better with access to their special equipment or if we used the standard American baseballs and bats instead.
9. The event that led to my baseball renaissance was the Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 postseason. Bartman will always be a hero of mine thanks to his paving the way for the Marlins 2003 World Series victory. I will gleefully ask any Cubs fan about how devastated they felt back in 2003 to be robbed of a pennant.
10. When the Marlins made it to the World Series in 2003 I wore a Marlins jersey that I’ve owned since the mid-90s to school. I’ll never forget that day, because in first period AP Statistics, Dan Gollins called me a front runner because he’d never seen me wear any Marlins paraphernalia before. I stand by the fact that I’ve been a Marlins fan since their inaugural year and I still get mad thinking about him calling me that, but I also kind of understand where he’s coming from and begrudgingly admit he’s got something of a point.
11. Speaking of the 2003 World Series, I have distinct memories of watching two of the seven games at Cornell during a campus visit that DPE flew me up for. I watched one of the games in the now-destroyed Class of ’26 with two Yankees fans. The other I watched in my brother’s apartment down on Gunn Hill.
12. This is a complicated one: I attended middle school and one year of high school down in South Florida at Cooper City High and the rest of them up in Central Florida at Sickles High. After prom at Sickles, I was invited down to Cooper City for prom with my old friends as my ex-girlfriend’s date, much to the ire of my current girlfriend. I still remember being quite insensitive as I called my girlfriend from their prom and told her that I wanted so badly to stay an extra day so that I could go with Josh Kushner to see the Marlins play the Diamondbacks that Sunday (23 May 2004 – http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/FLO/FLO200405230.shtml) because Dontrelle Willis was pitching against Randy Johnson. Better sense prevailed and I ended up going home as scheduled. The Marlins lost 4-3 that day and I’ve still yet to see Randy Johnson or Dontrelle Willis pitch in person.
13. The first Orioles game I went to was on 27 July 2005 against the Texas Rangers (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL200507270.shtml). I’m pretty sure it was Sammy Sosa Bobblehead Night, although I could be wrong. It was a Wednesday, so I was worried about how long it would take me to get home cause I had work in the morning, but I figured it wouldn’t be that bad. After a 97-minute rain delay, the game FINALLY got underway. The Os and Rangers tied up the game in the 9th and the game ended in the 11th with the Rangers winning 11-8. I got home at 0200AM, but that baseball game is one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
14. One of my goals in life is to see a baseball game played in every ballpark. So far I’ve seen games in Joe Robbie Stadium/Pro Player Stadium/Dolphin Stadium (Marlins), the Kingdome (Mariners), Tropicana Field (Rays), Camden Yards (Orioles), RFK Stadium (Nationals), and Shea Stadium (Mets). Of these stadiums, the Kingdome, Shea, and RFK no longer house their respective teams, the Marlins will be leaving Dolphin Stadium by 2010ish, and the Rays are trying to get a new stadium approved leaving me with one solid stadium visited out of thirty. I’ve got a lot of work to do.
15. Once I’ve visited all the MLB stadiums, barring further stadium moves, I have decided to undertake the much more ambitious and difficult goal of seeing a game in all 13 Nippon Professional Baseball stadiums. I’ve only been to Japan once and Okinawa doesn’t have a baseball team, but I will get this done some day. Koshien Stadium here I come!
16. I am absolutely opposed to the DH rule in baseball. To me, it makes sense that any player who takes the field should have to bat for himself. Sure, it allows aging players or players with poor defense to have a spot on the roster, but I just think it takes away from the spirit of the game to have a guy whose only job is to bat while you have a whole group of guys whose only job it is to pitch. You could argue that pinch hitters serve that role in the NL, but the rules state that those guys have to step onto the field after they hit, unless there’s another substitution. Lack of a DH promotes greater strategy in baseball, period.
17. Rookie of the Year was the first baseball movie I ever saw. I’ve also seen Little Big League, A League of Their Own, Major League, Mr. Baseball, Hardball, and The Sandlot. My Netflix queue includes Field of Dreams, Mr. 3000, The Bad News Bears, and Fever Pitch. I think A League of Their Own and Little Big League are my two favorites.
18. I have a man-crush on 2008 Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria.
19. I’ve been to two games at Tropicana Field, one when the team was known as the Devil Rays and one after the name change. I was initially totally opposed to the name change, but it’s amazing what a name change, color scheme change, and a winning season will do for a team and their venue. The Trop is still one of the worst stadiums I’ve ever been to, but it was a lot more fun to go this past year.
20. I boo Darek Jeter when he comes up to bat for absolutely no reason. In retrospect, I should have been booing A-Rod this whole time.
21. There’s something about eating a hot dog in a ballpark that makes it taste infinitely better.
22. I always semi-rooted for the Devil Rays, but I definitely jumped on the Rays bandwagon this year and I fully intend to continue to root for them as my AL team. My NL team is, of course, the Marlins. I will actively root against the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, and Indians. In the All-Star game, a non-Braves/Phillies game, or any Interleague game, I will root for the National League team. I don’t mind rooting for the Cubs unless they are in the postseason. I think it’s funny that they haven’t won a World Series in 100 years and I want the streak to continue.
23. My favorite ballplayers through the years: Benito Santiago, Chuck Carr, Cris Carpenter, Brian Harvey, Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, Hanley Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Lowell, and Evan Longoria
24. I have never caught a foul ball, ground rule double, or home run in the stands. It’s a selfish thing to do as a grown man, but I’m not sure I’d be able to give any ball I caught in the future to a kid at a game. Wouldn’t it be enough to give the second or third away?
25. Once they are old enough to enjoy it, I plan to take my recently adopted little brothers and sister to a ball game in the hopes that it will inspire the same love for the game that I have in them.
You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ‘em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.
It’s been a while since you’ve last heard from me about the Marlins, but it’s funny how things haven’t changed much since then. The Fish remain 1.5 games back from the Phillies as of today and are, once again, in a series that will challenge the very fabric of their team.
The next few games pit the Marlins against the Phillies and Mets, the teams directly above and below them in the standings. I’ll be fortunate to definitely attend a game against the Mets at Shea and I might even go to Citizens Bank Park for the Phils game this Thursday. My goal of attending a ball game at every major league ballpark isn’t going to achieve itself, is it?
I’ll be crossing my fingers to move the Marlins into first over the Phils. They’ve already achieved quite a feat by beating Jamie Moyer last night. The Marlins were 0-10 against Moyer up until last night when they broke the Moyer hex. Hopefully the win streak begins and remains against him for the future.
Tampa Bay Rays
In Rays news, Tampa remains in first place a full three games ahead of Boston (QUICK ASIDE: Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers! WTF is Boston thinking??) and are holding strong in a series against the bane of their existence, the Cleveland Indians. At this point all that remains for the Rays to do is continue their strong performances and stay in first in the AL East.
Tropicana Field Review
This Sunday I got a chance to see another baseball game at Tropicana Field and boy was I surprised to see a new, reinvigorated ballpark. My tickets were pretty sweet, thanks to my younger brother getting them from the company he’s interning at, located in right field just past first base about 30 rows up from the field, so I feel like I got a good chance to evaluate the stadium.
When I was last in the Trop, back in 2004, the stadium was pretty different with different screens and, more importantly, a different color scheme due to the uniform and name change this year. Formerly a green and purple colored team, the renamed Rays are now a dark blue and light blue team and the new stadium looks very nice in the new color scheme.
Also great in Tropicana Field are some of the new fan traditions. Taking inspiration from the SNL skit, fans are encouraged to bring cowbells to the stadium and use them in cheers, specifically when opposing batters have two strikes on the count.
Unfortunately, the Trop is plagued by a few problems as a consequence of its dome. Sure, being indoors in the Tampa Bay sun is a good idea, however, their climate control system is not as effective as it should be, creating a kind of stale, stuffy environment that doesn’t make for a comfortable sit during the game. The dome itself is a bit of an issue too, with the low rafters in the outfield affecting high fly balls and, in general, the non-retractable nature of the dome being an issue. Sure, in the super-hot summer complete with ridiculous rains, why would you want to have the dome open unless you’re me and love the hot weather, but on cooler days or nice days, not having the option really does affect your ability to enjoy the game.
Tropicana Field is an average stadium to see a game in. You could do worse for a baseball field :cough: Dolphin Stadium :cough:, but it still doesn’t even come close to my favorite (so far), Oriole Park at Camden Yards.