Category: Tampa Bay Rays

9/14/13 at Citi Field (MIA @ NYM), 9/25/13 at Yankee Stadium (TB @ NYY), and 9/27/13 at Citi Field (MIL @ NYM)

Man, what grad school will do to you. I’m currently writing about these games almost 6 months after I attended these. Life has been a whirlwind with school, taking 15 credits, learning French… oh, and I got engaged. Did I mention that? So you’ll be seeing a lot more of Natalie in my posts. But on to baseball…

I knew that initially when I bought these tickets, It was a 4:05 start. So there was a decent chance of BP. But the night before, it rained and they called for a day/night double header. This was cool because it was single admission, so I got to watch 2 games for the price of 1. But there was likely going to be no batting practice. I’d have to really try to keep my streak alive.

Unfortunately, my laptop between September and now died… and I lost all of my pictures from this game, and the next. Eventually, Todd Cook will send me some pictures he snapped and I can throw them in. But basically I hung out with him and his boys for 18 innings of baseball. It was pretty fun. There was a little BP¬†for this game, it ended early. The Marlins never came out. And I can recall it was “Take your dog to the park” day. But here is what I snagged on the day:

Ball 1 – Dillon Gee toss up
Ball 2 – Homer hit to left field (unknown player)
Ball 3 – Tom Goodwin toss up
Ball 4 – Greg Burke toss up
Ball 5 – Donovan Solano pregame warmup ball
Ball 6 – Jake Marisnick threw me the 3rd out ball when Juan Lagares flied out to end the 6th inning for the Mets. That one felt good ūüôā

The Marlins beat the Mets 3-0 in game 1, and the Mets won 3-1 in Game 2. This day was really fun, and I’m disappointed that I lost my pictures.

Rays @ Yankees

Honestly, I don’t remember anything about this game. The only thing I remember was that I caught an Alex Rodriguez BP homer on the fly in what was likely one of his last games as a MLB player. Other than that, I can’t remember a thing.

Yankees lost, 8-3.

Ball 1 (180) – A-Rod BP homer on the fly
Ball 2 (181) – unknown toss up from TB
Ball 3 (182) – unknown toss up from TB

 

Brewers @ Mets

You’ll never believe what happened at this game, and I have zero pictures to prove it. That’s how life is, I guess. I went to this game last second because there was going to be nobody there. This game meant nothing to both teams, so I thought it’d be a good day of snagging. BP was probably the weakest I’ve ever seen, and I got 1 ball hit into the seats that I caught off a ricochet, and I got a Brewers relief pitcher to toss me a ball in right center during the Brewers’ portion of BP.

I snuck down behind ¬†the Brewers’ dugout easily, and watched the game from there. During the course of the game, this kid who was sitting by himself, no more than 13 years old was just heckling all of the Mets players. He was pretty funny too. I can’t remember how, but we got to talking. He showed me that his cousin was Yuniesky Betancourt of the Brewers. They were in town for the last road trip of the year and following the team. He was telling all sorts of crazy stories from the locker room, and told me how they felt about the Carlos Gomez incident, which was pretty cool too.

At the end of the game, jokingly I said “You should take me to the locker room.” And he said he would. So at the end of the game, I found him just as I was leaving Citi Field. I happened to turn around and he was about to enter down by the Jackie Robinson Rotunda with his father (Yuni’s brother). I ran over quick, and got stopped by the security guard. I told him I was with the Betancourts and pointed to them… at this point, the kid turned around and recognized me and waved back, leading to the guard letting me in. So here I am just sitting here in the tunnel outside of the Brewers locker room. All the players are walking past me to the bus, but no Betancourt yet. The kid came back out, said it’d be a few more minutes, but handed me a ball from the locker room. I didn’t care, I counted it. I had to move out of the way so a small cart could get through, and when I did this, the Betancourts came out and were whisked away by security. I didn’t really see any point in hanging around any more, so I went outside and met up with Zack and had a catch in the parking lot for about a half hour:¬†Image

and later headed home.

Ball 1 (183) Unknown Met
Ball 2 (184) Unknown Brewer
Ball 3 (185) Betancourt’s cousin

I will never lose pictures again. Lesson learned. On to 2014!

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7/24/13 at Fenway Park (TB @ BOS)

I’m sure as you all know, you’ve seen Natalie before. Well, her sister’s birthday was a few weeks prior, and since she’s a big Boston Red Sox fan and has never been to Boston, we decided to take her to Fenway for her birthday.

Aren’t we nice?

Everything was good until we hit Boston traffic:¬†Image¬†Which was, well.. it sucked. Eventually though, we checked into our terrible hotel and got to Fenway:¬†Image¬†Nevermind the guy doing the vogue photo shoot. If you’ve never been to Fenway before, you can start here, on Van Ness Street. If you walk a little closer, you find the honorary statue of¬†¬†Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio:¬†Image¬†If you go further down Van Ness, you come around to Yawkey Way, one of the most famous streets in sports:¬†Image¬†I distinctly remember there being a foul sulfur smelling odor coming from somewhere nearby. A Red Sox employee told me that it must be a neighboring building draining sewage.

Alright then.

I’ll give the Red Sox credit for a few things. I love Fenway Park, for one. The history, the tradition, not tearing it down to build a corporate empire… ahem… and keeping it feeling like a ballpark. For example, during pregame, this whole area:¬†Image¬†gets blocked off once the gates are about to open and it’s basically a street festival atmosphere. And also you can enter all the team stores and restaurants freely as long as you stay inside the fenced in area. You won’t see that in New York.

Anyway, did you know Fenway Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Image

Now you do. Once we made the usual lap around the park, we lined up for BP. If you go to Fenway Park, you can sign up to become a member of “Red Sox Nation”, which enables you to enter the park an entire hour before the rest of the seating bowl opens. You are restricted to the Green Monster, center field, and right field until an hour has passed. It’s worth $15, and I think it’s worth the money, mainly because you get to bring in a guest with you for free. You line up at Gate C on Landsdowne Street:¬†Image¬†and you also get one of these lovely no-tear wristbands:¬†Image

Now, hang on a second. Take a closer look at the photo before the wristband picture. Did you see anything funny? Out of the ordinary? Recognize anyone? Take a closer look:¬†Image¬†It’s none other than Mike Davison, who was at the Helicopter Drop only a few weeks prior! How weird. Not that weird though, since Fenway is his “home park.” But weird in a sense that he was on line photo-bombing my picture at that moment… I think you get the idea. And of course, Jenna (Natalie’s sister) and I were excited:¬†Image¬†Enjoy the glimpse of me in a Sox shirt, it doesn’t happen often. About 20 more minutes had passed maybe, and our bags were checked and I ran inside, and up the¬†Green Monster staircase:¬†Image¬†Around those two guys (who were walking INCREDIBLY slow) … up another stiarcase…¬†Image¬†until I saw this before me:¬†Image¬†Quite mesmerizing. At least if you’re a baseball fan. I was very excited to be on the¬†Green Monster, but I was also a little disappointed. There must have been a private party or something, because every single seat was taken on the¬†Green Monster. The cross aisle in back was open though:¬†100_0149¬†We did, however, manage to grab a spot towards the very end of the¬†Green Monster, near where it meets the center field wall:100_0152¬†I’m sure you know that I do the sign picture for every new stadium I go to. I’ve been to Fenway before, but not when I made the signs. So there ya go. After a few minutes I noticed that not only was no ball getting hit my way, I was wasting my time. Everything was either going down the line, or out completely, so I decided I’d had enough and I went over to center. On the way, I noticed this plaque:¬†100_0156¬†You can click to make it larger. If you want to read it. Now, when I got to center field, I got the attention of a Red Sox pitching/bullpen coach, I couldn’t tell who. He tossed me a ball, but it was sailing to my left right at Jenna. I wasn’t going to be a jerk and take it from her, so here she is with her 1st snag:¬†100_0158¬†Excited would be an understatement. Here was the view to my right:¬†100_0159¬†and to my left:¬†100_0160¬†So as you can see, not much of a crowd. It’s only as much as the line for Red Sox Nation is. Oddly enough, I wasn’t snagging anything. I wasn’t getting good luck as of yet. I headed over to right field to mix it up:¬†100_0162¬†but there was a season ticket holder event on the field, as you can see, so anything hit in that region was tossed to them. Fast forward to when the Rays were hitting, since I didn’t get anything from Boston. I got Jeremy Hellickson to quickly toss me my first ball of the day:¬†20130724_172702¬†Hellickson is the guy on the left. I decided I’d exhausted my resources (for now) in this area, so I ran around the entire stadium (since you can’t go through the¬†Green Monster) to left field:¬†100_0165¬†…where I asked coach Tom Foley to hit me a fungo into the crowd, but he tossed it to me instead. Fine with me. If you’re not familiar, here is the different configuration for left field:¬†100_0166¬†Fenway is all about quirks and weird angles. You have this, the¬†Green Monster, the “triangle” in center, the sharp curve in right, Pesky’s pole, all wonderful baseball junkie type stuff. While I was in left, I noticed this:¬†20130724_174836¬†That’s Fernando Rodney. He pretty much teased an entire section for a good 10 minutes by tossing the ball up the¬†Green Monster just short enough where they couldn’t catch it, but enough where it looked like he was making an effort. And those people never realized a closer with a 95 mph fastball couldn’t make a toss up the¬†Green Monster? C’mon guys. I ran all the way BACK around the park to the triangle:¬†20130724_175702¬†and was unsuccessful in catching a few drives that came near me. I went back up to my original spot in center, but at Fenway you have to either go through the staircase on the concourse, or over a few sections, and then back up and over to center. Here, take a look:¬†aerial¬†You see how the center field wall goes into the right field bleachers? Well, it’s not that big of a deal, but when you’re all the way down in the corner where the triangle is and you want to get back up to center quickly, it can pose a bit of a time-consuming nuisance. Also, the two bullpens eat up a LOT of the BP homers. Most got thrown back onto the field. While I was in front of the bullpens, a ball hit by someone I can’t recall slammed off the wall. ¬†Chris Archer tossed the ball into the crowd, but to my left was a little girl maybe no more than 5 years old with her father. They weren’t looking, but I snagged the ball on a nice grab on a bounce, and saved her from being hit. Her father thought I was taking the said ball from his daughter, even though both of them weren’t looking at the time. To ease the situation, I gave the ball to the girl and her father was immediately overjoyed. Archer, seeing all of this, pointed me out:¬†20130724_175709

and tossed me another ball. So technically, I snagged 4. But, I like to number all of my baseballs, so for mygameballs.com purposes, I counted it, but as for my personal collection, I am not. So, at this point, personally, I am at 3. I headed down towards the right field foul pole, and after a short while I got bullpen catcher Scott Cursi to throw me my 4th (really 5th) ball of the day:¬†20130724_180506¬†That one was nice and clean. That about did it for BP. We went for a walk back out onto Yawkey (remember how I mentioned that earlier?) :¬†100_0171¬†Like I said, this is how a ballpark neighborhood should be. We went back in, and I tried for a pregame ball by the Rays dugout:¬†100_0181¬†I really really wanted a ball from Longoria, but he tossed it to someone else. A kid wearing a Rays shirt but a Boston hat. Explain that one. I normally take a photo at the top of upper decks at new stadiums, but since the upper seats behind home plate at Fenway are all press and suites, this will have to do:¬†100_0183¬†As for the game, here were our seats:¬†100_0184¬†I feel like the picture doesn’t do it justice. Anyway, I was hoping for a Ortiz homer, but nothing came my way. Fast forward to the 9th, where I was here:¬†100_0185¬†…and promptly got denied by the Rays coming into the dugout. I couldn’t help but change my usual line score format and use Fenways… so… final score:¬†final

David Price pitched a masterful game, throwing a complete game, on only 97 pitches. Of those, a whopping 72 were strikes, good enough for 74%. Nuts.

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  • 4 balls at this game (5 snagged but I gave 1 away.)
  • 143 career balls
  • 30th straight MLB game with a ball

Looking Back: 5/28/12 @ Tropicana Field (CWS/TB)

Following Marlins Park on 5/24/12, later on the vacation the stadium tours continued with Tropicana Field. The day started with a early drive from Miami to St. Petersburg. The game was at 3:10 which was good, because we didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to drive up. I was a little apprehensive from a ballhawking standpoint because A: It was a holiday. B: There would be way too many kids there. But it was the only day that worked out for us, so I just had to deal. ¬†Eventually, after several pit stops, we saw this on the horizon:

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Yay.

Must be something in Florida that possesses people to make their stadiums look like spaceships, I’m not sure. As we approached the exit, we noticed something cool:

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The columns on the side walls of the Trop are baseball bats. Cool.

Once you enter the parking lot, there is a long walkway that takes you across a little moat-like bridge to the main gate.

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It’s so ugly, it’s beautiful. It’s got Florida written all over it.

Here I am at the main gate:

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I gotta be honest, I never imagined myself actually getting on a plane (my 1st time was this trip, mind you) and going to both parks and just doing my own thing for once. It was very liberating.

Here’s a cool shot of the main gate-tower thing :

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And as I like to do for all the stadiums I visit, I like to take a lap around and check out the scene and look for cool  stuff. I probably should have gone to the Trop before Marlins Park, because Marlins Park made the Trop look like a mausoleum.

Here’s a unused ticket booth area:

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It was very very muggy and hot, it was gross. Natalie wasn’t having it…

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…so once we finished our lap she sat in the shade while I waited in line to snag.

This was pretty much the extent of the lap around the park. Calm yourself folks, it’s exciting:

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Here’s a random pillar stuck in the middle of nowhere on the back end of the park:

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The one cool thing I made sure to look for was the baseball storm drains. I had read about it on Zack¬†Hample’s blog¬†a few months back when I was looking for tips about the park. It had rained the night before, so I finally found one that wasn’t full of water:

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Cool cool. We made it back to the front of the stadium, and I came across the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame near the team store.Image

If I had time, I wanted to check it out. Here is the team store itself:

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Now get this: the team store opens when the gates open. Tell me how that makes sense. Countless people walked up to the store only to pull on locked doors and walk away mad. A ballpark’s #1 priority should be fan happiness. I for one, was pissed because I make it part of my 1st-time-at-a-stadium experience to mess around in the team store and try on the jerseys and see if there are any unique things they have to buy. Now if I wanted to go in the store, it would cut into snagging time, or I would have to wait until after the game when¬†everyone goes and it would be crowded.

Sigh.

Nevertheless, I was first in line at the gate. Natalie hung off to the side because it was hot, and the woman standing next to me actually fainted because she was hot. The medics rushed over and checked her out, but she was okay. It was sort of scary at the time. I met a great older couple who lives in Tampa Bay, who shared stories of their Rays games (they were long time season ticket holders), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers games. They were talking to me about New York and how crowded the stadiums are, and trust me I had no problem complaining from a snagging standpoint ūüôā The gates opened on time and I was greeted with a heaven-sent blast of ice cold air conditioning…

The gate I was at was weird, it was actually positioned in Center Field. So I ran up the bleacher steps and found myself standing here when I was greeted to the field:

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There was no music playing, and as you can see I was one of the first people inside, so when I was yelling out to players, my voice was actually echoing off the 1st base wall and coming back to me. It was pretty cool. Here I am attempting to snag:

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Now, the one thing that got me mad was that it was quiet, so the White Sox could definitely hear me. And just like the Giants, they threw NOTHING up. Perhaps I brought bad snagging mojo down from New York with me, who knows. I felt like I would have to rely on catching a ball in the air (Something I’ve yet to do) to get a ball here.

Heres how it looked on the CF/LF side:

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And believe it or not, that was about it for BP. I came close to some on-the-fly homers, but once again got goose-egged. (curse you, Florida!)

It was time to explore. Since I was on vacation, I wasn’t that mad at all. If I was in New York, I’d be hella pissed.

Here’s how the concourses look at the Trop:

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I thought this was pretty cool:

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On our way to our seats I remembered that I neglected to take pictures when I first came in to the ballpark. Heres how the atrium looks when you first enter:

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I thought it looked pretty cool.

Around the concourse on the walls, the Rays have murals honoring Tampa-area baseball players and Rays events in a comic-book style art:

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There were a few more pictures I took, but I showed the Boggs picture because I thought he was a great hitter.

Here’s a better birds eye view of the concourse:

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We headed up to the top of the stadium for my customary picture:

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Not a bad view, actually. Here’s what it looked like to the right:

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(Me being ever-so-jubilant). And the left:

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If you’ve never seen it before, teams do this because these seats don’t normally sell, and the teams like to put the tarps up so fans sit together and make the stadium look more aesthetically pleasing.

And here I am with my sign:

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In case you haven’t read my other posts, the 9 stands for the number of stadiums I‚Äôve visited. So far I‚Äôm up to 9 (New Yankee, CitiField, Fenway, Baltimore, Washington, Toronto, Montreal, Miami, Tampa). I‚Äôve also been to¬†Old Yankee and Shea, but am counting them separately for now. I can‚Äôt take pictures there ¬†because they are both demolished.

We walked around to the left field party deck:

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The concourse up here had a weird old-time neighborhood to it, it just didn’t fit in my opinion, there were too many different styles going on here. We also met a family from St. Louis who couldn’t find their way downstairs, and somehow I managed to direct them in the right direction.

Since I like to explore every part of a stadium when I go, I decided I would sacrifice about 30 minutes of the game to spend some time here:

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The Rays have a “Touch Tank”, which, according to them, is this:

“The¬†Rays Touch Tank, presented by the Florida Aquarium, is the first of its kind at a professional sports venue. The 35-foot, 10,000 gallon tank is located just beyond the right-center field fence at Tropicana Field. The Rays Touch Tank experience is free to all fans attending home games.¬†For every ball hit into the tank during a game by a Rays player, the Rays will donate $5,000 to charity with $2,500 going to the Florida Aquarium and $2,500 going to that player’s charity of choice.¬†To make it most convenient for all fans, there is a limit of 50 people in the tank area at any time.”

Good info to know. I wonder how many (if any) players have successfully hit a home run into the Ray tank. Rumor has it Aubrey Huff¬†did it once back in his Devil Rays heyday. That last part mentions 50 people at a time, so we had to wait a little bit. The game had started, but there were plenty of TV’s to watch. Normally I HATE missing any part of the game, but this was an exception.

Before you enter the touch tank area, there is a little 5-minute class on how to touch the Rays. Here is the class in a nutshell:

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Make sure to NOT touch the Rays in the “strike zone”. The friendly host we had explained that it is the equivalent of spraying bug spray up a human’s nose. Ouch. So DON’T DO IT! ūüôā

Once the class was over, here’s what we saw:

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All cool stuff. At first I was afraid to touch the Rays, but then I finally did. Only because Natalie did first, so I couldn’t look like a wimp. If I had to describe it, I would compare it to touching a really wet raw steak. But it was cool. And you only get about 5 minutes in there, so before you know it, It’s over. It was finally time to get to our seats.

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What a privilege it is to be outside of NYC: These tickets cost us $25.00…. Yea. Yankee Stadium will run you about $200 for these bad boys. The game was going by really quick. A.J. Pierzynski was set on throwing 3rd out balls to scantily clad women in the 2nd row. And there was a 6 or 7 year old kid who was running down to get 3rd out balls, so I wasn’t about to compete with that and get booed. I was just enjoying the game and snapping pics. Here’s a cool pic of the roof:

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A cool action pic:

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And right after I took this pic of Adam Dunn, he blasted a home run that smacked off the back wall in right field:

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That was all the White Sox needed, as both pitchers dueled to a 2-1 White Sox final. Chris Sale went 7 1/3 innings for Chicago, with FIFTEEN strikeouts, and Tampa’s Matt Moore countered with ten. Here’s the line score:

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I was hoping the game would have went to extras and lasted longer, since I drove 4 hours to get there. But I was content. I tried to take my “9” picture down by the dugouts, but here’s why I didn’t keep it:

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That lady on the right WOULD NOT move, at all. When she finally did, I had these guys ruining the picture:

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Like they never saw anyone taking a picture before. Sheesh.

Here’s a shot of me and Natalie:

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I’ll give her credit on this trip, not many ladies are willing to follow their boyfriends around baseball stadiums for entire days on vacation. So thanks. Lastly, here’s my overall assessment of Tropicana Field:

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C. It’s ugly, it’s large, in the middle of nowhere, and most importantly, I didn’t snag any balls.

  • 0 balls snagged at this game ūüė¶
  • White Sox record when I attend: 1-0
  • Tampa record when I attend: 3-6

My next post will be on the 7/21 Met game I attended. Thanks for reading.