16 June 2010

A Perfect Game

Oh so many memories, so little time.  It seems like yesterday that the trip started and suddenly I'm back in Afghanistan.  It was truly the greatest two weeks of my life and I've taken more memorable moments from this trip than anyone should be legally allowed to.

I won't or can't thank everyone by name in this space, but to the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of you who helped us in the planning/execution of the trip; to all who said "thanks for your service"; to all who bought us a beer or wished us the best of luck.... I thank you.  Those words seem so inadequate and trite, but I don't even know what else to say.  You all know who you are and you have my eternal gratitude.  I'd love to rattle off everyone that I could think of but I'd undoubtedly leave someone off, which would make me feel terrible.  Just know you're all in my heart and good things HAVE to come your way in the future :)

On the drive between Cincinnati and Cleveland, I took out the laptop to start compiling some stats from all the games we had been to, just for trivial sake.  This was also one of the rare occasions that I allowed Jay to drive.  I REALLY miss that Camaro...  But anyway, onto the stats:

As for travel, we went roughly 2800 miles in 14 days, not counting our flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee, staying in or passing through 17 states plus the District (GA, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH, PA, NY, NJ, CT, RI, MA, DE, MD, VA, DC, WV, KY).

As for the baseball numbers, the home team finished with a record of 7-8.  The Cubs had a chance to put the home team on top against the White Sox, but in the end, failed kinda like Aramis Ramirez's batting average (dude, .168?).  The home teams actually had a four game losing streak, with the O's, Nationals, Pirates (the lone Cubs win on the trip, going 1-3), and Reds dropping consecutive home contests.

In total, there were 134 runs scored on 274 hits, with the A's/Red Sox game taking the title of highest scoring and hitting with 17 runs and 32 hits combined.  It also took the title for home runs (7), doubles (10), and total bases (63).  Those seven home runs were just some of the 31 round trippers we saw, including grand slams by Travis Hafner of the Indians and Corey Hart of the Brewers. 

Who would've thought than an American League game would be the most futile offensively and the quickest?  Both titles go to the Tigers/White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field, with the lowest numbers in runs (3), hits (8), doubles (actually tied with another American League game with one), total bases (15), and time (2 hours, 15 minutes).

The two most lightly attended games were both Pirates affairs (there you go Pirate fans, a title you can hang your hat on finally), with both matchups against the Cubs drawing 11,334 and 12, 768.  Maybe it was just the Cubs lackadaisical play considering their $140 million payroll?  Nah, it's just the Pirates.

So in total, the raw numbers go as follows:  134 runs, 274 hits, 10 errors, 224 men left on base, 31 home runs, 68 doubles, 6 triples, 111 walks, 8 batters hit, 25 stolen bases, 9 caught stealing, 446 total bases (almost 7.5 runs/game), and 25 double plays grounded into.  We watched 15 games amongst 438, 679 fans in over 43.7 hours and 136 innings.  Too much baseball?  NEVER!

Again, the trip of a lifetime, and one I'd like to replicate on the West Coast and the Midwest very soon.  Thanks again to all of you who followed along and lived this thing vicariously through us.  It was truly a joint effort.

Also, I don't believe I ever posted the link for the article in the Montgomery Advertiser, so here 'ya go...

Montgomery Advertiser article from 30 May

Oh, and to Alison:  I believe I said something to you earlier about getting you a Cadillac if you pulled all this off?  Well here you go...

This is one of the latrines in Qatar, specifically at Al-Udeid Airbase.  Why we call them Cadillacs, I don't know.  But I promised you a Caddy, so there you go!  A fine present for a job well done :)

13 June 2010

Cleveland (Rocks!) & CUBBIES

June 9 - Red Sox/Indians - Cleveland Photos

Our trip to Cleveland was an absolute blast.  The hotel provided to us by Brad Roller and his wife Laura Pedersen, as well of the owner of the downtown Radisson, Mr. Vern Fuller, was amazing.  Valet parking and all that jazz. 

After we checked into the hotel, we walked to Progressive Field, which is only two blocks away.  As we waited outside the gates for Jeff Sibel of the Indians to let us in, we watched the team hit from a distance.  Fortunately for us, we were close enough that a home run ball bounced through the left field plaza area and was headed straight for us until a giant pillar jumped in the way and interrupted our meeting.  The security guard inside was nice enough to give Jay the ball anyway.  When we were actually brought into the stadium, we went down to field level to catch some more batting practice, where once again we watched the Red Sox take their cuts.  It's a pity we aren't Sox fans.

After BP, we got our first look at a Major League clubhouse, as well as the Indians workout room.  Justin Masterson, that night's starting pitching  for the Indians, was oddly enough playing chess to mentally prepare for his start.  We went back out onto the field, where Jeff gave us some sweet Indians t-shirts; and not just some lame Metlife ballpark windbreaker either, but a shirt I would actually wear. After parting with Jeff on the field, we roamed around to find something to eat and drink.  Beyond center field, there are a couple of cornhole boards for fans to take in a game or two, so being the players that we are, we couldn't help but toss a few bags.  There we met a couple from West Virginia who were absolutely fantastic.  Of course, we had to tell them about our journey, and of course, they had to get us a beer.  It was about this time that Brad showed up to meet us for the first time and catch the game.  Turns out that Bob enjoys two of my favorite things in the world:  baseball and politics.  So for the next few hours, we discussed the finer points of two great American pastimes. 

As for the game, the Red Sox were absolutely mauled by the Indians 11-0.  Travis Hafner belted our second grannie of the trip and Justin Masterson pitched our second consecutive complete game shutout, matching and exceeding Matt Cain of the Giants the night before, giving up only two hits.  Phenomenal time at the Jake.

The next morning, we had to be out of town early in order to make the afternoon Tigers/White Sox game in Chicago, roughly five hours west.  If not for all the stupid tolls, we may have actually made first pitch.  Katie had a "bad back" so she left work with the Cubs to cross into enemy territory and catch the game with us.  Officially, she was never there.  I think she actually had a good time with the Southsiders, but don't tell any Cub fans that. 

The White Sox got solo homers from Omar Vizquel and A.J. Pierzynski and defeated the Tigers easily 3-0.  The Tigers couldn't get anything going offensively against Sox pitching, collecting only three hits.  So in consecutive American League games, we saw two-hit and three-hit performances respectively.  Who says all the power is in the junior circuit?

After the game, we took Jay to the airport to conclude the trip for him.  This trip definitely couldn't have been possible without his planning and organizational skills.  I would have eventually made it to each site on my own, but probably would have been late on quite a few occasions.  I had an absolute blast with him on this trip and couldn't have taken a trip for that long with too many other people.  I can be difficult in large doses...

June 10-11 - Tigers/White Sox and White Sox/Cubs - Chicago Photos

The next day, I flew solo to catch the Chicago crosstown rivalry at Wrigley in the afternoon.  After walking three miles to the stadium and getting thoroughly drenched in my own sweat, I settled in to watch the Cubbies get walloped.  That brings their record on the trip to 1-3.  Yikes...

After the game, we went to Murphy's, which is right behind the scoreboard in center, and had food and drinks on the roof with Rick Sutcliffe (a former pitcher and current ESPN color man) and the starting pitcher for the White Sox that day, Jake Peavy (who should be a Brave right now btw).  Peavy is also from Mobile and had quite a few Bama boys up on the roof.  Sut is a great guy who I think would do anything for anyone as well as anything for a good time. 

That's all I have time for now.  I'm writing this from the airport in Atlanta awaiting my flight back to the sandbox.  I have plenty more thoughts on this trip, so check back in a few days. 

09 June 2010

Pittsburgh (Round 2) and Cincinnati

Cubs/Pirates (Round 2) - Pittsburgh photos

After leaving Cooper's place in Washington on Monday morning, we moved out towards Pittsburgh through beautiful western Maryland and Pennsylvania. The game in Pittsburgh was a make up game from a few days before that was rained out and again featured the Pirates and Cubs at 12:30. This game wasn't supposed to be part of the trip but since Caitlin's parents are in Pittsburgh anyway, it's a free and familiar place to stay for a night and catch an extra baseball game. Oh, and PNC Park is gorgeous and the weather was sunny and low 70s. Hard to pass that up.

We were a tad late getting to the game, but since we had just seen these same teams play a few days before in the same ballpark, it wasn't a big deal. The Cubs thoroughly dominated from beginning to end, winning 6-1. Just a beautiful day for baseball.

We left picturesque Beaver, PA at a decent hour on Tuesday morning to continue our move west into Cincinnati for the game that evening between the Red legs and the Gigantes.  Before we got to town, we decided to stop in Columbus at THE Ohio State University to have a look around Big Ten country and grab some lunch.  I took the obligatory photo in front of the 'shoe of course...

After swinging through campus, we grabbed some Mexican food, which was my first taste of that since last year, and it was quite delicious and fulfilling.  We continued the roughly 90 minutes to Cincinnati to catch the Reds and Giants take BP on the field.

And no, I never get tired of hanging out on the field watching baseball players take their cuts.  I'm such a little kid sometimes.  After we grabbed some food, we returned to the field for the pregame ceremonies, which included a Rod Stewart impersonator (yes, apparently he does exist) singing the national anthem.  I'm not a fan of the real Rod Stewart, so a fake one is somehow even worse.  Rod Stewart can't help but be himself, but this guy CHOOSES to be like Rod Stewart.

Anyway, I was the honorary captain for the game, which meant I got to take the lineup card to home plate and give it to the umpires.

After the meeting of the minds at the plate, I got to meet Reds manager Dusty Baker in the dugout.  I wish we could've gotten a picture because I'm a big Dusty Baker fan. 

The game was a dud for the Red legs because Matt Cain was filthy all night long for the Giants, going the distance for a complete game (the first of the trip), seven hit shutout, striking out five.  All night we kept our eyes on the scoreboard keeping up with the exploits of Mr. Strasburg in DC, as he went seven innings and struck out 14 in his MLB debut.  Quite impressive, especially from a rookie.

Currently, we're in the car on the way to Cleveland and it's raining once again in Ohio.  I don't think this place likes us very much.  Tonight I'm sure we'll be around plenty more insufferable Red Sox fans who will no doubt outnumber the hometown Tribe.  Go Indians!

08 June 2010

The Illadelph, Baltimore, and the District

(In the Camaro somewhere on the Pennsylvania Turnpike)

On our way out of New York, we decided we would head into Manhattan for a few hours just to show our faces and see what all the hubbub was.  In case you didn't know, it's rather busy down there, as if that needed to be said.  We passed by but didn't stop at Ground Zero, the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, and Times Square.  Since we're trying to sample the local cuisine in every place we go, we had to get a slice of New York style pizza.  So we park the car and eat for probably 20 minutes.  When we get back to the car, there's a $95 parking ticket stuck to the windwshield.  The nerve of those people!  Do they honestly think I'm ever going to pay for a ticket on a rental car?  Not a chance.  After hitting the Lincoln Tunnel to Jersey, we headed down the NJ Turnpike to Philadelphia. 

 June 4 - Padres/Phillies - Philadelphia Photos

On our way into Philly, we crossed over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and into downtown.  We made our way past Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and managed to find our way to Caitlin's college friend Kristen's apartment.  Caitlin was good enough to fly up for the weekend to visit (see, you do make the blog!)  Those two are cut from the same cloth, but that's a good thing.  Kristen's boyfriend Nate was also there for the game. 

We didn't hang around long before it was time to catch a cab to Citizens Bank Park for the evening matchup between the hated Phillies and the San Diego Padres.  Inside the park, we briefly stopped in at McFadden's for a brew before heading to our seats.  Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in baseball, was on the bump for the Phillies, which meant he was completely dominant for the most part.  Thanks in large part to his performance and a two-run homer from the Flyin' Hawaiian Shane Victorino, the Phillies won 3-2.  As the Phils are the chief rival of the Braves, I was of course rooting for the Padres.  Regardless, the ballpark was impressive.

After the game, we hopped into another cab to grab a cheesesteak at Pat's and Geno's.  I can settle the debate right here and now on which place has the better cheesesteak.  Pat's is vastly superior to Geno's.  You're welcome world.

The next morning we were up early to visit all the historical things in Philly that I had never seen before.  The Independence Hall tour wasn't available to us until well after we had to leave for Baltimore, so we could only see it from the outside.  We did get to see the Liberty Bell and take the obligatory picture in front of it.  After saying our goodbyes to Caitlin, Kristen, and her boyfriend Nate, we headed to Baltimore to catch the evening tilt between the Red Sox and the Orioles.  Sure the Orioles have the worst record in baseball, but Camden Yards is a fun place to catch a game, even if the Orioles fans are badly outnumbered by insufferable Red Sox fans.  This was one of the parks I'd actually been to before.

June 5 - Red Sox/Orioles - Baltimore Photos

We were down on the field for Red Sox BP.  A big thanks goes to Monica Barlow, our contact with the Orioles who gave us field access and some sweet seats behind the plate.  We were literally surrounded by Red Sox fans with no Orioles fans in sight.  So of course we had to buy Orioles hats and help the home team out.  These days, they need as much help as they can get.  The game featured a great pitching performance by both starters (Jon Lester and Jeremy Guthrie), as the game was scoreless until the 7th when Kevin Youkilis put the Red Sox ahead for good with a solo homer to left, which delighted the home, errr, road crowd to no end.  The Sox broke it open with one more in the eighth and six in the ninth to put away the hapless Orioles 8-2. 

After suffering through postgame traffic and a slight issue locating the car, we moved east a few miles to stay with a friend of a friend named Julie.  Julie was a lot of fun to hang out with for the few hours we were actually in town.

June 6 - Reds/Nationals - Washington, DC Photos

We had to be in the nation's capital by 11:45 in order to do a television interview with MASN, the Nationals' TV network.  I was under the impression I was going to be doing a radio interview, so of course I looked like a homeless bum for TV.  Regardless, I think the interview went well and it's supposed to run locally this
coming week.  The interview should be posted to the MASN website as well very soon, so stay tuned.
After the interview, we went down to the field with Israel Negron of the Nats front office, who was just an outstanding host.  There we met Doug Slaten, one of the Nats relievers.  We also got to spend a minute with Jim Riggleman, the Nationals manager.  He's seemed like a really nice guy and I wish the Nationals the best, as long as they are not playing the Bravos.  Israel left us to fiddle around for a few minutes while he got our tickets and he mentioned he might be able to upgrade them.  Upgrade the tickets he did.  We got tickets in the Presidents Club, which is the fancy, schmoozy section right behind the plate with a four-star buffet inside.  We ended up sitting in the front row directly behind home plate where our ugly mugs were visible on TV all day long.  A big thanks goes out to Israel for all his hard work.

The game was a pretty close throughout, but the Nats bullpen really blew things late, blowing a lead in the 9th, only to tie it in the bottom half and lose in the 10th.  To add insult to injury, the Nationals sent yesterday's starter Craig Stammen (who pitched a great game) to the minors in order to make room for some guy named Strasbourg.  Apparently he's a big deal or something.

After the game, we waited for a friend of a friend (again) named Cooper, whom Jay had actually met before to get done with a flag football game.  While we waited, we hung out at a place near his house called The H Street Country Club, which was a pretty nifty place.  We had planned to go in and catch the Braves/Dodgers game on the TV, which of course they didn't have.  So as we waited watching random games, some people started coming in with shirts that appeared to say something about Skeeball.  And yes, there were Skeeball machines in the back of the joint.  So we start striking up a conversation with all these folks and they tell us that on Sundays they play in a Skeeball league.  Whoever knew that the demand for Skeeball was high enough that you could actually play in a league?  I haven't played in probably 20 years, with that time coming at Chuck E. Cheese's.  And even better, they were short a few players, so Jay and I happily volunteered to help out the team, named "That's How We Roll". 

After "our" league game, we played on the mini-golf course upstairs with Cooper and our new friend from the team Emily.  What kind of bar has a putt putt course upstairs?!  The cool ones of course!  I did a little bit better on that than on Skeeball to say the least. 

All in all, a wonderful night in our nation's capital doing a lot of things we never intended or could have imagined, which is pretty much how this entire crazy journey has gone.

05 June 2010

Bahhhhston Red Sahhhhx

A's/Red Sox - Fenway Park Photos

In the morning after eating some fresh bagels and finally meeting Bob Petrocelli for the first time, we left for the train station in Stamford, CT to catch the train to Boston. We got to the station in time to make the train but couldn’t find a kiosk to print out our actual tickets, so as the train gets into the station, we’re printing out our tickets and literally running down the stairs and across the platform to get on board. We made the train at the absolute last second. Missing that train might have made for a slightly crappy day. The trip took about three hours to get to Boston. We got word from Greg and Alison, who flew from Atlanta just for this game, that it was going to be Fan Appreciation Day at Fenway, which meant fans could go on the field to meet and take pictures with some of the players, so we took a cab from the station to Fenway as fast as possible. Mike Olano of the Red Sox front office let us in and we moved right down to the field. Being on the field there was as much of a thrill as being on the field at Wrigley. Standing on the field, I couldn’t help but think about seeing Ted Williams at the plate hitting .406 in 1941, Carlton Fisk willing his home run ball fair in the 12th inning of the '75 World Series, and Carl Yastrzemski, Roger Clemens, Jim Rice, and on and on and on. The place is just oozing with history and it was absolutely amazing and a huge thrill for me.

On the field, we waited in front of the Green Monster as a lot of the players paraded by, taking pictures and shaking hands with everyone. The list included 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek, Jeremy Hermida, Manny Delcarmen, Adrian Beltre, Hideki Okajima, Bill Hall, Ramon Ramirez, and a few others. After we took all the obligatory photos with the players, we were whisked to the relatively new seats on top of the Green Monster for the coolest view of the park and Lansdowne Street. We also got to got through the suite area where there are plaques of all former Red Sox who are in the Hall of Fame as well as Red Sox pitchers who have won Cy Young awards, most notably Clemens and Pedro. After that, we went to the new club level above right field, where there is a bar made from the lanes of the bowling alley that used to be beneath Fenway Park. And how long is the bar? Sixty feet, six inches. Symmetry meets irony.

Our seats were in section 29 down the left field line. The roof on top of us provided some shade but did obscure the view of the top of the Monster and the scoreboard in Center Field. The seats at Fenway are ridiculously small and close together, but I guess that's paht of the chahhm of it all.

The game was an absolute slugfest, with 17 runs, 32 hits, and 6 home runs. Unfortunately for the home team, the A's won 9-8. That brings the home team's record to 4-3 as we hit the halfway point.

After the game, we walked to our hotel in downtown Beantown, generously provided by Neil Kelley, a colleague of Jay's coworker. The hotel was pretty swanky, and on the 29th floor no less. I don't think I've ever stayed above the second floor of a motel before...

Since Game 1 of the NBA Finals was being played that night in LA with the Celtics obviously being involved, we went to dinner and wanted to experience the game with everyone in Boston. After dinner, we went to a friend of Alison's, who just so happens to be the co-founder of the "Life is Good" brand, so of course he had a fantastic place with a hot tub on the roof. We didn't get in, but it's nice to mention anyway. The place had a fantastic view of the city and river and was absolutely insane on the inside. My favorite thing about the entire place was this picture of Teddy Ballgame:

One of my absolute favorite players of all time. I'd kill to have a painting like that. After finally retiring to the hotel, we left in the morning at 6:15 to make the train back to Stamford. No issues this time rushing to make it onboard.

Currently we're in Philly and I'll get something up on the Phillies/Padres game as soon as I can. Exhaustion is slowly gaining on me...

04 June 2010

Pittsburgh and the Big Apple

(Compiled on the train from Stamford, CT to Boston, MA)

We left Detroit promptly after the game there on Memorial Day to head out for Pittsburgh. We drove through an absolute monsoon in Ohio. I had driven the whole trip up until shortly before getting to the outskirts of Cleveland when my body could barely function anymore without endangering both of us, so I finally relented and left Jay to drive through the cats and dogs. I hated to make him drive for the first time in an unfamiliar car, in the rain, and at night, but for me to continue would’ve been much worse. Obviously we did survive to tell the tale and arrived at Caitlyn’s (Jay’s girlfriend) parents house in Beaver, PA around 11:30 or so. They are super nice people (like everyone else on this trip so far) and took us to breakfast at the Brighton Hot Dog Stand, and no, we didn’t have hot dogs for breakfast. After breakfast, we literally spent hours updating this blog and trying to get you folks some pictures of everything so far.

That afternoon we headed to beautiful downtown Pittsburgh to hit the world famous Primanti Brothers Restaurant, where the sandwiches are bigger than the engine of our Camaro, piled high with cabbage and French fries. Such a simple idea but oh so wonderfully delicious and satisfying.

After stuffing our faces, we parked our car on the far side of the Ohio River and walked across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to get to PNC Park. PNC is sitting in hands -down the finest setting for a ballpark in the country. The view of all the buildings to go along with the beautiful architecture of the ballpark itself sitting right alongside the river is breathtaking. Even non-baseball fans can appreciate that. After picking up our tickets at Will Call, we met Jay’s former co-worker Steven for a few pregame beers at Rivertowne Brewery before moving over the Park.

The Pirates had almost no offense to speak of and were down a run most of the game after Xavier Nady blasted a two-run homer to left for the Cubs. Later, with Pittsburgh starting pitcher Jeff Karstens trying to score on a double by Lastings Milledge, Milledge tried to stretch it into a triple with two outs and was gunned down before the pitcher crossed the plate. Kids, never make the third out at third!! Luckily, the Pirates were saved by rookie hometown hero Neil Walker’s first career home run, a two-run shot that put the Bucs up 3-2 in the 8th. The Pirates went onto win by the same score.

After the game we met some of Caitlyn’s friends at a restaurant called Mad Mex and had a good time. We spent that night in Pittsburgh as well, then moved out at 0800 for the long trek to New York City. Pennsylvania has some beautiful countryside and as I’ve said many times on this trip already, I could find myself living there. We rolled into NYC around 4:30 and dropped our stuff off in Rye, NY at our host’s house, the Petrocellis. We probably spent 10 minutes there before Chris, the Petrocelli’s son and recent college grad (hire him!), took us to the train station not far from their house. On the train, we met a young lady named Heather who directed us two Southern boys through the maze of train stations to get to 153rd Street, better known as Yankee Stadium. Heather specifically said not to put her picture on the blog, so I suppose I’ll respect her wishes.

It was extremely depressing to walk out of the station and see a giant hole in the ground where The House That Ruth Built stood since the '20s until very recently. Not all progress is a good thing in my humble opinion, but I digress. The new Yankee Stadium is quite an impressive facility, if not extravagant. It really suits the culture of the Bronx Bombers perfectly. We picked up our tickets that were left by Yankees DH Nick Johnson at Will Call. The seats were excellent of course, on the Club Level even with the first base bag near some of the other player’s families. Brett Gardner’s father was right next to me and Francisco Cervelli's family was seated right in front of us.

The Yankees absolutely throttled the Orioles from the get go, winning 9-1. Their offense is absolutely scary. Robinson Cano had a fantastic night as usual, ending the night hitting an MLB leading .373 with a home run. After the game, we met back up with Heather and she helped direct us back to Rye safely on the train.

Tomorrow, we'll get something on here describing the terrific day we had at Fenway Park and our adventure getting there. Since it's now almost 1:30 in the morning and we'll be getting up at 5:45 to catch a train back to NYC, I'm a little too tired to write about Boston at the moment. The train ride will either be a good chance to write a little or a chance to catch some sleep. We'll see how that goes...

01 June 2010

Beer and Brats, Wrigleyville, and Detroit Rock City

Milwaukee - Mets/Brewers Photos

Well this should be a mighty big post since we've been thousands of miles since Atlanta if you count the flight to Milwaukee. We arrived at the airport there to pick up the rental car, and I believe we had our choice of a Toyota Corolla or a Chevy HHR (both extremely dull and boring, but functional). We happened to notice a brand new Camaro in the lot as well and had to ask just in case. The guy told us we could have it for an extra $10 a day. So of course being young males full of testosterone and gasoline, we opted for good ol' American muscle and haven't looked back. Sure it's a little cramped for three, but since Kyle is dropping off after Detroit, we'd rather look cool than be practical.

Oh, and as fate would have it...

...the tag is from Sweet Home Alabama!

After leaving the airport, we went to the Miller Brewing Company and took the tour of their facilities. We were forced to endure what amounted to a propaganda video for Miller Beer which sounded something like Duffman from the Simpsons would narrate. To give you an idea, one line from the video was, "when you reach that time of the night and you're trying to meet that special someone, it's always Miller Time." Lame. At the end of the tour, we did get a few samples of beer, which was the high point of the tour.

We moved over to Miller Park, which was quite a sight with it's huge retractable roof. The Brewers really hooked us up with some nice seats right behind home plate. No special ceremonies or tributes, just pure, unadulterated baseball in the heartland. Corey Hart put on a show, hitting a grand slam in his first AB and a two-run shot in his second. The game was a slugfest, with no half frame going scoreless over the first five innings. The Brewers won 8-6, which makes for a good day anytime the Mets lose.

Chicago - Cardinals/Cubs Photos

That night, we headed for Wilmette, a suburb of America's coolest city, Chicago. There, we went to the house of Rhona DiCamillo, a friend of a friend who was kind enough to take us in for the night. Her and her husband Joe already have a full house with three young boys, who are terrific by the way. She took us to a nice restaurant in the morning for pancakes and eggs and fruit and all that deliciousness. We got a tour of the area, which I'm pretty sure is the place I was destined to live at some point.

After saying our goodbyes, we headed to the Mecca of baseball in my humble opinion. Wrigley is a swarm of activity, even hours before a game. We were given a parking pass to the Blue Lot right next to the stadium and were greeted by Katie Marta, the Cubs Special Events/Entertainment Coordinator and all around Supergal who has the hook up with all kinds of folks as you'll soon see.

She took us down to the field where we met Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Theriot, Jeff Stevens, James Russell, and Sean Marshall. All the players were great and signed a baseball for us and took photos which you can see on the link above. After meeting the players, we were introduced to Jeremy Roenick, former NHL player and now hockey commentator/super cool guy.

He said if we were going to be in town, he would get us tickets to the Stanley Cup Finals. I'm praying that the series goes 7 games so that Game 7 would be on the 11th of June when I'll be back in Chicago. Would that be too much to ask for? I think not. I was then completely surprised with a personalized jersey from Katie and the Cubs. Did I mention she's got the hook up? Normally, that would constitute a great day if it ended there, but there was much more. We got a personal guided tour of Wrigley, which included the Press Box, where we met Bob Brenly, the manager of the 2001 World Champion Diamondbacks and Cubs TV color man.

Before the game, I was scheduled to be honored on the field (in uniform of course) for my service I guess. I think they would've taken any Soldier with it being Memorial Day weekend, but I suppose I'll do. As we were waiting down on the field for the ceremony to start, the new owners of the Cubs, Pete and Tom Ricketts, as well as the Governor of the great State of Illinois, Pat Quinn, joined us on the field for a photo op.

Not bad for a day's work right? Right after I was honored in front of everyone and perhaps national television as well, I got to meet Lou Pinella before the National Anthem, where Challenger the bald eagle landed on the mound. Sadly, I didn't see this whole episode as I was rendering a salute to the colors.

After changing out of my uniform, we were shown to our seats by Katie, which were right behind the plate of course (would you expect anything else from them?). After catching a few innings of baseball, we were whisked up to the Press Box again to be shown how to operate the scoreboard and ACTUALLY GOT TO OPERATE THE SCOREBOARD AT WRIGLEY FIELD. Yes, it was awesome enough to warrant all caps. So when Alfonso Soriano came to the plate, I was the one who put in the batter number and Kyle and Jay got to do the same with other players as well. We also met the organist and Mr. Ron Santo, who is a Cubs legend if you didn't already know. Ron also works provides color commentary for the Cubs radio broadcast.

After leaving the Press Box, we headed to the PNC Club, which is slang for "chock full of celebrities". We were only able to meet some guy named John Cusack (who rides a moped to every game btw) and BJ Armstrong, former Bulls guard and on that day, the guest conductor for the 7th Inning Stretch.

The Cubs were absolutely pummeled 9-1, thanks mostly to the bat of Prince Albert Pujols, who jacked two solo homers and a two-run bomb. His first two couldn't be contained by the Friendly Confines. After the game we hit Trace Chicago, a bar right down the street from Wrigley with Katie in tow. We were scheduled to leave for Detroit that night, but decided that Chicago was just too much fun, so we ended up staying out way too long and got maybe an hour or two of sleep before leaving at 6:15 the next morning for Detroit. At another bar that night, we met up with Jeremy Roenick again. Another hockey player, Matthew Barnaby, was there as well. All in all, THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE. On top of that, I cannot foresee a day that will EVER top it. Katie was extremely worried that another team or city would be better than the Cubs and I can tell you right now, that is absolutely impossible. So there you go Ms. Ultra-Competitive Katie; your record appears to be safe for all time. I may actually be a closet Cubs fan now, and that's saying something :)

Detroit - A's/Tigers Photos

Our road trip then headed to Detroit, which is about four or five hours from Chicago. We got to Comerica Park a few hours before scheduled game time where once again, I was scheduled to be honored on the field again and to deliver the game ball to the mound. However, Mother Nature had other plans and delayed first pitch by about two and a half hours. We did get to meet Johnny Damon before the game, which was pretty cool. He was the only player we got to meet in Detroit, so again Katie it appears the Cubs record is safe for at least one more day.

The game wasn't so great for the home team, as the Tigers lost to the A's 4-1. The Tigers continually left men on base and couldn't deliver a clutch hit.

We're now in Pittsburgh with Jay's girlfriend Caitlin's parents and will be heading downtown very soon to catch tonight's Cubs/Pirates game at PNC Park. My apologies for taking so long to get everyone updated, but we've had connectivity and time issues to deal with. We have a lot of video to add, but technical issues have come up on that front. We'll get that addressed when we can.

Top of the First

Pirates/Braves Photos
The trip kicked off last night at the Ted with Jay, Alison, Greg, and myself getting whisked into the 755 Club, where we received our VIP passes from Erin Sheehan of the Braves.  From there, we took a guided tour of the Braves Museum and Hall of Fame then proceeded down to field level to watch the Braves take batting practice, exxxxcept the Braves didn’t take BP thanks to the long rain delay the night before in Florida that forced them to arrive in Atlanta at about 5 in the morning.  No big deal, as the pitchers were out throwing in right field.  We can’t control everything, right?  Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson was working out on the field and came over to say hello. 

He’s quite a tall drink of water.  Braves closer Billy Wagner also came by shortly after.  Sadly, those were the only Braves players I got to meet.  The Pirates did however take BP, although briefly because of the oncoming rain.  I was also fortunate enough to meet Garrett Jones of the Pirates.  As soon as the rain started and the tarp was pulled, we went up to the 755 Club for food and drinks to wait out the rain delay. 

Once the game finally started an hour and a half late, I was directed to the top of the stadium above left field to be featured on BravesVision to tell everyone about our fantastic trip over the next two weeks.  For being subjected to such persecution, we were given two StubHub upgraded seats in some fancy recliners on the club level.  Personally, I didn’t want all the recognition for everything.  I just wanted to enjoy a home game with my friends and watch some baseball.  But it’s ok, I can put up with the dog and pony bit for awhile if it helps us out for our trip. 

We briefly visited our upgraded seats, complete with Chick-Fil-A sandwich and fries coupons, then returned to join the rest of our party in right field, which is where I wanted to be all along.  The whole experience was an absolute blast, and the Braves even offered to do the whole thing again since the rain and travel kinda messed things up, which they certainly don’t have to do on my part.  I know they can’t control the weather and don’t hold it against them, but of course, you will have to twist my arm to get met back on the field with the Bravos :)

We currently on the flight to Milwaukee to pick up the rental car and (hopefully) head to the Miller Brewing Company to take a tour of their fine establishment before heading to Miller Park where the New York Metropolitans take on the hometown Brew Crew.

27 May 2010

Game Time

Somewhere I hear some lame patriotic music playing, maybe "Coming to America" by Neil Diamond.  Yeah, that one.  Regardless, I am back in the land of the free and it's just phenomenal.  Everything is good to go for the game tomorrow night.  We'll be arriving early for BP around 4:30, with everyone else ideally showing up around 6 pm at the Hank Aaron statue in the Plaza to meet Bart with the tickets.  If you're not there by 6:45, he'll leave the tickets at Will Call. 

Apparently I have some interviews to do before the game with a few outlets.  More details as I get them.  Jay, Alison, Greg, and I will be going to dinner tonight and I'm sure a big topic of discussion will be further details on the trip.  I just really wanted to get it out there that I'm back home and ready to do this shindig.  Again, thanks to the many of you who have made it happen!

12 May 2010

The Northside and the Southside

As I sit down to catch the White Sox/Twins game in primetime (Afghan time), it reminds me that I need to post something about our recent conquest in the Windy City.  Mrs. Rhona DiCamillo came to our rescue and offered us a place to stay in her house after we arrive late from Milwaukee.  She was also kind enough to procure tickets for Jay and I to the White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field at the hind end of our trip.  We've also recently gotten in touch with the Sox and if they also provide us with tickets, then perhaps Rhona could be our guest at the ballpark.  Either way, we are extremely grateful for her hospitality and are looking forward to our multiple stops in America's third largest city.  

It's now 15 days until we kick this thing off in Atlanta on the 28th.  If you plan to join us for the Southern Swing, please let me know ASAP.  We can get more tickets if necessary, but it needs to be handled sooner rather than later.