Friday, July 16, 2010

An Outlander at AT&T Park, San Francisco

After our three games in Denver, we hopped a plane headed west - to San Francisco to see the Red Sox play three games versus the San Francisco Giants. Our flight was delayed getting into SFO due to fog - so we barely had time to drop our bags at our friend Kate's apartment, and head to the Park. The gates were just opening, so we watched batting practice (Ortiz had his son with him, which was adorable). Then we grabbed some dinner at the California Grill - and I got my garlic fries. I swear the aroma of garlic permeates the Park, which isn't a bad thing. I was really impressed with the array of concessions at the Park - standard fare like hot dogs,sure, but also a Chinese food stand, Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes, a California wine cart, real Irish coffees - there was even a farmer's market on the Club level!

Our seats were in the section right behind the Sox bullpen, which was fun. When someone was warming in the pen, as he tossed, the fans would make this "wooo" sound, on a rising note. Then when the ball was tossed back, the "woo" was on a descending note. As for the game, we lost - and we also lost Pedroia for 4-6 weeks. He fouled a ball off his foot and broke it. Imagine going from 3 home runs one night to the disabled list the next.

A sharp contrast in temperatures during that 24 hour period. Game time temperature in Denver on Thursday had been 92 degrees. Friday night in SF it was 59! Yikes! Now I know why there was a long line at the Irish Coffee cart.

Game 2 was broadcast on Fox, so that meant a 4pm start - not much time to do any sightseeing. So we took a cable car ride and wandered along the Embarcadaro to the Park. We had planned to find a place to watch the US in the World Cup soccer tournament, but we couldn't get in anyplace - everything was "at capacity." So we sat at a sidewalk restaurant, ate pizza and enjoyed the California sunshine.

Game 2 was special: they were retiring the number of Monte Irvin, a Negro League player who also played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. All the Giants stars were there to honor him: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda - very, very cool. It was a beautiful sunny day, which made the whole ceremony that much more spectacular.

We sat at the Club Level, again on the second tier. It was a nice spot, with access to all the Club Level extras (less crowded ladies' room, better concessions). We won 4-2, although we lost another player to injury: Buchholz left with a pulled hamstring.

We met our buddy Lydia for dinner at Joe DiMaggio's restaurant - a really nice spot in North Beach. We had a great meal - and a lot of laughs. And the trip back to the hotel was highlighted by a gorgeous full moon over the Transamerica Pyramid.

Day 3 - Sunday - was an interesting and fun day. It began with a stroll along the beginning of the route for the city's annual Gay Pride Parade. Yes, there were naked men and men dressed as women, but we also met some pit bill owners showing off their "babies" and librarians from the SF Public Library. It was a wonderful salute to human rights, the right for each person to be themselves. Very cool. Then on to the Park - our freebee today was a Panda mask, in honor of SF third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who is called Kung Fu Panda. My lunch today was the Crazy Crab sandwich, recommended by the NYTimes. Very good.

We sat on the Field Level, about a dozen rows behind the SF dugout. It was a really hot day - lots of sunblock was used - but the seats had their own concessions area below the stands. It was a handy spot to get out of the sun. As for the game, the billed star was two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum - who the Sox battered into submission by the third inning. Ortiz even hit a homer into McCovey Cove! The REAL star was on our side: Jon Lester threw a complete game, looking very strong. Who would have predicted that Giants pitchers would get 15 strikeouts - and lose 5-1? Bad note: we lost another player to injury - Victor Martinez left with a broken thumb!

After the game, we had dinner in Chinatown - yum! Then, it was time for me to pack up - I took the 1:30 am red eye back home. Ack.

Other notes on AT&T: at the end of the game, maybe within 10 minutes of the last out, the seagulls come swooping in. You can see them perching on the roof, on the giant glove in left field, waiting for the crowds to disperse so they can get their dinner. Very Hitchcock-esque! Great concessions - an incredible variety of food and drink. A gorgeous setting on the Bay - we were lucky to have such clear weather so we could enjoy it. They have a female public address announcer, who is excellent!

I'm now up to 12 major league parks. And already thinking about next summer. Pittsburgh? Philadelphia? Toronto? Maybe some of the midwest parks like Kansas City or Chicago? We'll see!

And photos!

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

An Outlander at Coors Field, Denver

My second Red Sox road trip of 2010 began in Denver, for a three game series vs. the Colorado Rockies. This was the first trip to Denver for the Sox since the 2007 World Series - which the Sox won in 4 straight games. You got a sense almost immediately that the Rockies wanted to prove something - to show that they were capable of taking a few games from the Sox.

We got in Tuesday morning - I beat Kelly to the airport, and saw just-called-up-from-Pawtucket Josh Reddick arriving. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Downtown - nice, free breakfast, etc., but about a mile from Coors Field. Many RS fans there - well, there were many RS fans all over the city. Every game was a sell out, with more than 48,000 in attendance. I guess that makes sense. If you are a RS fan living in Idaho or South Dakota (and we met folks from both of those places), this was your only chance to have seen them play in three years.

We met up with our SG pal, John from New Zealand, at Wynkoop's, a local watering hole, where I ate some elk sausage. From there, we wandered towards Coors Field, and hit the Falling Rock Tap House. Wow! Over 80 beers on tap - and tons of Sox fans soaking them up (of course).

As for game 1: oh, well. We couldn't get any offense going, leaving the bases loaded twice. It was also very hot - I was surprised that the weather turned out to be so warm for the whole trip. We also discovered how easily you can become dehydrated at the mile high altitude. We quickly learned to drink a lot of water!

Day 2 was fun. We did the tour of Coors Field. Pretty standard stuff: dugout, special club dining areas, etc. One fun moment was when we were in the visitor's dugout. Terry Francona wandered out, clearly peeved that a bunch of tourists were milling around! Our seats for game 2 were on the Club Level, which is on the second tier. We also sat there for Game One, and felt too far away from the game action. So Kelly did her magic on Stub Hub, and quickly sold our tickets and bought two more down behind the RS dugout. Yeah!

Game 2 was a ♥ breaker. Colorado had their young ace Ubaldo Jiminez pitching, and he held the Sox scoreless thru the 6th. Then we went crazy and scored four runs to lead. Papelbon came in to close it out - and promptly gave up two home runs. I do not like that kind of drama! We lost - worse yet, one of the homers was a walk-off by our old nemesis Jason Giambi. Ugh.

Day 3 was a day of no plans that turned out fun. We discovered a Belgian pub called the Cheeky Monk, which we really enjoyed. We also visited the Great Divide Brewery - a great place for some pre-game libations. Yes, Denver is a city of beautiful vistas and wonderful beers!

Game 3 joins my "game-dropper" file. We had great seats behind home plate, thanks to my godfather who knew a season ticket holder who owed him a favor! The Sox scored early - the Rockies came back - the Sox went ahead again. The Sox used every player on the bench and every pitcher but one (this only confirmed my love of the DH) The Rockies tied it in the bottom of the ninth (again, Papelbon gave up 3 hits and 2 runs), but then the Laser Show arrived. Dustin Pedroia hit his THIRD homerun of the game, Papelbon came back and convincingly closed it out (a nice bit of redemption for him), and the Sox won 13-11. Phew!

A really fun trip (we continued on to San Francisco, but that's in the next installment). It was really hot the whole time (in the 90s), which was surprising. Denver has a free trolley that runs all the way down 16th Street - which has lots of restaurants. So we were able to ride from the hotel to close to Coors Field. Very handy. As for Coors Field, I would recommend not sitting on the first base side if you can help it - that side of the field gets the full afternoon sun, which can be brutal. They also placed their restaurant above the right field side - again, full afternoon sun would make a nice dinner there uncomfortable. I was impressed with the fans, though. They seemed very knowledgeable about baseball, and I saw many keeping score in their own scorebooks.

We also accumulated some "swag" at each game - I was surprised they offered giveaways at games that you could predict would be sell-outs. Tuesday night was hat night, and we got a really nice Rockies ball cap. Wednesday was player shirt night - we got a Carlos Gonzalez tshirt (which several fans waved in our faces as Giambi was circling the bases). But Thursday's gift was the best: a Coors Light cooler bag. Perfect for lunch!

Of course, tons of photos. Here are some of the best:

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Monday, July 05, 2010

An Outlander at Progressive Field

It's been a pretty busy month of June - two big Red Sox road trips, and an overall record of 5-4. Not bad!

Our first trip of the year was to Cleveland, to see the Red Sox take on the Cleveland Indians for three games (they actually played a fourth, but we only attended three). My erstwhile companions - Kelly & Steve T. Ferret - met me at the terminal in Cleveland on Tuesday morning, and we headed to our hotel. If you're going to see the Indians play, I highly recommend the hotel: the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. It's kitty-corner to Progressive Field, and close to restaurants, watering holes, and only a mile to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We got the B&B package, which included a full, made-to-order breakfast each day - great!

We grabbed some lunch at a spot we would visit a couple of times: the Winking Lizard Tavern. A nice spot - close to Progressive Field - with good pub food. Everything I had for lunch had bacon on it: wedge salad, chicken club sandwich, fries smothered in cheese and, yes, bacon! No cholesterol counts on a Red Sox road trip!

We headed to Progressive and watched batting practice from the right field bleachers - Kelly even got bopped by a well-hit ball! For our first game, we had pretty good seats - behind the plate, up a bit, but a good perspective on the field. And the Sox won!

Day two was one of our best yet! Our morning was spent searching for the Great Lakes Brewing Company.Google maps showed it to be 1.3 miles away - however, due to some incorrect directions (thanks Barry & Erik from Boston), we went on the Bataan Death March II. Our hike included a walk over a wonderful bridge: the Hope Memorial Bridge, named in honor of Bob Hope's dad, a local stone mason. Very cool art deco sculptures called the "Guardians of Traffic,"
(Photo from wikipedia)
several of which were sporting LeBron headbands!

The early afternoon was spent on a tour of the field. I love touring the various parks and seeing some of the behind-the-scenes things. We saw several of the Sox getting in some extra work in the batting cages, Jerry Remy in the Press Box, but most interesting was the stop at the indoor batting cages, behind the 3rd base dugout. The Indians' "vision coach" was working with a young player, and he demonstrated some of the ways they help players sharpen their view of pitches at the plate. They had one machine that pitches tennis balls, all with colored numbers, and they ask the player to call out what type of pitch they've seen based on what color and number is on the ball. Oh, and it's being pitched at 100 mph or so. Wow.

The late afternoon was our splurge: we bought tickets for the "Ultimate Batting Practice Experience." We entered the park at 4:30 and were allowed down on the field, to stand behind the cages and watch both teams take batting practice. So, so cool - very close to the players! Victor Martinez (a former Indian) had his 5-year old son with him on this trip, and Victor Jr was all decked out in a complete RS away uniform. It was so fun to watch all the players playing with him - hitting him pop ups, playing catch, wrestling with him. Aww. But the absolute highlight was getting to talk to Justin Masterson! Justin was traded by the Sox to Cleveland last summer for Martinez, and Kelly had followed his career up thru the minors. The look of pure delight on his face when he saw her was so cool! He came over, hugged us, and talked to us for quite a while about the state of the Indians, the baby he has on the way... ♥ A special shout-out to Megan and Maggie for letting us hang around until the end of BP.

Oh, and the Sox took game 2 - we sat just beyond the screen on the first base side. We also discovered Strickland's Frozen Custard. Wow! And we got free Progressive umbrellas!

Day three! It was raining, but the hotel offered us a ride to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame via their courtesy van. Yeah! The building was designed by I.M. Pei - very recognizable! - and we spent three hours there. The special exhibit was on Bruce Springsteen, tracing the Boss' rise to R&R fame. We also enjoyed the permanent exhibit of artifacts from Hall inductees. Costumes from Fleetwood Mac, U2, Parliament Funkadelic! We also saw a very cool 12-minute multi-media/film presentation called "Video Killed the Radio Star," tracing the ever-increasing importance of video and MTV. In one section they highlighted four influential video artists. Two are no-brainers: Madonna and Michael Jackson. The third was Peter Gabriel - I guess you can argue that he did push the envelope. But the fourth made me scratch me head: Tom Petty. Now, I love Petty - have a bunch of his CDs - but I'm not sure I'd say his videos were "influential." I would argue that Duran Duran is a better choice: they learned early on how to use video to market themselves, and used it to make themselves a worldwide phenomenon.

Our last game! We had chatted with a season ticket holder at Wednesday's game, and he got us passes for the Terrace Club, the large restaurant and bar perched on the left field side of Progressive which is for season ticket holders only. We arrived early, and sat in the "pit" - a counter area overlooking the field. Quite a different vantage point for b.p.! For the game, we sat behind the Indians' dugout on the third base side - a perfect spot to watch Masterson pitch a 2-hit, complete game shut-out. The Indians won 11-0 (the 8th inning included a grand slam home run) - a bittersweet result. Sorry to see the Sox lose, but so proud of Justin.

So, a terrific trip! I really enjoyed seeing Progressive Field, and the other sites in Cleveland - and felt like such a VIP on Tuesday! Another Major League ball park ticked off my list!

Here's an album of some of my best shots from the trip.

Click on the corner to get a full-size version!

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