Headin’ South – Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta

Yes folks, I am happy to report the 30 game, 30 night road trip has been successfully completed.  We made it!  Over 15,000 miles in one month (16k if you count Griffin’s return trip to Denver).  No rain outs, no breakdowns on the highway, nothing!  But there is still lots to do.  In the past few days/weeks I have been taking quite a lot of grief for not finishing the blog.  I know, I know it would have been nice to have the stadium reviews and travel reports immediately as they happened.  Logistically, this was simply not possible.  This just in – we humans need sleep.  Upon completing the trip, I was completely exhausted.  The grind of sitting in a car every day for a ridiculous amount of miles can take quite the toll.  In fact, I recently read about a NASA experiment where subjects are forced to lay in one spot for 70 days straight without even getting up to pee (they were paid handsomely for their participation).  The bodily effects were disastrous. Perhaps I should send this website’s URL to the fine folks at NASA?  They might be interested in our combination of constant sitting and devouring salted peanuts by the ton!

Now, a little over a month has passed since we finished the trip at Dodger Stadium.  In the coming weeks I plan on finishing the blog, looking over and organizing all the footage we shot with the video camera, and making some T shirts to commemorate the trip.  When I last updated the blog, we were in Boston witnessing an historic night by Shane Victorino in a victory over Baltimore.  Our next stop was the Great White North to see the Toronto Blue Jays battle the New York Yankees, our second consecutive AL East tilt.  On with the show…

Toronto

The border traffic getting into Canada was as expected, about a 15 minute wait.  As we approached the crossing we suddenly realized that we forgot to write down any directions to the Rogers Centre and that our cell phones would be useless in Canada.  Using our trusty, beat up 2009 Road Atlas from the back of the Silver Rocket (my 88 Corolla), we spotted the stadium on the map and decided to wing it.  Thankfully, those polite Canadians had plenty of signage directing us to the home of the Blue Jays and we made it to the stadium slightly after first pitch.

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I’d read a lot about the Rogers Centre and none of what I’d heard was very positive.  “Too big” is a common complaint.  We actually had a really nice time though and don’t think the stadium deserves the bad rap it receives.  The food concessions are certainly among the best in baseball.  I had an amazing brisket nacho basket with freshly cooked onions and peppers along with guac and sour cream.  Delicious.

The stadium itself is pretty spacious and it is the last in the majors to still have AstroTurf, a field covering that has been shown to lead to lots of leg injuries for players.  Around the bases there are small patches of dirt but the actual infield lines are painted right on the turf.  Formerly known as the SkyDome, the retractable roof was open to a beautiful night sky when we were there.  Beyond the outfield wall are, get this… hotel rooms.  Yep.  For 250 bucks a night you can see the game for free and sleep in a room with a full view of the field.  In one room we saw a party of about 8 kids all cramming their faces to the glass to get a peek of Derek Jeter.

Speaking of #2, the game in Toronto was one of the few games the oft-injured Jeter actually played in this year.  His buddy A Rod was also in the lineup for the Yanks and whenever he came up the Toronto fans let him hear a loud chorus of boos.  Perhaps it was just because their nemesis was in town, but Blue Jay fans are pretty rough.  One group of girls seated in front of us could not be contained.  Even the harmless Ichiro took a berating from these drunk girls.

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Yes, that is a popcorn bucket on her head

Thoroughly entertained and having witnessed a Blue Jay win thanks to “Edwing” Encarnacion’s (named after his chicken wing home run trot) heroics, we left Canada right after the game to find ourselves in a massive traffic jam on the way back to our hotel in Buffalo.  I definitely want to see more of Toronto and was sad we couldn’t check out the nightlife which looked pretty awesome.  Toronto also had some of the most beautiful people of any city we visited.  Bombshells everywhere.  A return trip is in order.  Maybe sometime during hockey season!

Pittsburgh

After a rare and extremely needed good night’s sleep in a Buffalo hotel we made our way the three and a half hours to Pittsburgh for a Pirates game against the Brewers.  On the way to the stadium we had some time to spare and attempted to get an oil change only to find that the Walmart we visited was not equipped with the proper tools to perform an oil change on a Prius.  Honestly, we never got one even though we drove over 16,000 miles altogether.  After all, the car was a rental!

Making our way to the stadium, we found a free parking spot on the streets of downtown Pittsburgh and made our way to the Roberto Clemente walking bridge to the stadium.  Before our eyes lay one of the most beautiful sights in all of baseball – PNC Park.

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Griffin looking out over the Allegheny River

PNC Park is an absolute gem and probably our favorite stadium of the entire trip.  Everything about the park is spectacular and perfect for baseball.  PNC Park has the distinction of being the only park in the bigs that has the media booths above the top deck of seats allowing for every patron to be as close to the action as possible.  As we walked up we quickly scored some $5 tickets from a scalper with no negotiating required.  This was the case for most of the stadiums on our trip.  Rarely in major league baseball is it necessary to secure tickets before going to a game.  Scalper tickets aplenty and at a huge discount!

As we entered PNC Park we saw Pittsburgh native Dan Marino tossing out the first pitch.  Immediately I set out on finding my first souvenir of the trip, an Andrew McCutchen jersey shirt.  Cutch will win the NL MVP this year but he is much more famously known as the MVP of my fantasy baseball team which recently celebrated its third straight championship.  I’ll give you readers one guess who I defeated in the final!  Better luck next year Griff!

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3 Peat Complete

After changing into my brand new McCutchen shirt it was time for a beer and boy was the selection outstanding!  I felt like I was back home in Safeco Field with the vast amount of microbrews available.  Instead of making our way up to the upper deck where our seats were we just hopped down an aisle above third base and set our sights on one of the best views in baseball.  The Pittsburgh skyline sits just beyond the outfield wall with the bright yellow Clemente bridge and the Allegheny River providing a picaresque backdrop.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was a grey day in Pittsburgh but the view was still spectacular

On this day the Pirates were playing one of their division rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers.  Rookie Pirate phenom Gerrit Cole didn’t have his best stuff, surrendering 10 hits and Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo held the Bucs scoreless for 7 innings before the Brewer bullpen closed out a 4-0 win.  This game aside, it looks as if the baseball fortunes have finally turned in Pittsburgh.  The Pirates finished this season with a winning record for the first time since 1992 and gave the Cardinals all they could handle in the Division Series before falling to Adam Wainwright in the decisive game 5.

After the game it was time to continue our daily tradition and take some statue pics.  Here’s me with Willie Stargell…

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Pops and I share a moment

In order to get the full stadium experience at PNC Park we decided to take a lap around the stadium.  Although a large portion of the fans coming to PNC enter through the outfield entrance after crossing the Clemente bridge from downtown, the home plate entance at PNC is one of the most beautiful and dramatic in baseball.  The massive Tigers prowling out front of Comerica Park in Detroit may be its only rival.  At PNC, a beautiful statue of Honus Wagner sets the stage for baseball and reminds fans of the Pirates rich history.

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Continuing counter clockwise around the stadium, we made our way to right field where a Bill Mazeroski statue sits forever celebrating his walk off home run in game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

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Although the game had been over for nearly an hour a few fans held an improvised after party on the waterfront.  At PNC, boats can cruise up to the park and dock just outside of right field for free.  Three small speed boats packed with partiers filled up the quiet night air with AC/DC blaring out of an expensive stereo.  Naturally, we joined in.  Stories were told, pictures were taken, Yuengling’s were consumed, and I thought about my baby Azuwish rocking gently back in her slip on Lake Washington.  Laying down thousands of miles of highway really makes one want to go sailing!

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Party City, PA

Sadly, we couldn’t spend the night on the Allegheny river like these fine folks were planning on doing as we had to get a move on some 684 miles to Atlanta.  But Pittsburgh had one more surprise for us.  About 100 yards from Party City under the Clemente bridge we spotted a crazy man and his lady friend fishing in the dirty Allegheny.  By now it was nearly midnight but we were feeling rambunctious so we struck up a conversation with the fellow.  Little did we know we wouldn’t be able to escape the chat for more than twenty minutes!  We learned all about catching catfish, when the Allegheny is actually clean enough to eat the fish that are caught, and how to convince your wife (?) to go fishing with you at midnight under a bridge.  I felt bad about snapping this shot as we walked away but I had to!

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Certifiable

Atlanta

Turner Field in Atlanta really wasn’t that inspiring.  Then again, we were in PNC Park the night before so perhaps our standards were too high.  We made it the 11 hour drive to Atlanta with plenty of time to spare to send off some postcards and to mill about the stadium for a while before the game.  Hoping for a good bar or restaurant with Internet access and respite from the humidity, we searched the stadium area high and low and found nothing but a dirty neighborhood.  So we settled on a 6 pack and some car snacks for dinner.  Wah waaah.  Turner Field was built for the 1996 Olympic Games and it definitely has a very 90’s feel to it which isn’t the best thing.  Morgan with the Braves front office was nice to us though and hooked us up with free tickets to the game.  Thanks Morgan!  Inside, we found the new Waffle House and indulged in some free smells.

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Only in the South

Following a recommendation, we decided to check out the Braves museum inside the stadium.  It turned out to be one of the best baseball museums of the trip but the process to get inside is absolutely ridiculous.  We approached the grumpy old lady working the door to the museum asking to get in. “It’s 2 dollars ya’ll,” she snapped back.  Not believing that a team would charge a separate admission price for a part of the stadium we were already in we question her about the $2 charge.  Apparently she gets that question a lot as her response about how the money goes to charity came out immediately.  Ok ok… here’s your 2 dollars.  But nooo, she wouldn’t take our 2 dollars and instead directed us to a booth 3 sections away where we could purchase a token to gain entrance.  It’s all one big hassle and something Turner Field should definitely consider changing. The museum was pretty sweet though.  All of the Braves World Series trophies were there along with tons of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Greg Maddux memorabilia.  They also had this…

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Yes, that is one side of a two panel montage of nearly every black player to don a Braves uniform.  We really couldn’t understand what the Braves were going for here.  Was this to show how progressive the team has been by employing so many African Americans?  And what did one player complain about not being included on the original montage so they decided to put every black Brave ever on it?  Seems a little ridiculous.  They just operate differently down South I guess.  After all, they still do the Tomahawk Chop every freaking inning.

One cool thing about the museum though was the old train car the Braves used to travel in.  Fans can walk through the train car and see where legends like Warren Spahn used to sleep and play cards  before the days of traveling by plane.  I think the next baseball road trip might have to be by rail!

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Where Eddie Mathews used to poop

As for the game, we witnessed another prime pitching duel.  Certain NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez was out pitched by Julio Teheran, 2 to 1.  Freddie Freeman provided all the offense the Braves would need in the first inning when he connected on a 2 run homer.  We made our way over to the Budweiser porch in time for the 7th inning stretch and filmed our banner signing segment looking out over the infield.  All around us dudes in cowboy boots drank huge beers and hit on anything in a skirt.  One group of fans caught our attention though for having that hick, redneck quality about them more so than anyone hailing from Georgia.  Why if it isn’t a bunch of Wazzu fans!  Yes fans of the UW’s little brother were out in full force as the WSU Cougars had an out of conference game against Auburn the next day (they lost).  Griffin and I both root for the Huskies of course so we used the opportunity to get into a fun little spat.  They turned out to be good sports though and we all had a laugh, a couple beers together, and talked about how solid the Seahawks looked.  Good times.

Anyways, the Braves won and we weren’t too impressed with Turner Field.  The only thing left to do was mow the grass!

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Saving up for a riding mower still Braves?  Perhaps this is why they need to charge $2 to see a museum!

Of course no stadium visit would be complete without statue pictures and the Braves certainly had a lot of them!  Hank Aaron, “The Georgia Peach” Ty Cobb, Phil Neikro, and Warren Spahn all adorn the stadium grounds.  Here’s some pics of us with Atlanta greats.

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Griffin and Hammerin’ Hank

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Ty Cobb and I sliding in spikes first

Well, that’s all for now folks.  Coming up we continue our adventures down South at the parks of the Astros and Rangers.  Hope everyone is enjoying the playoffs!

-Joe

East Coast baseball – Cleveland, Philly, NYC, and Boston

As sad as it was to drive away from Chicago, the show must go on.  We left U.S. Cellular Field immediately after the Sox game to start the five hour drive to the Land of Cleve for an Indians game the next day.  We found a nice dive right by the stadium for some chicken wings and cheap beers before making our way to Progressive Field or “The Prog” as locals call it.  Outside the stadium we were reminded of two aspects of Indians history that will always be attached to team.  The Bob Feller statue stands outside the main gate to The Prog and features the greatest pitcher in team history about to deliver a fastball.  I replicated his leg kick as best I could.

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But the other aspect of Indians history we were reminded of outside the stadium is a controversial one.  I speak, of course, about Chief Wahoo, the screaming Indian who adorns the cap of Cleveland players.  Protesters held up signs and distributed pamphlets reminding passerby how racist the logo is to Native Americans.  I couldn’t agree more, not that I think the team will change the logo anytime soon.  I understand that America was a different place in 1915 when the team became the Indians but it is appalling that children today are taught to celebrate the insensitive ways of our past.  Eventually, I hope the Cleveland baseball team chooses a new name.  How about bringing back the Cleveland Spiders moniker?  Sure, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders set the bar for ineptitude by going 20 – 134 before being dissolved as a franchise but I think the name is pretty cool and would catch on quickly.

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This guy is pretty darn serious

But back to baseball… Progressive Field wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either.  We climbed the left field stands and sat by the guy who bangs a drum AT EVERY SINGLE GAME.  In left field there is a place for fans to mill about and drink beers and in center field there is a massive Indians Hall of Fame exhibit.  Outside the Hall of Fame is a big banner that reads “Future Site of Jim Thome Statue.”  One of baseball’s good guys and current White Sox special assistant, I can’t wait to see Thome’s likeness set in bronze.

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A good crowd came out for Saturday night U2 themed fireworks

I would be remiss not to mention one thing about The Prog that we couldn’t stop laughing about – beer prices.  Apparently, the Indians do not think very highly of their fan’s math skills.  Throughout the stadium we saw plenty of stands selling $4 beers.  The cheap beers were nothing more than 12 oz. cans of Bud, Bug Light, and local specialty Blatz.  In many of the same stands as the cheap beers, the Indians sold $10 cans of beer as well.  These cans were 24 oz. Bud and Bud Lights!  So for double the amount of beer you pay $2 more.  Surely, no Indians fan would buy the bigger cans, right?  Wrong.  I spotted tons of bros with backwards Chief Wahoo caps walking around with $10 beers.  Now, I understand the desire to not have to make countless beer runs, hence the need for big 24 oz. cans.  But in my opinion it’s not really worth it to be wasting $2 every drink when you could buy a smaller can that will stay cooler than a big beer until it’s finished.

The game in Cleveland was a rematch of the game was saw in Minnesota but on this day the Indians beat the Twinkies, 7 – 2.  After the game, we checked out our 2nd fireworks show in 2 nights and then began the drive to Philly after getting a delicious cupcake from a local Clevelander.

Philadelphia

We made it to Philly right before game time and continued our tradition of taking pictures with statues when we came upon a massive metal Mike Schmidt.  Schmidt was one of the greatest third basemen ever and is revered by Philly fans.

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Griff poses with the Schmidt statue

Because it was a Sunday afternoon game in Philly and we had a long drive into town, we didn’t get a chance to find some lunch outside of Citizens Bank Park.  Inside, we were insulted by tasteless Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks.  It was really disappointing.  How could a team, in a city famous for steaks, serve such bland sandwiches to Phillie fans?  Someone needs to fix this problem ASAP.  Thankfully, we did discover the deliciousness of Water Ice to get the taste of bad cheesesteaks out of our mouth.  Water Ice is also known as Italian ice and on hot Sunday afternoons it is the perfect ballpark snack.  I had 2!  The cherry flavor is the best but it makes your entire mouth bright red.

The game in Philly was Roy Halladay’s first game back from the disabled list and the veteran ace made quick work of the Arizona Goldschmidts… er Diamondbacks, leading the Fightin’ Phils to a win.

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Overall, Citizens Bank is a nice place to watch a game although the surrounding neighborhood is pretty desolate.  We were hoping to see some crazy shouting Phillie fans but on this day the crowd was tame.  The biggest applause came when Chase Utley came on to pinch hit, promptly hitting an RBI double.  After the game we found the Steve Carlton statue and I did my best Lefty impression.

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The Phanatic likes my form

That night, Griffin’s parents got us a hotel room (Thanks guys!) and Griffin got some solid rest in.  I had work to do.  The deadline to complete the University of Washington transfer application was September 1st and I figured this night would be my only night to do it.  So at 7 o’clock at night I went down to the hotel bar, downed a few cups of coffee, and punched out my application and personal statement.  Fingers crossed!

Although I was beat tired before I started the 3 cups of coffee now had me quite buzzed so I trekked over to South Street and got a REAL Philly cheesesteak at Jim’s.  Cheese whiz, onions, salty steak.  So good.

The next day we met up with Griffin’s buddy Adam around noon who had a couple extra tickets to the Eagles training camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field aka The Link.  Sorry readers but I forgot my camera on this occasion so I don’t have any pictures of the Eagles stadium or of the 2 cheesesteaks I ate after the practice.  Yeah, I said 2.  Adam and his buddy took us to Pat’s King of Steaks on Passyunk Ave, across the street from Geno’s Steaks.  Pat’s steak was amazing, perhaps the best in Philly.  Naturally, we had to try the competition.  Geno’s was better than the bland cheesesteak we had in the stadium but it wasn’t even close to as good as Pat’s.  So there are your cheesesteak reviews.  It’s impossible to find anything close to a Philly cheesesteak anywhere else in the country so when you’re visiting I highly suggest you try a steak at Pat’s or Jim’s.

New York

Our next destination was NYC for a night game between the Mets and the Phillies.  For the days leading up to the game at Citi Field, we knew there was a real good chance for rain on this night.  As we drove into NYC, the clouds were ominous, even sprinkling a few drops onto our windshield.  We listened to an excellent audio book on the drive and finished One Shot at Forever just before pulling into Flushing, NY.  The book is an excellent account of one small town high school baseball team from Macon, IL that went to the state championship in 1971.  The team was coached by a man, Lynn Sweet, who was thrust into the role despite no experience.  Despite having a tiny school enrollment, Macon’s boys battle big city teams with excellent results and have a summer that will forever define their lives along the way.  It’s a quick read that I highly recommended for any coach or baseball fan.

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Rain clouds brewing over New York

When we made it to Citi Field, one smell greeted our nostrils – trash.  To say that Citi Field is surrounded by a dump would be an insult to a dump.  The place reeked.  Trashy car repair shops and empty lots make the surrounding neighborhood the worst in Major League Baseball.  I really have no desire to ever see a game at Citi Field again.

On the bright side, as we walked to the stadium two young ladies pulled up alongside us and gave us a free pair of tickets because they couldn’t go.  The seats were great too!  Only 12 rows off the field.  With time to kill before first pitch, we headed into McFadden’s, the bar built into the side of Citi Field yet still open to the public.  Thankfully, they had air conditioning and cold beer.  After ordering our first round and a pair of cheap whiskey shots, I saw it.  There, smiling a huge smile, was Frank Thomas, White Sox legend and my favorite player ever.  Now, Frank is selling Big Hurt Beer and this was my first time giving it a shot.  On a hot night, a delicious Big Hurt hit the spot.  It’s a light lager that’s nice and crisp.

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Future Hall of Famer indeed

Citi Field itself was not as bad as its surrounding neighborhood but we did get a few whiffs of the trash heap outside the stadium while sitting in our seats.  One strike against Citi Field is there isn’t a place close to the action for fans to meet and watch the game from an outfield porch area like in Baltimore or Cleveland.  The Shea Bridge area in right field was a nice touch though, a tribute to the man who brought National League baseball back to New York.

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Griff on Shea Bridge with a backdrop of rain clouds

Cliff Lee bested Mets rookie Zack Wheeler on this night despite a great effort by the youngster.  In the 8th inning, with the game now official, the rain began to fall.  We were in the clear and could cross Citi Field off our list.  After the game, we went back down to McFadden’s to take home a souvenir bottle of Big Hurt Brew.  At this point, the New Yorkers there were in full on party mood.  Fans played arcade games like Pop A Shot, bros danced on the dance floor, and female bartenders stood on the bar pouring shots into the mouths of patrons.  I might of joined in…  After all, avoiding a rain out was reason to celebrate!

Boston

Ah Beantown, one of America’s finest sports cities!  The lucky fans here get to see their Red Sox play in the oldest stadium in the bigs, historic Fenway Park.  Before we made our way over to the Fens, we had lots of time to see the Boston sights.  We got some more chicken wings and worked our way over to Charlestown where the USS Constitution is docked.  Ol’ Ironsides was pretty impressive.  I toured the lower decks of the massive ship and learned more than I’d ever care to know about cannonballs.  It was a blast from the past (pun intended).  The lower decks of the ship were definitely not designed for us taller folks.  I nearly clunked my head at every turn!

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Ol’ Ironsides

After touring the Constitution, we headed back to the ballpark area and dined at The Yard House on Griffin’s parents dime (Thanks again guys!).  Griff tried to strike up a conversation with ESPN and Boston Globe sports writer Bob Ryan but was promptly rebuffed.  The food at The Yard House was great, the service was awful.  Griffin and I could probably run this place better ourselves!

The Red Sox were nice enough to hook us up with some tickets to the game, an evening battle against AL East rivals Baltimore.  We wedged ourselves into our tiny seats which were designed for the body of a person in the 1910’s.  After 5 innings, enough was enough.  With our knees crying, we stood up and walked all around the stadium.  The seats here are tricky and only a portion of them actually face home plate.  Seats past the bases simply face the field leaving fans to always be looking left or right to see the action.  In the small seats, you have to be sitting up straight at all times.

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Posture is important at Fenway Park

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The Red Sox blasted the O’s 13-2 on this day behind the able bat of Shane Victorino (also of my fantasy team) who hit two home runs, drove in seven, stole a base, and scored 4 runs.  Victorino was the main reason I beat Griffin’s brother Morgan in our first round fantasy baseball playoff matchup.  It was certainly sweet to see him do a lot of damage in person!

After leaving our cramped seats, we walked up an old staircase to the Budweiser deck and chatted about the trip with some nice Bostonians.  During the 8th inning Griffin and I joined in singing “Sweet Caroline” with all of the Fenway faithful.  It was a lot of fun in one of the best ballparks in America.  Simply a must visit for any sports fan.

Last but not least we found the famous Ted Williams seat.  The lone red seat in a sea of green ones marks the spot where Ted Williams hit a massive 502 foot home run in 1946, the longest in Fenway Park history.  The shot probably could have traveled 530 feet but it was stopped by the noggin of one Joseph A. Boucher, a Yankee fan at the time.  The team gave Boucher season tickets for life for the welt on his head and he promptly switched allegiances to the Red Sox.  Here I am next to the famous seat.

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-Joe

At Home in The Cell

Bias alert!  Yes, the Mariners are my adoptive team and I will root for them through thick and thin.  But the White Sox will always be team numero uno in my heart.  So naturally I was pretty excited before my annual visit to U.S. Cellular Field to see my Sox take on the Texas Rangers.  Thankfully, Griff was able to put down a good number of miles after the Cardinals game the night before, giving us just a short drive to the South Side on the 23rd.  It was a good thing too because we had a 10 am tour scheduled to see the inner workings of The Cell.  While the tour was pretty awesome, our tour guide left much to be desired.

We were hoping to hear more about the history of the Pale Hose on the tour instead of just being led around from point to point.  By comparison, in St. Louis our elderly tour guide told us countless Stan Musial stories and talked a lot about the history of the Cardinals ownership.  Our guide in Chicago told us one measly Bo Jackson story and that was it.  But we did get to have some freedom on this tour.  We were given the chance to take a walk around the warning track without any supervision which of course led to pictures like this…

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The spot of DeWayne Wise’s miraculous perfect game saving Catch on July 23rd 2009

We also got to check out Jerry Reinsdorf’s personal suite inside U.S. Cellular and boy does he have quite the collection!  In a glass frame on one of the walls of Mr. Reinsdorf’s suite is this jem featuring the signature of every member of the 500 home run club.

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All in all, the tour was well worth rising early.  Not only did we get to see another World Series trophy, but we got to take some pics in the Sox dugout too!

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After the tour, we headed over to Gino’s East Pizza and waited patiently for 45 minutes while the Gino’s cooks carefully crafted us a deep dish pie with a sheet of sausage, peppers, and onions.  Somehow we each downed 3 slices of some of the best pie on Earth.  If you can keep 2 slices down, it is considered impressive by Chicago standards.  Gino’s East pizza, a family tradition of mine, packed us to the gills.  If you ever find yourself in Chitown and want pizza that cannot be replicated anywhere else, head to Gino’s.

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Food porn

Needing time to rest with massive food comas before heading to The Cell, we then met up with our friend Kevin and headed over to the waterfront near the Adler Planetarium and took in some of the best city views in the world.  The digital camera got a lot of work on this day.  There were a ton of sailboats out.  Of course, I couldn’t help but think of Azuwish, rocking gently in her dock back on Lake Washington.  Soon baby, soon…

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Gratuitous Sailboat shot

Next we grabbed some beers on the way to the stadium and set up our tailgate spot just south of the stadium.  I was sad to see the Sox now charge $20 for parking.  To make matters worse, the parking lot attendants have absolutely no clue what they were doing.  We sat in a line of cars for ten minutes without moving an inch.  Sox fans honked their horns and got out of their cars to watch some attendants shuffle orange cones, a job that clearly could have been done hours earlier.  Minor annoyance aside, the tailgating experience at The Cell is pretty sweet.  Sox fans on all sides grill dogs and burgers while playing bag toss or just chatting baseball.  We drank PBR and cranked up the Jimi Hendrix until my family arrived.

My mom Joan, step dad Dan, grandpa Bill and Kevin joined Griff and I out in the left field bleachers to see the Rangers surprisingly thrash Sox pitcher Chris Sale.  Before the game I got a haircut from a gal on the right field porch.  Every cut bought benefited a White Sox charity, a cool gesture by the team.

On this night, U.S. Cellular Field was packed with Elvises (Elvi?) for the annual Elvis night, complete with an impressive fireworks display from the team that originated in stadium fireworks.  We rubbed elbows with the Elvi and chatted about the trip to a whole bunch of semi-drunk fans out on the left field porch.  I blabbered to Griffin ad nauseum about how great The Big Hurt Frank Thomas was.  Statue pictures were taken.

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My favorite, The Big Hurt

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A stoic Carlton Fisk

It was a great evening!  At one point two young ladies who were practically bursting out of their glittery tops walked all the way up to the top of the bleachers, receiving cat calls from middle aged men with thick Chicago accents all the way up.  Everyone laughed at how far the fun-loving guys (who were all wearing matching Ron Kittle jerseys) took the issue, going so far as to talking the ladies into posing for several pictures.  Only in Chicago.  I miss the debauchery of Chicago baseball seeing most of my games in tame Safeco Field.  Plus, the vast majority of my family resides in the Windy City, making any trip home doubly rewarding. I could talk all night about how special baseball in Chicago is, but the best thing to do is to just get a bleacher ticket and experience it for yourself.

-Joe

Milwaukee brews and St. Louis heat

This far into our journey, we have settled into some driving roles.  I drive us to the new city during the day and then after the game Griffin drives us in the direction of our next game for as far as he can go before we sleep at a rest area.  It seems to be working so far, especially considering I am an early riser and ready to hit the road once the sun rises.  After the Tigers game in Detroit, Griff took his spot behind the wheel and began driving west towards Milwaukee.  To get to Milwaukee from Detroit one has to cut south around Lake Michigan before punching through the downtown Chicago traffic zoo to get to I-94 to Wisconsin.  But one thing this drive did allow us was the chance to eat another meal in Chitown before catching a Brewers midweek matinee.  On this night, Griff was a champ driver.  With some careful planning, we figured if we could get just north of Chicago we would avoid traffic in the morning and be able to grab Portillos Italian beef sandwiches just as they opened at 10:30 before a 1:30 game up in Milwaukee.  As I slept, Griff got us to a Hampton Inn parking lot that was conveniently a mile from a Portillos.  We had stayed at a Hampton Inn in Dayton that my mom was kind enough to book for us the night before so I knew that they offered a pretty solid continental breakfast.  This one was even better, complete with waffles, Greek yogurt, and smoked sausage bites.

After a couple amazing Italian beefs with hot peppers and mozzarella cheese we drove the quick trip up to The Good Land (Wayne’s World anyone?) and met up with Nate Tripp, our tour guide for the day.  Nate is our friend Jahni’s uncle and attends A LOT of Brewers games.  As we walked into Miller Park, we were bombarded with freebies.  Nate had arranged for the Brew Crew to give us goodie bags that included several game day giveaways, bobbleheads, and amazingly, a nice Brewers watch!  We were even welcomed by the Brewers on their Jumbotron during the game.  Also, every fan who enters Miller Park is given a voucher for $10 worth of concessions or souvenirs in the team store.  This is kind of a thank you to fans who are having to deal with the face of their franchise, Ryan Braun, coming out as a steroid using cheater.  Braun was suspended 65 games for his cheating ways so the fans get a free beer to hopefully forget this sad chapter in team history.

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Without Braun in the lineup, the Brew Crew fell to the St. Louis Cardinals on this day before a really good crowd.  Carlos Beltran of the Cards hit a mammoth home run to dead center that put the game out of reach for Milwaukee, despite a great game from Aramis Ramirez.

On our tour of Miller Park, Nate suggested we try the only beer in the bigs that is only available at a ball park, Leinenkugel’s Barrelman Ale.  Really tasty stuff!

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We visited Autograph Alley down the 3rd base line and reveled in one man’s insane autograph collection.  Any day you can check out a baseball signed by Babe Ruth is a good day.

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Of course, no stadium visit would be complete without some pictures with the statues of the home team’s legends.  We were surprised to find that the Brewers haven’t retired Paul Molitor’s number yet and they haven’t erected a statue yet for the Hall of Famer known as “The Ignitor.”  Speaking of erected, it was impossible to not notice the sizeable package on Robin Yount’s statue.  Yount, the greatest player in Brewers history, must have paid off the statue designer to endow him quite well in granite.  We all had a good laugh and got a picture together.

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Griff, Nate, and Joe with Robin Yount

After the game we trekked back to Chicago for a drink with my brother Jason and a good night’s sleep before leaving early the next morning for St. Louis.  The Cardinals were as classy as the Brewers, hooking us up with tickets to the game and a tour of the stadium.  Big thanks to Martin Coco, the Cardinals ticket office director for being so kind!  The free seats we have scored so far have really made our lives so much easier.  While having to figure out driving directions, where we will sleep at night, and so many other issues of a 30 stadium road trip, the tickets teams, friends, and families have given us out with have been extremely helpful.

The Cardinals play their home games at Busch Stadium, a beautiful venue with views of the Gateway Arch and downtown St. Louis just outside the center field wall.  On the tour, we learned all we will ever want to know about Stan Musial, walked down on the field, sat in the dugout, and got to see a few of the Cardinals World Series trophies.

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The 1967 World Series Trophy

After the tour, we decided to walk over to a seafood restaurant one of my brother’s friends recommended.  As we walked, we saw about 15 fans congregating near the media entrance to Busch Stadium.  Clearly, there was something exciting going down.  As we got closer, we saw that the man signing autographs and taking pictures was none other than Braves and Cardinals great and future Hall of Famer John Smoltz.  I hurried over and got a picture with the 16th member of the 3,000 strikeout club.  I thought Griffin was right behind me, but he got star struck and hung back.  Smoltzie was broadcasting the game for the MLB Network.  Although he played his final season in St. Louis, he had to be quietly rooting for the Braves on this day.

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Bald and near bald

Giddy as a schoolboy, we kept moving and found the Cajun seafood place to be one of the best surprises of the trip.  Not only did the Broadway Oyster Bar have air conditioning, but the food was amazing!  I had chargrilled oysters and crawfish bisque and Griffin had a crawfish tail Po’ Boy sandwich.  Our server knew A LOT about oysters and beer.

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Perhaps the best oysters I’ve ever had

When we stepped out of the restaurant we were punched in the face by the St. Louis heat.  When we tried to breathe and get a hold of ourselves, the St. Louis humidity poured into our lungs.  It was unbearable yet we still had to see a baseball game.  Somehow, as the evening went on the heat stayed right near 90 degrees and the humidity got worse.  We found our seats and immediately stuck to the plastic seat backs, choking down salted peanuts that we should have left in the car.  Did I mention this was a night game?  Our first game of the tour, in Kansas City, was a day game and it was pretty hot outside.  This evening to hot to a new level.  Busch Stadium is really nice and there was a big crowd on hand to see the Cards beat the Braves behind a big night from Matt Holliday.  But we couldn’t enjoy the game in such awful humidity.  Both of our shirts were soaked with sweat and all we were doing was sitting in our seats.  Even the vendors were complaining!  The only thing that saved us were the $2.25 ice cream bars that they sold at concession stands.  I’d really like to see another game in St. Louis someday soon and actually enjoy myself.

After the game, somehow we still had energy to pose for statue pictures.  The Cardinals have a rich history and have won the 2nd most championships in baseball history.  Naturally, they have had a lot of talented players.  Lots of talented players means lots of statues!  So what did the Cardinals do?  They made mini statues of all their team greats and put them all in same spot, except for a giant, cartoonish Stan Musial right by the first base entrance.  I wasn’t too impressed with the statues here.  The Cards would have been better off making full life size statues and spacing them out around the ballpark.  Anyways, here are some statue pics for your viewing pleasure…

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Dizzy Dean

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Bob Gibson

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Ozzie Smith

Cincy and Detroit

After our Florida excursion we made it the long trek to Cincy with plenty of time to spare before a night game between the Reds and the Arizona Goldschmidts… er Diamondbacks.  With so much time to spare we followed multiple recommendations and headed over to Skyline Chili for a couple of 5 Ways.  This Cincy staple serves up Coney dogs and chili served in a number of “Ways”.  The 3 Way is chili over spaghetti with cheese.  The 4 Way is spaghetti, chili, cheese, and either beans or onions.  The 5 Way comes with all of the above.  Naturally, we ordered a couple of large plates of 5 Way.  Their chili is quite delicious and has a hint of Indian food spices.  Highly recommended if you find yourself in Cincinnati.

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Skyline Chili 5 Way

The Reds play at Great American Ballpark in downtown Cincinnati.  The stadium was easy to find and there was plenty of street parking.  After I worked my magic securing some scalper tickets, we headed in and saw the Reds beat the Diamondbacks behind a solid effort from Bronson Arroyo.  We both laughed about the Cincy accent we heard from locals all over the ballpark.  It was kind of twangy and kind of Southern.

The Great American Ballpark was just okay, certainly nothing too fancy.  The fans were into the game and I could tell it was a good baseball town but the newish ballpark doesn’t really open your eyes to anything about the Reds storied history.  Sure, we saw the original “Big Red Machine,” a Zamboni like vacuum machine that was used to suck moisture out of the fake AstroTurf at old Riverfront Stadium but there was not much else in terms of Reds history on display.  Furthermore, the Reds apparently were pressured by MLB to NOT retire Pete Rose’s number 14.  The only thing that fans can see as a tribute to Rose are the 14 bats in the outfield display.  Pretty sad.  During the game we discussed how the steroid era of baseball should at least put Pete Rose’s transgressions in a somewhat better light.  Here’s hoping someday he gets into the Hall of Fame.

One thing that was cool about Great American Ballpark was the market selling fresh fruit, salads, bagel chips, dips, and sandwiches inside the stadium.  Kroger is a big sponsor of the Reds and we assumed this was the reason for an in-stadium market.  Nevertheless, it’s pretty rad to see a team selling fruit right inside the front gates instead of grease food.

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Of course, I had to stop to take a shot with the Johnny Bench statue.

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Can you tell I used to be a catcher?

Next up on the trip was a game in Detroit to watch the Tigers take on the Joe Mauer-less Twins.  It was only a short drive from Cincinnati but we were fortunate enough to have a hotel booked for us in Dayton, OH (home of the greatest rock band in the world, Guided by Voices) after the Reds game.  After a good nights sleep in GBVland, we sat in some rough Dayton traffic but still made it to Detroit with plenty of time to spare before the game and got another epic parking spot right in front of Comerica Park.

As a White Sox fan, I knew I was deep in enemy territory.  Despite the constant pleadings from friends and family to “be safe,” I wore my Julius Peppers Chicago Bears jersey to the game.  Not too smart!  As we were on the ticket hunt a block across the street from the stadium, a messed up looking man with red eyes and a ripped up shirt came around the corner carrying something behind him.  The item in his hands – a 2 foot long splintered piece of 2 by 4 that looked just like a club.  Readers, I can’t stress enough how this was RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE STADIUM.  Immediately, the stable of scalpers who I was negotiating with start to get in this guys face telling him, “I told you not to come around here!”  The guy, seemingly out of his mind, comes right up to me.  He’s about a foot shorter than I am but thanks to the club in his right hand unafraid of anybody.  He says something to me along the lines of “What the shit jersey is that?” to which I proudly reply “Peppers” all the while keeping an eye on the club he is brandishing.  All of the families going to the game are staring at our interaction.  Detroit, dear readers, has not improved.

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The view from the near clubbing

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The view from our seats

Comerica Park, however, is pretty nice.  From our seats we had a great view of the downtown skyline.  The park was packed with fans supporting their first place team.  In the outfield there are statues of all the Tigers greats facing the field.  The statues were designed by the folks who made the United Center Michael Jordan statue and they are really impressive.  The only drawback we saw was that the statues are so high up and the outfield railing is so close to the base of each statue that you can’t take a picture of the front of each Tiger great.  One other cool aspect of Comerica is the displays for each era of Detroit baseball.  There were old Negro League jerseys, tributes to Tigers greats, and lots of old photographs.  My favorite old pic was from one bat giveaway night where every fan got a full sized MLB bat.  Nowadays, for security reasons, teams won’t even let you keep a bat that a player mistakenly tosses into the crowd when his grip slips.  Back in the day things were different…

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Ty Cobb

The home team won on this night, besting the Twins who played without their best player (Mauer was out with a concussion).  I know I’m running behind on these updates but with all the driving and sleeping at rest areas I just don’t have time.  Plus, it’s a constant struggle to find interwebs and I don’t want to skip any of the teams.  We do have a hotel stay tomorrow night though so check back for another update soon!

-Joe

The Drive of Death, Florida baseball, and Tebowland

Once the Orioles game ended, we knew we were in for it.  Our next destination, Miami, was 1087 miles away, a straight shot down the East Coast on I-95.  Google maps estimated the drive would take 15 and a half hours and we only had 20 hours until the first pitch at Marlins Ballpark.  This stretch was the longest of our trip and I’m happy to report we made it in 16 hours and 30 minutes.  A two hour nap in North Carolina made it all possible.  Well, that and Burger King coffee (surprisingly good!).

When we arrived at Marlins Ballpark we only had about 30 minutes before first pitch and needed to find a spot to park.  Just north of the stadium, tons of private homeowners with prime stadium real estate offer up their lawns for parking.  Everywhere you look folks are begging you to park on their lawn for 10 bucks.  My natural instinct to haggle set in.  Seeing a Cuban family and a retired Floridian competing next to each other for the few cars that drove down their block, I opened up negotiations by waving a $5 bill from the drivers seat.  Thoughts of Dennis in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia came to me – “Now, I won’t pay full price.”  The Cuban family opened up a spot for us and we finalized on $6 for parking.  A steal of a deal so close to the park!  Plus, it gave me a little thrill working on my price haggling skills.

The Marlins were the first team on the trip who helped us out with comp tickets to the game and the seats were great!  We found our seats just above 1st base with a nice view of the brand new ballpark and downtown Miami through the huge left field windows.  Sadly we didn’t have time to meet with the Marlins PR folks who wanted to meet us and talk about the trip for a social media thing on their website.  But, thanks so much to Cristina in the Marlins marketing department for the sweet tickets!

We were both really impressed with Marlins Ballpark.  The newest stadium in the bigs has a retractable roof so that real grass can grow but most of the time the roof is closed and the air conditioning is pumping.  Obviously, it’s pretty necessary to have AC in South Florida during the baseball season.  After enjoying the seats for a few innings we went exploring.  I liked being able to walk all the way around the lower bowl and getting up close and personal with the left field (hmmm what to call it?) mechanical artwork thingy.

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See how hard it is to describe this?

The display is uniquely Floridian and lights up with jumping marlins whenever the home team hits a home run.  And boy did the home team hit a home run.  Giancarlo Stanton, also of Griffin’s fantasy team, absolutely destroyed a ball, hitting it out 454 feet to left center.  It was one of those homers where the entire stadium knew it was gone the second it hit the bat.  Tattooed.

We decided to go check out the landing spot of Stanton’s blast and take some pictures in the left field bar area.  This, friends, is where the party began.  Although the crowd was sparse that night, the fans who did come out to the game made our experience in Miami incredible.  Throughout the bar area, strangers conversed baseball, got rowdy on cold beer (I was happy to find some Chicago beer, Goose Island IPA), and chatted us up about our road trip banner.  Sometimes massive crowds can be overwhelming at big sporting events but at Marlins games, the lack of big crowds gives you a chance to stroll freely along the big walkways, to converse at normal volume, and to hear the sounds of the game much clearer.  It was a nice change of pace from the traffic jams of DC and the 40,000 screaming Yankee fans in the Bronx.  To Griffin’s dismay, the home team lost to the San Francisco Giants behind a solid outing from Matt Cain.

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Griff outside beautiful Marlins Ballpark

After the game, the party continued with a concert outside the stadium.  We saw a little bit of the show and then took a lap around the stadium stopping at the Clevelander, the night club inside Marlins Park.  Here go go dancers strutted their stuff while drunk middle aged white dudes showed off their best (worst?) dance moves.  It was pretty hilarious!  Go go dancers and baseball – never thought I’d see the day!  Making the scene even funnier was the retirement home bus loading up seniors right next to the night club!  I could not stop laughing.

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I like this shot I took of the Marina Blue condo building downtown Miami

Experiencing enough fun for one game, we left and headed out to Miami Beach, only to find a massive traffic jam and people EVERYWHERE.  We decided to scrap our beach plans because of the crowds and hit the road for Tampa.  On the way, we drove through “Alligator Alley” and crashed at a Naples hotel.

In Tampa (St. Petersburg to be exact), we were given comp tickets from the Rays for their afternoon game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  Geoff, the Rays fan experience coordinator (sweet job) hooked us up with amazing seats right behind home plate!  During the game, he even stopped by our seats to talk to us about the road trip and give us some inside info about Tropicana Field.  Pretty classy.  Thanks again Geoff!

The game in Tampa was a good one.  Chris Archer tamed Toronto’s big bats for 7 innings, allowing only an Edwin Encarnacion solo homer before handing the game to the bullpen.  Toronto’s Todd Redmond was equally good, giving up just a first inning opposite field solo shot to Evan Longoria.  With the game tied 1-1, Tampa’s bullpen proved to be superior, holding off the Jays in 10 innings, 2 to 1.  The hero of the game was Rays catcher Jose Lobaton who smacked a walk off homer to send the home crowd into delirium.

The Rays have a really good fan base and drew a solid crowd for the game.  We spotted ESPN analyst Dick Vitale sitting just 12 rows in front of us.

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Dickie V

Unfortunately, Tropicana Field leaves much to be desired.  The main issue I have with the Trop is the dome roof.  Several players had difficulty tracking fly balls against the backdrop of a white dome.  When a ballpark figures this much into game play, something needs to be done to fix it.  Aside from the tricky roof, the catwalks are definitely in play and makes umpiring in Tropicana Field rather tricky.  Should a fly ball hit the catwalks, umps must decide whether to rule a home run or a foul ball.  One of these days, the Rays are going to be in a tense playoff game and a ball that would would normally be caught is going to hit the catwalk, giving the batter new life.  Sadly, I don’t see any renovations coming soon.  It’s a shame too because the Rays have great fans and the team is a contender every year.

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The Trop

For all Tropicana Field’s faults, it was still nice to watch baseball in wonderful air conditioning.  The West Florida humidity was extremely dense that day so we were thankful for the chance to let our t shirts dry out a bit.  After the game we started the long drive to Cincinnati and drove into a monsoon.  With lightning and a wall of water all around us we made it to Gainesville, Florida for dinner and happened upon the best restaurant of the trip so far.  The Top, just blocks from the University of Florida campus, was top notch (too easy too easy).  We sampled local IPA’s and had a delicious dinner.  Griffin had a veggie stuffed spinach pasta dish while I had gnocchi carbonarra, packed with chunks of tasty pork belly.  While we dined, Grandaddy, one of my all time favorite bands played on the stereo.  If you ever find yourself in northern Florida, I highly suggest you check out The Top in Gainesville.

Of course, we couldn’t help from walking around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, aka “The Swamp”, aka The House the Tebow Built, home of the Florida Gators.  Ok, it’s not really the house of Tebow but we did see lots of Tebow statues and plaques all over the place.

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To Tebow be the Glory

That’s all for Florida.  Honestly, I had a much better time down South than I thought I would.  The only regret I have is that I didn’t try the cajun boiled peanuts.  Maybe we can find some in Atlanta.  Up next on the tour is Cincinnati, Detroit, and Milwaukee!

-Joe

Washington and Baltimore

Good afternoon readers!  It has been an exciting few days on the 30 in 30 road trip and I am happy to report we are having a great time out here!  The last few days have been jam packed with baseball games, sight seeing, tasting local cuisine, and, of course, driving.  The last time I posted we were in Baltimore going to check out some of the filming locations from HBO’s The Wire.  Thankfully we emerged from the slums of East Baltimore in one piece.  Before I tell you about our harrowing adventures in B’more, I have to mention the day before’s activities in Washington D.C.

We rolled into DC early on the morning of the 15th with lots of time to spare before a 4 pm Nationals game.  I anticipated this happening and we decided to take a trip over to the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space in Chantilly, VA to check out Space Shuttle Discovery at her new display.  It was pretty amazing getting to see Discovery up close and personal.  The museum had many other famous flyers but I spent most of my time listening to tour guide after tour guide give his special take on the vehicle that has spent more time in space than any other – 365 days of space time over 27 years to be exact.  Definitely a side trip that was well worth our time.

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The Nationals game was pretty exciting although the park was just so-so.  After sitting in ridiculous traffic getting to the park we finally parked and got some $6 tickets thanks to a student discount.  Griffin found some Blue Smoke BBQ that he raved about and we met a bunch of cool fans to talk about the trip with.  The park, however, just isn’t that exciting despite its newness.  One downside was that you can only walk all the way around the lower bowl if you climb up and down stairs in right field.  Behind home plate, the Nationals have the retired numbers of Montreal Expos greats Andre Dawson and Larry Walker.  I don’t really like the whole ‘shared history” practice in sports.  When the Montreal team was run into the ground and sent to DC the Nationals should have used that opportunity to reboot their franchise and not dwell on all those failed seasons in Canada.

Also, the Nationals are such a new team that we didn’t feel their fans are super devoted to their team like other East Coast teams fans are.  From what I saw, they just didn’t bleed Nationals red.  Not yet, at least.  With young stars like Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmerman on their roster it will not take long before they become a perennial powerhouse and play with the aid of a solid home field advantage.  The Nats took on the Giants in this game with San Francisco’s Hector Sanchez hitting a stunning, pinch hit, 3 run homer as his team was down to its final strike.  Sergio Romo came on to shut down the home team for a 4-3 SF victory.

That night we walked all around the National Mall and saw both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial under construction.  A few days before our visit, some bozo had thrown a bucket of green paint on Honest Abe’s legs.  The Memorial was still incredibly impressive and way bigger than I remembered it to be from my last visit some 20 years ago.  All in all, a fun day in our nation’s capitol.

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Next, we were off to Baltimore.  We were able to get some rest in a B’more hotel the night before the game and with lots of time to spare before a 7 pm first pitch we decided to go on a driving tour of filming locations from HBO’s The Wire (the greatest show in television history).  We started off in West Baltimore and saw a few memorable places but when we drove over to East Baltimore the real excitement began.  We visited Bodie’s famous corner and took some pictures before being stared down by some tough customers.  Everywhere degenerates brown-bagged it, staggering down the streets and sidewalks.  We saw guys pulling shopping cart trains and horse driven cart fruit vendors.  We saw drug deals happen before our eyes.  We even walked through what was referred to as “The Pit” on the show.  It was a little intimidating.  Okay okay… it was really intimidating.  Now we are both a couple of big dudes but with so many people sauntering down the street looking absolutely messed up, anything can happen.  Still it was a cool experience to see so many places where my favorite TV show was filmed.

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Prezbo’s school

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Bodie’s corner

After seeing the place where McNulty crashed his car on The Wire and The Greek’s restaurant, we drove over to Camden Yards for an evening tilt between the O’s and the Colorado Rockies.  I can’t wait to see another game at Camden.  The place is an absolute baseball gem.  The bars were packed in front of the stadium where Bohemian beer flowed freely and frat dudes argued sports.  One homeless looking dude waved a big sign out front that said CHEAP ASS BEER, directing fans into Pickles Pub.  We weren’t about to squeeze into the packed beer garden so we took some more statue pictures with a Gold Glove sporting Brooks Robinson.

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A couple former third basemen

Inside the stadium you’ll find some of the most knowledgeable fans in baseball who get to enjoy 81 games a year in a gorgeous stadium.  In left field sits a tree grove with more statues of Orioles greats.  Jim Palmer and I became acquainted.

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Although the crab cakes were a bit pricey, the Boh (Bohemian beer) was cheap and the crowd was really into the game.  At one food stand I saw a 3 foot long tray of horseradish sauce for hot beef sandwiches!  We wandered over to the right field porch to see the famous warehouse up close and were greeted by small baseball sized plaques with the name and distance of every home run hit out on the porch.  We both thought this was a cool effect.  Of course, the only ball to ever hit the warehouse on the fly was struck by Mariners great Ken Griffey Jr. back in the 1993 home run derby.  Current O’s All Star Chris Davis certainly has the power to match The Kid’s feat.  I say it’s just a matter of time.

Camden Yards ranks high up on my list of favorite stadiums now.  It has the perfect mix of everything.  I’d like to go back for a 3 game series when the White Sox are in town to feel the friendly wrath of Orioles fans.  All the orange in the ballpark and the loud crowd gives the home team a decided edge.  Current skipper Buck Showalter has this team gunning for a title this year.  I don’t think they have the pitching yet but with some incredible young bats and a winning culture brewing, it is only a matter of time.  Who knows, perhaps in the next couple of years we could see an I-95 World Series, Nationals vs. Orioles?  If it were to happen, my money would be on the O’s.  They’ve got the history.