To start off, let me address the obvious. There are no pictures in this recap. Despite bringing my camera to all 17 previous games that I attended in 2013, never having any issues, it was the Dodgers in my final game to declare that I could not bring my lens in with me. I was told that despite it being available at many consumer retailers, to bring the lens with me I would need a press pass.
Extended road trips notwithstanding, I always do a small trip from my home in Orange County to see the Cubs when they visit my home town of San Diego (and usually add in a Dodger Stadium trip too, but that will come later). This year was no exception.
With one of my brothers having partial season tickets to the Padres, and another having connections to a full season ticket package, attending the 3 Cub games in late August was not an issue in the slightest.
Game one was a Friday night affair and my date for the night was my brother, Chris. We had seats on the third base side in the second level, which were great. We also got hot/cold grocery bags styled after one of the Padres uniforms, and wound up with Trevor Hoffman. I was more than ok with that. Thus ends my satisfaction with the evening.
All started well. We got a great parking spot and were early enough to do a loop of the ballpark, seeking out food. I wound up getting a pulled pork sandwich from Randy Jones’ Barbecue, which was pretty tasty, if a little messy. The Cubs were in a bit of a slump, but I had full faith that they would turn it around against the Padres, despite their historically abysmal performance against the National League West. It ended up being firework night at the park, but the only fireworks I saw were the ones that took place on the field.
The game started and the Cubs were off like gangbusters. They scored 6 runs in the top of the first and drove Padres starter Edinson Volquez from the game after only 2/3 of an inning. This was great. This was exciting. This was…not to last.
Edwin Jackson was the starter for the Cubs and he started strong as well, only giving up 1 hit in the first 3 innings. Then the Cubs remembered that they were the Cubs and Edwin Jackson succumbed to the sub-mediocrity that was the hallmark of his first season with the Cubs. He allowed a 3-run home run to Jedd Gyorko in the 4th, a 2-run triple to Will Venable in the 5th and an RBI triple to Logan Forsythe in the 6th and any advantage the Cubs had from crushing Volquez was gone. It didn’t help that they had been unable to solve the parade of relievers that followed, literally being shut out for the entire game following the first 2/3 of an inning.
The bullpen was it’s usual reliable self as James Russell gave up a home run to Venable and Blake Parker allowed Gyorko to hit his 2nd of the night.
And that, as they say, was all she wrote.
The next day, my other brother, Matt had tickets so he, Chris and I went and sat on the first base side, on the field level. After we sat down, the seats in front of us were taken by some individuals that not only looked like they didn’t belong there, but acted like it as well. Therefore I was not surprised when the seats real owners came and claimed their rightful seats. What was funny was the reaction. The family never looked at the people, didn’t say a word and just shuffled off.
I’ve been known to poach my share of seats in my time, but on the occasions where I get caught, I apologize and try to make up some excuse so I look like a decent person. Nope. Not these folks. It was just such a bold move. I was disgusted, but at the same time, somewhat impressed.
The Cubs fared far better in this game than the one prior, and Jeff Samardzija pitched 8 strong innings and Darwin Barney had a home run and a double accounting for 2 of the Cubs 3 runs. In addition, we were treated to a beautiful San Diego sunset. Somehow the sunsets are always prettier and the hot dogs always taste better when your team is winning.
I was supposed to go to the Sunday matinee finale game, but wasn’t feeling great, so I stayed home and let 2 of my other siblings go, which was probably a good decision, as the game was a long extra innings affair and I had to return north to the OC and there is nothing I like less than leaving a game early, especially when it is close like that.
The Cubs ended up losing in extras, and continuing their NL West curse, only going 1-2 at Petco Park.
Would the trend continue as the Cubs headed up the I-5 to Dodger Stadium? (Hint: yes, it absolutely would)
4 o’clock comes far too early in the morning for my liking, but, as we had an early flight to Phoenix, that was the time my alarm went off on our last morning in Denver. We got ready, packed any last minute things we needed for the morning and made our way downstairs to the hotel lobby to wait for the airport shuttle.
Being so early, I completely expected it to only be Lauren and I waiting. I was wrong. There were a good 10-15 people loitering around the lobby, so when the shuttle pulled up, we hopped first in line to grab our seats. Except the shuttle was already full, for the most part. Lauren was able to grab a seat and I wound up standing next to her for the duration of the drive. With no handrails or hanging straps or anything. It was an interesting adventure, but we survived and hopped into the obscenely long line at security.
Seriously, it wasn’t even 5:30 in the morning yet, why were all these people awake? We eventually made it through and rode the subway train to our gate. We were sitting, waiting for the plane as the sunrise began and if nothing else, Denver sure knows how to do a nice sunrise.
The flight was uneventful and we arrived in Phoenix on time, if not a bit early, so we called and the hotel shuttle came and picked us up. Fortunately, this time it was just us so we got to sit. We chatted with the driver on the brief ride to the hotel and he told us that Chase Field would be around “7 long blocks” from the hotel. This threw a bit of a wrench in our plans since we were planning to walk each day, but 7 long blocks in 100+ degree heat made us question things a bit. The driver was nice enough to suggest that at game time we get in touch with the front desk and if the shuttles weren’t in use, they could drop us off, which I thought was nice.
It was still very early in the morning when we reached the hotel, so we expected the room wouldn’t be ready and we would drop off the bags and go and grab breakfast somewhere. We lucked out and were able to check in immediately. We debated still going to breakfast but nothing struck us as particularly excited so we opted to nap instead. It was a good option.
After we awoke, we realized the day was getting away from us, and if we wanted to get to Chase for batting practice, we should probably scope out the area and get a bite to eat. Both of our smartphones suggested that the stadium was a lot closer than we had been lead to believe and as we left the hotel, we could see it immediately. It wound up being, at most, a 10 minute walk.
Knowing that made a detour for food a lot more relaxing, since we didn’t have to worry about how to make a long trek from wherever we ate back to the hotel to try and convince them to let us use a shuttle, which might not have even been possible.
We decided to eat at a Mexican-Native American restaurant called the Canyon Cafe. When we first approached it, we were somewhat concerned due to the lack of customers and mixed reviews on Yelp!, but it was hot and we were hungry, so in we went. I was immediately greeted by a couple of Cub fans and we chatted a bit as we waited for our table to be ready.
When we were seated, we were given a basket of the best tortilla chips that I have ever eaten. They were dusted with some sort of spice blend and they were incredible. I think we went through at least 2.5 baskets full.
The entrees were amazing as well, and I had my first taste of green chile. Not as scary as I had previously assumed. Lauren loved her entree as well, and our bunuelo/ice cream dessert had us essentially licking the plate. In addition, with the bill, they brought out 2 white chocolate tamales, compliments of the chef. It was a very good thing.
After we paid, we rolled ourselves a few blocks and wound up at Chase Field. From the outside, there’s not a whole lot to see. Not a lot of unique character or charm. It just looks like a big concrete slab, so I felt a bit disappointed as we joined the long line of Cub fans waiting to get in.
As we were passing through bag check, the usher looked in my bag and saw that it was all camera equipment. He looked at it, looked up at me and said, “Make sure you record lots of memories, and get in a few yourself!” It was the most charming response I have ever gotten to my photography.
Once we got in, and were hit with that glorious air-conditioning, I rushed us down near the Cub dugout to seek out baseballs and autographs. Sadly, I came up empty again. When I came to our seats in the left field bleachers, Lauren was staring up behind home plate and told me that she wanted to go up there. I said sure, as we wanted to explore the whole park, but put it out of my mind as the game started.
We were positioned right behind Alfonso Soriano and the fans were just being moronic towards him. They would shout until he turned around and then mocked him for looking. He still made every defensive play that came to him and was never caught flatfooted, but the fans would laugh like drunken hyenas every time he turned around. It got pretty old by the end of the game.
That being said, I enjoyed the bleachers. Again, I felt a lot closer to the action than in Anaheim or San Diego, even more than in Colorado.
Around 3 innings in or so Lauren decided that she was going on her trek to the uppermost part of the stadium. I opted to stay behind and watch the game. Chris Rusin was pitching a great game and the offense was not quite as anemic as it had been going into the game.
I should also note that the reason that the reason that Rusin was starting the game was because one of my favorite Cubs, Matt Garza had finally been traded earlier in the day to the Texas Rangers. I knew it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Garza would be gone before the trade deadline, but it was still upsetting. I was following all the drama earlier in the day back at the hotel and I wonder what the neighboring rooms thought as there was a fit of yelling and profanity in the middle of the afternoon as the trade was announced.
Lauren made her way back to me, and I learned that it was a good thing that I didn’t attempt the trek. While she enjoyed it, it was unlikely I would have made the trip without a tank of oxygen and a sherpa. It’s ok–that’s why we have cellphone photos.
After another inning or so, I decided that I wanted to wander a bit too, so we made our way around the concourse checking out various standing room only areas to watch the game. That’s another thing that both Colorado and Phoenix had in abundance but I had not ever noticed in any of the California parks, the standing room only sections. I don’t know if it had to do with earthquake laws or building codes or what, but I liked them.
Lauren grabbed a Jack Daniels lemonade beverage and we were mere feet away from Junior Lake’s first home run. Just a slight difference in velocity or location and I might have been able to get on the field for batting practice and a meet and greet the next day!
We eventually found our way back to the seats after a few mishaps in misjudging their location. We found our way back eventually and watched Kevin Gregg finish up the first Cub win of the trip. Once again, we had an usher try to take some photos of us with the field. Not quite as bad as the poor man at Coors, but you’d think these guys were never asked to take photos!
We slowly made our way out toward our hotel in the stifling heat, passing a British pub along the way that we vowed to visit the following evening, and in just a few minutes we were in the blessed air conditioning, relaxing and getting ready for the next day.
After an exciting and suspenseful evening (Would we find a taxi? Would we ever make it back to the hotel? Did Lauren ruin Christmas by eating Rudolph?) we were up bright and early and raring to go. Not only was it a Sunday matinee game, but we wanted to grab breakfast before the game and the food challenge that awaited us.
My sister lived in Denver, actually right next to Coors Field, for a few years and always spoke highly of a breakfast place called Snooze. We were excited to try breakfast there and had our taxi drop us off in front. We saw people milling around the door, which should have been a sign, but walked in to put our name in anyway. The hostess told us that the wait would be approximately an hour and a half. We gave her my cell phone number to text when the table was ready, but we knew we wouldn’t be back.
After searching Yelp! for some more local recommendations we decided on The 20th Street Cafe, which had mixed reviews but was cheap and we were able to be seated immediately. I had biscuits and gravy with a side of bacon and Lauren had the typical breakfast platter.
As I was eating my breakfast, lost in my own world, all of a sudden I felt a nudge next to me and I looked up to see Can older lady sliding in next to me and asking for some of my food as a joke. I was immediately taken aback, but she was wearing a Ron Santo t-shirt and so I told her that any friend of Ronnie was a friend of mine.
She was there with two younger members of her family and they sat at a table adjacent to us and we exchanged comments throughout the meal. I love meeting other Cub fans, it’s an immediate bond as you know that you have both shared the years of pain and heartache. That sounds awful, but it’s really quite nice.
We paid our bill and were at Coors just as the gates opened. We picked up our tickets and stopped for lots of photos outside the stadium, but eventually made our way inside. After the pint glass fiasco of the night prior I was afraid that there might be an issue getting the day’s giveaway of a Troy Tulowitzki bobblehead, but it went flawlessly and we were soon on our way down to the field.
There were no ushers hassling us as we walked down to the Cub dugout, unlike ushers at every other ballpark I’ve been to, so I thought we’d be in great shape. I was wrong. Lauren was stopped after following me down, but she told the usher that I was just coming down to take pictures for a few minutes. The usher was very understanding and even offered to take some photos for us. I wasn’t going say no and blow our cover, so we got several more nice photos of us with the field in the background. No complaints here.
As the Rockies celebrated their 20th year, they had a special 20th anniversary baseballs that they used when they played in Denver and I wanted one. Pretty badly. So I settled in to beg the players, unfortunately to no avail. While I was panhandling for a ball I saw that Junior Lake (call-up at the start of the series and surprise offensive stud) was signing at the end of the dugout. I knew I had no chance to fight my way down to the mob, so I stood pat and was rewarded with a big goose egg on both baseballs and autographs, however as I was making my way to our seats I did get the text that our table was ready at Snooze.
By this point it had gotten hot. Really hot. So I decided it was time to make my way to the seats where Lauren had retreated earlier with a bottle of water. Once I got there I saw that there was a Cub signing autographs right where I had been, in addition to the fact that Lauren told me that one of the Cubs shagging fly balls right in front of her had not tossed up a ball because there was nobody in the “right jersey.” Timing, folks. It’s all timing.
We watched the pre-game festivities and the first inning but the heat was absolutely killing us and we had wanted to explore the ballpark a bit anyway. So we vacated our seats and went to see what Coors Field had to offer.
We made our way to the Team Store, where we ventured in search of air conditioning and something to commemorate our trip. I decided that since I didn’t get a 20th anniversary ball from the players, I would just go ahead and buy one. So now for every stadium I visit, I will be purchasing some sort of commemorative ball. Relatively cheap, compact and easy to display. I think it was a good choice.
We wandered the concourse for a bit when Lauren mentioned that she had seen a sign for shandies and she wanted to try one. For those unaware, a shandy is a combination beer and lemonade. It sounded nasty to me too but it was quite refreshing and I actually enjoyed it.
With the slight courage boost provided by the shandy, I knew it was time to do the thing that I was the least excited to try at Coors Field, and yet knew I needed to try. I speak, of course, of Rocky Mountain Oysters. Seafood this ain’t. I walked boldly up to the concession stand and told the woman behind the counter that I’d like an order.
She looked at me in disbelief.
I said that I felt like since I was in Colorado, I needed to try them.
She proceeded to laugh and said, “I’m glad I’m not you.”
With that vote of confidence, I returned to the table where Lauren was waiting and set them down. After we properly documented them I took the bull by the…well, you know…and took my first bite. It was chewy. Not much flavor. Honestly, they were boring, outside of the fact that I knew they what they were. I eventually had to take some French fries in with each bite just so there was some textural variety and flavor.
I didn’t finish the order and now I never need to try those again.
Moving on, we continued our wandering and saw Todd Helton’s burger joint, and several remembrances of the Rockies National League Championship year when Lauren decided that we should go and see the “mile high seats.”
These seats are literally a mile above sea level and are designated as such by being the only row of purple seats in a stadium of green. It was a bit of a hike up, as there were no escalators running, but getting to see something so unique was worth it.
The view wasn’t too shabby either.
After our trek, it had cooled down a bit and we returned to our seats, sno-cone in hand to watch the end of the game. Sadly, the annoying fan behind us was still there. In full voice.
“Hey! There’s 2 strikes! Only 1 to go!”
“That’s what you want! To get a hit!”
“All right! Score the most runs and you’ll win!”
It was a real treat to get the deep commentary and analysis from a real expert like this idiot. It got to the point where we were openly mocking him.
“OK! Oxygen! That’s the stuff you wanna be breathing!”
“Do the hokey-pokey! Turn yourself around! Now THAT’S what it’s all about!”
Thankfully, there was a sweet older lady sitting next to us who we spoke with throughout our time in the seats. We told her of our adventure and she seemed excited and genuinely told us ‘thanks’ for visiting Denver.
In one of the more bizarre things we saw on the entire trip was the dental hygiene race, in which a tooth raced toothpaste and a giant toothbrush. These mascot races are becoming more popular, with the sausages in Milwaukee, the presidents in DC and, as we were soon to see, the “legends” in Arizona, but the oral care race was truly something else. And that’s the “tooth”!
The Cubs fell again to the Rockies despite a fairly decent pitching performance from Edwin Jackson, going 7 innings and earning a quality start.
0-2 to start the trip was not exactly how we wanted to leave Colorado.
We picked ourselves up and after trying to choose a place to eat for close to a half hour, finally decided that room service and packing for our 4 am hotel shuttle was probably the best plan for our last evening in Denver.
Yes, readers. We really do live the high life! The Mile-High life, for at least 2 days.
It has long been a dream of mine to visit all 30 Major League Baseball Stadiums, ideally in one summer, but, more realistically, over the course of several years. Living in Southern California, I have easy access to 3 parks within a few hours of my home. Petco Park, Angel Stadium and Dodger Stadium are all “been there, done that” and I have seen several games at PacBell/SBC/3Com/AT&T Park as well. In fact, I have seen the Cubs at all of these venues.
This year I decided I was going to add to my ballpark resume, and picked Coors Field in Denver and Chase Field in Phoenix, due to their relative proximity to both me and each other. Soon flights and hotels were booked and immediately following the All Star break, Lauren and I were about to take place in our first baseball road trip, and our first stop was 2 games at beautiful Coors Field.
Fortunately we were able to book our vacation so that we were not only visiting the ballparks, but that we were able to see the Cubs in both venues. We would be attending 2 games in Denver and 3 games in Phoenix.
Hotels were reserved. Plane tickets were ready. Vacation was approved at work and we were ready to go. As our vacations are usually to destinations that require several hours travel flying out on the dawn flights for this adventure had us nonplussed…until we realized that we would be arriving in Denver at 10 in the morning…leaving us essentially homeless until the official check-in time of 3pm.
Thankfully the hotel was able to accommodate us early and we were able to take a nap before heading out to the game. We had conscientiously decided to not book a car and trust public transportation for this vacation. That was a bad idea for Denver. Our hotel was out in the boonies of town and the only option was a bus ride that took approximately 30 minutes and picked us up by an abandoned auto parts store near the hotel and dropped us off about a half mile from Coors Field, walking through a bit of a shantytown. Needless to say, this was the first and last bus ride we took in Denver–and actually for the remainder of the trip.
When we were within view of the ballpark I was already chomping at the bit to get inside, but Lauren realized that we hand’t eaten aside from the McDonalds breakfast before leaving San Diego so food became priority number 1. We wandered for a bit until we saw a sign for the Blake Street Tavern, which I had actually heard of.
This was one of the most fantastic decisions we made on the whole trip and if I lived within any reasonable distance from Denver, I would have quickly become a regular. My French dip sandwich was quite possibly the finest that I have ever tasted and I consider myself a French dip connoisseur. Lauren’s flat iron steak sandwich was fantastic as well.
After filling ourselves on delicious pub food we made our way to Coors Field. We were still a little bit before first pitch and the lines to get in weren’t bad. After we had my camera bag checked out we approached the gate staff to get our “Rockies 20th Anniversary” pint glass. The staff was discussing how they only had a few undamaged glasses left and then, in plain view, stashed several under a table while telling us that they had run out. I was upset. Not because I necessarily needed a Rockies pint glass, but on principle.
We found another gate after entering the stadium and explained our situation to the gate staff there. Before I had even finished my tale of woe the Rockies staffer was handing us 2 glasses and telling us to have a good time at the game, which cancelled out the bad vibes that I was holding toward the Rockies for the incident at the first gate.
Now it was time to find our seats out in right field and check out the field. We were about a dozen rows above the right fielder and much lower to the field than the seats that we were used to at Angel Stadium. I loved them.
What I didn’t love was the couple that was sitting next to us. Not only did they bring, seemingly, the entire produce section from Costco with them (a haul which included several boxes of strawberries and an entire container of mini cinnamon rolls) but they were the type of people who have the most rudimentary information about baseball, which clearly means they were experts who were able to speak intelligently on the subject with absolute authority. We would encounter many of these fans in our travels.
Eventually they ended up getting up later in the game and thankfully found seats a few rows down from us. I think my pro-Cub leanings somehow upset them.
Speaking of the Cubs, this was not their finest hour. They lost fairly handily 9-3 and Carlos Villanueva got roughed up for the second time that I have seen him…in the two Cub games I had attended at this point in the season.
Before we left we asked the usher to take some photos of us with the field and scoreboard behind us. He had the hardest time figuring out how my camera worked, despite my explanation, but eventually got some shots in, albeit not exactly what we wanted, but close enough and he was pleasant enough and seemed pleased when we told him we were from out of town and would be attending the next day.
After leaving the stadium we expected to find some food fairly easily and then take a taxi home. This didn’t exactly happen. Despite downtown Denver being packed with bars, college kids and–as of a few months–weed, there was not a suitable restaurant to find not to mention any taxis. On a Friday night. At 11 pm.
We eventually used the Yelp! app on my phone and found a place that we had heard of, called Biker Jim’s, to grab a bite to eat and call for a taxi. Except none of the cab companies in Denver answered their phones. Or the texts that the automated voices on their hold messages. Even the staff at Biker Jim’s didn’t have any advice for us to find a cab. Neither did our hotel concierge.
We got our food to go, planning to eat it in the room, and wandered the streets of Denver in search of any sort of vehicle for hire, possibly as we got closer back to Coors Field.
Eventually we found a cab that had just dropped off a fare and I ran at it like a crazy man, hoping he wouldn’t speed away. Luckily he was able to take us to the hotel, despite the fact that his meter broke and he charged us a reasonable flat rate.
Back at the hotel we unwrapped our vittles and attacked them vigorously. Biker Jim’s specializes in exotic hot dogs and sausages and despite the somewhat limited late night menu, we were able to find some delicious and interesting selections; Lauren ruined Christmas by getting a reindeer sausage, while I remained respectful to all major holidays by choosing boar meat. The boar meat was very sweet, which is right up my alley, while the reindeer was a bit gamey (reindeer games?) and we were both pleased with our individual selections.
At this point it was late and since we were planning to head out early for a breakfast before the day game on the following morning, we decided to head to bed after a fun and successful day 1 of the inaugural baseball adventure.