- I learned my lesson from last night and have the booze ready to go before the first pitch tonight.
- I may regret this later, but I have little to no fear of Jeff Samardzija in this game. It ain’t Shark Week.
- It’s funny how things work out. I was upset when the Cubs traded Samardzija during his All Star season and then failed to re-sign him. Now, I’m glad those pieces came together like they did, adding Addison Russell and, indirectly, Aroldis Chapman.
- Oh really, Bob Costas? The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908? This is the first I’m hearing of it. Seriously though, this is why I hate ‘national broadcasts.’
- I love Kyle Hendricks, but even I think the comparisons to Greg Maddux may be slightly premature
- 20+ pitches and a run in the first? Yeah, I’ll take it.
- Hunter Pence has crazy eyes. I’m not sure he isn’t going to stab Anthony Rizzo when he’s standing on first.
- Is there anything Kyle can’t do this season? ERA title, 2 RBI performance in the playoffs. This kid is good.
- Uh oh. Looks like KB has found his stroke…
- Samardzija has always reminded me of a cartoon coyote.
- When did Zobrist get new walkup music? I liked the old song, but “Bennie and the Jets” is fun too. I’m assuming it’s still being performed by his wife, Julianna.
- Pretty pleased to be into the subpar Giants bullpen after only 2 innings.
- Hoping it’s just a bruise on Kyle. This will be a scary few days until we get an official diagnosis.
- TRAVIS WOOD!
- I was unaware that Lee brand jeans were still a thing.
- I don’t like Bumgarner coming in a pinch hitter. I like Kris Bryant making 2 errors on the play even less.
- I think Costas may have just implied that literally anyone but the Giants and Red Sox would be an excellent World Series champ.
- Javy Baez is, at this exact moment, the last guy the Cubs need to be hurt.
- OK. I may be biased in this particular situation, but using replay to overturn a play where a baserunner is off the base for a fraction of a millisecond is ridiculous. I don’t know how to remedy this, but it’s definitely overkill.
- That being said, Javy should have been running hard from the moment the ball was hit and it wouldn’t have been an issue.
- Of the 8 top position players on the field, the Cubs and Giants are 4-4? I’ll admit that Posey is probably the superior catcher and that Crawford and Russell are pretty much even, but that’s about it. I’m very curious as to how John Smoltz justifies that.
- Kelby Tomlinson looks like he was the last pick in a PE softball game, but one day will “make you pay for that…make you ALL pay.”
- Literally inches from a Bryzzo Company souvenir.
- How much longer until we can officially start stressing about Anthony’s bat?
- Throwing at Javy? Don’t you idiot Giants know the Chicago way? Hit one of our guys, we hit 2 of yours. Be careful what you sow.
- Sometimes I think it’s just not fair to send mere mortals to bat against Aroldis Chapman.
- While the Giants bullpen was not nearly as bad as it has been throughout the season, I’m still confident with a lead in the later innings or even being down by a run or two.
- Singing along to “Go Cubs Go” alone at home is not nearly as much fun as at Wrigley, but a lot more fun than not singing it after a game.
- 3 RBI were from the pitchers tonight. Not a bad showing at all.
- I was slightly more relaxed tonight as opposed to last night. I don’t think any domestic disturbance charges are headed my way any time soon. At least not until Monday night.
When last we left, Lauren had proposed some interesting questions as to what we were going to do on our last full day of this year’s baseball odyssey. She was curious as to where the Cubs were playing and I told her they would be in Cincinnati on Monday night. She thought about it for a moment and resignedly told me that she had been considering either renting a car and driving or even taking a flight in, but since it was a night game, the timing would be difficult to get us back and packed to depart early on Tuesday.
I next decided to see if the Brewers were at home, but sadly, they were not, so Miller Park was out of the running for us. Flash back to Christmas a few years ago when Lauren got me a Fort Wayne TinCaps cap. I enjoy collecting interesting minor league hats and we had a friend who grew up in Fort Wayne and it became a bit of a joke to us. I mentioned, jokingly, that we should go catch a TinCaps game. Lauren asked how far it was to drive. It was about 3 hours each way and that sealed it. We were going to Indiana.
Our trip to the heartland wasn’t first on our agenda, though. First we were touring Wrigley Field. The tours are always advertised during Cubs games and, of course, I knew that we would have to do it when we were visiting Wrigley. Our guide was great. Very knowledgable and enthusiastic, he would not have been out of place working at Disneyland. I even learned a few fun stories about the ballpark’s history. I think Lauren and I were starting to bother the “guest wrangler,” who accompanied our tour to ensure that no one got left behind, because we were constantly stopping to take pictures and compose nice shots and adjust our settings. We got to see the broadcast booth, sit in the press box, visit both the home and away clubhouses and sit in the dugout. And then…and then I got to do the thing that I have wanted to do since I was 9 years old and I stood on the field. I stood on the same field as Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Greg Maddux. It was so very surreal.
Following the tour, we did a lap around the stadium, in order to get pictures of all of the statues that reside around Wrigley. There are currently only 4, but I hope that there will be many more added in the coming years. The Cubs have a long history of which to be proud (No 1908 jokes!) and players that deserve to be honored.
Once we finished the tour, it was off to Indiana!
I’m sure that many people spend the final days of their vacations in a city as multi-faceted and interesting as Chicago by driving 3 hours into Indiana to watch a Class-A minor league baseball game, right? It’s totally rational.
If this surprises any readers in the slightest, you clearly don’t know Lauren or I. We booked a car as soon as we returned to the hotel to be picked up the following morning and returned on Tuesday at the airport. Now we no longer needed to lug our belongings through Wrigleyville to the El station. Two birds, one stone, you know.
We picked up the car and were on our way. It was nice taking Lake Shore Drive out of the city and seeing many of the landmarks that we had seen on foot days earlier. Right outside the city, we stopped at a WalMart for some snacks and other necessities, and it was here that I got my first bit of anti-Cubs harassment. While neither the TinCaps, nor the Great Lakes Loons were affiliated with the Cubs, I was wearing my heavy Cubs jacket, since it was rainy and cold. As we were walking into the store, a man stopped his car right in front of us to yell “The Cubs suck!” and cackle as he drove off. This was an old man, mind you.
The rest of the drive was fairly non-eventful, though we did amuse ourselves by looking at the fast food restaurants in the Midwest that aren’t available on the West Coast. We are real connisseurs of culture. That being said, I will recreate our drive through Indiana.
We did that for 3 hours.
There was a bit of excitement when we were about an hour or so outside of Fort Wayne. We looked at the car clock and it was only 30 minutes until game time. We were absolutely gutted that we had made such an effort to get there and would still miss part of the game. Gutted until I realized that Indiana didn’t adhere to the status quo that is “daylight savings time,” and we still had plenty of time to reach Parkview Field.
The weather wasn’t looking terrific as we approached the stadium and I was silently praying that we didn’t make this trip to see half an inning of baseball and a rainout. I was reassured by some of the fine Indianans that it would take a flood of Biblical proportions for the game to be rained out, so we purchased our tickets with confidence. $8 got us seats in the front row right next to the TinCaps bullpen, where we saw Padres 2013 3rd round draft pick, Bryan Verbitsky warm up for his first start.
The weather was frigid, and while there was very little in the way of actual rain, the cold kept people away and honestly, there were probably less than 200 fans in attendance. I’m not complaining, it was kind of fun and made me feel like I had the run of the ballpark, which, by the way, was quite nice.
Obviously being a Class-A park, it is going to be intimate, which is something that I really like, and the TinCaps certainly embrace their connection to Johnny Appleseed with apple-themed everything, which made for some wonderful in-game food offerings.
We had the apple crisp and the apple wontons and both were outstanding. Warm and apply and the crisp even came in a mini-TinCaps batting helmet! What more could a guy ask for??
The team store, called The Orchard, even had a fake apple tree standing right in the middle of the store. What a store it was, too. It had significantly more merchandise and better quality than many MLB team stores that I have visited, putting the White Sox store we had seen the day prior to shame. We both ended up getting t-shirts to represent the most eclectic part of our trip.
After our apple snacks and shopping we walked around the whole park and took in all of the little details, including the treetop seating area and the large expansive lawn beyond the outfield fences. What little rain there was had decided to appear at this point and even the most hardy of fans were leaving. Not us, though. We wanted to get our full $8 worth! We even found Johnny TinCap and got our photos with him.
Also during our wanderings we wound up talking to an usher about our trip and how we managed to be so far from both our temporary home in Chicago and our real home in California. He asked us if we would be attending the game on Tuesday, and we had to tell him that we were just in town for one game. He seemed disappointed, but I reassured him that the ballpark and the team were leaving us with a very favorable opinion.
As far as the game was concerned, well, things weren’t pretty. The TinCaps ended up losing 7-3 and sitting as close to the action as we were, we could hear the frustration of the TinCap hitters returning to the bench. Quite a bit of salty language was being thrown around.
The inevitable happened. The TinCaps took the loss and we left Parkview Field, for quite possibly our one and only visit.
The field is quite nice and well taken care of. The staff were all in very good spirits and seemed to value the fan experience, which we appreciated. The food was great and I only regret that I had but one stomach in which to fill with apple-based goodies. The entire experience was wonderful and it speaks highly of the Padres organization in general that both low minor league teams that I have visited within their organization (the Lake Elsinore Storm) have been such positive fan experiences.
The drive back to Chicago seemed much faster and we stopped to have our first White Castle burgers at a gas station/White Castle restaurant somewhere in rural Indiana, where the employees were shocked that we didn’t have them our west. The burgers were everything that we hoped for and more. We got to the hotel at around 1am and proceeded to get ready to depart the following day.
Up next, the recap.
Until next time, keep trippin’ baseballs!
Our third morning in Chicago once again dawned far too early, but we rose with hope of a delicious breakfast, beyond the hard-boiled egg and cereal selection from the morning before, and another beautiful day game at the Friendly Confines.
During our walk through Lakeview the night prior we had seen a sign for the Ann Sather restaurant, and being a worthy disciple of the Food Network, I recognized the name as one that was often mentioned on the “Best Of” shows, notable for their cinnamon rolls. That connection was certainly enough to draw us in and it lived up to our lofty expectations.
The cinnamon rolls were offered as “sides,” so Lauren and I each ordered them as a part of our individual breakfast platters, and they were overwhelming to say the least. Each side order contained 2 very large rolls–and those came in addition to the rest of our meals. They were soft and gooey and delicious and may or may not have lured us in pretty much every morning for the rest of our trip. I have no regrets, and we were smart enough to get one order to share for the duration.
In addition, I enjoyed my very first eggs Benedict and thoroughly enjoyed that as well. It was a LOT of food, but the combination of muffin, hollandaise, poached egg and slab of country ham had me savoring the meal well beyond the small capacity of my stomach, but the mild discomfort was well worth it.
We finished our breakfast in good time and were at Wrigley Field well in advance of first pitch. While we were relaxing in our seats, Mike Olt, my newest favorite Cub was making his way over to the wall, near our seats. I tried to scamper down to have him sign a baseball for me, but the usher nearest us was having none of it.
I am not one to give up when goals are well within reach, so I moved to the next section over, pleaded my case with the elderly usher there, promised that I was just going to try for an autograph and after either victory or success would retreat back to my seat and not darken her section again.
She gave in to my request and I ran down as Mike was very friendly and signed my baseball. He was generous and the few of us who attempted getting his autograph were well rewarded.
I was a good person and dutifully returned to my seat with my treasure. I only wound up with one autograph on the trip, but it was one that I was hoping to get, and not counting the huge names like Anthony Rizzo or Starlin Castro, probably my most coveted. I think if Olt can up his batting average a bit he will be in strong contention for the National League Rookie of the Year.
Sadly, the autograph was the only win that I would register for the day. Edwin Jackson was on the mound for the Cubs and sadly, it was bad Edwin who showed up for the game. He allowed a run to the Diamondbacks in the top of the 1st and while the Cubs answered with a run in the bottom of the inning, the DBacks were in control for the rest of the game, only allowing a home run to Rizzo in the bottom of the 8th and taking the series win.
All was not lost, however, as Lauren’s new favorite player, Darwin Barney got an at-bat as a pinch hitter and later stayed in the game as a defensive replacement, so she was relatively happy to get to see him.
We took the opportunity of the Cub slaughter to explore the various amenities of Wrigley Field. While the stadium is showing it’s 100 years, it does so in a classic manner. It didn’t seem weathered or dingy; it was more along the lines of a well-loved cathedral. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute that I spent in the quintessential ballpark.
I grew up watching Wrigley Field on WGN and dreaming of actually visiting and to actually have done so was one of the high points in my life. It isn’t the flashiest ballpark with the most modern touches, but it is the benchmark to which the neo-retro fields aspire. Most of the designers cite Wrigley as a strong influence and knowingly include homages to the grand dame within their designs.
I say this all with a certain bias as a Cubs fan, but I feel that Wrigley is the most beautiful park I have ever, and will ever see. The charm is with the simplicity and classic nature that draws you in with a beautiful landscape and the nature of the game itself.
That being said, in a few years once there is a high-quality product on the field, the draw to Wrigley and the Cubs will be almost immeasurable. I can guarantee that by 2016, Wrigley Field will be one of, if not THE hardest tickets to get in all of baseball.
One of the new additions to Wrigley Field and the Cubs was Clark the Cub, the new mascot. There was a lot of concern about Clark after his unveiling, but he is quite innocuous, greeting young fans before the game begins, and spending the majority of the game in his “Cub”house, on one of the concourses, posing for photos. He isn’t climbing around on the roof of the dugout or impeding the game, or it’s integrity in any way. Especially after seeing him in action, and maybe getting a photo, I have absolutely no concern with his addition in the slightest.
Following Gary “The Sarge” Matthews singing the 7th inning stretch, and watching Jose Veras continue his dramatic downward trend to lead the Cubs to a loss, Lauren and I crossed Addison and visited Wrigleyville Sports, a Cubs superstore that has gotten quite a bit of my money online, and we grabbed our “Wrigley 100” merchandise to commemorate our visit and gave them quite a bit MORE of my money and we headed back to the hotel.
Lauren was starting to not feel well and so we ended up ordering some food to be delivered to the room and had a nice relaxing evening staying in. Since the Cubs were on their way to Milwaukee, we were going to spend the next day exploring downtown Chicago, since the only other time that we had visited, it was snowing and the temperatures were near freezing, which tends to impact the ability to explore and spend any time outdoors.
I will briefly touch on our adventures in the next entry, but as there are only a few details that are remotely baseball-related, I will stick to those small occurrences!
As always, pictures can be found here.
Despite never having lived within 1,000 miles of Wrigley Field, I was no less a Cub fan than any Chicagoan and, in many cases, the distance made my affection stronger. I couldn’t just hop a crosstown train to the Friendly Confines. I had to worship my Cubs from afar and see them in person only when they were entrenched deep in enemy territory. I had visited the exterior of Wrigley Field once, on a cold January day after a weekend of Cub related revelry and commiseration known as the Cubs Convention, but I had never stepped foot inside the hallowed grounds themselves.
My MLB stadium quest would have many high points, but, to me, the pure highlight was to be my first visit to Wrigley Field. My trip couldn’t be to a meaningless June game against the Marlins; it had to carry more gravity than that. Since the Cubs aren’t looking to play competitive baseball for at least a few more seasons when the talent down on the farm reaches fruition, the celebration of Wrigley’s 100th anniversary this season, and the actual celebration day of April 23 would be the perfect home stand to make my Wrigley debut.
Lauren and I found a Groupon for a lovely European-style bistro hotel that was less than a mile from Wrigley Field and the Chicago Red Line train in the Lakeview/Wrigleyville neighborhood, used frequent flyer miles donated to our cause and we were on a plane headed to the Windy City the day before the big 100th Anniversary game. The plan was to catch 3 games at Wrigley, 1 at US Cellular Field and 1 more at Miller Park in Milwaukee, as well as take the tour of Wrigley and have a few days to enjoy the city. That plan didn’t exactly happen as we expected, but there will be more on that as the reports continue.
Our flight was non-eventful, if early (leaving San Diego at approximately 6am) and after a few hours of napping and podcasts we were soon descending into Midway Airport. We grabbed our carryon bags and headed to the Red Line to the Wrigley Field stop to check in to our hotel. Again, the commute in was no trouble and we lugged our bags through Wrigleyville and arrived at the Majestic Hotel. That is really it’s name, I’m not just being hyperbolic. Our room was charmingly appointed and though it was located on the second floor, right next to the elevator, there was no issue of noise pollution during the week that we stayed there.
We lay down and rested for a short time, and then realized that we hadn’t eaten very much during the day so we set out in the general direction of Wrigley Field, several hours before game time, in search of food. A block away from the hotel was a small restaurant called Wrigley BBQ. It looked decent enough, so we walked in to the empty restaurant and placed our orders. I had a delicious pulled pork sandwich and Lauren had the brisket platter. The food was amazing and at each table was a selection of 3 different sauces to try on the various proteins. I tried all 3, with both my sandwich and Lauren’s brisket leftovers, and there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. There was a sweet sauce, a spicy sauce and a tangy vinegar-based sauce. The vinegar-based was my favorite, but they were all excellent. We were thoroughly impressed and felt it to be a great way to kick off our Chicago culinary adventures, which are almost as high a priority to us on our vacations as the baseball is.
We continued on to the Friendly Confines, where we entered as soon as they opened the gates. We had seats in the bleachers, which I felt to be a proper introduction to Wrigley, but I was mistaken in thinking that, like Dodger Stadium, the bleachers were strictly sequestered by themselves–only learning the truth during the Wrigley Field tour much later in the week–so we spent our first game basically staying in our seats the whole game. The fact that the seating is first-come, first -served also cemented that plan. We were seated in the front row of right-center field, right next to the batter’s eye. I was hoping for a home run into the basket, but alas, that was not to happen. The Cubs were playing the DBacks, and beat them quite handily, 9-2, and Jason Hammel got the win. Quite a way to welcome me to my holiest of baseball cathedrals. Certainly the good fortune would continue for the rest of my visit, right? Well….these are the Cubs that we are talking about. However, that first win was a sweet one and singing “Go Cubs, Go,” standing in the freezing cold Chicago air of Wrigley Field in April will certainly be one of my highlights of my entire baseball career.
I don’t know if it was the fact that it was so cold, or the sparse attendance, but a majority of the bleacher creatures were on fairly good behavior, only marred by the 2 drunk idiots who kept trying to do the wave and yelling asinine things to both the DBacks, as well as the Cubs, but they were no worse than I’ve seen in any other ballpark that I have visited.
Walking in to Wrigley Field for the first time was breathtaking. No, it isn’t the most technologically advanced park that I’ve visited, or the most cloying or gimmicky. It was pure classic baseball. It was everything that I hoped that it would be. Lauren says that it’s her favorite park that she’s visited because it wasn’t so desperate for attention that it constantly feels like an assault on the senses and a reaction to the short attention spans of modern fans. They have a small video board and there are a few electronic scoreboards around the park, but the main attraction is the hand-operated scoreboard in center field and while there is some music over the PA, a majority of the sounds of the game are from the game itself, PA announcements and the Wrigley Field organ, operated by Gary Pressy. It is pure and wonderful.
We lingered around the ballpark as long as we could, which wasn’t too long; the ushers are serious about getting everyone out. I don’t know if that is regularly the case or if it was because of the early morning coming up, due to the press and preparation for the 100th Anniversary game the following day, but I was floating so high after my first visit and win that I didn’t even put up much of a fight.
I’d be lying if i said that there weren’t tears shed on this historic night in my personal history as I thought about the days and years that I dreamed of being in this very place. I was sitting in the same bleachers as Harry Caray had, and in the same ballpark that was home to so many of my heroes over the years. the third baseline where Ron Santo would kick up his heels after a Cubs win. The infield that Ryne Sandberg patrolled for so many years. The outfield fence that Ernie Banks had cleared for so many home runs. The pitching mound where Greg Maddux began, and basically ended, his Hall of Fame career. It is truly an overwhelming sensation for not only Cub fans, but baseball fans in general.
We headed back to the hotel, where I uploaded my photos to the computer and we had an early night, as we knew we would have to be up early for the following day’s festivities. We did NOT want to oversleep and miss a second.
The rest of the day’s photos can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/worldfamousandrew/sets/72157644554387092/
March is almost over and spring has sprung. At least for most of the country. Here in Southern California we have not only been free of the Snowpocalypse that gripped the rest of the country, but have been suffering through abnormally high temperatures. I know, I know. Humble brag.
The onset of spring means only one thing…regular season baseball shall soon be upon us, and as this entry posts, the DBacks and Dodgers should have already kicked off the season with their first game “down under.” Crikey!
I have spent the past several weeks trying to plan out a pretty exciting year for me personally and, hopefully, for my readers as well. I’ll be taking you all to lots of new places and getting some great behind the scenes looks at things that not every baseball fan gets to see!
That all being said, here is what 2014 looks like for us here at “Tripping Baseballs.”
Our first major trip occurs in late April and just so happens to be to Wrigley Field, my favorite ballpark in the majors and home of my beloved Chicago Cubs. Not only will this be my very first trip to the Friendly Confines, but it will coincide with the game celebrating Weeghman Park…err Wrigley Field’s 100th Anniversary. To say that I’m elated is like saying that Westboro Baptist is slightly xenophobic. In addition to a few games at Wrigley, I will be headed deep into enemy territory when I travel to Miller Park and US Cellular Field, probably the 2 most Cub-hostile parks I have visited thus far. I also plan on doing a behind the scenes tour of Wrigley and taking an absolutely obscene amount of photos.
The next bit, I am legitimately excited about as well. During the offseason I sent messages to every minor league team in the state of California, asking if they would like me to come and cover their team/ballpark/fan experience. I was fortunate enough to hear back from 5 of the teams, thus far, and have been offered press passes to all 5. It makes me feel so legitimate! The teams that I will definitely be covering are the Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres), Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers, Bakersfield Blaze (Reds), Stockton Ports (A’s) and High Desert Mavericks (Mariners). These are all teams in the High-A California League and I look forward to getting an early look at some of the game’s future stars. In that same line of thought, I am also planning on going to see the Lancaster Jet Hawks (Astros), in order to see one of baseball’s fastest rising stars, in shortstop, Carlos Correa. If I’m lucky, I might even get to see top draft pick, Mark Appel. No word on where he’ll be pitching, but Lancaster seems to be the natural next stop for him. I also have tentative plans to see the IE 66’ers (Angels), but that is about as far as the planning for that has gone.
I will also be making at least 1, if not 2, trips to see the Fresno Grizzlies this summer. The first potential trip would be in June, as the Iowa Cubs come to town and it will be the closest to me that they travel. I have a great desire to see the Cubs future, namely, Javy Baez, in person.
The 2nd trip would be in early August and it would be to see the Grizzlies take on the Salt Lake Bees. This trip would not be to see any player in particular, but because the Grizzlies are hosting a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles night, with TMNT-themed jerseys. My 10 year old self would never forgive my 32 year old self if I missed it.
In addition, I plan to see the Cubs when they visit San Diego in late May and have a number of Angels games I plan to attend, as well. Sadly I didn’t get my mini-ticket plan this year, so there are no games set in stone, as far as that is concerned. There are also a few more tricks up my sleeve that I hope to be able to pull out in the upcoming weeks, just to keep things interesting in between my baseball adventures.
Hopefully this is exciting to you as it is to me, and you’ll join me throughout the 2014 season and beyond, as I continue tripping baseballs!