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Follow my streak all the through to the bitter end. Schedule is this link:
Thursday April 19, 2012
MLB Park # 11 Day # 9
TEX 6 @ MIN 2
I was excited about this game from the time it hit the itinerary. I had only seen 6 innings of a game from Target in 2010 before. After a long flight that stretched from San Francisco through Phoenix and onto Minneapolis, I had hours to burn before the game so I caught up on some writing at the airport. It was going to be a long travel day. Flying out of Minnesota the next day towards Toronto was extremely risky with only one flight being available to arrive in Toronto before the 1:07 PM start time. I picked out the rental car for the day at National. It was a brand new Black Toyota Camry. To achieve a cheaper, more time friendly plane fare, I was driving all the way to Chicago whenever I was done at Target Field.
Once I located where Target Field was, I found a Wendy’s restaurant nearby and stocked up on some chili. I have about $100 in gift cards left to spend there and I will. With my stomach full, I bought a $13 ticket. I was proud to say I walked a half mile from the park to gain a $5 parking spot. This was pretty good economics on my part. I took as many pictures as I could and also walked the concourse several times. Target Field has a lot of menu items for purchase. I like that you can order slices of ribs and roast beef. Porkchop on a stick rounded out my first time appearance at the park in 2010. This time around I was not eating a thing there.
The game was not very competitive. Yu Darvish managed several ‘Hoodini’ acts in picking up his second straight win. Twice the man left the bases loaded for the Twins only to master a way out of it. The Asian pitchers are comfortable with pitching to no contact at all. Josh Hamilton hit 2 doubles and a behemoth moonbeam homer to right field that is still traveling towards I-94! I believe Josh Hamilton will have another MVP season again as he is completely healthy. The Rangers have an incredible mixture of veteran talent and exuberant young players. Having Mike Napoli as your 8th hitter in the lineup is incredibly good! I really think that the Rangers are the class act of the AL again for talent.
The Minnesota Twins do not frighten anyone at all for their offense. I must say that I agree with using Justin Morneau solely as a DH-why risk having him hurt in the field? Joe Mauer is starting to look like his old self again too. I think a solid year for Minny is about a .500 mark, The weather was perfect for April, 77 degrees at game time with a nice breeze. The Minnesota fans have shown they truly care about the game in recent years. It wasn’t too long ago that the club was thought to be a candidate for contraction. What I see at Twins games more than any other park-is a high female young fan base from ages 16-29. Packs of girls flock to the park together to cheer on their heroes.
The Rangers spanked the Twins 6-2. Joe Nathan came in for some mop up duty in the bottom of the 9th inning. It must have been extremely weird to be pitching against his former club. The guy looked shaky with the first few batters before retiring the side. This experience will help him in future appearances down the road. I had previously booked a hotel for the night. Since I was leaving almost right away, it gave me a chance to shower, do some laundry and catch up on some internet. When I finished up at 8 PM-it was time to hit the road. I had a 7 hour drive ahead of me to Chicago. The first 3 hours went really smooth. That is when rain and lightning showers followed me for the last 4 hours of the trip. It both motivated and frightened me. I thought that flights out of Chicago-(including my pending morning flight) were going to be affected. I finally made it into Chicago at 3:30 in the morning. My fees for the one-way rental car at National were $3.15 because of my free rental day. Having free days with a free 24 hour airport one-way drop fee has been a life-saver for this trip. I will always be on board with National Car Rental as my company of choice!
I snuck in a couple hours of sleep on the flight. Any thoughts of worrying about flight cancellations were suddenly not even in my mind’s fore front. It all worked out. I arrived in Toronto at 9 AM.
MLB Park # 12 Day # 10
BAL 2 @ TOR 9
Skydome(or Rogers Centre)
I awoke from my plane ride with my ears clogged up. I prepared for this to happen a few times. Normally I would chew gum to help the situation out however I chewed gum for 7 hours straight while driving and any more chewing would lead to headaches. I also have a little head cold. This also occurs about the midway point of every journey like this. There are just too many flights piling up where I am at risk in an enclosed environment with bacteria running rampant. I was still clearing the cobwebs out when I arrived in Toronto. I am a Nexus Card Holder for Canadian-American travel. This gives me a great advantage on the general public for security lineups when border jumping. I was establishing the game plan for Toronto. I picked up my boarding pass for the afternoon flight. I then called Jonathan to pick me up at the airport.
I have really been looking forward to this for a long time. Jonathan Hacohen has been very instrumental in helping me have my writing career become back on track. It is rare that I find a Canadian citizen that shares the kind of dedication and passion that I like to display towards the game of baseball. So 10 months after first chatting with the MLB Reports Founder and lead baseball columnist, Jonathan was able to be part of this record chase. I have to give another shout out to Andrew DeBaeremaeker Andrew is a Toronto Blue Jays fan who has been following my trip throughout. He took it upon his self to ask around the CTV Sports Department if they would be interested in my story. Andrew sent me the contact information and I followed up on it. At 11:30 AM this morning, I was part of an interview with CTV Sports about the streak. They also filmed Jonathan and I entering the Skydome. Later on this day, I will have another interview from the Citi Field home opener air at the same time in the States as this segment was going to air in Canada. I was doing the international doubleheader for media along with the baseball doubleheader of Skydome and Yankee Stadium.
Jonathan and I talked about the MLBReports.com and baseball in general as we scouted out our escape route after the Toronto Blue Jays game. Jonathan is a cagey veteran of the Blue Jays scene. We figured out our best plan of attack. He would leave around the 8th inning and be waiting for me outside of Gate 5 as I witnessed the last pitch. The game we watched was moving with laser precision. Brett Lawrie and Adam Jones exchanged towering bombs to start the game. Halfway through the game we were on pace for a 2 hours and 15 minute pace. Toronto exploded on the Orioles for 6 runs, including using Kevin Gregg as the ultimate batting practice pitcher. Edwin Encarnacion blasted a two run homer to solidify the home town team’s lead.
I was becoming excited about the prospect of the game ending in a timely fashion. Baltimore played their part, and basically waved at sub –par pitches with their less than stellar offence. One of these years Baltimore will have to luck into a good season, I just don’t think it will be this year. The Jays added a couple of late runs with some heavy shots to the outfield. The Jays continue to improve their lineup on offense. Kyle Drabek looked impressive in his second straight outing and might just stick with the big club for a while. I ran as fast as my two feet could carry me onto Spadina Ave. Jonathan timed the meeting point like a master. 40 minutes later and I was in my boarding gate for Lu Guardia Airport.
MLB Park # 13 Day # 10
LAA 6 @ NYY 11
I was in the plane heading for Lu Guardia and I knew the plan was executed perfectly. I touched down at the airport at 6:40 and was in line at Yankee Stadium by 7:15 PM. On the way over to the game-the cabbie let me off at River Ave and 153rd street. On my 8 block walk I stumbled upon Stan’s Bar and Grill. Posted was a sign that said “Baggage Storage and you take the key for a nominal fee.” I rented a locker for $10, took the key and was walking freely with a large walk-on travel bag and a briefcase full of stuff no longer in my midst. I walked through the gates promptly at 7:25 with about 40 minutes to spare. This is the second time I have completed an International Doubleheader with TOR/NYY. I have never heard of someone else even attempting this feat. It was a big moment.
To add to my awesome day, was that I finally got to see my favorite team the Yankees play. This series was against the Angels and Albert Pujols. I was sitting in the 4000 level deck. I made my way up to my seat. I was meeting a fellow ballpark chaser in Roger Ratzenberger. Roger was one of my featured profiles in the book “The Fastest Thirty Ballgames.” He also was the featured expert for the Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I was happy to finally meet Roger for this game. I also was able to meet RJ Breisacher. RJ is a war veteran in the USA Army. Last September he purchased a Kindle Version of my book and we have been communicating ever since. RJ is going to all of the 30 MLB Parks by car and is raising awareness for other Veterans of the US Army. I was able to meet and chat with RJ for a few innings.
I will get to the game action in a second. Yankees fans are simply the most entertaining kind of fan in my books-period! Halfway through the game, the people in my section stumbled upon a locust or a beetle running down this one aisle. What happened next was hilarious. The thing was eating peanuts and other foods before he was flung to the lowest aisle possible. The beetle/locust spilled over beer of one of the fans. The thing began ingesting the beer at a rapid rate before spinning and flinging around on his liquor bender. He looked dead on several different occasions before he would spurt back to life with an electric bolt. Finally he was thrown to the next rows of fans when he upset one of the guy’s girlfriend’s. We saw one more final run for the locust/beetle in that aisle before another fan squished him by walking up the stairs.
Derek Jeter and Mark Texiera had big games for the New York Yankees in building an 8-1 lead. In what always seems to be a sub-category, Howie Kendrick hit a triple, double and single heading into his last at bat. The Yankees were up 11-6 and the fans were actually cheering for the guy to hit a homer. Howie blasted a ball to right field and missed out on a cycle be a mere few feet. Next we had Torii Hunter working on 3 strikeouts in the last inning. The fans were cheering “Golden Sombrero.” There is just something funny about the Yankees fans that it makes them picking on the other team unique.
The Yankees looked good this night. Raul Ibanez hit another homerun and served notice he is a force to be reckoned with at home, I love the signing. Between him smashing up right handers, while Andruw Jones clubs left-handers, they might just make a prolificDH tandem. A-Rod did not look in season form and was about the only Yankee to not make solid contact. The Yankees bullpen was also stronger than the Angels. Mark Trumbo had a homer early in the game and is making a case to garner more atbats with the club. Albert Pujols is having a slow start to his campaign.
MLB Park # 14 Day # 11
TB 1 @ BOS 0
I hate it when plans take a nosedive. I pride myself on putting forth awesome road trip plans. You are at the mercy of the system though. I had pre-purchased a 7-Eleven Greyhound Bus Ticket for $15. The ticket was so microscopic that I misplaced it with in the sea of receipts that is my wallet. I called Greyhound to see if I could receive a replacement ticket at New York Penn Station. They notified me that this would be no problem if I had photo identification. I finished watching the marathon Yankees game and ended up at Ny Penn Station about 1 AM. I was taking Greyhound Bus so I could write my reports on the drive to Boston.
I headed to the ticket office and requested the replacement ticket. The lady informed me that I had to speak to the bus driver, but that it should be fine. I have been in this predicament before. I made my way back to the office after 30 minutes to clarify the ladies verbiage to me. She wasn’t there. I half think she was trying to get rid of me because her shift was just ending. A guy was now at the ticket wicket. I told him the same story as I had with the girl however he presented me with a different outcome. It forced me to end up buying a ticket for $35. What was worse is that I was on stand-by. I actually had to sweat out this night. I had one kind of knowledge none of the other people standing by for the trip knew-I was one of the confirmed passengers on this voyage, I just didn’t holster a proper ticket. I made it on and have to know fight for restitution because of more ineffective staff at travel companies.
I caught up some writing and then met Lori Martini in Boston for the game at Fenway. Lori was in the Boston area for the Boston International Film Festival. When she realized this we made a plan to watch this game together. So you had a die-hard Mets fan and an ultimate Yankees fan in Fenway. We were cheering for the Boston Red Sox because a home team win means 10 minutes less on the official game clock. The temperature came out to be 87 degrees. The downtown core of Boston was overcrowded because of the annual Boston Marathon. I would have to fight me way to the Boston Airport after the game through this maze of people. I loved the 11:05 AM start for Patriots day. I was able to combine this early start with an impending night game at Nationals Park in Washington.
Lori and I had both been to Fenway 5 times each so it was not foreign to us. I still like to see people just as excited as I get when visiting some place historic as this. If it wasn’t so damn hot, I would have enjoyed it so much more. We were witness to a pitcher’s duel despite the game taking forever. Tampa Bay was the visitors and they forced home a run late to take a 1-0 win. James Shields continues to be a thorn in the Red Sox side. He was the winner of the combined 4 hit shutout.
I took my travel bags, said good-bye to Lori yet again in the trip, before braving the crowd that had conversed on Commonwealth Ave for the marathon. I fought on-lookers, I fought runners themselves, train conductors and unusual re-routing of zones to be at the airport at 3:30 for my 5:00 PM Flight. This was the first time I used the T-Line and I executed the task nicely, it has been the theme of the streak.
I was on my way to Nationals Park.
MLB Park # 15 Day # 11
HOU 3 @ WSH 6
Ben Fallon (of Ballpark Chasers) had the kind of game plan down perfect for what I am trying to do. Early on in my planning stages Ben informed me he was game to help out. We smashed the execution out of the park. I arrived at 6:31 and called Ben, for he was waiting at the Cell Phone Lot area. I knew what kind of Truck and Model Ben was driving and ran to his vehicle. It was a 3 minute pick up. I entered the Park at 6:48 PM. Ben parked in the Lexus Parking lot that was closest to the yard. I can’t thank him enough for his hard work in this matter.
I actually ate ballpark food for a change from Ben’s Chili Bowl. I ate a half smoke dog that was fully loaded and a bowl of chili that really hit the spot. Back in our seats watching Stephen Strasburg pitch, and we had a great conversation. There was also Ben and his friend Lee and I talking about the Nationals history. We talked about some of the players and the current roster team. There was one subject that had us all laughing in stitches. That was the Nationals botched promotion ideas.
Like I had talked about in my book, with full credit going to Grant Paulsen of Minors and Majors, our favorite promotion gone wrong for the Nationals were cannons that shot chili dogs wrapped up inside T-shirts into the crowd. Only there was a malfunction at the junction. The cannons were shooting too hard and the chili was exploding all over the patrons of the park. I can only imagine how crappy that I were to feel if I were hit with wayward chili in the air!! There was another story about Fireworks that saw the Fire Marshall have hot ashes fall on him during another season Opener. There were misspelling of names on promotions, and the list goes on…
What isn’t a joke is how decent the Nationals look so far. Strasburg picked up his second win of the year and was economical with his pitches. Ben and Lee agreed that when Strasburg takes a little off of his pitches is when he is the most effective with it. The Nationals have a bevy of young players coming and the core they have now is already solid with some nice veterans already in the mix. This time will see Bryce Harper very soon. I was surprised to see how many #34’s there already are in the park.
Ben dropped me off at the airport to catch my morning flight. In another crazy occurrence for me at traveling, I was supposed to stay at a hostel however since I had the Baltimore game domino affect some of my built in reservation that could not be reversed, one of those reservations was with the same hostellng company. They operate like an airline, if you no-show for the 1st leg of the trip, they automatically cancel the rest of your itinerary. I always learn something new every trip. This is what makes these streaks so hard. One missed flight can ravage plans for the rest. I conquered games 11-15 with a sense of expertise to arrive at the halfway mark on pace for a 30 Parks in 22 days result.
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