Yes, this is a departure from my posts about my ballpark tour, but with the regular season ending yesterday, I thought I would put up this post regarding a hot topic in baseball right now.
There have only been three pitchers to win the National League Most Valuable Player award since 1955. Why did I choose that year? That’s the year the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first championship, and their only title while still playing in Brooklyn. The last player to do it was Bob Gibson (St. Louis) in 1968. Before that, two dominant Dodger pitchers won the MVP: Sandy Koufax (1963) and Don Newcombe (1956).
Many former players didn’t like facing those three previously mentioned pitchers. In fact, even HoF’ers like Maury Wills even said that they hated facing Bob Gibson because of the intimidation factor he presents. Fast forward to 2014, and we are hearing about several players saying the same thing about Clayton Kershaw. His twelve-to-six curveball – or “public enemy number one” according to Vin Scully – is a plus pitch in his arsenal that fools countless batters every game.
Part XIII: Minute Maid Park
(AKA: Not Ending My Tour Like This)
(AKA: Squeezing the Life Out of Me)
(AKA: Unlucky Part Thirteen)
(AKA: Finally Getting Homesick)
Part XII: Globe Life Park in Arlington
(AKA: The Start of the “Texas Two Step”)
Yeah, I did it.
Ballpark 10: Globe Life Park in Arlington, elevation 550 feet
The game: Royals @ Rangers on August 23, 2014
“I could be brown, I could be blue, I could be violet sky, I could be hurtful, I could be purple, I could be anything you like.”
Part XI: Coors Field
Ballpark 9: Coors Field, elevation ~5200 feet
The game: Reds @ Rockies on August 15, 2014
First off, I wanted to extend a very special thanks to everyone reading this blog, and to the friends and family who have supported me on this journey. Thanks to some of those people, I have been able to extend this trip into something I didn’t think was possible. Originally, I only had the intent of exploring the northeast United States and seeing what those ballparks had to offer. Now this has become a quest to do something that not many people have done in a short period, and that’s to visit all thirty ballparks in the major leagues. Secondly, I’d like to extend my thanks to another enthusiastic baseball fan also in the game show circle. Because of him, I was able to watch a game in another stadium for free. Also, to another reader who wanted me to come out and visit for another game. Finally, thanks to some of my family in north Texas for a great family outing in a great ballpark that I hadn’t visited in over a decade.
As I previously mentioned, those games took place in Colorado, and in a “Texas Two Step” through the two parks in that state. That would make eleven in this “ballpark tour” alone. If I include Boston earlier this year for Boston Marathon weekend, that would make twelve this season. I do plan on a trip back home to Anaheim, and that would make thirteen. More on the rest of my plans at the end of this blog post.
Part X: Yankee Stadium (Revisited)
(AKA: Extra Innings in the Bronx)
Yes, this blog has now reached extra innings!
After finally getting a good night’s rest after two baseball games in one day, I was able to look at my plans for later that night. As I mentioned on the last post, I was the lucky recipient of a MasterCard “Priceless Surprise” from Yankee Stadium. Thus, I had a second chance to check out more of this wonderful stadium during a game. Since I already talked about the atmosphere of the stadium last time, I will write more about the experience I had this time… and what an amazing experience it was.
Ballpark 8: Yankee Stadium, elevation 24 feet
The game: Tigers @ Yankees on August 5, 2014
Since this included two tickets to the Yankees game, I thought I would bring one of my old game show friends, Jason Block, along with me. He’s actually appeared on multiple game shows including “Jeopardy!” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” He is also a huge New York Yankees fan and grew up with the team in the old stadium. He was more than ecstatic to join me at Yankee Stadium, mention some of his favorite memories at both stadiums, and provide a deeper appreciation for Yankee Stadium.
Part IX: Yankee Stadium
…getting on the 7 express from Citi Field wasn’t too bad. I actually lucked out because as I was using my camera, a train had just pulled in. Luckily, I always have my MetroCard ready to go at a moment’s notice. After a couple years and many subway rides later, I’ve learned my lessons with the subways! Anyway, I got on the 7, then easily made the transfer to the 4 train to get to my next stop and second stadium of the day.
Ballpark 8: Yankee Stadium, elevation 24 feet
The game: Tigers @ Yankees also on August 4, 2014
If you are taking the 4 subway into Yankee Stadium, you can easily see the huge stadium from the train and you can’t miss your stop. The new ballpark is built similarly to old Yankee Stadium in that there are multiple tiers, and each tier goes a long way in terms of the number of rows. In other words, this is a massive stadium. But before entering new Yankee Stadium, I made my way to the softball field across the street where the old stadium once stood. Within the new field is the old diamond, but around the walkway, you can spot a section of the iconic old frieze from old Yankee Stadium. Yes, it’s still there as a monument to the “House That Ruth Built.”
Part VIII: Citi Field
There is a lesson learned when one travels for weeks on end. Always expect the unexpected. The night before I entered New York City was certainly unexpected because the hotel I stayed at was quite possibly the worst experience I’ve had at a hotel in a long time, and this was supposed to be a good one, too. I won’t call out the place on here, but I’m STILL waiting to hear back from them about compensation (yes, it was THAT bad because I barely got any sleep, either). As I hopped on the train to get into the city, I said goodbye to the lush, grassy areas of everywhere I had been. Then I pulled into Penn Station, ready to get my Metro Pass for the week. After finally doing my laundry (because I couldn’t even do that at the horrible hotel I was previously at), I got a good night’s sleep, and even caught up on my sleep…
Ballpark 7: Citi Field, elevation 11 feet
The game: Giants @ Mets on August 4, 2014
…but I may have caught up too much anticipating the doubleheader that lay ahead of me. I woke up only two hours before game time, and very quickly got ready and made my way to the subway. The transfer to the 7 train wasn’t too bad, and I even made the stop at Mets- Willets Point with more time to spare than I thought. Because of this, I was able to buy my ticket and really think about what seat I wanted. After some thought, I decided on a great $22 ticket on the front row of the upper box. This turned out to have an incredible view of the whole stadium. More on that in a second.
(AKA: Back to the Minors)
To my friends who know me, it’s no secret that I enjoy the occasional minor league game. Originally being from southern California, I would always take in a game for one of the many California League teams there are, the Quakes, the 66ers, the Storm, and even the Mavericks (one of my loyal readers and friends has announced for them this season). I’ve been to three alone this season, so what’s another game, right? As I was leaving Baltimore heading north on the I-95, I happened to see some lights in the distance. I peered towards the east right off the freeway, and saw that those lights belonged to a baseball stadium! After slowing down, I saw a game was in progress. After about a minute of debating, I decided to get off at the nearest off-ramp and make my way there to see what this place was all about.
The ballpark: Judy Johnson Field at Frawley Stadium, elevation is about 20 feet
The game: Frederick Keys (Orioles affiliate) @ Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals affiliate) on August 2, 2014
There I was entering Wilmington, Delaware as the day was drawing to a close. I figured I would get near the stadium and take a look around. Since the game had already started and was maybe an hour in, there were no parking attendants, so I didn’t have to pay for parking (although upon further review, they offer free parking there). I walked around the perimeter of the stadium and just enjoyed it. No score book, no plans, just baseball in its purest form. I took a few pictures of this ballpark entering the sunset, and even made my way around to where the Delaware sports Hall of Fame is. Unfortunately, it was closed, but I’m sure there are some great exhibits in there.
One of those exhibits features the man depicted in a statue outside of Frawley Stadium. That statue depicts William “Judy” Johnson, one of the greatest players of the Negro Leagues. To me, this was pretty cool since he’s one of the few black players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While he wasn’t a power hitter, he consistently batted over .300 spraying singles all over the outfield. He was also an exceptional fielder and on the plaque by his statue, it says Johnson was considered one of the greatest third basemen of the Negro Leagues. He grew up in Wilmington, and lived his life mostly in Delaware. As I was admiring the statue and reading the plaque, I noticed one of the Blue Rocks staff members and asked about the stadium and the team.
This gentleman’s name is Andrew Layman, who is the assistant general manager of the Blue Rocks, and he was very kind to me while I was there. What he told me was that this stadium is named Judy Johnson Field because of his importance to the community, and the game of baseball. He also told me that the Blue Rocks are a high-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and have been their affiliate since the early 1990s. After asking where I was from (because I guess it was that obvious that I was an “out-of-towner”), I told him that I was currently touring as many MLB stadiums as possible, and that seemed to spark an interest with him! After telling me more about the stadium and the team, he invited me to watch the last few innings of the game since it was so late and didn’t have to buy a ticket.
With its brick facade and old buildings across the street from the stadium, this place felt similar to Camden Yards. To me, that is a big plus. The stadium is built in the classic style that became popular in the 1990s, with plenty of space for parking all around. As I walked around the interior of the stadium, I took a gander at the concession prices, and boy were they awesome! Four and a half bucks for a jumbo hot dog is actually a pretty decent price. Most minor league parks charge anywhere from five to six bucks for a jumbo hot dog, so this was definitely on the lower end of prices. Maybe other minor league stadiums should take note!
After enjoying a couple hot dogs, I sat down and watched the home town Blue Rocks put up three runs in the seventh inning. Every time the Blue Rocks score, two things happen. First, a jet of water will spray upwards beyond the outfield wall, and it shoots out of what looks like a big Coke bottle in the outfield wall. Also, their secondary mascot, a stalk of celery, will come out and “CELE-brate” the run being scored. Ha! I love a good pun, and that one won me over.
The Blue Rocks went on to win, 6-0 in a quick game. While I usually get myself a hat from every major league stadium, that rule doesn’t apply for minor league parks. Thus, I didn’t buy anything from that park. However, the prices are great for memorabilia there. If I find my way back out there, I may pick up a hat if the park is still open during the winter.
Overall, a great place to watch some minor league ball, and a great staff all around. A huge thanks to the assistant GM, Andrew Layman, for showing me around the park and allowing me to watch a few innings. I extend my deepest thanks, and while it’s not knocking out another ballpark, this does add something to my list. I got to watch a baseball game in another new state, and I’m grateful for that. After saying goodbye to Delaware, I made my way back up the freeway and on to get some rest. I would need the rest for I would be heading to New York City the very next day. Until then, thank you so much for reading! The next updates will be from my visit in the Big Apple. In real time, though, I am flying out tonight for two more stops… in Texas!