The Hat Collection… and Their Costs (Between the Innings)

“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.”

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After the last post, I thought I would bring up something that a couple people have asked me about. In every post at the end, I’ve shown a picture of me with the home team’s hat. Yes, while I do have a favorite team (the Los Angeles Dodgers), that doesn’t mean I can’t support each team and every stadium I’ve been. In a sense, this is a way of showing my gratitude to each place I’ve been and a tribute to each fan base that I’ve come across… some better than others. I take each place I travel to at face value and try to remain as impartial as possible. This has come from years of being an off-ice official for the ECHL and traveling to different arenas in that regard. I will admit that growing up, I would very openly root against any team that wasn’t the Dodgers (or the Angels sometimes). In fact, there is one ballpark I went to where I didn’t buy a hat, and still don’t have a team hat from there. If you guessed the San Francisco Giants, a thousand points* for you.

Continue Reading Between the Innings

JD’s Baseball Tour, Eleventh Inning (Denver, CO)

Part XI: Coors Field

It was a wonderful break from baseball… for about a week and a half. I ended up watching a Broadway musical in the front row, got to swing dance at one of the best venues NYC has to offer, and hosted a game show event at the Trivia Championships of North America. It was here that I started telling people about my journey, and how much fun it was. It was here I met another huge baseball fan, Sam Medley (Melting Blue Research), who has actually been to more ballparks than me and got to visit some now-demolished old stadiums like Tiger Stadium. He loved my passion for doing this trip, and wanted to help me out on my quest of someday visiting all the ballparks. He mentioned that he would be going on vacation and would not be using his Rockies tickets for the game. He then asked if I would like to use them!

 
Ballpark 9: Coors Field, elevation ~5200 feet

The game: Reds @ Rockies on August 15, 2014

After thinking about this for a second, I took him up on his offer and now had to think about how to get there and where to stay. Luckily, I have another game show friend, Bill Schantz, just outside Denver who is also a big Rockies fan. Not only would he get the extra ticket, but offered up his place to stay for a couple nights. How awesome! I then decided to drive there since gas prices began going down, and plane tickets on short notice were not cheap. Simply put, this was a very long drive, but I saved a ton of money on this one. Since I received these tickets (and the next few games) for free, I won’t have an extensive section on ticket prices like I have in the past. However, for this park, I heard the Rockpile tickets (albeit far away) are still one of the best deals to watch a game for only $4 normally!

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The drive to Coors Field was a very tough one because of quick-moving storms that had entered the area. It was a spectacular lightning show going to downtown Denver, but that meant batting practice would be rained out. That made me a little sad because I’ve never seen it there, and the ball jumps in that thin mountain air. However, I couldn’t let myself be sad for this one…

Continue Reading the Eleventh Inning

Certificates, Schedules, Freebies, and Continuing the Trip (Between the Innings)

    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.

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Continue Reading Between the Innings

JD’s Baseball Tour, Tenth Inning (Bronx, NY)

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.

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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.

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Continue Reading the Tenth Inning

JD’s Ballpark Tour, Ninth Inning (Bronx, NY)

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.

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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.”

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Continue Reading the Ninth Inning

JD’s Ballpark Tour, Eighth Inning (Flushing, NY)

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

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    …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.

Continue Reading the Eighth Inning

JD’s Ballpark Tour, Bottom of the Seventh Inning (Wilmington, Delaware)

(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.

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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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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   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.

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    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!

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-JD

Sports Museums in Baltimore (Seventh Inning Stretch)

(AKA: “O” say does that star spangled banner yet wave?)

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    With Friday night’s game ending early, I decided to take advantage and sleep earlier than usual. After bidding farewell to the town of Laurel and all the wonderful people there, I thought I would stop by Camden Yards area one more time. Not for a ballgame, but to check out a couple museums that I had heard so much about. My first stop was the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards which featured an excellent look into the Orioles’ history, and even the history of baseball in Baltimore. I won’t divulge everything you will find in this museum because my point of view and some of the pictures do not do this museum any justice.

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   First, you are guided towards the waiting room where the “Nicolay Draft” of the Gettysburg Address is prominently displayed. A little history before we enter the makeshift B&O train through the history of Baltimore sports. First, the travels of the ball players are shown, and in here include some artifacts from the Orioles first game. Fun fact: Don Larsen pitched the first Orioles’ game in 1954. Yes, this is the same Don Larsen who would go on to pitch a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series.

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    After making a right turn past the train, you are led through a section featuring “Babe Ruth: American Icon.” After that, I had to give a chuckle because the museum used the same idea I had used for my current blog, and that’s going through an adventure in nine innings!

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    In the late 1800s, the Baltimore Orioles were a team in the American Association that were considered a major league-type team. When the AA disbanded and later merged with the National League, the Orioles became one of twelve teams in the NL. In the mid to late 1890s, the National League were the only major league around before the AL was created in 1901. I feel that in order to appreciate the present, one must first appreciate the past, and I was in awe of how much the city of Baltimore embraced their baseball past. There is even a huge banner for the NL champion, Baltimore Orioles… from 1895. More items from that short-lived NL era remain intact and are on display here.

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    Also shown are the syndicate baseball years, and the Orioles run in the International League between both World Wars. After that, we finally get to the current incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles who were relocated from St. Louis (and previously called the Browns). Sadly, there is VERY little reference to the team formerly being called the St. Louis Browns. Then again, the Orioles franchise wanted to disassociate itself with a team that was known for losing nearly all the time. In fact, the Browns were consistently the doormats of Major League Baseball, and held so many records for futility. This new team would adopt a motto called “The Oriole Way” thereby eliminating nearly all mentions of those Browns.

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    Further down the museum, we go through the entire Orioles history, including their three World Series titles. Finally, we get to the big part of the Orioles floor. At the end, we have an entire section dedicated to one of the greatest players to ever put on an Orioles jersey, or any jersey for that matter: Cal Ripken, Jr. As I said in a prior post, I vividly remember watching the game when he broke Lou Gehrig’s record of consecutive games played. Imagine my awe when I walked into that room and saw those number banners that once hung from the old B&O warehouse beyond right field. Yes, the “2131” banner is currently hanging inside the museum.

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    Quickly going through the rest of the museum, we see displays for the old stadiums, the Baltimore Colts, and the Baltimore Ravens. A couple highlights in the lower floor include a seat with an old microphone where you can call the action of a famous Baltimore sports moment. Of course, I chose Ripken’s home run during his record-breaking game in 1995. After finishing at this museum, I thanked the curators and made my way outside in the drizzling rain.

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    Soon after saying a final goodbye to the Camden Yards area, I hopped in my car for the three block drive to make my way to the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum. The featured film inside the museum is “O” Say Can You See: The Star Spangled Banner In Sports. I will just come out and say this, but the film brought a tear to my eye. For the record, I loved the very end of the film, which is shown at this link:

“O” Say Can You See: The Star Spangled Banner In Sports

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    The bedroom where he was born is very well preserved, and is like a flashback to what it was like at the turn of the century… the 19th Century, that is. Included are artifacts from his first professional games as a Baltimore Oriole in the minor leagues, and his first games as a Red Sox player. Oh, there is even a score book from his first professional game where he pitched a shutout. There is also a wall with 714 plaques showing all of his home runs, and who they were hit off of.

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    Another feature of this museum is the “500 Home Run Club” honoring many players. Of course, while some consider Ruth to be the “Home Run King,” and even more people consider Hank Aaron to be the statistical leader in home runs, there is still debate as to whether Barry Bonds belongs on that list. Yes, this was discussed by some older gentlemen also visiting the museum, and they overwhelmingly agreed that Aaron and Ruth are the true home run kings… not even giving the nod to “someone who may have taken steroids.” That cloud will always hover over many players in what some historians are already dubbing “The Steroid Era.” I won’t give any personal opinions here or show any bias, but from a baseball perspective, it is sad that we live in this era, and are now quick to judge any player who shows some power and automatically ask the question, “Is he on steroids?” This just makes me appreciate those past days even more.

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    After going around all the other displays during Ruth’s playing days, the highlight for me was the movie about the Star Spangled Banner. Yes, there IS a direct link involving Babe Ruth and the Star Spangled Banner being played before every MLB game (except for those games when the former Expos and current Blue Jays played) and I won’t spoil it for you. But, the production was that good, and I would want to watch it again and again. Also of great significance, this marks the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner, so there was some special meaning to this film being shown right now. Yes, September will mark exactly 200 years that Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that contained those now famous lyrics, and even after visiting the Babe Ruth birthplace, I made it a point to stop at Fort McHenry where that famous battle took place in 1814. Since this is a sports blog, I won’t go into too much detail about Fort McHenry. Plus, if I did go into detail, I would write pages about my experience there.

    With that said, I highly suggest that everyone check out those two museums if you’re in Baltimore, and especially make a stop to Fort McHenry to see where the Star Spangled Banner began. The city is proud of their place in history with regards to that patriotic song, and it clearly shows. As an American citizen, I can greatly appreciate the meaning of the song and still get chills when I hear it. From the drum and fife playing in Baltimore, to the old band playing before a race during Boston Marathon weekend, to hearing a nearly-packed Camden Yards shouting “O!” at a certain part of the song… it still gets to me. Thank you very much for reading, everybody!

-JD

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Post-script: Be sure to also check out my twitter, which is @StimpyJD, and check out the hash-tag #JDsBallparkTour for tweets and pictures from my ballparks travels. Also, follow this blog and keep an eye for updates to this blog as I’m not close to done yet!

JD’s Ballpark Tour, Top of the Seventh Inning (Back to Baltimore)

Part VII: Camden Yards (Revisited)

    Never before has a ballpark had an amazing effect on me. Only a couple times have I gone back to a new ballpark because it was that good. One of those was Fenway Park (after touring it in the Winter), another one of those was Wrigley Field. This is the only ballpark where I have gone back TWO different times in the same trip. A fan was kind enough to give me a free ticket to Friday’s game against the Mariners (even though I thought about getting a $7 student ticket for that game, anyway). This one was definitely worth it.

Ballpark 5 (again): Oriole Park at Camden Yards, elevation 36 feet

The game: Mariners @ Orioles on August 1, 2014

    After spending a day writing, relaxing, and getting some cake from Charm City Cakes, I made my way back to Camden Yards to see a different visiting team. Also, it was ¾ sleeve t-shirt giveaway day… and this one celebrated their 60-year history. While I was tempted to wear that shirt, I was already wearing another free giveaway shirt from earlier in the week. The amount of free stuff I received from Camden Yards was plentiful, and also really appealing. The two shirts I got had a vintage style to them, and the tote bag was a nice addition to that collection. This doesn’t even include the first-timers certificate. To the Orioles organization, you are doing a terrific job. Keep doing what you’re doing, and you will win many fans over, and have several first-time guests come back for a repeat visit at some point. Or in my case, two repeat visits in the same week.

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    This time, I decided to enter via the West side gate on Eutaw Street so I can take a look at the retired number statues on that side of the park. Included here is a statue entitled “Babe’s Dream” depicting a young Babe Ruth as he was born only a few blocks away! However, that is another story, which I will get to later. I also took in batting practice and got to sit down at one of the orange chairs in the center field bleachers. This seat pictured marked the spot where Eddie Murray hit his 500th career home run nearly two decades ago.

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    Since I’ve done ticket prices in a separate post, I won’t go into detail about that. As for the food, I went back to Boog’s BBQ again because the food is that tasty, but Boog was nowhere to be found on this day. As it turned out, he had another appearance he was making that day. The food was still excellent, though.

    Maybe it was the giveaway, or maybe it was the hot streak the Orioles were on. In any case, the fans came out in droves for this game, and they were as loud as I’ve heard all trip long. This was the loudest crowd I had been around since the near no-hitter in San Diego. Many of the fans I sat next to were undoubtedly pumped for the game, and were talking about a deep playoff run. The consensus was that the Baltimore Orioles are a serious dark horse contender for the AL pennant, and I would have to agree with them. Their starting rotation is much better than I thought, their bullpen just got more solidified, and if they stay healthy, their batting order could pack some serious punch. Nearly 40,000 loud fans came out to watch what ended up being a quick game.

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The game: Throughout the first few innings, there was a threat of rain in the forecast. However, those dark clouds were gone by the fourth inning, and the game went on as usual. Austin Jackson made his Mariners debut after the blockbuster three-team trade that also sent David Price to the Detroit Tigers (more on him in an upcoming post). Jackson wasn’t so stellar in his M’s debut only going 0-for-3. Robinson Cano and Kendrys Morales provided the offense for Seattle as they managed only one run in the 4th inning.

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    On the Orioles side, Manny Machado carried the team on his back for this game as he recorded three hits, including an RBI, and scoring the winning run. Wei-Yin Chen pitched a gem by going 7 and 1/3 strong innings on 104 pitches, and allowing only the one run. Andrew Miller then came in for his Orioles debut, and got a rousing ovation as he got out of the 8th inning with the lead still intact. Miller came to Baltimore via a trade from the Boston Red Sox at the deadline. This trade helps solidify the Baltimore bullpen, and also adds someone with postseason experience to the roster (Miller won a World Series in 2013 at Boston). Good on the fans to recognize his debut and come through in an important hold situation.

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    These fans are now seriously thinking about the postseason and who they would want to face in the first round. By an overwhelming margin, these fans want to see the Angels again because they know they can beat Anaheim… er… Los Angeles of Anaheim. Given that Baltimore won series both at Camden Yards and at Angel Stadium, I might have to agree with those fans. In the 9th inning, Zach Britton pitched a perfect inning to notch his 22nd save and give the Orioles a 2-1 win. Again, the fans were as loud as ever, and capped off a great week at Camden Yards.

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    There is a reason I came back here aside from the free ticket. The fans have been electric all week long, and it was thrilling to be around a playoff-chase atmosphere as the Orioles look to win their first division title in seventeen years! Yes, it has been that long for them. Oh, I have to give a special shout out to the ushers on the third base side (specifically lower boxes 62 and 64) for being so kind and knowledgeable about the team and the park. As I’ve said before, this is one of the best places to watch a game. The food is top notch, the staff are excellent, and the ticket prices are quite good if you buy them in advance, and also if you look out for those special deals. I will miss this park, but it’s time to move on to greener pastures! I urge everyone to visit Camden Yards at least once and check out this jewel of a ballpark. Until next time, I will catch you guys on the flip side!

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-JD

JD’s Ballpark Tour, Sixth Inning (Washington, D.C.)

Part VI: Nationals Park

   Two nights in a row at Camden Yards proved to be very memorable. How could that possibly be topped? I would try to answer that with a trip to Washington, D.C. For the day. Since this was a Thursday, I finally had a chance to mail some more post cards, and to get a haircut…. finally! Now I was ready to check out our nation’s capital… for only a short bit. The traffic getting there was abysmal. Apparently, traffic is usually pretty bad there with all the tourists meandering around the historical sites. Since I had really good tickets, and was aware of the awful parking near the park, I decided to forego checking out some of the sites and make my way to the park…

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Ballpark 6: Nationals Park, elevation 6 feet…. or 25 feet depending on who you ask.

The game: Phillies @ Nationals on July 31, 2014.

   Making my way to the park meant having to fight through even more traffic and the slums of DC. When I finally made my way down there, I knew I had to arrive early for a plethora of reasons. One of which was the price of parking. However, I could not find any street parking after about a half-hour of looking around. Finally, I settled on parking not too far from the stadium. How much was this parking?

   Twenty-five dollars?!? This was parking about 5 blocks away near the pier, and was considered a fair price compared to some of the other parking around the stadium. At the Navy Yard, parking ranged from $30-35, and the closest parking to the stadium was $40 and up! I spent less for parking for two games at Camden Yards, and still had money for a hot dog. Of course, I had done some research and was glad to have parking for ONLY $25. Folks, if you’re going to attend a game at Nationals Park, either get a ride there, or carpool and split the cost of parking.

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Bryce Harper taking BP

Bryce Harper taking BP

   Check this out, if you want a better chance at catching a BP ball, go early and wait by the Center Field bleachers gate as they open the earliest. Entering here, you get a chance to check out some of the statues, the huge (but only decently stocked) team store, and some of the booths they have there. After all that, I had a chance to check out the field from the left field seats, and this is a great stadium! The views are good, and the scoreboards are very impressive.

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Ticket prices: Having done the research, I knew how expensive the face value of those tickets are, so the first place I looked to was StubHub, and I was surprised that there were plenty of tickets all around. After waiting a couple days, I finally found one that I thought was a steal. Somehow, I got a single ticket for the Dugout Box (Section 114) for well below face value at just under thirty bucks. Those tickets have a face value of about $90 each, so I felt very lucky to snag that seat. Plus, it beats most of the other seats in that stadium.

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   Again, this is a ballpark that is built more vertically, so the seats behind home plate in the upper deck are much higher than most stadiums. Plus, getting to those top seats can be a bit of a hassle in this park. Because of the great view I had from the dugout box, I thought they were more than worth it.

The food: Since I was a first timer there, I made sure to stop by the fan assistance center, and asked where I could find a particular hat, at first. As it turned out, they didn’t have the hat I was looking for. To be honest, their cap selection at all the team shops were quite disappointing. Anyway, I also received a first-timers certificate and asked where the best food was located. I was directed to the G Sandwich Shop and got a big chicken parm sandwich. Despite the high price (price was $13.00), this sandwich was humongous and not messing around. Great food there, and I give a bonus point for having a restaurant named “Steak of the Union.”

The fans: A crowd of 35,722 came out… and a good amount of them were Phillies phans. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of “Natinals” fans there supporting their home team, but they aren’t as loud as some other places. I joked that most of them are there to be seen, or work in the business district just adjacent to the park. With those high ticket prices, you would be more likely to see fans in the upper class of the Washington, D.C. Metro area. All kidding aside, they cheered when their team scored, and groaned when their Nats either failed to score a run in a key situation, or gave up multiple runs. In other words, your standard crowd. However, I happened to sit next to some very friendly Phillies fans, one of whom (I hope) reads this blog, and wants to do this same trip when he gets older. Maybe at the season’s end, I’ll give a post on how to go about planning something like this.

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The game: The first two innings went very quickly as Cliff Lee and Gio Gonzalez got off to hot starts. However, in the bottom of the third inning, everything came to a halt. After striking out Gio Gonzalez, Cliff Lee was looking fantastic. Then, on the first pitch of the next at-bat (Lee’s 31st pitch of the evening) against Denard Span…. something happened. Right away, Cliff Lee motioned towards the dugout and knew something was wrong and had to leave the game. As he was walking towards the dugout, he was holding his left arm and left many Phillies fans to say, “Oh no… not again.” As it now turns out, Lee is done for the season, but will not require surgery on his elbow. It was a horrible end to his short season, and it’s a shame.

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   Then the Phillies’ bats came alive as they put up a 5-spot in the fourth inning, and batted around. That pretty much took the crowd out of the game. However, the crowd perked up again as the Nationals had their Presidents Race! This is similar to the sausage race in Milwaukee, or the legends race in Arizona. On this particular game, Honest Abe Lincoln was the winner. Score one for the 16th President of the United States! After that, the Phillies scored two more runs in the sixth, and it was practically over. Philadelphia won 10-4 over the Washington Nationals, but the big story was Cliff Lee’s injury.

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   After the game, I was able to talk to the awesome fans next to me and get a few pictures from the field railing. The staff there was courteous and helpful, and asked about my experience there. I told them about my trip, and a couple ushers came down and were interested in my story. I did express that the parking was quite expensive, but that I enjoyed my time there.

   To be honest, Nationals Park is a good place to watch a game. There are plenty of things to do at the park, and the food selection varies greatly. The one major minus that comes with this park is the high prices. The parking and tickets come at a high cost, and even the food was a bit high for my taste. I also have to give a small minus to the lack of selection at the stores. By the way, I found one of the hats I was looking for online… at a decent price! With my birthday coming up in a few weeks, that would be a nice gift! I’ll just put the link down here in case I have a very generous reader!

   The big plus comes in the form of the Presidents race, and the kindness of the staff. They rank among the best in baseball and know the ins and outs of that stadium. Overall, I would come back to this place, but I’d have to find street parking, or bring more than just myself. Also, I would probably eat somewhere else before the game or bring some snacks. Again, I do recommend coming here… just bring some extra cash with you! Believe it or not, my next stop is back to Baltimore for another game. Yep, we’re going back to Camden Yards for another game!

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-JD

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