It’s a well-established fact that most of my family’s vacations include a significant element of professional sports. More specifically, Major League Baseball. Trips in 2012 and 2014 brought me to Dodger Stadium, PETCO Park, Safeco Field, and Nat Bailey Stadium (Vancouver). And two separate college visits to Georgia Tech allowed me to witness three games at Turner Field. This year, we ventured north of the border to Montreal, QC–a city whose professional baseball team departed in 2004.
Of course, I’m forever grateful that the Washington Nationals now exist, but the ghost of French Canadian baseball cast a slight shadow of disappointment over my enjoyment of our trip. Needless to say, we had a lovely time traversing and tasting the diverse city during its annual brief period of warmth.
We biked toured through some up-and-coming neighborhoods and picnic-ed in a luscious park. Lays manufactures a “Ketchup” flavor of potato chips that are quite popular in Quebec (apparently) so Joe and I snacked on some of those before taking in half an inning of a Little League-aged baseball game in the park. Yes, of course we found some level of baseball in Montreal.
One of the highlights was visiting Olympic Park, site of the 1976 Summer Olympic Games–the only Summer Olympics ever held in Canada. The Montreal Expos occupied Olympic Park while they still existed, and I did get to go inside as part of a tour of some of the facilities. It’s rather decrepit, and if a professional baseball team were ever to exist again in Montreal, they would almost certainly have to find a new facility.
Our bike tour guide, Jeff, a jovial, hipstery socialite, said the baseball fans of the city are holding out for the Tampa Bay Rays to relocate to Montreal. The Rays play in a dismal Tropicana Field and have long been seeking out a new facility. But as always, politics find their way into the game when it comes to the funding of such a place. And who knows how long the franchise will put up with their dark dome?
I soon made up for the lack of Major League Baseball on our Montreal trip when I visited Pittsburgh for the first time in my life and, naturally, PNC Park. Shout out to Elise for putting up with me traversing through the whole park just to see what’s what.
PNC Park, since its christening in 2001, has been regarded as one of the best venues in the game. Its impeccable backdrop and overall sleek aesthetics are the best attributes. Honestly, if you had to choose one of those fake city backdrops for a TV interview, Pittsburgh’s would pretty much be the view PNC Park gives its fans.
We saw the Pirates defeat the Padres on August 9 to the tune of rambunctions fans raising and waving their Jolly Rogers and one mammoth home run by Gregory Polanco.
Exactly a week later I had flown home to Virginia and driven myself, en route to college, to northern Kentucky where I met up with my friend Caroline and went to see the Marlins play at Great American Ball Park. Shout out to her for harboring me for a few hours and being the only Cincinnatian (*achem* Paul) available to see a game with me. It was also the first time I ever stepped foot in the state of Kentucky. Fun fact, I have now visited every state that borders Virginia.
We sat behind Miami’s dugout amidst the Sea of Japan who had come to witness Ichiro play in his waning years. It rained on and off throughout the game, but not enough to cause a delay or spoil our enjoyment. The Marlins lost, and dropped three of four in total in Cincinnati.
And finally this past Friday Elise and I traversed back to Pittsburgh to watch the Marlins play at PNC Park. She physically stopped me from clapping nearly every inning and claimed it was for my own personal safety, but I was confident that I would not be assaulted by our surrounding game-goers. Miami pulled off a fun come-from-behind win thanks to some stellar play by Christian Yelich and Miguel Rojas’ first home run of the year.
After this last trip, I have seen the Marlins play in seven different MLB stadiums (Oriole Park, RFK Stadium, Nationals Park, Turner Field, Marlins Park, Great American Ball Park, and PNC Park). Add two more if you want to count Spring Training.
What’s next? I may be done witnessing professional baseball this season, but I will be in Virginia for game one of the NLDS October 7…just sayin’.
Cooperstown, NY is a necessary pilgrimage in the life of a baseball fan, or so I am led to believe, so I was naturally buzzing about my recent opportunity to see the Baseball Hall of Fame on returning from a family vacation to Montreal.
I was warned beforehand that Cooperstown was in the middle of nowhere, but that phrase is as overused as “be careful, your plate is really hot,” by waiters carrying mildly warm plates. As it turns out, Cooperstown is indeed in the middle of nowhere and the French Canadians actually serve scorching platters.
I wasn’t prepared to travel over a river, through some woods, between barns in Amish country, and around bends on a mountainside to be spat out on a main street belonging in the early 20th century. The whole thing felt as though I fell through a rabbit hole into a utopian town that has frozen baseball in time—from the 1800s to the present day.
I could sit here and write all about the awesome history of the game and the storied artifacts of the most important moments in baseball history, but if you really cared about that you would have already experienced it for yourself in Cooperstown.
Instead, I present to you every last artifact of the Florida/Miami Marlins that I could find.
The longtime Mets and Dodgers catcher was a member of the Florida Marlins for approximately nine days in the 1998 season. He is, by my rudimentary count, just the second player in the Hall of Fame to ever play for the Marlins. Andre Dawson is the other, and he played two whole seasons in Florida!
Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. are the newest members of the Hall, so they have much appreciation currently. The only Marlins Piazza memorabilia I could find were baseball cards— one in the main Piazza case and dozens more upstairs. Apparently, over 120 different baseball card designs of Piazza as a Marlin were produced in his week with the team.
Dave Van Horne
The winner of the 2011 Ford C. Frick Award is honored in the “Scribes and Mikemen” exhibit on the first floor of the museum. Van Horne, as it turns out, started professional baseball broadcasting with the Richmond Braves in Virginia. He took the radio mic with the Marlins in 2001 and has been on the air in South Florida ever since.
I was more intrigued by the clubhouse room than any other. Each team has a locker dedicated to artifacts from the last decade or so. Inside the Marlins’ is a number 27 jersey that surprisingly does not belong to Mike/Giancarlo Stanton. It was Jeremy Hermida’s when he hit a grand slam in his first career at-bat.
Also encased are cleats from both Henderson Alvarez and Stanton during Alvarez’s closing day no-hitter in 2013. There are two hats–one Florida and one Miami–that were worn by the Marlins starting pitchers in the final game at Sun Life Stadium and the first game at Marlins Park. Chris Volstad and Josh Johnson, respectively, started those games.
And sitting on the bottom of the locker are four bats–one each belonging to Mike Jacobs, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, and Jorge Cantu. Those players comprised the starting infield of the 2008 Florida Marlins, who were the first ever infield to have each member hit 25 or more home runs in a single season. They would have all finished with 30 or more had Cantu knocked just one more dinger that season.
One of my favorite players of all-time is honored in the Viva Baseball! exhibit, celebrating the Latin American stars of the game. The Marlins jersey was worn by Hernandez during the 1997 World Series, of which Livo won the Most Valuable Player award.
The last ever flapless batting helmet was retired in 2002 when Tim Raines played the final game of his career for the Marlins. Raines was grandfathered in after a 1983 rule required batting helmets to be equipped with ear flaps.
The Inaugural Year
A pennant commemorating the inaugural year of the Florida Marlins franchise sits next to a Colorado Rockies counterpart.
Christian Yelich at Fort Bragg
Perhaps the newest piece of memorabilia on display anywhere in the museum is the cap worn by Christian Yelich during Miami’s July 3 game at Fort Bragg, NC–the first ever MLB game played on an active military base.
The World Series
Signs from the 1997 World Series between the Marlins and Indians both cheer and jeer the Fish. In addition, rings and pins from both Florida World Series victories (1997 and 2003) are displayed.
Finally, the cleats worn by Craig Counsell as he scored the winning run in game seven of the 1997 Fall Classic remember that the chicken does indeed run at midnight.
Starting in center field Sunday for Miami, Ichiro was the focal point of attention sitting on 2,999 career hits in Major League Baseball. And with a seventh-inning triple off the right field wall, Ichiro became the 30th member of the 3,000 hit club.
The longtime Seattle Mariner and brief New York Yankee has collected well over 4,000 hits in his professional career between MLB and Japan But for Major League records only his American hits count.
Ichiro debuted in 2001 at 27 years, 162 days old. The average age of the other 29 members of the 3,000 hit club is 20 years, 215 days.
Ichiro is just the second player ever to triple for his 3,000th hit–the other is Paul Molitor. He is also just the 4th player born outside the United States to attain 3,000 hits, and the first from Japan. Roberto Clemente, Rod Carew, and Rafael Palmeiro are the other three.
At 42 years old, Ichiro has not hinted at retirement and shows no signs of slowing down. So here’s to 4,000!
The Miami Marlins unveiled the logo to be used for the 2017 All-Star Game prior to Wednesday’s matinee matchup against the Philadelphia Phillies. 2017’s MLB All-Star Game will take place in Miami on Tuesday, July 11.
This logo differs a little bit from All-Star logos of recent years since it doesn’t resemble a seal or shield. Instead, a star sporting Miami’s colors frames the words “2017 Miami All-Star Game.” And the leaping Marlin seen on Miami’s caps tops off the nifty logo.
It’s simple, and I’m a big fan of it.
I’ve actually been unable to watch any of the All-Star Games since 2013 due to a variety of reasons. But I’m going to ensure that I have next year’s game blocked off on my calendar well in advance. And if Giancarlo Stanton’s performance at the 2016 Home Run Derby is any precursor, I will make sure to have the night of July 10 free as well.
Hidden underneath a heap of fake fur, pounds of plastic, and presumably a whole waterfall of sweat stands a person above the law—a character only a miser would despise and everyone else must adore, or at least accept, as the jovial personification of the home team. I’m talking about mascots…cute from afar, creepy when close.
I attended my first big time sporting events as a young child, and was originally excited by the concept of lively team nicknames perusing the stands to celebrate with fans. But then at a University of Virginia football game, I witnessed my little brother break down at the sight of Buzz, the mascot of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. And I couldn’t blame him. Buzz is a perfect example of the inherently conflicted nature of sports mascots. On the one hand, he’s supposed to be a lovable, colorful animal and take pictures with families. But on the other, he represents the ferocity of an animal chosen specifically for its lethal fighting qualities as a moniker for a group of 11 large men poised to hit 11 other large men.
As an eight year old, I attended a football festival prior to the NFL’s Pro Bowl. As a proud St. Louis Rams supporter, I donned my Marshall Faulk jersey and was excited at the day’s possibilities. Yet, nearly every time I approached a beckoning NFL mascot I was met with the same cold, sometimes physical, rejection of my fandom. It’s the PRO BOWL! Back then, the NFL season was already over by the time the Pro Bowl was played. At that point, there’s no excuse for animosity towards an eight year old football fan—not as though there ever is. After my head was bitten by a Bengal and my neck choked by a Buccaneer’s bicep, I found solace in the Buffalo Bill’s mascot. First, he was the closest thing to a Ram I could find, and he also welcomed me with the Aloha attitude I was expecting from everyone else.
Even as an eight year old kid, what could I do? I couldn’t punch a Patriot or kick a Colt, then I would look like the sour aggressor. If you’re in a cute and colorful costume, aggression is just part of the game, but retaliation by a non-costumed kid would likely be a misdemeanor.
When I was nine, I went to the Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yards to see my Florida Marlins in interleague action. Before 2013, interleague play in baseball was a once-a-summer ordeal that pitted teams in opposite leagues against each other just once every three years…translation: the Marlins and Orioles are farther from rivals than anyone. A cheap Marlins hat was my only team regalia as I stood along the railing next to Florida’s dugout in an effort to be close to the players before the game.
Baltimore’s Bird came over to rile up the O’s fans in the section. He spotted my Marlins hat and pointed at me in an effort to conjure up boos and heckles from the nearby Orioles fans. I was NINE! He then, without asking, removed the cap from my head and used it to wipe certain crevices of his bird body. Now, I understand that the inanimate mascot suit does not sweat and defecate like an actual living creature, but I would still prefer my headwear not to be defiled in such a way.
Five years later, I was walking up Half Street outside Nationals Park with my family. The Marlins were in town for one of their three series each year, which makes this aggression slightly more understandable but no less egregious. Teddy Roosevelt, the most beloved of Washington’s racing presidents, approached to high five the other three members of my family who were wearing Nationals garb. He then denied me a high five before taking the beautiful teal cap off my head and flinging it frisbee-style down the road. It was a damp day and the hat landed a good ways away from us. Luckily, it didn’t get too dirty, otherwise it would have been veritable property destruction. I take my head fashion very seriously—though not as seriously as those ignorant twits that are adamant a sizing sticker must be left on the bill of a cap in order to make it fashionable, but I digress.
People have had it far worse than me and my brother, though. The Vanderbilt Commodore punched a student’s nose as he was crowd surfing. And the Kansas City Royals’ mascot once launched a hot dog into a man’s eye, damaging his retina.
And corporate mascots? Even worse!
At a Chick-fil-A one day, what must have been a mascot-in-training repeatedly came to stand at the end of my table, just staring at me and my brother while we ate. He or she couldn’t talk, and didn’t really attempt to interact. They just stood there, and it was an unbelievably uncomfortable situation.
I’m fairly certain that the sole purpose of a mascots is to make introverts feel uncomfortable and unnecessarily raise the blood pressure of random people as they hide behind their mask of anonymity and the unwavering shell of silence. And as soon as that silence is broken, I believe the person should lose their mascot privileges.
Just a few weeks ago, I went to pick up a free pizza from a newly-opened restaurant here in Fredericksburg. While in line, I was approached by a teenager wearing a flimsy pizza slice suit. He high-fived the other customers, but I guess my hand wasn’t going to cut it for him. With both of his hands, covered in Mickey Mouse-style mitts, he started pawing for my face. And then he SAID “I want to touch your face!” If someone outside of a suit says that, police involvement is permitted. Instead, the other customers laughed as I swatted his hands away. The same thing happened again when I was further up in line. And then as I walked out of the restaurant, he spotted me and pawed for my face one last time as I ducked out of his way and scampered through the door.
This guy was by far the worst mascot I’ve encountered, simply for breaking the ONE rule of mascots (staying silent) if for nothing else.
Tommy LaSorda, I wish I had your gusto:
It was hardly a traditional Beanstalk Baseball game, and the sky wept due to Paul’s new life in Cincinnati. But Ben, Jack, and I made a Monday excursion to D.C. to witness the Nationals get clobbered by the Mets.
Apparently Ben’s work schedule at George Mason takes precedence over getting together with his friends—something I really don’t understand since his girlfriend pretty much supports his whole livelihood—so at this juncture our only opportunity for a Nats game hangout was Max Scherzer’s bobble head night. It was an event I knew would be crowded, and resulted in us having to settle for tickets in the 400 level. But with rain in the forecast during this gloomy May, I figured BP was questionable anyway, so the crowd volume (with respect to the rain) wouldn’t end up dampening our trip all that much.
Per usual, Jack and I met Ben at the Springfield metro station. And much to Jack’s chagrin, it was not Ben’s girlfriend who dropped him off. Jack spent the rest of the day moping about that, and the fact that we had to get to D.C. at the “break of dawn” (aka 3:30 p.m.), and tried to convince Ben’s better half to pick him up at the end of the evening because apparently she’s an important part of his social life.
We rode the metro up to the Archives station because there’s a burger joint there of which Ben approved. He takes his food very seriously, so I entrusted him with the task of finding the best culinary delights to satisfy our mid-afternoon desires. The place is called “Plan B,” and I warned him that the Catholic Church is against such a thing, but he insisted that these hamburgers were far from sinful—apart from the moral code of my wallet, as I later learned.
After some strangely, nonchalantly slow service, as well as witnessing the tourists outside get poured upon, we finished up around 4:15. I figured BP’s likelihood of existence was minimal, but at the same time I knew we’d still need to get the park decently early to ensure our bobble head acquisitions.
With a bit of time to kill, we wandered over to the Archives because Ben insisted that the incredibly dim light in the rotunda was a spectacle to behold. If you’ve never been, the lighting in the main rotunda of the Archives is far duller than what you’ve seen in National Treasure to protect the quality of the documents (also, you can’t just waltz up the main steps into the building the way Nicholas Cage did).
We wandered over to the metro station and hopped on the green line for a hot few stops before we found ourselves on Half Street at about 5:10. With the bobble heads secure and BP sufficiently rained out, we took a jaunt around the Park and settled down under the cover in section 111 as an overwhelmed and clueless young usher tried to continently come to grips with the hordes of fans huddled in the concourse as the atmosphere again bawled over Paul’s absence.
The game was rain delayed until 8:10 p.m., and a relentless chill settled over the ballpark. Ben and Jack both had long sleeves, but I had packed light because my trip to Nats Park 10 days prior hadn’t required a sweatshirt. So as my Floridian genes commenced an allergic reaction and sprouted raised follicles named for waterfowl, Ben and Jack may have been legitimately concerned for my health, so I assured them that despite my apparent discomfort nothing was in fact wrong with me.
As the game began, we ascended towards our actual ticketed seats (preposterous, I know!) only to find that they were positioned directly under the end of the upper deck’s roof. That’s no problem because the rain was over, right? Well, all the water from the storm had dripped off the roof and pooled on the ground in our row. So we had to hold our bags on our laps and watch like peasants from the rafters.
A half inning of discomfort later, we descended back down to the field level to go eat at the Red Porch. Ever since last August when Ben and Jack somehow attained the Holy Grail at the Red Porch—a waiter that was either high on life or drugs (or both), who undercharged them—Ben has wanted to return to find out if he could attain the same fortune.
Since it was only the second inning, the escalators were still going up, so we had to take the system of ramps down. These ramps are a torture device for drunk people, according to Ben.
“I am sure if you tried to roll something down the ramp it would be as if it were on a level-plane,” Ben eloquently said later. These ramps were also our “escape route” in case of emergency, leading me to believe the Nationals’ administration cares so little about the well-being of the upper deck riff-raff since they’ve given us the slowest possible way to exit the stadium.
Luck would not be on our side as our waitress was fully sober. She informed me that hot chocolate was the only soft beverage without free refills, and I knew at that point we had lost Ben’s luck from the year prior. They stopped serving food after the fifth inning or so, which meant that we were allowed to stay in the Red Porch as long as we wanted (normally, there is a one-hour time limit).
As for the game, I made a classic Steve move and missed a three-run homer by David Wright while I was in the latrine. I was back at the Red Porch, though, for when Yoenis Cespedes launched a homer to the right-center field seats. Neil Walker then went back-to-back with a homer to left field. Gio Gonzalez saw his ERA increase by an entire point, and the Nationals’ offense couldn’t scratch a run across after the first inning. The Mets won 7-1 in a game that lasted just over two and a half hours after it finally started.
A complete lackage of lefty relievers and a trio of home runs from the Nationals sunk the Marlins in game one of the four-game weekend series at Nationals Park. While it was tough to see the Marlins go down in such a way, I had a great evening for my first game of 2016 in D.C.
Joe pointed this out later on, but the amount of dropped toss-ups was absolutely bewildering. Two of the balls I picked up Friday were just mishandled by other people, so I gave them back.
I ended up giving away two more that were home runs I didn’t catch. The second of which, from Ryan Zimmerman, was an absolute tater that ended up back in the Red Porch restaurant. I wasn’t thinking on my toes when a little twerp came up and expected me to give it to him. I did because I’m a lightweight pushover. But I shouldn’t have respected his ingratitude and either kept it for myself or given it to someone else.
I did successfully catch three home runs during Marlins BP, though, so that’s what made this whole thing worthwhile. The first was from Adeiny Hechavarria, I believe. It was a simply fly ball near the center field end that made me lean over a row.
I had never caught a Giancarlo Stanton homer on the fly before, so I was really antsy to get one. Unfortunately, BP for him is not just a dinger derby. He methodically works to the opposite field before he unleashes the beast, significantly reducing the number of home runs he actually hits from the number he potentially could.
Nevertheless, he hit a blistering line drive that may have been the fastest ball I’ve ever seen hit, I wouldn’t know. Before I could really even get my bearings it smacked a seat across the aisle from me and plopped down. I picked that one up, but I was a tad salty since I could have caught it had I been more on my toes. Luckily, he came through again with a high drive to the center field end. I scampered across a row and a half to make a drifting catch. I figured as a Marlins fan it’s more or less a rite of passage to catch a Stanton dinger. Now six years into his career I was glad I had finally done just that.
He hit another homer during BP that ended up a good three rows back into the restaurant—probably a 450-footer. So the next time he got up, I figured I’d play back. The steps up to the restaurant are much too steep to conquer while tracking a home run, so if one lands up there, it’s probably going uncaught by anyone down below. So I played in the aisle behind the first set of tables and much to my delight, he launched one to that exact latitude. It was a majestic behemoth that smacked right in my pocket.
I feel very unathletic while tracking and catching home runs during BP. For one thing, I bruise my thighs while running through the seats just because I inadvertently hit so many of them. Also, since you can’t exactly circle around a ball and catch it while moving forward, I end up just drifting and more often than not leaning while I catch it. It ends up being a sprawling activity that puts the former outfielder inside of me to shame.
So I think I “snagged” eight balls during BP. All I can really tell you for sure is that I caught three, and kept one other that I picked up.
Joe cleaned up as well, since he’s still at an acceptable toss-up age. He ended up with four as far as I know.
And we met this kid and his father who had half-season tickets at the Red Porch. This kid, lemme tell ya, was a master at the art of being a child at a baseball game. He must have snagged a dozen—all toss ups I think—from pretty much every player who ended up catching a ball in center field throughout the course of BP’s two hours. We also saw him get a warm-up ball from Ben Revere during the game. It was ludicrous. A smart kid who is young and cute enough could probably make Zack Hample look like an amateur.
As for the game itself, we sat in the left field corner, section 108. Nothing really came our way during the game.
I was delighted to see the Nationals were wearing their navy blue stars and stripes jerseys–the first time I’d seen them in person.
After a brisk first four innings, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez ran into some trouble in the fifth when two Daniel Murphy errors allowed the Marlins to score two runs.
In the top of the sixth, three straight singles loaded the bases for the Marlins with no outs. Here come some runs! Except not.
Manager Dusty Baker removed Gonzalez from the game and inserted Yusmeiro Petit, traditionally a long or middle reliever. Petit struck out Adeiny Hechavarria and was then replaced by lefty Oliver Perez. This was the first of Baker’s impeccable managerial decisions.
In the bottom of the sixth, Marlins starter Tom Koehler exited the game with two outs after surrendering a single to Jose Lobaton. The Nationals were still scoreless at the time. But Stephen Drew pinch hit for Perez and lifted a two-run homer to right field off reliever Bryan Morris, tying the game.
Blake Treinen entered the game to pitch for Washington and kept the Marlins scoreless in the seventh.
After a walk to Anthony Rendon in the bottom of the inning, Bryce Harper launched a two-run shot to right field. I was texting Paul during the game and he mentioned that he doesn’t think he’d seen a Harper homer in person. And I don’t know if I had either until Friday.
Giancarlo Stanton just missed a solo home run leading off the eighth, but settled for a double off the right field wall. He later scored on a ground out by Chris Johnson.
Baker got another pinch hit home run from Chris Heisey in the bottom of the eighth, the fifth and final run for the Nationals.
Jonathan Paplebon sealed the deal with his tenth save of the season, and the Nats took home the curly W.
Miami tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory Monday night, but the Brewers were having none of it. In a game where things went stereotypically wrong for the Fish, Jose Fernandez saved the team by pitching seven scoreless innings to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers at Marlins Park.
The ridiculousness started in the second inning when J.T. Realmuto blasted a home run onto the sculpture with Marcell Ozuna at first. 2-0 Marlins, right? Wrong. As center fielder Kirk Nieuwenheuis drew back on the fly ball, Ozuna thought it was in his best interest to tag at first base and reach second in case of it being caught. But Realmuto, watching his drive, touched first and rounded, stopping in his tracks when he saw Ozuna. The brief overlap of the runners was immediately recognized by Milwaukee’s bench. Upon review, Realmuto was called out for surpassing Ozuna on the bases. Ozuna’s run counted and Realmuto was rewarded with an RBI single…a 410-foot one at that.
I can see where Ozuna was coming from on that play, and I guess technically Realmuto should have paid more attention to the runner. But on a fly ball that deep, unless Nieuwenheuis has a play in front of the wall, Ozuna should be rounding second. For him, it’s more important that he score in the likely event that the ball hits off the wall and stays in the park than advance to second in the unlikely event Nieuwenheuis makes a leaping catch.
Ozuna’s trouble for the night wasn’t over. With the Fish leading 1-0 in the sixth, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun hit a lined shot out to him in center field. Ozuna got spun around and completely whiffed as the ball momentarily nestled in his glove, but then popped down to the grass. Braun ended up with a two-out double. Fernandez induced the next batter to fly out, ending the threat and keeping the Marlins on top.
As clumsy as the Marlins are, the Brewers are the Brewers and trump the Marlins in that category. They surrendered a Little League home run to Derek Dietrich in the seventh inning. Dietrich lined a ball down the right field line and scampered towards third for a triple. The relay from the outfield hit him as he approached the base and bounded away, allowing Miami’s second baseman to score.
In one final attempt to allow the Brewers to win the game, closer A.J. Ramos entered to pitch with a 4-0 lead in the ninth. He walked the first two batters. After a coaching visit to the mound, Ramos struck out the next two. All is well. Except he walked the next one. After five batters, no one had put a ball in play and the Brewers had the tying run at the plate.
Manager Don Mattingly summoned Bryan Morris from the bullpen and presumably told him to throw any sort of strike that didn’t surrender a home run. He failed on the first batter and walked in a run. Suddenly, Milwaukee had the go-ahead run at the plate in an inning they began down 4-0 and had not hit a fair ball. Luckily for Miami fans, the final Brewer batter, Jonathan Villar, solidified Milwaukee’s supremacy as the team least willing to win. He struck out and the Marlins escaped an inning that they themselves made thrilling by failing to throw strikes.
After a game like that, it’s a wonder that this team won 11 of 12 over the last two weeks. Thankfully, strong pitching performances, like Fernandez’s Monday night, have kept the Marlins successfully piling up wins.
Also, if Derek Dietrich continues performing at a high level–the infielder is hitting .333 with 13 RBI in 26 games–Dee Gordon’s suspension can be overcome.
This is a good team with talented players around Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton. Last year–and certainly two years ago–the Marlins would not have won this game. The bullpen would have failed sooner, or the errors would have haunted more, or the team wouldn’t have scored a run after having one taken off the board.
But now in 2016, this team plays nine full innings, and they’ve won some competitive games. Holding their own in the NL East, this isn’t the same Miami Marlins team in perpetual rebuild mode. It’s their time to play ball.
It was the second annual (hopefully it’s annual) installment of me asking my friend Emily to ask her mom for her company’s fancy-schmancy Reds tickets…and me tagging along with an assortment of other friends for an evening full of food baseball, and (two-for-two so far) a Reds win. Luckily, one of the assorted friends this time was Paul, who conveniently attends college at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
Saturday pitted the Reds against the Cubs for the sixth time in 2016. The Redlegs were a goose egg for the first five. In fact, they had been no-hit two nights prior by Jake Arrieta. It was also Joey Votto bobblehead night at Great American Ball Park. If you add all those things up, you get long lines, lots of kids, and way too many Votto and Kris Bryant shirseys for my eyes to count.
It was a shame for everybody involved that the Cubs didn’t take batting practice at all. As we walked into the stadium, the batting shell was being rolled away, and some Chicago players were out throwing in left field. But there was no hitting to be had. So naturally we ascended to the posh club level perch, complete with a smorgasbord (which I really think should be spelled “schmorgizboard” for the fun and Scrabble-value of it) of ballpark and non-traditional ballpark cuisine. I had an approximately eight course meal before first pitch.
I actually had to schlep down and out of the stadium to give Paul his ticket when he arrived, which was an adventure of its own. The Reds conveniently have a re-entry gate, but as I learned from a pair of far-gone, alcoholically-inebriated Cubs fans on my way back in, people entering the stadium for the first time cannot use the same gate as those re-entering.
While I’m on the subject of drunk people: MLB instituted cheap little metal detectors at each stadium last year that fans must pass through upon entering. The security process is this: hand off a bag (if you have one) to the yellow-shirted guy, and put your keys and cell phone in a little container. The bag is inspected and your items are passed around the metal detector while you walk through. And that’s it. Hardly TSA. Well, there was this one rather indulgent fan who in his state of mind treated the line as though he were hitching a flight on Jet Blue (Moon), and took his shoes and belt off in line. The security guard informed him there was no need of that and he seemed absolutely baffled by the fact that he could be passed off as safe without being forced to strip his accessories. Anyway, after he re-clothed, he took a selfie with a statue of the Reds’ mascot and went on his way.
Our seats were in the first row of section 303, the second deck right above first base. I think it’s slightly higher than the Stars & Stripes Club is at Nationals Park, but it’s still definitely within foul ball range, as we learned in the later innings. I mentioned to Paul though that given our limited lateral mobility (we were stuck in the middle of the row), our foul ball snagging chances would be at a minimum.
In the top of the second, Addison Russell jacked a solo home run into the second deck in left field, temporarily putting the Cubs up 1-0. In the bottom of the fourth, Brandon Phillips knocked in a run to put the Reds up 2-1 with a double-almost-triple to the wall in left-center. He was thrown out at third base by a hair.
Chicago re-took the lead in the fifth by putting up two runs, but the Reds’ bats went on a rampage in the bottom of the sixth. Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall both hit three-run homers. Duvall’s was followed up by a Scott Schebler dinger, and the Reds had seven runs in the inning. Also, Tyler Holt pinch hit in the inning, and actually came around to bat a second time before three outs were recorded. So I guess that’s technically two pinch hit appearances in one inning/game. He singled on his first one.
The Reds weren’t done as they tacked on two more runs in both the seventh and eighth innings. Superhero bobblehead man Joey Votto (Vottomatic) homered in the bottom of the seventh–a two run shot to right field. It was Cincinnati’s fourth homer of the day and the fifth altogether between the two teams. Miraculously, it was the only one I missed–an 80% success rate. Hear that, dad? I was getting food at the time and happened to catch it on the television screens inside, but didn’t see it in person. Still though, four out of five. That’s…something.
As for the foul balls: I wasn’t wearing my glove because none came to our section last year when I was there and none appeared during the first several innings this go-around. But in the seventh, a righty popped one up right towards us. I yelled at Paul because he was on his phone, and we both stood up. But the ball descended two rows back and was pretty much uncatchable without me stepping over the people sitting behind us.
The row behind us was empty, and Paul was sitting to my left. To my right were my friends Heather and Emily, neither of which are experienced in the foul ball catching department. Paul was on his phone AGAIN as a right-handed batter hit one straight to us. I stood up and tried to shift to my right, in line with the ball, but Heather’s femurs were impeding my path. Kids: this is why you don’t want to make friends. She was yelling at me like she wanted me to catch it, which she did (and I did, too…duh), but we both froze up and didn’t move. I could have/should have stepped over my seat to move to the empty row behind us, but I didn’t think fast enough and the ball landed on some deserted concrete and bounced away to a fan sitting in our row to the right. It was a bummer, but I’m sure there will be more opportunities in the future.
The Reds won 13-5. The 18 combined runs were the most I had ever seen in a game in person. Defeating the 16 I saw at Nationals Park in September 2012.
Heather and Emily wanted to get a picture with me after the game, and it didn’t quite work out because whenever Paul pressed the shutter, my face didn’t cooperate. So naturally we ended up with a bunch of gems like these:
So that happened.
Overall, it was a really fun time and I highly recommend the all-you-can-eat seats at Great American Ball Park should you be so fortunate enough to have a friend with connections.
Next stop on my baseball adventures: home. And Nationals Park in May. Peace out.