On May 22, I finally made it to my first live baseball game of the season. Wait, let me be more specific: my first live baseball game that was not played by 11 and 12-year-olds.
Hard to believe that just less than three weeks ago, we actually had to wear sweatshirts to a Sunday afternoon Reading Phillies game, and even with the extra layer were still a bit chilly. Today, I’m hiding out in my air-conditioned house until I absolutely have to venture outside.
Anyway, back to the R-Phils, who were hosting the Richmond Flying Squirrels. 🙂 Gotta love that team name. J.C. Ramirez, who was acquired from Seattle as part of the Cliff Lee deal, was on the mound for the R-Phils. Ramirez gave up two runs in the second, but then settled down for the next five innings.
Taking the hill for the opposition was Clayton Tanner, who hails from the Land Down Under. Tanner, looking for his first win of the season, was perfect through six innings (by this point, I was actually kind of rooting against the home team, as it would have been really cool to see a perfect game). With two outs in the seventh, the R-Phils broke through with a single from Matt Rizzotti, followed by a two-run homer from Cody Overbeck to tie things up.
The score unknotted itself in the top of the very next inning, on a solo home run by Richmond outfielder Justin Christian. Richmond would hold on for the 3-2 victory.
Random game photos
R-Phils starter J.C. Ramirez delivers.
Shortstop Freddy Galvis attempts to field a grounder, but unfortunately he will not make the play.
Upon closer inspection of the previous photo, it can be seen that Phillippe Aumont was apparently feeling contrasty that day, and decided to wear blue shoelaces with his red cleats.
The throw to first baseman Matt Rizzotti is not in time to pick off the runner.
Only in the minors – “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” is sung by the Singing Usher, who is wheeled around the warning track by a giant carrot.
Speaking of food, my daughter must have had food on her mind that day, as she thought they were saying “taco” when they announced Paco Figueroa, and mis-heard Rizzotti as “wasabi”. 🙂
As for the major-league Phils, just a few more days until I finally get to a game. Yay! The fam and I will be at Saturday’s game against the Cubs. The forecast at the moment looks a little iffy – keep your fingers crossed for me!
[all photos by me]
I want one too.
I’ll ignore the blatant typo (“choocing”? doesn’t anyone proofread before they send this stuff out en masse to untold numbers of email subscribers?). I’ll also ignore the fact that the artist’s rendering doesn’t really look like an owl – maybe more like a feathered werewolf-Ruiz.
Speaking of feathers, here is how it is described in the email I received earlier today:
Ruiz, who has become a staple in the Phillies lineup, and one of the most popular players over the years, will look like an owl and will “Chooch” at the push of a button. The “Chooching Owl” will feature the face of Carlos Ruiz on an owl, complete with feathers, and the number 51 on its back. Normally, owls “Hoot”, but perhaps the best part of the giveaway is the fact that the “Chooching Owl” will say the word “Chooch” – Ruiz’s familiar nickname.
It’s goofy. It’s quirky. It’s kind of strange-looking. I must have it!
Note that this giveaway is not until August 2, and here they are, over 4 months in advance, already enticing us to buy tickets.
The Reading Phillies (or as they like to refer to themselves, the R-Phils) tempted me like this last year, with the Ryan Howard Garden Gnome. You may recall that my gnome-quest turned into a bit of a fiasco (for me, not the R-Phils).
[If you don’t feel like clicking on the link to read about that particular experience, suffice it to say that my family left gnomeless that night.]
Will the Chooching Owl be this year’s version of the Ryan Howard Garden Gnome? Check back in August, and I’ll let you know how we fared.
I was very negligent in my blogging this summer. Sure, I was busy with a lot of non-baseball things, but I’m sure the rest of you were, too. So I don’t really have a good explanation. Nonetheless, I’ll try to post a few recaps of what I’ve been up to, in no particular chronological order.
Earlier this month, my children talked us into going to the August 3rd Reading Phillies game in an attempt to get the most highly anticipated giveaway of the summer – the Ryan Howard Garden Gnome.
Note that the gnome is for the first 2,500 adults. So even though my children wouldn’t be receiving gnomes, (hypothetically) Mom and Dad would each get one. A close look at the game listing reveals several issues that would end up conspiring against this plan.
1. The change in time of the game and gate openings. Normally, a weeknight game would start an hour later, with gate openings an hour later than listed here. Since my husband has an actual job, we were limited in how early we could get to the ballpark.
2. Unknown numbers of senior citizens would be entering the stadium at 4 pm for a pre-game Q&A, presumably receiving gnomes in the process.
3. Happy Hour and a pre-game concert were going on in the Classic Cafe, which opens an hour before the main gate.
Due to my husband’s aforementioned job, the best we could do was to arrive shortly before the main gate opened at 5 pm. Considering my previous experience with the Webkinz giveaway, I figured this should be fine.
The Webkinz hadn’t been hyped out the wazoo by ESPN and MiLB.com.
We arrived about 10 minutes before 5, only to be greeted by a line that stretched from the main gate behind home plate, all the way down the street and past the left field corner. This did not look good for our gnome chances.
While my husband and kids kept our spot in line, I strolled up toward the gate to check on the status of things, and to see if by chance there was a different line for those with e-tickets (which we had), rather than physical tickets (which it seemed like most other people had). At this time I learned from one of the stadium personnel that all the gnomes were already gone!!
How was this possible? Look back at numbers 2 and 3 above. I doubt there were 2,500 senior citizens inside, but there were apparently a lot of people who came early to drink and get gnomes, and then left before the game even started! We started to notice numerous gnome-carrying people heading back to their cars.
As we shuffled forward toward the gate, which had now opened, I spotted two slow-moving women walking towards their car, carrying gnomes. For the briefest of moments, I fantasized about knocking them down and running away with the gnomes, but there were way too many potential witnesses waiting in line with us.
Gnomeless, we went inside, got something to eat, and waited for the first game to start. Due to the fact that it was only a seven-inning game, between-inning events occurred earlier than they normally would.
The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor ran out after the first inning, and suffered a slight malfunction during his routine, leading to a stray dog incident.
My son and I were watching throughout the game to see if anyone would step on it before it was picked up. This Trenton Thunder batter came closest of anyone during the first game, but the dog made it through seven innings unscathed.
R-Phils first baseman Matt Rizzotti seems to be impersonating Sandy Cheeks, or for the older generation, Rocky the Squirrel.
Not to be picking on Matt, but later in the game he looked like he took a wrong-way swing, though he was just getting out of the way of an inside pitch.
The R-Phils staged a dramatic bottom-of-the-seventh comeback to win game 1, 6-5.
We never did see if the stray dog lasted through the second game, because we ended up leaving after the first game. There was a half-hour break between games, and both kids and my husband were ready to leave. I wasn’t, but I was outnumbered.
Gnomeless, we headed home.
Guess I’ll have to look for gnomes on eBay. Quite a few have been sold already, with the highest one so far going for $81. I’m not about to spend that much on a gnome, even if it does (sort of) look like Ryan Howard. Maybe by next year the price will come down.
(hot dog and Rizzotti photos by me; Sandy and Rocky came off the internet)
The past week was a really busy one for me. In addition to seeing three different levels of Phillies (AA, AAA, and majors), my son had two baseball games, and the cold water valve in my laundry room broke, sending a geyser of water all over, and down through the floor vent into the finished basement. Fortunately, it broke while I was in the act of turning it on, instead of when I was unaware and off doing something else, so I was able to find the main shutoff valve without too much panicking and minimal water damage. On the plus side, the floor behind my washer and dryer is now cleaner than it’s been in years!
This entry is going to be a bit long, so please bear with me.
Tuesday, May 4 – Lehigh Valley IronPigs vs Indianapolis Indians
The IronPigs held the first of two Education Days scheduled for this month. Education Day just means that the game starts at 10:35 am, and there are lots of school groups in attendance. My own children were, in fact, at school that day; we just had lots of other people’s kids surrounding us.
As they were last year, the IronPigs player head shots were drawings by local school students:
Leadoff batter Rich Thompson looks very serious in this rendition. In need of a little Prozac?
Luis Maza, on the other hand, looks quite happy.
Has John Mayberry been getting the Michael Jackson treatment? He looks a bit pale.
This artist even included Andy Tracy’s stubble.
Not a bad likeness.
Neil Sellers could be forgiven for going 0-for-4 today, since it looks like he might have trouble seeing straight.
Paul Hoover looks rather demonic. Hoover has just been called up to the parent club to replace backup catcher Brian Schneider, who is currently on the DL.
Brian Bocock, that is not a good batting average!
Drew Carpenter, hitless so far this year (he didn’t get one this day, either).
Dewayne Wise needs a neck reduction!
The IronPigs were hosting the Indianapolis Indians, AAA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Drew Carpenter started for the ‘Pigs, giving up one run in six innings, striking out five:
Carpenter was opposed on the mound by Daniel McCutchen (no relation to Andrew – obviously). He makes pitching look almost painful with this expression:
Paul Hoover is out at second, but the throw from Indians shortstop Argenis Diaz was not in time to turn the double play:
No IronPigs game is complete without the Pork Racers – Hambone, Chris P. Bacon, and Diggity:
John Mayberry is safe at second on a steal attempt:
Mike Zagurski came into the game in relief of Carpenter. I recall listening to the radio broadcast of his major league debut a few years ago, when Larry Andersen described him as looking “a little Kruk-y”:
Antonio Bastardo was called upon to get the final out of the eighth inning:
Scott Mathieson came in to close the game and get the save. Mathieson is attempting to come back from not one, but two, Tommy John surgeries. He looked pretty good, hitting 95 and 96 mph on the stadium radar gun (though who knows how accurate those are?):
Final score: IronPigs 3, Indians 1.
Wednesday, May 5 – Phillies vs Cardinals
Finally, my first Phillies game of the season! Not only that, but we had some amazing seats (thanks, Eric and Michelle!), just past the Phillies dugout in the fifth row. We missed the first inning, however, due to absolutely nightmarish traffic resulting from simultaneous Phillies and Flyers games. I hate when (hmph!) secondary sports like hockey interfere with my plans!
Nonetheless, with adult beverage in hand, we settled in for the start of the second inning. Kyle Kendrick was on the mound, and he pitched masterfully for seven innings, scattering six hits and giving up no runs:
The Cardinals countered with Brad Penny, shown here rockin’ the high-socks look. The little white blur is the ball going past him:
Brendan Ryan led off the third for the Cards, and was called out at first on this play:
I think the Phils got a lucky break here, as it sure doesn’t look like Howard has the ball yet. This brought Tony LaRussa out of the dugout for the second time in the game. He had earlier come out in the second inning to argue Colby Rasmus’ being called out at third on an attempted steal. Unfortunately for LaRussa, both arguments were to no avail:
Placido Polanco got the Phils on the board in the fourth with a two-run homer. Shane Victorino was on base at the time, and congratulates Polanco as he crosses the plate. Victorino would also hit a solo homer in the sixth:
Chase Utley prepares to field a ground ball:
Cards third baseman David Freese tracks down a popup in foul territory. The expressions on the faces of the fans in the vicinity of the play are priceless:
Is Albert Pujols pondering the Cards’ lack of offense in this game? The Phillies pitchers kept Pujols in check through the first three games of the four-game series, with Pujols going 3-for-13 with no RBIs:
Chase Utley makes the pivot on a 6-4-3 double play to end the top of the seventh:
Danys Baez and Jose Contreras pitched perfect eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to close out the victory for Kendrick.
Final score: Phillies 4, Cardinals 0.
Saturday, May 8 – Reading Phillies vs Akron Aeros
The Reading Phillies were holding their annual Spam carving contest this past Saturday. I had no intention of taking part in this, I just simply planned on snapping a few photos of other people’s Spam creations.
My daughter, motivated by the prospect of the $250 prize, had other plans.
At her urging, I handed over the $5 entry fee (proceeds benefitting a charity called Opportunity House) and we received our can of Spam. What to carve? I was a bit unprepared, as I’ve mentioned, this was not part of my original plan. We decided upon the R-Phils mascot, Screwball.
Step one: figure out how to get the Spam out of the can intact. Eww. My experience with Spam ended many years ago during childhood, when my mom would occasionally serve it. I have never willingly touched Spam since then.
Let’s just say it’s a bit, um, slimy. Best not to think about what’s actually in it. It’s also not the easiest medium to work with. And after your hands are covered with Spam juice, it’s not easy to control your carving utensils (a plastic knife and toothpicks).
Anyway, here is our entry, “Spamball”:
Here’s the real Screwball for comparison:
OK, so not a perfect likeness, but like I said, Spam isn’t the easiest thing to work with.
Mmm, a Spamdog!
These two contestants are working on separate halves of what would eventually be the winning entry, “Screwball’s Spamtastic Opportunity House”:
Prior to the winner being announced after the seventh inning, judges narrowed the entries to six finalists. Ours was one of the six! Fans then cast their votes for their favorite. The finalists got to walk out on the field accompanying their entry. Sadly, I do not have any pictures of this, since I was on the field and couldn’t very well take a picture of myself.
The winners, pictured above, got the cash, and the rest of the finalists got a cap and t-shirt as consolation prizes. My daughter claimed the cap, since the shirt was extremely large and would have looked like a dress on her.
I only managed a few pictures of the game, as it was incredibly windy and cold, making it hard to hold the camera steady.
R-Phils starter Yohan Flande:
Aeros starter Eric Berger contorts himself:
R-Phils centerfielder Quintin Berry reminds me of a t-ball player who needs to use the bathroom:
The R-Phils lost, 5-2, though we left before then since it was so windy and cold. The kids didn’t even mind missing the post-game fireworks, they were so uncomfortable.
Whew! Now I’m caught up. Hope to be blogging more regularly this month.
(all photos by me, except the can of Spam)
Just like last year, the Reading Phillies are offering their Kids Club program for kids 12 and under, and amazingly, there is no charge to join. One of the perks of membership is a free ticket for kids to each of seven designated games during the season. How could we refuse such an offer? This past Sunday was the first Kids Club game of the year.
In addition to the free ticket, members of the Kids Club get to take part in a special pre-game activity for club members only. This game’s activity was an on-field photo session with almost all the R-Phils players, with the exception of that day’s starting pitcher and catcher.
Of course, the big draws, top prospect Domonic Brown and newest propects Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies, were at opposite ends of the warning track, with everyone else arranged alphabetically in between. So we needed to make a choice – go to Brown first, or Gillies and Aumont?
We chose Domonic Brown, mostly because I foresee him being promoted from double-A Reading before either Gillies or Aumont. Here are the kids with Domonic:
Domonic generates a lot of speed with those incredibly skinny calves!
We then worked our way around the warning track, stopping for photos with various players, as well as the ever-popular Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. Unfortunately, just before we got to Gillies and Aumont, the photo session ended, as the players had to go prepare for the game. I did manage to snap a quick pic of the two as they headed back to the clubhouse. Gillies, who is legally deaf, wears hearing aids in both ears, and one can be seen here:
After wandering around, getting something to eat, and dealing with minor meltdowns at the gift shop, it was time for the game to start. On the mound for the R-Phils was Yohan Flande:
Flande was sharp through six shutout innings, giving up only one hit and two walks. Not a particularly hard thrower, he kept the Portland Sea Dogs batters off balance all afternoon. Here, Portland first baseman Lars Anderson has not hit the ball, he’s so far in front of it that the ball hasn’t even crossed the plate yet, and he’s already swung through it:
Starting for the Sea Dogs, a Red Sox affiliate, was Stephen Fife:
In the bottom of the first, he walked the speedy Brown, and then hit Tagg Bozied with a pitch, but managed to escape unscathed.
Domonic Brown makes it back to first in time on a pickoff attempt:
Bozied apparently shook off being hit on the hand/wrist (I couldn’t really tell exactly where – Bozied bats right-handed, so his back was to us, as we were seated on the third-base side) as he ripped a two-run double in the third to put Reading on the board.
After six innings, Reading was up 2-0 in this quick moving pitching duel. Then, the relievers came in. B.J. Rosenberg gave up four runs in the top of the seventh, on a solo home run by Lars Anderson, and a three-run homer by Jason Place. The Sea Dogs now led 4-2.
Rosenberg was later placed on the DL with a strained muscle, so maybe that explains the rough outing.
In the bottom of the seventh, Portland reliever Robert Coello returned the favor, allowing a three-run dinger to Tagg Bozied, the hero of the game, to put the R-Phils up 5-4. Bozied had knocked in all five of the R-Phils runs so far. Here he is about to be congratulated by Reading manager Steve Roadcap after his home run:
In the minors, the manager often doubles as the third base coach.
In other game action, Reading shortstop Freddy Galvis fields a ground ball and fires to first for the out:
Tyson Gillies attempts a bunt, but it ended up rolling foul:
Reading tacked on another run in the eighth, and held on to win 6-4. A great day at the ballpark, with the temperature comfortably in the low 70’s, and an R-Phils victory! Now we have to wait until May for the next Kids Club game.
So I’m a little slow in getting around to writing this entry. The final Reading Phillies Kids Club game of the season was on August 30, and now it’s September 9. Better late than never!
The pre-game Kids Club activity for this evening was an on-field photo session with various R-Phils players. For some undetermined reason, neither of my kids felt like doing it. Hmm. As one might expect, top prospect Domonic Brown had the longest line of fans waiting for their photo op with him. The entire photo session ended up lasting all of 20 minutes, so in a way it was just as well that the kids decided not to get in line, as we may have ended up not getting our chance anyway.
In the meantime, my husband ran into the husband of one of my good friends, who was there with his kids. As they were loitering in front of the customer service booth, the woman behind the counter asked them if they wanted to participate in one of the on-field contests between innings, which required two adults and two children. My friend’s husband said “Yes!”, and my husband (who doesn’t like to be a public spectacle) said “My wife will do it.” Photographic proof is further down this post.
Here is prospect Domonic Brown prior to the start of the game(s):
Due to rainouts on the previous two nights, a double-header was scheduled, with the first game actually resuming in the bottom of the second inning, the point at which it had been suspended the previous night. So as the game began, the R-Phils were already on the losing end, 1-0.
Around the fourth or fifth inning, we were to go on field with another group to compete in the sling-shot contest. We had 30 seconds to try to shoot squishy balls through a hole in a target which was lowered from the grandstand roof. Here we are:
My friend’s husband is on the left, I’m on the right, and my son is the one in black. My friend’s son is obscured behind me. Neither we nor the other group got any balls through the target, though some came close. It’s a lot harder than it looks – the soft stuffed balls tend not to fly straight. I’ve never seen any go through at games I’ve been to, though occasionally someone does make it.
The first game finished quickly, with the same 1-0 score as when it started. After a short break, game two began. Not sure there was any real reason why, but this game was “Beatles Tribute Night”. All the player photos on the scoreboard had been modified to give them appropriate hairstyles. Here’s Domonic with a “Beatle-do”:
Better stick to your normal hairstyle!
By the third inning, my son kept complaining that his stomach hurt. Could it be because he’d eaten (in this order) a helmet of Dippin’ Dots, two hot dogs, a Sprite, and a massive order of french fries? Let’s just say things were a bit unsettled, and we ended up leaving early. Shortly after we left, the R-Phils pitching imploded, so I guess it wasn’t a tragedy that we left when we did.
Caption Contest Fun!
Once I got a chance to look through my photos from the night, I discovered I’d inadvertantly caught this moment:
That’s Domonic Brown in front, and a (thankfully) unidentified R-Phils player in the back. Give me your most creative captions, and I’ll be sure to “pick” a winner!
(all photos by me, except the one of me was taken by my husband)
Cripes, just when I think I’m getting back into a regular blogging roll, my train of thought gets all derailed. When I posted last Thursday, I was getting ready to go to my first-ever professional football game, a preseason matchup between the Eagles and the Patriots.
I never knew parking was so much more expensive for football games than for baseball games! Thank goodness we’d gotten the tickets themselves for free. The weather cleared up nicely, and we had a pleasant evening. The Patriots were looking pretty good, but the Eagles unfortunately were not.
On Sunday, we made our way to Reading for Kids Club Game #4 at the Reading Phillies. Upon entering the stadium the kids received the special giveaway that day, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor laundry hamper.
The special activity for Kids Club members was a pregame question-and-answer session with several of the R-Phils players.
From left to right are catcher Kevin Nelson, pitchers Chance Chapman and Scott Mathieson, and outfielder Kevin Mahar. Instead of typical baseball-related questions you’d expect from adults, kids are apparently interested in all kinds of other information. Questions ranged from “What’s your favorite football/basketball/hockey team?” to “How much money do you make?” (answer: “Not enough!”) to “Where do you live during the off-season?” (Chapman sheepishly revealed he still lives with his parents).
So what burning questions did my offspring have? From my 11-year-old son came “What’s your favorite video game?” (NHL ’09 for Mahar, Rock Band for Chapman, and Mario Kart for Nelson. Mathieson didn’t seem to have a favorite.) and “What’s your favorite TV show?” (Mathieson: “The Office”; Chapman: “Lost”).
Nelson and Mahar had to leave for batting practice about halfway through.
My 8-year-old daughter needed to know “Do you have any pets?” (a cat and dog for Chapman, and a dog for Mathieson) and “Are you married?” (a resounding “No!” from Chapman, yes for Mathieson).
After the Q and A session, we had time to mosey around until the game started. Several R-Phils players stopped on their way between the field and the clubhouse to sign autographs, including top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek.
As Reading’s stadium has been around since 1951, it’s not the most modern. The players have to cross the public concourse to get between the field and the clubhouses.
Mike Stutes was on the mound for Reading:
and Eric Niesen took to the hill for the visiting Binghamton Mets.
Both starters pitched well, and the teams traded zeroes on the scoreboard throughout the afternoon.
Did I mention it was really hot? I would not have wanted to be dressed in these suits:
Yes, they are racing vegetables. In addition to the broccoli and cauliflower represented here, there were also lettuce and bagged veggies participating. My daughter was rooting for the broccoli, since it is the only vegetable she will actually eat, and indeed the broccoli emerged victorious.
An inning or two later, we were treated to the kid-sized food race:
The sundae (who was running barefoot) was the clear winner over the pizza slice and the popcorn.
Back to the game. It seemed neither team wanted to win, and the prospect of extra innings loomed as we went to the bottom of the ninth with the score 0-0. Highly touted prospect Domonic Brown
led off the inning. With only the fourth hit of the game for the R-Phils, Brown got things started when he smoked a double to left-center.
The next batter, who shall remain nameless after striking out in his first three at-bats, attempted a sacrifice bunt but popped out to the pitcher, forcing Brown to hold at second. The next batter was intentionally walked, bringing up Kevin Mahar, from our pregame Q and A. Mahar hit a hard grounder to the second baseman, who made a diving stop but then launched it over the head of the first baseman, allowing Brown to easily score the winning run. R-Phils win, 1-0!
The kids are now eagerly looking forward to the final Kids Club game of the season, on August 30, which will feature a pregame photo session with the players, and postgame fireworks.
In Part 2 of What I’ve Been Up To, hopefully forthcoming sooner rather than later, I’ll cover my day this past Wednesday at the Phillies Baseball 101 for Women event, featuring a photo op with the World Series trophy, on-field sessions with the Phillies coaches, Q and A sessions with J.A. Happ, Charlie Manuel, umpire Laz Diaz, and radio personalities Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen, and of course a ticket to that night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
(all photos by me)