The Mets/Cubs Debacle

June 10th, 2014 Posted in Cubs, Mets games | No Comments »

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I love the Mets. I look forward to schedule release day every year to see when they’ll come and play the Cubs. (Playing the White Sox in 2013 was just a bonus.) No matter how good or bad the team has been before coming to town, I always plan to go. In my seven years living here, I’ve missed one Mets/Cubs game – because of a concert.

David Wright

David Wright

Last week, the Mets came to town fresh off four wins over the Phillies. It was great for the team, and one would think the Mets would have a good series against the Cubs. As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” The games are already a week old, but here’s a quick recap:

Tuesday June 3

Wilmer Flores

Zack Wheeler

Zack Wheeler went 6 2/3 innings, giving up only two hits, while the Mets held onto a 1-0 lead. The game was turned over to the bullpen…and it was just the same ole story. The Mets had so many opportunities to blow open the game with countless base runners, but they couldn’t get the runners home. Josh Edgin gave up a game-tying homer to Chris Coghlan in the 8th, and then Scott Rice lost the game in the bottom of the 9th on a Nate Schierholtz walk-off single for a 2-1 final score.

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View from my seat

For this game we sat in section 237. Full set of pictures from the June 3rd game can be viewed here.

Wednesday June 4

David Wright

Lucas Duda

Curtis Granderson

The second game of the series was a lot like the first. The Mets took an early lead, let the Cubs score some runs, and back and the forth the teams went until the Cubs held on for the 5-4 win. Once again, the Mets had plenty of opportunities but stranded far too many runners on base. Adding insult to injury was the weather. Tuesday was sunny and warm. Wednesday was cold and breezy, making the game even worse to sit through.

Daisuke Matsuzaka

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View from my seat

For this game we sat in section 208. Full set of pictures from the June 4th game can be viewed here.

Thursday June 5

Jacob deGrom

Eric Campbell

Curtis Granderson

This was the one game of the series in which the Mets didn’t take a lead until a little later in the game. But, much like the previous two games, they couldn’t hold the lead. A highlight of the night, if there was one, was Andrew Brown’s 7th inning home run that tied the game at 4. The joy was short-lived, as Anthony Rizzo went deep the next inning, and the Cubs sealed the win with two more runs in the 8th on its way to a 7-4 final. (It should be noted that Brown made a killer throw to home to tag Luis Valbuena out. But after a challenge by the Cubs manager, the call was overturned and the run counted.)

Andrew Brown home run

Anthony Rizzo about to go deep

Fun with camera filters

For this game we sat in section 214. Full set of pictures from the June 5th game can be viewed here.

As of now, I don’t have any plans to see another Mets game this season. Not because they are playing badly, just because I don’t have an interest to see them in Milwaukee; nor do I have other plans to see them on the road. Slim chance I’ll see a game at Citi in the fall, but who knows. That’s a little ways off.

Road Trip: Las Vegas

June 4th, 2014 Posted in Road Trips | No Comments »

Panoramic view from my seat at the Las Vegas 51s game vs. Reno.

I love seeing baseball games on the road. I have seen the Mets in Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Washington DC and San Francisco. I saw the Binghamton Mets in Portland and even saw a Cubs-Rockies game when I was there for a wedding. Needless to say, when I knew I would be in Las Vegas for a wedding, I immediately kept tabs on the Las Vegas 51s schedule. (If you’re not familiar, they are the Mets current Triple-A affiliate.) It just so happened that they had a home game on the one night that I didn’t have any wedding-related events.

Cashman Field, Las Vegas, NV

Cashman Field, where the 51s play, is about a 20-minute car ride from “The Strip,” and so Nik and I rented a car to make it easy to get there and back. The stadium complex was much nicer than I expected. There was a cute team store and a variety of concession stands. Like most minor league games, it was very family friendly. We bought seats that were five rows behind the 51s dugout and had great views once the sun went down.

Getting the start was Darin Gorski, who held his own for awhile. But alas, a win was not in the cards and the Aces won 4-3.

Darin Gorski

Allan Dykstra

Omar Quintanilla

Josh Satin

Kirk Nieuwenhuis

It was nice to see guys like Allan Dykstra, Omar Quintanilla, Josh Satin, Andrew Brown and Kirk Nieuwenhuis play. All of them, except Dykstra, have been up and down with the Mets at some point. Hopefully they can keep improving and have a chance to make the big league roster full-time next season.

Wally Backman, Andrew Brown

*A ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Guns ‘N Roses member Dizzy Reed:

Dizzy Reed first pitch

** More pictures can be seen here.

My First Gary RailCats Game

September 4th, 2013 Posted in Gary Railcats | 1 Comment »

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For about six years now, Nik and I have driven past the U.S. Steel Yard baseball stadium in Gary, Indiana, home to the Independent League’s SouthShore RailCats. Each time we’d say to each other that we need to see a game. It finally happened this past weekend on Labor Day. I bought a $15 Groupon deal that included two tickets and a $10 “Cat Coin” good at their concession stands. We took the The South Shore Line train from Millennium Station in downtown Chicago to the Gary Metro Center stop where it was a short walk to the stadium.

Playing the El Paso Diablos, it was the final regular season game for the RailCats, and so it was fan appreciation day. Each fan was given a team photo as they entered the stadium and many of the players were out in the entry area signing autographs and posing for pictures. I took advantage of the photo opportunity:

Collage of pictures with Railcats players

As you’ll notice in the picture above, and pictures below, several of the RailCats players have some amazing facial hair.

Starting pitcher Morgan Coombs

Pitcher Morgan Coombs

Above: The amazing facial hair of pitcher Morgan Coombs.

Pitcher Stephen Hiscock

Above: The amazing Rollie Fingers-esque mustache of pitcher Stephen Hiscock.

Back to the game. Our tickets were behind the RailCats dugout, and we decided to sit in the first row until someone asked us to move. We never had to move and we thoroughly enjoyed the game. The stadium is nice and the environment is definitely family friendly with a lot of on-field contests during the game. Unfortunately, the RailCats lost 4-1, but the team is playoff bound, and hopefully it’s not another six years before Nik and I see another game there.

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Starting pitcher Morgan Coombs

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Rascal, the Railcats mascot

Relief pitchers heading out to the bullpen

Nice to see the tradition of a rookie carrying the pink backpack of supplies to the bullpen lives on in the Independent Leagues.

*Full set of pictures can be found on my Flickr page.

Mets Split with Sox

July 2nd, 2013 Posted in David Wright, Mets games, U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox | No Comments »

Mets at White Sox

I’m not a recap blog, so click here for a recap of the June 25 Zack Wheeler game against the White Sox and here for the June 26 Shaun Marcum game.

Warthen, Wheeler, Buck

David Wright, Adam Dunn

That said, it was great to finally see the Mets play on the South Side. It’s the first time they’ve played in Chicago since 2002, which was before I moved here. I’ve documented before that I much prefer The Cell over Wrigley Field. It may not have the historic charm of the Friendly Confines, but it has good food and much better bathrooms.

Tuesday’s matchup gave us Zack Wheeler vs. Chris Sale. While Sale lived up to his side of the hype, with 13 strikeouts, Wheeler struggled a bit more than his first outing. Unlike some fans who are freaking out about it, this happens. The kid is a rookie and will take some time to get polished. I welcome him to the starting rotation with open arms and hope he’s with the Mets for a long time to come.

Zack Wheeler

Chris Sale

David Wright

A popup snafu was due to happen to a team other than the Mets, and on this night it did. Daniel Murphy was at bat, with David Wright at second and two outs, when Daniel Murphy hit a popup. Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie seemed to be headed to make the play when Gordon Beckham also charged in from second base, tripped on pitcher Addison Reed’s foot and fell forward as the ball dropped to the ground, allowing Wright to score the tying run. The excitement didn’t last long, as LaTroy Hawkins blew it in the bottom of the ninth, and the Sox won 5-4.

Gillaspie, Beckham drop popup

Gillaspie, Beckham drop popup

Gillaspie, Beckham drop popup

Wednesday’s game had a much better outcome, as Shaun Marcum finally picked up his first win of the season in a 3-0 victory.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Tim Teufel tossing BP

We arrived early enough to catch the end of batting practice, which is always enjoyable. I made my way over to the side of the Mets dugout to find Zack Wheeler signing autographs. The guy could not have been any nicer when he signed my scorecard from the previous night’s game.

Josh Satin

Daniel Murphy

David Wright

Mets win

Zack Wheeler signed scorecard

 

*Full set of pictures from the June 25 game is here.

**Full set of pictures from the June 26 game is here.

A Visiting Fan’s Guide to U.S. Cellular Field

June 24th, 2013 Posted in Fan's Guide, U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox | No Comments »

US Cellular Field

U.S. Cellular Field aerial picture taken by me on June 26, 2011 from a helicopter ride.

On the heels of my “Visiting Fan’s Guide to Wrigley Field” post, I wanted to create something similar for U.S. Cellular Field since the Mets will be making their first appearance there on June 25 and 26.

The basics:

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Photo courtesy Nik Bronder.

U.S. Cellular Field (Sox Park or “The Cell” as I call it) opened in 1991 replacing the famed Comiskey Park in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Bridgeport. Many fans can’t let go of the Comiskey namesake and often refer to the stadium as New Comiskey. You can read a more detailed history here.

Getting there:

Much like getting to Wrigley Field, getting to The Cell is easiest by the CTA. Take either the Red or Green Lines to the 35th Street stop and walk West a few short blocks or hop on the CTA 35 bus if the walk is too much for you. Important to note for the 2013 season, a portion of the CTA Red Line train tracks will be undergoing construction and the station will be closed. So the Red Line will automatically be going to the Green Line 35th Street stop. Read more about the construction and service alternatives here. Additionally, the Cell does offer a range of parking in their lots, and tailgating is welcome.

Seating:

My view

View from upper box section 537, July 30, 2011

Being a newer stadium, there really shouldn’t be any obstructed views of the field. And if there are, I haven’t found them yet. If you want to arrive early for batting practice, you must have a 100 level ticket otherwise they won’t let you in the lower level to watch it. I’ve sat in a few different 100 level locations and have liked the views. The Cell does have some bleacher seating in the outfield, as well as regular reserved seating. My preferred seating is in the upper deck, either upper box or reserved. Both offer great views of the entire field.

One last note on seating is the Bullpen Sports Bar on the field level out in right field. Any level ticket gets you into the bar and you enter from gate 2. Full bar and full menu are available and there are first-come, first-served patio seats. Tables and counter stools are also available inside and have views right into the visitors bullpen.

A view from the well air-conditioned Bullpen Bar at US Cellular. Looks out at visitors pen. Go Sox, Detroit sucks!

A view from Bullpen Bar

Concessions:

The Cell has a lot of offerings, both on the 100 level and 500 levels. My two favorite items are the Comiskey Dog and the corn fresh off the cob. Not to be forgotten are the nachos from the Tex-Mex stand where you have your choice of meat and fresh toppings.

The Comiskey Dog is served classic Chicago style: a Vienna Beef frank on a poppy seed roll piled on top with yellow mustard, chopped onions, a neon green relish, pickle spear, tomato chunks, sport peppers and celery salt. Delicious. As of last season, I could only find them on the 100 level in the outfield. There used to be a stand on the 500 level as well.

First Comiskey Dog of the season.

The delicious Comiskey Dog

The corn off the cob is just as it sounds. An ear of boiled corn on the cob is pulled from a hot compartment and the kernels are cut off the cob and there’s a choice of toppings including mayo, cayenne, lime, cheese. I prefer the old fashioned salt and butter topping. Amazing.

The stadium also has your usual far of grilled hot dogs, brats, sausages, burgers. All of which are good. Desert includes ice cream and my favorite thing: churros. And to save a few bucks, you can bring in a sealed water bottle.

Chicago food blog, Chicago Eater, recently published this handy guide of where to eat in the stadium. Much more detail than I can provide, check it out.

Southpaw:

Next to Mr. Met, Southpaw might be the best baseball mascot in baseball. He’s very active on Twitter and has always been super friendly and accommodating for picture requests the few times I have met him.

White Sox mascot Southpaw and I

Misc:

Bacardi at the Park is a bar and restaurant located outside the stadium along 35th Street and is open to all fans, with or without a ticket. A wide variety of food and beer is available and it offers access to the stadium as well.

Before every game, after every White Sox home run, and after White Sox victories, fireworks are set off in the distance beyond center field.

Outside the stadium:

The immediate area surrounding The Cell doesn’t have as much to offer as Wrigley does. If you’re willing to walk a few more blocks west to Halsted, you’ll come upon a few places including the historical Schallers Pump. Also on Halsted is a Buffalo Wings & Rings chain restaurant.

Most of what is in this post applies to any team visiting the White Sox, so I hope this guide is helpful in your visit to the Southside. I’m by no means an expert of the stadium, so please leave any tips or suggestions.

Visiting the MLB Fan Cave

June 17th, 2013 Posted in MLB Fan Cave | No Comments »

Fan Cave panoramic.

I have to admit that I didn’t follow much about the MLB Fan Cave until spring 2012, when fellow Chicago Mets fan Travis Miller was an applicant. While he didn’t get chosen in 2012, he did in 2013, as one of the nine finalists. On my recent trip to NY, I asked Travis for a little tour and he obliged, showing Nik and I around.

"Dirt Bar"

Dirt Bar, authentic dirt from each MLB stadium.

The Cave Monster

The Cave Monster, 15 big screen TV’s for every game.

Cave Art Gallery

Fan Cave Art Gallery. Artists and paintings will rotate.

Ping pong, photo booth

Ping pong table and a photo booth.

Custom Pool Table

Custom pool table and balls.

VIP Lounge

Lower level VIP lounge.

Home run slide & the Nanopus

Home run slide and the Nanopus.

2013 MLB Fan Cave

The space is just amazing. Follow the fun on Twitter via Travis’ feed or the MLBFanCave account.

Annual Game at Citi Field

June 17th, 2013 Posted in Citi Field, Mets games, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Citi Field

I try to make one Mets game a season at Citi Field. I got there last fall to see R.A. Dickey get win No. 19 and was back this past Sunday, June 9, to catch a game against the Marlins. After exploring some coupon deals, I settled on a pair of tickets in section 312 of the Caesars Club from StubHub. This was the first time Nik and I sat in that section, and the view was great. We should all now how the game went by now, but the gist: Mets led 4-1 at one point, only to see that lead diminish by the 8th inning and ultimately lose in the 10th. A positive Mets highlight included a Daniel Murphy home run. I think I’ve seen him homer in person several times now. Get out and vote for him and our other Mets players for the All-Star game!

Panoramic view from section 312 on a lovely day at Citi Field for the #Mets game.

Jon Niese

Daniel Murphy Home Run

David Wright

I follow a few of the Mets ticket representatives on Twitter, and I took my chances and asked one of them, Ezra, about a possible seat upgrade for two out-of-town Mets fans. After a few tweets back and forth, Ezra stopped by our seats for a short conversation and had a print-out for upgraded seats in section 125. It was great. It’s surprising what can happen if you take a little a chance. Thanks again, Ezra!

Proud of this David Wright collage from Sunday. #VoteWrightNow #Mets

Jon Niese

Anthony Recker

David Wright

Bobby Parnell

It might be a tough season to enjoy as a Mets fan, but I’m not going anywhere. Can’t wait to see the fellas in a few weeks at US Cellular Field for two games against the White Sox. Let’s go Mets!

* Click on any picture for a larger view.

**Full set of game pictures is here.

Mets Take Two from Cubs

May 21st, 2013 Posted in Cubs, Mets, Mets games, Wrigley Field | No Comments »

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Few things beat an easy walk to a baseball stadium. It’s even better when I can take a short stroll to see my team play. So this past weekend I took in three Mets-Cubs games at Wrigley Field. The team won on Friday, lost on Saturday and won again on Sunday.

Friday May 17, a 3-2 win:

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Not much more needs to be said about this game than the name Matt Harvey. Harvey rebounded from a rough first inning to win the game from the mound (no walks and six strikeouts) and from the batters box, hitting an RBI single that scored Rick Ankiel from second base for the go-ahead and game-winning run. Other highlights included solo home runs from David Wright and Daniel Murphy. The weather was a bit cooler than preferred, but the view from section 425 was great. Selected pictures below, click on the images for a larger view. Full picture set is here.

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Saturday May 18, an 8-2 loss:

Mets-Cubs 5/18/13

Well, the weather was better on this day, but the game was not. Nik and I scalped some cheap 500 level seats but sat in empty seats in section 234. The seats were great and being under the overhang to block some sun was good too. Jeremy Hefner got the start and did ok for the most part. He did give up four runs, but he wasn’t getting much run support either. Rick Ankiel went deep in the ninth, but it was too little, too late. Selected pictures below, click on the images for a larger view. Full picture set is here.

Mets-Cubs 5/18/13

Mets-Cubs 5/18/13

Mets-Cubs 5/18/13

The 7 Line from NY organized a big group outing for the game, complete with awesome-looking orange shirts. They took over a whole section in the bleachers, and the pictures looking towards them were great. It was a really awesome sight to see.

Mets-Cubs 5/18/13

Sunday May 19, a 4-3 win:

Another lovely day weather-wise, and the game was touch and go as the Cubs led 3-1 until the seventh inning, when Juan Lagares hit his first MLB home run, a two-run shot to tie the game. Daniel Murphy hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth to give the Mets the lead. The Mets relievers did their job to help seal the 4-3 win and take the series from the Cubs. Views are from section 237. Selected pictures below, click on the images for a larger view. Full picture set is here.

Mets-Cubs 5/19/13

Mets-Cubs 5/19/13

Mets-Cubs 5/19/13

Victory Lap Around Wrigley Field

May 12th, 2013 Posted in 5K, Wrigley Field | 3 Comments »

Just past halfway of the Race to Wrigley 5K.

Several months ago I registered for the May 11 Race to Wrigley 5K. I’m not a very good distance runner, but I ran one 5K last summer and enjoyed it and decided I’d run one 5K a month during the summer of 2013. Shortly after signing up, Nik and I started running in the morning to train for the race and at the same time I was fundraising for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Runners who raised $1,000.00 or more would get to run a victory lap around the Wrigley Field warning track and have their name displayed on the centerfield scoreboard. As a big sports fan I thought this would be a cool experience so I set out to fundraise and reach a goal of $1,000.00. Not only did I reach my goal, but I went above and raised $1,300.00! If you’re reading this and are one of the many who supported me, thank you very much!

Victory Lap Around Wrigley Field

Victory Lap Around Wrigley Field

The race day turned out to be ok. Not too hot, not too cold and no rain. And of course, I chose to run in Mets gear. Gotta represent! Once I finished the race I had to enter at a certain gate to get access for the lap. I was allowed a guest so Nik came with me to play photographer. There were probably about 12-15 other people who also got to do this lap. Guests were asked to stay behind a rope and not step onto the field. There were also two photographers provided by the Cubs taking a few hi-res pictures of each person on the field with the scoreboard behind them.

I set out to do my lap by jogging up the first base line to the outfield and then I slowed down to take a few pictures and a short video on my phone. I really have to say, it was so cool to be one of a small handful who had this experience. It was eerily calm and quiet as I made my way around the warning track finishing up just between third base and home plate. After the run, we all got to enjoy a complimentary buffet in the Budweiser Bleacher Suite located in centerfield.

Victory Lap Around Wrigley Field

Victory Lap Around Wrigley Field

Two side notes:

The scoreboard was configured for when the Cubs return home to play the Rockies. On the day of these pictures, they were on the road playing the Nats.

On the walk to the breakfast, we passed an area where the grounds crew keeps their equipment and whatnot. Spotted in this are was the Mets on deck circle! As of this post, the Mets series at Wrigley is set to begin in five days.

Spotted at Wrigley Field, the Mets on deck circle. Next weekend!

Road Trip: Minneapolis

April 16th, 2013 Posted in David Wright, Jon Niese, Mets games, MLB, Road Trips, Target Field, Twins | 3 Comments »

Mets at Twins 4/12/2013

I’ve written before about how I love schedule-release day because it allows me to plan potential road trips. I said it this past September, when I saw the Mets would be visiting the Twins in 2013 over my birthday weekend in April, that I would want to go. So this is the first road trip of the year.

Myself, Nik and four other friends all decided to make the trip. We knew we were risking it with the potential for cold or bad weather, and, boy, did we have both! The original plan was to see two out of the three games – Friday and Sunday and keep Saturday as a day to explore the city and visit some Minneapolis breweries. We accomplished most of that.

We arrived Friday morning and took the Light Rail from the airport to downtown. The train stop is just steps from Target Field, so we were greeted by the stadium right away. After checking in at the hotel, we got lunch at the Loon Cafe, which was ok, and then settled in at Gluek’s for a few hours before heading back to the hotel to put on the layers for the Mets game.

Mets at Twins 4/12/2013

It was a snowy, cold afternoon, but that didn’t stop the teams from playing ball. Target Field is a great looking ballpark, and the Twins were awesome to the fans on this night by offering free coffee and hot chocolate at each gate, all throughout the game. Seriously, in the 8th inning, my friend still got a cup of hot chocolate.

Mets at Twins 4/12/2013 Mets at Twins 4/12/2013

Mets at Twins 4/12/2013

Four of us had Home Plate View tickets in the upper level, while two others had seats on the first base side in the lower level. We walked around, scoped things out and got drinks at an indoor bar. We never once sat in our ticketed seats. We started out in left field on the lower level, before moving over to section 110 where we settled in for the night. Members of our group did depart early in the game, but my layers and wool socks got me to the 8th inning, when I felt OK leaving with the Mets leading 14-5. The Mets went on to win 16-5.

Mets at Twins - 4/12/2013

Mets at Twins - 4/12/2013

Mets at Twins - 4/12/2013

Highlights included seeing five quick runs in the first inning and a great pitching performance by Jon Niese in the cold, snowy weather. John Buck’s grand slam in the second inning was just icing on the cake for this game. Really made sitting in the cold worth it.

Mets at Twins - 4/12/2013

Mets at Twins - 4/12/2013

Mets at Twins 4/12/2013

Saturday included some sightseeing and checking out local places, such as Al’s Breakfast and a few craft breweries: 612 Brew, Indeed Brewing and a quick stop at Dangerous Man Brewing. Nik will probably be posting more about this at his site.

Birthday flight at @612brew in Minneapolis.

Pictured is a flight of beer from 612 Brew in Northeast Minneapolis.

Sunday’s game ended up being cancelled due to the terrible weather that was forecast. It was pretty crappy out so I’m glad we didn’t have to sit through it or wait out delays. The cancelled game did make missing the Saturday game a little sad for me, because seeing two out of three games was the plan. So, instead, we only saw one. Had Matt Harvey pitched a no-hitter on Saturday, and we missed it, I may have been absolutely heart broken.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Good times were had by all and I’m glad I made the trip, despite the weather.

Funny story, in the first (or was it second?) inning, a foul ball landed in this girl’s beer. Everyone was up and cheering for her and so she proceeded to drink her beer while the ball was still in the cup.

Mets at Twins - 4/12/2013

*A full set of pictures from the game can be seen on my Flickr page.