Funny that my blog has literally turned into everything else besides baseball. With a title like “7th Inning Stretch Time” you’d think you’d be reading a lot more about baseball then trips to Romania and Guns N Roses concerts, right? Well, there is baseball stuff in this blog. Like the time I traveled to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to watch the playoffs and the time I went to Australia with Zack Hample to watch the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks open the season at the historical Sydney Cricket Grounds.
I’ll admit. I have kind of gotten away from what this blog is all about and I’ve been blogging about other things. A lot. But this year I plan on getting to a few new stadiums (I know, I know. I say that a lot) and blogging more about baseball instead of long vacations in exotic, amazing places. But before all of that is going to happen, I have to blog about this Guns N Roses concert I attended at CenturyLink in Seattle. Music is a big part of my life.
I remember as a teenager when I was working in an auto repair shop one of the mechanics had this old beat-up radio on his tool bench. He listened to 99.9 KISW religiously and the first Guns song I heard was Patience. KISW is notorious for playing a lot of Guns N Roses songs so over the course of the summer while working there, I heard Paradise City, Welcome to the Jungle, November Rain and Sweet Child o’ Mine. I was hooked. I remember my sister had the duel Use Your Illusion albums on CD in her room. I used to sneak in her room and “borrow” her albums and play the songs on my Dad’s huge stereo system when no one was home. It was awesome. When I joined the Army at the young age of 19, and after completing basic training, my first tour of duty was Germany. At the age of 19 this would be 1999. Guns N Roses was long broken up and just a remembrance of them was available to see. And this was all before Youtube and other social media where you could just jump on the internet and watch a video of them.
I remember finding this catalog of old bootleg VHS tapes of GnR concerts. I think I spent $50 bucks on like, 10 VHS tapes of old GnR concerts. I watched them just about every night. My sergeant would always tell me he was getting complaints that I was playing music too loud in my barracks room and he threatened to take my stereo away, which I was fine with because I was watching videos of GnR not listening to tapes or CDs.
Fast forward to Chinese Democracy. Axl Rose took his sweet time making and creating this album. I never really liked it, and I never took advantage of seeing the new Guns N Roses because It never felt like it was the original group. Without Slash, Duff, Izzy and either Matt Sorum or Steven Adler, I refused to support such an atrocious group. Axl was out of shape, had corn rows and the music sucked. I turned my attention to Metallica and Megadeth and other bands that continued to rock and play music I enjoyed. GnR seemed non-existent. I learned a lot about the band, I read Slash’s autobiography as well as Duff’s book. GnR ruled the world but let it slip away over money, ego’s (mainly Axl’s) and drugs.
When I learned that Guns N Roses was soon to be touring, and word started to spread that Slash and Duff might be joining Axl Rose on stage, I instantly started looking to buy tickets and attend a concert. They played Coachella in California and started a “Not in this Lifetime” tour:
Pinkslips opened for Guns N Roses. Pinkslips lead singer is Duff MCKagen’s daughter. And they were awesome. Alice in Chains played next. I was never an Alice in Chains fan. Nothing hardcore, anyway. I did enjoy some of their songs and I think the world of Jerry Cantrell because his Dad fought in Vietnam. That’s where the song Rooster comes from.
When Guns N Roses came on, I had no idea what to expect. For years I had been watching GnR on VHS tapes, Youtube and listening to CDs. During the 90’s they had a routine and their set list rarely changed much. They’d play a few songs like NightTrain, Rocketqueen and My Michelle in the beginning of the concert, Slash would play the Godfather theme, they’d go into November Rain and Sweet Child o’ Mine, Axl would ask the crowd if they “knew where they were” and then break into Welcome to the Jungle then they’d play some Use Your Illusion stuff and Duff would sing Attitude somewhere in all of this. Paradise City would end it all and then Axl would throw his mic into the crowd. Literally nothing changed. It’s like they picked up right where they left off from the Japan tour in 1991. It. Was. Electrifying. Slash killed it…
…and I nearly had front row seats. I surprised my sister with a ticket as well, and despite both tickets costing $500.00, I would do it again in a heart beat. Sharing this moment with my sister, (Who loves music and GnR just as much as I do) was the best thing in the world. After all, if it weren’t for her buying the Use Your Illusion albums and me sneaking into her room and borrowing them, I would have never been exposed to GnR as much as I had been.
At the end of 2016, Guns N Roses made $5.5million a show during their stadium tour and tickets averages $117 dollars. That just goes to show the kind of impact that GnR had on this world. Their songs, the music, the controversy, the drugs…all of it. It was awesome and they have announced in the recent weeks that they will be touring again in 2017. I. Can’t. Wait.
During batting practice, it was all Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano. In fact, Nelson Cruz hit a ball completely OUT of Safeco Field. Click this link to watch the video highlights.
Lots of baseballs were tossed up into the stands and due to it being “Salute to Kids” night at the ballpark, the majority of them were tossed to kids and most were either dropped or bobbled around. The ones were dropped were easily glove-tricked out from behind the walls…
….I easily secured two balls during batting practice:
One kid used a blanket tied to his glove but he forgot the most important element of his glove-trick: the rubber band. I literally watched this kid for 10 minutes trying to dangle his glove over a baseball but it wouldn’t secure into his glove because there was nothing to hold onto the ball. Ultimately, a security guard went down behind the wall and picked up the baseball for him.
I sat with my Twins rooting girlfriend, Alex in the outfield hoping to snag a home run ball during the game:
She isn’t really a Twins fan. I bring both visiting and home team hats for autograph opportunities. Lately, I’ve been striking out when it comes to autographs. I usually get my ticket signed by someone before the game. And for the last three games I’ve attended I’ve been trying to get a picture with former Mariners Dave Valle but he hasn’t been showing up to the Root Sports broadcast booth for some reason. Today was no exception. Again, a no-show.
The game was pretty entertaining. The Twins beat the Mariners in the end by a score of 6-5 and we left towards the top of the ninth to beat traffic. Aoki smacked a home run in the first inning to give the Mariners the lead but the Twins managed to rally back and hold the lead.
Next month I fly out to Romania so I’ll be busy trying to keep up every day with daily blog entries on the trip.
Total Lifetime Games Attended: 121
Total Baseballs Snagged This Season: 9
Total Lifetime Baseballs Snagged: 343
Total Lifetime Foul Balls Snagged: 1
Total Lifetime Home Run Balls Snagged: 0
For the better part of the afternoon, I watched the security guards fumble with the table at the gate…
….priorities, I tell ya. Today turned out to be a gloomy, raining, wet day at the ballpark. I bought the cheapest tickets possible ($26.00) which put my seats up in the 300 level of the stadium. I wanted to spend the majority of my time in The ‘Pen. Today’s goals seemed simple enough: snag a bunch of baseballs, get a picture with Dave Valle, get Jose Mota’s autograph and snag a home run ball during the game.
Being that it was Kyle Seager bobblehead night, I figured it would be a sold out game. It came close. 42,687 showed up and I’m assuming 3-5 thousand probably left after they got their bobbles because while I walked around the stadium, it didn’t feel like a capacity crowd. During batting practice, it wasn’t that bad. I snagged my bobblehead and glove tricked my first ball out of the bullpen. My second ball came by just leaning over the railing and picking it out of the bullpen after it was hit into there and rolled around for a little bit. I made my way across the seating bowl securing my third ball that I picked out of a cup holder (put there by an usher) and my fourth and fifth balls came bouncing into the stands; one on the third base side and one on the first base side.
After BP I set up near the Root Sports broadcast table and I waited and I waited and I waited some more for Dave Valle to show up. I checked his Twitter and found out that a new ice cream machine was placed up in the broadcast booth and I suspected that’s where Valle was at. Getting ice cream:
By then it was too late to run down to the Angels dugout to get Jose Mota’s autograph. My night was slowly falling apart. If you’ve never been to Safeco Field and have never experienced The ‘Pen (on College night or any other night for that matter) you aren’t missing much. It usually gets overly crowded full of drunk people and the music is so loud you can barely hear the person next to you. So after about the 2nd inning, I made my way up to my seat to watch the game from there…
…of course when I bought my ticket, I forgot to buy the one without the “obstructed view” warning.
I watched the game from my seat for a few innings and then I wandered the stadium. I actually got up close and personal with the new timer that was installed last year in all of the stadiums…
…and the premise behind this new addition is to attempt to speed the game up. Ever since Manfred took over from Selig as baseballs Commissioner, he’s been doing everything in his power to speed the game up. He’s told the players that they have to keep one foot in the batters box at all times and if they don’t they could receive a fine. Then they installed the timer which gives pitchers two minutes between innings to get ready. Now I’ve been hearing that intentional walks will be changing. The batter simply takes his base. Along with that, the umpires are enforcing shorter mound visits.
I understand that games can be long and lack action and excitement. The game I attended yesterday lasted over three hours. And I didn’t stay for the whole game, either. I don’t agree with changing these little things about the game. I don’t agree with the Manfred era of baseball. I don’t agree with the netting in front of the dugouts and down the first and third base lines in an attempt to “keep fans safe”. These rules where the catcher can’t block the plate and late slides into second base have become illegal take away so much from the game. I think there needs to be some level of fan accountability where the fans who attend games should have some reasonable expectation of a game that might last longer than anticipated. I also think that fans need to be more alert and provide safety measures for themselves instead of relying on Major League Baseball to keep 35,000 people safe. If you can’t stay alert during play or can’t stay off your cellphone for two minutes during a game, maybe the outfield seating is best for you.
Going into the ninth inning, the Mariners were holding on to the lead 7-6. Steve Cishek came in to close out the game and left a pitch over the plate for Albert Pujols. He hammered a 3-run home run and the Angels went on to win the game 9-7. Final.
Cishek later posted this one Twitter…
…he receieved plenty of support, there were still many nay-sayers. The Mariners have never really had a successful closer since I’ve been a fan. And I’ve been a fan since 1989.
Total Lifetime Games Attended: 121
Total Baseballs Snagged This Season: 9
Total Lifetime Baseballs Snagged: 343
Total Lifetime Foul Balls Snagged: 1
Total Lifetime Home Run Balls Snagged: 0
Willie Bloomquist is one of my favorite players and when he announced his retirement it made me sort of sad. I was never able to get any memorabilia signed by him or meet him at any of the games while he was active on the field. But I’m happy he’s retired and doing the things he wants to do. He recently accepted a job with the front office with the Diamondbacks so there’s still a chance I can catch him at the ballpark to get something signed.
I recently connected with him on Twitter and asked him how retirement was going…
…seems like everything is going well at the moment.
The Angels were in town this weekend and I always try to make it out to the stadium to see them. Mainly I like heckling Albert Pujols because he seems to make it a point to ignore the fans. So whenever he takes his at-bats, I like to obnoxiously yell “Puuuujjjjoooolllls!”. On a positive note, I like to wave and cheer on Mike Trout because he always responds to his fans, and I like seeing that from him.
My girlfriend, Alexandra accompanied me for the game and we stopped at the Pyramid Ale House prior to game time. I ordered the beer battered fish, which by the way, was awesome but the service wasn’t so great…
…we’ve been here before and our last visit the service was sub-par as well. We both decided this would be our last visit here.
When I entered the stadium, I spotted my first baseball of the day on the ground near the Root Sports set up. Once the rest of the stadium opened up, I managed to find three more baseballs in the right and center field bleachers and one was hit my way and I was able to snag it on the carom.
Alexandra and I headed down to the Angels dugout and once at our seats, we found this stuck to the front of my seat:
Here’s a closer look at what it says:
This was the view from our seats during the game:
By the bottom of the fourth, the game was tied 1-1 until Nelson Cruz hit a high drive out of the park in the bottom half of the fifth. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Angels pitcher, Joe Smith walked Norichika Aoki and then literally tried to pick him off at first base several times. The crowd became extremely restless and then on about the sixth or seventh attempt, Mike Scioscia challenged the play:
It was the first time I’d ever witnessed a live challenge and so it was interesting to watch the umpires put on the headsets and watch the video over and over again. The call stood; Aoki was safe at first. It was still pretty cool to see.
The game had lasted well beyond three hours so we left after Robinson Cano belted a double into the gap. The Mariners had the lead at this point by one run. Steve Chisek would be in to close the game out and by the time I got home and checked the score, I learned he blew the save. The one thing I was happy about was the fact that Robinson Cano had extended my Beat The Streak game streak to 16 with his double to the gap. The Mariners losing in the 9th? Not so happy about that but it’s baseball.
Total Lifetime Games Attended: 120
Total Baseballs Snagged This Season: 4
Total Lifetime Baseballs Snagged: 339
Total Lifetime Foul Balls Snagged: 1
Total Lifetime Home Run Balls Snagged: 0
The main goal was to attend this fan fest and get Jay Buhner’s autograph on a baseball bat. I had purchased a nice wooden bat from a sports retailer the night before, packed up the camera and headed into Seattle.
The last time I attended a fan fest was a few years ago and I really had a good experience. I wasn’t trying to mirror this experience to last times but I was imagining some quality time with Buhner. After all, it’s fan fest!
When I got to Safeco, the lines were already wrapped around the stadium:
The rules for autographs were pretty simple: the first 200 people in line that claimed vouchers upon entry would get that players autograph of their choice and so on and so forth until there were no more vouchers for that player. The players were staggered at various times so all you had to do was enter the ballpark, walk to the banner with the players name on it that you wanted, grab the voucher from the staff member and beat feet up to wherever the autograph session was taking place. Make senses? Okay, good.
Jay Buhner was signing autographs right at 10:30am so as soon as I got inside, I grabbed the voucher with his name on it and I just followed the signs that led me up to this hallway:
There were all kinds of cool things to look at waiting in line but all I really wanted to do was meet Jay Buhner.
I have been a Mariners fan since 1989 when my Mom took me to my very first Mariners game in the Kingdome. We sat up in the 300 level near the 3rd base side and the Mariners played the Baltimore Orioles. That was the first game I witnessed Cal Ripken Jr. play and all of my Mariner favorites. Since then, I’ve attended handfuls of games growing up with my Dad and we always sat where we could see Ken Griffey Jr.
Over the last few years, I’ve met a lot of players and I wanted to start meeting my childhood favorites like Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson. I met Edgar Martinez a few seasons ago by being in the right place at the right time.
Anyway. When Buhner finally arrived I had a question in mind that I wanted to ask him. And when I got up to the table to have my memorabilia signed, the staff member who was with Buhner was handing him so much stuff so fast for him to sign, I think Buhner was a little flustered. He even made a comment to the guy, something along the lines of “you’re handing me stuff and I don’t even have time to sign it!” Something like that.
When I handed my bat to the staff member, I stood in front of Buhner…
… and asked him, “Jay, when do you think Ichiro will hit his 3,000th hit?” He immediately replied with. “How many hits does he got?” I think at the time Ichiro had 2,919 or something like that. I was soon cut-off by more fans walking in front of me to get their picture taken with Buhner and the staff member kept piling on the memorabilia for him to sign. So I just picked up my bat and sort of walked away. I turned back once or twice more to watch but I was soon greeted with, “Have a nice day!” from another staff member which sort of meant, “please exit this way”.
Wow. I stood outside of the doors and just watched Buhner scurrying to sign balls and bobble heads and cards and all sorts of stuff. He had his head down and was just signing away.
Occasionally he would look up and laugh or whatever and shake a hand or two, but it was all business getting everything signed in front of him. I felt bad for him and I felt bad for the fans. Buhner had 200 autographs to sign in an hour and a half and I guess the point of the whole thing was to just get something signed and move on. But I wanted to at least talk to him for a minute or two like I got to talk to Edgar Martinez. I got to tell Edgar how I went to games as a little kid, and cheered for him and chanted, “Ed-GAR! Ed-GAR!” with my Dad and we drove home that night smiling after a M’s win. I shook hands with Martinez and took a picture and all was right in the world.
All wasn’t right in the world on this day. Buhner was a mad man signing autographs. I don’t blame him, though. It’s all about making the fans happy, I suppose. And if it’s just spending two quick seconds getting something signed from a baseball player and not having much interaction, then I guess that’s what makes people happy.
I feel fortunate as a baseball fan, though. I have a decent sized collection of signed baseball memorabilia from some of the greatest baseball players who’ve ever played the game. I’ve met and took pictures with many of my favorite players, I’ve traveled to 14 different MLB stadiums, I’ve seen MLB games in both Japan and Australia, I’ve caught a foul ball and I’ve shook hands with Nelson Cruz in Macy’s in down town Seattle. So over the years it’s been fun.
I walked away from Safeco today feeling happy that I got Buhner’s autograph on a baseball bat that’ll forever be in my collection but at the same time, I felt a little frustrated. I sort of put myself in Buhner’s shoes for a moment, too. He gives a lot of his own time to the fans. He raised the 12th man flag at the Seahawks game and he seems to be pretty involved in the community around the area, plus he goes to these fan fests just about every year. My only wish is during these autograph sessions, the process could just go a little slower.
If you haven’t heard the Bryan Price rant, I suggest you click this link and have a listen. Although, entertaining, it’s really off-track and kind of appalling that he’d take a stance on this kind of issue with the media. Price has been coaching for about 15 years and started his coaching stint with the Seattle Mariners in 2000 so it’s hard to understand just where he’s coming from. He issued an apology for the excessive profanity but says he stands by “the message”. What message is he standing by, exactly? The media has a job to do and their job is to report things. Not only did Price drop 77 f-bombs but he continuously said “I don’t get it” as well as “you don’t have to be a fan of the Reds”. Yet, he asked the media on hand many times how does reporting certain things benefit the Reds? It’s not their job to be fans of the Cincinnati Reds, Mr. Price. And you said so yourself that they don’t have to be.
Honestly, it seemed like Price was trying to play the ignorant card. He’s been around long enough that he should understand all aspects of the media. He should understand if someone within the Reds organization leaks some information to the media concerning the whereabouts of players, their condition or if they are going to play or not, the media will report it. It’s their job to report things like that. If Price wants to keep things hush hush then maybe he ought to try doing his job better.
Remember this from a couple of days ago when I came to Safeco Field?
I ran into him again and this time I introduced myself and got a picture with Mr. Divish:
I’m not entirely sure he was too thrilled to get a picture taken with me but it was fun nonetheless.
The Astros were in Seattle for a three game set and I’d get to attend the first game of the series. I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to catch some home run baseballs and I figured since the Astros have a track record of sucking so much no one would attend this game. I was right. The attendance was roughly 15, 100 people. The last few games I’ve been sitting in the outfield and nothing has came remotely close to me. So when I got a text message from one of my buddies that he was coming out and wanted to shag BP home runs with me, I was stoked! The unfortunate part about it was he had prime real-estate seating down the first base side. Foul ball heaven. I figured, hey, nothing has been coming to me as of late, why not.
I bought a cheap bleacher seat for $14 then I upgraded to the lower seating bowl so I could sit with him. Batting practice was a blast. I caught an over-throw while standing in the ‘Pen from a toss-up that glanced off a glove. The ball bounced around and finally rolled to my feet where I easily scooped it up. My second ball came from a deep fly that I easily caught near the Mariners bullpen. Once the entire stadium opened up, I ran down to the lower third base seating bowl and picked up my third baseball that was sitting between the seats.
Jose Altuve lofted a soft fly ball into the third base seats and I made an easy catch and handed the ball to my buddy:
Before that Luis Valbuena pointed at us several times while taking some infield practice grounders. I was thinking he was going to hook us up with a baseball and when I turned my head to look out into the outfield, all I saw was a baseball trickle passed me along the wall. I scooped it up thinking it had been hit our way. But Valbuena had thrown it to the couple that was standing next (who had missed it) to us so we passed it down to them.
Here’s a picture of us all sitting in our awesome seats:
The kids seen in the picture above were extremely annoying. Later, after the game started, four more kids showed up and all six of them literally yelled and screamed and squirmed around in their seats. They did everything BUT pay attention to the game. I eventually moved down a row to an open seat next to my friends and watched the game in peace.
Luis Valbuena literally led off the game with a towering home run into the right field seats. Coincidently, the seats I was planning on buying before I ended up getting a cheap ticket. Then in the 8th inning, he hit another one nearly in the same spot. I felt really good about being able to catch both IF I had been out there. Take a look at these monster shots:
The one game I decide not to sit in the outfield…
The Astros went on to win it 7-5. Colby Rasmus went deep too but it was hit into the center field family section.
We had a few foul balls hit our way but they were hit a few sections over so I didn’t have much of a chance.
While on the way home from the game, I tuned into the post-game show with Shannon Drayer (@ShannonDrayer) and she mentioned Evan Gattis had a very unique story about him. I decided to look it up and read about it.
You can read the Evan Gattis story here.
Sunday games at Safeco Field (or any ballpark for that matter) are always a challenge when it comes to attempting to snag baseballs. There’s no batting practice for one, and it’s usually family day so that means lots and lots of kids are coming out.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of “ballhawking” at Major League stadiums, 1) players like to throw baseballs to kids and 2) without batting practice, it makes things extremely tough. On the plus side, the Mariners were doing a little infield practice and I already saw an opportunity to snag a few baseballs.
When I ran over to the first base side I found a ball sitting in between the seats which was probably an over throw from one of the players while fielding fungos from one of the coaches. It wasn’t long before I scored another over throw:
After that, I ran over to where Fernando Rodney was throwing and when he was done throwing, I was able to get his autograph on my ticket stub:
On the other side of the stadium, the Rangers were slowly trickling out of the dugout to warm up down the third base side. It wasn’t long before I scored a third over throw that hit the padding of the wall. I quickly scooped it up and tossed it back onto the field.
See the guy with his leg up in this panoramic picture I took?
That’s one of the translators for one of the players and he was missing a lot of baseballs while playing long toss with Tanner Scheppers. And yup, you guessed it. Yet another over throw right into my glove. Of course I had to give it back because they only came out with one ball to play catch with.
My haul after all the players went inside:
(two pictured here because I gave two back)
And now the infamous ‘Pen dog that I’ve been waiting all year to eat…
…cream cheese smeared on the bun, a 100% all beef frank with caramelized onions and peppers…yum.
The Mariners quickly got two runs on the board with an Austin Jackson home run and a Nelson Cruz home run (Jason Phillips caught it in his hat. It was quite impressive and you should watch the replay).
The Rangers answered back in the 3rd with a single from Prince Fielder that scored Martin and moved Andrus to 2nd. And then the wheels literally fell off. Paxton was chased from the mound after giving up seven runs in the 3rd inning.
The Mariners continued their offensive battle with another Nelson Cruz 3-run home run into the Rangers bullpen. 7-5 Texas.
The Rangers made the score 10-5 in their top half of the sixth and the Mariners quickly rallied back in the bottom of the seventh and the eighth scoring three runs.
In the bottom of the ninth, it was time to put on the rally caps! The M’s came screaming back scoring one run to tie after Jackson ripped one to right field scoring Brad Miller. Seth Smith moved over to third base and all it took was a Nelson Cruz base walk-off base hit! He was mobbed at first base and the Mariners won in walk-off fashion!
Nelson Cruz went 3-6 with two home runs and five RBI’s! Wow! It feels really good to have such a power hitter in the line up. It’s been a long time since Seattle has had one.