Category Archives: Sports

Visiting Angel Stadium of Anaheim

Last Saturday was a good day. Pam returned from a trip, and I picked her up at LAX. Picking a loved one up at an airport is so much better than the drop off. Instead of returning home right away we went to Anaheim. We had a lunch and dinner hybrid at Tacos Y Pupusas. It was the first time I’ve had a pupusa (a specialty from El Salvador), which was a positive experience. My al pastor burrito was also very good.

After eating we walked to Angel Stadium of Anaheim to see the Angels play the Tigers. Angel Stadium is the 4th oldest ballpark in MLB, meaning I have now attended games in the five oldest parks (1. Fenway Park, 2. Wrigley Field, 3. Dodger Stadium, 4. Angel Stadium, 5. O.co Coliseum). This was Pam’s second MLB game.

Angel Stadium viewed from the parking lot.

Angel Stadium viewed from the parking lot.

The stadium has a cheerful appearance, with palm trees being prominent around the structure. The signature design elements are the Big A in the parking lot (you can see it in the picture above, it’s in profile as the red narrow pyramid on the right side) and the twin size 649 1/2 caps by the main entrance. I really enjoyed the big hats.

Size 649 1/2 hats in front of Angel Stadium.

Size 649 1/2 hats in front of Angel Stadium.

We took a picture in front of the stadium (photo stolen from Pam).

We took a picture in front of the stadium (photo stolen from Pam).

We purchased tickets for section 515. I had a new experience going through security, when the security agent didn’t like my camera lens. I was told not to extend the lens. (Lenses that are longer than 4″ are forbidden, a policy I was aware of but did not expect to be enforced.)

Our view from section 515).

Our view from section 515.

The stadium has some interesting features. The rocks and water behind the center field fence are a fun element.

The rocks and water in center field.

The rocks and water in center field.

The sound levels tended to be a bit higher than my preference (we were near a speaker). It reminded me of the noise level in Chicago at The Cell.

It was a beautiful, sunny California day. The temperatures were in the mid-80s, with a slight breeze. The game was played at a brisk pace. Pam got to see her first home run in the 2nd inning, when Efren Navarro hit his first career home run. This game featured Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrerra, and Justin Verlander–it was fun to see so many great players on the field in the same game. We also got to see Tori Hunter make a spectacular catch in right field for the Tigers.

Albert Pujols at first base (with Jim Joyce in the background).

Albert Pujols at first base (with Jim Joyce in the background).

The game also featured another first for me. In the 3rd inning Eugenio Suarez was picked off first base by Matt Shoemaker. Suarez was initially called safe, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia came out and challenged the call. After the replay Suarez was ruled out. It was the first challenge I saw at an MLB game. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus felt that Scioscia took too long to challenge the play, and his theatrics in disagreement led to his ejection by first base umpire Jim Joyce.

In just under 2 hours and 47 minutes the Angels triumphed 4-0 over the Tigers.

The field under lights.

The field under lights.

Soon after the game ended the lights went down and a post game fireworks show commenced.

After the Angels win a game the halo on the Big A is lit up. As we walked away from the stadium I took a picture of the beacon of victory. I like traditions of statements of victory at ballparks (like the Wrigley Field flag or the Big A halo).

The halo was lit up on the Big A (Angels win!).

The halo was lit up on the Big A (Angels win!).

Seeing Angel Stadium means I have now visited all five MLB ballparks in California. I did not expect to accomplish that so quickly after moving to California, I thought it would be a long-term goal.

It’s great to have Pam back from her trip. We’re in the home stretch of the wedding countdown!

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

July 4th Baseball in Oakland

Yesterday Pam and I drove to Oakland to watch a baseball game. Last year I spent July 4th at the O.co Coliseum as well (a bit of a tradition is starting). This was Pam’s first baseball game, and it was my first game of the 2014 season. We arrived in Oakland around noon, stopped by In-N-Out Burger for lunch, then walked to the O.co Coliseum. It was a cool, sunny day. We purchased tickets for section 219, row 6.

A view from our seats at the O.co Coliseum.

A view from our seats at the O.co Coliseum.

When I looked at her I could see the field in her sunglasses.

When I looked at her I could see the field in her sunglasses.

The game was cleanly played. Both the A’s and Blue Jays came into the game in first place in their divisions–so I expected nothing less. I had hoped for some offensive fireworks from the powerful line-ups, since things are exciting when runs are being scored, but instead we got a pitchers’ duel (and that was okay).

A loyal fan wearing an Athletics beanie and cape walked by us playing a banjo. I now have a new retirement plan.

An elderly man wearing an Athletics hat and cape while playing the banjo walks by.

A fan walks by.

bp2I usually sprout roots and stay in my seat throughout a baseball game–today was an exception. I wanted Pam to get a chance to see the stadium and take in the various vantage points it offered. So we walked around the concourse. On our way a team photographer asked us to pose for a picture.

We had the obligatory hot dog, popcorn, and souvenir cup soda.

When we returned from the stroll around the park the game was still tied 0-0 in the late innings. The tie lasted right through regulation and free baseball commenced. Right around the time extra innings started a flock of pigeons started flying around the field and over the seats. One of those birds managed to drop a load of what appeared to be mayonnaise and honey mustard right on Pam’s head. I was wanting Pam’s first baseball experience to be very positive, so this bird-bombing was not part of the plan. But we laughed.

A view from our walk around the stadium.

A view from our walk around the stadium.

Extra innings began. Finally in the 12th inning Derek Norris walked and Nick Punto hit a double into the left field corner. Melky Cabrera had difficulty picking the ball up, and just like that the A’s had a walk-off win. The stadium erupted with joyful sounds. The game had lasted 4 hours and 5 minutes.

So Pam got a full dose in her first baseball game: a pitchers’ duel, extra innings, and bird poop. Through this she laughed and smiled a lot, and she told me it was not a terrible experience. I had a wonderful time.

Baseball is beautiful–and so is sharing it with someone.

Postscript: Here is a link to Pam’s account of the game.

4 Comments

Filed under Sports

AT&T Park: Baseball by the Bay

On Friday I saw the Giants and Dodgers play by the bay. My PSU friend Andy and I arrived at the park early, giving us time to walk around the outskirts first. The gates at AT&T Park are varied and dramatic. The brick structures, signs, statues, plaques, and neighboring scenery make the outside of this park one of the most interesting parks I’ve seen.

One of many interesting gates at AT&T Park.

One of many interesting gates at AT&T Park.

The Giants Wall of Fame is located on one of the outside walls of the park. The commemorative plaques are for players ranging from all-time greats like Willie Mays to fan favorites with average careers (I won’t specify which players fit in this category).

The Giants Wall of Fame is on the outside wall of the park.

The Say Hey Kid on the Giants Wall of Fame.

The statues by the park are great. My favorite one captures the high leg kick of Juan Marichal.

The Juan Marichal statue.

The Juan Marichal statue.

I was very curious how the Giants would handle Barry Bonds’ legacy. What do you do after one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and the career home run leader, played for your team–yet his career is overshadowed by performance enhancing drug use? I thought the Giants handled this well.

A plaque for Barry Bonds.

A plaque for Barry Bonds.

Being at the park early meant we had time to explore and watch batting practice for the Dodgers.

Sitting in the outfield bleachers for batting practice.

Sitting in the outfield bleachers for batting practice.

A ballpark employee took a photo of Andy and me as we were making our way to our seats.

I detest being manipulated by photographers.

I detest being manipulated by photographers.

Our tickets turned out to be in the last row of seats in the park. It’s been a long time since I sat in the very top row of a park. and I’ve never paid more than $60 to sit in the last row before, but that’s what you get when you go to a rivalry game between two teams in contention on a Friday night at a ballpark that uses market pricing. The view of the bay was spectacular. Ships and yachts glided by.

The view from the top.

The view from the top.

We were much closer to the flags on top of the ballpark than the field.

The flags were our neighbors.

The flags were our neighbors.

The Coke bottle and glove behind left field are very cool design features. I also liked the visual of all the boats clustered in the harbor behind left field.

The Coke bottle slide and glove in left field.

The Coke bottle slide and glove in left field.

The game did not go well for the home team. The Dodgers blew out the giants 10-2. It was fun to see Yasiel Puig play again. Juan Uribe had a 2B, 3B, and HR. He only needed a single to hit for the cycle, which is the closest to a cycle I’ve ever seen in person.

The park in the dark.

The park in the dark.

It gets cold in AT&T Park at night. I was happy I brought a jacket. In the future I’ll take another layer. I was reminded of the faux Mark Twain quote: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

AT&T Park ranks high on my list of MLB ballparks. The building is beautiful, the sight lines are impressive, the food is wonderful, and the atmosphere is excellent. The biggest downside to the park is that they have a ballpark DJ–DJ Momentum. That better not spread to other ballparks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

July 4th in Oakland

Last week I spent a couple of days in the Bay area with my PSU friend Andy. On July 4th I drove to Oakland in the morning. It was a beautiful, sunny day in central California. I arrived at my first destination (the In-N-Out Burger at 8300 Oakport Street) at 10:30am, parked my car, and ate an early lunch. I stashed my car at an undisclosed location and walked to the O.co Coliseum (I still think of it as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum). I think the line to get into the ballpark was the longest line I have ever waited in barring traffic jams. A blanket giveaway was responsible for the early crowds.

A flying Minion entertained those of us waiting in line.

A flying Minion entertained those of us waiting in line.

Despite being at the ballpark two hours early I still failed to be one of the first 10,000 persons through the gate. Before the game started I explored the park. The concourse was very roomy, yet the early crowd resulted in a human traffic jam. As I walked along I repeatedly got stuck and had to just stand in place until I had space to move ahead. It makes me wonder how bad the crowd is during Oakland Raiders games (when they have 60,000 fans instead of the 32,000 the Athletics draw).

The concourse at O.co Coliseum.

The concourse at O.co Coliseum.

Because the stadium was set-up for baseball that meant almost 30,000 seats were covered by tarps. Most of the upper deck was off limits.

A closed walkway.

Stairs leading to a closed section of the upper deck.

You can see those massive tarps in the picture below. The entire upper level that is seen in the photo has tarps covering it. I thought this stadium might remind me of Veterans Stadium since it is a concrete bowl. Alas, it did not. While it is very circular it is not fully sided, there are openings. A small view of hills appears in one of the gaps in right center field. At the Vet you never saw the outside world unless you climbed to the top of the 700 level.

The glimpse of hills in right center field.

The glimpse of hills in right center field.

From center field you can see the small open section in the upper deck that is situated behind the plate.

The view from center field.

The view from center field.

All around the stadium there were signs offering help if you would text “issue” and your location to a specific number. I might keep this number in my phone for future use.

I could use a number like this.

I could use a number like this.

Since it was July 4th the ballpark had a festive feel. A large flag was rolled out in center field. People were dressed up in patriotic attire.

Uncle Sam sat near me.

Uncle Sam sat near me.

During the announcement of the A’s starting line-up the theme from the A-Team played. I loved that.

When Andy arrived we talked about life for the remainder of the game. It was great to catch up. In some ways my time in Happy Valley feels like yesterday and in other ways it feels like an eternity ago.

The game was an interleague affair (an abomination). The Athletics beat the Cubs 1-0. The lone run scored on a passed ball. The last time that happened in MLB was 20 years prior to the day. Bizarre.

Josh Donaldson at the dish.

Josh Donaldson at the dish.

Many sources list O.co Coliseum as the second worst venue to watch an MLB game (ranking it only above Tropicana Field). The stadium lacks individuality and architectural interest, but it wasn’t as much of a disaster as I expected. It is a plain stadium, and the playing field is in very good shape. I won’t pile on the criticism.

After the game we tried to explore downtown Oakland but it was closed. It was eerie. Finally we found a small establishment called the Rosamunde Sausage Grill in Swan’s Marketplace. A beer sausage and a Moose Drool rounded out the day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Los Angeles: Following the Phillies Part II

After seeing the Phillies wrap-up their series in San Diego on Wednesday I traveled north to Los Angeles on Thursday to see them open a series with the Dodgers. Dodger Stadium is the third oldest ballpark in MLB. I saw the two oldest (Fenway Park and Wrigley Field) last summer, so I was excited to add Dodger Stadium to the list.

I arrived in Los Angeles in the early afternoon and parked by the Los Angeles Police Academy near the ballpark. From there it was a short walk to the Chavez Ravine Arboretum, the oldest arboretum in southern California. It was founded in 1893. I wandered through the arboretum for a few hours. The sun was intense.

A large Tipuana tipu in the Chavez Ravine Arboretum.

A large Tipuana tipu (tipu tree) in the Chavez Ravine Arboretum.

When I walked back to my car I passed one of the closed stadium parking lot gates. I climbed up one of the light poles to take a picture of the lot and the stadium from above the gate (you can see the very top of the fence in the lower right foreground).

Dodger Stadium across the sea of asphalt.

Dodger Stadium across the sea of asphalt.

I wandered down to the Police Academy and talked to a security guard there for a while. He told me which streets I could park on in the neighborhoods by the stadium and safely walk back to my car wearing a Phillies jersey after the game. He also told me that his major life regret was not studying botany. We talked plants.

By this time the gates were about to open, so I walked back to the stadium parking lot gate. I was the only Phillies fan. There were many Dodgers fans. The experience reminded me of attending Temple vs. Penn State games at Beaver Stadium. I saw two baseball fans decked out in UCLA gear, discussing the abomination of in-stadium advertising and decrying the volume of ballpark music. I had to join their conversation. It turns out they were covert Giants fans, but they loved baseball enough to go to games anywhere. It also helped that the National Champion UCLA baseball team was being honored before the game. We talked until the gates opened and then during the trek across the parking lot.

The ticket booths at Dodger Stadium are set apart from the main stadium, like a little row of huts. I purchased a ticket for the Lodge Level, section 168, row O, seat 7. It was Sandy Koufax bobblehead night. I sold my bobblehead inside the stadium because I didn’t want to carry it around with me all night. I used the proceeds to buy a Dodger Dog and a beverage. Batting practice was underway when I saw the field for the first time.

Dodger Stadium in the sunlight.

Dodger Stadium in the sunlight.

Charlie Manuel, Rich Dubee, and Wally Joyner watch Ryan Howard take batting practice.

Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee watch Ryan Howard take batting practice while Wally Joyner stands nearby.

I was surprised by the low ceiling in the lodge level concourse. The stadium is huge for baseball (seating 56,000), but it feels small in the concourse.

The lodge level concourse.

The lodge level concourse.

View of the field from a seat near the concourse.

View of the field from a seat near the concourse.

Visiting Dodger Stadium and failing to get a Dodger Dog would have been unthinkable. Unfortunately I didn’t realize that they were available grilled or steamed at different stands. The stand I visited had the steamed version–but I would have tried both had I been aware of the possibility. The hot dog was good, though my preference when eating a hot dog is for the bun and the dog to be of equal length (Dodger Dogs are 10″ long, while the bun is ~6″ long).

A Dodger Dog stand.

A Dodger Dog stand.

My seat was one of the worst seats I’ve ever had at a ballpark. I asked the ticket seller for a good view–I think she just threw a dart at the seating diagram. The sun was vicious for the first few innings. But that wasn’t the worst of it. . .

The sun was bright.

The sun was bright.

The real problem with the seat was that the foul pole obstructed my view of home plate. By the end of the game my eyes and head hurt from having two focus fields competing for three hours.

My view of the foul pole (and the game behind it).

My view of the foul pole (and the game behind it).

I noticed that Dodger fans lived up to the main stereotypes I have heard. Fans were arriving during the 7th inning. Fans started leaving during the 8th inning (during a one run game). Movie stars were in attendance (hey, Fred Willard!). Valley girls, lots and lots of valley girls.

The announced attendance was 51,037. That is the largest crowd I’ve ever been part of at a baseball game. I suspect the actual maximum number of people in the seats at one time was close to 45,000 due to late arrivals and early exits.

The Dodgers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the 1st inning. The Phillies fought back to tie the game in the 5th. In the 7th they took the lead, then turned to the bullpen to hold it. So far this season that has not gone well. Sure enough, the bullpen surrendered the lead and the game. Yasiel Puig added to his legend by hitting a single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 7th to knock in the tying and winning runs. The fans cheered everything Puig did all night (and I don’t blame them).

Yasiel Puig in right field.

Yasiel Puig in right field.

Things got a bit rowdy as the night progressed. Several fans were escorted out of the stands by security guards. I did not see any physical altercations between Dodger and Phillies fans.

The ballpark during the late innings.

Dodger Stadium on a summer night.

The final score was 6-4. I got to see Domonic Brown and Chase Utley hit home runs. I saw Yasiel Puig make some laser beam throws and deliver a game winning hit. I saw Delmon Young go 4 for 4 (he got a hit the previous night in his final at bat, so I saw him go 5 for 5 over the two night stretch–he would start the following game 2 for 2, giving him 7 consecutive hits).

My drive from the stadium back to San Luis Obispo was my best LA driving experience so far. The late night trip was smooth with few brake lights. I got home at 2am.

It was fun to follow the Phillies on the West Coast.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports