Yes Indeed-Y!

I had been to Yankee Stadium once before, but I was only 10 years old so I couldn’t fully appreciate the history of the Yankees at the time. Considering that it was also 100 degrees on that summer day and that the Yankees lost, it wasn’t exactly a perfect day at the ballpark.

However, tonight on this perfect Summer Solstice night,

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I was sitting in short right field which is prime home run territory since right field is only 314 feet from home plate. I have caught a couple of foul balls over the years, but never a home run, so I put on my glove and was looking forward to the possibility.

Having watched some of my favorite players, like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, in this ballpark since I was little, I felt those memories resurface when I arrived. Yankee Stadium was totally re-built in 2009 so there isn’t the history of what they used to call it – the “House that Ruth Built” – where other famous players like Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle all played. They played in the original building that was built in 1923 and was torn down after the 2008 season to become parking. For $2.3 billion, the Yankees built a new stadium and the architects appeared to try hard to replicate many of the original features such as the limestone exterior, the copper frieze on the upper deck and Monument Park beyond the center field fence. It lacks the charm of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field but it is still nicely done.

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The Yankees were having a very good season this year but had suddenly embarked on a 7-game losing streak so there was a sense of pressure to get back on the right track and beat the Angels tonight. It was the bottom of the second inning when Didi Gregorius launched a home run to right field.

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The ball landed about ten rows away from me so not quite close enough. The Yankees radio announcer John Sterling has a different expression for each Yankee who hits a home run and I knew his call for Gregorius: “Yes Indeed-Y!”  I laugh at all of his calls, with my favorite being for phenom Aaron Judge, when he says, “All rise!  Court is now in session – your Judge and Jury!”

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Fun stuff. I miss his calls for some of the retired players like “A-Rod with an A-bomb!” for Alex Rodriguez or “the Giambino” for Jason Giambi since they called Babe Ruth the Bambino, or my favorite, “The Melk Man Delivers” for Melky Cabrera.

Martin Maldonado tied it for the Angels in the 4th inning with a home run to left field which occurred immediately after a balk was called on Yankee pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who had been pitching brilliantly. This may have unnerved Montgomery even though one is supposed to simply forget about it. In the Yankees 5th inning, Matt Holliday smacked a home run to right field.  

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At first, I thought that it was coming right at me!  But it tailed off near the end and landed about five rows away where there was a mad scramble for the ball. The Yankees poured it on after that with 3 runs in the 6th inning

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and 2 more in the 7th inning cruising to an 8-2 lead.

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Martin Maldonado hit his second home run for the Angels, but they could get no closer so it was an 8-4 final score.  Maldonado’s homer was also to right field but this one was a dozen rows away so I was not going to get my home run ball after all. Nonetheless, it was a great night at the ballpark with a good friend of mine and we enjoyed the game immensely.

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Cory Gorczycki

 

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Walking Off in the Rain

The rain started falling in Fenway almost immediately after the game went into extra innings.

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With each inning, the rain intensified and it bordered on torrential as the game entered the bottom of the 12th inning with the Red Sox at bat. The diehard, drenched Bostonians who stuck around (almost everybody) were rewarded with a walk-off victory over the Phillies when 22-year old Andrew Benintendi smoked the winning hit.

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He was very animated after the hit when his teammates mobbed him as they greeted him on the field.

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IMG_8249The Red Sox accomplished a walk-off the previous night (by Dustin Pedroia) over these same Phillies, and also in extra innings, so it’s been an exciting couple of days for Sox fans.

I had never been to Fenway Park before and my first visit didn’t disappoint. Fenway Park is rich in history.

 

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Opening in 1912, it is the oldest existing MLB park. In that first year, Fenway hosted the World Series – one of the most exciting World Series in MLB history! Virtually all of the games in the Series were close: four of the games were decided by only one run, another was decided by only two runs, and one game ended in a tie. Two of the games in this Series went into extra innings, including the final and decisive Game 8. This 1912 World Series was the only best-of-seven Series to go to eight games since game 2 was a tie gam, called on account of darkness.

The Green Monster in left field looks daunting on TV and it was exhilarating to see it up close. It is 37 feet high but only 310 feet from home plate.

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When Aaron Altherr of the Phillies hit a home run over the Monster to tie the game at 2 all in the 3rd inning, it was quite a site to witness.

David Price was the starting pitcher for Boston.

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He is a lefty like me and I had the perfect view of his mechanics from our box seats in short right field.

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His form and delivery are flawless and, except for that 2-run home run by Altherr over the Monster and one other run, he deserved to win the game.  Then again, Phillies’ rookie pitcher Ben Lively matched Price by only giving up 3 runs in his 7 innings.  The Red Sox hitters were getting runners on base, but they just couldn’t drive them in since they stranded 12 runners on base.  The Phillies’ hitters were even less effective, leaving 13 runners on base.  Both teams did not capitalize on scoring opportunities which caused the tension to build with each passing frame.

The most exciting play of the night, though, occurred when the Phillies’ Maikel Franco hit one off the Monster, and Benintendi fielded it and threw out the Phillies’ Howie Kendrick at home plate with the crowd cheering feverishly including the Red Sox mascot, Wally the Green Monster:

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The middle of the eighth inning followed with the traditional playing of the Neil Diamond song “Sweet Caroline”. The crowd seemed to all be singing at the top of their lungs without inhibition. Even I sang along! The rain started soon after that though. I didn’t mind but my Mom decided to don her rain poncho – which happened to be a New York Mets’ poncho. How embarrassing.

Besides the winning hit, Benintendi stroked two other hits. It was inspiring to see a near-rookie receiving the hero treatment at the end of the game and I was very happy for him. While it was almost midnight when we left the stadium, it was definitely a thrilling night and Fenway is now one of my favorite parks.

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Cory Gorczycki

 

 

 

 

Mets played like the weather: dreary and turbulent

Visiting Citi Field for my 16th birthday, we had incredible seats – right behind the dugout.

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Since this was my first visit to Citi Field, I was looking forward to a beautiful June Sunday. However, this was not the case, as it almost immediately started to rain, and persisted until the end. Even though the rain was not enough to cause a delay or cancellation,  the Mets did not seem to take advantage of the opportunity to be able to play.

It has been a disappointing 2017 season for the Mets so far since they came in with high expectations after making the playoffs in the past two years. Heavy injuries, particularly to the pitching staff, have weighed on the club. For that reason, Tyler Pill made his first lifetime major league start. Who? Yeah, exactly. Pill gave up a run on three hard hits in the first inning and this turned out to foreshadow his day as a whole.

 

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The initial reason for the hope that the Mets could win this game was the fact that the Pirates had Trevor Williams pitching, arguably Pittsburgh’s worst starter with an ERA over 5.00.  However, the Mets’ hitters either flailed with futile swings at Williams’ pitches or when they did make solid contact, the ball would be hit right at Pittsburgh fielders.  The Mets’ scratched out a run in the 2nd inning to close the gap to 2-1,

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but it was a slow deterioration from there.  2-1 became 4-1 in the 3rd inning, 5-1 in the 4th inning.  When a double play erased the Pirates’scoring chance in the top of the 7th, the Mets fans thought they had a chance.  First, a moving rendition of “God Bless America”.  Then, a raucous singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” followed by a very upbeat song that I’ve heard at weddings.  So with the Mets seemingly ready to bat,

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suddenly the umpires ruled that the Mets had not touched second base on the double play and the replay proved them correct.  Before video replay, this was the “neighborhood play” as the second baseman or shortstop wouldn’t have to touch second base – just putting his foot over the bag was enough.  Well, with video replay, that unwritten rule went away.  Anyway, the crowd booed vehemently and the Pirates tacked on another run before the 7th inning ended.  The good news?  We got to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” a second time and I got to see myself on the Jumbotron.

That extra run seemed to deflate both the crowd and the Mets.  The last runs were scored off Met reliever Josh Smoker, who was lit up and burned for the last three runs for an 11-1 final.  It wasn’t the backdrop for a game on my birthday that I had imagined, but I was with friends and family so it was still “a great day for a ball game”.

Cory Gorczycki

 

July 4th Founder Snubbed at Nats Park

 

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. July 4th is his day. You would think that he would be given a break. However, coming down the stretch of the famous President’s Race held between innings among Jefferson, George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and William Taft, Jefferson relinquished the lead in the stretch, and George Washington was victorious.

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The crowd loves this silly race of 12 foot high paper mache-clad people that is held between innings of Nats’ games from time to time, and I admittedly do too. Oh yeah, what about the baseball game? The Cubs won 7-2.

Nationals Park is quite impressive.

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I have attended a game at RFK stadium, where the Nationals played until 2008, but since I was only 6, I can’t say I remember very much. Nats Park is like many of the new parks which try hard to incorporate many of the bells and whistles in ballpark technology on their scoreboard.

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Multiple signs about “Natitude” abound. It reportedly cost over $700 million to build the park which is a number which is hard to get your head around when you consider that that comes out to $16,900 per seat assuming the 41,418 seating capacity. While there is a lot to like about the Park, it doesn’t evoke the same charm as Camden Yards, or have any unique features like the monstrous baseball glove at AT&T Park. Again, no complaints, just nothing very unusual.

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We had just settled into our seats in the bottom of the first inning when Jason Werth hit a very long bomb to left field to tie the game at one. After every home run, a navy submarine dive horn sounds, which is a nod to the park’s location in Navy Yard.   That home run was one of the few mistakes that Jason Hammel, the Cubs’ pitcher, made. Little did everybody know, this was Hammel’s last game as a Cub as he was traded with fellow Cubs’ pitcher Jeff Symardjia to the Oakland A’s for three minor league prospects. This is the one thing as a diehard fan that is hard to swallow. I get that the Cubs are building for the future, but if you are a season ticket holder and paid good money to go to every one of Hammel’s and Symardjia’s games, you have to be pretty ticked off that management has essentially written the season off on the Fourth of July.

As for the rest of the game, despite one of the worst hitting line-ups that you see in the majors, the Cubs somehow scraped together 7 runs while Hammel and the bullpen shut down most of the big guns on the Nats with the exception of Werth. Both Bryce Harper and Adam Laroche went 0 for 4 and didn’t look good doing it.

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Harper in particular looked out of sync as if he is still shaking off the rust after returning last week from injury. Hopefully, it is only a matter of time until he is back to his dominant self.

As for the Cubs, I’m not sure how you can win with a lineup whose batters #4 through #8 are Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena, Nate Schierholtz, John Baker and Darwin Barney. Castro is the one solid hitter in the group, but batting clean-up? He is a singles hitter. Valbuena is a journeyman who also has little to no power. And Scheirholtz, Baker, and Barney won’t be confused with Murderers’ Row. With all of that being said, while it will indeed be a painful couple of years for Cubs fans, I just read that the Cubs’ farm system was ranked number one in the majors. Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ general manager, did engineer two World Series titles for the Boston Red Sox, albeit with a lot of pieces already in place, so he clearly knows what he is doing. So hope springs eternal!

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The best part about Nationals Park is its proximity to so many other attractions. We visited the National Air and Space Museum downtown as well as the Hirschhorn Art Museum. I hope to return again as the Nationals will surely be pennant contenders for years to come.

Orioles soar through the rain and past the Rangers

While people have told me how nice Camden Yards in Baltimore is, after witnessing it first hand, I can see why they raved about it.  Although it was constructed in 1992, it still feels like a new ballpark, while the use of old style brick gives it a lot of charm.  The huge 78 foot long by 50 foot high scoreboard is very cool even though a few of the recently built parks have since copied this feature.

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The B&O Warehouse building beyond the right-field fence is the longest building on the the East Coast at 1,016 feet long, and it was fully renovated to house the team offices as well as several shops and restaurants.  It acts as a very impressive backdrop in right field where 1970’s slugger Boog Powell has a famous barbecue kiosk outside between the building and the stadium.  Also, a statue of Cal Ripken Jr. adorns that entrance to the stadium from Eutaw Street.  Ripken is, of course, renowned for playing 2,632 consecutive games which is a ridiculously high record given the recent spate of injuries afflicting current players.  Camden Yards also features an interactive area for younger fans

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as well as a statue of the mascot:

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Having arrived at the game early, I had the opportunity to get an autograph from Steve Pearce – the Orioles’ hottest hitter.

 

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This game was played on one of those hot, sticky July days when the mercury tops 90 and you start sweating just by sitting.  Thunderstorms loomed close by from the very first pitch.  While I wanted to root for the home team Orioles, part of me did want to see the Texas starting pitcher, Miles Mikolas, do well.  After all, it was his first major league start, and I imagined the nerves that I would feel if I were in that situation.  He is a big guy at 6 foot 5, and if he was nervous, it didn’t show.  For most of the game it was Miles’ night.  He rolled through five innings, giving up only one run (on an Adam Jones homer), walking none, and striking out four.  Meanwhile, Orioles’ starter Chris Tillman struggled so the Rangers stormed out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning.

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It looked like a fairly dull game until everything changed in the bottom of the sixth inning.  With the Rangers up 4-1, suddenly Miles looked shaky.  After one out, he walked the next batter on four pitches.  “Uh-oh”, my Dad said, “he’s starting to lose it.  Maybe they should yank him before the wheels come off.”  After Miles walked yet another batter, the manager did finally replace him with Jason Frasor.  The Orioles rudely greeted Frasor with a sacrifice fly, a single, a walk, and another single, and the game was tied!  Miles would not be getting a win in his first start.  The game, however, was suddenly exciting.

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After a rousing 7th inning stretch, the Orioles’ fans anticipated the best.  At the plate was the light hitting infielder, Ryan Flaherty, batting .205 and known more for his glove than his bat.  Suddenly, that unmistakable sound of a wood bat hitting a fast ball squarely on the sweet spot echoed throughout the stadium.  Flaherty hit one of the longest home runs that I have ever seen.  It headed over the seats and Boog’s BBQ towards the B&O Warehouse.  Unfortunately it caromed off a pole stopping its trajectory or it would have been interesting to see how far it would have traveled.  The crowd oohed and aahed.

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The Orioles then scratched out another run to make the score 6-4.  In the bottom of the 8th, the grounds crew swiftly poised themselves by the tarp on the side of the field.  It was perplexing as it did not seem any more likely to rain at that moment than during the previous seven innings.  Well, they must have received some good information because the skies opened up.  Everybody scrambled for cover!  After a one hour and 38 minute rain delay, the game resumed.  Orioles’ closer Zach Britton retired the Rangers 1-2-3 for an anticlimactic ending in front of the diehard 200-300 fans who stayed until the bitter end.

I really look forward to returning to Camden Yards next year.  Since my sister will be studying at the University of Maryland, it is very possible.

Jaso gets pie in the face

People often argue about what is the most exciting play in baseball:  the triple? Inside the park homer? No hitter? Diving catch? They are all exciting but, to me, nothing beats the walk-off victory. When it happens, all 25 players come out to hit the helmet of the player who hit the walk-off shot and the fans go crazy. Usually, the player who got the hit then gets interviwed on the field and, in a strange tradition, one of his teammates usually sneaks up from behind and gives him a shaving cream pie in the face.

In the bottom of the 9th in a tie game, the Seattle Mariners led it off with a single to right and the crowd rose to its feet in anticipation. Everybody in the ballpark knew that Brendan Ryan would follow with a sacrifice bunt. However, what turned out to the key play of the game, instead of just accepting his fate of being thrown out at First, Ryan ran as hard as he could. Despite it being a routine play, the pitcher didn’t account for Ryan hustling so much. Ryan beat the throw by a hair, and the Mariners were set up perfectly.  After a walk made it bases loaded and none out, John Jaso was sent up to pinch hit.  The Twins changed pitchers and the crowd cheered in anticipation.  Jaso hit a flyball to medium leftfield.  Ryan Doumit, who has a strong arm, made a throw like a rocket but it was off target and the Mariners won the game!  All of

Jaso’s teammates ran out of the dugout and mobbed him. 

They all playfully punched him and jumped on him.  The crowd went crazy.  Minutes later came the pie in the face.  It was a fun way to end our trip. 

Earlier in the game, Justin Smoak, who they call the Smoak Monster hit a bomb to dead-center which gave the Mariners the chance to win it in the 9th.

We loved Seattle and wished we had more time here.  The Space Needle gave a great view of the city being 720 feet off the ground.  

The stadium has a bronze replica of their old sportscaster which I took a picture with. 

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and a playplace for little kids

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and a mascot called Mariner Moose.

The fans were incredibly nice here and were really into their team., including many rounds of the wave.

In the 9th inning when the Mariners were rallying, the crowd went beserk when they played Ozzy Osborne’s Crazy Train.

You would never know that they were in last place as they acted as if they won the World Series after the victory.  The town was clearly energized by Felix Hernandez‘ perfect game which happened only three days prior to the game we saw.  Obviously, we wish we were there for that game and I can’t wait to see my first no-hitter.  Then I can decide if THAT is the greatest play in baseball.

A’s 6, Shelley 4

At 6’5″ and 235 pounds, Shelley Duncan is a towering figure. When he swings, he seems to swing right out of his shoes. This is what makes him what they call a true 3 outcome hitter. He will either strikeout, walk or homer with the homer being is the least frequent occurrence. However,  with the bases loaded, 2 out, and a 3-2 count in the 4th inning, my Dad said, “This could be ugly for the A’s“. On cue, Shelley hit a towering home run to left field giving the Indians a 4-0 lead. While the A’s had plenty of time to come back, it felt like too big a cushion.  I felt awful for the A’s starting pitcher, Tom Malone, who pitched a great game, but through one unfortunate pitch.

What always amazes me about baseball is how unlikely heroes emerge in games. Josh Donaldson, the A’s backup third baseman, came into the game hitting only .167 and was therefore likely headed back to the minors.

In this game, he proceeded to go 4 for 4 with his last hit breaking up a 4-4 tie in the 8th inning and leading the A’s to a 6-4 victory.

I was very happy for him and he seemed to also thrilled to be interviewed after the game. He signed balls and autographs for all of the fans who wanted one.  On that note, as soon as I arrived at my seat, none other than Covelli “Coco” Crisp signed my hat!

As for the Oakland Alameda Coliseum, it was quite disappointing compared to Anaheim or San Francisco. It is an old concrete stadium built in 1968

and is known as the Mausoleum because it draws so few fans, at times. During the 1970’s, attendence of only a couple thousand was common and during one game only had 500 fans. The entire upper deck is closed off with the exception of the one section directly behind the plate.

It also has more foul territory than every other stadium which loses some of the intensity from when the fans are on top of the players.  Despite theit small number, the A’s fans are very loud and really get into the music played over the PA. 

The A’s do have a mascot, an elephant named Stomper, but after waving to the crowd before the game, he was invisible the rest of the night.  It was pretty darn cold so maybe he was hibernating. Considering it was 107 degrees when we left Los Angeles, it was amazing how chilly it was in Oakland.

Well, now we are off to Seattle for the final game of our west coast journey. I wonder how many people at the Oakland game will be at the Seattle game tomorrow. I think it safe to say zero, besides us of course.