I did the Monster Mash!

Back in 2005, I made a spur of the moment trip to see Fenway Park (http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ballpark/index.jsp).  It was, quite possibly, one – if not the first trip – I had ever made alone for pleasure, and really spurred my thirst for travel (company be damned), and my love of the game. 
I remember EVERYTHING about that trip…why I went (an article on Albert Pujols in Sports Illustrated started it all; http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/featured/10338/index.htm), what I did the day I booked the trip (it was Prom Night for Amber, Lareina’s daughter), what my Mom said when I called her at 6 a.m. (“You’re going to Boston to see a Monster?), where I ate (Union Oyster House, where they invented the toothpick, http://www.unionoysterhouse.com/</a>), and who was playing the Sox (the Yankees)!  Magical, I thought! 
So, this time, looking for a reason to return, I “went big” and purchased a ticket in the famed “Green Monster” seats! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Monster).  Ironically, it’s an outfield seat…but a historical one, so I thought it worth the “green” to sit in the “Green Monster.”  I had an amazing time, coupled with an overnight stay in one of my favorite sister hotels, and, I was thrilled with my weekend getaway.  The Red Sox swept the series, and on the Sunday game, Mariano Rivera pitched his last game there.  I wish I would have been there for that, but I was happy with my little slice of history the Monster gave me on that day! 
Here are some pictures from my trip – take a peak: http://tinyurl.com/kdcjnsh.
It's Official!

It’s Official!


Wise words for sure!

Wise words for sure!


Park #34 – Marlin’s Park…It’s Good to be Green

And by that, I mean LIME GREEN!
If I had to pick two words to describe the “new” Marlins Park, it would be exactly those two – lime green.
I made a quick overnight trip to Miami to see this, my 34th park, and the last of the “new” parks that was on my list.  Without question, it was my least favorite park next to The Tropicana in Tampa.  People have said that it’s “very Miami.”  Well, I’m not sure what that means, but I know ballparks, and what I saw was odd and off-putting.
The arrival took you through shady neighborhoods; and the exterior resembles more of an airport terminal than a ballpark.  It’s a dome – albeit retractable – so it already has that strike against it, but they painted everything lime green, and it’s just garish. Don’t even get me started on the oddball “sculpture” in the outfield that turns into a fountain when someone hits a homerun (which the home team rarely does…but to give credit where credit is due, Giancarlo Stanton did that day…so at least I got to see it in action).
I get it, it rains, and a retractable roof ensures that you never have a rain out, but as I have said before, I like to see the sky and I would rather rock a pancho if I had to!
In the end, I was glad I went, but would not go back.  Like a small fish, I think, I would throw this one back!

Standing in the Hall of Fame…

I crossed off another item off my baseball “bucket list” with a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF; http://baseballhall.org/) in Cooperstown, NY. (http://www.thisiscooperstown.com/)

What an amazing place in an even more amazing setting. The HOF is by far the main attraction in the area, along with DoubleDay Field (the birthplace of baseball, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubleday_Field), but the bucolic city had such an allure, that I found myself just wandering the main street, visiting the many shops and chatting with the locals. It had a “San Juan Bautista” feel (for you Northern Californians), complete with a corner bakery (that had yummy donuts…breakfast of champions). The Hall itself was a shrine to baseball royalty and so well presented. The dioramas and exhibits were first class, and so rich in legend and the game’s past and future. The best part was the “Wall of Fame,” with all of the inductees’ plaques along the wall…wow, if those plaques could talk, the things they would say!

Leave no less than two days to really do the area justice. One complete day for the HOF (a day and a half, if you are the sort of person who likes to read every word of every exhibit), and then another day for to take in a game at Doubleday Field, and to enjoy the city of Cooperstown, especially some fish and chips at Alex & Ika (http://www.tatintarte.com/#/alexandikarestaurant/)…you’ll be glad you did!

Here is a handful of pictures from my trip…hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them (http://flic.kr/s/aHsjHjsaCk).

The Power of One…



I recently had the pleasure of catching an episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” (http://tinyurl.com/275hhzr) on HBO that really made me smile!

The quick recap: Boston teen takes a huge interest in the Nego Leagues, and begins to hunt down players of the era.

But, it’s not just in effort to collect autographs or souvenirs or for any other selfish reasons.  His “research” has validated their years of play, and, for some, they are not able to collect long-lost pension checks that they never were eligible for because they weren’t able to prove their years of play.

His name is Cam Perron, and his passion is amazing.  If you have a chance, read this article to fully appreciate his dedication and the time and commitment that he has brought to these players….http://tinyurl.com/lnek7ut!

Just a feel-good story…and we just don’t see enough of those as of late!


Walking in Memphis…On the Streets of Tokyo!

While in Memphis recently for business, I had the pleasure to stay at The Peabody Hotel (http://www.peabodymemphis.com/), which basically puts you in the heart of downtown Memphis.  As I was exploring the area, I happened upon AutoZone Park, home of The Memphis Redbirds (http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t235).  Sadly, during my visit, the team was away, so no baseball for me.  But, back in 2005, when I went searching for Graceland, I did have a chance to see a game and I really was impressed.  Its was a “big league” park, in a minor league bracket.

I’ve only been to two minor league games, one in Austin, and this one in Memphis, so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to, but I loved what I saw.  There was a pure love of the game that was visible in the fans and the players, all encompassed in a park that was perfectly situated in downtown.  It had a welcoming vibe, as if it was saying, “Come one, come all.”  It added to my love of the game, and left a very deep impression on me and my baseball memories.

Fast forward to Tokyo, December 2010.  [I know what you’re thinking, “What the hell does Memphis have to do with Japan?”  (Trust me, you’ll be surprised).]

I was days from moving back to the US.  I would soon be leaving my room on the 49th Floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, and since I was a guest in residence, but no longer an employee, I was finally afforded access to the guest elevators.  A perk for sure!  A man entered the elevator and his ball cap caught my attention.  It had a scripty “M” on it.

I stood in confusion for a minute…”Which team had an M on it?”  So, I finally just asked.

He looked over and said, “It’s a minor league team you’ve probably never heard of.”  I said, “Try me, I’m a big baseball fan.”

“The Memphis Redbirds,” he said!

Get out!

I proceeded to spew my fondness for minor league ball, the visit I made before I left for Japan, how I enjoyed the devotion of the fans, the effort by the players who were all trying to “make it to the show,” and how I truly enjoyed Autozone Park.

Half way through my “soliloquy,” he just began to smile and nod in agreement. 

“What did I say that made you smile,” I said.

“I used to own that team, and I built that park,” he said.

Get out!

He introduced himself at Dean (Dean Jernigan, to be complete, http://tinyurl.com/n73e8wp), shook my hand and said, “Thank you for that.”

It was one of the best elevator conversations I have ever had, and in that instant, as I was staring at Autozone Park in late May, did I take a walk done memory lane to recall that moment.

Baseball really is the tie that binds…from the Graceland to the Land of the Rising Sun!


Park #33 – Yankee Stadium (Bronx, TX)…A Cathedral to Baseball

Given that there are only 30 baseball parks in the league, you may be wondering why I’m on #33. Here’s the scoop…in the time since I visited my first park and present day, I’ve had “do overs.”

In other words, I’ve seen the San Francisco Giants play at “The Stick,” my first park (http://tinyurl.com/codc5m7) and Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T Park (http://tinyurl.com/codc5m7), my 5th park.  I have also seen the Padres play at Qualcomm Stadium (http://tinyurl.com/bqz3sav) my 4th stadium, and also at the glorious Petco Park (http://tinyurl.com/6nxktgg), my 25th park.  Finally, during my first trip to New York back in 1995, I stumbled upon “old” Yankee Stadium (http://tinyurl.com/cw438pb) my 3rd park, and now – on what was Opening Day of the 2013 season – I’ve seen its current day successor…(New) Yankee Stadium, and I wasn’t disappointed.

It “only” took me 18 years (say that again…18 years) to return, and I had VERY high expectations of what this incarnation of Yankee Stadium – The House that George Built – would be!

I was warned that it wouldn’t compare to the old version – and the truth is, it didn’t?  How could it?  There is NO comparison…it’s apples and oranges.  What made the first stadium iconic was its history, not the structure.  So, when you endeavor to build a stadium to honor the legacy of the Yankees – 27-Time World Champions (say that again, 27-time World Champions!) – everything is grand, even ostentatious, and rightfully so.  It is a cathedral to baseball…to this franchise, and to the game – where everything was over-the-top.  But, again, it’s all relative, and I’m more than okay with that.  I actually wouldn’t have expected anything less. 

On that day,  April Fool’s Day, the skies cleared up for at least seven innings before the rain came and the Boston Red Sox ran away with the game.  Either way, it was a perfect day at the park, and some 30 ballparks later, it was the best way to kick off the season…no foolin’!

(See pictures from the visit here:http://tinyurl.com/c8uz36z), and a few of my favorite below! 

The flags unfurl

The flags unfurl

Right before the first pitch!

Right before the first pitch!

Beautiful blue skies

Beautiful blue skies

CC on the mound!

The banner says it all!

The banner says it all!