Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Welcome to Ninety Feet From Home - Day One of a Six Day Baseball Trip

Welcome to my new blog, Ninety Feet From Home. This site is all about baseball whether it's fantasy, the minor leagues, the major leagues etc. Since I have a nearly 40 year love of baseball, I thought it was time to start writing about it. I briefly had started another blog that was strictly about fantasy. I thought that was too limiting. This will encompass all things baseball. My first set of articles centers around my seven games in six days baseball trip.

Several weeks ago I ran an idea by my good friend Tony Terentieff to go on a baseball trip. The idea was to go on a four day baseball trip where we would go to Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Tieff was certainly up for it, so much so that one day he called me at work and told me our itinerary. As I wrote it down, he rattled off six games in six days.

June 28 - Washington vs. Baltimore - Camden Yards

June 29 - Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh - PNC

June 30 - Chicago White Sox vs. Cleveland - Progressive Field (Jacobs)

July 1 - Arizona vs. Cincinatti - Great American Ballpark

July 2- NY Mets vs. Pittsburgh - PNC

July 3 - Atlanta vs. Washington - Nats Park D.C.

First, I was stunned. Anthony Terentieff, Mr. Late Planner, planning out an expansive itinerary? I was shocked. When I told my wife, she was shocked. But the trip was on. I added a second game to July 2 in Hagerstown, Maryland which is right near the Pennsylvania border, where we are staying Thursday night (the Pirates - Mets game is a 12:35 start, Hagerstown plays at home at 7:00 pm).

First Day - Baltimore, Maryland
So the day was here. Sunday, June 28. Tony and I headed out for our seven baseball games in six days in trip. We’ve named our trip “Cheap Motels, Cheap Food and Baseball.” I had all my things packed – my clothes, my laptop, a case of Poland Spring Water and, wait for it, a twelve pack of assorted Mike’s Hard Lemonades in my cooler. We left about 7:30 in the morning from my house in North Bellmore. For once in the seemingly past month and a half, it was a sunny day. It was perfect weather for a day in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore

We drove non-stop south on the Jersey Turnpike to the last rest area, the Clara Barton rest stop, before the Delaware Bridge. Why? Cheap Jersey gas. Anyway, while getting gas, I stopped into the rest room, then got a bag of ice and went to the counter. At the counter was a girl, who could have been a really pretty girl with long hair, except for the multi colored punk haircut, and the lip earrings she had (don’t forget the nose ring). She was actually very pleasant while I was at the counter. But I wanted to just grab her, show a mirror and say “You know, you could really be pretty if you got rid of the stupid earrings and use your normal hair!” All I can say is thank goodness I have two little boys.

Well, back on the road we went. Neither one of us had breakfast, unless you want to call my cup of Yoplait yogurt breakfast. So we decided to stop at where all trips should really start – Waffle House! After our all star breakfasts, we were back on the road. We got to Baltimore a little before noon. We parked at the Sheraton Inner Harbor for $20 (that wasn’t cheap) but it was the perfect spot between Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor.

When we got to Baltimore, it was warm but very cloudy, unlike most of the trip which had been sunny. Of course, Tony decided to spend five minutes putting sunblock on. I kept busting his chops during the five minutes; because I knew something he didn’t (more on that in a second). I had been to Camden Yards ten years ago thanks to my friend Harry whose brother in law was having a birthday party at one of the club suites in Camden. We stayed our friend’s Bones place in Maryland (yeah we call him Bones, great guy though). I didn’t really get a chance to walk around or see the Inner Harbor that much. I made up for it on this today. We entered Gate F and then decided to walk around the Eutaw Street entrance. Camden is one of the ROK stadiums, which means lots of brick and a similar architectural look. Camden was the first of many ROK built and it’s still one of the best. They built this stadium right. There is a lot to do outside of Camden with restaurants and bars right along Eutaw Street and it’s also a short walk from the Ravens stadiums.

So, we finally made our way to our seats, Section 27, Terrace Box behind home plate. Good seats. But what Tieff didn’t know is that the terrace box seats are completely underneath the overhang. No issues about sun. So Tieff put on the sunblock for nothing.

As for the game itself, the Orioles took on the Nationals. John Lannan pitched for the Nats while rookie David Hernandez took the hill for the O’s. They had a barber shop quartet, the Glen Echoes, sing the national anthem (as well as God Bless America in the seventh). The rendition was quite good. Also, when the national anthem gets to “O say...” the crowd yells “OHHHHHH”. Good touch.

The Orioles were missing leadoff hitter Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora and it showed. Lannan kept the Orioles in check for seven plus innings. The O’s got off to a 1-0 lead on a few hits in the third inning but ran themselves out of the inning. Meanwhile, the Nats scrapped for a few funs off Hernandez, including an absolute SHOT by Adam Dunn that went on to Eutaw Street for a two run homer that put the Nats up 2-1.

Orioles’ rookie catcher Matt Wieters has struggled at the plate but acquitted himself in the field nicely. He gunned out one runner and nearly threw out Willie Harris at second after Harris got a great jump off Hernandez. However he made two critical mistakes later in the game. He dropped a great one bounce throw by Adam Jones that resulted in the Nats third run. Then in the ninth inning after a Josh Willingham double, Willingham tried to steal third. Wieters, trying to gun out Willingham, threw the ball in left field, resulting in Willingham scoring. The Nats’ Mike MacDougal closed out the game as the Nats won 5-3.

There were a lot of empty seats at Camden Sunday, which showed how far the Orioles have dropped in the past ten years. Ten years ago when I went to Camden, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. That’s because the Orioles were perennial contenders during that time. Not now. My guess, 25-30,000 at most (official attendance 25,068)

So, after the game, we went to the Inner Harbor. It’s a great place to take the family. The National Aquarium is there. There are dragon boats that you can take out on the bay. There are lots of shops, restaurants, ESPN Zone, Hard Rock CafĂ© etc. Lots of live entertainment during the summer. We ended up eating at the Phillips Buffet in the Mall. We had a very pretty waitress named Marci. Now I couldn’t quite place her accent. It was Southern but it had like a Brooklyn flavor to it. Turns out she originally lived in New York and New Jersey, then lived in West Virginia, then settled in Baltimore for the last few years. Yup, that sounds about right.

After a big seafood meal and waiting seemingly 30 minutes to digest that and have dessert, we walked around Inner Harbor. After we walked around for a while, we headed off back to our car in the Sheraton Parking Lot and drove out to Pittsburgh. One interesting note; when heading on I-70 from Baltimore to Pittsburgh, there is one point where the I-70 highway ends briefly and becomes the main street of Breezewood, PA. It's really surreal seeing an interstate end at a stop light and having to drive to main street of a town to get back on to I-70/I-76 Penn Turnpike to get to Pittsburgh. Almost seems like the townspeople made a deal with the governor way back when. :-)

Finally, we got to our motel, a Comfort Inn in Pittsburgh East. It's a little out of the way and you might miss it if you are not careful. More about that and Day 2, in my next posting.