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Spring Mobile Ballpark, Salt Lake City, Utah

Spring Mobile Ballpark, Salt Lake City, UTAH

Number of states: 31
States to go:  19

Number of games:  1
First game:  July 4, 2010 (Tacoma Rainiers 10, Salt Lake Bees 4)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

2010 brought about perhaps the most ambitious 4th of July Minor League Baseball Road Trip in Hamann family history.  The first couple of years brought us the nearest

ballparks–Spokane, Tacoma, Salem-Keizer.  One year we flew to northern California.  But a friend’s wedding in Montana on July 12 led us to make 2010 a huge drive–all the way to Utah.  Add a toddler to the mix and the desire not to drive more than 4-5 hours in a day, and you’ve got yourself quite a trip.  It could have backfired horribly, but it actually went very well.  Three days from Portland, we found ourselves staying in downtown Salt Lake City, just a few blocks from the gorgeous Spring Mobile Ballpark.

The ballpark’s location is as excellent as you’d want any ballpark to be.  Since Salt Lake City has the fortune of being west of the mountains, unlike its unfortunate PCL cousin in Colorado Springs, there are gorgeous Rocky Mountain panoramas

visible from every seat in the ballpark.  The setting sun reflects off the mountains, making for an excellent distraction during the game.  And its quick, accessible location from downtown SLC is also quite welcome–I was able to walk there from my hotel in about 40 minutes, but there’s a ballpark stop on SLC’s light rail system, so that walk wasn’t really necessary.  While circumnavigating the stadium, as I like to do, wasn’t possible (maybe because of fireworks setup), there was still a good atmosphere set up for the July 4 game, with people lining up outside early.

My family was among those lining up early, since for the first time in my ballpark travels, I had secured general admission seats for a game.  We didn’t know we would be doing this trip until all other seats for the big fireworks game had sold out, so we grabbed our baseball picnic blanket, a

couple layers of clothing, sun goop, and a few toys for the boy, and prepared to set up for the game.

I knew that there would be a pretty big rush for the best spots in general admission, so we got to the ballpark early.  Michelle put Steven on our monkey leash, which was admired by our line-mates.  In fact, as she let him burn off steam on his leash, one octogenarian woman approached Michelle and complimented her on the choice to use the leash. She used to get a lot of lip from strangers back in the day, she said, so she was happy to see someone using it.  (This was an especially refreshing compliment after a batty old bag said something shitty to us about the leash the previous day at the Boise Zoo.)  Anyway, all was right with the world:  we were at the front of the line, and I knew where I wanted to sit on the

outfield berm.

But then something went wrong.  About ten minutes before the gates opened, an usher came by to zap everyone’s tickets.  Ours were invalid.  Huh?  I think they sent us multiple copies of the tickets and I printed out the wrong one.  I was a little annoyed when she told us to go to the main ticket office to get everything straightened out, since we’d lose our choice spot in line that I planned ahead for.  My wife–usually the one who gets upset at customer service–told me to chill out, that I could come back tomorrow if we got a lousy seat.  So I said goodbye to my wonderful line spot and went to the ticket booth, who worked out the problem.  We then got back to the back of the line.

Here’s where I became a big fan of the fine people of Utah.

While I was in the back of the line cursing my luck just a minute or two before the gates opened, incredibly, a woman came back to us from the front of the line and told us that nobody would mind if we went back to our previous spot. 

“You earned it…you were here early,” she said.  Highly grateful, we went back there and offered to buy anybody who wanted it something to drink.  Everyone declined.

Thanks, Utah.  I deeply appreciate your generous spirit…and actively seeking us out to bring us to the spot I wanted.

We immediately zipped to exactly the spot I wanted…about halfway up the berm, about thirty feet off the foul pole.  I figured that people would eventually edge in front of us, and they did…but from their spot, they had to peer through the fence.  Had we been up higher, we would have had to deal with many, many people walking around, in, and out in front of us.  Here, we almost never did.  People mostly honored (though not always, as the photo shows) the edict to stay back from the wall, so the view wasn’t actually all that bad. 

But the atmosphere, not surprisingly, wasn’t too baseball-based out on the picnic blankets.  And, while I’d be bugged by that in the stands, I was totally fine with that out on the grass.  It was a carnival-family atmosphere there that was kind of nice, and while that might sometimes bother me, enough people watched the Bees get slaughtered that one could follow the game without appearing strange.  It felt right to watch the ballgame surrounded by families hanging out together–I got the warm fuzzies.

Which led me to another realization.  I can barely remember what I did on July 4th before Michelle and I began this tradition eight years ago.  I seem to recall two ways to celebrate.  One was watching while your crazy neighbor set off illegal fireworks while listening for the cops.  The other was

finding a sanctioned show, setting up a blanket, and killing time for several hours while the sun set, sincerely hoping that rain didn’t ruin everything.  As a kid, I found those hours mercilessly boring.  Really, going to a ballpark just gives you a game to fill all those hours in with.  It was a nice feeling.  And, this being Utah, there were a lot of kids around.  Some watched the game, and some didn’t, but all were well behaved, perhaps because those who wanted to whale on each other were segregated off to the other side of the grassy hill, out of range of both the picnic blankets and the ballgame.  So really, what the fourth of July general-admission ticket does is provides something to do for the waiting period before the fireworks.  Sold.

The Bees did a fabulous job of providing stuff to look at between innings without negatively impacting the baseball experience.  There was nothing to interrupt the baseball, which was particularly important at such a high level.  And between-innings distractions were rather rare as well.  It wasn’t until after the game that I realized how masterful the Bees were at handling fan experience.  The fireworks didn’t get started until about 15-20 minutes after the final out.  In most ballparks, they might play a little music, but they mostly just make you wait. 

At Spring Mobile Ballpark, instead, they had several fan-participation promotions during the gap.  This shows such common sense that I can’t believe more teams don’t follow suit.  At the moment that people might get bored, when there’s no baseball to be seen–that’s the best possible moment to do some silly promotions and put them on the scoreboard.  It was a splendid idea and well-executed.

Speaking of promotions, this particular game featured a marriage proposal.  Now, I’m 100% on record as being against a ballpark marriage

proposal.  But this one was a little, um, strange.  There was a competition where two people had to sing the jingle for Whipple Plumbing (which is to the tune of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song,” with “Whipple” where “Day-O” would be…I assume it’s ubiquitous in Utah for everyone to know it).  This man sang it (poorly), then a woman sang it and won.  But then it became clear that the man and woman knew each other because then the promotions guy said “Well, there’s one more thing to do…” and then let the man propose to the woman, who said yes.  I certainly wish them well…but I think they’ve set up a future problem.  When people ask them how he proposed, they’ll have to use the words “Plumbing” and “promotion” in their response.  In all honesty, even among ballpark proposals, this one is on the bottom side.  Why must all of our important life moments now be public rather than private?

Beyond this man’s marriage proposal, there were a couple ofsmall irritants I found at the ballpark.  While the stadium’s positioning next to the Rockies cements its local feel, I think they could have done better on the inside of the park to make this a place more

definitively Utahan.  For instance, they had many homages to baseball all-stars up throughout the ballpark.  But there was no connection to Utah.  I’d much prefer “Hall-Of-Famers from Utah” or “All-Stars who played in Salt Lake City.”  As it is, it felt incongruous.  More incongruous were the strange movie posters all around the joint.  I don’t care how much money they get for the posters, they didn’t fit in.  Additionally, they were for month-old movies that surely had already succeeded or failed at the box office on their own merits.  Who would go to get some nachos and decide they needed to see a film?

Still, there was much to love about this place, and its high score is richly deserved.  In fact, I loved it so much that I returned the next day, dropping $24 for a behind-home-plate ticket while my wonderful wife took care of the baby in the hotel.  But there was a major test that night…the baby was majorly cranky, and when I got a text from wife-at-her-wits-end, I left the game in the fourth inning–before it became official.  So I can only give myself credit for going to one game here, but I think I proved that, as much as I loved Spring Mobile Ballpark, I love my wife more.

I hope to return here.  It was simply gorgeous.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7.5/10
I’d like a little more in the concourse to tell me I’m in Utah:  the baffling Hall of Fame baseball photos celebrate baseball history, but not local baseball history.  Nevertheless, you just can’t argue with that mountain view.

Charm:  4/5
Again, the view.  The ballpark itself is not terribly unique, but it’s still lovely.

Spectacle:  4.5/5
The Bees have mastered the art of well-timed promotions that do not detract from baseball.  And the fireworks show is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Team Mascot/Name:  3.5/5


“Bees” is completely appropriate to Utah.  The mascot himself, Bumble doesn’t do too much for me (dull name), but isn’t too bad, either.

Aesthetics: 4.5/5
Lovely view.  Minor deduction for the ballpark itself being not gorgeous, but with the mountains, who cares?

Pavilion:  4/5
Like the circumnagivability of the place, and the way they segregate those who want to whale on each other from those who want to watch the game.  Would like a bit more local flavor.

Fans:  5/5
Lots of great people.  Wonderful human beings in the ticket line did my family and I a wonderful favor at absolutely no benefit to themselves.  They made their city and state look wonderful.

Intangibles:  5/5
Can’t argue with that first night there…a beautiful night, a fantastic pitching performance, and the best fireworks show I’ve seen at a ballgame (and I’ve seen a few).

TOTAL: 43.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Rainiers’ Michael Pineda, a 21-year-old making only his 3rd Triple-A start, steals the show.  He throws 6 perfect innings before getting knocked around a little in the 7th, but appears to be a stud in the making.

Chris Woodward and Mike Carp provide the lion’s share of the offense.  Woodward gets three hits–two off battered starter Fernando Rodriguez–and Carp hits a mammoth home run over our heads in right field.

(Written July 2010.)

Security Service Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Security Service Field, Colorado Springs, COLORADO

Number of states: 28
States to go: 22

Number of games: 1
First game:  August 11, 2008, first game of DH (Colorado Springs Sky Sox 6, Portland Beavers 5, 8 innings–scheduled for 7)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

My first minor league ballgames were in Colorado, at Mile High Stadium, 

But, according to the rules, my quest to get to a minor league game in each of the 50 states didn’t officially begin until 2003, so this necessitated a trip to Colorado Springs in August of 2008.  I was taking my bride to my 20-year high school reunion in the Denver suburbs, and it was very easy to take the jaunt down I-25 to see our local team, the Portland Beavers (who my wife rooted for vociferously) take on the Sky Sox.

There, we found a great ballpark in a highly unfortunate location.

It’s not the ballpark’s fault that it faces east (as is the convention for ballparks everywhere) and

therefore does not afford a view of the Rockies.  Indeed, it’s not really the ballpark’s fault that it’s located quite a ways east of the city and of the mountains, and therefore doesn’t really have any natural Colorado feel to it at all (eastern Colorado is not what one thinks of when one thinks of Colorado).  But the view beyond the outfield fence of endless tract housing is depressing to say the least.  When I’m pinned between strip malls and condominiums, I don’t have any feel for where I am.  The rule for ballparks is the same as the rule for real estate, and Security Service Field strikes out on three pitches when it comes to location, location, location.

However, the ballpark itself was quite lovely if one didn’t look beyond the outfield fences.  It has many touches I enjoy.  Visiting ballplayers walk past the kids’ area to get onto

the field, thus allowing for autographs.  The kids on the grassy hill are sedate and watching the game, probably because the Sky Sox, while not immune to promotional shtick, put baseball first.  And the retired numbers from past Colorado Springs teams are an especially nice touch–they bring us back to a local level that tract housing can’t.  So does the US Olympic flag flying under the state flag.

Security Service Field is a pretty small ballpark for AAA, which I like.  Rarely does a fan get a chance to be so close to AAA talent–and a ballpark of this lesser scale (it felt like a class-A or AA ballpark) is a pleasant surprise in the high minors.

Sox the Fox, the Sky Sox’s mascot, was simply wonderful…as energetic as any mascot I’ve ever seen.  He started the day by doing a

backflip off of a golf cart and didn’t stop moving the entire afternoon.  He actually did a couple of things that made me laugh–rare for a mascot.  I say this even though he gave me some grief for wearing a Mariners hat.  I was in the front row behind the dugout (prime mascot territory) and he removed my hat and pretended to urinate in it.  A little blue humor never hurt anyone.  But it was his athleticism that most impressed me.  He’s as good as I’ve seen.

This particular day featured a doubleheader for the Sky Sox…my pregnant wife’s second doubleheader in four days.  (The first wasn’t a scheduled doubleheader…it

was created by a rainout the night before.)  Thunderstorms gradually rolled all around us, with ominous, distant thunder leading me to wonder whether we’d be able to get one game in, let alone two (which were both slated for 7 innings).  Sprinkles occasionally would hit near us in what was as close to a muggy day as anyone can get in Colorado’s dry climate.

At some point during the fifth inning, my bride turned to me and asked the following:

“You know what would be better than watching a baseball game under the clouds?”

I shrugged.

“Watching the Olympics in our hotel room.”

Pregnancy, altitude, and doubleheaders don’t mix.

But still, my bride was a fantastic trooper.  The game went into extra innings (meaning the 8th), and in the top of the 8th, the skies opened up.  The thunder wasn’t too close, and the umpires were eager to get at least one ballgame in, so the game continued in the downpour.  Everyone in the ballpark headed up to the sheltered area behind home plate…and almost nobody left, either because they didn’t want to miss the end of the game or because they didn’t want to run through the rain.  Colorado storms usually don’t last too long, and this one passed quickly, but still, most of the crowd headed home, including Michelle and I.

Still, I give the crowd and the Sky Sox credit for a good experience and a nice ballpark.  It’s just a shame that experience and ballpark couldn’t be next to mountains instead of next to suburban blight.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel: 4.5/10
The Sky Sox do well to get the score this high, actually.  I’d have no idea where in the U.S. I was based on what I can see from the ballpark, but Colorado-themed concession items and retired Sky Sox numbers prevent this score from going far lower.

Charm:  2.5/5
Again, when I walked into the place, I thought this score might be a zero, but the Sky Sox put on a very nice show.

Spectacle: 3.5/5
A bit too much for AAA ball, but oh, that mascot was something else.

Team mascot/name:  4.5/5

“Sky Sox” is a fine name for a Colorado team, and Sox the Fox also a fine name…and the guy in the outfit earned this score with all his running and jumping.

Aesthetics:  1.5/5
Ballpark is OK…the view really, really dull.

Pavilion area:  3.5/5

Scoreability:  4.5/5
The Sky Sox did a fine job.  I especially featured the large, prominently-displayed lineups on the concourse.

Fans:  4/5
I can’t blame them for going home after the first game…to be fair, we did too.  (But also to be fair, they weren’t pregnant.)

Intangibles:  2.5/5
Lots of good here, but I’m afraid what I’ll remember is the tract housing.

TOTAL:  31/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

An incredibly dramatic ending.  Cedric Bowers uncorks a wild pitch in the downpour in the top of the (extra) 8th inning, scoring the Beavers’ Peter Ciofrone.  But the Beavers’ Edwin Moreno couldn’t seal the deal, as Sky Sox catcher Adam Melhuse crunches a 2-out walk-off home run to give Colorado Springs the victory.

(Written August 2008.)

Greer Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

Greer Stadium, Nashville, TENNESSEE

Number of states:  still 18
States to go:  32

Number of games:  1
First game:   July 29, 2006 (Salt Lake Bees 7, Nashville Sounds 4)

The best experience I have ever had in a ballpark was my rehearsal dinner–July 29, 2005.  Exactly a year later, I had another marvelous moment.

It sort of happened in San Diego, and it turned into a negative experience.  I had a shot at it in Batavia, and

I blew it.  But in Nashville?  On July 29?  Destiny.

I caught my first foul ball.

Bottom of the first inning.  Jonathon Rouwenhorst pitching. Vinny Rottino batting.  Rottino couldn’t catch up to Rouwenhorst’s pitches.  He

kept sending foul balls down the right field line, where I sat.  I got the glove ready.  Then, it happened.

I’m not very good at judging fly balls, so I’m glad Rob was there.  Not long after the ball left Rottino’s bat, he shouted:  “I think that’s you, Paul!”  The ball started by heading away from the plate, and then started arcing more parallel to the foul line, right along where I was.  I stuck out my glove and intercepted the path.  Bingo!  I caught a real-live foul ball.  On the fly.  In the glove.

My section, and three sections surrounding me, cheered loudly and lustily.  I greedily took it all in by raising both hands.  “Thank you!  Thank you!” I shouted.  No kids came up to me asking for it, and that’s good, because after

waiting a quarter of a century and some 200 games to catch one of these, I wouldn’t have given it up.  I attempted to re-enact the catch, but the resulting picture is poor…the glove was actually in front of me for a backhand stab.  I generally was giddy for the rest of the game.  Rest assured that I’ll try to get out every July 29 from now on!

Needless to say, Vinny Rottino is now my favorite player in the majors.  The Brewers called him up about a month after I caught his ball, and I’m hoping he’ll stay up in 2007.  (2009 Update:  He didn’t stick, and was traded to the Dodgers in July of 2009.) Minor leaguers, remember:  hitting a ball that I catch ALWAYS positively impacts your career.

It’s a good thing that I caught that foul ball, because the ballpark was a snoozer beyond that.  Were it not for the huge guitar scoreboard and the name Sounds, this place would have had absolutely no indication of which of the 50 states we were in.  The view beyond the outfield fence was a non-descript neighborhood to end all non-descript neighborhoods.  There was nothing thrilling to look at.  Add to that a too-crowded concourse, and it’s abundantly clear why the Sounds have decided

to move to a new ballpark by the river.

I did appreciate one thing about the concourse:  the way that the concession stands were named for past Sounds.  I always enjoy the nods to past players who have passed through, and Dibble’s Den, Bye-Bye Deli, and Magglio’s Pizza are a fun way to do that.

Sometimes, when a team goes to a place that is, as fellow Network of Ballpark Collectors member Tim calls it, “a new cookie cutter,” I can’t help but feel something has been lost. Sometimes I feel like there’s something to the old-school places, but not Greer Stadium, I’m afraid. I don’t have any vivid memory of the place.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  5/10
Beyond the guitar and the name, very little.

Charm:  2/5
Again, not much other than the scoreboard.

Spectacle:  3/5

Team mascot/name:  3/5

Here’s Ozzie.  He’s a carbon copy of the Denver Nuggets’ Rocky.  He does nothing for me.  The name Sounds, however, is excellent.

Aesthetics:  1.5/5
This is an unattractive place with no real view.

Pavilion area:  1.5/5


Dull and crowded, but I like the names of the establishments.

Scoreability:  3/5

Fans:  5/5

Intangibles:  5/5
Catching a foul ball trumps everything.  Simply everything.

TOTAL:  29/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Salt Lake spots the Sounds a 4-0 lead, then comes back to win.  Mike Eylward’s sixth inning 2-run double erases the last of that lead.

Matt Wilhite of Bowling Green, Kentucky, got the win in front of many friends and family.

Vinny Rottino goes 0-for-4, including a double-play.

(Written September 2006.)

Raley Field, Sacramento, California

Raley Field, Sacramento, CALIFORNIA

Number of states:  still 13
States to go:  37

Number of games:  1
First game:  July 3, 2006 (Salt Lake Bees 2, Sacrameto RiverCats 0)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

I’ve never heard anybody talk about Sacramento as a destination before.  Indeed, I’ve never heard anybody talk about Sacramento at all before, unless listing state capitals.  For those reasons, I was not expecting to be impressed by Sacramento.  I was, and I especially was impressed by its ballpark.

For starters, the location is ideal.  They’ve placed the ballpark on the river, just across from downtown, much like in Wichita.  From every seat in the ballpark,

and even from much of the concourse, there’s a fantastic view of the bridge that would lead you right to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk, if you were so inclined as to pay him a visit.  Sacramento’s downtown rises up behind and around the bridge, so the ballpark passes the important “is there any question where you are” test by virtue of sheer location.  Approaching and leaving the ballpark is a major part of the experience here.  I highly recommend parking downtown and strolling along Sacramento’s river walk on the way to the ballpark.  River walks are beautiful no matter where they are, and Sacramento’s is near loads of fun shops and night spots.  Then, cross the bridge on the south side (the stadium side)…otherwise, you’ll be forced to do a fairly lengthy detour back under the bridge (there wasn’t a convenient way to cross the street near the stadium).  I’d recommend against getting to the ballpark too early, since there’s minimal shade to wait in by the southeast entrance.  I’m always a fan of the experience of a ballgame starting on approach (Boston does this well in the walk from the T station, and Seattle isn’t too shabby either, at least in the approach to the ballpark from the north).  The experience of approaching Raley Field is as wonderful as that of any minor league ballpark I’ve experienced to date, and that’s important.  The ambience of a sold-out crowd approaching a ballpark is unmatched, and the RiverCats’ Independence Day Fireworks celebration had the crowd in a festive mood.

I especially appreciated this ambience on this trip, as my wife and I finished off our 4th annual Fourth Of July Baseball Road Trip, and our first as a married couple.

My wife and I have pretty much decided that the annual Fourth of July Baseball Road Trip will be a continued tradition, including after we have children.  How will the kids respond to this tradition?  I can just picture them complaining about it, saying “How come we can’t stay home and barbecue like normal people?”  But I bet we can make this into a wonderful tradition.  I’ve spent 4ths of July enjoying packed houses all along the West Coast.  I’ve watched people from four states ooh and aah at fireworks displays.  When the trip is timed right (as it was this year), I’ve seen multiple fireworks shows in multiple ballparks,

with almost every night a packed house.  I often feel like a stealth American, sticking an American flag into my hat and watching yet another small town or small city celebrate the USA.  I’ve grown to love the tradition.  And since families need traditions, even if my kids whine about this one through their teenage years, I think that they will look back fondly at these when they happen.  Of course, they’ll all be recorded on this site.  But I digress.

Inside the ballpark, Raley Field has several touches that help to expand the festive feel of the approach to the ballpark.  First, general admission tickets will get a seat on the grass beyond right field, and that space was totally packed on this day (although the spots in the shade went first).  There doesn’t appear to be a bad seat at Raley Field; the grandstand consists of just one level of seats beneath some skyboxes, including a batch down the right-field line that appears to include a Tiki-themed restaurant.

The pavilion area is quite lovely since it provides a mostly-unobstructed view of the field of play and even of the Sacramento skyline. 

I like the ability to get my concessions without missing any play.  And while I’m hardly a ballpark foodie, Sacramento’s concessions were notably good:  the nachos I bought from the Mexican place had guacamole, black olives, and sour cream–not just the usual orange goo in a plastic-corner-cubby.  My wife was stoked at a chance to buy a root beer float, but alas, they ran out.  Still, the idea that it is possible to do this at a ballpark wins my raves.   Also, the pavilion area had several nice, baseball-related touches.  There are two fairly cool three-dimensional bits of art depicting fans leaning out of the walls to get a better look at the game.  Also, the lineups are presented on sandwich-cutouts shaped like umpires, which I appreciated.  So rarely are there positive depictions of umpires in the world–these provide a nice change.

With quality AAA baseball in such a gorgeous setting, the RiverCats don’t need to do much in the way of distracting promotions, and for the most part, they don’t, which I liked.  On this Independence Day celebration, they did some strange stuff on the scoreboard, asking trivia questions and providing random facts about our nation and its presidents.  It was fun to play along during breaks in the action.

Beyond that, the baseball was central.

I was a little bit troubled by the self-declared “Team Mom” seated in the front row of our section.  The idea of the RiverCats needing a team mom is a little bit creepy.  I can understand the purpose of both declared

and undeclared team moms at the rookie and short-season A levels.  There, you’ve got kids who are fresh out of college, fresh out of high school, or even (in the case of some Latin American ballplayers) younger and on their own for the first time.  The need for host families in a small town and someone to help these young men with what might be their first forays into rent and laundry are welcome.  My wife’s experience working for a short-season A team backs this theory up.  But the youngest kid on the team was nearly 24, the median age of the RiverCats players was 26, and a significant minority of them were in their 30s.  None of them were fresh out of college (nobody starts their career at Triple-A), all had lived at least one year (and usually far more) on their own, and I’d wager that at least a third–and just as likely more–were married.  Put the orange slices away, lady–these players don’t need or want a team mom!  My wife got the sense that the players, as they passed this woman hooting at them, were merely giving polite “whatever, she’s harmless” nods.

What was stranger was the way the “Team Mom” decided to use her self-declared position to advance a political aim.  Sounds bizarre, but check it out:  She held up a sign that read “RiverCats and fans want our troops home safe.”  Of course, that’s true of all Americans–we all want the troops back safe–but when she held up this sign in July of 2006, there was significant debate over exactly when and whether our troops should pull out of Iraq, and the sign could easily have been interpreted as calling for troop withdrawal.  Even though I’m a pacifist liberal, I found this sign creepy.  Not because she was expressing her opinion at the ballgame–that is her First Amendment right–but because she drew in players and fans, some of whom might disagree with troop withdrawal.  To review, she invented a position for herself with the team, and then abused that self-declared position.  Yuck.

But that’s a minor gripe.  It doesn’t detract from the ballpark, which was a fantastic experience not only before and during the game, but also afterwards.  After the fireworks, we joined massive throngs of foot traffic back across the bridge into Sacramento, and walked over a boat parade in progress on the Sacramento River.  Boats were festooned with flags and stuffed with revelers, but more impressively, were completely covered in patriotic lighting.  Light bulb-covered boats stretched along the river until it bent out of sight.  It was a fantastic way to end the holiday celebration.

On the whole Raley Field is a tremendous ballpark–absolutely as good as its lofty reputation.  It’ s enough to justify making Sacramento a part of a California vacation, and in the process, you just might be pleasantly surprised at what you find along the river.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  9/10
It’s right next to the Sacramento River and has constant, gorgeous views of downtown Sacramento.  Can’t complain there.

Charm:  4.5/5
Lots of nice touches throughout.  Loved it here.

Spectacle:  4/5
A few, always in their place.  Baseball was central, but wacky stuff was there to be had.

Team mascot/name:  3.5/5


Dinger and caretaker.  The name “Dinger” has been done, but I like “RiverCats,” and Dinger clearly is one.

Aesthetics:  5/5
It’s a good-looking place with great views.

Pavilion area:  4/5
Nice here–excellent food, nice feel, nice art, virtually always in view of the field.

Scoreability:  4/5

Fans:  4.5/5
A packed house of nice Californians.  I got a good vibe.

Intangibles:  5/5
A gorgeous night, a great game, a fantastic view, and great food.  This is a gem.

TOTAL:  43.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

It was all about Salt Lake pitching, as five hurlers (Nathan Bland, Matt White, Matt Hensley, Marcus Gwyn, and Greg Jones) combined on a two-hitter.

Howie Kendrick drove in both runs with an 8th-inning double.

(Written July 2006.)

Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nevada

Cashman Field, Las Vegas, NEVADA

Number of states:  12
States to go:  38

Number of games: 1
First game:  April 6, 2006 (Las Vegas 51s 7, Fresno Grizzlies 2)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

2006 marked my third trip to Las Vegas.  I had been twice earlier for my fantasy football league’s draft (recommended…nothing’s more fun than drafting on a Saturday, then watching all the games at the same time on a Sunday), and as a result, all I had ever experienced of Las Vegas–and, for that matter, of Nevada–was the airport and the

Strip.  A $15 cab ride from the Stratosphere at the north end of the Strip changed all that.  It brought me to Cashman Field and a chilly April opening night for the Las Vegas 51s.  I was quite pleased with what I found there.

First, let me state a point of confusion.  I’m not 100% sure what the name of this place is.  The signs on the outside call it Cashman Stadium, but the 51’s website refers to it as Cashman Field.  The place is obviously in the midst of some terrible identity crisis.  With contradictory information, I’m going to go with “Field.”  The place is fairly small, and therefore feels more like a field than a stadium to me.

The most important part of my ballpark rankings is regional feel.  I want there to be no question where in the U.S. I am when I’m sitting in the stands of a ballpark.  What would that look like in Vegas?  Slots?  Showgirls?  Garish neon?  That’s not exactly a good

thing at a ballpark.  Cashman Field goes another direction:  it provides a quiet oasis from what one normally associates with Las Vegas, and I appreciate that a good deal.  There were very few promotions–which I like when the baseball is AAA-quality.  All we have to tell us we’re in Vegas are a combination of palm trees and desert mountains past the outfield fence.  (Yes, I know that we have palm trees and desert vistas in southern California.  But I know that I’m not in Southern California because I can SEE the mountains here.)

So while “quiet oasis” isn’t exactly what one thinks of when one thinks of Las Vegas, I like the feel and will rank it high in the “regional feel” category.  When I’m in Las Vegas, my brain can only handle three days of the sensory overload, and even then, I can get a little overwhelmed by the constant lights and BINGBINGBINGBINGBING sounds of the place.  Surely I’m not the only tourist who feels that way.  Unfortunately, we’ve grown to have almost as much bingbingbing in our ballparks as at a Vegas casino.  When I’m enjoying high-quality AAA baseball, I don’t need it.  Cashman Field recognizes this, and even winks at Vegas’ reputation with a cool “only in Vegas” advertising that rings the inside of the ballpark (things like “We love the night games” and “All hits, all the time.”)  The net result was a positive night at the ballpark.

Architecturally, the place has positives and negatives.  Like all three of the warm-weather ballparks

I visited on this trip, it offers the ability to watch the game while on the concourse buying food (especially welcome for most of the fans on this Thirsty Thursday Dollar Beer night).  I do like being able to motor around the ballpark without sacrificing my ability to score the game.  There are grassy hill areas by both foul poles, but there is no trespassing on the grass.  When I was there, I thought that was a shame, because I was picturing that being a nice place to picnic on gorgeous desert summer nights…but then, the next night in Lake Elsinore, I realized they were actually just preventing eight-year-old boys from beating the crap out of each other, a common activity on such hills.  On the negative side, its setting is well north of the strip and downtown, and it adjoins a convention center and some sort of museum, which makes it a little nondescript.  There’s nothing interesting about its external architecture.  Although I like the combination of tans and reds, Cashman Field’s connection to other buildings takes away any interest in its footprint (and makes my traditional pregame hike-around-the-ballpark a lot more taxing and arduous, especially on the bum knee I lugged along).  In the no-excuses department, I was really disappointed to find a prodigious amount of trash in the front row upon my arrival at the park.  This was opening day!  I guess they hadn’t bothered fully cleaning up since the last event there, which I believe was a major league tune-up at least four days prior.

Cashman Field has the kind of history-of-baseball-in-the-area stuff I like on its concourse, but they do some things that make it not as nice as it is in places where it’s done well (like Wichita or Spokane).  They have a number of past greats for the Las Vegas Stars and other minor league ballclubs from the city, which I enjoyed, especially because I had not heard

of so many of the ballplayers, such as Paul Faries.  They had Dodgers history mapped out as well.  Even though the 51s are a Dodger affiliate, I didn’t care for these.  I love Jackie Robinson and all, but because his story does not involve Las Vegas, his tribute seemed out of place.  And it certainly seemed out of place when their walk of fame also featured famous movie aliens.  Yes, that’s right…Tommy Lasorda is in the Hall of Fame with Jabba the Hut.  I’m all for wackiness, but this has all the markings of a ballclub and stadium that is simply trying too hard.  Ease up, guys.  This sort of stuff is out of character for a ballpark where, for the most part, they let the baseball be the star.

Speaking of trying too hard, let’s talk for a second about the nickname

of 51s and the mascot:  Hate them.  I never, ever, want marketing to be so stinking obvious.  Sure, I guess we could argue that the nickname is locally appropriate, but I don’t think that was the primary reason for its selection.  It’s clear to me that the primary reason that the name was changed to 51s was to increase the number of fuzzy items that would be sold, as well as hats, etc.  The alien they have on their hat isn’t even intimidating looking (like the guys from Independence Day).  He looks wise and friendly (like E.T.).  Don’t get me wrong:  I loved E.T., and cried when I first saw it at age 12.  But puh-leez.  What’s on a hat should be something that shows pride, tradition, or elicits intimidation.  The 51s go oh-for-three in that regard.

Opening Day 2006 in the minors meant there were replacement umpires on the field.  The minor league umpires, after not enjoying a pay raise in nearly a decade, were given an offer whose

miniscule pay raise was almost entirely counteracted by raises in their health insurance deductible.  When they struck to get a fair deal, Minor League Baseball decided to recruit replacement/scab umpires.  News accounts said that the replacement umpires were recruited from college, high school, and even Little League.

This was the background for a fascinating conversation I overheard.  A young guy in the stands came down to the front row during warmups and called some 51s player over.  He was a striking ump.  The players were very friendly and supportive; I think they were worried about what they’d see in the replacements. Also, many of them had likely risen through the minors alongside these umps.  The players asked what they could do to help the umps.  The ump said “Don’t go crazy, but if you could make it clear you don’t like a call, that’d help a lot.”  Sure enough, there was an ejection that day…a Fresno player got run for arguing a called third strike.  I feel like I know why.

This night also marked the first time my travels overlapped with the travels of someone else trying to make it to all the ballparks.  I met Doug and Carrie.  They’re a married couple

who were actually ahead of me in the quest to get to a minor league game in all fifty states!  They had a little bit of an advantage in that both of them are in the military, so their jobs have brought them within driving distance of a lot more ballparks than most people.  We enjoyed a long stretch of very nice conversation about ballparks.  I liked Cashman Field a lot more than they did, as it turns out.  We talked about major league parks we both have liked through the years–San Francisco, Kansas City, Boston.  Carrie helped me with some missed scoring decisions.  We were headed in opposite directions:  I had just come from San Diego the night before, and they were on their way there the next night.  Still, our paths crossed on this night, and I do hope they cross again.  Guys, drop me an email if you’re ever headed up to the Pacific Northwest.  Tacoma, Safeco, Everett, Portland, Salem…I’d love to join you.  The pretzels are on me.

So, on the whole, a nice quiet night at a place where the baseball was in the foreground.  It wasn’t a perfect ballpark, but on the whole, I felt like the 51s understood what a night at the ballpark should be about.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  8/10
I’m going against the grain on this one.  The ballpark was not much at all what I picture Las Vegas to be, except for the lovely desert mountain views.  But that’s what I liked about it, actually, so that’s why I give it a high score here.  If Vegas is a desert of noise, this place was an oasis of quiet baseball.

Charm:  2.5/5
Occasionally overblown in this department.

Spectacle: 4/5
Very few promotions, which I like for AAA ball, but still enough appropriate distraction if that’s what one likes.

Team mascot/name:  1/5


Cosmo and me.  Don’t like the name at all–never let your marketing be so transparent.  And this guy is goofy-looking.

Aesthetics:  3/5
The park itself is a bit dumpy, but the mountain views are lovely.

Pavilion area:  3.5/5

Scoreability:  3.5/5
Missed a key scoring decision, and the scoreboard guy was a hair slow at times.

Fans:  2/5
This part was bizarre.  Perhaps most surprisingly, most of the fans around me weren’t from Las Vegas.  Not at all surprisingly, most of the fans on Dollar Beer Night were smashed and idiotic.  Doug and Carrie actually brought this score up a point.

Intangibles:  5/5
I just kept enjoying how quiet it was, and what a nice break it was from the bingbingbing.

TOTAL:  32.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Grizzlies’ Brad Hennessey gives up 7 runs, but only 1 of them is earned due to 2 errors by his teammate Tomas de la Rosa’s 2 errors.

PGE Park, Portland, Oregon

PGE Park, Portland, OREGON

Number of states: still 5
States to go: 45
Number of games: 40
First game: July 4, 2004 (Portland Beavers 3, Edmonton Trappers 1)
Last game: September 3, 2010 (Las Vegas 51s 9, Portland Beavers 2)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Portland was the third stop on what I hope will become an annual event–the Paul and Michelle July 4th weekend trip to minor league ballparks.  It’s possible we won’t be able to afford to go to new stadiums every year, as by the end of this year, I’ll have all of the Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia stadiums crossed off my list.  But who can come up with a better July 4th tradition than baseball…minor league baseball?  It’s American, kids and adults

love it, and you get to see a fireworks show safer than what your crazy Uncle John puts together with marginally-legal explosives he spirits in over the state line.  If you do the weekend right and are willing to drive a little, you can get two fireworks shows (Eugene’s was after their July 3rd game, Portland’s on the 4th).  Plus, the minor league baseball atmosphere is better–bigger, louder, more looking-for-a-good time crowds.  So even if we just dip down to Tacoma or Everett every year, I’m thinking this will become a tradition.  And it’s a good one.

And we could certainly do worse than to visit Portland again.  I was extremely impressed with the setting of the ballpark.  Field level is significantly below street level, so from throughout the stadium, when any fan looks out past left field, it’s easy to see city life go by.  Portland’s light-rail MAX train goes past the fence out there, and better still, people who want to watch the game for free can do so easily by walking up to the fence between the sidewalk and the left-field pavilion.  It’s not that bad a view, actually, as these pictures should show.

The MA

X trains and the Beaver mascot are only a tiny part of what gives this fine ballpark local color.  A good chunk of that local color is supplied by Timber Jim, the de facto human mascot for the Beavers and A-League soccer’s Portland Timbers.  Timber Jim is a bona-fide lumberjack.  If you don’t believe me, just check out how he clambers up the giant log/pole beyond the right-center field wall and watches several innings of the game from there.  Also, check out how he repels down from a beam to dangle in front of fans and lead cheers from midair.  He’s an excellent asset to the team–not really detracting from the game, but very much adding to the experience.

Speaking of detracting from the game, this is the first game since my early youth where I have done the wave during the game.  I know, I know, disappointing.  But I think you’ll understand when I say why.  I attended this game with Michelle the Girlfriend and a whole gaggle of her college buddies (and their spouses and kids).  They don’t know me terribly well yet, so as they did the wave, I was explaining to them that “I don’t do the wave.”  Matt, one of Michelle’s best friends, was trying to talk me into doing the wave.  I, of course, remained adamant.  Michelle knows how passionate I am about the wave.  But she made a tragic mistake.  She cavalierly–and, as she soon

learned, too hastily–said to Matt:  “I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you get him to do the wave.”  Matt didn’t miss a beat before he turned to me:  “Paul, I’ll give you fifty bucks if you do the wave.”  Hey, we all have our price–fifty bucks is significant money to a teacher–and it’s not like doing the wave is a crime.  So when the wave rolled by next time, I stood up, shouted, and did the best wave I’ve ever done.  Alas, Michelle was very disappointed in my lack of morals.  I hope I didn’t cause long-term damage to the relationship.  How much money would YOU take for doing the wave once?  I bet it’s less than fifty bucks.  Fifty bucks which, by the way, both Matt and I are still waiting for.  Michelle–hurry up.  We’re charging interest.

The other thing I’ll remember from this game, besides forever losing Michelle’s trust in my integrity, was teaching a woman in the group to score.  She was given a scorebook for a recent birthday, and it was suggested that I help her through the game.  No problem…it’s very nice to help somebody out, and I love both scoring and teaching.  But my…it wasn’t scoring this woman didn’t understand, it was baseball. Case in point:  after a double play, I started to explain to her where to mark each of the outs.

“Here’s how you mark the double play,” I told her.  She gave me a blank look, so I continued:  “A double play.  That was a double play.”  Still nothing. 

“They got both the runner and batter out.”  Now she’s looking a little panicked behind her cluelessness.  “You know, a double play.  Two outs on one play.”

Finally, both confused and astonished, she responded:  “They can do that????”

It’s not so much my efforts to teach her how to score that interest me…it’s the whole notion of the situation that I’m interested in.  Why would somebody who  didn’t understand baseball happily receive a scorebook as a gift?  To be honest, even though she wasn’t yet a proficient scorer at the end of the day, I admired her a good deal.  I sure wouldn’t try to score cricket or bridge.

At this writing, it looks like the Montreal Expos have next to no chance of moving to Portland.  I admit I wish they would–not so much for the possibility of a new NL team down the road in a new stadium, but because it’d be fun to see major league baseball in this cozy, interesting venue.  No sweat: I’ll have to settle for the quite pleasant alternative of a few minor league trips down I-5 to catch the Beavers at the very enjoyable PGE Park, where I’ll sit with Michelle and not do the wave.  Unless somebody meets my price.

UPDATE JULY 2009: PGE Park has now become my home stadium, since I moved down I-5 to Vancouver, Washington in the summer of 2007.  My knowledge of the park–a couple of years of partial-season packages–has led me to appreciate it a little more (still love those MAX trains heading by) and a little less (there’s no legroom, and a tall guy like me needs it).

The bad news is that it’s all academic, however, since PGE Park will become a soccer-only facility after the 2010 baseball season ends.  As of this writing, there’s very little certainty as to what will become of the Beavers. They may be gone just like Timber Jim (who has hung up the repelling equipment since my original post).

There’s a chance that the Beavers will leave the area altogether, which would be terrible, but right now the number one possibility is that they’ll leave downtown and move to the suburbs. If they go to any suburb other than my own, the number of games I’d attend would drop precipitously.  I will not fight rush hour out to the suburbs to catch a game more than once or twice a year.  Stay tuned on this one.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  8.5/10
Outstanding.  The MAX trains going by left field and a guy standing on top of a giant log?  Can’t beat that.  The former means you’re in the city, the latter means the Pacific Northwest.  If this is the minor leagues, it must mean Portland.  (I deducted a half point for the loss of Timber Jim, but the view of the Oregonian building still carries the day.)

Charm:  3/5
PGE Park is old…mostly the good kind of old.  It gets docked for having a carpet, the right-field eyesore view of an extremely unattractive athletic club, zero legroom, and the stands being some distance back from the field.  This weighs down the score in spite of its many positive quirks.

Spectacle: 4/5
A fair amount, but the game came first…about right for AAA.

Team mascot/name:  4.5/5


Lucky Beaver.  The mascot is good–indigenous and intimidating (I’d hate to face a rabid beaver).

Aesthetics:  3.5/5
Wonderful to left field, hideous to right, and mixed within the old stadium.

Pavilion area:  3/5
Nice sense of ballpark history and a good sunny left field porch.  I do wish that more of the pavilion were outdoors, however.

Scoreability:  3/5
The only balls-and-strikes scoreboard is hand-operated.  Mistakes are a touch too frequent.  I like the retro feel, but I like accuracy better.

Fans:  4/5
Attendance is often dismal, but when they show up, it’s a raucous-but-civil group.

Intangibles:  4.5/5
Overall, I like this place for baseball and I’m going to miss it.

TOTAL:  38/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

A pitchers’ duel.  Portland’s Chris Oxspring (who really should have been a mattress salesman…excuse me, I mean an attress salesman) gets the best of it, pitching seven innings of four-hit ball.

Edmonton’s Josh Karp is the hard-luck loser, pitching very well besides a three-run homer to the Beavers’ Jon Knott.

Portland’s Mike Thompson takes a no-hitter into the sixth in a marvelous pitchers’ duel with Tucson’s Shawn Estes (on a rehab assignment).  He loses it on a solo home run by Keoni De Renne, and three runs in the ninth seal it for Tucson.

In 2007, Royce Huffman has a killer Father’s Day afternoon against Salt Lake, going 4-for-4 with a double, a home run, 3 RBIs, and a stolen base.

The 2009 AAA All-Star Game was an enjoyable affair.  Eric Kratz of Indianapolis takes MVP honors in the International League’s win, but I’ll most remember Nashville pitcher R.J. Swindle busting out a few 50-mile-an-hour breaking balls that nobody could hit.

Best pitching performance so far is probably Fresno’s Kevin Pucetas, who set the Beavers down on 2 hits over 7 innings.

(Written July 2004.  Updated August 2006 and July 2009.)

Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Washington

Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, WASHINGTON

Number of states: Still 4
States to go: 46
Number of games: 5 (1 before quest began)
First game in quest:  July 1, 2004 (Tacoma Rainiers 7, Portland Beavers 6)
Most recent game: July 20, 2015 (Salt Lake Bees 8, Tacoma Rainiers 2)

(Click any image to see a larger version.)

In the Puget Sound region, Tacoma is the butt of a number of jokes.  Its industrialization, crime problems, and, simply put, aesthetic unattractiveness lead stuffy, rich Seattleites to refer to “the aroma of Tacoma.”  This stereotyping led me to expect that Cheney Stadium, the AAA ballpark in Tacoma,

wouldn’t be a great place.  I was wrong.  Cheney Stadium is a fine place to watch a ballgame, and even better when watched with enthusiastic seven- and nine-year-old nephews.

It’s easier to teach youngsters to score than one might think.  My then-eight-year-old nephew did a fine job scoring a Mariners/Orioles game I took him to.  It was a pitchers’ duel, which made it easier…very few baserunners to follow around the bases, which is the tricky part of basic scoring.  So at the Tacoma game, I worked on the six-year-old.  We started with the very basics…color in runs when they’re scored, and a K means a strikeout.  Soon enough, David was working with me.  He started by filling in the runs that were scored.  He worked intently, like this was the world’s smallest coloring book.  Adorable.  He then  wrote in a few K’s for me.  This, also, was cute.  It’s a challenge for a six-year-old to write small enough to fit into the scoring box.  David concentrated so hard on writing the K that he actually came close to scraping through the page.  

The ballpark itself has surprising charm.  It’s fairly old, and the age shows well.  The pavilion area was  excellent–it included loads of minor-league promotions such as an opportunity to take kids’ pictures on top of horses (this would be the only time to date I’ve seen horses in a minor-league park).  I was a little bit bothered by the number of people in the beer garden.  The beer garden is in the pavilion, which means that

you can’t see the game from there.  And it was absolutely packed.  I’ve got nothing against enjoying beer at a baseball game, but why enjoy beer at a baseball game if you’re not going to watch the baseball game?  Why not just go to a bar?

A fine sense of Tacoma baseball history is on display in the pavilion–a number of plaques for big names in Tacoma baseball history (I remember Matty Alou), but most tellingly, a lovely mural.  The mural is of a dugout with a player wearing the uniform for each of the teams in  Tacoma history.  I was quite pleased and impressed.  So much nicer than the usual cinderblock wall left blank!  Additionally, they have reserved one of their better seats for a sculpture of Mr. Cheney, the bigwig in Tacoma baseball history for whom the field was named.  Not only is he there in the front row of back section, but there’s a bronzed sculpted scorecard by his feet and even some sculpted peanut shells on the ground around him.  I can’t think of a better tribute for a baseball lover than to be set down in a good seat to enjoy and score baseball

for eternity.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7.5/10
Good sense of Tacoma history, Mt. Rainier on the scoreboard, and evergreen trees beyond the field.  Too bad it’s in a nondescript semi-suburban location.

Charm:  4.5/5
Cheney Stadium manages to feel legitimately old without being ancient or kitschy-retro.

Spectacle: 4/5
Pretty good.  Not too much–feels about right for AAA ball.

Team mascot/name:  3.5/5


Rhubarb is a silly name.  A moose should have a proboscis bigger than his.  The name Rainiers is fantastic–beautiful, local, majestic.

Aesthetics:  3.5/5
The ballpark was quite lovely, but there was almost zero in the way of views beyond merely trees.

Pavilion area:  5/5
Quite good–loads of activity, lineups, and the like.

Scoreability:  3.5/5
Nice use of scoreboard, but failed to give information on some borderline scoring decisions.

Fans:  5/5
How can I possibly vote against my sister and her family?

Intangibles:  4/5
A good ballgame and a lot of fun with the folks.  I’ll be back.

TOTAL:  40.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The first game for Jeremy Reed in the Mariners’ organization after the M’s gave up Freddy Garcia to get him.  He goes two for four with a two-run home run.

A.J. Zapp hits a pair of homers for Tacoma.

Portland’s Xavier Nady also homered just a few days before getting called up to the Padres.

In 2007, I see Salt Lake’s Joe Saunders for the second time in two weeks.  He impresses, going 7 strong innings and striking out 7.

Salt Lake blows a 4-0 lead in 2007 before winning on Brandon Wood’s 9th-inning single.

A delightful experience in a pair of games in 2015 led to one of my favorite moments ever at a ballpark.  Our family went to a game in May that year, and my son Steven, who was 6, did his usual trick of writingStevenautograph down the lineups before the game. A Rainiers photographer spotted it and took several photos. When I asked when they’d be used, he said that a shot like that looked like a cover shot for a future version of the program.  Sure enough, the Rainiers were nice enough to notify me when he would be on the cover, and we headed back up there to get about a zillion copies.

In the pregame, the Rainiers’ Shawn O’Malley was giving autographs on the concourse. Steven went up to get one.  Steven told O’Malley (and everyone else he saw at the ballpark) that he was on the cover of the program. O’Malley’s response has made me a permanent fan of his.  He said “Well, I should be asking for YOUR autograph.”  He then had an usher grab him a copy of the program…and thus it came to be that a professional baseball player asked for my son’s autograph.

 

(Written July 2004.  Updated April 2016.)