This wasn’t exactly a game at the ballpark that I’d be attending and trying to catch baseballs and whatnot. This was the 11th annual Catch in the Confines put on by the Chicago Cubs and I flew all the way from Seattle to be here.
I also met up with Shawn, another ballhawk, from Milwaukee:
This was the first time Shawn and I met up for something like this, and I’m glad I got to share this experience with someone who loves the game as much as I do.
If you’re unfamiliar with what Catch in the Confines actually is, well, I will tell you. The ticket to get inside is around $150 and all proceeds go to Cubs charities. The fans enter into the stadium, go sit in the seating bowl behind home late and receive a barrage of instructions. Basically, the do’s and don’t’s. Don’t touch the ivy, do play catch, etc.
This is the first time the Cubs actually had a Cubs player join the fans on the field. I was excited about that and when I found out it was going to be Jake Arrieta, I immediately bought a ticket, booked a flight and made hotel reservations. I tweeted Shawn and asked if he could make it out, too and he happily obliged. We also tried to get Zack Hample to join us as well, but he stated he wasn’t traveling much this year. I don’t blame him. Traveling around the United States has become such a wretched endeavor.
But nonetheless, I made it to Chicago and more importantly, I made it to Wrigley Field:
The last time I came to Wrigley Field was back in 2009. At that time I didn’t have a blog and I wasn’t really blogging about all of my baseball trips. I didn’t come out for a game, either. It was for some kind of meet n’ greet that the fans got to come into the stadium, walk around the infield and then we all filed into the stands to meet the current Cubs roster. I brought in an official MLB baseball and had Lou Piniella sign that and then used the ball that they gave me for signatures from the rest of the Cubs players.
Once inside, Shawn and I scavenged the stadium for any baseballs that might have been missed by the grounds crew from the day before. Specific instructions were given not to touch the ivy so Shawn’s plan to rifle through the ivy to find any baseballs was shot down.
Here’s me at the wall:
I touched the brick, I touched the grass, I touched infield dirt, I sat on the bullpen bench and I sat in both dugouts. I even drank from the water fountains inside the dugouts. Shawn threw some pitches off the visitors bullpen mound and I caught for him. It was literally a free-for-all on the field and no one said anything to anyone as long as everyone was having a good time and being safe. There was an opportunity to take some swings in the underground battling cages if you wanted, I opted out of that. Later, Shawn tweeted some pictures of the experience.
Finally, I got a chance to talk with Jake Arrieta. If you follow baseball closely like I do, you’ll know that Dan Plesac calls Jake Arrieta, Jake “State Farm” Arrieta on Twitter. So I asked Jake how he responded to that:
Me: “So Dan Plesac calls you Jake “State Farm” Arrieta. Do you like that nickname?”.
Me: “Dan Plesac. You know, the “Hey, Chief…” guy on MLB Network? The three-time All-Star Brewers pitcher?”
J.A: “Yeah, I mean…it’s been around for so long…It’s kind of old.”
Me: “I suppose. Well, I was wondering if you could sign my ball Jake “from State Farm” Arrieta?”
This was the outcome:
Yep! The ball was signed “Jake From” at the top of the ball, then he signed his signature then on the lower portion of the baseball, he signed “State Farm”. Perfect. And I might add, this is one the best autographs I’ve ever received from a player.
After that, I proceeded to photo bomb Jake Arrieta…
…And some more…
…and one more for good measure:
Jake was the coolest guy ever, too. I had a longing question for any baseball player, really. Ever since Twitter came out I have always been curious of celebrity twitter accounts. How they work, are they different from everyone elses, does the blue check mark do anything, you know, odd-ball questions like that. I never really had the opportunity to ask any players during batting practice because they are all kind of busy doing stuff. Jake was just standing there so I posed the question on him.
I said, “you know, I don’t have a blue check mark. So when I tweet, and since I’m not popular like you, nothing happens. I rarely get anyone retweeting my tweets. But you, you know, since you’re a baseball player for the Cubs, when you tweet, what happens?”
He kind of stared at me for a moment like “is this guy serious?” Or maybe he was unsure what I was asking since players are probably routinely asked what kind of pizza they like or which stadium they like the best. Not some crazy question about their Twitter account. But yes, indeed. I was as serious as they come. I wanted to know. In fact, if Arrieta had his phone near him I probably would have asked him to tweet something so I could see first-hand what happens.
He initially laughed at my question and then went on to explain that everything is pretty much the same as anyone else’s account. There’s nothing special about his account just because he has a blue check mark. When he tweets, he gets notifications in his mentions just like anyone else would.
Interesting. Having a celebrity twitter account wasn’t exactly as exciting as I had expected but hey. Now I know.
After I talked with Arrieta, I was pulled aside by CN100Sports and was interviewed about my experience. It should air some time soon on Comcast Xfinity on Demand, so if you’re in the Chicago area or have Comcast, you ought to see if you can find the interview. Here’s a Youtube snippet about the event:
Fast-forward to .22 seconds for a glimpse of me on there.
Until next time!
Zack Hample, famed Ball-Hawk snagged Alex Rodriguez 3,000th hit/HR!
So . . . as you may have heard, Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit happened to be a home run, and I happened to snag it. (Un-REAL!!) I’m planning to write a long blog entry with lots of photos, but things are so crazy right now that I wanted to get this up quickly.
First, here I am on TV with the ball:
Here’s a better look at the ball itself:
The “R” is for “Rodriguez,” and the “1” indicates that it was the first specially-marked ball of the game that was put into play for his at-bats. Those markings were already there when I snagged it. The sticker up above was placed there a little while later by an MLB authenticator.
Now, why are things so crazy? Here’s a screen shot of my email inbox:
I’ve already gotten SO MANY interview requests — and I still have 62 texts that I…
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If you haven’t heard the Bryan Price rant, I suggest you click this link and have a listen. Although, entertaining, it’s really off-track and kind of appalling that he’d take a stance on this kind of issue with the media. Price has been coaching for about 15 years and started his coaching stint with the Seattle Mariners in 2000 so it’s hard to understand just where he’s coming from. He issued an apology for the excessive profanity but says he stands by “the message”. What message is he standing by, exactly? The media has a job to do and their job is to report things. Not only did Price drop 77 f-bombs but he continuously said “I don’t get it” as well as “you don’t have to be a fan of the Reds”. Yet, he asked the media on hand many times how does reporting certain things benefit the Reds? It’s not their job to be fans of the Cincinnati Reds, Mr. Price. And you said so yourself that they don’t have to be.
Honestly, it seemed like Price was trying to play the ignorant card. He’s been around long enough that he should understand all aspects of the media. He should understand if someone within the Reds organization leaks some information to the media concerning the whereabouts of players, their condition or if they are going to play or not, the media will report it. It’s their job to report things like that. If Price wants to keep things hush hush then maybe he ought to try doing his job better.
Remember this from a couple of days ago when I came to Safeco Field?
I ran into him again and this time I introduced myself and got a picture with Mr. Divish:
I’m not entirely sure he was too thrilled to get a picture taken with me but it was fun nonetheless.
The Astros were in Seattle for a three game set and I’d get to attend the first game of the series. I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to catch some home run baseballs and I figured since the Astros have a track record of sucking so much no one would attend this game. I was right. The attendance was roughly 15, 100 people. The last few games I’ve been sitting in the outfield and nothing has came remotely close to me. So when I got a text message from one of my buddies that he was coming out and wanted to shag BP home runs with me, I was stoked! The unfortunate part about it was he had prime real-estate seating down the first base side. Foul ball heaven. I figured, hey, nothing has been coming to me as of late, why not.
I bought a cheap bleacher seat for $14 then I upgraded to the lower seating bowl so I could sit with him. Batting practice was a blast. I caught an over-throw while standing in the ‘Pen from a toss-up that glanced off a glove. The ball bounced around and finally rolled to my feet where I easily scooped it up. My second ball came from a deep fly that I easily caught near the Mariners bullpen. Once the entire stadium opened up, I ran down to the lower third base seating bowl and picked up my third baseball that was sitting between the seats.
Jose Altuve lofted a soft fly ball into the third base seats and I made an easy catch and handed the ball to my buddy:
Before that Luis Valbuena pointed at us several times while taking some infield practice grounders. I was thinking he was going to hook us up with a baseball and when I turned my head to look out into the outfield, all I saw was a baseball trickle passed me along the wall. I scooped it up thinking it had been hit our way. But Valbuena had thrown it to the couple that was standing next (who had missed it) to us so we passed it down to them.
Here’s a picture of us all sitting in our awesome seats:
The kids seen in the picture above were extremely annoying. Later, after the game started, four more kids showed up and all six of them literally yelled and screamed and squirmed around in their seats. They did everything BUT pay attention to the game. I eventually moved down a row to an open seat next to my friends and watched the game in peace.
Luis Valbuena literally led off the game with a towering home run into the right field seats. Coincidently, the seats I was planning on buying before I ended up getting a cheap ticket. Then in the 8th inning, he hit another one nearly in the same spot. I felt really good about being able to catch both IF I had been out there. Take a look at these monster shots:
The one game I decide not to sit in the outfield…
The Astros went on to win it 7-5. Colby Rasmus went deep too but it was hit into the center field family section.
We had a few foul balls hit our way but they were hit a few sections over so I didn’t have much of a chance.
While on the way home from the game, I tuned into the post-game show with Shannon Drayer (@ShannonDrayer) and she mentioned Evan Gattis had a very unique story about him. I decided to look it up and read about it.
You can read the Evan Gattis story here.
Sunday games at Safeco Field (or any ballpark for that matter) are always a challenge when it comes to attempting to snag baseballs. There’s no batting practice for one, and it’s usually family day so that means lots and lots of kids are coming out.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of “ballhawking” at Major League stadiums, 1) players like to throw baseballs to kids and 2) without batting practice, it makes things extremely tough. On the plus side, the Mariners were doing a little infield practice and I already saw an opportunity to snag a few baseballs.
When I ran over to the first base side I found a ball sitting in between the seats which was probably an over throw from one of the players while fielding fungos from one of the coaches. It wasn’t long before I scored another over throw:
After that, I ran over to where Fernando Rodney was throwing and when he was done throwing, I was able to get his autograph on my ticket stub:
On the other side of the stadium, the Rangers were slowly trickling out of the dugout to warm up down the third base side. It wasn’t long before I scored a third over throw that hit the padding of the wall. I quickly scooped it up and tossed it back onto the field.
See the guy with his leg up in this panoramic picture I took?
That’s one of the translators for one of the players and he was missing a lot of baseballs while playing long toss with Tanner Scheppers. And yup, you guessed it. Yet another over throw right into my glove. Of course I had to give it back because they only came out with one ball to play catch with.
My haul after all the players went inside:
(two pictured here because I gave two back)
And now the infamous ‘Pen dog that I’ve been waiting all year to eat…
…cream cheese smeared on the bun, a 100% all beef frank with caramelized onions and peppers…yum.
The Mariners quickly got two runs on the board with an Austin Jackson home run and a Nelson Cruz home run (Jason Phillips caught it in his hat. It was quite impressive and you should watch the replay).
The Rangers answered back in the 3rd with a single from Prince Fielder that scored Martin and moved Andrus to 2nd. And then the wheels literally fell off. Paxton was chased from the mound after giving up seven runs in the 3rd inning.
The Mariners continued their offensive battle with another Nelson Cruz 3-run home run into the Rangers bullpen. 7-5 Texas.
The Rangers made the score 10-5 in their top half of the sixth and the Mariners quickly rallied back in the bottom of the seventh and the eighth scoring three runs.
In the bottom of the ninth, it was time to put on the rally caps! The M’s came screaming back scoring one run to tie after Jackson ripped one to right field scoring Brad Miller. Seth Smith moved over to third base and all it took was a Nelson Cruz base walk-off base hit! He was mobbed at first base and the Mariners won in walk-off fashion!
Nelson Cruz went 3-6 with two home runs and five RBI’s! Wow! It feels really good to have such a power hitter in the line up. It’s been a long time since Seattle has had one.
Thanks to my lovely girlfriend for showing me how to do panoramic pictures using just my iPhone, I took this picture of outside Safeco Field on Felix Hernandez bobble head night:
From where I was standing was the start of the line to get into the ‘Pen and the line, as you can see, literally went along the stadium, underneath the overpass and back around the adjacent building and down the street. We showed up about an hour and forty minutes before the gates opened and there were about 15 people ahead of us in line. This is the latest I’ve ever showed up to a game for a bobble head and this was the end result…
…score!! King Felix Bobble heads! The crowd was enormous and there wasn’t many opportunities to snag so I headed out to the ‘Pen and hoped for something. It wasn’t long before I was able to squeeze into the front row and catch a ground rule double that bounced into the crowd and was bobbled by about four people before I finally got my glove on it. The next one came in on my right (I ended up giving up my spot) and again was bobbled by about five people before I ended up with it. Not sure who hit both. Honestly, I couldn’t wait for the game to get started so I could sit down. Waiting in line for hours on end takes a tremendous toll on me and quite frankly I’m sick of it. There’s a good chance I’m done collecting these bobble heads.
My seat was up in section 187 which sucked because I’m trying to catch a home run baseball this season. Safeco Field is huge and has lots of good areas to snag one but it’s tricky. Paying close attention to the line ups and who’s pitching generally gives good insight on where to sit. The bullpen area takes up a lot of home run territory and getting an opportunity to catch one out of there is next to impossible. A broad stroke of luck is definitely in order. The right field seating is probably the best place and obviously odds increase with low attendance. With Nelson Cruz hitting so many bombs, it was hard pressed not to just stay in the ‘Pen for the game.
I made my way over to the dugouts and took another panoramic picture:
Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre had to put on a show by mashing a barrage of home runs into the right field seats. It was quite impressive and reminded me of the games I went to at Coors Field where I watched Matt Holiday and Albert Pujols do the same thing.
With Felix Hernandez on the mound for the game, it would more than likely end in a Mariners victory.
Quick game recap: Robinson Cano scores on a sac fly from Seth Smith in the fourth. The Rangers get one back in their top half of the fifth on a ground out to Brad Miller. Mike Zunino crushed one to center field (upper deck, mind you) in the bottom of the fifth to answer back and then in the sixth inning, Miller triples in Kyle Seager and King Felix goes 8 innings, strikeouts 12 and Fernando Rodney comes in and slams the door in the Rangers faces. Boom. The game lasted three hours on the nose.
So how’s that new shot clock to speed the game up working out for everyone? The games are still going three hours plus. I asked a bunch of people on Twitter what their opinions were on the whole issue and this is what I received:
Lots and lots of good opinions that I truly respect and understand. If people have “other things to do” then maybe seeing a baseball game in the evening time isn’t going to work out. The game of baseball is a mental battle that generally takes place between the pitcher and the batter. It’s not supposed to be action packed. This isn’t football or soccer. It’s a game of wits. It takes time. Furthermore, if people have “things to do” then why do I see a vast majority of fans double fisting beer cups and getting sloppy drunk at game? I pay anywhere from $18-40 dollars for a ticket to see a game of baseball. With the rising cost of tickets, food and other concessions, I don’t want the game to be cut short because people have “things to do” or they’re bored or there isn’t enough action to entertain their feeble minds. The game will be played the way it’s played and people like Robert Manfred who try to shorten the game and change things around are a disgrace to baseball. If you don’t want to sit in a stadium for three hours watching baseball then don’t. Leave in the seventh inning or leave in the sixth. Fans who love the game shouldn’t be cheated out of their experience because bandwagon fans who show up only when the team is successful want a faster-paced game.
This movement created by pseudo-fans will soon die out when they realize they can’t speed up perfection.
The Mariners returned home after being swept out of Los Angeles by the Dodgers. It was frustrating and difficult to have any hope for this team. BUT. That’s kind of how it is as a Seattle Mariners fan. A lot of people were upset with Fernando Rodney because he blew two save opportunities; one game in which he should’ve won.
Anyway. The good ol’ Texas Rangers were in town for a three game series and tonight was College night on top of Bearded Hat night. The stadium would be a close sell-out. Because of those two reasons, I decided to come out to the ballpark a few hours earlier than normal. When I got to the stadium, Kyle Seager was being interviewed in Edgar’s Cantina on the Danny, Dave, and Moore show. Once he finished, I suppose that would’ve been a great opportunity to grab an autograph or a picture with the Gold Glove awardee but we just waved at each other and he was then carted off and out of my life:
Before all of that, I stood near Ryan Divish (A beat writer for the Seattle Times) out in front of Safeco Field:
He’s the one in front with the black back pack on. I tweeted at him and this is what he tweeted back:
Next time we shall, Ryan. Next time we shall.
Once inside the stadium, I hustled to the ‘Pen as usual and immediately got a toss-up from Willie Bloomquist. He’s one of my all-time favorite players. I gave that ball away to a friend of mine who has never really attempted to catch baseballs during BP before. During the process of getting the ball from Bloomquist, he asked me if I wanted a Selig ball or a Manfred ball. I told him it really didn’t matter; I wasn’t the picky type when getting anything from a player but good ol’ Willie B. insisted that he throw me a Manfred in decent condition.
Ackley stepped into the cage and absolutely raked home runs. Two moonshots were sent directly to me; one in which I caught on a nasty bounce near the Root Sports area and the second one I caught on an extremely lucky bounce off the garage door near the batters eye:
About half way up the door is where the ball hit and then bounced directly to me. Luckiest. Bounce. Ever.
After being allowed to roam the rest of the stadium, I went over to the third base seating bowl where I found one baseball, caught a foul ball on a bounce and got Shawn Tolleson to hook me up with my sixth ball of the day. My main objective was to get an autograph or a picture with a Rangers player. I’m trying to get a picture with one player from each team. So far I have pictures with the Marlins, Reds, Orioles, Rays, Angels, Mariners, Athletics, Indians, Tigers, Astros and Royals.
Adam Rosales ignored me, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre signed at the dugout, Carlos Peguero said no and Roman Mendez ran right passed me. Blah.
Here’s my haul for the day, though:
And here’s a glorious picture of my $7 dollar wiener:
I sat in right field in section 106 about three rows up from the field in hopes to catch a home run ball. That’s where I’ll be sitting the majority of the games I attend just for that reason. I’ve caught so many BP baseballs and one foul ball during a game plus a handful of “3rd out” baseballs from various players. I think it would be awesome to catch a home run gamer and get that little 10 seconds of fame.
The game was ridiculous. I actually anticipated a blow out with J.A. Happ on the mound. He reminds me so much of “Safeco” Joe Saunders. The Rangers posted the first run of the game on a sharply hit double down the left field line that Ackley had trouble cutting off. Leonys Martin turned on the gas and scored easily from first base. Then in the fifth inning, Happ gave up a solo shot to deep centerfield to Robinson Chirinos. The ball bounced off a few hands and ended up down in the gap behind the center field wall and some fan jumped down there to get it. I was kind of jealous because I think at this point (and as packed as the stadium was) I would’ve risked jumping down there too for a home run ball. I’m not sure if security ever caught up with him or what. It’s totally worth the ejection if ever caught, though.
The Mariners grounded into three double play balls that literally killed their momentum to score each time. It was brutal to watch. They did finally tack on a run in the bottom of the eight off of a Seth Smith sac fly that scored Miller from third base but the Rangers came back and extended the lead again with an Adam Rosales single. The ball literally hit the third base bag which allowed Chirinos to score.
Final score: Rangers 3 Mariners 1.
Tomorrow is Felix Hernandez bobble head day.
Today marked the day of a new age. A new baseball season and a new way of life. Baseball is slowly turning into a glamorous shot of reality of shot clocks, smaller strike zones and over-priced foods that barely cater to our taste buds. My favorite players were slowly fading out while the new, young rookies quickly filled their void.
I watched Albert Pujols for about 25 minutes while sitting in the lower first base seating bowl after the Mariners had taken their hacks in the batting cage. He looked tired and ready to retire, to be honest. There he stood, barely following the routine stretches that the trainer was directing. Like he had been in the Major Leagues so long that he was above all of the stretching and running and conditioning. It was for the rookies, his face said.
Eventually he picked up a baseball and played catch with Erik Aybar for about five whole minutes…
…then he stood behind the batting cage and talked to Jay Buhner for nearly the rest of batting practice. He did get into the cage, though. Pujols took about six total swings never once putting one into the bleachers. He never interacted with any fans, signed any autographs or even acknowledged our fan-existence.
I reminisced with a friend of mine about the time when Pujols was playing with the St. Louis Cardinals. Him and Matt Holiday would crush during BP. It was when I visited Coors Field for the first time some time ago and I thought it was quite impressive. The two All-Stars on the Cardinals were really putting on a show.
Now the stark reality of old age and being a veteran icon sets in. No real need to show the youngsters that you can crush BP home runs. Mostly, no one is interested in you anymore. It’s all about the Mike Trouts and the Mike Moustakas, and the Clayton Kershaws. Take a seat, Pujols.
After shagging six baseballs from around the stadium, I found myself out in centerfield. Mariners games are always a lot of fun for me, and for many years I was always happy about the food. Recently, with the rising prices of everything within in the confines of the stadium, the flavor has diminished. Maybe the flavor had been removed to pay for the new shot clock out in centerfield.
I tried a slice of pizza like always. Satisfying; killed the hunger pains immediately. Then I tried what’s called a “Baconburg”. I asked the guy what exactly a baconburg was and he replied with, “It’s a hamburger with bacon…” Ohhhhh, okay. Thanks for clarifying, smartguy. The bun was stale, the mayo seemed old and the whole thing kind of fell apart in my hands. I was not impressed to say the least.
The game itself blew by. David Freese blasted a two-run home run to centerfield to a fan who couldn’t hold on for the catch but was rewarded with the baseball anyway. Two sections over from where I was sitting. McClendon talks a big game but it feels like the Mariners are picking up right where they left off from last season. Barely any run support for their ace on the mound…and the defense is trying.
Safeco is in a unique location in Seattle…
…because we always get awesome sunsets.
The most memorable part of this trip was probably meeting the last known surviving inmate to ever have served time at Alcatraz:
His name is Bill Baker and we spoke for a few minutes, he signed his book for me and we shook hands. It’s beyond me why I idolized this man so much. But I love history, I love crime documentaries and I’m always intrigued by the human mind as to why people do the things they do. I suppose that’s why I was so interested in meeting him even though I had no idea he would be doing a book signing on The Rock (as it’s informally called). My girlfriend and I, Alexandra decided to visit Alcatraz Island before we headed over to AT&T Park to watch the Giants play baseball. You can read that entry by clicking this link. We were both mesmerized and astonished at the sheer beauty and history that this place had to offer.
The other part of this trip that was truly interesting was the great escape. You may recall a movie with Clint Eastwood called Escape from Alcatraz made in 1979. Well, I saw the jail cell in which the three escapees escaped from first hand. Here’s a picture:
See the black hole on the back wall? That’s a vent that all three men crawled out of. They used small tools to literally chisel a hole big enough to crawl out of and climb out of the prison through the walls where the plumbing was. Then they crafted rubber floating devices and floated away from the island. No bodies were ever recovered so no one really knows if they made it or not. Some say sharks got them. Others say they died from rip currents or drowned. It was really interesting to see. Here’s a close up of the exact hole that they climbed out of:
What guts and determination it took to pull something like that off. Another factor in their escape was their ability to make fake heads (which were on display in the gift store) and place them in their beds which in turn bought them extra time to escape. The guards had no idea until they were long gone. Here’s what the bed looked like with a fake head in place:
And as you can see in the background the green colored vent has been removed off of the wall to show you just what was in place to make it look like the vent had not been tampered with. Of course, now-a-days our prison systems are much more elaborate and have less means available for prison escapes.
The island was massive. By the end of our self-guided tour, we were exhausted. We spent nearly all day trekking around on the three-tier island looking in every nook and cranny that we could find. A lot of the island was off limits due to repair or safety reasons and if I uploaded every picture we took of this massive place, I’d be posting pictures all day long and this blog entry would never end. It was awesome, though and I’m happy I went.
Here’s a few more pictures that we took:
The picture above is the old guards recreation quarters. This is where the guards have their dance parties, evening parties and everything else. The guards and prison staff, for the most part, lived on the island along with the inmates. During our tour on The Rock we also found out that some big names in crime history served their time here. Like Al Capone and James “Whitey” Bulger. Click this link for a full-list of all the “gangsters” that served some time on Alcatraz.
Here’s a picture of my lovely girlfriend, Alexandra:
Our final stop after Alcatraz was the infamous Ghirardelli chocolate factory. It wasn’t far from one of the marina’s and after we ate dinner where we had a gorgeous view of Alcatraz…
…we snapped a couple pictures of the entrance to the shop, went inside to get some chocolate and then headed back to our hotel.
What an amazing trip. Next up: The Cayman Islands!
Stay tuned, readers!
It has been forever since I last attended a baseball game in San Francisco. AT&T Park is one of the most interesting baseball stadiums I’ve seen so far in my journey to see all 30. The last time I came here I snagged a bunch of baseballs and took lots of photos. You can check out that entry by clicking this link.
Here’s a picture of me inside:
It was Hunter Pence bobble head night so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to snag a bunch of baseballs like last time. To my surprise I was literally the first one into the lower seating bowl and found one baseball sitting in the seats. I thought I saw two but I couldn’t find the second one. Moments later a stampede of fans started filling the rows and I then started to wander the stadium.
Here’s a picture of McCovey Dave:
Dave is a huge Giants fan and attends nearly every home game in his kayaker. He goes after home run baseballs that land in the cove out behind AT&T Park and he is pretty successful at it. He has multiple methods of catching the baseballs but the real trick is just being at the right place at the right time to catch them. If you follow Dave on Twitter you will learn so much about all the “splash hits” and all the players that have hit one into the drink. He’s seriously worth a follow on Twitter and if you’re a baseball nut/fan like him, I’m sure he will follow you back.
Before the game started I noticed something. Take a look at the next picture and look at the bottom left corner…
…they’re kind of hard to see but…are those medal detectors? There weren’t any at the front gates of the ballpark when I came through. I thought it was sort of odd. I heard about Major League Baseball putting them in every baseball stadium but I wasn’t entirely certain it was a true. I guess it is true. What a pain in the butt this is going to be. I wonder how strict security will be or what will happen? Will they make us take our shoes off or our belts? Maybe an official TSA pat down? I’m kind of curious of everyone’s opinion on this. If you’re a ballhawk, please take the extra time it takes to leave a comment and give your opinion; pros and cons of how this will help/hurt your chances of getting a baseball.
Stay tuned for my adventure on Alcatraz Island…
The Sydney Harbour Bridge, also affectionately known as the ‘Coathanger’, was opened on March 19th 1932 by Premier Jack Lang, after six years of construction. Made of steel the bridge contains 6 million hand driven rivets. The surface area that requires painting is equal to about the surface area of 60 sports fields. The Bridge has huge hinges to absorb the expansion caused by the hot Sydney sun. You will see them on either side of the bridge at the footings of the Pylons.
You can have a close hand look while you are in Sydney by visiting the South Eastern Pylon. It is a walking trip and recommended for the fit only. It is a longish walk to get to the base of the Pylon and then there are 200 steps to the top. Entry for adults is now $8.50 (23 June 2003), kids between 8 and 12 years three dollars and under 8 years its free. (Prices valid until 30 November 2003).
The views and photo opportunities are fantastic. (If you can make it, we’ve got to say it is tough). There is a great display on how the thing was built. It has a similar place in Sydney history to the Statue of Liberty in New York as far as many migrants to Australia go. In sight of the bridge you knew you had made it.
The displaced peoples of Europe who came to Australia in the days of the grand ships can get very misty when you ask them what they felt when they saw this grand old arch on their arrival in Sydney from the aftermath of World War Two as they sailed up Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). The old Bridge has been replaced as “the” landmark of Sydney by the bold architecture of the Opera House.
But a grand old bridge it is, and one you will remember whenever you think of Sydney after your visit.
When it opened it cost a car six pence to cross. A horse and rider was 3 pence. These days a return trip (for some reason the only kind) costs two dollars twenty (gst). Horses and riders are banned, that’s the changing times. You can walk across free and you are allowed to bicycle in a special lane.
Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest (but not longest as thats the New River Gorge in the USA) steel arch bridge, and, in its beautiful harbour location, has become a renowned international symbol of Australia.
Its total length including approach spans is 1149 metres and its arch span is 503 metres. The top of the arch is 134 metres above sea level and the clearance for shipping under the deck is a spacious 49 metres. The total steelwork weighs 52,800 tonnes, including 39,000 tonnes in the arch. The 49 metre wide deck makes Sydney Harbour Bridge the widest Longspan Bridge in the world.
It’s taken me a long time to get this entry completed because I just spent about five days in San Francisco. I’ll have those blog entries up sooner than later, I promise.
This was my last day in Australia so I wanted to make it count. I heard rumor (and also saw some videos from baseball players) that people could climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I’m deathly afraid of heights and I have a fear of falling off high places as well. So when I first heard these rumors the whole thing was out of the question for me. I wasn’t about to climb four hundred and thirty something feet on a bridge in Australia.
When I left my hotel for the day I stopped at the Westfield Tower and rode the elevator all the way up to the top. It was a spectacular sight…
…and you can read all about the details of this day on this entry. When I got done looking at Sydney Australia from that vantage point, I headed out to do some more sight-seeing and eventually found myself at the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
For those of you who ever visit Sydney Australia, this is something you’ll certainly at least want to look into. It’s pretty expensive to climb the bridge but on a good day it’s worth every single penny spent. From start to finish the climb took about three hours. Here’s the entrance:
Not only do you get complete 100% safety training and a chance to climb some ladders before going up, but you also get a great tour guide and a thorough history lesson on the bridge and the surrounding area of Sydney. I thought it was going to be a quick 45 minute climb-up-the-bridge-and climb-back-down sort of thing. Nope. The tour guide was awesome and he told us how the bridge was made, why it was made and the details of the different jobs that helped create the bridge.
He told us this one story of how the rivets were made. One guy grabs the rivet with tongs and places it in a cooker on the bridge while another guy waits. This guy is called the “catcher”. Once the rivet is red hot, the guy with the tongs pulls the rivet out of the cooker and tosses it to the catcher. The catcher then catches the red hot rivet in a bucket of sand and then grabs it with his set up tongs. He then climbs into the bridge through an access panel and hammers the rivet into place. The tour guide told us that there were hundreds of thousands of rivets at the bottom of the river due to the catcher missing red hot rivets. Wow.
At one time actor and comedian Paul Hogan was a rigger on the bridge before finding fame and fortune.
In June 1976, the one-billionth vehicle crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The first 500 million crossings took over 33 years while the second 500 million took less than 11 years.
In 1932, the annual average daily traffic volume (in both directions) was about 10,900.
In 1943, with a wartime shortage of vehicles and petrol rationing, there was a drop in traffic to about 8,600 vehicles a day.
A total of 13 deaths happened from men falling off the bridge while being created and only one man survived a fall. Turns out the guy who fell off the bridge was an expert high diver and when he realized he was falling, his instincts kicked it and he was able to dive feet first into the river below and only break a couple of ribs. There were tons of stories like this that the tour guide had.
We weren’t allowed to take anything up during the climb like cameras or chewing gum or any other loose items. They were very strict about this and we received a quick pat down, we passed through a metal detector and they waved a metal detector wand over us prior to heading out. It was about the equivalent of passing through a TSA checkpoint.
So here are a few pictures that were taken of me by the tour guide once up on the bridge…
…that’s the entire group after we reached the top. See the old guy in the first row, second person in? That man immigrated to Australia the year before the bridge was built into completion and he’s 80 years old. The day of the climb was his birthday and his daughter climbed with him for his birthday present. How awesome is that? I’m in the second row, first person on the left.
This next picture if of me as we were heading back down:
So you’re probably wondering why we have headphones and why we are wearing those silly blue jump suits. The headphones were for so the tour guide could talk to us and tell us stuff while we climbed around on the bridge. And the blue jump suits is what we changed into prior to climbing the bridge. We all had to take off as much clothing as we were comfortable with and then change into them. They had no pockets and then we wore a belt with a four foot strap that was secured to the bridge as we climbed so in case we fell, we would not fall completely off the bridge. It was 100% safe to climb. So needless to say my fear of falling was put to rest while climbing around on the bridge.
This is probably my most favorite picture. It has a great shot of the Sydney Opera House in the background. Yes, it was windy and it started to rain on us just as we were reaching the top so we had to put on our authentic Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb rain gear. Despite a clear sunny day, it was still pretty awesome to be up there. The worst part about the climb as climbing three 25-step ladders to reach the platform to actually climb up the bridge. They were vertical, it was wet and like I said; I hate heights. But once I made it onto the platform to start walking up the bridge, it wasn’t so bad.
Another great picture with the Opera House in the background.
And after we got back down to ground zero, we changed out of our jump suits, drank some water, sat down for a little bit, returned all of our gear that they loaned out to us, we got one of these:
Boom, baby! My Climber Certificate!
I realize my blog entries went from “day one” to “day two” and then jumped to “day eight”. Simple explanation. Day three and four were spent at the Sydney Cricket Grounds watching baseball (and you can read all about that by clicking this link) and five, six and day seven were spent just kind of kicking around town and not doing much. So it really wasn’t blog worthy. I have a ton of pictures though and I might do an extra blog entry kind of like how I did when I visited Japan a couple of years ago.
Hopefully I can get my San Francisco trip blogged about within the next couple of weeks before I start going to a lot of Mariners games.