Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ballpark Roadtrip 2015

Larry and THC just completed their fourth annual ballpark roadtrip.  This year it was the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Brooklyn, oops, Los Angeles Dodgers.  Though THC's made several business trips to Southern California they were of brief duration and he'd done very little sightseeing so this part of the excursion was mostly new territory for him. 

Ballparks Visited
Seating Capacity
Chase Field
San Diego
Petco Park
Angel Stadium
Los Angeles
Dodger Stadium
Game Results
June 1
Braves 8, D-backs 1
June 2
Padres 7, Mets 2
June 3
Rays 6, Angels 5 (10)
June 4
Cards 7, Dodgers 1

We've now been to 22 of the 30 major league ballparks.  You can read all about our prior jaunts here.

The average game time was about 20 minutes less than the 2014 marathons.  As you can see, three of the four games were not close and the Phoenix game was pretty poorly played.  In fact, Chip Hale, the D-backs manager, apologized afterwards for the "dead, sloppy" play of his team, blaming it on the 17 inning game they'd played in Milwaukee the day before and their 430 AM arrival back in Phoenix that morning.  Nonetheless we had a good time at each park witnessing bizarre plays and managerial choices, seeing something that had only happened once before in major league history (for more on that see below), having a line drive foul ball almost whack Larry in the noggin (Angel Stadium) and getting to watch games with the THC Daughter (Phoenix) and friend Kurt (Dodgers).

Let's review the venues followed by the Annual Ballpark Roadtrip Awards.

All four locales are good ballparks but THC's favorite was Petco.  Set in downtown San Diego with beautiful views of the harbor, spacious walking areas, interesting seating and architecture and an incredible variety of interesting food.  Only complaint was the loud speaker system - the noise was too much (and while we're being crotchety - get off my lawn!).  Our seats felt much closer to the field than similar seats at Chase the night before.

Chase Field is another domed stadium.  We've now been to three, Minute Maid in Houston and Miller Field in Milwaukee being the others and baseball is just a very different experience in a dome, even when it is open.  THC thinks Chase was the best of the three (though Miller definitely had the best tailgate area) with Minute Maid being the oddest.  The location is good, right in downtown Phoenix.

Angel Stadium though it opened in 1966 was extensively remodeled in the mid-1990s and we were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed it.  Great sight lines of the field from the seats, comfortable for walking around.  Very engaged fans.  The surrounding area of Anaheim was pretty boring.

Dodger Stadium is a classic.  Lovely setting in the hills above L.A.  The stadium itself has a very retro-60s feel but it is showing its age; it feels more crowded and cramped inside and food and facilities are much more limited than in the newer parks.  Best aspect: Vin Scully does the pre-game analysis on the scoreboard and his play by play is piped into the restrooms and other general areas.  That voice instantly brings me back to my childhood.  Now in his 66th season broadcasting Dodger games.

The Ballpark Roadtrip Awards

Best Food SelectionPetco Park

Best Food Actually Eaten: Chase Field.  Hot dog smothered in Mac n'cheese (Larry), Italian sausage with peppers & onions from Hungry Hill (THC), and, at the insistence of the THC Daughter, an ice cream churro dog shared by us all.  We were comatose by the end of game which, given the quality of play, was probably a good thing.

Honorable mention goes to the thick cut bacon & cheese sandwich at Angel Stadium.

Most Puzzling Managerial Decision:  In the bottom of the 6th inning, with the Dodgers trailing 5-0 and runners on 1st and 3rd, the L.A. pitcher, Carlos Frias, was scheduled to come to the plate.  Frias had not pitched well and this was a great opportunity to pinch hit and maybe get the team back in the game yet manager Don Mattingly decided to let him hit.  Frias laid down a sacrifice bunt moving the runner over to second, the next batter struck out and the opportunity was gone.  An account the next day said Cardinals broadcasters were stunned by the decision as were we sitting in the stands.  It was like saying "we surrender".

Most Puzzling Decision (Undetermined By Whom):  In the bottom of the 10th inning, with the Angels trailing 6-5 with one out and a man on first, Matt Joyce bunted, which we interpreted, given the circumstances, as a gesture of existential despair.  We were unable to find any mention in the newspaper coverage as to whether Joyce did it on his own or was directed to do so by manager Mike Scioscia.  With two out, Chris Iannetta, hitting just .179 came to the plate and dribbled a weaker grounder to short ending the game.

Best Game: Tampa Bay Rays 6, L.A. Angels 5 in ten innings.
Very well played game.  In the first, Mike Trout hit a 430 foot bomb onto the grassy knoll in centerfield.   Angels jumped out to a 4-0 lead and their pitcher, Hector Santiago was cruising giving up only two hits and a walk in five innings.  And then he completely lost it in the top of the 6th with the first five batters going Hit By Pitch, HR, Single, Walk, HR.  Five batters, five runs.

In the bottom of the 8th, with the Angels trailing 5-4, Albert Pujols led off with a single.  Kole Calhoun followed with a single to right with Pujols beating the throw to third but Calhoun got tagged out oversliding the bag at second. The next two batters struck out and Pujols was left stranded.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Angels got a lead off single but the pinch runner was thrown out attempting to steal second.  This was followed by a walk and a single and then Erick Aybar hit a sacrifice liner to right field scoring the tying run.   With a runner on second, Mike Trout was intentionally walked bringing Pujols to the plate but he grounded out sending the game to extra innings.

The Rays got a lead off home run in the 10th and we then had the puzzling decision discussed above and the game was over.  Plus, as mentioned Larry had a close call with the liner from Rene Rivera and we had two other pop fouls fall near us.

Best Bargain on Seats: Angel Stadium.  Seats just beyond third base about 15 rows from field for $25 with special AAA Member rate.

Worst Double Play ComboDodgers - Jimmy Rollins (SS), Enrique Hernandez (2B).  Looked like they were playing in molasses.  Slow and slower.

Best (And Only) Celebrity SpottingMr T at our gate in LAX!  Happily chatting and getting his picture taken with anyone who asked (and a lot of folks did). 

Weirdest Pitching LineNoah Syndergaard, Mets
4 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 0 BB, 10 K
Syndergaard threw as hard as 98 mph but if a Padre got their bat on a ball they got a hit.  Of the twelve batters he retired, 10 were by strikeout, one by sacrifice bunt and one (Matt Kemp) on a weak grounder so of 11 Padres who hit the ball while attempting to get a base hit, 10 were successful.  The last eight outs were all strikeouts.  It was the most dominant yet bad pitching performance THC has personally witnessed.

It was only the second time in major league history a pitcher struck out at least ten while giving up at least ten hits in less than five innings.  The first time was the night before in the same ballpark by Andrew Cashner of the Padres!

Best Workout Club in Stadium:  Chase Field.  Actually, it's the only one THC has ever seen in a ballpark.

Best Driving Experience.  Too many to choose from so THC didn't:
(1) Last 90 miles on I-8 into San Diego.  Leave the Imperial Valley and immediately climb to 4,000 feet elevation into picturesque country.
(2) Pacific Coast Highway from just north of San Diego to Laguna Beach.
(3) Pacific Coast Highway in the Malibu area and then driving around Santa Barbara.
                                                  (Santa Barbara from the pier)

(4) Route 150 from Carpinteria past Ogai to Santa Paula. 
(5) Laurel Canyon Rd and Mulholland Drive in L.A (too crazy to take any pictures).

Best Flashback To the 70s: The stores in Topanga Canyon.

Best Pitching Performance: Michael Wacha (Cardinals)
7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5K.  Made it look easy. 

Best Catches:
Yonder Alonso, first baseman of the Padres, and just off the disabled list, making a leaping catch of line drive by Lucas Duda of the Mets in top of the 6th.
Todd Cunningham, substitute center fielder for the Braves, making a diving catch to rob the D-backs Aaron Hill of an extra base hit in the bottom of the 7th.

Best Non-Ballpark Eating: The Brulee Burger at Paradise Valley Burger in Phoenix.

Tourist Spot To Skip Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood.  What a sleazy dump.  Like Times Square in the 1970s.

Tourist Spots Not To Skip:
Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix).  THC wrote of his previous visit here.  Just as good the second time around and they've added part of Keith Moon's drum kit from The Who's 1960s touring days.  You can spend hours listening to music from around the world and looking at the instruments.
                       (Inscription reads "Keith Moon Patent British Exploding Drummer")

Universal Studios (L.A.).  Probably helped that THC's friend Laura gave us a guided tour but the studios and the park are a lot of fun.  Larry and THC did notice that they have reached the age where they triggered three or four of the warning signs on several of the rides.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (Simi Valley).  Stunning location on a hilltop.  Well designed museum with interesting exhibits plus the Air Force One used by every President from Nixon to George W Bush.  Enjoyed it as much as the FDR Museum at Hyde Park.
                        Section from the Berlin Wall (for more read Tear Down This Wall)


  1. Quite depressed I didn't know you'd be in Santa Barbara... best burger EVER there. No, not In n' Out, but The Habit. And right up your alley. Ah well, next time.

  2. This place is perfect for any kind of night you're looking for. In the downstairs area at Seattle venues, you can enjoy a lounge setting while talking over drinks with a small party. Or, if you're looking to mingle or have a bite to eat, you can head upstairs.