Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ballpark Roadtrips 2016

This year, The Other Larry and I did something a little different, deciding to go to the two eastern ballparks we'd missed on our earlier swings, Toronto and Washington, and to do it in two short trips.  You can read about our past trips here.

Ballparks Visited

Rogers Centre
Washington DC
Nationals Park

Game Results

July 7
Blue Jays 5, Tigers 4
August 6
Giants 7, Nationals 1

That makes 24 ballparks for us.  Left are Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Miami, Colorado, Seattle and San Francisco.

The games, and the ballparks, were very different but they both had in common the temperature - low 80s, and the humidity - very high. I heard a rumor that Washington is built on a swamp, explaining the feel of being underwater.  Not sure what the story is with Toronto.

We made the eight hour drive to Toronto, which is quite nice through New York State.  On the way up, we stayed overnight in Mount Morris, a pleasant older town about an hour from Buffalo.  Like many smaller towns today, the brick fronted stores on the Main Street were predominantly antique dealers or providing government services.

Our plan had been to buy tickets for the Blue Jays contest on the day of the game, as we often do.  We figured it was the Blue Jays, on a Thursday night against the Tigers, so no problem.   That was a mistake.  When we went to buy tickets, the only seats available were up in the fifth deck and we actually had to sign a waiver acknowledging we would not be able to see the scoreboard.  Up we trudged to Row 34, the next to last row from the top of the stadium, in right field foul territory, behind the light stand!  Not only could we not see the scoreboard, seeing the right and center fielders was a challenge at times.  Midway through the game, we were able to find seats about 25 rows closer, in front of the lights and with a full view of the field.

Even with all that, the game was one of the best we've seen.  The Blue Jays jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, but Justin Verlander kept them in check after that and by the bottom of the 7th, the Tigers had taken the lead 4-2.  The Jays came roaring back with rallies in the next two innings, scoring once in the 7th with an RBI single by Troy Tulowitzki and taking the lead in the 8th, with a two-run single by Tulo to win the game.

Rogers Centre is an older multi-sport stadium without a lot of charm (though Toronto is an impressive city).  Clearly in the bottom tier of today's ballparks.  The folks at the game were all very nice and polite - they are Canadians after all.

A few days ago we took Amtrak to DC to catch the first place Nationals play the first place Giants.  Unlike Toronto, we'd gotten our tickets in advance through some connections and they were only four rows from the field, next to the first base dugout.  So the view was much better, but the game not as interesting as the Giants won easily 7-1.  However, there were some interesting things going on.

Stephen Strasburg was the starting pitcher for the Nats and had won 15 of 16 decisions in 2016.  He started out gangbusters, giving up only one hit, no runs and striking out five in the first three innings.  Then, in the bottom of the third, he came to bat and stroked a ball down the right field line.  Hustling, he made it to second with a double.  I don't know if that, along with the humidity, took something out of him, but he fell apart in the 4th, giving up two runs on a triple, three singles and a walk, although he also struck out three batters swinging.  In the 5th, he gave up two more runs on a triple, double, single and sacrifice fly to deep center, before leaving the game.

The deterioration of 2015 MVP Bryce Harper also continued.  He struck out three time in three at bats, looking completely baffled before being removed with a stiff neck.  On April 24, nineteen games into the season, Bryce was hitting .328 with six doubles, nine homers, 24 RBI and a slash line of .430/.844/1.274.  In the 86 games he's appeared in since, he's hitting .212 with seven doubles, eleven home runs, 33 RBI and a slash line of .363/.349/.712.

For the Giants, their new acquisition, Eduardo Nunez, was a revelation.  He hit two triples and watching him run was like seeing someone with rockets attached to their shoes.  He showed the same speed after hitting a single and advancing to third.  What fun to watch!

And, in the category of In Baseball You See Things You've Never Seen Before, we have Hunter Pence's encounter with a batted ball.  I've seen plenty of batters foul a ball off their foot or legs but until this game, never saw one foul a ball off their face.  It was pretty scary when it happened because Hunter got hit squarely in the eye when the ball bounced off the plate.  Like the trooper he is, Pence stayed in the game.  Here he is, right after it happened.  You can see the seams of the ball on his face. You can watch the incident here,

Nationals Park is a decent place to see a game.  The outfield seats, in a particular look good because there is not an upper tier of seats, eight miles from the field.  I'd put it in the mid-tier of ballparks. 


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