Friday, May 27, 2016

A10 Baseball Tournament - May 26, 2016

The college baseball season is winding down, which means it's conference tournament time. Much like March Madness, most conferences hold a tournament with the winner getting an automatic bid to the national championship. This year, the Atlantic 10 Conference (which actually has 14 teams, though only 13 participate in baseball with Duquesne opting out) is holding their tournament at Houlihan Park on the campus of Fordham University in the Bronx. Fordham is just a few stops from Yankee Stadium, so I decided to pay a visit Thursday morning before heading to the Jays/Yankees game that afternoon.

Fordham's campus is about a ten-minute walk from the Fordham Road stop on the B and D subway lines, and right next to the Metro North stop. The campus is gated, and you must pass a security guard, but all you have to say is that you are going to the baseball game and you will be allowed in. It is an incongruously beautiful spot and well worth a walk around to see some excellent architecture. The stadium is located at the far end of the football field, with the bleachers a tempting home run target as you can see above. Baseball games are normally free, but they were charging $8 for a day pass for the tournament, a reasonable amount as there were four games scheduled. The dome in the background is the conservatory in the New York Botanical Garden.

Before going to the seating bowl, check out the plaques honouring past Rams, including Frankie Frisch. Vin Scully is also a Fordham alumnus and has a plaque as well. The concession stand is here too, but if you want a bottle of soda, you should walk over to the McGinley Center where the vending machines sell the same bottle for $1.75 instead of $3.

There are six small sections of metal bleachers with seat backs behind home plate. There is no covering, so fans seeking shade were forced to sit in front of the press box. Most fans were family and friends of the players participating, with a few local unemployed weirdos like myself who just enjoy watching baseball.

The shot above is from the left most seat, so you can tell that this is a very small facility, but still one worth a visit if you are in NYC while the Rams are at home.

The Games

Only seven teams make the double-elimination tournament, with #1 seed Rhode Island Rams earning a bye to the second round. The first three games had been played on Wednesday, so the early game on Thursday was between the #2 VCU Rams and #6 Davidson Wildcats, both of whom had won the previous day. You might have noticed that three teams in the A10 use the Rams nickname, a weird coincidence that is not unique in the college world; the SEC has three Tiger teams.

Anyway, it was steaming hot when I arrived at the ballpark at 10:30 with the game already in the bottom of the 2nd. Davidson, playing as the home team, already had an early 3-0 lead and added another run just after I sat down, but VCU chipped away to get within a run and make things interesting. In the bottom of the 8th, with two out and Lee Miller on second, Eric Jones grounded to short. The ball was bobbled, but Miller kept running expecting that the out would be recorded at first. An accurate throw would have nailed him, but the throw was offline and Miller scored a lucky run to make it 5-3 Wildcats. Will Robertson, always dangerous (that's a very bad Lost in Space joke for you youngsters), followed with a monster home run to the bleachers to make it 7-3, which ended up being the final. This was a very good game that took only 2:24, meaning there was over an hour until game #2 started at 1:30.

This one featured the other two Rams teams, with Rhode Island starting A10 pitcher of the year Tyler Wilson, whose 0.79 WHIP was third in the nation. He gave up an unearned run in the top of the first when third baseman Martin Figueroa yipped a throw to first, but that was all Fordham would get. Rhody notched 2 in the first, and another 2 in the third, while Wilson completed 6 innings yielding 2 hits and two walks, and withstanding another Figueroa error. I had to leave to get to Yankee Stadium with the score 4-1 after five, but Rhode Island tacked on 6 runs to win easily 10-1. Wilson improved his record to 12-1, which ties him for the most victories in the country.

I really enjoyed my time here; the games were well played and moved quickly, no doubt because there were four of them to be contested. Also really enjoyed the fans, who were into the game so much more than fans you encounter in the majors. Obviously that is because it is their kids who are playing, but it is nice to hear intelligent chatter from the fans instead of seeing them do the wave.


VCU has a player named James Bunn. Whenever he batted, the 007 theme was broadcast over the speakers. Great creativity by the game day crew!

Rhode Island won their game on Friday to advance to the final, where they played Davidson, who had to win twice to make it to the regional. The Rams hammered the Wildcats to win the tournament.

I'll be in Omaha next month for one or two College World Series games and who knows, maybe the A10 will be represented! Don't laugh, 2015 champion VCU made it to the Super Regional before bowing out to Miami. Update: #1 regional seed South Carolina should have read this post as they lost their opener to #4 regional seed Rhode Island 5-4, with Wilson striking out 11 Gamecocks through 7 innings for the win. Unfortunately they lost their next two games, including getting blown out in a rematch with South Carolina, thus ending their season.

The Jays won their game 3-1. Yay! I saw 21 innings of baseball and was still home in time for dinner, so pretty much a perfect day all around.



Monday, May 23, 2016

Southern League Trip Planned

The baseball season is in full swing (maybe someone should tell the Blue Jays), and as I am still between jobs, I'm going to use the time wisely and make a dent in my minor league ballpark count. There are 160 affiliated minor league teams, and I have seen games at 116 active ballparks, leaving 44 to go. The majority of these are in five leagues: Southern, Midwest, Pioneer, Northwest, and Appalachian. Each of these leagues will be the subject of a trip either this season or next. To begin, I'm making a brief trip to the Gulf of Mexico, where four Southern League (AA) teams reside. They all play in relatively small cities that are quite expensive to reach from New York, so I am flying to New Orleans instead. I will start with a Zephyrs game there before moving up to Jackson, Mississippi, where the Braves take on Jackson in a confusing matchup. I'll return to the Gulf Coast for games in Biloxi and a doubleheader in Mobile and Pensacola before returning to New York. The full schedule is below:
Sat, Jun 11 Omaha Storm Chasers at New Orleans Zephyrs (PCL) 6:00 
Sun, Jun 12 Jackson Generals at Mississippi Braves (Southern League) 5:00
Mon, Jun 13 Birmingham Barons at Biloxi Shuckers (Southern League) 7:10
Tue, Jun 14 Jacksonville Suns at Mobile BayBears (Southern League) 12:05
Tue, Jun 14 Montgomery Biscuits at Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Southern League) 18:30
As always, updates will be posted here, so check back regularly.



Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Missouri State Bears 2 at Dallas Baptist Patriots 7 (NCAA Baseball, MVC) - May 14, 2016

Last year I visited Dallas in late February and had hoped to see Dallas Baptist baseball, but the game was snowed out when the region suffered a freak winter storm. This year, the Patriots were home on the same weekend that the Jays were in Arlington, and they had a Saturday afternoon game that didn't conflict, so I headed over to Horner Ballpark to check it out.

The campus of DBU is located on the western edge of Dallas, next to Mountain Creek Lake. The ballpark is on the northern side, and you should be able to find free parking close by, with plenty of spots in front of the residences. The stadium is named for Joan and Andy Horner, who were lifelong contributors to the school. A statue of an unknown ballplayer stands out front.

Horner Ballpark was opened in 2013 and is still brand new. Tickets were $7 to sit in the sections furthest from home plate, but as the park is not that full, you can move around. There is a roof that covers the last few rows in each section, which is quite useful on a sunny afternoon.

The visiting dugout is along first base, and so home fans sit on the third base side. This means that if you have no rooting interest, you should pretend to be a visiting supporter and grab a seat above first base, where you can get an entire section to yourself.

The campus is quite idyllic, and you have nice views beyond the outfield fence. There is a single concession stand offering your basic stadium fare, but you can also bring your own food in should you prefer.

In the main entrance, there are signs that list every Patriot All-American, as well as major league signees. Current Blue Jay Ryan Goins played here, hitting .371 with 22 homers in his junior year. Would be nice if he could get remotely close to those numbers nowadays.

Overall, Horner Ballpark is definitely worth a visit if you are in the Dallas area. It is a good way to get away from the crowds and traffic in one of the largest metro areas in the nation, and the Patriots have had a lot of success in past years, including their first-ever Missouri Valley Conference regular season title in history this season. At $7, it would be tough to find better baseball value in the Metroplex.

The Game

The visitors were the Missouri State Bears, who I had seen a couple of weeks ago in Springfield. They were struggling at 3-12 in conference play, while the Patriots were 12-3 in this rematch of Super Bowl XX nicknames. DBU is a Christian university, so they had an invocation before the game, during which the announcer prays for both teams and no injuries. I'm pretty sure he prays just a little bit harder for the home team though.

The Bears scored one in the first, but starter Darrick Hall settled down after that, giving up just 3 hits in 6 innings, while his offense scored single runs in the first and second and then a three-spot in the third to break things open. Two more Patriot runs scored on wild pitches in the sixth to pretty much end things, as the Bears added an inconsequential run in the 7th off reliever Landon Wilson that made the final 7-2. A rare quick NCAA ballgame that took 2:45, though I missed the last couple of innings as I had to get back to Arlington for the Jays game that night.


As mentioned, this is a Christian school, and so when they were advertising Sunday's game over the PA, they used the phrase "Drop by after church", something I have not heard before in any sports-related advertising.

Next Up

The rest of the baseball season will be focused on completing the AAA, AA, and High Class A ballparks. To start, I'll be visiting the Gulf of Mexico in mid-June to see Mississippi, Biloxi, Mobile, and Pensacola of the Southern League. Check back in a few days for the schedule for that trip.



Monday, May 16, 2016

Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers - May 13-15, 2016

In the 2015 MLB playoffs, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers in the Division Series in a wild ending that saw Jose Bautista horrify baseball purists with the bat flip seen round the world. They two clubs met in Toronto the weekend previous with no shenanigans, so I expected something would happen as the teams finished up their season series at Globe Life Park in Arlington and I continued my Toronto on the Road quest. It eventually did, but it sure took a long time.

I flew back to Dallas from San Francisco and met my buddy Sean, who was last on a sports road trip with me in 1992. We had a hotel near the ballpark, but there are no sidewalks in the area, so we decided to take a shuttle from Humperdinks, a bar next to the hotel which offers 32-oz. beers to entice you to visit after the game. Many fans park in the lot and use this service, which is a bit more reliable than the trolley that makes it way around the hotels in the area (and is only free for those staying in those hotels). There is also cheap parking along Arlington Downs Road, with one lot charging just $5.

Globe Life Park opened in 1994 as one of the first retro parks, just two years after Camden Yards. It was built on a parking lot next to the old Arlington Stadium, which was demolished shortly thereafter. AT&T Stadium sits just a couple of blocks away and is quite impressive from one of the staircases on the southwest side of the ballpark.

The Rangers employ a dynamic pricing system, so tickets vary depending on demand. Even StubHub was not a good option as fans were pricing the tickets above the box office. I guess people wanted to see Bautista get his, because all 3 games were well attended.

The ballpark is designed like the old "jewel box" ballparks, with a completely enclosed field.  The right field porch is reminiscent of Tiger Stadium complete with obstructed view seats (now an all-you-can-eat section), while a four-story office building occupies the area behind center field, with the white facade similar to that at old Yankee Stadium. The main problem here is the air doesn't move inside most of the seating bowl; fortunately the concourses have plenty of windows and arches that allow for air circulation. Note that the concourse is divided into two areas, one shown below that is quite spacious, and another closer to the breezeways that gets quite crowded.

The best place to sit is the 100 level sections between the bases (view below). These seats are covered by the club section, keeping you out of the hot sun in afternoon games, but also a nice breeze comes through that area, making it quite comfortable in the evening as well. Few fans actually sit here and there are no ushers, so you can get the cheapest box office ticket and just plant yourself in row 40 or so without worrying about getting kicked out. You do miss high fly balls, but that is about the only drawback and we spent most of the weekend in this area.

The shot below gives you an idea of the structure of the ballpark; the shaded areas in the lower deck are the areas to which I am referring.

We took a walking tour on Sunday afternoon; sadly the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame was closed for a private event that day, so I never did get a chance to see it. Now that the Rangers are my least favourite team in sports, I'm glad I missed it. In the area behind the center field fence there is a Nolan Ryan statue, but that is about all I saw in terms of history.

The batters eye is actually a section of grass known as Greene's Hill, named after a former mayor of Arlington. These days, four buxom women parade Texas flags back and forth here after the Rangers hit home runs, something that happened far too often on this weekend.

The view from center field...

...and from high above left field. This is one of the farthest seats in major league baseball, and I couldn't even see the ball off the bat when it was twilight. The bright spot is that in an otherwise full park, this area was mostly empty and I could stretch out for a few innings.

I always enjoy finding unique things in a ballpark and the table below qualifies. These can be found in an area behind home plate. There are also picnic tables along the outer concourse which are a good place to relax and enjoy a meal before the game. Food options were decent though typically overpriced, with a personal sized pepperoni pizza a relative bargain at $9.50. There were also $1 ice cream cones available on the concourse, which are heartily recommended. There is also a designated driver program which nets you a free soda, but for some reason lids and straws are not provided. This better not be for ecological reasons because when you have 40,000 people driving to the ballpark since there's no transit, a few straws and lids are the least of your environmental worries.

Overall, Globe Life Park is one of my least favourite ballparks in the majors. The first problem is its location, which is in the middle of nowhere with no public transit options as mentioned. Inside, the concourse is crowded, and I found tickets overpriced for what you get. Fans were not that friendly, no doubt because of the Blue Jays gear I was sporting, and of course, many references to the bat flip were made. I think that this might be the first completely cynical ballpark (i.e. one constructed for revenue generation at the expense of fan comfort) that has made attending top-level sports so annoying. I'll likely never be back here and won't regret it at all.

The Games

On Friday, R.A. Dickey pitched one of his best games as a Blue Jay, going 8 innings giving up just three hits and a walk. The Jays scored 1 in the 5th, 1 in the 6th, and broke the game open with 3 in the  7th on homers from Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki as they won 5-0. Matt Bush made his major league debut in the game, tossing a scoreless ninth for Texas. The victory made the Jays 3-1 on the road trip and all they needed was another win on the weekend to make it a successful journey.

Saturday was Rougned Odor bobblehead day (if they had waited, they could have had him in punching position) and tickets were surprisingly expensive, with the cheapest at $40 for SRO at the box office. I found a good seat at the last minute on StubHub (view above) while Sean went for the all-you-can-eat option, each costing about $60. In the bottom of the 2nd, Bobby Wilson hit a grand slam for Texas, which netted all fans a coupon for a free Grand Slam at Denny's, a double gut punch for us Blue Jay fans who used the coupon. Ryan Goins got the Jays on the board with a solo shot in the 3rd and they added another on an Ezequiel Carrera single in the 5th. But the Blue Jays, playing very poor fundamental baseball, allowed a run to score on a Russell Martin passed ball in the 6th and the Jays entered the 9th down 5-2. Closer Shawn Tolleson came on, much to the chagrin of the Rangers fans around me, who had seem him blow several saves in recent days. He did exactly that, giving up a 2-run homer to Justin Smoak and a solo shot to Tulowitzki that tied the game. Unfortunately, the Jays could not get that key go-ahead run and that passed ball turned out to be a killer. In the bottom of the 10th, Gavin Floyd came in to pitch for Toronto and got two quick outs before Drew Stubbs surprised everyone with a homer to win the game. Ugh.

Sunday was an afternoon game, and things got off to a strange start when first base coach Tim Leiper was ejected in the third inning after arguing with the first base umpire about something. Manager John Gibbons followed Leiper to the showers in the bottom half after arguing balls and strikes, but the Jays used a 4-run fifth to build a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the 7th. Starter Aaron Sanchez was replaced after giving up a run and Jesse Chavez came on to pitch with runners on first and second and two out. He promptly gave up a 3-run homer to Ian Desmond and the Jays suddenly were down 7-6, which is the way the game finished.

Of course, the excitement followed in the top of the 8th. I had to return the rental car so Sean and I had moved to the center field area behind the Blue Jays bullpen. Bautista was hit by a Bush pitch leading off the inning, no doubt the payback that the Rangers had been waiting for. Manager Jeff Bannister later said that it was not intentional as they would not put the tying run on base on purpose, which makes him a pretty big liar. With Bautista on first and Jake Diekmann on to pitch, Smoak grounded to third. Bautista tried to take out Odor with a hard slide, Odor (who threw wide to first) took exception and punched Bautista after a couple of pushes, and the benches cleared (above).

When all was said and done, Bautista's late slide led to Smoak being called out and the Jays were pretty much done. I think Odor's punch was gutless, but Bautista brought it on himself; if he had taken a normal slide, the whole silliness would be over, but it will probably continue into next season now.

So the Jays went 3-3 on the trip, and I have to say that they look terrible. They could easily have gone 5-1 if their bullpen (shown above watching the replay of the brawl) was remotely decent, but beyond that, their offense is non-existent and their fundamental game is very weak. It seems like they spent the winter reading all the positive stories about their hitting instead of getting ready for the season. As I write this, they are 21-24 and in danger of falling out of the race before Canada Day. I'll be seeing those final games in June in Denver and hope that they have gotten things straightened out by then.


It was announced that the Rangers are looking at building a retractable roof stadium to open no later than 2024, when the lease to Globe Life Park expires. This is a very bad sign indeed, particularly as Atlanta has already abandoned Turner Field after only 20 years. New stadiums are a complete waste of public money that could be used to help people other than rich owners, and I hope the taxpayers of Arlington get some sense and put a stop to this idea.



Friday, May 13, 2016

BYU Cougars 5 at San Francisco Dons 6 (NCAA Baseball, WCC) - May 12, 2016

After watching the Jays take 2 of 3 from the Giants, I had a day off before returning to Texas to see the Jays continue their road trip. Sharpy and Duncan joined me as we walked from Market Street to Fisherman's Wharf, up and down many, many hills. We stopped at several tourist spots, such as twisty Lombard Street and Ghiradelli Square, before enjoying lunch at the Buena Vista Cafe (below).

All in all, a very nice morning that ended with a visit to Pier 39 to check out the lazy sea lions. What a life, just lying around in the sun all day having your photo taken. Kind of like celebrities.

After that, it was time to head across town to check out some more San Francisco baseball, this time of the college variety. Sharpy and Duncan must have been inspired by the sea lions because despite our plans to make the three-mile walk, they insisted that we take the bus after only a mile on foot. Pathetic. I couldn't leave them alone in the big city, so we hopped on the bus, and eventually made it to Benedetti Diamond, home of the USF Dons baseball team.

It is amazing that a Division I baseball diamond exists in this city and almost nobody knows about it. Located at the northeastern edge of campus where Golden Gate meets Masonic, the ballpark is only noticeable as you approach for the large amount of netting that protects passersby from foul balls.

The full name of the facility is Dante Benedetti Diamond at Max Ulrich Field. It was opened in 1953 and named after Ulrich, who donated a substantial amount of money to the university. When Coach Dante Benedetti retired in the 1979 after 29 years at the helm, his name was added, and over time, it has become known as Benedetti Diamond.

The entrance is down a small laneway off Golden Gate, where the ticket office will charge you $10 for general admission. There are two small seating sections along first base, with an unprotected berm section further down. The seats used to be entirely benches, but a few plastic chairs have been haphazardly installed to make things slightly more comfortable.

There is also a grass area down the third base line, which is where the sun will shine throughout the game. There are no lights here, so all games are played during the day, and the sun sets behind first base, which makes it chilly as the evening approaches. There is a small concession stand down first base selling hot dogs, popcorn, and soda. Of course, as an NCAA venue, there is no booze available. The only history I noticed were the pennants on the left field fence representing the years that the Dons made the NCAA regionals. The other thing to note is the very shallow outfield, particularly along the lines, with the right field foul pole lying only 300 feet away, necessitating yellow tape high along the mesh to make home runs a little bit more difficult.

Overall, this is a surprising find in the city and one that escapes most sports travellers. It is a simple venue, but extremely pleasant and well worth a visit if you are in San Francisco and want to get away from the hordes of tourists, none of whom are aware of this hidden gem.

The Game

The BYU Cougars were in town to open a 3-game West Coast Conference series, coming in at 13-9 in conference play, while the Dons were 13-11. The game was a back-and-forth affair, with the Dons opening the scoring in the 2nd on a solo home run from Aaron Ping only to have BYU take a 2-1 lead in the third on two doubles and a single. A three-run shot from Ross Puskarich in the 5th got USF back in front, but again the Cougars responded immediately, as Brennon Anderson cracked a 2-run shot to tie the game, and then Brennon (a common name in Utah I guess) Lunn was hit by a pitch, stole second, and scored on a single by Hayden Nielsen.

The pitching settled down after that and the Dons entered the bottom of the 9th still down 5-4. That is when things got a little weird. For simplicity, I'm going to minimize using player names. The Dons started with a walk and brought in a pinch runner. BYU brought in their closer, Mason Marshall (pitching above), so USF pinch ran for the pinch runner, bringing in Blake Valley (#30 above). Valley quickly stole second but the batter, Puskarich, walked anyway. A sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third, and a pinch runner, Beau Bozett was brought in to replace Puskarich on second (the scene above). Pinch hitter Riley Helland singled to tie the game as Bozett was held at third. An intentional walk to Harrison Bruce brought Ryan Matranga to the plate. Matranga stroked a fly ball to center and Bozett scored on the play. But Bruce never returned to first, and the Cougars brought the ball there to make the third out of the inning. The umpire actually signalled out and the Cougars celebrated, thinking that the final out prevented that run. But it didn't, as you cannot have a force play on a fly ball, instead it is a time play and since the runner crossed home plate before the out was made at first, the game was over. The umpire should never have made the out signal as it led to a bit of confusion on the field, but in the end, the Dons won a thriller 6-5.

This game was equally as entertaining as any of the Blue Jays/Giants games, with four lead changes and a walkoff sacrifice fly. NCAA baseball usually is best when you see the first game of a weekend series as both teams start their aces, and that was the case here as the next two games were won by BYU 12-6 and 9-3.


Near the end of the game, there was a foul ball that cleared the mesh and bounced out onto Golden Gate Avenue, rolling up Annapolis Terrace. I watched it closely and had an idea where it might have ended up, so after the game, I headed that way and sure enough, the ball was under the wheel of a car. I picked it up, a rare find because fans generally have to return foul balls at NCAA games. I now have balls from the majors, both AAA leagues, and two AA leagues, so I might try grabbing one from each remaining minor league to complete the collection.



Thursday, May 12, 2016

Toronto Blue Jays at San Francisco Giants - May 9-11, 2016

I have two goals left that keep me going on these seemingly endless sports road trips. The first is to complete all minor league ballparks (plus the AHL rinks and CFL stadiums) while the other is to see the Maple Leafs and Blue Jays in all road cities. The most difficult part of this dream is seeing the Jays in all 15 National League parks, as they only visit every six years assuming a regular rotation. This year, they play the NL West, which means trips to San Francisco, Colorado, and Arizona for the team. I saw them play the Diamondbacks back in 2010, so this year I would only have to follow them to SF and Denver, both home to fantastic baseball venues.

So after completing my Texas League trip, I flew from Dallas to San Francisco early Monday morning, enjoying clear views the whole way and some amazing scenery, as you can see above. I had clear views of El Paso and Tucson as well. After I arrived, I headed to my hotel, where my buddy Sharpy, who had arrived from Ottawa the night before, met me. After dropping off my stuff, we explored the neighbourhood around AT&T Park (i.e. bar hopping). Along the way, we saw many other Jays fans doing the same thing. The 21st Amendment is the establishment of choice for many fans as it is just a couple of blocks from the stadium, but if you are looking for something a little less crowded, try the Brickhouse Cafe and Bar, which has $4 pints during happy hour from 3-7, ideal for both day and night games.

From there, it is a short walk to AT&T Park, which is located at the corner of 3rd and King. Transit options abound as well, with the Muni stopping directly across the street, while CalTrain's terminus is at 4th and Townsend if you are coming from the South Bay. If you wish to brave the Bay Area's rush hour traffic, you can always drive and try to find parking but I do not recommend this option.

Before going inside, you should take a walk around the entire stadium. There are statues of past Giants stars (Orlando Cepeda above is one example), and along the Port walk next to McCovey Cove, you can see 22 plaques that celebrate many Giant achievements that took place at the stadium, such as when Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run back in 2007.

You can also view the iconic Coke bottle and glove from behind, an angle that is rarely shown for obvious reasons.

When I first visited here in 2001, the area behind right field was open to the public who could stand and watch the game for free. On the day I visited, it seemed that it had become a party area, though this may only be true before the game as the Giants website still indicates that these viewing portals, known as the Knothole Gang, are available to the general public. Note that you are limited to three innings if you decide to stand here, so don't bring a scorebook.

Once inside, the first stop is along the lower concourse to look at three World Series trophies and marvel at the Giants recent run of playoff luck.

Then head to the outfield area known as the Fan Lot, where you can get a close up look at the bottle and glove, which is the largest in the world.

I've included Sharpy and myself so you can see just how big it really is.

There are a number of colourful concession stands here that offering items that are slightly more unusual than what is available at the more mundane markets.

A small tribute to Candlestick Park can be found on this level, including a set of four bright orange seats. I saw the Expos there in 1992, and of course, the final 49ers game there on my NFL road trip in 2013. Candlestick was demolished in 2015.

Another interesting feature is the Buster Posey Lego figure, which looks remarkably like him. Check out the link to see how it was put together.

Oh yeah, there's also a baseball field here.

The obligatory view from behind home plate, which is not recommended because you really should be sitting up high so you can see the surrounding area.

Finally, the panorama shot from Section 302, which includes downtown, the Bay Bridge, and McCovey Cove. I met a fellow from Calgary here who had purchased the seat furthest from home plate and couldn't disagree with his logic as it is the best view in sports.

The Giants franchise has a long and storied history, including 75 seasons in New York, and AT&T Park includes references to those years as well, with old-time jerseys on display and world championship pennants along the roof of the stadium. There is so much on offer here that a single visit is probably not enough. When I first visited here in 2001, I considered this to be the second-best stadium in MLB behind PNC Park in Pittsburgh, but with the team's recent success and subsequently more history on display, it might have taken over top spot. Regardless of where you rank it, it is a must-see for any baseball fan.

The Games

Toronto is not a big draw in San Francisco and tickets for all three games were very cheap on the secondary market. For the first game, we sat about 30 rows back between home and first which set us back $20.

The Jays came in at 16-17 having lost 2 of 3 to the Dodgers back in Toronto, while the Giants were one game better at 17-16. The first game saw Aaron Sanchez facing Jake Peavy in a walkfest as the teams combined for 11 free passes. Josh Donaldson walked in the first and scored on a Michael Saunders single and then Jose Bautista walked in the third and scored on an Edwin Encarnacion homer that gave the Jays a 3-0 lead. In the 6th, Matt Duffy walked, moved to third on a Brandon Belt double, and scored on a Hunter Pence groundout. That was the only run given up by Sanchez, who completed 7 innings while scattering 3 hits and 5 walks. Gavin Floyd pitched the 8th and Roberto Osuna closed it out, getting pinch-hitter Posey to ground out as the tying run for the save. A good start to the trip.

For Tuesday's game, my friend Duncan flew down from Ottawa to join us, making his first sports road trip appearance since 1990. Fellow sports traveler and Bay Area resident Tike Narry, a Giants season-ticket holder, met us at the 21st Amendment before the game for a few libations. He had also received an invitation to a pregame wine tasting in the club area and kindly brought us along. Free wine and a chance to see the club section? Yes please. Several area wineries were on hand offering as much wine as you cared to drink, and the quality was outstanding. Sharpy and I were dressed in our Blue Jays jerseys and received many curious looks and a few questions, but all the fans were quite friendly, no doubt helped by all those frickin' championships. Anyway, once we had (more than) our share of wine, we took a brief tour of the club area, which includes a lot more memorabilia, such as a case honouring Dave Dravecky (above), and one celebrating the 2014 title (below). I had nothing against the Giants before I went there, but now I think they are just a bunch of show offs.

We eventually made it to our seats and watched as J.A. Happ pitched 8 2/3 shutout innings, only to give up a single and a walk to end his evening. Osuna came in and walked the bases loaded before striking out Jarrod Parker to earn a ridiculous save as the Jays won 4-0, with Troy Tulowitzki finishing with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI.

Wednesday was an afternoon game, and as Tike was working, we were able to use his seats. As you can see above, the view is not that bad. I really was hoping the Jays could complete the sweep, but they were down 5-2 after 7 innings. However, they scored 2 in the 8th and then Saunders led off the 9th with a homer and we went to extra innings with hope in our hearts. In the 11th, Encarnacion swung on a 3-0 pitch with men on 1st and 2nd and flew out to end the threat. I'm not a big fan of the 3-0 swing, but in this case, it made sense. In the 13th, Ryan Goins led off with a single but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, in a play that was upheld after review. The next two batters singled, so yeah, Goins aggressiveness cost them a run. Of course, the Jays could not score, and in the bottom of the 13th, Ryan Tepera came in, essentially waving the white flag. A hit batter, misplayed sacrifice, wild pitch, and intentional walk loaded the bases. Joe Panik lined out, but Posey walked on 4 pitches to give the Giants the 6-5 win in 13 innings, leaving both teams at 18-18.

I'll take a 2-1 series win any day, but just once I'd like to have a 3-0 sweep on one of these trips.


The lateness of the game forced us to miss the San Jose Earthquakes game that night as we missed the last CalTrain that would have got us to Avaya Stadium in time. We instead went back to the Brickhouse and lamented the loss with a few more beers.

After this season, I still have to see the Jays at five National League parks: Washington (rained out last year), Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, as well as Seattle and Oakland in the AL. I suspect that this goal will keep me road tripping until 2020 at least.