Category Archives: Road Trip

Road Trip to PNC Park

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Earlier in May, myself and my baseball crazed buddies travelled down from Toronto, Canada to Pittsburgh, PA to catch our home town Toronto Blue Jays play the local Pittsburgh Pirates. Astonishing to me, I didn’t know Pittsburgh was only a five hour drive away, is very easy to get to via I-90 and I-79, and the city owns a striking skyline which you can view quite nicely by sitting in the stands at PNC Park… Continue reading→

Road Trip to Camden Yards

Last month, some buddies and I travelled down by car from Toronto to little ol’ Baltimore, MD to catch some baseball between the rival Blue Jays and Orioles. At the time, the Jays were just 3 games under .500 so this was a big series for them just before the All-Star break – they really needed a sweep to try and get back in the wild card race. Unfortunately, they lost two of three leaving us mostly disappointed. At least we saw one victory during Saturday’s game – only the second time I’ve ever seen Toronto win on the road.

The drive wasn’t real direct from having to zig and zag on various roads – about 8+ hours – plus all the pit-stops and wrong turns and such made it closer to 10 hours, so I recommend flying out of Buffalo as we were told by the many Toronto fans who travelled down via air plane.

When I think of Baltimore, I think of the 1993 All-Star Game and how Cito Gaston left Mike Mussina warming up in the bullpen without bringing him into the game – at Camden Yards no less! I loved how the Blue Jays seemed to have the upper hand for years whenever they played against the lowly O’s, but now it seems the tide has turned with these new Chris Davis led Orioles competing for the playoffs once again, much unlike our basement dwelling, ever-frustrating Blue Jays. 

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This weekend seemed to be the perfect weekend to attend games in Baltimore as it was essentially designated “free give-away weekend” for the O’s as each game had a free item given away to the first 20,000 fans. We each received an Orioles sun-hat on the Friday (which you can see on the head of a guy in the picture below), which was definitely a nice souvenir to remember our trip by. It’s not as if I was going to buy an O’s jersey or hat, like why waste my money, eh! 

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As you can see above, there was some blue mixed in with a sea of orange, which was great to see. Toronto fans also weren’t afraid to applaud our own team when a play called for cheering!

We often hear about how great Camden Yards is to watch a ball game, with its retro style and historic feel, and sure enough, it didn’t disappoint. It really is a ballpark to behold because, when you think about it, so many others were constructed using Camden as a model. I found out that Camden has had some influence on every one of the 21 ballparks built since it opened in 1992. When you think about that for a second, you realize just how good Orioles fans have it.

During the game, I had to try some ballpark fare and fresh crab cakes caught my attention. Now this little piece of seafood below was $15 – definitely a premium inside the stadium – but they’re nice enough to give you get some crackers and a lemon wedge to go with it!! Overall, it was good tasting and quite unique to have at a ball park, but certainly not worth the price I paid.

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On the Saturday morning before the game, we took in a tour of Camden Yards which left us impressed with how they commemorate their history. Below are steel statues of retired Orioles numbers: Cal Ripken of course (#8), Brooks Robinson (#5), Frank Robinson (#20), and Jim Palmer (#22).

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Above is one of many tiny plaques out on Eutaw Street which mark where home run balls have landed. It’s a pretty cool momento commemorating such feats.

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The giant warehouse you see in the picture beyond right field has been totally renovated and tenants now include the Orioles front office and other businesses. I think it’s great how Baltimore has utilized this important piece of the landscape; it just makes it seem like you could be stuck in the 1930’s by looking at that thing.

Below are myself (left) and my friend Matt (right) who are enjoying a seat in the Orioles dugout.

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For entertainment on a Saturday night, we knew we wanted a crab dinner since we’re right next to the ocean and might as well enjoy some fresh Maryland seafood. We ventured out walking from the beautiful Inner Harbor to the trendy and hip Fell’s Point neighbourhood and settled on Riptide by the Bay which had a 1.5 hour wait time to even get seated…but was well worth the wait!

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We were served a bucket of freshly steamed crab, and as you can see, it was indeed fresh! We were even given a tutorial by the helpful staff on how to break ’em apart to extract the meat. You definitely need to take your time there as crab eating is definitely an experience!

Being a close walk from Camden, it’s a good idea to check out the actual Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum to glimpse some history and ‘Babe’ memorabilia.

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I had a good history lesson here where I not only learned that George Herman Ruth got his nickname “Babe” because Orioles owner/manager Jack Dunn became his guardian, hence Ruth’s team-mates started called him Jack’s babe, but I also didn’t know that Ruth started playing professional baseball with the Baltimore Orioles! In 1914, that team played in the International league before he was sold to the Boston Red Sox where, of course, he would go on to create baseball lore.

This is the same year where Ruth, at 19 years of age, was in Boston’s minor league system and hit his first professional home run in “of all places” Toronto (as denoted below) at Hanlan’s Point.

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Something else I didn’t know was that the Baltimore Orioles would eventually go on to become the New York Highlanders which would then become the current New York Yankees!! I was shocked to learn about that!

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Above shows all of the 714 home runs hit by Ruth throughout his career.

Of special note to anyone thinking of visiting Camden Yards, I do recommend it as it’s one of the premier ball parks in all of MLB. I do encourage you however to stay within the Inner Harbor area as anything one block outside of it gets sketch in no time – trust me, you don’t want to go there!

Reminiscing about Wrigley!

This past July, my baseball buddies and I ventured out on another road trip where we first stopped in Milwaukee for a Brewers game before veering down to Chicago for a visit at Wrigley Field.

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Ah yes, Wrigley Field…what a sight to see!  I have to say I love this ballpark because the stadium itself is held within a nice uptown Chicago neighbourhood where people can just cross the street if they want to take in the action. There’s tons to do with many souvenir shops and local establishments full of Cubs fan for entertainment.

As you can see below we had pretty good seats this time around. During our first visit to Wrigley 6 years ago, we sat at the very back of the upper deck. So needless to say, we fared much better this time with our seats.  And the day was just perfect for baseball…until late in the game when some dark clouds rolled in and rain drops fell from the sky. But no body cared, at least we didn’t. Heck, we were in Wrigley!!

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The light towers that you see in this picture were only installed in 1988. Before that time, all Cubs games were played during the day….imagine that!

During the game, after downing 4 tiny sausages the previous day at the Brewers game (known as the Grand Slam of sausages, which turned out to be quite disappointing), I got tempted again to try some Wrigley sausage. And yes, it was way better than I had in Milwaukee. Instead of just putting a sausage on a bun with nothing on it, this sausage was grilled perfectly with fried onions and green peppers – delicious!!

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Here’s the four of us showing our support for our Jays.

And the Cubs won this day beating the Dbacks where Ryan Dempster defeated Joe Saunders. After the game, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that this song (video below) started playing and the the whole stadium was singing!! This was simply amazing. I was in awe. Have a listen below.

I asked a fan after the game and they said they’ve been playing it for 5-6 years now.  It makes me wonder why Toronto doesn’t have a song like this. Stupid Rogers! The Yankees always play Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” after a win, and Boston plays “Sweet Caroline” during the middle of the 8th inning every game! And I love those. It creates such an atmosphere and enjoyable experience for everyone in attendance. Through some quick research I learned that “Sweet Caroline” had been playing at Fenway ‘officially’ since 2002 and Sinatra’s song since 1997 at Yankee Stadium.

Of course, that evening we went searching for some famous Chicago-style deep-dish pizza and stumbled upon Lou Malnati’s whom you can’t go wrong with. It was simply delicious. In fact, a fellow patron inside the restaurant said that Lou’s was simply the best in the city, so who am I to disagree?

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The next morning, we purchased tickets for a Wrigley tour and even got onto the field to watch batting practice as you’ll see Ryan Dempster swinging below!

On the tour, I also learned a number of things as well. Like for instance, their batting cages are held below the actual stands due to the limited confines of the park. There sure isn’t much space there.

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Our tour guide told us that all batter’s eye areas (arrow below) that are in ballparks now were invented because of the situations that happened at Wrigley. Our guide freely admitted to going to games as a young girl and purposely wearing white shirts to them. This is what she’d do: whenever the opponents were up, she’d get all hot and sweaty and therefore have to take off her jacket. Conversely when the Cubs came up to plate, she’d get cold for some reason and have to put her jacket back on thereby giving the home team an advantage when it came to seeing the white ball come out of the pitchers hand.

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We also learned that the Cubs took their neighbours to court over the fact that they were making money selling tickets to sit on their balconies to watch their product, and low and behold they won. Balconie owners now have to pay a percentage of revenues to the Cubs even though they’re private businesses.

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There you have it – our tour of Wrigley Field – simply one of the best if not the best baseball experience in all of MLB. I hope you enjoy it should you be fortunate enough to attend a game!

Scouting Zack Greinke

Trips to Milwaukee don’t come around too often unless it’s for a specific purpose, which is to scout potential pitchers whom the Blue Jays might acquire.  While mindful of the fact that I have no idea how to scout any sort of player let alone a pitcher, you might ask what business do I have for being in a small mid-west town like Milwaukee.  Aside from sampling some cheeses and taking in the tastes and smells of a couple brewery tours, the answer my friends is simply to enjoy a baseball game.  A group of us have traditionally ventured out every summer to the U.S. of A. to see some ballparks.  In the past it’s been old Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Comerica Park, PNC Park, etc., but this year we decided to go see Miller Park and visit Wrigley Field once more because, personally, I think it is the best place to see a ball game.

Miller Park, as you can see, is quite a beautiful park by itself with it’s brick & glass façade and beautifully crafted retractable roof. Fans were decked out in their Brewer wear, but mostly I noticed a lot of fan appeal for the retro jersey which I have to admit is quite an attractive look.

Our seats were quite spectacular 11 rows behind home plate. Being the first game back from the All-Star break, we watched Greinke (in his 3rd straight start for the Brewers) take on James McDonald and the Pirates.  The Brewers came back in this one with a Cody Ransom grand slam after the Pirates took the lead.    Greinke received a no-decision that day, but did get 6 K’s in 5 IP which really highlights the electric stuff he still has.  Let me tell you his pitches MOVE despite also giving up 7 hits including 2 home runs to Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez, which kinda sucks.  Greinke is usually not prone to giving up the long ball as dictated by his 0.5 HR/9 this year or even his 0.9 HR/9 overall in his career.

We were also fortunate to see fellow Canadian John Axford pitch the ninth which was a special treat. Fellow Brewers’ fans told us that Axford hasn’t been the same since the birth of his second child on May 11th this year where he blew his first save in 49 chances…he has since gone on to blow 6 saves in 2 months…OUCH.

James McDonald delivering a pitch.

Ransom’s grand salami below.  You can also see a lot of the retro jersey’s in the stands after he crosses the plate.

Another one of the main appeals of going to Milwaukee is to devour the “Grand Slam of Sausages” which consists of a bratwurst,  hot dog, Polish sausage and Italian sausage.  In our case we substituted the hot dog with a chorizo sausage. This was actually a big disappointment because the size of each sausage looked like just a regular hot dog. I was expecting this ‘grand slam’ to be a daunting task, something that would require inner fortitude and an unwillingness to surrender to your stomach’s messages of fullness. I mean, think about it. Four sausages to be eaten in 3 hours – give or take. I was determined to do it…and sadly, it was nothing to shake a stick at. Either way, I did rank my preferences of sausage that day.  They were 1. Chorizo, 2. Polish, 3. Italian, and 4. Brat. I tended to like the spiciest ones first.

If you want, you can buy sausage t-shirts…??

The infamous sausage race at Miller Park!! In this particular race, the Chorizo led the whole way which lacked some excitement. I was disappointed we didn’t see any sausage smash-ups.

Overall, I thought Milwaukee was a nice enough town.  If you ever have to visit for work or pleasure, there’s plenty of pubs and eateries downtown.  Fans love their Brewers and Miller Park is a good place to see and watch a game.  The biggest downfall in my mind are the concessions available inside. There’s just no variety and all concessions offer the same thing.