Continuing from August.
When I wrote about wrapping up our season, while it was about Trenton, I was in the mindset that it was also our last baseball game of the year. As we drove back from the ballpark we were talking about how many games we’d gone to and had all reached the conclusion that that was it.
Then last weekend I caught notice that Somerset was playing a Saturday night game with a super hero theme so the boys and I decided to head out for one last game. I’d been to Somerset earlier this season but this would be the boys’ first time. It’s always nice to add a new ballpark to your life list.
We ate before we left and still managed to get the the park in time for the boys to get their capes. There were enough kids wearing them at the ballpark that even the older kids were okay dressing up. Also there were all kinds of costumed heroes walking around and many of the fans were dressed up too.
My youngest ate it up. He loves Batman so he loved the Batman-themed jerseys and all the other stuff going on. We just wish that the baseball caps had batears like the batcowl.
The highlight though was getting Frank Viola’s autograph before the game. My eldest received a complete (well near complete) set of 1991 Topps for Christmas and when we were getting ready for the Thunder season I noticed that Frank Viola was the Binghamton pitching coach. It was at this moment that the idea of getting his 1991 cards signed occurred to him. And it was this moment which also encouraged me to look up the other coaches and figure out who had played in the pros.
So while Joe Oliver was the first autograph of the set (and my son added Brian Harper later), he was disappointed to find that Viola had switched from Binghamton to coach for the High Point Rockers. That High Point was in town for this game meant that we were able to wrap up the season getting autographs on the two cards that were part of the excitement in the beginning. Very cool.
This takes my son to four in-person autographs on his 1991 Topps set. Is he getting the complete set signed? LOL of course not. But it’s going to be fun to see how many he can add to it. Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley has a card in the set (a fact I only realized after the season ended). And Pete Incaviglia manages Sugarland which comes to Somerset a couple times a year*
*Actually this week but only on school nights so no dice.
1991 also just looks pretty good signed. Nice photos and simple borders. I like that the two Viola cards look so different too.
In order to stave off sibling rivalries for now, I’ve been supplying my youngest with cards so he can “me too” with his brother. In this case where his brother is getting 1991 Topps signed, he’s getting 1991 Donruss. I know I know. Those are just the duplicates I have handy.
Still there is something to 1991’s color which appeals to his sensibilities though. In many ways it’s a perfect set for him. And the 1987 is because I happen to have a ton of those as well. But it’s a good year for Viola too.
Viola is a super nice guy. Chatted briefly with the kids and thanked them for having his cards. They were super happy as we settled into our seats and watched the game. It was fun for the boys to watch without a rooting interest. Somerset is nominally our home team but they kind of rooted for High Point because of Viola.
We just watched the game. Saw a couple guys steal first base and chatted about how the Atlantic League rules are different.* My eldest has started to recognize when balls are well hit too. For a long time they couldn’t tell if something was hit well or not but a couple of the homers in this game were crushed and he could tell how those looked and sounded different.
*I’ve been wondering how to score those. The box score from this game lists them as HBPs even though the Atlantic League rules suggest that they should be listed as SBs. My gut suggests that they should be listed as WPs or PBs and count (or not) as earned runs accordingly.
He also noticed that many of the players had Major League experience and even recognized a few names from his collection. I suspect we’ll be going to more Somerset games next year and be keeping more up-to-date on the roster. The more low-key autograph scene here suits my preferences and my kids’ comfort a lot more.
High Point jumped out to an early 4-run lead. Somerset scratched back to within one. Then the Somerset pitcher ran out of gas, loaded the bases, and the relievers proceeded to let a couple runs in, re-load the bases and serve up a grand slam. Still, we saw some nice defense in there as well and there were plenty of other Independent League shenanigans as well.
Mascots and superheroes roaming the aisles. Batman clips on the Jumbotron. Tshirt tosses (my eldest grabbed one). Playing “Piano Man” when it hit 9:00.* And yes fireworks after it all ended and Somerset was put out of its misery.
*No tonic and gin for sale though.
The show had been hyped as a good one and it was one of the better stadium shows I’ve seen. An NJ Transit train pulled in right during the finale and I found myself wondering how much the train riders could see since it looked like things were being fired off right nest to the tracks.
There’s another series in a couple weeks. I don’t expect us to go but I can see them lobbying for it…
Continuing from July.
We got back from summer vacation in time to catch one last Trenton Thunder game. Feels like ages ago since we were going to games in the Spring. Not just the two-month gap, we’ve moved and everything is different (in a good way) in our lives now.
Trenton’s changed a lot too. Half the team we remember has been promoted and since we hadn’t paid too much attention to the Yankees Minor League transactions over the summer we had a lot of catching up to do. The boys enjoyed it though in an everything-positive way. They were excited for all the guys who made it to AAA and they were happy to see some of their favorites who were still around.
They were especially excited to find that one of the players whose autograph they’d gotten in Spring had since appeared in the Majors. Adonis Rosa got just a cup of coffee pitching the final two innings of one game but still, very cool. Now they get to decide if that‘s enough to move him from their Minor League section to their Major League section of their autograph binders.
We didn’t plan on doing any autograph hunting at the game. Last one of the season and just relaxing at the stadium sounded fun. But there was a table set up behind the press box and the line wasn’t too bad so the boys decided they’d take their chances.
It turned out that two players would be signing. The first was Chris Gittens whose autograph we’ve gotten before. He’s super nice though and it was a great chance to congratulate him on winnig the Eastern League MVP Award. He’s one of the boys’ favorites too so they were excited to see him as well. I suspect they’re hoping that he’s promoted next year though.
The other player was Isiah Gilliam who’s been at Trenton since July but is new to all of us. He also seems like a nice guy. Since he started at Tampa this season there’s a decent chance we’ll seem him next year.
The boys each got their program signed and I got my ticket stub signed as a memento. They then proceeded to keep score for the entire game—a decent game but ultimately disappointing 3–2 loss. It’s been a lot of fun to see them grow so much this year.
My youngest used to struggle keeping score and paying close attention longer than 90 minutes. He made it the full two and a half hours this time.
My eldest meanwhile is increasingly noticing stuff that I’m not. This is great since one of the best things about going to a game with other people is that we all key into different things that are going on.
After the game we got to go down on the field for the final Kids Club activity. This was the last Fireworks night of the season and the kids club got to watch it from the outfield. It’s always a treat to be out on the field and this would be the closest they’d been to fireworks ever.
It’s a decent show. Nothing fancy like what Princeton does or crazy like Redentore in Venice. But a very nice way to close out the season and celebrate the ending of summer.
For my part I’ve found that I like turning around and watching people watch the fireworks. Something about the field all dark but the crowd still lit up is sort of magical to me and I like seeing faces get illuminated by different flashes of color (and accompanied by various oooohs and ahhhhs).
School starts this week but the boys are already making plans for next year. The 2020 schedule is in the program and they’ve not only circled all the Sunday day games but have noticed that one of them is Richmond. The boys may be Thunder fans but they‘re Giants fans first and will rooting for the Flying Squirrels that day. I suspect we’ll be trying for autographs as well.
After going twice in 2016 it’s taken me three years to return to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The kids have gone the past couple years (including an overnight with their grandparents in 2017) but I haven’t. It’s nice to be back and just sit in the Outer Bay gallery or watch the Kelp Forest tank. The main exhibits are the same as always but they’re also my home waters and speak to me.
As comforting as it is to see the same exhibits and animal life I’ve grown up with, I can’t help but wonder how the aquarium’s focus is going to change as sea water temperatures rise and the mix of the bay changes. I love that my kids love this aquarium and I hate that they’re most-likely only going to know about all this stuff as things they saw when they were little before they vanished from the Earth.
Anyway, I got to try out a new phone camera and further figure out how I can try and keep my DSLR from blowing out the blue channel.
This year the whole family made it to Palo Alto Obon. We enjoyed the food and got to watch San José Taiko perform on the Yagura. This was the boy’s first time being able to see them play without having to deal with a massive crowd and I think they enjoyed the performance a lot more.
And we danced. It started earlier this year and didn’t last as long* but was still fun. The right amount of community feel and a good time was had by all. The boys have already weighed in that they like Palo Alto’s festival the most and I know what they mean.
*Apparently some one complained last year and in typical Bay Area fashion the town cracked down on the church that has been having these festivals for decades instead of letting the resident know that they’d purchased a home next to a church.
Since I was dancing the photos are similar to my previous ones in San José this year and in Palo Alto last year. I’m still working out how best to take photos during the festival. I might have to stop dancing for a few songs and just take photos of the kids. They’re getting pretty good now.
My youngest has caught the baseball bug pretty bad. After taking my eldest to his first game last summer, we’ve had a pretty baseball-heavy start to this season and it became apparent that I’d have to take him to his first Major League game this summer.
We thought briefly about all going up together but it felt right for him to be able to experience it on his own without his big brother being the “expert.” So last week we took the train up the peninsula for a game against the Nationals.
He was excited verging on nervous. He’s familiar enough with trains that he knows they don’t always run on time. This is mostly New Jersey Transit’s fault but Caltrain hasn’t helped either. We got sit on the top floor of the train and it wasn’t too crowded—mostly other Giants fans—since we’d left before the commute started in earnest. Once we were moving he calmed down a little.
I always enjoy taking the train though since it allows me to actually spend time talking with him. He was excited to realize that he was going to be one of the few people in the park who’d been to the original Polo Grounds location and I duly pointed out where Candlestick had been and where we used to park when I was going to games decades ago. Then as we pulled into Fourth and King I pointed out how he could se the stadium lights from the train.
He literally skipped all the way from the station to the ballpark.
I asked him if I was walking too fast and he just said “no I’m just excited” and kept on skipping. Loved seeing Willie Mays. Giant eyes as we went through security and got my phone scanned.* And a face that rivaled his excitement at seeing Winnie the Pooh when he saw the World Series trophies. We picked up his “My First Game” certificate** and a program and scorecard*** and then he finally got to see the field.
*Rant about how physical tickets no longer exist goes here.
**Very cool. Not sure how I missed these last year.
***Good lord the $1 Giants scorecard is an afterthought to an afterthought. It’s the same piece of paper that’s stapled into the programs and doesn’t even pretend to be a functional souvenir.
He was excited to see that batting practice was going on. The next time we go to a game I suspect that we’ll just find out seats and watch BP but this time it was time to make a circuit of the park before things got too crowded.
So he went down the Coke slide (it was much faster than he expected). Checked out the bobbleheads (I had to lift him up to see the top row). And wandered along the arcade by McCovey Cove where I got to point out the Willie McCovey statue across the water.
It’s great to see the park from multiple angles and get a sense of the field—especially walking along that right field wall which starts off so far away and gets so much closer as you reach the foul line.
Then we found our seats so we could eat dinner and be ready for starting lineups. I figure that he’ll want a scorecard from this game in the future even though there was too much to keep track of for him to keep score himself.
We were up high in almost the same set of seats I took his brother to last year. Same row just the other end. My favorite place to sit in the ballpark. Up high where you can only be at a Major League game and, in this day and age of defensive shifting, a great perspective on how defenses are being set up.
The game wasn’t particularly good but we did get to see a fantastic play by Kevin Pillar and caught a beautiful sunset. Unlike his older brother he never had a crisis of faith in feeling like the game was now over. Unfortunately this is because the Giants never felt like they were in it. Even going into the 9th inning when they were down 3–0 it felt like they were down 10–0.
It sucks that he didn’t get to see the Giants even score a run but I was pleased that he still got excited with each hit even though he was increasingly pessimistic that they’d be able to pick up another.
It was nice just to be up there and enjoy being with him as things went on and hope slipped away. We watched the seagulls come in and the Coke bottle get “brighter.” The stadium was only 75% full so we didn’t feel like we had to run* to the train afterward.
*Walk fast, yes. Run, no.
He was down about the game but not upset or grumpy. We talked about it being bad but also remembered the cool things we’d seen. He read the program until he fell asleep on the train ride home and the following day took great pleasure in re-enacting Pillar’s catch for his grandparents and showing the video clip to anyone who’d watch. Even a bad game can have memorable moments and I’ve got a photo of Pillar that I need to make into a card for him after the season is over and I finish my custom cards.
Next time we go to a game it will be all of us together. Maybe it will be at
Pac Bell Oracle. Maybe it’ll be at the Coliseum. Or perhaps Citizens Bank, Citi, or Yankee Stadium. Lots of options open to us now that his Giants fandom has been cemented and he’s had that proper first MLB game experience in the correct park.
Our annual visit to the Boardwalk. Spent some time in the water. Dinner on the wharf. Then closed out the park on Coca Cola night.
While I wrote about my eldest taking a stab at TTMs, I haven’t provided much of an update on his activities. He’s only sent out a couple more requests and hadn’t gotten any returns yet. This is more what I expected (and had warned him to expect) and reflects both how much work it is to write a letter and how hard it is to send duplicates when your inventory is already so small.
Yup I’m making him write the letters himself. I’ll take care of postage and even stationery for now but he’s got to write the letter. I’m a bit more lenient on providing cards though. Current-year cards are difficult to get duplicates of in a timely fashion* but I’ll provide all the junk wax he wants.
*Especially because I’m having a hard time finding breaks in recent months.
Late last week his drought was broken with a junk wax return. He’d been inspired and excited to try to send to Bruce Bochy after he saw my return so I pulled out an extra 1988 Topps Bochy for him to send. It looks like Boch spent some of the All-Star break answering his fan mail and after 81 days of waiting my son got his second return.
Oh, and my youngest got his first return too. Yup, I had a bunch of 1988 Topps duplicates so I told him that if he wrote a letter I’d help him mail it. Challenge accepted.
I love this letter very much and I really hope Boch read it. I’m not going to take photos of all their letters but I’m very happy to have a copy of their first letters. Whether or not they continue in this hobby, they’ll still have these cards and letters and a memory of what they did. Until then it’ll be fun to encourage them and see what kind of players they choose to pursue in the future.