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Sunday, July 3, 2016

A trip to our local Minor League park to see the West Virginia Power

(Randy's and Penny's Perspective)
We took a hurried trip on Friday night to Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va., to see the West Virginia Power. It was one of those evenings where baseball served as a getaway.
For starters, some areas of West Virginia have been hit by horrible flooding, including a community called Elkview, which is roughly 15 miles north of Charleston. We are fortunate to not live in a flooded region, but in a state with a population of less than 2 million, there is always the chance that you'll know people who ARE dealing with flood issues. We do, and our thoughts and best wishes (and donations) are with those who were not as fortunate as we were.
There are some tough stories and circumstances, and we are thankful that we also live in a state that reacts fast when its folks are in trouble.
We stayed overnight in Charleston. It was difficult finding a room, because almost every hotel from Charleston to Huntington was full. FEMA and other disaster-relief workers seemed to comprise about half of the Charleston Marriott, where we stayed.
With life going on, however, most of the rest of the hotel included players, coaches and family members of players involved in the U.S. Youth Soccer Region 1 championship, which was being held in nearby Barboursville and Huntington.

On a personal level, we had a few layers of stress during the week. Our excellent cat, Dave Matthews, the world's finest cat (in our humble opinion), died on Tuesday.

The great Dave Matthews
Two days later, Penny let our dogs outside first thing in the morning. The dogs charged out the door and met head-on with a raccoon. Not good, a raging raccoon running around the neighborhood on a sunlit morning.
Jumping to the end of that story, with help from a local animal control specialist, the raccoon is no longer in the neighborhood.
Also during the week, Penny traveled to her hometown of Fayetteville, West Virginia, to attend the funeral of an uncle.

So Friday night, we decided to try and get our minds on something different and better. Baseball to the rescue.
Thanks to a friend at the Cipriani and Werner law firm, we had an invitation to use a suite and a couple of box seats above the first base line.
The evening was pleasant. The game was nothing special. We chatted with nice people throughout the blase 2-0 win by the Columbia Fireflies over the home team, the Power.
Much of the conversation revolved around our Major League ballpark tour. A gentleman sitting with us had been to 10 parks. He wanted to know our favorites, which listed as Orioles Park at Camden Yard, Turner Field, Wrigley Field, PNC Park and Comerica Park - all for differing reasons. His favorite has been PNC.
Penny has discovered that when she's not keeping a scorebook, she has trouble paying attention to the game.
When the last out happened, Penny was in the middle of a conversation, with her back to the field. She turned toward the field in time to see the Columbia players congratulating each other.
She asked, "Is it over?"
"Yep. A 2-0 loss for the home team."
"Oh, well. That was fun, though."
(Penny adds: In my defense, I also spent much of the night talking with a really sweet lady that I met in the box. Turns out I worked with her mom. Also, her nieces and nephews were students at my school. She is a teacher, I am a retired teacher and principal. We talked a lot about school.)

The racing pancakes must be a new addition.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

San Diego - A city that's easy to love ... With a team that can blow a big lead

June 2, 2016
Mariners 16, Padres 13

(Randy's Perspective)
I've fallen in love with places before. New Orleans, for example. I love New Orleans. The Mississippi River. Cafe de Monde. Jazz on the streets and in the clubs. Rice and beans and jambalaya. Pat O'Briens and Hurricanes. Streetcar rides through the Garden District. Preservation Hall. Jackson Square. Bourbon Street barkers. And those are just the touristy things.
Did you know you can buy a drink in one French Quarter establishment, carry it into a second establishment, and actually not piss off the proprietors of the second joint?
Yes, New Orleans is a grab bag of different.
Here's a second example - another place I kind of love, not as well known: It's  Hartwell Lake, a terrific body of water on the Northeast Georgia-South Carolina border. I probably fell in love with Hartwell Lake when I was 10 or 11 years old.
I grew up near this lake, learned to ski on it, spent a million hours on it as a teenager and young adult. More than 20 years ago, I even owned two small houses on its shoreline. I loved the lake life.
But no place is perfect, I surmise. New Orleans can be hotter than the hinges to hell's door in the summer and early fall. And there are a lotta, lotta drunks in the French Quarter, which can be fun sometimes and a little aggravating others.
Hartwell Lake rises and falls and gets really crowded on spring, summer and fall weekends. Also, those little houses I sold at a 20 percent profit are now worth - I kid you you not - between three and four times what I sold them for. Now that's disheartening.
The point, again, is that no place is perfect. That's what I thought.

Then came San Diego.
Penny and I traveled to San Diego, for the second time in the past month combining a visit with one of our kids and a Major League Baseball game.
Let me just say up front, we had a great time at Petco Park and saw a historic game - the largest comeback in Seattle Mariners history.
But, first, about San Diego.
With Penny's son (my witty, observant stepson) Derek as our full-time guide (and his friend, Karen, and his fabulously well-trained pit bull, Sheba, as part-time guides), here's what we discovered in San Diego.
  • The weather was, and apparently almost always is, spectacular.
  • The views from every place we visited - including Coronado, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, La
    The Star Bar, in the Gas Lamp District, found Derek and Penny
    Jolla, Soledad Mountain, just to name a few - were also spectacular.
  • North Park and Normal Heights are cool neighborhoods and a great place for one of your kids on a budget to live. The neighborhoods have no shortage of high-quality, affordable restaurants, interesting shops and a lot of brew pubs. We spent eight hours on Sunday walking these neighborhoods, stopping occasionally for food or beer or to listen to some live music.
  • The Gas Lamp District downtown is comprised of block after block of (once again) high-quality, affordable restaurants, interesting shops and great bars - and the district offers a lot of energy after dark.
  • There are a lot of outstanding Mexican restaurants in San Diego.
  • Dogs are almost as welcome as humans.
  • There are lots of places to walk, run and ride a skateboard, if any of that attracts you. We rented kayaks and paddled the waters of an enormous marina in Point Loma. We got great views of downtown San Diego from the harbor. 
San Diego is hilly and breezy, and the breeze is always pleasant, unlike - as Penny pointed out - the 25-mph gales accompanying 55-degree temperatures that scream: We are San Francisco.
We even got to chill on the beach at La Jolla and watch Derek surf.
When not watching Derek and the other surfers, we could look to our right and see some of those fabulous Pacific cliffs that I had only seen on television and in movies.
Penny and I are at home in the mountains of West Virginia.
But... I have to agree with my fabulous wife, who said sometime mid-day on our third day in San Diego: "I could move here."

Before we saw the beaches and experienced most of the bars and the Mexican restaurants, we hit the ballpark. Petco Park. This is park No. 20 for us. Two-thirds of the way home to seeing every Major League stadium in America.
One of the problems with assessing ballparks is that every park in America is really special and good in its own way. Even Oakland, though some might debate.
So when you get to No. 20, you know there is some sameness in the branding of all stadiums. You're usually going to get:
  • A park with character, one that looks like a baseball stadium, not like the cookie-cutter, multi-purpose houses that were Veterans, Three Rivers, Riverfront, Atlanta-Fulton County, (old) Busch stadiums and the Astrodome.
  • A park that tries to tie in a local theme.
  • A park that has decent sight lines, with no massive beams to obstruct views.
  • A park that seeks to have decent, eclectic concessions.
  • A park that brings fans closer to the action.

You get all those things at Petco. There is also the extremely odd presence of a building in the left-field-line corner of the park, right by the foul pole. It is the Western Metal Supply Company building. The short story is that building was declared a national landmark in 1978, and -try as they might - the Padres couldn't tear it down.
So they build around it.
In the perfect baseball architectural world, the Western Metal Supply Company building would give Petco a Camden Yards feel, where the warehouses are as much a part of the ballpark as hecklers behind the visitors' dugout.
It doesn't quite work. Almost. Not quite.
Penny seemed to think the building looks totally out of place (and she loooves Camden Yard). I stared and stared at the Supply Company's three-story building. I wanted to make it work but couldn't quite get there.
Speaking of hecklers, San Diego has a famous one: Harry the Heckler, who's been sitting on the third-base side for decades. He's considered the most obnoxious heckler in baseball.

Before getting to the game itself, I have to mention that for the second time in our past three road trips, I don't have a long history of memories with a team. Eighteen of 20 places we've visited, I have vivid memories of the teams we saw: things I learned or saw on TV or admired about a team.
The Texas Rangers were the first to bring me little to no nostalgia. The Padres are the second.
That lack of history seems a little odd, even to me, because the player in my lifetime that I admired almost above all others was a Padre. He was Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre.
Gwynn was the Ted Williams of the late 20th century. The guy was a hitting machine. He had a lifetime average better than .330, could hit to all field, won a bunch of gold gloves and was a genuine and nice guy, according to all things I have heard and read.
Gwynn loved San Diego so much he spent his entire career there. He refused better money just to stay in San Diego.
Although loyal to San Diego, the Padres didn't reward Gwynn with great teams to play with. The Padres have been far more mediocre than good. Occasionally, they made pennant runs. The Padres have competed in two World Series: 1984 and 1998. They lost both.

So with that kind of franchise history, what happened against the Mariners shouldn't have been a surprise.
The Padres led by 10 runs after five innings. Yes, 10 runs. 12-2. There was a four-run first inning and a seven-run fifth inning. This deal was over. We even discussed the almost unthinkable - leaving after the eighth inning.
I was trying to remember if I'd ever witnessed live a seven-run inning. I remember that yes, Penny and I saw the Blue Jays drop seven on the Red Sox in Fenway. But still, seven in an inning is amazing. Padres centerfielder Jon Jay was 5 for 6 on the night. Sweet.
So.... we actually HAD seen a seven-run inning.
We had not, however, witnessed a nine-run inning, which the Mariners posted in the seventh. The nine-run seventh followed a five-run sixth inning. So if you're scoring at home, as they say, the Seattle Mariners went from a 12-2 deficit to a 16-12 lead.
Although it seemed meaningless at the time, Mariners rightfielder Nelson Cruz hit a gargantuan home run in the fourth inning.
In the end, the Mariners won 16-13. Even friendly, laid-back San Diego booed its bullpen.
Other than booing the bullpen, the home crowd was pretty quiet. An oddly large contingent of Mariners fans was anything but quiet as run after run after run kept crossing the plate.
It appeared from our first-base-line vantage point that even Harry the Heckler went quiet.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dog Days of San Diego

(Penny's Perspective)

What could be better for a dog lover than being interviewed petting a comfort dog at the Denver airport, spending four days with my grand-doggies, AND having a ticket on Bark in the Park night at Petco Park? That was so awesome, and add to that I've found a new favorite city: San Diego. That was a great trip. 

It was so much fun to see all these fabulous dogs at our first visit to Petco Park. 

Petting the comfort dog in the Denver airport.

My grand-dogs Juan and Sheba.

Mr. PadreI've loved almost all of our baseball trips. This one I especially loved. I hadn't seen my son, Derek, since I was out there in January so it was great to spend time with him. I love, love, love San Diego, so I was happy to share that city with Randy. The food in San Diego is a dream for a vegetarian (me) and a vegan (Derek). Even Randy found some food he liked, although he still draws the line at anything made with tofu. We had some Mexian food to die for. I see more potato tacos in my future!

A very California feel inside the park.

Beautiful views from all around. 

It was a beautiful night, if you go, take a sweater, it gets really cool after dark. 

The scoreboard was huge. Once I figured out where everything was, I really liked it. 

Our host for the San Diego trip. My son, Derek.

Yes, we have on jackets and it is summer!

Retired numbers.

A replica of the USS Nimitz. 

I love this wall of all MLB players who have served our country.

There is no shortage of things to do in San Diego. A visit to the Gaslamp District is a must. There are places to eat and bars everywhere!

Kayaking at Point Loma harbor. 

San Diego is a vegetarian/vegan heaven. This raw walnut taco was so good!

Derek and his friend, Karen.

We love dive bars, and this one didn't disappoint. The Star Bar was named one of the country's top 20 dive bars and is within walking distance of the park. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

UPDATE: Traffic, a pitcher's duel, Astrodome memories ... and some cool music

Houston 1, Detroit 0
April 15, 2016
(Randy's Perspective)

I'd never thought about what an oxymoron this is: Don't drive during rush hour.
I'll add this: Especially in Houston.
Every city has heavy traffic, so Houston is not unique in that regard. But I've driven in a lot of cities - in fact, I think I've driven in every city east of the Mississippi with a metropolitan population of more than a million people. I've learned a few things. D.C. is rats in a maze; Suburban Chicago can be a parking lot - with toll booths; Atlanta is hell - on a bad day.
Granted, my opinion is anecdotal, reflecting a combination of what I experienced with stories I've heard. But, but, but... I have never, ever, ever seen so much traffic eat up so much time as I experienced in Houston, Texas. Rush hour is perpetual.
Our ambitious crew of three - Penny, Kelli and I - left Dallas shortly after 11 a.m. on Friday. We had plenty of time to drive the three and a half hours to Houston, check in at the downtown Residence Inn, chill for a while, then walk about nine blocks to the stadium for a 7:05 p.m. game.
We hit the first Interstate 45 jam - no fault of Houston traffic - about 30 miles south of the Palestine, Texas, exit. On a side note, Palestine is home of a good friend named Kelly Jordon, who happens to be a terrific professional angler.
Anyway, we creepy crawled for large sections of the trip to Houston. Again, no fault of Houston.
We even enjoyed a cool stop at a Texas-sized, Texas-themed convenience store call Buccees. If you ever want to stop at Buccess, you can't miss it. Just look for a huge beaver-head logo. Lots of stuff in a Buccees travel stop. I mention Buccees because Kelli told us they have interesting billboards. I looked this up. Here are some Buccees billboard slogans:
  • Restrooms so clean we live mints on the urinals
  • Ice, beer, jerky: the three food groups
  • The top two reasons to stop at Buccees: #1 and #2
  • Don't worry, P happy
You've got to love a place with a sense of humor. And a lot of specialty foods. And plenty of coffee.
After Buccees, we hit the road again.
The true, heavy Houston traffic started more than 70 miles outside the city. Ouch.
Fortunately, although it was slow, we never went into a full-scale stall. But, man, you have got to be paying attention. On another side note, as we killed time paying road games - such as 20 Questions and How Many cities and towns in Texas can you name? - passengers Penny and Kelli delicately suggested once or twice that I might be changing lanes more often than I should.
Fast forward. We eventually made it to Minute Maid Park with 45 minutes to spare.

Once inside Minute Maid, we discovered (once again) that two guys I'd like to meet and shake hands with - Josh Pahigian and Kevin O'Connell - had given us some sound advice. Pahigian and O'Connell wrote a book called The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip, subtitled A Fan's Guide to Major League Stadiums.
The day we decided we would visit every ballpark in America, Penny found this book. She consults it for the bars and restaurants and baseball-themed attractions inside and around the stadiums. The book has been a wealth of information.
While Penny looks for the baseball history and travel guide stuff, I consult Pahigian and O'Connell on finding the good and the bad seats. They haven't yet steered us wrong. They tell you when stadium sections have blind spots. They tell you when the chairs aren't angled toward the field. They tell you many rows back you can sit before an overhang becomes obnoxious. For this trip, they accurately suggested sitting in the lower deck in Arlington, because upper deck seats are too far away.
In Houston, they cued us in that lower deck rows rise at a low pitch, making it difficult for a short person to see over even a reasonably sized individual sitting a row closer to the field. As they say where I grew up: "Now that right there is some good sh..., uh, information." 
We sat in the club level down the right field line. The seats were terrific.

Our seats certainly had a Houston feel. We were almost directly across from home run alley in left field. Above a series of arches over the left field wall are high-dollar advertising signs. They include:
Maybe too small to read, but Conoco Phillips, OXY, etc. define the corporate scene
Conoco Phillips, National Oilwell Varco, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Calpine, Occidental Petroleum Corp. (aka OXY), Champion Energy Services, etc. Welcome to the world of oil and gas.
Well, back to baseball itself.
With all that energy on the wall. There was no energy coming from anyone's bats during our evening in Houston. We saw a bonified dinosaur of a game: a pitcher's duel.
Quite frankly, it was kind of refreshing. Final score: Houston 1, Detroit 0.
I knew early in the contest that we could be in for a different kind of evening. Houston stranded eight runners in the first three frames.
Dallas Keuchel, the American League's 2015 Cy Young winner, threw eight shutout innings. On the other side, Mike Pelfrey of the Tigers gave up one run in six innings, even when it appeared he didn't have great stuff. As I said, there a lot of Astros on the bases with just a run to show for it.
Relievers took care of the rest of the order.

As I sat watching the pitcher's duel, I thought how many times as a kid I had listened to Braves announcers, first Milo Hamilton then Ernie Johnson and Skip Carey all the others, call games from the Astrodome - a structure once call the "Eighth Wonder of the World." I always wanted to see it.
In reality, time gives perspective. The Astrodome, I'm told from folks who actually have been there, was actually just a big capsule that offered the unique perspective of being the first-ever indoor Major League Baseball and NFL stadium.

The Houston Astrodome was pretty famous for low-scoring games. It was a pitcher's park, as Hamilton and Johnson and Carey would point out again and again.
When it comes to Minute Maid, all I could think about as I stared at left field was the year the All-Star game was in Houston, and the balls kept pounding off the brick facing high above left field.
It looked like a great park to see some runs.
We got 1-0.

Another fast forward, after the game, we made our way to three downtown Houston bars, where we experienced, in order: 

  • A sports bar called Live; it featured a band of old rockers (which is always a treat)
  • A rooftop bar with a deejay, which technically was a separate bar but still part of Live; the bar projects tv shots on the sides of nearby buildings
  • A trendy, craft beer bar called Flying Saucer; You'll have to look this one up; There are lots of club-member plates on the walls and ceilings, hence the flying saucer theme

We had a big-ole time, but we made it back to the hotel shortly after midnight, because we needed to be back to Dallas in time to get musician Kelli to a 4 p.m. gig. Actually the gig was not in Dallas, but in the town of Granbury, which is roughly 30 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
The Calamity Janes, three singing sisters, and their hip bassist, Kelli Coleman
The life of a local/regional musician - especially if you play with multiple other musicians - can be an odd mixture of venues and music styles. On this night, Kelli would be playing stand-up bass with a talented and popular local group of Texas/county singing sisters known as the Calamity Janes. These three singing sisters have a few local radio hits and seem on the cusp of bigger things. Some serious talent in those beautifully blended voices.
This Saturday gig was at a country club. The Janes were the entertainment for a club crawfish boil. The crowd was small but enthusiastic. We got to see some Texas two-stepping, which I enjoyed immensely. 
I'd also like to mention that bass player was outstanding.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Damn this Traffic Jam! Houston

(Penny's perspective)

Remember the James Taylor song Damn this Traffic Jam? How I hate to be late, It hurts my motor to go so slow. Well, that sums up Houston. We sat in traffic for hours. If you go, give yourself lots of time!

And give yourself even more time to get through security. Hands up going through metal detectors, pockets empty, serious stuff in Houston.

Shame on  me for assuming there would be no vegetarian food options. Found something at both Texas stadiums.

I wanted to do this but Randy said it was for kids! 

Home Run Alley

Need a haircut?

How cool is this? Randy got us seats on the club level and this is the concourse. Pretty nice!

There has been talk of getting rid of Tal's Hill and the train for several years. I actually like the train (cheesy as it is) and hope it stays. It is a nice homage to the original Union Station which the park is built around. 

Here it is in action:

After Take Me Out to the Ball Game, don't sit down! Sing along with the crowd to Deep in the Heart of Texas. 

There is plenty of nightlife after the game to take advantage of. Several blocks from the stadium we found this fun little place with a rooftop bar and games projected onto the walls of nearby buildings. 

Thumbs up
crowd and overall atmosphere
mascot- Orbit, a little alien looking creature who shoots out t-shirts to the crowd
food options
Texas-sized scoreboard

Thumbs down
Can't think of a thing!

Loved the park, loved Houston. Hated the traffic!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Texas Tour: Part 1, Arlington, the Orioles and the Rangers

Texas 6, Baltimore 3
April 14, 2016
(Randy's perspective)

The last thing I heard before we got on a plane for DFW airport came from my wife, Penny, a West Virginia lifer who loves almost everything about her home state but the winters. Her words: "I'm really looking forward to Texas because I'm ready for some sunshine and warm weather. I don't even care if it's hot. Eighty-five degrees would be fine."
It had snowed on us the previous weekend, you see. Snow in April. Almost as bad as snow in May, which we have also experienced.
We landed in Dallas. It was cloudy, with a chilly breeze and a hint of rain. The temperature was 60.

My daughter, Kelli, left West Virginia a few months after her 18th birthday. She was bound at that time for the University of North Texas, in Denton. I was with her when she checked in to her dorm. This is no exaggeration; as we unpacked the car and lugged boxes inside her dorm on that August 2005 day, it was 109 degrees. If only it had been a dry heat.
In spite of the heat, Texas grabbed and kept her. After graduation from UNT, she moved to Dallas and has been back to the Mountain State of West Virginia only to visit. She's in Year 11 in North Texas and Year 7 in sprawling, big-monied Big D.
I mention all that because we three - Penny, Kelli and I - have changed during the past decade. Grown ... that's what I hope we've done. Now I understand the basic tenet that seeking new experiences as you tick off birthday after birthday usually means you're going to change, but the point of this story is that baseball has been a growth catalyst for Penny and me. Maybe even Kelli, after now spending a couple of baseball experiences with us. (Probably not, but I can hope.)
Penny has learned to love the game. Her interest level has evolved from boredom to apathy to low-level interest to keen interest - maybe even devotion. She keeps a scorebook, for heaven's sake. Still, even more than enjoying the artistry and competition of the games, she loves how the senses kick in
Penny's hands, Penny's scorebook
we get to the ballpark: the three-ring circus of sights (which are endless), the smells, the sounds (such as the crack of the bat, the thud of ball reaching glove, the mood swings of the crowd, the music - all those cool things, even though they've become cliche-ish).
I, on the other hand, after loving baseball as child and reading all the box scores in the morning paper, had become a boring, only-truly-interested-in-one-team (the Braves) casual fan. I have on this wonderful journey rediscovered all of the jewels that Penny is soaking in for the first time.
Kelli knows little-to-nothing about the game. But she's a good sport, so she got in on the fun and attended two games in Texas with us. Night 1 was in Arlington, night 2 in Houston.
Either she had a great time, or she's a clever and enthusiastic actor. ... Actually, she is a relatively talented actor and a nice person - but I still think she had fun.

We arrived in Dallas on Thursday afternoon, kicked back for roughly an hour, then headed to the suburban cluster that is Arlington, Texas. The stadium is right off Interstate 30, essentially next door to both AT&T Stadium, aka Jerry's World, and Six Flags.
We later had a discussion about the merits of urban vs. suburban parks. Penny and I vote for urban. I voted a second time for urban parks as I plunked down $20 to park in a big-ass, blacktop parking lot outside the Ballpark at Arlington.
Once we reached the park itself, though, we had a "big ole time."
There are a few quirky and fun features outside and inside the stadium. You can go to a big spell-Texas display outside the stadium, only it's a T-E-(blank)-A-S. You can step up between the E and the A and improvise the X. It was a popular spot.
I know Penny's wrapup will talk about the perimeter aspects of the park, so I'll leave that to her because she's good at it.

I found going to Arlington a tad different. Often when I write about the baseball journey, I offer comments about my expectations for this park or that team, all based on childhood or earlier-life games I've seen on television. For example, last season Penny and I traveled to Minneapolis for a Twins game. The Twins now play at Target Field, but I shared what I knew of Minnesota, which included thoughts about the late Metropolitan Stadium and the Metrodome and Harmon Kellibrew and Kirby Puckett, who once broke my heart with a home run dagger he delivered in the 1991 World Series to vanquish my team, the Braves.
In fact, every city we've visited and every team we've witnessed brought back some thought or two that made seeing that team or place a kind of bucket-list experience.
The Texas Rangers? I got nothing.
Texas is a fine franchise, and the BallPark at Arlington was dandy. I just don't have Texas Rangers memories.
The closest I could come to symbiosis was thinking about Nolan Ryan, the fabulous, flame-thrower who pitched for five years for the Rangers and later worked for the team. Ryan, who threw six no-hitters in his career, is a Rangers legend. Has his own stadium statue.
Funny thing, he's also got a statue in Houston, where he's also a legend. We saw the Ryan statue in Houston the next night.

The Rangers beat the Orioles on this night. The Orioles had been hot. They were 7-1 coming into this game. But five Rangers runs in the sixth inning put them toward a 6-3 win.
Mark Trumbo homered for the Orioles. His homer was one of only five extra base hits in the game.
It was early-season baseball.
Nice crowd for a Thursday night.

Texas Rangers and the Cotton Eyed Joe

April 19, 2016

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
(Penny's perspective)

Randy and I, accompanied on this trip by Texas musician (and my stepdaughter) Kelli Coleman, headed to Arlington to see the Rangers and my favorite team, the Orioles.

We got to Arlington with enough time to grab a bite to eat. Kelli suggested Mariano's, home to the first frozen Margarita. It is close to the park, the service was quick and the food was good.

There was a lot to like in this park. If you are a fan of amusement parks, you'll be happy to know Six Flags over Texas is just next door. You can also see AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys, to the west.

You might be able to tell from this picture that the park is below street level due to wind. 
The Nolan Ryan statue on Vandergriff Plaza. He is the only player to have his number retired by three different teams (Angels #30, Rangers #34 , and Astros #34)

Can you tell it is our first time here?

And I thought I'd go hungry in Texas!

Shannon Stone died when he lost his balance catching a ball for his son. He fell headfirst 20 feet. He was a firefighter and loved the game of baseball. More on his story can be found here:

Most parks now have a race and this one is no exception. In the middle of the sixth inning there is a dot race. I have no idea why dots, but there they were. I understand sometimes there is a legends race with prominent Texans.  

I'm going out on a limb here and saying the Rangers have the creepiest mascot I've seen. He walked down our aisle and I'm sure I got a better picture but can't find it. 

Before we started on this baseball journey, I never realized that the seventh-inning stretch was going to be such a big deal everywhere. In Arlington, after Take Me Out to the Ballgame, I loved dancing to the Cotton Eyed Joe. I actually sang, even though it was the traditional version. The crowd loved it, and so did we!

One thing I especially liked was that we weren't constantly bombarded with games and announcements between plays. (Hello Pittsburgh!)

I was happy to see the Orioles play outside Camden Yards. I had to sing "J-J-Hardy" all by myself - to the chagrin of the little girl siting in front of me. We also got to see former Nat Ian Desmond, a player I like who is now playing for the Rangers. Unfortunately, the O's couldn't pull off a win, with a final score of 6-3, Rangers.

Thumbs up
Park atmosphere
food selection
easy access in and out

Thumbs down 
Ushers allowed fans and vendors in aisles during play
creepy mascot

Overall, this was a great experience and a fun park!