My Top-Five MLB Memories
Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to attend numerous Major League Baseball games. Typically, a family vacation included at least one stop at an MLB park. My Dad and I would plan it all out while my Mom and sister chose to shop instead.
With this summer weather in full force, it means it is baseball season.
Having stopped at 20-odd MLB homes, I thought I needed a top-five list of which parks stand out the most. Most likely, you will disagree. But, for me, I had the time of my life for about three hours at each place. Since I keep all my ticket stubs and media credentials on a tack board in my bedroom, I think back to the good times each ticket represents.
5. Of course, I had a nearly impossible time keeping it to only five memories. In something like a draw between the United States and England, I have Safeco Field and AT&T Park tied at No. 5. Safeco is a ballpark where I would be fine never watching a ball game there. In 2003, it was mind-numbingly incredible. The strange highlight was seeing a young Alex Rodgriguez knocked out by getting kneed in the head while sliding into second base. My only wish was that Ken Griffey, Jr. had still played for the Seattle Mariners. In my opinion, there is no better view than from Safeco Field. Off in the distance is the breathtaking Mount Rainier.
AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, might be one of the quietest sports venues in the world. On a brisk June night, my Dad and I walked 32 blocks from our downtown hotel to see the Giants host the Florida Marlins. In a 14-2 rout of the Marlins, slugger Barry Bonds bombed a shot – No. 716 – to right centerfield. The contrast from the quiet park to absolute deafening cheers was shocking. An orange and black pin sits on my desk with the saying: “I was there.” Bonds, of course, is on there with his homerun follow-through.
4. It was the final season of the old Yankee Stadium. A rainy Wednesday evening. Being May 21, 2008, it was not summer yet. However, the New York heat begged differently. It made little difference where my parents and I sat. Note: At our nosebleeds, it seemed like we would leave Earth’s atmosphere at any moment. Even though the hometown Yankees were playing the Baltimore Orioles, the place was electric. The Yanks ended up kindly crushing the Orioles, 8-0. I remember leaving and feeling satisfied at witnessing one game where Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and all the other Yankee greats had called home. As a baseball fan, I needed Yankee Stadium off my checklist. I achieved such.
3. July of 2005 was a true baseball trip. My Dad and I made it to three different parks in four days. Plus, on the fifth day, we visited Cooperstown. Baseball-wise, nothing can ever top those five consecutive days. I am pretty sure I started keeping pitch counts in my head as I daydreamed. Cooperstown culminated that trip. Walking through the exhibits, I felt it was my duty to read every paragraph and word on every significant baseball event.
The Baseball Hall of Fame was overwhelming. It is one place where I could spend a week and never get bored. I would call it a baseball fan’s playground. My Dad and I roamed the Hall for nearly four hours. I wish it had been longer. As a keepsake, I had my name engraved on a Louisville Slugger. As corny as it may be, the bat, to this day, leans against my bed.
2. Everybody remembers their first Major League Baseball game. It is intoxicatingly fun. Nothing matters but the experience. The score is meaningless. All I need to know is that I saw the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox in July of 1997. My grandparents, parents and sister were with me. Figuring everybody did it, my Little League glove accompanied me. I know Frank Thomas looked like a giant on the field. And, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to know that Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was one of the not-so-nice MLB homes. I had a hot dog and a Coke and was completely satisfied. It was pure bliss.
1. One of my all-time favorite sports stories. During the summer of 2001, my Mom had work in Tampa Bay one weekend. Knowing that baseball was being played in St. Petersburg, I craved a game. When I found out the Yankees were playing and Roger Clemens was pitching, my Dad and I had to go. You can make fun of Tropicana Field and say it’s a dump, but my memories are quite enjoyable. My Dad and I pulled up to “The Trop” on a Thursday night, and there were no signs for parking. I just told my Dad, “I think you park in that open field where all the cars are.”
Shocked, my Dad said, “What are these?”
The Devil Rays [that’s what they were once called – sarcasm] fan stated, “Oh, I cannot go to these tomorrow.”
We ended up selling the Friday tickets to some scalpers, which covered the cost of our seats. In the fourth inning, my Dad was hungry and bought a ballpark frank. Total cost of that Yankees game: Two dollars. The price of that hot dog.
The one constant through all these memories has been my Dad.
To all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day!
Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio.
Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville and 103.7 FM at the Jacksonville Beaches on Saturdays as host of Inside the Game. The program airs from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.
Follow Richard’s daily blog on The Jacksonville Observer and his Twitter page MillerOnSports.