Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Beautiful Saturday in Detroit, Yanks Win 5-2 And Mo Hooks Me Up

I was up and out of bed Saturday morning at 4:45, eager with anticipation about the day that lay ahead. My friend Dan and I had tickets to yesterday's Tigers/Yankees game. It would be my first live game of the season. A game I had been waiting for since the season started. When we first checked for tickets on the Tigers website a few months ago there weren't any available. Here's a tip for anyone who tries to get tickets to a sold out game: keep checking back. A few weeks after we first checked we checked again and there were some for sale. I even checked a few weeks after we bought the tickets to see if any were available and there were but they were standing room only. I checked again Friday morning just for fun and there were tickets available down the 1st base line about 18 rows up from the field. It looks like additional tickets get released to the public as the event draws closer. I'm not saying it happens every time, but I've seen it many times before. Most notably for some postseason games at Yankee Stadium a few years ago. Just a little tip from me to you.

I got to Dan's house at about 20 after 5 and we left for the D. Our options were to stay stateside (a 5.5 hour drive per Yahoo Maps), drive through Canada and get back into the US in Northern Michigan (about a 4:30 minute drive per Yahoo), or drive through Canada and get back into the US right in Detroit (about 4:30 per Yahoo). As much as we hate dealing with customs agents at border crossings and driving through a foreign country, we opted to cut through Canada and get back into the US in Northern Michigan. We figured the bridge traffic would be much lighter there than right in Detroit. Our drive went by rather quickly. We made great time. We ended up reaching Comerica Park around 9:45 and that's with spending 30 minutes at the Canada/Michigan border. We picked the line that had a trainee customs agent in it. It took 3 times as long as the other lines. That's Murphy's Law for you.

So we got to the park around 9:45. Game time was 3:40. Some of you might be wondering why we got there so early. Those of you that have frequented this blog for some time know I like to collect autographed baseball stuff, primarily signed baseballs. I've been collecting for almost 4 years now and I've got about 150 signed balls give or take. We figured that if the game started at 3:40 then people might start showing up starting around 10am. I've been to Comerica once before a few years ago when the wife and I were on a ballpark trip. There is an indoor parking lot that the players/coaches park in which is accessible to fans. It's right across the street from the park. Basically, you see the guy drive in, get out of his car, call him over and hope that he comes, and then hand him something to sign through the metal bars, and then he walks to the park through an underground entrance. It's pretty accessible. Probably the 2nd most accessible lot I've seen next to Cleveland's.

We ended up getting to their lot right at 10am. There were 3 other guys there waiting already. We weren't there any more than 2 minutes when Jim Leyland arrived and ended up signing a few things. I already have his so I didn't try again and my friend Dan was a little slow on the draw and he just missed out. We stood there for the next two hours and a couple people from the Tigers signed, most notably Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Curtis Granderson. I didn't care to get autos from the 2 pitchers but I did get one from Granderson. Since I asked him to sign the sweet spot he elected to personalize the ball. I'd prefer that it wasn't personalized but I don't sell my stuff so it's OK. He inscribed the ball "Best Wishes Jay" and signed his name though it looks nothing like it. Here's a picture. Apparently, that's how Curtis signs his name.The lot is also across the street from the entrance to the executive offices. This is where players who take cabs to the park get dropped off and enter the park. When I was there a few years ago we saw Curt Schilling and Manny Ramirez get dropped off and enter through there. Yesterday we saw Jose Molina, Wilson Betemit and some coach I didn't recognize get dropped off and enter without signing, more so because no one went over for them. The Yankees' team bus arrived right before noon and it pulls into a fenced off outdoor parking lot connected to the player's garage. Usually the guys don't sign getting off the bus but occasionally one does, usually Johnny Damon. Yesterday was not one of those occasions. Not everyone takes the bus but enough took it that day for us to abandon the area rigth after the bus emptied. We didn't see Jeter on the bus (he rarely takes it from what I've seen in Toronto) and rather than wait for him to show up in a cab, Dan and I bolted at about 12:30 and decided to go wait for the gates to open at 2pm.

While we were waiting we weighed our options on where to go for batting practice. Stand next to the dugout and hope to land someone after they're done with BP, or go further down the line into the outfield in hopes of getting a pitcher to sign after they're done throwing. Dan was interested in getting Joba and i wanted to get Mariano on a 99 World Series ball so we decided to go down the line. BP started without much action. The guys were out loosening up their arms playing a little catch. Joba was right near us and flirted with the crowd but continued to get his work in. When a guy does sign it's usually when the work is out of the way. I had noticed Mariano saunter over to the wall a little further down the line. I grabbed my ball and wiggled my way through the crowd down to where he was. He was talking to a guy in the crowd that he must have known. The guy had his little son with him and Mariano was making a little chit-chat with him. He ended up signing a ball for his little one and then continued his convo with the guy for a few more minutes. While he talked, he signed a handful of things for some of the people standing around the guy. Having just dropped about 50 pounds it was easy for me to wiggle my way right to where I needed to be. Mo only signed about 7 things and my 99 World Series ball ended up being the last thing he signed. Score! Here's a picture:
As BP went on not much happened. The only position player I really wanted to get was Jeter and the only time he ever signs (which is rare) is after he takes infield during the 2nd wave of BP. So I made my way to the corner of the dugout and watched him jog off the field and into the clubhouse after he was done fielding grounders. Typical Jeter. After that I decided to go back to where Mo had signed before in case he came back to that spot for another convo after BP. Mo will a lot of times sign after the hitters are done. That wasn't the case today. He jogged off with the rest of the team after BP.

After BP, I made my way back down the line to wear Dan was and as it turns out there was 1 guy still on the field. Joba was down in the RF corner signing autographs. I again wiggled my way close to where the action was. I had prime real estate to get an auto be he stopped signing and ran off before he got to me. I would say I was about 4 people away from getting one. I got Joba's last year when he pitched in Erie, PA while with Trenton so I wasn't too shook up about it. I probably would have given it to Dan as he missed out also.

We headed for our seats out in LF and when we got there we realized that they weren't the best seats in the house. They weren't bad, but by no means were they any good. but they were only $15 and we paid face value so no real complaints. We sat in a "riser pavilion" right under the big scoreboard in LF. Basically it's a standard bleacher setup but there are fold down seats instead of hard metal. We were in the 1st row of that section which was good, but there was a handicap section right in front of us which was bad as it blocked our view of the field. It also ended up being a popular thoroughfare for people walking to the sections next to us. It reminded me of my seats in Fenway but without the ever-present smell of urine. Anyway, it's amazing to me how many people can't find their seats. It's not that complicated of a process. Everything is numbered and easy to see. Open your eyes and use your brains and you'll make the ballpark a better place. To the Tigers credit, once the game started they put up barriers and a lot of the foot traffic stopped but it was still hard to see a lot of the game with the people in the handicapped seats right in front of us. It didn't help that my direct line of sight was the pitcher throwing to home plate. Lucky for me, the seat next to me was vacant all game so I did a lot of leaning. The fans in the section were all right. They kept booing this one guy in our section who kept walking by what seemed like once an inning. They were either booing him because he was wearing a Yankees road jersey or because it looked like he gelled up his hair a la "There's Something About Mary." The guy next to me asked me if that's how the hair is worn in New York to which I replied "not where I'm from." The guy looked pretty goofy.

As for the game itself, what more could you ask for? D-Razmataz was great. He gave up a 1st inning bomb and that was pretty much it. He pitched a great game giving up only 4 hits in 6 innings. He's done a fantastic job in his 2 starts. Hopefully Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes take notes because that's what they need to do. Don't be afraid. Attack attack attack. I could tell from my crappy vantage point that Kyle Farnsworth looked like crap. He relieved Rasner and quickly got into trouble before settling down and getting out of the jam he created. Joba came in after K-Farns and got a quick 1-2-3. Mo followed and was again awesome as he notched his 9th save. The DP of Cabrera was huge. Anytime you can take in a live Yankee game and get to see Mo close it out is a good Yankee game. Offensively the team wasn't bad but they could have done so much more. They could have chased Bonderman right off the bat but Cano let him off the hook grounding into a DP. It was good though to see Giambi and Cano each get another hit. Watching those 2 battle it out for the worst average is kind of funny. I don't think of Cano when i think of worst average on the team. They're both starting to hit though. Hopefully they keep it up and continue to do so once A-Rod returns to the lineup. The team really needs the offense to fire on all cylinders.

We were pretty tired after the game and decided just to get out of Dodge. I made it back to my house right at midnight. I was dog tired but I couldn't complain at all. A beautiful day. A Yankee win. And autographs from 2 great players. I went to bed a happy camper.

I set the DVR up to record today's game because we were going to Mother's Day brunch at noon. I got back around 2:45 and much to my dismay the game was washed out. I was so looking forward to the pink bats. Maybe they'll use them tomorrow when the team takes on Tampa. Tampa's pitching has been great of late so I just hope they use whatever bats pick the team up some runs. It looks like it'll be Pettitte v. Garza. Works for me. Go get 'em Andy.