One day after a marathon, 24-inning doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park, I got up early to work on my blog for a very short period before hopping in the car for the half-hour drive to the ballpark. My road trip for The Ballpark Guide was rolling on, despite averaging about five hours of sleep over the last week.
On my first visit to CBP, I parked for $15 but on my subsequent walking tour, came across a $10 lot even closer to the ballpark’s gates. Go figure. That’s where I headed during this visit and, after parking and walking for a couple minutes down a side street, here’s what I was looking at:
(Cue the sound of triumphant trumpets playing.)
I was in plenty of time for the 1:35 p.m. start; instead of rushing to buy my ticket as I had a day earlier, I took a quick lap around the ballpark, stopping to note McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon, which you can enter before the gates open:
Of course, with it being about 10:30 a.m., a greasy cheesesteak wasn’t exactly what I wanted just yet. Instead, I went to the corner of Pattinson Avenue and South 11th Street to take a series of photos to make this panorama. Because the crowds weren’t too heavy yet, I think this shot gives you a cool look at what the area looks like:
After taking a series of photos that show Citizens Bank Park parking options, which I’ll show on my website rather than here, I grabbed my ticket …
… and picked up the day’s giveaway item, a Phillies travel mug:
Being able to get into the park soon after it opened gave me the ability to get down to field level without crazy fan traffic. I headed to the third base side first and watched a handful of White Sox sign autographs for kids. While here, I snapped this photo of Hector Santiago signing an autograph:
I then made a beeline over to the first base side where a number of Phillies were hanging around. My mission wasn’t to get autographs; instead, I was hoping to get some up-close shots of some players, which I’d failed to do a day earlier. As I watched a couple pitchers signing autographs, my eye caught a tall player out toward center field, and I instantly recognized him:
Doc! I had no idea Roy Halladay would even be in Philly during my visit, Halladay played catch for several minutes as he continues to rehab after his shoulder surgery this spring. It was absolutely awesome to watch him. After his throwing session, he and a coach stood in right field and talked for several minutes:
Halladay then made the long walk to the Phillies dugout and disappeared, while I stood grinning like a nerd, I’m sure, that I just happened to see him for the first time since he played for Toronto:
About an hour before first pitch, I decided to get some lunch, Philly-style. Faced with the prospect of choosing between the park’s three cheesesteak vendors, I picked Campo’s. As I waited in the sizable line, I heard a commotion behind me and as I turned, I saw former Phillies slugger Greg Luzinski walking past. That’s him with the tan shirt and ridiculous calves:
Luzinski was a four-time all-star and had a pair of seasons in the mid-1970s in which he hit at least 34 home runs, drove in 120 or more runs and batted at least .300. He ended up with more than 300 home runs during his 15-year career.
Once I grabbed my cheesesteak from Campo’s, I went up to the Budweiser rooftop, climbed up the small set of bleachers and took this photo:
And then this one:
As for my verdict? It was … good. I realize that’s not the best adjective to assign anything, but this cheesesteak certainly wasn’t great, nor was it awful. The next time I’m in Philly, I’ll have to try the other brands of cheesesteak at CBP to make a comparison, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the Campo’s selection. Of course, every cheesesteak company bills itself as the best in the city, so I had to start somewhere.
As I sat on the bleachers, an usher ventured over to ask if I had a ticket for the section. I explained that I didn’t, but I was using the empty bleachers as a spot to eat my meal, and then I’d be gone. I expected the the usher to tell me to get lost, but she was fine with me sitting there and asked where I was sitting. I explained that I had a standing-room ticket and, after furtively glancing around, she took about five minutes to explain to me how to sneak into certain sections to grab a seat without being caught by ushers. Not a conversation you’ll come across every day, right?
My next stop was in the upper deck. From my vantage spot, I could look down at a semi-crowded Ashburn Alley:
If you look carefully, you’ll see a number of bronze-colored plaques embedded in the bricks down the length of the alley. They represent different standout players from throughout the team’s history — great idea, right? Yes, but what an awful location. Whenever I visit a park, I love looking at the historical displays, but these are virtually impossible to admire. Any time you’re in Ashburn Alley, so too are hundreds of other fans, which means several hundred feet are continuously trampling over the plaques. What a bad design idea.
I was enjoying my spot in the shade because, like yesterday, it was extremely hot again at Citizens Bank Park. As I kept out of the sun for a few minutes, I took this panorama that shows the relatively empty seats about 45 minutes before first pitch:
Remember yesterday’s post, in which I stood right beneath the green Citizens Bank Park sign beyond center field? Here’s another shot of that area, but this one also shows the Liberty Bell:
Before I left the upper deck, I walked over to the seats behind home plate to get this shot, which I think looks pretty cool. Every ballpark, of course, has a unique view with some perks and some drawbacks, but I love how you can see downtown Philadelphia here:
By the time I got back down to the 100 Level, there was still a good amount of time till first pitch, so I headed to the Memory Lane area off Ashburn Alley to see if I could get a close-up view of some of the plaques I couldn’t see yesterday. Unfortunately, the area was once again blocked off (it was open when I was in the upper deck) so the closest I could get to the plaque area was this:
I spent right up until game time checking out the silent auction tables on the concourse. I love when teams do this and, while the prices are mostly crazily inflated, it’s fun to check out a variety of autographed and game-used memorabilia. Here are a couple game-used jerseys from John Mayberry, Jr. and Domonic Brown, for example:
And an autographed Chase Utley bat:
I watched the first inning of play from this spot in the left field corner …
… and then, in need of some refreshment, I hit the Philadelphia Water Ice concession stand for some frozen lemonade:
The menu included a cherry and lemon swirl flavor, which I thought looked good — but when I ordered it, the cheery fella behind the cash literally grunted, “Out.” If you imagine the noise a hippo would make after you threw a rock at it, that’s the noise he gave me. I’m sure it will come as a surprise to you that his tip jar was empty.
I spent the remainder of the game, which Chicago won 4-3 (in extra innings, no less), walking around Citizens Bank Park, checking out the sights and taking a pile of photos. I love the openness of this park — from virtually every location, you can see the surrounding area, which I think is great. It’s a crummy feeling to be in a bowl-style park without any idea of what the area around you looks like. That’s certainly not the case at CBP. I talked about the ballpark’s close proximity to Lincoln Financial Field and the Wells Fargo Center in yesterday’s post, but check out this panorama that captures the scene:
And here’s a cool-looking shot that shows several of CBP’s parking lots, as well as the downtown skyline beyond:
Unlike yesterday’s long, awesome day at the ballpark, this visit seemed to fly by, despite the game going into extra innings. Before long, I was back in my car making the short drive to my hotel for the weekend, the Hyatt Place Philadelphia/King of Prussia. If you read my most-recent post, you’ll remember how impressed I was about this hotel upon checking in — everything from the friendly, professional front-desk staff to my huge room to the cupcake and welcome note waiting for me. After a great day at the ballpark, I was looking forward to chilling in my room for the evening. Before I kicked off my shoes and relaxed, though, I drove about four miles to an Outback steakhouse for dinner — something that’s become a bit of a tradition on my baseball road trips.
Whether you enjoy Outback or not, staying at the Hyatt Place Philadelphia/King of Prussia gives you a ton of eating and shopping options for your downtime. The hotel is virtually within sight of the enormous King of Prussia mall, which is the largest mall in the country, apparently. As such, you’ve got dozens upon dozens of nearby restaurants to consider. And if you’re the shopping type, the mall has more than 400 stores.
A bunch more features about the hotel are worth considering when you’re planning to visit Philadelphia. It’s got free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, a 24-hour gym and a variety of sandwiches, salads and other quick bites to eat for sale just off the lobby — one of my favorite features of Hyatt Place hotels. And the guest rooms are enormous. I’ve used this analogy before, but this room was significantly bigger than my first apartment.
Here’s a look at the outside of the hotel:
And here’s the bathroom, which I’ll explain below:
You know how some hotels have small bathrooms that make getting ready in the morning a pain? At this hotel (and the last Hyatt Place I visited), the “bathroom” isn’t its own room — it’s an open area outside the actual bathroom, which is really convenient. Lots of light, a huge mirror and more counter space than you’d ever need.
Finally, here’s the sectional couch in my room — perfect for lounging after the game and watching Baseball Tonight:
Despite three extra-innings games, my visit to the City of Brotherly Love flew by and although my road trip was quickly coming to an end, I had one more awesome ballpark and game to check out.
After a week on the road, I’d hit several ballparks and seen hours and hours of baseball, but had yet to visit an MLB park. Time for that to change!
On the morning of July 13, after an awesome visit with Jeremy Nowak and his family the night before in New Jersey, I set my sights on the City of Brotherly Love. The plan was to spend Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia and watch the the Phillies host the Chicago White Sox for a doubleheader on Saturday and a Sunday afternoon game.
It didn’t take long to get to Philly and when I parked and opened my car door, I was hit with air that was thick and muggy enough to cause my camera lens to fog up as I took this photo:
Nonetheless, this was my first view of Citizens Bank Park, the eighth MLB park I’ve visited since 2010. The parking scene at CBP was fun and had the general atmosphere of an NFL game. There were thousands of people tailgating and, as a tailgate scene, it’s the best I’ve come across among the MLB parks I’ve visited. Here’s a panorama that shows the scene; in addition to Citizens Bank Park, the other big structure you can see is Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles:
The spot I’d parked was just a few minutes’ walk from the ballpark, which was good, as I still needed to buy my ticket for the afternoon’s doubleheader. I approached this glorious scene …
… and a moment later, had this in my hand:
One of the cool things you’ll notice about the area surrounding Citizens Bank Park is the selection of statues recognizing past Phillies greats. This idea obviously isn’t unique to Philly, but it’s done really well here. This statue of Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts, for example, has a life-like quality:
Although the ballpark’s gates had just opened, I wasn’t in a hurry to get inside. I’d be spending a ton of hours at Citizens Bank Park over the next two days, and my immediate priority was to survey the scene around the park. I walked past the front entrance to Lincoln Financial Field:
The enormous Xfinity Live complex, which is right in front of Wells Fargo Center, home of the Flyers and 76ers:
A statue of Mike Schmidt:
And free ice cream samples from Turkey Hill:
Mmm! It might have been just after 11 a.m., but I couldn’t resist a sample. I chose the vanilla bean flavor, and it was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that after eating it, I can’t deny that I made a return to the ice cream stand to try the other flavor, salted caramel:
Loaded with energy, I continued my tour around the park and finally entered via the right field gate — after a rather intimate pat-down, of course. One of the best things on any baseball road trip is your first couple steps inside a new park. I always feel a combination of excitement mixed with a “where do I go first?” feeling. The logical choice at Citizens Bank Park, of course, is Ashburn Alley, which opens early and is a fun place reminiscent of Yawkey Way at Fenway Park. Here’s a shot looking down Ashburn Alley and, as you can see, the field is on the left and a ton of concessions line right the right side:
The concession stands in this area feature a who’s who of notable Philly food — Campo’s cheesesteaks, Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks and Chickie’s & Pete’s. I recognized the latter name from Trenton’s Arm & Hammer Park, where I tried the chain’s famous crab fries. After just eating a couple containers of ice cream, however, food wasn’t exactly on my mind. Instead, I took a trip up to the Budweiser Rooftop, which sort of reminded me of a similar area at Detroit’s Comerica Park. From up here, I had this glorious view:
Whenever I visit an MLB park, I’m always anxious to check out some of the notable scenes I’ve seen on TV. If you’ve ever seen the Phillies on TV, and I imagine you have, you’ll probably recognize the green Citizens Bank Park sign beyond the outfield. From the rooftop, I was able to get right under the sign, look up and take this picture:
The view from the Budweiser Rooftop is awesome, no matter where you look. Turn your back to the field and you’ll have a picture-perfect view of Philly’s skyline:
I quickly identified the Budweiser Rooftop as a place I wanted to visit during the game but, for now, I still had lots of exploring to do. After checking out this statue of longtime Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas …
… I started my walk through the concourse and stopped at the Phillies Authentics store, which had an awesome selection of game-used stuff:
Next up, I decided to return to Ashburn Alley to check out Memory Lane, which presents the team’s history year by year. You can actually see it in the panorama from the rooftop deck, but here’s a closer look at some of the displays:
Part of the area, however, is blocked off at select times. Why? Because the visiting team’s bullpen is directly below the security guard in the blue shirt, and I’m guessing bullpen staffs over the years haven’t had positive encounters with the Phillies faithful:
After taking a bit of trip down, well, memory lane, I continued the retro feel by checking out the Mitchell & Ness Alley Store, which sits at the end of Ashburn Alley. This isn’t the official team shop; rather, it sells a wide range of M&N gear and it was hard not to go on a spending spree. Check out the goods:
After a full loop around the lower-level concourse, I climbed up to the park’s upper level to check out the scene. From here, I had an awesome view of Lincoln Financial Field:
A somewhat dizzying look down toward field level:
And, once the game began, a nice view of the video board:
I continued to wander around the upper deck, taking in the scenes while keeping en eye on the game. When I made it over to the left field corner, I had a great view of Harry the K’s bar, the Budweiser Rooftop and Ashburn Alley:
I also had a good view of the city’s downtown:
And I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this giant burnout on the concourse itself, which made me suspect a staff member had been driving his cart somewhat aggressively after hours:
Next, I went back down to the main level to check out the team shop — I always enjoy browsing team shops, but the frigid air conditioning inside definitely beckoned on this hot, humid day. The multi-level shop was great, as expected. IT had a “deal of the day” on 2012 bobbleheads, and I bought a Roy Halladay one. The sale dropped the price to just $5, and while I was browsing the available players, a 40-something guy next to me loaded up his arms. When his wife gave him a quizzical look, he said, “These are all $5. They’re a great deal. I’m getting all of them.”
And her response: “For yourself? … FOR YOURSELF?!?!?!”
As great as the store was, know what wasn’t awesome? When you exited, you walked right into the death cloud of Citizens Bank Park’s smoking area. Awful. Smoking facilities should always be well outside the park’s gates. One thing that amused me, though, as I escaped the death cloud, was the first garbage can outside the team shop’s exit — looks like it’s turned into a place to stick the sticker off your Phillies hat:
Time for some baseball watching! My standing room ticket meant I couldn’t get down into the field-level seats to take any action shots, so I put my zoom lens to the test and, from the concourse, got Darin Ruf fouling off a pitch:
And Carlos Ruiz, whose signature hot dog I’d eaten a couple days earlier in Reading:
Partway through the game, I could see action in the Chicago bullpen and went over for a closer look. Of course, I couldn’t get into the closed-off area I showed earlier, but I could stand in Ashburn Alley and get a pretty good view of Donnie Veal warming up:
And Addison Reed chilling on the steps by himself:
The game was breezing right along; in the eighth inning, Antonio Bastardo (who’s since been suspended in the Biogenesis case) came in to pitch and I went back up to the Budweiser Rooftop for this perfect view:
Late in the game, the sky opened much in the same way it had the night before at Yogi Berra Stadium. Before long, this was the view from the concourse, where I’d run to take shelter:
I wasn’t the only person with this idea — take a look at just how congested things were during the 41-minute rain delay:
Once the sky cleared up again, the game resumed but went to extra innings. (Just what players forced to play a doubleheader hope for, right?) Chicago won 5-4 in the 11th. The nightcap also went into extra innings before the Phillies won 2-1 in the 13th to bring the day’s total to 24 innings. In those two games, Domonic Brown went a combined 0-for-9. Ouch.
Obviously, it was a long, exciting day, but by the end, I was exhausted. I’m tentative to even calculate the house I spent at Citizens Bank Park! I was excited to drive to my hotel and crash. For my two days in Philly, I chose to stay at the Hyatt Place Philadelphia/King of Prussia, and I was glad I did. I stayed at a Hyatt Place for the first time back in May when I visited Cleveland’s Progressive Field, and really loved the hotel. This one was awesome, too. It’s about 20 or so minutes from the Citizens Bank Park and, while I could’ve stayed closer, it was nice to be in the suburbs. The drive gave me a chance to see some of the city’s sights and the hotel itself is close proximity to a ton of stores, restaurants and so on.
When I checked in, the staff were immensely friendly and welcoming — so much so that when I got to my room, this freshly baked cupcake and a welcome note was waiting for me:
As for the room, it was giant. After a week of changing hotels daily, it was nice to find a place where I could stay for a couple nights and relax a bit — and have the space to spread out. Here’s the view from the door, which shows the size of just part of the room:
And here’s the king-sized bed and the TV that swivels so you can see it from the bed, living room area or desk:
Since I was spending two nights at the hotel, I’ll have more details about it (and more photos) in my next blog post. I crashed soon after checking in; after all, I had to get back to Citizens Bank Park in just a few hours!