Tagged: Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers – September 20

I’m in Texas!


Well, not now. But I was. You know what I mean.

As you can probably tell in the above photo, I was super-duper-mega stoked to be visiting Arlington to see the Texas Rangers in action at Globe Life Park. If you’ve already read about my mammoth travel day, you’ll know that I was supposed to see the Rangers on September 19, too, but that the travel gods had different plans. Nevertheless, when I woke up on the morning of September 20, I was glad I was finally in Texas and ready to see some Lone Star State baseball.

Given that I’d now be in Arlington for only one game instead of two, I wanted to make the most out of my visit. I was thrilled to be getting a media credential for the game, which meant that I wanted to get to the park early and check things out before the gates opened.

My hotel, the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Arlington/DFW South, was just less than two miles from Globe Life Park, so I set out about 9 a.m. for the short walk down to Ballpark Way, which runs directly to — as you might guess — the park. I was so excited for my first sign of Texas baseball that I took this picture of the Ballpark Way sign:


Just after taking this photo, I could see Globe Life Park standing in the distance, just beyond this Chevron gas station:


The excitement that was building on my walk to the park was quickly zapped when the sidewalk abruptly ended and I was left looking at a six-lane bridge over the interstate. While I was hoping there’d be a pedestrian lane, there definitely wasn’t, as you can see in this Google Street View image:


It didn’t seem particularly smart or legal to walk down the center island, nor take the shoulder, so I reversed my steps back to the hotel to find a different method of transportation. (By the way, you can see Globe Life Park to the right of the road in the distance. The roller coasters you see are part of the sprawling Six Flags Over Texas.)

The good news is that if you’re a guest at the hotel I visited (or several others located around the area) you can get a free trolley pass that allows you to travel easily between nearby attractions. I picked up my pass at the front desk, photographed it …


… and sat at the trolley stop to wait for the next ride.

The wait wasn’t long, although it was crazy hot, and soon enough I was seated on this trolley finally heading for Globe Life Park:


I normally plan to visit MLB parks over the course of two days to make sure I have enough time to take in all the sights. That was the plan for this trip, of course, until my unavoidable travel delays threw a wrench into the plans. I must admit that when I hopped off the trolley and stood on the sidewalk in front of the ballpark, I was a little overwhelmed. Fortunately, the thing that got me out of my head was the beauty of the structure in front of me. Globe Life Park is simply outstanding looking and I’m already itching to go back! I love the brick, the glass and the arches that make up the park’s construction, and it was a thrill to start walking down the sidewalk and take some pictures. One of the first shots I took was this one of myself, which includes part of the park’s gorgeous design and, of course, the state flag of Texas:


Here’s a follow-up shot that shows the pavilion in front of the park:


And, of course, the scene in panoramic format, which you can click to make huge:


I spent a while checking out the scene outside the park, but not as long as I’d have liked. I was eager to get inside and soon found the media entrance:


After I’d picked up my pass, this was my first sight of the field:


Ahhhhh, heavenly!

Time to feel a little overwhelmed again. This was the first time I’d had full media access to an MLB park and my mind was racing. I wanted to go to the press box. I wanted to go to the dugouts. I wanted to GO ON THE FIELD! But, as always, I also love the idea of strolling the concourse at a virtually empty park. ARGH! What to do?

(Talk about a first-world problem, eh?)

Obviously, the solution was to fit as many things in as I could. This included a walk through a stretch of the concourse …


… and continued with a visit to the press box. My first priority in this awesome spot, even before taking any pictures, was to get hydrated. I headed to the media dining room and devoured several glasses of ice-cold water — that Texas heat is no joke. Next, I took this photo of the field from the front of the press box:


I spent a few minutes hanging out in this area and just enjoying the spectacular view in front of me. Most of the working media had yet to arrive, so the area was pretty quiet with the exception of a handful of people tapping on their laptops. Although I was definitely enjoying my visit in the press box, I was more than intrigued with the idea of taking the elevator down below the concourse and to the clubhouse level. I figured I could return to the press box later in the day, so I took an elevator ride and soon enough I was standing here:


The tunnel was pretty quiet, other than the occasional cart driving past or a staff member hustling somewhere. For the next several minutes, I wandered through the tunnel and saw a bunch of cool behind-the-scenes stuff. Here’s the sign outside the Rangers media room:


The stage all set for the post-game concert that would take place on the field:


And there was and endless pile of shelves containing boxes upon boxes of chips, peanuts, nachos and drinks:


What most intrigued me, however, was this doorway:


The Rangers players walk from their clubhouse through this doorway, down a tunnel and into the dugout. So, naturally, that’s the path I took. Here’s another look at the entrance of the door. At the far end, you can see the steps leading up from the dugout to the field:


The tunnel to the dugout was lined with cool things to see. There were lists of all the Rangers who’d won MLB awards over the years and a series of images that showed the progression of the team’s logo, which I thought was cool:


Tired of tunnel coverage? No? Excellent. Here’s one final shot I took before I entered the Rangers dugout — check out the horseshoe hanging over the doorway:


It was obviously a huge thrill to step into a big league dugout. I’ve done it before, but only during tours and not on game day, so it was cool seeing the players’ equipment laid out in anticipation of their arrival. Here are the Rangers helmets, elbow guards and batting gloves, for example:


Josh Hamilton’s gear is in the second row, second from the right, and I was close enough that I could’ve put it on. I didn’t, for the record.

The team’s benches were still empty at this point, but the drinks, snacks and gum were all carefully laid out:


I spent a few moments in the dugout and was the only person there at the time. It was definitely a big moment to be standing in an MLB dugout alone just a few hours before first pitch. Soon enough, though, I was excited to climb the steps onto the field. When I did, this was the glorious view:


Wanting to really document this exciting moment, I took a bunch of photos.

A shot of me:


A shot of my shoes on the warning track dirt:


A panorama from behind home plate:


And another shot of me from the same spot:


I was stoked to be standing in this spot, but I quickly noticed two things that made it even better.

1. The giant video board atop the right field seats was showing the Blue Jays/Red Sox game:


2. The Rangers began to filter out onto the field, walking right past me in the process.


I enjoyed watching the players’ interactions with one another and, by this time, with a small group of fans that had made its way down to field level. After just hanging out and soaking up the scene for a few minutes, I wandered over to the visitors’ side where I spotted Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Taijuan Walker:


Not very often you get this vantage point of a player, right?

I soon continued toward the left field corner and stopped to take this panorama:


Here, I stood for several minutes and watched the Mariners play catch. I love watching pregame warm-ups and always take the opportunity to observe the proceeding from as close to the action as possible. I think it’s safe to say that this spot …


… has provided the best view of the pregame sights that I’ve encountered so far!

Although part of me was eager to begin exploring the rest of the park, I certainly wasn’t in any rush to leave the field. It was too bad that batting practice wasn’t taking place, but even just standing on the field and being so close to the players was a huge thrill in itself. The next picture I took with my brother in mind, as he’s a fan of Cholula hot sauce — plus, you’ve got to be impressed with this awesome seating setup, right?


Eventually, I made my way back toward home plate and looked around. An usher had just finished carefully placing peanuts, popcorn and bottled water in the fancy seats behind the screen, as you can see here:


I continued to hang out on the warning track between home plate and the Texas dugout for a little while longer until the players began to filter off the field:


Once most of them had left, I figured that I’d follow their lead and head off the field, too. All told, I’d spent close to an hour exploring the tunnels and walking around on the field and it was definitely one of the biggest highlights for me since I started The Ballpark Guide in 2010. Such an amazing experience!

I stepped through the gate between the field and the lower seating bowl and began making my way up toward the cross-aisle so that I could get some shots of Globe Life Park from a different angle. After taking this panorama …


… it was time to return to the concourse and take a serious look around. The thing that drew my eye the most was the absolutely incredible concession options. It’s probably not breaking news for me to inform you that Texas indeed has Texas-sized food, but seeing these creations up close made my jaw drop.

Would you like to take a break for a snack? I don’t think it’s wise to view the following pictures on an empty stomach.

Ready? OK:


This is a shot that shows the park’s five signature oversized creations. In the middle of the picture, you can see a full-sized baseball bat that works as a reference point. Keeping the bat in mind shows you just how ginormous these options are. From closest to me, you’re looking at:

  • Kaboom Kabob: A two-foot-long kabob of chicken and vegetables covered in a Teriyaki glaze and served over rice. ($16)
  • Tenaco: A two-foot-long taco shell filled with one foot of ground beef and one foot of ground chicken, topped with lettuce, nacho cheese, pico de gallo, jalapenos and sour cream. ($26)
  • Beltre Buster Burger: A one-pound burger topped with a half pound of bacon and slathered in grilled onions, Monterrey Jack cheese and served on a pretzel bun. ($26)
  • Choomongous: A two-foot-long sandwich made of Teriyaki beef and loaded with spicy coleslaw and Sriracha mayo. ($26)
  • Boomstick: A two-foot-long, one-pound hot dog covered in chili, nacho cheese, grilled onions and jalapenos and served on a hoagie roll. ($26)

Of these, the Boomstick is probably the most famous, as it has made its way around baseball-related social media since it was unveiled. But, I was pretty darned impressed and slightly morbidly curious about each of the other items, too. As much as I would’ve liked to eat one of these, it wasn’t sensible to think about tackling on my own. If I’d had a travel partner, though, I think my first choice would’ve been the Tenaco. What about you? What would you want to eat? Let me know in the comments below.

I loved how the Rangers made visibility a priority with this concession stand. Obviously, many fans would be curious to see this food, and the windows around the stand meant that people could gawk at the cooking and assembly processes. Here’s a shot I took of the kabobs and hot dogs being kept warm:


And for size context, here’s someone tending to the food:


In terms of delicious-looking and huge meals, the above five were far from the few I saw. Here are three others that aren’t as big, but definitely look delicious:


  • Steak sandwich: Sliced steak with creamy horseradish, grilled onions, lettuce and tomato on a Ciabatta bun. ($15.50)
  • Sausage sundae: Mashed potatoes topped with parsley flakes, one scoop of brisket and one scoop of mac and cheese, all served between a split sausage. ($13.25)
  • Brisket sausage: Sausage with barbecue sauce and onions on a hoagie roll. ($10)

Hungry yet?

Despite being majorly enticed by the food options I was seeing (I was really tempted to grab the sausage sundae) I wanted to continue checking out the sights before sitting down to eat. The next stop I made was the team’s game-used area on the concourse. At this risk of overusing this analogy, it was also Texas-sized and given that I’m a big-time collector, I had a blast checking things out. Here are a couple game-used jerseys:


Game-used bases at half price:


By the way, a game-used base is on my bucket list of sports memorabilia. So, you know, if you’re doing any last-minute shopping ….

After the game-used section, I made a quick trip through the team shop, which was really crowded. First pitch was approaching and I wanted to get some food and grab a seat, but I first took this shot at an outstanding selection of Rangers drinkware:


By now, I couldn’t ignore my excitement for some unique type of food any longer. I perused another few concession stands and found something that really enticed me: Brisket mac and cheese balls:


What you’re looking at is a combination of brisket and mac and cheese, rolled together and formed into balls, and then breaded and deep-fried. They’re topped with nacho cheese and BBQ sauce, and I can tell you that they were absolutely delicious. Good smoky flavor from the brisket, gooey satisfaction from the mac and cheese and a nice crunch from the breading. Freaking awesome combination.

Here’s what the inside of the balls looked like:


I will say, for the record, that nacho cheese in general is a complete abomination. I’ve begrudgingly eaten my fair share of it, but I always find that if it was swapped for some freshly grated cheese, the meal’s appeal would just skyrocket. Anyone with me on this?

After eating — and after a couple minutes of recovery time — I headed over to the Texas bullpen where starting pitcher Derek Holland was beginning to warm up. I was impressed with the ability to walk down into the section and right up to the rail just a handful of feet from Holland, all without any interference from the ushers. I found the Globe Life Park ushers to be extremely friendly and welcoming. In all my travels around the park (and my media pass wasn’t overtly displayed much of the time) I was never asked for my ticket or to move elsewhere. Love it!

As for Holland’s warmup, look how close I got:


After he finished tossing and jogged to the Rangers dugout, I continued my pregame sightseeing with a trip through the restaurant above the outfield. There was quite a crowd gathered, which made me curious, so I made my way through the group and saw that longtime Rangers great Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez had just finished a segment on the local Fox Sports affiliate and was signing a few autographs for the group:


I wasn’t close enough to get his signature and he only signed for a minute before heading off somewhere. The crowd followed him out, which meant that I had a chance to check out the restaurant …


… before descending back to the outfield concourse.

The game was just about to begin, so I took a seat in left field where I had this great view:


Whenever I travel to a new ballpark, I always enjoy checking out the video board. I find that the way major league teams display their information varies significantly, so I’m curious about what I’ll see. Remember that huge video board above the right field seats in the photo I posted earlier? Here’s how the video quality looked:


After I watched a bit of the game from left field, I used my media pass to visit the seats behind home plate where I had this spectacular view:


I watched an inning or so from this spot and then decided it was time to get something else to eat. I was in the mood for something sweet; I don’t normally have desserts at the ballpark, but once again Globe Life Park was offering up so many delicious options that I needed to find something memorable. And here it is:


What’s hiding under that mass of whipped cream and chocolate syrup, you might ask? Why, a sweet-and-savory combination of a thick slab of maple-glazed bacon wrapped in a waffle, of course. I carried this delicious treat all the way from the main concourse to the upper deck so that I could enjoy it with a new view of the stadium. On the way, an usher called me over and asked what the heck I was carrying!

I realized after I’d finished eating my dessert that I’d neglected to take a photo of my media credential. If you follow my blog, you’ll likely have seen dozens of these photos over the years, but because my Rangers one was stuck to me rather than hanging around my neck on a lanyard, I had to turn my camera around and take a picture of the pass stuck to my shorts:


My next mission was to use my GoPro to take some time-lapse shots of Globe Life Park that I could turn into a YouTube video. I’ve done a few of these in the past and am starting to get the hang of it. I’ve always been fond of time-lapse stuff and I’m definitely going to be doing it at each of my future ballpark visits. In the past, I’ve published a time-lapse video I shot at a Syracuse Chiefs game and another that I shot from my hotel window in Pittsburgh. Feel free to check either of them out — and, while you’re at it, I’d love if you’d consider subscribing to my YouTube channel! Anyway, I set up my GoPro on the ledge of the upper deck …


… and shot several hundred photos over the course of part of an inning that I turned into this video:

As I sat while my GoPro went to work, I had a good view of the pavilion in center field and the suites that you often see when you’re watching the Rangers on TV:


After I’d finished my time-lapse shots, I took a walk around the upper-deck concourse and was surprised so see that fans are allowed to smoke in this area, provided they’re within a designated area. I don’t know if I can think, off-hand, of another MLB park in which you can actually smoke inside it. Looking outside the stadium from the upper deck provides you with some great views of local attractions. From here, I could see the nearby Six Flags amusement park …


… and AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys:


If you’re wondering what the area outside the park looks like as a panorama, here’s your answer:


My next stop after the upper deck was back to the press box, where I had some water and lemonade and enjoyed the air conditioning for a few innings. Most of the seats along the press box’s upper level are reserved, but I was able to grab an empty spot where I could see most of the field and also watch the game broadcast on a TV right in front of me:


The above photo ended up being the last shot I took inside Globe Life Park. After I snapped this photo, I went back down to the concourse and watched the game’s remaining innings from various spots with my camera in my backpack. When the game ended, I went outside and looked for a trolley that I could ride back to my hotel. I found one, but it wasn’t set to depart just yet, so I took a short walk to snap the photos that I could turn into this big panorama:


Then, it was time to hop onto the shuttle, listen to the Dallas Cowboys game on the radio (they were on the road, not playing just across the parking lot) and head back to my hotel. I dropped my gear off, took a short walk to a nearby steakhouse and — in a move that might tick off Ron Swanson — bought a salad to take back and eat in my room where I relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Although I was late getting to Dallas, I had an absolutely amazing time. I would’ve loved to see two games at Globe Life Park and have more time to explore the sights and, let’s be honest, fill my gullet with more delicious food. But, hey, maybe I’ll be there again soon — I certainly hope so!

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to sharing two blog posts about two awesome days in Houston. Keep an eye out for them!

Curious about my next travel adventures? Be sure to follow me on Twitter for my latest updates.

Cleveland Indians – May 19

Outside of Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Progressive Field in Cleveland is the MLB park I’ve visited the most since I started traveling regularly to ballgames in 2010. I saw two games at the Prog in 2010 and one in 2011. It’s one of the nicest parks I visited, and I was there again on May 19 for the matchup between the Indians and Mariners.

Pulling up to any park is an exciting part of the visit. I always park in the same garage when I visit Cleveland and when I walk down to street level, I’m presented with this view in a few seconds:


This, of course, is Progressive Field’s Gate C. It’s the most happening spot of the park before the gates open. Gates here open earlier than others and between the Bob Feller statue, the personalized bricks that make up the pavilion and the “Who’s on First” spelled out in giant concrete blocks, it’s a fun place to be.

Instead of going straight to the gate, I needed to walk to the ticket office to buy my ticket. Plus, I always enjoy a complete circuit of any park I visit. After walking down Rally Alley, which was still mostly empty given that it was about 2.5 hours before first pitch, I decided to walk across the grass area between the Prog and Quicken Loans Arena, as I haven’t in the past. During previous visits, this area has been hopping with fans and kids’ games. This time, it was quiet and I took this shot. Here, you can see the parking garage, bridge, Rally Alley, video board and Gate A:


Once I bought my ticket, I went to the front of the stadium, where I took this shot:


And this giant panorama:


Next, I wanted to check out the players’ lot. I’ve seen it before, but this time, I decided to walk up the driveway toward the lot …


… and see the cars and trucks up close. It’s always exciting to see a professional team’s lot, as it’s brimming with amazing rides. Some guys prefer the ruggedness of a truck:


While others prefer the smooth curves of an import — with the obligatory custom rims, of course:


Once I’d scouted out the scene through the fence for a few minutes, I continued on my way and resisted the urge to throw this switch next to the lot:


By the time I got back around to Gate C, it was open and I went straight to the right field bleachers. Actually, that’s the only place you can visit right away. The rest of the park is closed off initially, but opens soon enough. Cleveland was done its BP, but Seattle hadn’t begun. I took the opportunity to capture the bleachers and video board. It’s perhaps hard to officially call one video board the best, but I love this one. The look of it is incredible, but the team also does a great job of displaying interesting info on it throughout the game:


From a spot in the bleachers, I watched Seattle starter Brandon Maurer throw a bullpen session, and then went over to check out Heritage Park. This spot is definitely one of the coolest you’ll encounter at any ballpark and should earn several minutes of your time. I’m sure you could easily spend an hour there, especially if you’re interested in baseball history. Funny enough, I was the only person in Heritage Park for the five minutes I was there. I’ve never experienced this before, but it was neat. I shot a video that I’ll eventually edit and upload to YouTube, but for now, here’s a look at the park’s lower level:


Next, I went down the first base line and watched BP from next to Seattle’s dugout. As I glanced around, a sign caught my eye:


Yep, that’s the Indians Social Suite, where I’ll be spending the May 29 game. Excited is an understatement. It should be awesome.

It was still very early, so I decided to find something to eat. I’ve always been impressed with the food quality at the Food Network carts at Progressive Field, but for one reason or another, have never eaten at one. Time to change that. I visited the Food Network’s Hot Dog Bar cart and had an absolute winner of a meal:


It’s a spicy Italian sausage on a bun, loaded with bacon, onions, pulled pork, baked beans, sauerkraut and cheddar cheese. I could take or leave the chips on the side, but the meal was outstanding. The sausage was spicy and didn’t have that gross gelatinous texture that is common at ballparks. The toppings were plentiful and I was glad I retreated to the privacy of the upper deck to devour this beast. It took quite a while to eat, as I’m sure you can guess.

I resisted the urge to crawl under the seats and take a nap after eating it, and went down to field level. I wasn’t aware of the game’s starting pitchers until I got to the park, but when I saw Cleveland’s Justin Masterson and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez long tossing in the outfield, it made for an even more exciting visit. Hernandez was relatively close to the right field side, so I camped out there and watched him throw:


Once he retreated to the Seattle bullpen to warm up, I scurried back to the Heritage Park area, which is next to the Cleveland pen. From above, I watched Masterson make his pre-game throws:


I watched the first inning from the Home Run Porch in the left field corner, but decided to climb up to the upper deck to sit for an inning or two. What a perfect view:


King Felix was far from perfect, though. The Cleveland bats got to him early and often, and thanks to some clutch hitting and smart base running, the Tribe was up 6-0 by the time Hernandez left the game after the fifth. Masterson, meanwhile, was dominant. He ended up going seven innings with 11 strikeouts, while allowing just three hits.

After a few innings of relaxing, it was time to continue my tour. I wanted to check out the players’ parking lot from above, which is possible from the open concourse at the Prog. From up here, I could better see some of the vehicles that I couldn’t view on the ground. If you’re a car fan, you’ll appreciate this clump of rides here — how many hundreds of thousands of bucks are sitting there?


Before this visit, I made a vow to get to some parts of Progressive Field that I hadn’t previously seen. One of those spots was the pedestrian bridge that goes from the ballpark to the parking garage, so that’s where I headed next. From here, the view is spectacular. I’m surprised more people don’t hang out in this area. Granted, it’s a fair distance from home plate, but it provides a great view of everything:


While I was here, I used my camera’s self-timer to take this shot:


Next up, it was over to the team shop. The Indians have a small authentic game-used and autographed item kiosk outside the team shop, but in the back corner of the shop itself, I found a selection of stuff that commanded about 20 minutes of my time. Behold:


Game-used hats, helmets, bats, scorecards and more were part of this outstanding selection. I didn’t buy anything, but it was a blast to go through the items one by one and maybe I’ll pick something up when I’m back next week. Also interesting was the assortment of balls:


All the walking had me thirsty, so I decided to get one of my favorite ballpark staples — freshly squeezed lemonade. At the stand I visited, though, you could get strawberries added to your drink, which made for a great way to beat the heat:


(And add to the day’s growing calorie intake.)

I spent the rest of the game in the upper deck and I’ve gotta say, the Indians are sure exciting right now. They won this game and the following day’s game, and are 18-4 in their last 22 games. I can see why this city is pumped about Indians baseball. Hopefully they can keep things going and still be playing well when I visit again on May 29.

By the time I got to my car, I was exhausted. Road trips are awesome, but they’re not exactly conducive to sleeping a lot. Fortunately, I wasn’t staying too far away. I booked a room at the Hyatt Place Independence hotel, which is about seven miles south of Progressive Field. I stayed in Independence when I visited the area in 2011, and it’s definitely an ideal choice if you want to be close to the ballpark but not stuck downtown.

The hotel, which is where I am right now as I’m working on this blog post, is awesome. Here’s the outside:


It’s close to the highway, which means it’s a breeze to get here after the Indians game, but it’s quiet at the same time. It’s a few minutes away from a supermarket and a number of fast food restaurants, but if you want to sit down for your meal, a LongHorn Steakhouse and Applebee’s are less than a minute away. (For the record, I got the best of both worlds — some snacks at the supermarket up the street and a take-out dinner from Applebee’s.)

My room is outstanding, too. First of all, it’s enormous. There’s a kitchenette, desk and a sitting area with an L-shaped couch. (I’m a sucker for L-shaped couches.) The room also has a 42-inch TV, king-sized bed and upscale bathroom area. Here’s a view from the far side of the bed, looking toward the front door:


And here’s the sitting area, which is where I hung out to watch Sunday Night Baseball:


I definitely recommend this hotel if you’re visiting Cleveland for a ballgame. Every staff member I’ve met has been professional and friendly, and while I didn’t have enough time this visit to enjoy the hotel’s gym or pool, I checked them both out and they look great. You get a complimentary breakfast with your night’s stay and Wi-Fi is free, too. It’s the perfect choice for baseball fans.

And speaking of baseball, I’ve still got a lot of games to see on this road trip. Please give me a follow on Twitter to keep tabs on where I am and where I’ll be, and remember that visiting The Ballpark Guide helps support my travels. If you really enjoy hearing about my road trips, please consider making a small donation to keep my trips rolling along.

Akron next!