East Coast Baseball 2004

Intro : The Roadtrip (August 17-21)

I got a random email from Mike D one day, circa December 2003, and he told me about this great idea he had. How about we take like a week off and drive up and down the east coast and go to as many baseball games as we can in New York, Boston, Philly, and maybe Baltimore? Just him and me. Just like that commercial where the two friends drive around the country in a VW van and hit all the major league ballparks, only confined to the east coast. I said oh hell yeah! The more we talked about it, the better it sounded, and so we started making real plans on which games to hit and in what order and where to stay and when. It turned into a week of complete awesomeness. We started out in Philly after he flew in from Switzerland (!) - though not directly, then drove to games in Boston, New York (Yankees only), Philadelphia and Baltimore. Four games in five days. Something like 28 hours in the car. Three auxiliary side-trips to visit friends/relatives in places near stadiums or on the way to them. Sight-seeing in New York, the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia. Two days of car rental (to and fro Boston). One concert. Even one zoo staff-party/barbecue (free food!) I hadn’t even seen Mike in nearly 3 years. He was on an 8-week sabbatical from his job (nice perk) and flew to Philly almost immediately after returning to the states from hiking in Europe (Alps, glaciers, etc). It was just great to hang out with my old pal whom I haven’t seen much of since we both moved out of Indiana, and the baseball was pretty cool, too. We had fairly good weather, except for some excessive heat at the Phillies game and some slight rain in NY and Baltimore. We had really good traffic except for one major backup on the way to Boston on the first day – on the GW bridge in Manhattan on I-95. Most of the time when we saw really bad traffic, we were going the other direction on the other side of the highway. The actual games were good overall, 2 of the 4 were pretty close and the other two weren’t complete blowouts. The Yankees lost. The Red Sox won. That was good enough, but the Sox game was fuckin’ sweet. We had incredible seats thanks to Mike’s dad, 3rd row behind 1st base – literally 5 seats from the end of the home dugout. Unreal. And the game! The Sox came from behind, in the bottom of the 9th inning, Orlando Cabrera hit a double off the wall that scored Johnny Damon at the plate – the throw was made, he slid… SAFE!! It was bedlam. A great game. A much-needed victory. And we were right there! In their World Series Championship season! I took a metric ton of pictures (and even some video - with some luck I will put some of that up sometime). I heard a lot about Mike’s girlfriend Alison, and I told him he was going to marry her. He called me to announce their engagement a couple months later. On the trip, Mike heard a lot about the girl I had just started dating the week prior to the trip. Stephanie. We got engaged the same day Mike and Alison got married!

It was a blast. At the Sharon Inn. In the Ford Focus. On I-95. On the George Washington Bridge (for a while). In the Bronx. At the Jersey Shore. At the OB diner. Watching a thousand motorcylces drive by. Sitting in someone else's seats. Eating cheesesteaks. Checking out super sexy female singers up close. Most of the pictures were taken by me, with more than a few by Mike.

Phase One : Boston (August 17,18)

Mike arrived late on a Monday night. We got up kinda sorta early on Tuesday (after staying up way too late bullshitting) to pick up our rental car - a silver Ford Focus that I'm pissed I didn't take a picture of. It wasn't super expensive and I wanted to spare my car the abuse of to/from Beantown. After lying about where we were driving - mileage in-state was free, so we were "going to Pittsburgh" - we headed out and on our way up the coast. We got gas first, though.

Mike is all smiles on the first morning of the first day of 28 hours in the car. And maybe because I paid for the first tank of gas (which is under $2!).

Everything was going smoothly until we hit the GW bridge in north Manhattan. Major delay. Here's what NYC looks like from the bridge.

An hour later, Mike was bored.

About another hour later (ok, maybe not quite), in the tunnel coming out of the bridge. Mad packed. It turned out to be mostly due to ONE truck that was broken down in the middle lane near the end of the bridge.

We had planned on stopping by my pals Vicki and Pete's place in CT on the way up, but our traffic jam in NYC eliminated that possibility, so we re-planned for it on the way back down. Here's a picture of Connecticut, somewhere near New Haven on the bay.

I was feeling particularly juvenile so I took random pictures of random people we were driving by... this guy noticed and posed for my shot. Not really.

The approach! That's Mike's finger and hat. And Boston in the background.

Looks like everyone's going to Cambridge. Damn. It wasn't the easiest thing getting around Boston, but we had a decent amount of time allotted for that very thing. We got to the game without too much stress.

We parked just down the road from Boston University, and a couple of the buildings were kinda cool. Plus, I know someone who went there. (Hey, Danielle!)

Gorgeous ivy, don't you think? BU campus apartment building/dorm.

Ah, The Monster. The first thing I took a picture of when we got to Fenway Park. It looks quite un-monsterish when you see it in person. Until you see a player in the outfield and you notice how small they are in comparison.

I don't know who the guys on the ends are, but that's Manny Ramirez in the middle, and he hit about 40 gazillion home runs the past few years and was voted World Series MVP in the year of our trip. He's a beast.

I am obsessed with mascots. I love them. I want to be one. You have no idea. I got some good ones of this guy because he was so close to us.

I feel blessed to have this picture - I got it at just the precise moment to capture a meeting of the fists - sort of a compact high-five, if you will. I do this with my teammates on the zoo's softball team, so I appreciate the actual act, as well. Great timing. I'm not entirely sure who's on the receiving end, but I think it's one of the bullpen pitchers. Maybe the closer, Keith Foulke.

I thought this was a nice, solemn, dignified photo of attentive Red Sox listening to the National Anthem. We were barely 5 seats away from the end of the dugout. Right on.

The Man. Pedro Martinez. It was some stroke of amazing luck that we got to see this guy pitch in the only game we saw in Boston. He's won 3 Cy Young awards and will no doubt end up in the Hall of Fame. He's feared by most hitters, though he's getting older, didn't have a great last couple of years and didn't pitch well that night (and no longer plays for Boston). It was still sweet to see him.

You ain't kiddin'.

Much thanks to the 14 year-old dude behind us for taking a pretty good picture of Mike & me.

I took a million pictures of Pedro in-action, and here's the best one. Thank god for digital cameras and erase buttons.

I don't recall who's up to bat, but I also took about a million pictures of batters in-action, and here's a good one. Probably Kevin Millar, #15.

The Monster comes out at night.

Looks like that girl over Mike's shoulder is seriously checking him out.

Johnny Damon with the post-game interview. He scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the 9th by sliding and beating the throw at the plate, via a double off the wall by Cabrera. It was chaos. So intense and fun and awesome. I have some video of the celebration in the crowd after the run scored. It was amazing to be there; what a game.

We stayed at a random hotel south of Boston in Sharon, MA (the Sharon Inn - can't believe I didn't take a picture). Got up the next morning and drove back down to Philly, but managed to get to Vicki & Pete's place to see them for a little bit. That was great. Maddie has blond hair! How adorable are they.

They hooked us up to a great alternate route back down to NYC, instead of I-95. The Merritt/Hutchinson River Parkway. Sweet. And much easier on the eyes.

We took the scenic route in NYC. We drove through Queens on the Grand Central Parkway, past Shea Stadium...

And the USTA National Tennis Center, site of the US Open (right next door to Shea).

The Van Wyck. I only took the picture and even know of it because of Seinfeld. From here we went southwest along Jamaica Bay and Coney Island, on the Shore Parkway.

Here's one of the many bridges we crossed. Pretty sure it's the Verrazano, from Brooklyn to Staten Island.

On the bridge over troubled water. We went over to Staten Island and then went south, but instead of staying on 95, we went down the Jersey Shore side on the Garden State Parkway and checked out some shore spots. There was Ocean Beach, Ortley Beach, Ocean Bay. Lots of OB's.

And the OB Diner!

Hey, that's my diner. It's the Ocean Bay Diner in Point Pleasant, NJ. Apparently rather famous locally.

We stopped and hit the beach and even found some surfers trying to hang a few (definitely not ten) on those meek Jersey waves.

Beach dogs rule.

We finally got tired of the beach - it was overcast and not all that warm, anyway - and cut across Jersey back to Philly, passing dozens of Wawas. We were trying to figure out if there were more Dunkin' Donuts or Wawas in the world. I think it's a tie - both have about 26 million. We made it back to homebase and had cheesesteaks for dinner at Fiesta on Henry Ave.

On to Philly...

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