Shea Stadium #1.. 9/26/2004

Our first two forays into
the Major Leagues were pretty
successful so it only seemed fair to my wife that we plan a trip to
Shea Stadium to see a Mets game. She’s a lifelong fan and had never
been.. coincidentally her birthday is in September so as a birthday
present I picked up tickets to a Mid September game against the Cubs.
This was especially fortuitous because now Nomar Garciaparra was now
a member of the Cubs, so it was a win win situation in my book.
Jackie gets to see the Mets, and I get to see Nomar.

When Jackie’s sister, Dee,
hears of our plans to go to Shea, she expressed an interest in
joining us with her partner, Todd. So I pick up 7 tickets to a game.
At that time, Mets tickets were relatively easy to come by since it
was September and the Mets were 20 games out of the NL East. We wind
up with some pretty decent Mezzanine level seats just a couple of
sections down towards first base. Not bad for a last minute
purchase. We drove down as New York as it is a pretty easy day trip
from Albany.

I have a few vivid memories of
this particular trip.. the best was that of seeing my daughter’s face
on the scoreboard.. at one point between innings a camera guy is
walking up our aisle and he focuses in on Breanne sitting there
looking cute and next thing you know her face is on the scoreboard..
wow.. I frantically reached for my camera to try and get a picture..
In the meantime she turns slightly towards the cameraman and you can
see on the scoreboard that she’s wearing a pink Nomar Red Sox
Tshirt.. almost immediately the picture changes to some other random
people in the crowd. The moment was lost, except in my mind she’s
still up there on that screen.

The 2nd
memory from that day has to do with Breanne’s hero, Nomar. He hit
what I thought at the time was a home run, but turned out to be a
ground rule double. I was taking video of his at bat and got the
whole thing. I thought it went out because the outfielders gave up
running and I didn’t see it bounce looking through the camera. It
looked like a home run to me at least.. it was off of Al Leiter.
The Mets did won the game 3-2, so it was a good day.

Last memory of this trip was
discovering Main Street Sweets in Tarrytown, NY. Driving home we got
out of the city and stopped in Tarrytown for something to eat. The
place we ate at didn’t really serve dessert, but the waitress
recommended an ice cream shop a short walk down the street. So we
walked down and discovered Main Street Sweets. Ever since this trip
it has become the final stop for us whenever we are heading home
after a game in the City. They have excellent homemade ice cream in
a shop that is reminiscent of Ben and Jerry’s when it was a place no
one knew about.

Soon after this trip, we
started thinking about what to do for vacation the next summer.
During these discussions, Jackie mentions how cool would it be to see
a game at Wrigley Field. I agree and add in as long as we are going
to Chicago, might as well see a White Sox game as well and hey
looking at this map it looks like Milwaukee isn’t far, let’s make a
trip out of it, maybe even do Minnesota. At this point what started
out as a few harmless day trips was starting to turn into something
more.

Some pictures from that day ..

http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

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Magazine article.. and this year’s journey..

Well because of this blog I was asked to be interviewed for a magazine article.. well the article came out yesterday and is online here

We are locked in for this year’s vacation.. this year the Agan’s will be retracing some steps in order to visit some new parks in places we’ve already been. In July we are going down to Washington DC to see the Nats play the Mets. We’ve seen the Nats at RFK, but not at the new park yet. By popular demand of the kids we are going to ‘camp’ again which for us means a cabin with A/C at a campground. Not exactly what I would pick, but once in awhile you have to cave in.. We’ll be staying near my brother’s house in Northern VA near the Bull Run battlefield. I typically like to be right in the middle of the action, but when you are camping, you can’t exactly sleep on the National Mall.. unless you dress like homeless people..

Instead of one big trip, this year we are doing two mini trips.. the second will be to New York CIty to see the Mets and the Yankees at their new homes. Since we live within day trip vicinity of New York, we’ve never done a lot of the touristy things in the city like we have elsewhere, so this time we are going to do just that. We are staying at a hotel right near Times Square and are going to try and take in as much of the Big Apple as we can in 4 days along with 2 ball games. This trip will happen in August.

I’ve already secured tickets to all the games and thanks to the new stadiums it’s nosebleeds in the Bronx and Queens for us. Thanks to stubhub it’s at least decent nosebleeds.. right behind home plate at Yankee and right above 3rd base at Citifield. Washington is an easy ticket score so I got those off the website and got down near the field just past 3rd base. I could have scored primo tickets to both NY games on the Yankees and Mets websites, but at $1000/seat I think I’ll pass.. I guess most people will as those seats are available for just about every game. The ‘cheap’ seats are gonna be scarce.

Hopefully as the season progresses, I’ll get back to chronicling our previous adventures..

Yankee Stadium 8/7/2004..

Turnabout is fair play.. Breanne got to see Nomar and the Red Sox, so now it was Justin’s turn.. Unlike Fenway, tickets were still available for a few Yankee games and I picked a nice Saturday day game to make our trip down to the Bronx into the Death Star itself.. the Evil Empire.. <dum dum dummmmmm> .. Yankee Stadium.. It makes me sick to my stomach..

OK I’m a Red Sox fan and my wife loves the Mets so for both of us this was not a place we really wanted to be..  we both despise the Yankees, but Justin came home from school one day and decided he liked them, so we put our personal feelings about the Yankees and headed down for the day.

Being that we were going into enemy territory, I dressed incognito.. don’t want to stick out especially as a member of the Nation..

We got to the Bronx easily enough and parked in the garage adjacent to the park and walked over.. we checked out the giant bat outside the park.  Then we visited a souvenir stand and picked up a ball for Dylan and a hat for Justin.  At this point we decide that we should do this at every park.. we have kept that up to this day.. At every park Dylan gets a ball with the team’s logo, Justin gets a team logo hat and Breanne gets a bear.  She didn’t get hers this day as she refused to get something with Yankees on it.. she is my girl, she did get one later and named it ‘Stinky’.  

We headed around to our entrance.. OK here’s where I made a crucial mistake.. when i bought tickets I had a choice between the Left Field Bleachers and the Upper Deck.  Being a little uncomfortable with heights, I chose the bleachers.. the seats were only $8 each, so it was the inexpensive option and seemed like a good choice…  wrong.. the bleachers at Yankee Stadium especially the Left Field bleachers qualify as the worst seats in baseball.

Firstly.. no alcohol is served in the bleachers at all.. when i bought the tickets certain sections were listed as no alcohol, but our section of the bleachers was not one of them.. Now i don’t pound beers at a ballgame, but I do enjoy a frosty beverage or two at a game.  Had i known this ahead of time I would have chosen different seats.  

Second.. the bleacher creatures are treated to a seperate entrance and are restricted in their movements.. you can’t get in to the rest of the park from the bleachers.. Fenway used to be like this too years ago, but thankfully they removed this restriction.  One of the things you can’t do from the bleachers is to visit monument park.  You can kind of stand up above it, but you can’t go down and pay your respects to the Yankee greats.. wow..

Lastly.. the Left Field bleachers are about a mile from the field.  the Right field bleachers aren’t THAT bad, but in left field it seems like there is a good 80 feet between the front row of the bleachers and the wall that seperates the field from the stands.  We were in one of the last few rows of our section and crikey.. I couldn’t have thrown a ball to Hideki Matsui in Left Field that day, and I could barely read Alex Rodriguez’ and Derek Jeter’s numbers on their backs..

Anyways when the game starts we get to witness ‘roll call’ which is a great Yankee bleacher tradition.. the fans in the Right Field bleachers call out each players name in order in the top of the first until the player acknowledges them with a quick turn and a tip of the cap or a wave or something..  pretty cool and unique to the Yankees.. the day is overcast and cool for August.. the lights are on for the whole game.. the giveaway is some sort of Japanese looking bathrobe.  The kids put them on to keep them warm.  The Yankees are playing the Blue Jays.

One fan walks up into the bleachers with a Red Sox hat on and the crowd unleashes it’s venom on the poor girl.. yup incognito is the way to go especially if the Yankees aren’t playing the Red Sox.. you don’t want to stand out in this crowd..

We head down in the middle of the game to get some sodas and whatever from the snack bar.  OK.. here’s another reason why Yankee Stadium sucks.. the service at the snack bar in the bleachers was absolutely awful.  It took us 3 innings to get a couple of sodas and some popcorn.. there weren’t more than 3 people ahead of us in line when we went down there.. the staff was terrible.. if you ordered three sodas the would walk to the soda machine slowly, pour a soda, walk back to the counter slowly and set it down.  Then back to the soda machine again slowly.. and repeat the process.. At least the had TVs setup where you could see the game while you waited in line.  Living in New York, though, I can watch the Yankees for free.  At the game i don’t want to spend the day waiting in line for a soda.

We finish watching the game which the Yankees won.. El Duque pitched well for the Yankees and got out to our car.. It takes us awhile to get out of the garage and back on the highway..  we stop in Tarrytown and have dinner at a nice little restaurant and follow it up with some killer homemade ice cream at a shop up the street.  To this day every time we go to New York City, we have to stop in Tarrytown on the way home for ice cream.  

On this trip we decide as a family that we will never again sit in cheap seats if we can help it.  It just isn’t worth it.  We also make up the rule that we will try and avoid chain restaurants in favor of something local whenever possible.  That along with beginning the collections of kids souvenirs has opened the door for what would become the journey of a lifetime..  

Pictures from 8/7/2004

http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf
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Fenway Park (Part 1) 7/22/2004

It’s important to understand that this whole tour of the country started quite by accident.  We didn’t decide to start it one day, it just kind of evolved..

My daughter, Breanne, was (and continues to be) a huge fan of Nomar Garciaparra.. well in the summer of 2004, the Red Sox were embroiled in a pennant race with the Yankees again, and there was talk of Nomar being traded before the trade deadline.  None of my kids at this point had ever been to a major league baseball game, but we had been going to some minor league games of our local Tri City ValleyCats who are a single A short season Penn League team and an affiliate of the Houston Astros.

Well, being as the Red Sox were Breanne’s favorite team and Nomar was her favorite player, I thought it would be cool to try and get her to see a game before Nomar moved on to another team. 

Luckily, the twins birthday is July 19th.. so I decided that for their birthday i would get them each tickets to see a game of their favorite team.  At that time, Justin liked the Yankees and Breanne liked the Red Sox.  Being that I hadn’t planned ahead, i needed to cruise the internet for tickets.. Luckily the Yankees still had tickets available for games in August in the bleachers (more on that trip later), but the Red Sox had sold out.  I was forced to go to the ‘grey market’ and try and find tickets.. luckily I was able to get 5 seats in the bleachers for a game on July 22nd, just before the trade deadline.  Now my only hope was that Nomar would not be trade before the game we were to see.

Justin and Breanne had a very nice party and were both excited that they were going to get to see a ‘real’ game by their favorite teams.  Breanne was especially excited because she was going to get to see her hero, Nomar..

As the day approached, due to another game being rained out we were going to see the first game of a double header.  Now i had two concerns, not only was I worried that Nomar wasn’t going to be traded, i also had to worry about even if he wasn’t traded, would he play in the game we went to?

Fenway Park is a three hour drive from our home, so we set off in the morning.  On the way over we picked up from the local talk radio that indeed Nomar was going to play in the first game of the doubleheader but not the second..  i breathed a sigh of relief.. I guess karma intended for us to be there.

I’ve been to Fenway numerous times and in 1986 used to live near Symphony Hall about half a mile from Fenway, so I’m pretty used to getting around Boston’s streets.. If you aren’t familiar with Boston’s notorious streets, you should use the mass transit system known locally as the “T”.  Fenway is near the Kenmore Square stop.  I navigated us to my usual parking garage no problem.  We walked to the park across the ‘Fens’ after which Fenway is named.

We strolled around outside the park to try and take it all in.. we took some pictures near the Ted Williams Statue, which is located near the ‘back’ entrance to Fenway, near the bleachers.. we walked around the park and strolled up and down Lansdowne Street to Yawkey Way.  Yawkey way (named after the former owner of the Red Sox) is closed off during game days and is actually inside the park as the gates located on either end that you must pass through with your ticket before you can get onto Yawkey.  It didn’t used to be like this, but it’s a nice touch..

Yawkey Way is typically setup like a street fair with food and beverage vendors on either side of the street and a gift shop across from Fenway.   One place to check out are El Tiante’s to see is former Red Sox great Luis Tiant is around.. The local cable network, NESN, also broadcasts from one end of Yawkey Way, if you get there early enough you can see some of the announcers doing the pregame.. 

If you are looking for a sausage, I usually recommend the Sausage Guy on Lansdowne St just outside the gates.. I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t indulge myself, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about the Sausage Guy and it’s cheaper than inside the park.. take that for what it’s worth..

So it is getting near game time and we head inside.. It’s late July in Boston and it’s brutally hot.  Our seats are out in the right field bleachers and in the direct sun.  My kids at this point are complaining about the heat.. we stick it out for the pregame and some of the first inning, but by then everyone is starting to feel scorched.. We get up and head back underneath the stands and watch from a few places.. Eventually we find a place to stand behind first base in the back where it’s shady and the kids can see..

Nomar is playing, but the Red Sox are taking a beating.  The Orioles are taking it to them. The Red Sox called up Abe Alvarez to pitch in the spot start and he’s getting hit pretty hard. We walk around take some pictures..   try and keep the kids entertained.  We head over to the gift shop and make a few purchases.. I buy Dylan a baseball with the Red Sox logo, Justin a Red Sox hat and Breanne a little stuffed bear with a Red Sox logo on it.  Little did I know that with this one purchase I had begun a tradition, but more on that later.. 

Towards the end of the game we find some seats that were vacated by fans leaving early and we watch the end of the game.  The Red Sox wind up losing 8-3 and it was never even close.  A few days later the Red Sox play the Yankees and Varitek and Alex Rodriguez go at it which seems to ignite the team and carries them through the rest of the season.. on July 31st, Nomar is traded to the Cubs for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mietkiewicz among others. 

On the way we stop at a little Italian Mom and Pop restaurant just off the Mass Pike and have a nice dinner and drive home listening to the night game on the radio.. In the end, the day was a success.. we got to see Nomar play for the Red Sox for one of the last times ever.

Pictures from 7/22/2004

http://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

Introduction..

Hello.. how’s that for an inspired introduction?

In this space I intend to collect and recollect my family’s experiences traveling the country on a quest to visit all 30 major league parks..  Actually by the time we are done there will several that we have covered twice because of new stadiums opening, etc..  there are also a few bonus parks that we have hit so the final count will be somewhere near 40 stadiums i figure..

Anyhoo.. we are the Agan family.. there’s me, Steve, my wife Jackie and our three kids, Dylan our oldest and the twins, Breanne and Justin.  We live in Upstate NY just outside of Albany, NY.

I’m a die hard card carrying member of Red Sox Nation since long before such a thing ever existed.  I’ve been a fan since i was a kid.  When I went to Northeastern back in 1986 and spent many an afternoon/evening sitting in the bleachers watching a young rookie phenom named Roger Clemens pitch for the Sox..  back then it was only $4 and you could walk up to the box office and get tickets no problem, unless the Yankees were in town.

My wife, Jackie, was raised with the New York Mets in her blood.  Her dad was a huge Mets fan and he passed his love for the Mets on to his daughter..  he was also a season ticket holder to our local AA minor league team and my wife learned to keep score as well as keep track of statistics for the local team long before such things were available on the internet.  She used a calculator and a typewriter to compile the stats for her dad..

My oldest son, Dylan, is a dynamo.. more interested in video games and martial arts than baseball.  Dylan does not openly profess a love for the sport or any particular team in general.  This is important to note because we are NOT all baseball freaks (though we try to instill our love for the game).  When we do go to different places, we try to keep the whole family involved and plan activities outside of just baseball.  This is an adventure.  We are on a quest not only to see the 30 parks, but the whole country (and a little of Canada) while we are at it.  Along the way I’ll try and give advice on how we try (and sometimes failed) to keep everyone interested.

Breanne is our twin daughter.  She’s boisterous and outgoing and loves baseball.  She could mimic Nomar Garciaparra’s at bat routine before she was 4.  She likes the Mets too.. mostly David Wright.  She wore #5 in little league to honor both of her favorite players.  Nowadays, she’s become more of a Papelbon fan now that Nomar is always hurt.

Justin is the other of the wonder twins.. Justin is the polar opposite of Breanne, he tends to be very quiet and is very shy around people.  Above all else, Justin idolizes his older brother.  Justin is fairly neutral when it comes to baseball, but he does like the Mets nowadays.  When he was younger he had a brief stint where he liked the Yankees too, though thankfully that has passed.  He had both Mom and Dad worried for awhile.. 🙂

Anyhow, that’s a brief introduction to us and who we are.. this blog is our story of our journey of discovery across this great country on our quest to see it all..