Friday, May 25, 2012

It was about a year ago when I found I was sitting in Afghanistan and I had decided that I wanted to not just talk about a dream but be able to come home to the United States and fullfill one. I did a simple google search and found this community. It has simply been the most important connection of my entire trip. Tonight was the most fullfilling experience I've had thus far.

I attended a game at Safeco Field in Seattle. Through this website I met Ken Lee. He is one of the co-authors of "the fastest 30" I have stayed with him the last few nights while in Seattle and he has showed me a great time. At the game this evening I got to hang out with Ken, Douglas "Chuck" Booth, Craig Landgren, and Doug Miller.

When I found this site I contacted Craig and asked for advice. He is the creator of this site and I figured he would have some good words of wisdom. He guided me in the right direction by telling me I needed to contact Chuck who was the expert of all experts. I did just that and have become good friends with Chuck who has fed me an invaluable amount of information. After talking to Chuck I also got to know his good friend Ken Lee who was with him for many games on his record breaking tour this year. Ken invited me to stay with him and has also become a good friend. Through I also had several conversations with Doug Miller. He was trying to get a job with the Mariners and gave me great advice on how to make my own website.

For us to all be at the game tonight was so sureal to me. I consider all of these guys to be legends in the chaser community. I would like to thank them all for being part of the most amazing time of my life. I would like to thank Chuck and Doug for their advice. I would also like to thank Ken and his wife Yo for allowing me to stay with them and showing me a great time. My final thank you is for Craig. If I never found his site I never would of met all these amazing people. I could not have come as far as I have without him paving the way and a simple thank you is just not enough.

It is an honor to be part of the community and wether you're just a casual fan of baseball, trying to chase all 30, or like us crazy fans seeing all 30 in a short period of time, you have to admire what this site can allow you to accomplish.

I have neglected this site since the start of my own journey. Once I have wrapped up the trip I will be here alot more. If you ever want tips I will be happy to give them to you and I know the guys I have mentioned will too.

Happy Chasing

Keep On Smilin- It's Baseball Season!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Turner Field

I dropped my cousin Mike off in West Palm Beach and decided to drive through the night to Atlanta.  Mike gave me some energy drink and said it would keep me going all night.  He told me to only drink half.  Me being the genius that I am drank the entire thing.  I was feeling great until I crossed the border to Georgia.  All of a sudden I felt like I was going to throw up.  I fought it off and kept driving.  The problem was is I was crashing hard from that drink.  I was about an hour outside of Atlanta when I just couldn’t go on any further.  I stopped off at a rest area and took a quick one hour nap.  I had booked a room at the Extended Stay and tried to check in as soon as I got there.  I was so tired and only wanted to sleep.  The lady at the front desk informed me that check in wasn’t until 3pm and I would have to wait.  I waited until noon and went back and they got me into a room.  I crashed out until it was time for the game.

I had always heard that Atlanta traffic was terrible but I had no trouble making my way to Turner Field.  My stomach was still upset and I wasn’t really up for the game.  When I got there I tried to get my tickets at will call but didn’t have any luck.  I got a hold of Matt Lynch from the Braves and he brought me down my tickets.  He escorted me inside of the park and over to Billy who would give me a tour.  Turner Field was built for the Olympics so it was pretty cool seeing the ins and outs of this park.  Billy took me below the field level and I got to see the Players parking lot, Upper Management Parking lot, the Keg Room, Where they store the field dirt, and I even got to step out onto the outfield.  The coolest part about the tour was seeing where Hank Aaron parks his car.  He wasn’t there that day but it was awesome for me to see the parking spot with his name on it.  In the players parking lot there were all varieties of nice cars.  There was even a Prius.  I asked Billy who the owner was and he said it was either somebody who just got called up or somebody that had to buy one as a prank. 

The Braves gave me excellent seats on the second level just behind home plate.  Matt Lynch had upgraded my original seats and gave me access to the Delta Sky Lounge.  I went up there to eat after the 3rd inning and got a table overlooking the field.  It was an incredible way to watch the game.  As you can imagine the prices for food were pretty high and I got some super nachos on steroids that I ate about half of. 

I really liked Turner field.  The people were friendly and very welcoming.  I just wish I had felt better.  As soon as the game ended I made no haste in getting back to my hotel so I could get some rest before heading to visit a friend in Alabama the next day.

Keep On Smilin- It’s Baseball Season!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I picked up my cousin Mike at his house in West Palm Beach.  I was really excited about seeing him.  Mike used to live in an apartment with me and my other cousin Christian but up and decided to move about a month before I started my own journey.  For the next two hours or so we caught up and found out what was new in each other’s lives. 

I had heard about the terrible parking situation around the park so I looked at getting a parking pass.  It wasn’t worth the price so I made my way near the park and found a parking lot a few blocks away for only $5.  The neighborhood wasn’t great but, is there any ballparks in a great neighborhood?  We got to the park and checked things out.  The first thing I noticed was the giant letters that just happened to be on the ground outside.  I’m not sure exactly what they spelled out.  I had just assumed it spelled out Miami Marlins but now as I sit here and think about it I don’t know where an O would fit into those words.  They had a few vendors set up around the park, info on a new Chevy, you could even get free tickets for giving blood.  I would actually love to do that.  Before I deployed overseas I would give blood every 8 weeks.  Now my blood is compromised and they don’t want my blood. 

I went to will call and tried to pick up my tickets.  They didn’t have them for me so I got on my phone and started double checking all of my information.  I checked the email that I had received from the Marlins and everything seemed to be in order.  I called the number of Juan Leonel Gárciga who was my contact with the Marlins.  He said he had the tickets in his pocket and was holding them so he could meet me.  I met him at a gate and he gave me my tickets.  We talked about my trip, favorite parks, and this amazing dream that I am going after.  Juan went back to work and me and my cousin headed towards the gates.  We both had to go to the bathroom and there was nothing on the outside of the park, no restaurants or bars. 

We got inside and made our way up to the 2nd level which was the seating level.  The first thing I noticed was of course the lime green monster in the outfield.  It’s not a monster in the sense of the wall outfield wall in Fenway but because of the color.  I looked at it for several minutes and came to the conclusion that I liked the lime green color.  It just seems to fit Miami.  We were watching batting practice when they were testing out the t-shirt gun.  It went off and two shirts fell in the very first rows of the stands.  Mike ran down there and just as he was about to grab one some other guy snuck in there like a ninja and got the shirt first.  Mike was upset by this but I was amused.  I made my way down to the visitors’ dugout area.  The Marlins were taking on the DBacks that night and I was standing 20 feet away from Allen Trammel.  For you Tigers fans out there you can understand how cool this was for me.  I grew up watching Allen Trammel and Kirk Gibson playing infield for the Tigers.  They were an amazing team and now they are an amazing coaching team.  I tried to get both of their attention so I could get their picture with Doc but it didn’t work. 

After batting practice was over me and Mike decided to check out the rest of this new park.  It looked like it was going to rain so the roof was closed which was a little disappointing.  On a side note every park that I’ve been to during rain has been an indoor park which has worked out perfectly for me.  We checked out the bobble head museum which I thought was pretty awesome.  The coolest ones I saw were Ernie Harwell and a Justin Verlander one that had a strike counter on it.  We made our way to the very top seats just to see what it looked like from the top.  I noticed that the top seats seemed really far away.  It was incredibly steep.  It felt like if you stumbled at all you would fall all the way down and go over the barriers onto the field.  I hope that never happens.  If it does I really hope it’s not me.  I couldn’t imagine a worse way to die. 

Me and Mike watched the game and it really seemed like a slow paced game.  We went out to smoke, on special occasions I like to enjoy a cigar.  Hanging out with my cousin in Miami seemed like the perfect time to me.  As we were standing outside on the patio a few shady looking gentleman walked out and were happy to see that I was smoking a very heavy smelling cigar.  They lit up a joint and were smoking weed in the open.  You don’t see that happen in too many places.  We started walking around again when we saw Miami’s Billy the Marlin Mascot.  He was in the seating area and people were swarming him.  Little kids were flocking to him trying to get pictures and he was trying to run away from them.  He jumped over a few seats and ran out into the corridor.  We wanted our picture with him so we chased him down and forced him into a picture. 

I talked to an usher in the top of the 9th and he led me to some pretty good seats behind the visitors’ dugout.  We met some really cool people who were excited to hear about my trip.  I talked to them for a while and before I knew it the game was over.  The Marlins opened the roof a little bit which allowed a nice breeze to come in.  As we were exiting the park we noticed a long line of people trying to get into the Clevelander which is a club inside Marlins Park.  From the outside of the park you can see in and we saw something you would only see in a baseball stadium in Miami.  There were several girls standing on top of the bar wearing nothing but body paint.  It seemed like a fun time but I had to get Mike back to West Palm Beach so I could make my way to Atlanta. 

I got back and dropped Mike off.  He gave me some crazy energy drinks and we said goodbye.  It was so great to see my cousin and to see how great he is doing in Florida.  I am really close with all of my cousins and cherish the time we get to spend together now that we are older.  It was an amazing two days in Florida hanging out with my family and I’m so glad that during this trip I had the opportunity to spend a few days with the people that I love

Keep On Smilin- It’s Baseball Season!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Family Time!

It just so happened that I was going to be in Orlando area the same time as my parents.  I was traveling the country and my parents were going to Disney World.  I had never been to Disney World before so I was a tiny bit excited for that but I was more excited to see my sister (Monster) and my niece (Blondie).  Before I left for Afghanistan Monster was six years old.  I had to watch her one night when my parents went out and we watched a Disney movie.  As the castle logo popped up before the movie Monster says to me “I’ve been there.” 
I said “I know, punk!  Mom and Dad never took me there when I was little.” 
“You can come with us this summer”
“I’m sorry sweetheart; I have to go to Afghanistan”
After this she proceeded to ask me why I wanted to go.  She followed that up with making fun of me because she got to go on vacation and I got to go Afghanistan.  Damn little kids!

I called my parents and told them I was on my way.  That day they were hanging out at Hollywood Studios.  I parked, made my way to the gate and went to purchase a ticket.  I know Disney is very military friendly so I asked for the military discount and the gentleman informed me that the military rate was $146 4 day park hopper.  I wasn’t going to be around that long so I just asked for a normal ticket.  $90 for a one day pass to Hollywood Studios.  I informed the man that I would only be in there for maybe 3 hours and asked if he could get me in for a cheaper rate.  He could not so I paid the money and went to go spend time with my family. 

The girls were excited to see me and I was excited to see them.  They told me all about my vacation and I told them all about mine.  Monster, my dad, and myself all rode the Aerosmith rollercoaster together.   As we were sitting around waiting for one of the Disney parades to start I got a phone call for an interview with the Toledo blade ( I excused myself from the group and answered some questions.  When I came back my parents were gone.  It took me a while to find them and when I did I had to take off to go eat dinner with my Aunt who lives in Orlando.  Before I left I told my parents that I wanted a picture of all of us together.  It’s not very often that we have the whole family willing to take a picture.  I walked around the area for the picture lady but she was nowhere to be found.  When I returned my dad was talking to the table that was eating lunch next to him and I heard him telling my story.  My father is not the type of man that shows a lot of emotion.  I could hear pride, as he told how we were all in Orlando at the same time.  There’s only one other moment in my adult life where I remember seeing my father this proud.  My parents had just picked me up from the airport as I returned home from Iraq for my two weeks of leave.  We had stopped at a gas station and I went in to grab something to drink.  My dad was telling everybody who could hear that I was his son and I had just gotten home from “war”. 

I said goodbye to the kids and my parents.  I drove over to Universal Studios in Orlando and met up with my Aunt Cindy.  I generally only get to see my aunt twice a year so I was pretty excited.  She works for Snap On Tools and she has always lived far away since they have no office in Toledo, Ohio.  She showed me around the boardwalk area and we chose to eat at the Hard Rock Café.  The food was good, but just like any giant food chain that preys on tourists, it was incredibly overpriced.  I had a great time with my aunt as we caught up over dinner and was sad to say goodbye.  I went back over to where my parents were staying and hung out by the pool for a little bit. 

The following day I had to go to West Palm Beach and Miami.  For the people that know me they know that I am a family man.  There is nothing more important to me in this world to me than my family.  It was so incredible to see my Sister, Niece, Mom, Dad, and Aunt while I was in Orlando and I was super excited to spend the next day watching a Marlins game with my cousin. 

Keep On Smilin- It's Baseball Season!!

Monday, May 7, 2012


I had a lot of things planned for when I was in the Tampa area but the drive seemed to be taking forever.  It was something like a 15 hour drive from Baltimore and I was ready to be off of the road.  My parents were at Disney World so I decided to catch the game a day early so I could spend the following day with my family.  I went to the park and bought a pretty cheap ticket.  I attempted to walk around the outside of the park but there wasn’t much to look at. I did notice a large trailer set up with TV’s all over so people could go over and play MLB 2k12.  I later noticed that they had an entire lounge area inside the park dedicated to MLB 2K12

Once I got inside I immediately noticed how clean it was.  That’s one thing that inside parks have on outdoor parks, they’re always cleaner.  They had concession stands all over the place and the lines seemed to be moving quickly.  I walked the bottom level and explored a while when I met Matt Elflein an usher.  He was pointing people in all directions when he asked me if I needed any help.  I told him no, that I was just exploring the park.  I told him about my journey and he was really excited for me.  We talked for a little while when I told him about my one idea to help soldiers fulfill their dreams.  He informed me that he used to run a non-profit organization for paraplegics and may be able to help me out.  He also let me know that he was an inventor.  Matt is in a wheel chair and came up with the idea to have a table and cup holder that attaches to your wheelchair.  I took his card and let him know that I may be in contact someday. 

My tickets were on the top level and the park wasn’t very full at all.  I decided to go all the way up to the top seat and watch the game from there.  In front of me there was a large group of people and you could tell they all knew each other.  It wasn’t very hard to figure out that several of them were military.  One thing I’m not a big fan of is people walking around like they’re in the military and they don’t wear it well.  There was a young kid wearing a shirt that was a little too small for him and a bit of a gut hanging out.  He had his dog tags hanging out and was also wearing his combat boots with gym shorts and black socks.  Not a good look for anybody let alone when you are unknowingly representing the military.  I decided I needed a beer and food so I went out to the corridor.  I walked around for a little bit and realized that all the good concessions are downstairs.  I guess teams don’t put good food up where the cheap people are.  To get down to the bottom level you had to go outside and walk down a winding ramp to the lower level.  Luckily it was a pretty nice night out so I didn’t really mind. 

I got some food and some beer and decided to stay on the lower level.  I sat on the first base line in the outfield probably ten rows up.  The area was pretty empty so I was able to stretch out.  From the lower corner I couldn’t hear anything that was being said on the PA system.  The game ended quickly and I made my way to the parking lot.  Outside was a street performer named Kevin who was banging some drum sticks on a couple buckets.  There was a giant crowd around him and he put on an excellent show even doing an incredible drum roll only using one stick.  Once he started asking for money, like any good crowd, everybody left. 

That night I had arranged to stay with a stranger that I had met on  This website basicly puts people in touch that like to travel.  People offer up couches and guest rooms to people traveling through and they show you around.  Its an awesome website for meeting new people and getting to know a new city.  I was a little nervous staying with a stranger but it ended up being another great experience.  I stayed with a man named Allan who knew nothing about baseball but knew somebody that did.  Allan had an amazing house and a guest room (with a door that locked) for me to stay in.  I stayed the night and the next morning he took me to breakfast.  After that we ventured over to his office where I got to talk with a former Yankees special pitching coach.  After that I headed over to Orlando to go hang out with my family at Disney World.

Keep On Smilin- It’s Baseball Season

Hitchhiker Mike

Ok, So I’m going to jump forward a little bit because I had such an eventful night.  I know I’m several games behind in my reviews but you guys have to hear this story.  If you have met me in the last couple weeks on my trip you know that I want to pick up a hitchhiker.  Everybody thinks I am crazy for this but I am convinced it would be an incredible adventure. 

Last night I was driving from Houston to Phoenix.  I decided I would go as far as I could and when I got tired I would stop.  The weather had a different plan.  As I was getting past the San Antonio City limits a wicked storm hit.  It was raining really heavy and I could barely see.  I didn’t want to risk anything so I decided to call it a night there.  I saw a sign up ahead for a hotel so I exited the highway.  As I was on the off ramp I heard the loudest “boom” I have ever heard.  It rattled my entire body.  At that moment all the electronic sensors in my rental car went off.  Apparently at that moment I had low tire pressure, needed an oil change, and washer fluid was low amoungst other things.  I made it to the hotel and checked the car and everything seemed to be fine.  I can only assume that lighting struck very close to my car and set everything off. 

This morning I woke up and started my journey.  I had only made it a few miles down the road when I saw a hitchhiker standing on the side of the road.  I quickly changed lanes and pulled the car over.  As the hitchhiker was coming up to my car I cleared some room for him.  He threw a bag in my back seat and hoped in the passenger side.  He said his name was Mike and I asked him where he was going.  Hitchhiker Mike informed me that he was trying to get to Oregon.  I let him know that I could take him as far as Phoenix and he was incredibly grateful.

Me and Hitchhiker Mike started to get to know each other when I noticed that he had a tiny odor.  It seemed to be a tiny mix of Urine and Cigarettes combined with a fruity bubble gum.  He told me that he had been standing out there for a while and the previous night had been allowed to stay in an RV at an RV dealership next to the highway.  Wouldn’t you just love to purchase that RV?  Hitchhiker Mike had recently quit his job on an oil rig and was trying to make it back up to the Washington/Oregon area where his kids live.  I also found out that he was a Vietnam Vet who had been drafted.  I wondered if Hitchhiker Mike had teeth back then.

As Hitchhiker Mike started to fall asleep in my passenger seat there was an SUV that kept pulling up next to me, speeding up, passing, falling back, etc.  I traveled about 100 miles playing leap frog with the woman.  When Hitchhiker Mike woke up he caught on to the came and let me know he did not like this random woman.  Every time we were next to each other the woman would not look over at us.  Hitchhiker Mike even tried to wave several times with no response.  On the back of her vehicle was an advertisement of some sort and a phone number.  I was in a rather adventurous mood with my new travel companion in the car so I decided to text the number.  I sent a message that read “Are we playing leap frog? RJ-The guy in the green car and Hitchhiker Mike.”  About 20 minutes passed before I received a response that said “I guess so.”

Me and this woman started exchanging texts messages and I let hitchhiker Mike read them.  I was getting low on gas so I let the woman on the other line, Danii, know that I had to stop soon but I would be willing to play this game until Phoenix.  She informed me that she was only going to El Paso but she would be happy to play.  I got off at the very first gas station I saw.  The drive between San Antonio and El Paso is filled with emptiness.  I only had 50 miles until I was out of gas so I was glad to see a fueling station.  I filled up the tank and Hitchhiker Mike smoked a cigarette.  As I was getting back on the highway Danii informed me that she too stopped to get gas and was getting back on the highway two miles up.

I feel the need to inform you that I have been really, really good about not speeding since I got my first ticket on the New York Thruway.  I just throw it on cruise control and coast along.  Danii was only two miles away and I was excited to play iSpy with a stranger in another car.  The speed limit on this stretch of highway is 80 which is the highest I’ve seen on a US highway.  I was drunk with the power of my lead foot and I hadn’t seen a cop all day.  I pressed the gas pedal down and as I was getting over top of a hill I saw a cop directly in front of me.  He apparently saw me and my alleged speed as well.  He pulled over to the side and I knew that he had my number.  I passed him and his lights came on.

The officer approached my car and asked me to step out and come to the rear of the vehicle.  He asked me if I knew why he pulled me over and I told him I had a sneaky suspicion.  He informed me that at such high rates of speed if I had a blown tire I could easily roll my vehicle.  That makes perfect sense but this man had no idea how much I love iSpy.  He asked me who the gentleman in my car was and I responded with “That’s hitchhiker Mike.”  The officer seemed to doubt this and started asking me questions.  I told him about my journey and how me and hitchhiker Mike came to be best friends.  He walked over to the vehicle and asked Hitchhiker Mike for his ID and how he knew me. 

The cop said he would write my citation and get me on my way.  I was told to stay behind the vehicle and that is what I did.  I stood out there for about ten minutes in 100 degree weather getting eaten up by giant Texas bugs before the cop came back.  He informed me that I would be receiving a ticket for allegedly going 99 in an 80mph zone.  I asked the officer if hitchhiker Mike popped up in his system at all and he informed me that we were both clear.  He told me to slow down and sent me on my way.

I was relieved to know that hitchhiker Mike wasn’t a confirmed serial killer and I didn’t have to be any more vigilant than I normally am.  I got up the road a little bit and may have set my cruise control to 85.  I texted Danii and let her know that I just received a ticket and I would be trying to catch up.  It was several hundred miles to El Paso so why the heck not?  I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a cop car quickly approaching.  Yup, the lights came on and I was getting pulled over for a second time in a very short time.  It was the exact same cop.  I couldn’t believe that this guy was pulling me over again.  I wasn’t a jerk to him, there’s no reason to pick on me! 

He got out of his vehicle and approached the passenger side of mine.  He asked hitchhiker Mike to step out of the vehicle.  He had him place his hands on his head and proceeded to search him. I couldn’t believe this.  Why hadn’t the cop arrested hitchhiker Mike the first time?  Maybe he wanted to catch him off guard.  The officer came over to the car and informed me that hitchhiker Mike had shown up in a small fashion in his system and they had to run it through the state to see if he was still wanted.  I told the officer that either way I wanted him to take hitchhiker Mike because I didn’t want anybody in the system in my car.  I know what you’re thinking, most hitchhikers are going to have some sort of record, but it’s a lot easier to deal with it if you live in denial.  The officer went back to his car and made hitchhiker Mike stand in the heat.  He did not like this and you could tell he was very grumpy, and sweaty, and probably smelling worse.  Another cop car pulled up and I could not stop smiling.  I had never been so happy to get pulled over in my entire life.  What are the chances I get the adventure I wanted by picking up a nomad.  The two cops got into one car and were hanging out.  My car was starting to get really warm and I considered walking back to hang out with the cops.  I didn’t want to startle them by asking if I could get in the back seat so I stayed in mine. 

The cops got out of the car and took a tactical approach to hitchhiker Mike.  They talked to him for a few minutes and he got back in my car.  Why the halo is this guy getting back in to my car?  The main officer asked me to step out of the vehicle and walk to the rear.  Now I was super confused.  Was I going to be arrested now?  The cop informed me that the state level couldn’t find him in the system and they had to let him go.  Bummer.  I told the two officers that this was the greatest story ever and they thought I was funny.  Clearly the first officer informed the tardy officer of my story.  I told the cop to hold on and I ran back to my car to grab a business card.  I told him I would be writing about it and that he should read it.  I also told him that I was hoping hitchhiker Mike would get arrested so I could be rewarded by having my ticket go away.  The officer ran back to his car and grabbed some things for me.  I got two junior trooper stickers (cause I’m a big boy), his business card, and information on becoming a Texas State Trooper.  Boy this guy had sure given me a lot of stuff today.  I had previously planned on becoming a police officer someday, but then I got deployed to two detainee operations missions overseas which required me to get pepper sprayed and tazered.  After feeling that pain I will never willingly do it ever again. 

I got back in the car and started texting my family and friends to let them know how amazing my trip was becoming.  Once again they all think I have a screw loose.  I told Danni about my mishap and had given up on ever playing iSpy.  I wanted to call and tell my dad, the cop, what happened but didn’t think it would be good with this crazy mad man sitting next to me.  I think hitchhiker Mike could tell I no longer wanted him as a guest because he got on his cell phone and called his brother.  His brother agreed to come pick him up from a rest area.  Before I stopped hitchhiker Mike informed me that the reason we got pulled over a second time was because he had broken up with his girlfriend and she called the cops because he had her car.  I believed that story.  I got near a rest area and he told me I could just pull over on the side of the highway and let him out.  As soon as the car stopped he thanked me for my service and told me he was hungry and would be willing to sell me something.  I reached into my change jar and got a couple dollars in quarters while hitchhiker Mike dug through his bag.  I gave him the money and he tried to give me some nudie magazines.  I told him that he could hang on to the magazines and he went on his way.

I got on the phone and started telling people about my story.  My mother claimed that I was insane and that I was switched at birth.  I thought it was so much fun.  I was about 20 miles from El Paso when I saw a car that I recognized.  It was Danii.  Apparently she was driving slow as well.  I started texting her again and found out that her number is on her car because she is a realator.  She also let me know that I was the first weirdo to randomly text that number while driving.  We chatted back and forth for a while and I found out that she was from Germany and she moved to the US to marry a US Army Sergeant Major.  For you nonmilitary people that’s a pretty high rank.  We continued with the small talk until we parted ways.  She wished me luck on my journey and promised that she would share my journey with her husband.

I drove for several more hours when I found myself on a very strange highway.  It was running through several small towns and the speed limit kept jumping.  It would go from 50 to 65 down to 45 all within a mile.  I was driving and noticed it was 55mph so I set my cruise control.  I took a look at my GPS to see how much longer I had and when I looked up I noticed two things.  First would be the cop in an SUV looking for speeders to my left.  The second thing I noticed was immediately across from him on my side of the road was a speed limit sign that read 35mph.  Crap, crap, crapola!  I slowed down but carried on down the road.  There was a vehicle behind me but I couldn’t tell if it was the cop or not.  I made it through the town and had reached a point where the speed limit hit 65.  I set my cruise and saw red and blue flashing lights behind me.  Yup, I was getting pulled over for the 3rd time with in a 12hr time frame.  That has to be some sort of record.  I pulled over, rolled down my windows, and got all my paperwork ready.  I heard him walking up to the car whistling and had a glimmer of hope.  Mean people don’t whistle.  He got to my window and asked me where I was going and where I was coming from.  I informed him of my trip and why I was doing it.  I also felt the need to let him know that this road could be very tricky for a non-local.  He agreed and said he would run my information and get me on my way in a jiffy.  He ran my information and came back to the car.  He shook my hand and thanked me for my service.  I gave him my business card and told him that he would want to read my blog because I just had the craziest day ever and he would get a laugh.  He shook my hand again and sent me on my way without a ticket.  I dodged a bullet on that one so I decided I needed to get off the road immediately.  I found myself a hotel and thanked the lord that I couldn’t get pulled over from the comfort of my room.

I do not regret picking up hitchhiker Mike.  I hope he finds me on Facebook so we can be real friends.  When I tell my grandkids about the amazing adventure I went on when I got home from Afghanistan I will be sure to tell them about the day I picked up a hitchhiker and got pulled over three times.  Every day is an adventure, why not smile?

Keep On Smilin- It’s Baseball Season!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Social Media

Throughout this journey I have discovered how powerful social media can be.  I have a plan to show how powerful it really is.  Step one of my plan is going to be to get all 30 MLB teams to follow my twitter account @baseballdreamin.  This is a pretty hard task I'm finding out but I will be successful.  I already have two MLB teams following me and they are the super fan friendly Cleveland Indians and my favorite team the Detroit Tigers.  If you have any connections or know a way for me to accomplish this first task please let me know.

I wouldn't be able to do as much as I have already if it wasn't for some amazing people.  Bloggers really do rely on each other and I want to take this time to thank everybody who has helped me out so far.

I'm sure I left a few out so hit me up and smack me in the head.  I'm in a McDonalds parking lot stealing the internet and its about time for me to go get my Astros Tickets. 

Keep On Smilin- It's Baseball Season!

Camden Yards

After a few days hanging out with my family in North Carolina I headed back up north to Baltimore.  I arrived into town pretty early so I walked around the park for a bit and watched the street vendors set up.  I had purchased my tickets on stub hub but I didn’t have the opportunity to print them out.  I made my way to the ticket office and they printed them out for me.  I told the guy that I was trying to get an actual ticket from each park and he gave me what he called a “Dead Ticket.”  It was a season ticket holder’s ticket and I think we can all agree that those are the best ones.

I went over to the Baltimore Sports Hall of Fame but didn’t get the opportunity to check it out because they were hosting a private event.  But they ensured me that the gift shop was still open if I wanted to purchase a souvenir from the museum that I was unable to see.  I had recently seen somebody post on about the Babe Ruth Museum a few blocks away from Camden Yards.  I decided to check it out.  I followed the giant Babe Ruth baseballs that were painted on the sidewalk.  I got to the Museum which is the actual birthplace of Babe Ruth.  The attendant explained to me that Babe’s parents actually lived above a bar not too far from there but when it was time to give birth they came to Babes mothers house.  It was a pretty cool sight to see.  Tons and tons of Babe Ruth Memorabilia along with other great hitters as well.  There was only one room that seemed “untouched” by renovations and that was the room the Babe was born in.  I walked around that museum thinking of memories of my own past.  It was a great walk down the great bambino’s memory lane.  I would recommend any baseball fan that visits Baltimore go check it out. 

I was a bit thirsty and had some time so I found the tiny little strip of bars outside of Camden.  There are three bars side by side, Pickles Pub, The Bullpen, and Sliders.  There was a man advertising a sign that said “Cheap Ass Beer” and he was correct.  Tallboy cans of beer were only $2.00 which is pretty amazing.  However, they did not have Bud Light which is my drink of choice.  I tried a local Baltimore brew called National Bohemian Beer.  It was pretty good, I could drink it for $2. 

I went into the park and did my normal routine.  One of the things I noticed about the park was that it appeared that people were smoking everywhere.  I asked a worker about it and he explained to me that the street between the park and the warehouse is actually a public street and people are free to smoke wherever they’d like in that section.  I noticed that the park was incredibly clean.  There were plenty of trash cans and recycle bins.  There were tons of concession stand.  My favorite concession stand was Pollock Johnnies sausage.  I have a Pollock uncle named John so this amused me.  Everything was incredibly expensive.  It was literally freezing out that night so I went to go buy a hoodie.  I don’t care what team it had on it, I just needed to be warm.  The first one I saw was $120, I don’t need to be warm that much.  After looking I didn’t see any prices that I was willing to pay and decided to be cold.  I made my way to the top deck like I usually do when it’s a small crowd and I noticed that there were already giant groups of people leaving and it was only the 3rd inning. 

In the later innings I made my way behind home plate and talked with a few people there.  I spent most of that time talking to a Police officer who was originally from Philadelphia.  He gave me the history of the awesome looking clock tower, the warehouse, and told me about the museum of dentistry that they have in Baltimore.  It was a really interesting conversation and this man knew a lot about a lot.  I was freezing so I decided to leave the park at the end of the 8th inning and make my way to Tampa Florida. 
See Pictures Here
Keep On Smilin- It's Baseball Season!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

NYC Citi Field

Coming from DC I was relieved to be in NYC traffic.  Crazy isn’t it?  I think the traffic in DC is so much more unbearable, on highways, than NYC.  I hate all the looping highways of Washington DC.  I was on my way to pick up my friend Melissa from La Guardia airport.  I made it there just as she made her way to the curb.  Me and Melissa have known each other forever.  She will even try to claim that I body slammed her as a little kid.  This did not happen.  We became really good friends when I was deployed to Iraq.  In my downtime I was always online talking to people at home and Melissa was always in an airport or hanging out in a hotel when she worked for Circuit City.  She is the one who gave me the idea for this blog so I was pretty excited that she was coming to experience the Mets game with me. 

We made our way to the hotel which was right next to the airport and tried to figure out what we were going to do next.  We were both down for just about anything but I really wanted to go see the 9-11 memorial.  I had been to the World Trade Center once before.  I visited just before I left for Afghanistan.  When I was there before they were building the memorial so I visited St. Paul’s Chapel.  I was so overwhelmed when I looked around.  I’m not the type of person who likes to show too much emotion but my eyes were filled with tears on that day.  Melissa got tickets to see the memorial on-line and we picked them up a few blocks away from the site.  Being at the site of the World Trade Center is emotional for any American.  I kept saying to Melissa that what happened here is the moment my life changed and I didn’t even know it on that day.  If it wasn’t for the events that say I never would of joined the military and I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now.  Me and Melissa talked about how it has impacted our lives and where we were when it happened.  We didn’t realize it until then but we were in the same class when we got the news.  We were in Mr. Kerry’s American Government class.  We were in a new wing of our high school when the principal came over the PA system and told us what was going on.  Somebody wheeled in a tv and we watched the events of that day unfold. 

After we left the 9-11 Memorial we went to time square and tried to get tickets for The Lion King on Broadway.  The tickets were $200 a piece and we both decided that that was too much money too spend.  I wish I had that extra capitol because I’ve always wanted to see that.  The Lion King was one of my favorite movies as a little kid.  After we left time square we went over to Central Park and walked around for a little bit.  We had both been in NYC several times before but never been into Central Park.  We didn’t venture too far in but we did take the opportunity to take some pictures on the giant boulders where you can see some of the skyscrapers.  We walked a few blocks from Central Park and found McGee’s pub.  McGee’s pub is the bar McLaren’s in the TV show How I Met Your Mother is based off of.  Me and Melissa are huge fans of the show and were excited to go.  Unlike McLaren’s, McGee’s Pub is two stories.  McGee’s isn’t too much like McLaren’s but you can see resemblances.  The bar on the 2nd floor is EXACTLY like the one in the show.  There are also pictures of the HIMYM crew all over.  We had a beer at McGee’s and decided to head back to the hotel to get some rest for the next day.  We made our way back to the subway station near Central Park when we saw a group of street performers dancing.  We watched the show for about 20 minutes.  When they started asking the crowd for money everybody started to leave and we followed suit.  We decided to walk a few blocks back to Times Square and we sat in the bleachers and people watched for a little bit. 

The next day we decided to grab a taxi and head into Manhattan.  We went up to the Empire State Building.  I had been there once before but Melissa hadn’t.  Last time I was up there it was night and limited visibility so I didn’t get to see much.  NYC just seems to go forever and ever.  We spent a long time looking at NYC from all sides of the Empire State building.  After that we decided to head back to the hotel and get ready for the game.  The Mets requested that I wear a button down shirt and some dress pants so I needed that stuff ironed.  I’m really bad at ironing so I had Melissa do it for me.  Seriously!  For the readers that know me and Melissa I got her to iron my clothes.  I think that’s the highlight of our friendship. 

The New York Mets gave me four tickets to the game.  I had invited a couple people but most couldn’t make it out to New York.  I decided to invite Tom Grazisoe who I had met through  I told him that I had two tickets for him and he could bring an extra person.  I got down to Citi Field and met up with Jared George.  He gave me my tickets and left two for Tom and his daughter Tina.  He brought us into the Delta Sky Club where we would be able to eat as much as we wanted and drink all the pop we could handle.  We still had to pay for alcohol which I didn’t mind a bit.  After showing us the Delta Sky Club he took us to our seats.  I can’t even begin to describe to you how amazing our seats were.  On the 3rd base side I was literally feet from the batters circle.  I felt like I could reach out and touch every single one of the players.  We were also granted access to the field while Batting Practice was going on.  While I was standing there I look over and I see Tommy Lasorda.  Tommy friggin Lasorda, people!!!  He did a few interviews and went over to talk to some people he knew while everybody tried to get a picture with him.  I stood out on the field for a little bit and went back to where my seat was.  The usher who stands there and opens the entrance to the field asked me if I got a picture with Mr. Lasorda and I told him I didn’t want to bother him.  He told me that he had to walk back out that way and I had to get a picture with him.  As Mr. Lasorda made his way off the field I jumped up and asked him if I could get a picture.  He kindly obliged but seemed to have some negative words about people who expected it.  I believe his words were “Of course, see this nice young man knows how to ask.”  Unbelievable. 

I decided to attempt to walk around the park and check it out before it got too busy.  There was a fellow ballpark chaser there by the name of Paul Sanders so I went and chatted with him.  We did the usual talking about my trip and discussing what we thought of other ballparks.  Paul’s family had been season ticket holders forever but when they moved over to Citi Field his family didn’t like the price and the view so they got out.  Paul still attends tons of Mets games a year.  I talked to him for a little while longer but had to get going so I could meet up with Tom and Tina.

Me and Melissa went down and had some food in the Delta Sky Lounge.  We came out and there were two people in our seats.  I didn’t recognize them and the usher asked if I knew them.  I said I did not and he was ready to toss them.  That’s when it occurred to me that it must be Tom and Tina.  It was.  I went over and introduced myself and they were so happy to be in the seats that we had.  They were both Yankees fans but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch a game from such amazing seats.  What was awesome about Tom and Tina is they’re not just Yankees fans, they’re baseball fans. 

I was taking park of the Mets “Welcome Home Veteran’s” program.  That meant they gave me these wicked awesome seats and at the end of the third inning I was going to be featured on the jumbo tron.  I was a tad bit nervous.  With two outs left my leg started shaking and I had a huge knot in the pit of my stomach.  After the third out of the inning a camera crew was right on me.  They featured a little video with pictures that I had submitted when requesting to be part of the “Welcome Home Veterans” program.  At the end of the video I stood up and waved at the camera and the crowd went wild.  In my head I was just trying not to look like a fool in front of thousands of people.  They instructed me to turn around and wave to the crowd and they got even louder.  It was such an amazing surreal moment and I was terrified.  I was less scared when my chopper landed in Iraq for the first time.  I turned and waved at the camera for a few more seconds and they turned it off.  Whew the hard part was over.  I had Melissa take a video of it on my phone but I was too nervous to watch it.  Later when I watched it I felt so awkward.  It’s unreal seeing yourself on the jumbo tron.  You know that feeling when you see yourself in a picture and you think you look weird.  Imagine seeing that on a giant TV in front of thousands of people. 

We watched the rest of the game with Tina and Tom talking about anything and everything.  Towards the later innings I kept thinking I did not want this experience to end.  Luckily for me the game went into extra innings.  Unfortunately it didn’t last long as the Mets lost a heartbreaker in the 10th inning.  Jared came back over and we talked for a bit.  He walked us out to the corridor where I met up with Paul Sanders again.  We went in and checked out the museum and called it a night. 

One regret I have about my experience in Citi Field is that I didn’t walk around more and get a real feel for the park.  I was too caught up in my amazing seats to go explore anyplace else.  I have to make it back someday so I can give a true review of the park.  I would like to thank Jared George and the rest of the Mets organization for making such a truly special experience for me. 

I left NYC the following day and headed down to North Carolina to visit some family.  I needed to catch up on some writing and I was excited to see my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin. 

Keep On Smilin- It’s Baseball Season!!