I Never Knew Fans Could Be So Loud

It’s amazing how much noise human beings can make when they’re all screaming at the same time. I hear it all the time at sporting events, but there are certain times that screaming explodes to another level. It’s an eruption of sound that goes beyond typical cheering. If you’ve ever heard that massive eruption, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

There are two moments that really stick out in my mind. The first happened on October 7, 1995. The Seattle Mariners were playing the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. The M’s were facing elimination, and New York jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in the third inning. Seattle started to rally in the bottom half, and eventually sprinted out to a 6-5 lead in the sixth. It didn’t take long for the Yankees to even the tally. Randy Velarde scored on a wild pitch by Norm Charlton in the eighth to tie the game at 6. And then came the unforgettable moment…

Edgar Martinez Grand Slam 1995 ALDS

Edgar Martinez right before his grand slam in the 1995 ALDS

Edgar Martinez walked to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. Ken Griffey, Jr. was on first, Joey Cora on second and Vince Coleman on third. On the sixth pitch of the at bat, with a 2-2 count, Martinez took John Wetteland over the wall for a grand slam. I remember watching the ball sail over the fence in centerfield. That’s when I heard the noise — that complete eruption of sound. The fans were going crazy. I never knew people could make that much noise. It literally sound like I was standing right next to the engine of an airplane as it was getting ready for takeoff. I honestly never thought I would hear that sound again in my life.

NOTE: The Mariners went on to beat the Yankees that night in Game 4, 11-8. I remember people filing out of the Kingdome chanting “Ed-Gar, Ed-Gar” over and over again. It didn’t stop until we got into our car (blocks away) to drive home. Seattle beat New York the next night in Game 5 thanks to ‘The Double‘, which made Edgar Martinez a legend in the Emerald City.

I did end up hearing that noise again. It wasn’t for a particular moment though, it was over and over during in the same game. The date was January 22, 2005. I was at Qwest Field in Seattle, covering the NFC Championship between the Seahawks and Carolina Panthers. The crowd was amazing that night. Whenever Carolina had the ball, I heard that crazy eruption of noise. I can’t even explain it — it really doesn’t sound like people, it just sounds like a train tearing down the tracks at 400mph. I’m sure it was loud in the stands, but it was overwhelming on the sideline. I was working for a television station in Yakima at the time, and the sports guy from our sister station in the Tri-Cities was on the sideline with me. We were standing side-by-side and we literally couldn’t hear each other talk when the crowd was rocking. It was truly amazing. Since the Seahawks jumped out to a 34-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the fans literally started to party in the stands (this video gives you a feel for what the crowd was like at the end of the game). No one left the stadium. Instead they were dancing, laughing, hugging and high-fiving. It was the craziest scene I’d ever seen at a sporting event, and it’s one I haven’t seen since.

Seahawks Fans | CenturyLink Field

The Packers and Seahawks play on Monday Night Football at CenturyLink Field

The crowds at CenturyLink Field (formerly Qwest Field) in Seattle are notorious for noise. They made so much noise during Marshawn Lynch’s amazing touchdown run during the 2010 Wild Card game against the New Orleans Saints, that it registered on the seismograph at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. That sound was possibly rivaled on December 23rd when the Seahawks played the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football. Red Bryant blocked a David Akers field goal early in the second quarter, and the ball was scooped up by Richard Sherman who scampered 90-yards for a Seattle touchdown. The TD gave the Seahawks a 21-0 lead over the 49ers, and many of the Seattle media members in attendance said the press box at CenturyLink Field was shaking because of the crowd noise. I’m guessing the crowd made that much noise after Golden Tate’s controversial game-winning touchdown catch on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers. I was actually on the sideline for the game (literally feet away from the touchdown catch), but the moment was so crazy that the crowd noise didn’t even register to me at the time. I just remember turning around minutes later and watching people go nuts in the stands.

I love true human emotion at sporting events. I love watching people react during slow motion replays of game-winning field goals, or a wide shot of the crowd when a pitcher gets the last strike to cap a no-hitter (this video isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it still fits what I’m talking about). I’ve even been caught in the moment plenty of times myself, and there’s honestly no better feeling in the world. It’s joy to the fullest. I really can’t wait to hear that eruption of noise again, because that means I’m witnessing something amazing that I’ll never forget.

Have you ever heard the noise I’m talking about — people cheering so loudly that it sounds like an airplane? I would love to hear your stories! You can leave them in the comment section below, or you can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more on Seattle, sports and travel!

Watching A Game At Historic Wrigley Field

I’m not one of those people who has a goal of watching a baseball game in every stadium around the country, but I do love to watch games in different ballparks if I have the chance. I’ve seen games at Camden Yards in Baltimore (beautiful), Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (dump), and several other stadiums in between. While I don’t care to see baseball games at every ballpark, there were some key locations I always wanted to hit.

Historic Wrigley Field In Chicago

Wrigley Field

Old Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field were always my ‘must-see’ ballparks. I checked Yankee Stadium off the list first in 2007 (I saw Alex Rodriguez hit a walk-off grand slam against the Orioles), watched a game at Fenway Park in 2009, and then knocked Wrigley Field off the list in June.

Wrigley Field is so different than any other ball park I’ve ever been visited (aside from maybe Fenway Park). It’s old (built in 1914), jam-packed with history, and it literally sits in a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. Wrigley Field is surrounded by homes, apartments and bars — lots of bars — in Wrigleyville. It probably sounds strange, but it’s actually an awesome atmosphere.

Wrigley Field Sign For Chicago Cubs

The backside of Wrigley Field

The first stop we made after strolling around Wrigley Field was Murphy’s Bleachers, which is located across the street from the bleacher entrance to the stadium. Murphy’s was much bigger than I expected, especially when you judge it from the outside. The main bar wraps around to a backside where you can find yet another bar. There was even a special guest at Murphy’s before the game — former Chicago Cubs closer Lee Smith. I’m a huge fan of 1980s baseball, so I jumped at the chance to meet him. Smith wound up leading the Wrigley Field crowd in the singing of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game‘ during the seventh-inning stretch as well.

After Murphy’s, we strolled around the park some more and eventually stopped at the Captain Morgan Club, which is attached to Wrigley Field on Addison. WARNING: Don’t be lured in by the beautiful bartenders (it’s easier said than done) – beers (even a cans of Old Style — yes, Old Style) are $9, while mixed drinks are $12. It’s just not worth it (not that you needed me to tell you that).

We wanted to scope the inside of Wrigley Field as well, so we went into the ballpark early. Right before the game, my dad and I went down to the bullpen and talked to Chicago Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio. We’d met him several years before when he was a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, but he definitely didn’t remember us (not that I expected him to). I even saw him give a look to one of the ushers like he was saying, “Who are these guys?” With that said, it was still cool to chat with another 1980s baller.

Wrigley Field Chicago | First Pitch Between The Cubs and Red Sox

First pitch between the Red Sox and Cubs

The Cubs were playing the final game of an interleague series with Boston the night we were there, so we had an awesome matchup to watch (it was only the second regular season series the Red Sox had ever played at Wrigley Field). I really loved that Wrigley Field is so intimate. It fits 41,000 fans, but it feels like 20,000 when you’re in the building. It didn’t hurt that the game was a blast as well. The Red Sox beat the Cubs that night 7-4. I even called a David Ortiz home run — on the exact pitch — in the fourth inning (click here for video — it’s at the :36 mark). I was a little disappointed in the Cubs fans though. Chicago was down late, but shortstop Starlin Castro only needed a triple to hit for the cycle. Even with the accomplishment on the line (which is almost as rare as a no-hitter) – the fans still filtered out of the ballpark before his final at bat. He didn’t end up getting it, but that was still lamest part of the night.

I’m a little embarrassed to tell the next part of my story, but I will anyway. After the game we did as all tourists do and had our pictures taken in Steve Bartman’s seat (Section 4, Row 8, Seat 113). NOTE: I don’t have the time to explain who Steve Bartman is, so click here to learn more. There were a lot of people actually lined up to take pictures in the Bartman seat. I asked an usher if that’s what it’s like at every home game and he told me that it is (but he did explain the crowd was larger than usual because the Red Sox were in town). The grounds crew didn’t think the Bartman festivities were as funny. I saw one worker look up at the crowd and say, “Seriously? C’mon, people”.

Steve Bartman Seat At Wrigley Field In Chicago

Fans taking pictures in Steve Bartman’s seat

After taking the Bartman pictures, we strolled back into Wrigleyville for a nightcap. I was expecting a much more popping postgame atmosphere, but it was actually fairly slow (it was a Sunday night though). We had some fun bouncing around to different Wrigleyville bars (I don’t remember the names of the places we went), but we eventually called it good, bringing an end to an incredible night.

For years, and years, and years I wanted to see a game at Wrigley Field, and I finally got it done. It was honestly everything I dreamed it would be. I loved everything about Wrigley Field — inside and out, so I’ll definitely be back for more!

Have you ever watched a game at Wrigley Field? What do you think of the old ballpark? I would love to hear from you! Leave a message below or connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more on my sports and travel adventures.

Every Baseball Game Has Its Own Soundtrack

I love that every baseball game has its own soundtrack. Have you noticed that before? In a typical game there’s ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, ‘God Bless America’, ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’, an at-bat song for every hitter and an entrance song for every closer (the list goes on and on — visits to the mound often produce the Jeopardy theme song, etc.). I honestly feel like music is as much a part of baseball as stats are (and there are stats for EVERYTHING in baseball).

It’s always fun to see what song batters choose to come to the plate to. Since I grew up in Seattle, Ken Griffey, Jr. always had one of the best at-bat songs with Naughty by Nature’s ‘Hip Hop Hooray‘. The crowd would sway their arms in the air to the music every time Griffey came to the dish. I was a kid, so I always thought that was awesome. On the other hand, some at-bat songs never made much sense to me. Former Mariners catcher Joe Oliver came to the plate to the Baha Men’s ’Who Let The Dogs Out‘, while Dan Wilson strolled up to Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Whatta Man‘.

I’m also a huge fan of a closer’s entrance music. I was fortunate enough to see Mariano Rivera (the all-time saves leader) come into the game at old Yankee Stadium to Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman‘. It was the one game I ever went to in the Bronx, and the crowd erupted the second the song came on. I honestly got chills — just like I’m sure the opposing batters did. I also got to see Jonathan Papelbon enter Fenway Park to ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston‘ by the Dropkick Murphy’s. That was awesome, because all the Red Sox fans started singing along (much like they do with ‘Sweet Caroline‘ in the eighth inning). You also have to love Rick Vaughn entering to ‘Wild Thing‘ in the movie Major League. It’s classic!

I’ve often wondered what I would choose as my entrance song if I was a big league closer. I tend to lean on ’Back in Black’ by AC/DC. It’s pretty clichéd, but there’s a reason behind it. When I was a junior in college I took an online survey that revealed your theme song. I answered the 20 or so questions, and the answer popped up – ’Back in Black’. I’m sure that same result came up for thousands of people who took the same survey, but I’ve always stuck with that as my jam. I think you can hear why it would be a good entrance song:

If I had to choose a current day song to enter a game to, I would go with ‘Icky Thump‘ by the White Stripes. I’ve only heard it on the radio a couple of times, but both times I thought it would be a bad ass entrance song (yes, that’s how my brain actually works). If it can get me amped up in my car as I drive to work, it could easily get me revved up to close down a Major League Baseball game:

Who’s doesn’t want to strike some dudes after listening to that?!

At-bat songs and closer entrance music give us an inside look at the players we watch on the diamond. For example, Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak comes to the plate to country music — not stereotyping — but that’s very fitting for a guy from South Carolina. If you’ve met Smoak; you know that’s perfect for him. The music they choose is often very personal to them, and it can stick with them for a long time. Dan Wilson hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2005, but guess what they played when he walked onto the field for his induction into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame this year? You guessed it — ‘Whatta Man’.

I would love to know what song you would choose for your at-bat song/closer entrance music! You can share in the comment section below or you can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. Don’t forget to also check out more of my take on sports and music right now on http://allaroundtim.com!

Bode Dockal’s First Two Baseball Games Are Perfect

Figuring there have only been 23 perfect games in the history of Major League Baseball (dating back more than 120 years), seeing one of those in person is a feat in itself. To see two perfect games in one season is a completely different achievement. And then, to see two perfect games in the first two big league games of your life — that’s just incredible.

Perfect Game Safeco Field Seattle Bode Dockal Kid Infant Baby

Bode and Paul Dockal at Phil Humber’s perfect game on April 21, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Bode Dockal. He’s just a year old and he’s already seen two perfect games — in the only two Major League Baseball games he’s ever been to. Bode is too young to understand what he’s seen, and there’s no way he’ll ever remember perfection, but his father Paul Dockal is keeping it all documented for him.

“This past weekend I took my son to his first major league baseball game,” Paul wrote on his ‘Blog for Dads‘ back in April. “What an amazing day.”

Well, that’s because Chicago White Sox pitcher Phil Humber tossed a perfect game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. 27 batters up; 27 batters down. And Bode Dockal, at just nine months old, was there to see them all.

“The first thing I said to my wife was, ‘This is the best day I’ve ever had with my son.’” Paul told MLB.com.

Little did Paul know he would witness history with his little boy again — the very next time they went to a game together.

Bode Dockal | First Two Baseball Game Are Perfect Games

Bode and Paul Dockal at Felix Hernandez’s perfect game on August 15, 2012

According to an article on MLB.com, Paul took Bode back to Safeco Field on August 15th. The Dockal’s had family in town and the visitors wanted to watch some baseball. And watch baseball they did — perfect baseball. As fate would have it, Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez tossed a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s the first time in Major League Baseball history two perfect games have been thrown in the same stadium in one season.

I would have died to see just one of those perfect games in person. I was in Europe when Humber threw the first perfecto, and I was in my car driving to work when Hernandez finished off his masterpiece. Luckily, being a local sports guy in Seattle, I was still able to capture the excitement of Hernandez’s gem in our newscasts that night. It almost felt like I was actually there, but that’s not nearly enough for me. I’ll keep buying tickets until I win the baseball lottery. Something Bode Dockal’s done twice — and he’s just a toddler.

Have you ever seen a perfect game in person? I would love to hear your story (so I can live vicariously through you)! Leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. Don’t forget to also check out more of my sports coverage right here on All Around Tim!

Carter Capps | Ready For His Major League Debut

Every little boy wants to be a professional athlete. I know I dreamed for hours upon hours of playing Major League Baseball. There was nothing more I wanted in life. Unfortunately, my dream never came true (I had to settle for the next best thing — being a sportscaster instead), but I’m fortunate enough to be around others — like Carter Capps – who are reaching their childhood goals.

Carter Capps Seattle Mariners Baseball

Me interviewing Carter Capps after he was called up
Courtesy: Geoff Baker

Capps is living a dream right now. The 21-year-old was just called up to the big leagues for the first time. Instead of being one of hundreds of minor leaguers in the Seattle Mariners system, the relief pitcher is now one of 25 players on the M’s big league roster — ready to make his Major League debut.

I was there when Capps stepped foot on Safeco Field for the first time.

“It’s a lot taller than I thought it was,” Capps told me as he looked around the ballpark with wide eyes. “There are a lot of seats. You don’t really appreciate that when you see it on TV, but it’s different when you’re here. It’s nice.”

It didn’t take Capps long to make it to Seattle. He was a third round draft pick last year out of Mount Olive College (a DII school) in North Carolina. He struggled with his control in four minor league outings last season, but quickly took off this year. Capps registered 19 saves and a 1.26 ERA in 38 games with the AA Jackson Generals before pitching one game (he struck out three of the four batters he faced) with AAA Tacoma. He’s now in the bigs – making him only the second player from the 2011 draft to earn a call to the majors (Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Trevor Bauer was the first).

“I thought someone was messing with me, but luckily they weren’t,” Capps said about his promotion to Seattle. “It’s definitely a blessing. I’m really happy about it.”

Capps is a boy among men. He honestly looks like he’s 12-years-old. That’s either a sign of my age own age (31) or it shows just how quickly the kid jolted through the system. No matter what he looks like, Capps is a hot commodity because he can fire a fastball 100 mph with some command. The only advice he’s received so far from his new teammates: “Pound the zone and don’t treat [the Major Leagues] different than any other level.”

“This is what you play for ever since you’re a little kid,” Capps told me. “It’s definitely a dream come true.”

The best part is — we get to be there every step of the way. Carter Capps’ Major League career is wide open. He could become the next Mariano Rivera, or he might be the next Bobby Ayala (Mariners fans understand the reference). I hope I look back on this post 25 years from now and Capps will be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame (nothing like throwing some pressure on the kid, right?), but only time will tell…

Until then, let’s just enjoy the ride with him.

UPDATE: Carter Capps made his Major League debut on August 3, 2012. He pitched against the New York Yankees — in Yankee Stadium (not the easiest of places to debut). Capps allowed two runs (both were scored after he was relieved by Oliver Perez) on one hit over one-third of an inning of work. He also recorded one walk and no strikeouts, but hit the 100 mph mark several times, including his very first pitch in the big leagues. Click here for video of Capps debut.

I would love to hear from you about everything baseball. You can leave a comment right here or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook. Your questions and comments are always welcome. Don’t forget to also check out more great sports coverage right now on http://allaroundtim.com!

 

An Insiders Look At The Ichiro Trade

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know by now that long-time Seattle Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki was traded to the New York Yankees. In a unique set of circumstances, the Yankees were in Seattle at the time of the trade, so Ichiro literally had to walk down the hall of Safeco Field to join his new team. And then, just an hour after he was standing in the Mariners’ clubhouse for the last time, Ichiro was on the field for the Yankees — in front of the fans that rooted him on for nearly 12 seasons.

Ichiro Trade Press Conference

The Seattle Mariners official press conference

I actually learned about the Ichiro trade when I was driving into work. I was originally expecting a fairly easy day at the ballpark, simply previewing the series opener between the Yankees and Mariners, but I quickly realized that wasn’t going to be the case. I walked into the newsroom and there was a definite buzz. Instructions immediately started flying in my direction, and I was quickly on my way to Safeco Field for the Mariners official press conference.

I’ve never seen so much media at Safeco before. Yes, I’m new to Seattle again, but I did an internship with KOMO radio in 2003 when they were the flagship station for the Mariners — I was at every M’s home game and I never witnessed anything like this. The interview room was packed with local, national and international reporters. Ichiro was very stoic (for lack of a better word — maybe straight-faced is better) at first and he sat with perfect posture. He spoke through an interpreter — only addressing the media in Japanese. Ichiro thanked the Seattle fans and said he was overcome with emotion when he thought about wearing the Mariners uniform for the last time. Suzuki requested the trade, something he started thinking about over the All-Star break. After 15 minutes or so, Seattle’s front office left the podium, and New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced them. Ichiro seemed to loosen up after that. He spoke louder, smiled and even started cracking jokes. He just seemed really comfortable with his new surroundings.

It’s not often a player in any sport is traded to the opposing team at their home ballpark. Ichiro said goodbye to his old teammates and then was suited up against them just hours later. It was honestly surreal for me to watch Ichiro take the field for the first time in a Yankees uniform (and it was even more unbelievable that it was happening at Safeco Field). He received an ovation from the New York and Seattle fans who were there to watch batting practice. Instead of hanging out with Felix Hernandez, Dustin Ackley and Chone Figgins, Ichiro was now joking around with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia. It was interesting to see.

The ovations didn’t stop for Ichiro all night. The crowd roared when his name was announced in the Yankees starting lineup (batting eighth, playing right field and wearing the number 31 — he didn’t want to wear 51 to honor former New York Yankees great Bernie Williams), they cheered when he ran onto the field to take his position in the outfield, and they rose to their feet when he made his first plate appearance. Ichiro, appreciating the gesture, stepped out of the box, lifted his cap to the crowd, and then bowed to the fans. It was a very emotional moment for anyone in the dugouts, in attendance at Safeco Field and watching on television. I honestly got chills when the Seattle fans started the famous ”I-chi-ro” chant — even though their former star was now trying to beat their beloved Mariners.

View From Safeco Field Press Box

My view from the Safeco Field press box for Ichiro’s debut as a Yankee

Ichiro finished the night 1-for-4. He got a hit in his first at bat, stole second, and was eventually stranded on base. Suzuki then popped out to second in his second at bat, grounded out to first in his third plate appearance, and then lined out to second in his last at bat. As luck would have it, Ichiro made the final out of the game as Jesus Montero flied to right to secure a 4-1 Yankees victory. Suzuki’s catch capped an all around crazy night at Safeco Field — unlike anything we’ll see again in the near future.

After the game Ichiro told me that it was a “tough day” and he was actually ”nervous” for the his first game as a Yankee. He said that he’s happy the trade is over, and now he can start to focus on baseball again. Alex Rodriguez never played with Ichiro in Seattle, but the two became friends over the years anyway. A-Rod (which is what the name plate says above his locker) called Suzuki a “rock star” and he says this should serve as a huge “shot in the arm for Ichiro.” A fresh start might just be what Ichiro needs too — he was hitting a career low .261 in Seattle this season.

I wasn’t surprised Ichiro was traded to the Yankees (or anyone else for that matter). I was only shocked by what the Mariners got in return for him. Here’s a quick survey — raise your hand if you’d ever heard the names D.J. Mitchell or Danny Farquhar before the Ichiro trade. OK…now raise your hand if you still have no idea who D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar are. Chances are we’ll never know much about either of these guys. Both are 25-year-old right-handed pitchers, and both are currently in AAA. Williams, who’s played all of three games in the big leagues in his career, has a 5.00+ ERA in the minors this season, while Farquhar is now playing for his third team this year. If Mitchell and Farquhar are remembered for anything; chances are they’ll be remembered as “the guys who were traded for Ichiro.”

Tim Lewis Seattle Safeco Field

Working hard at Safeco Field after the Ichiro trade

There’s a part of me that thinks it’s cool the Mariners honored Suzuki’s trade request by sending him to a winner. At 38, Ichiro is getting older, and his window to win a World Series is getting smaller. Suzuki is one of the best players to ever come through Seattle, and he kept the M’s on the baseball map even after several consecutive miserable seasons. He served his time in the Emerald City and it was time for him to move on. I do think it’s interesting that the Mariners just gave Ichiro away though. When I first heard about the deal, I expected to hear that one of New York’s top prospect was heading to Seattle — instead it was two minor league relief pitchers and cash. The M’s literally gave Ichiro away.

Covering the Ichiro trade is a something I’ll never forget. It’s always wild to be thrust into the biggest story in sports. We were all at the center of the baseball world. There’s nothing more thrilling in the television business than a huge, breaking story like this. I was there to experience everything firsthand — from a perspective that hardly anyone else got to. That’s why I feel like I have the best job in the world, and I’m happy to share my “inside” experience with you.

What is your reaction to Ichiro being traded to the New York Yankees? How weird was it to see Ichiro in a different uniform — playing against his old team? I would love to hear from you about this. You can leave a comment below, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. Don’t forget you can find more great sports coverage right now on http://allaroundtim.com!

Frank Thomas | Meeting ‘The Big Hurt’

I feel like I’m a magnet for celebrity sightings, especially when I go to Las Vegas. I’ve rolled craps with MMA star Ryan Bader and singer/manager René Angélil (better known as Celine Dion’s husband — click here for the story), while also crossing paths with James Brown, Vince Vaughn, Floyd Mayweather and many others. While Vegas never disappoints (from a celebrity standpoint at least), Chicago usually leads to some celebrity sightings as well.

I’ve been to the Windy City five times over the last year and a half. Every time I go there; I see a celebrity or two — or even more. On my last trip to Chi-Town in June, we ran into baseball stars galore. My brother and dad spotted Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett and broadcaster Joe Buck at the Tavern On Rush (a haven for celebrity sightings), and then my brother and I bumped into former Major Leaguer/current ESPN baseball analyst Chris Singleton on the street. From there I met legendary closer Lee Smith before a Chicago Cubs game, and then came the best encounter of all…

While we were in Chicago we saw one game at Wrigley Field between the Red Sox and Cubs, and three games at U.S. Cellular Field between the Cubs and White Sox. Before the second game of the crosstown rivalry, my dad, brother, and I stopped into Bacardi at the Park for a few drinks. We’d all heard that former White Sox star Frank Thomas was making his own beer (no joke), and they were selling some there. So, all three of us grabbed a Big Hurt Beer (“The Big Hurt” is Thomas’ nickname) to try it out. After a few sips, we heard an announcement that Frank Thomas was actually in the building.

Tim Lewis Dan Lewis Frank Thomas

Me, my brother and “The Big Hurt” Frank Thomas

My brother and I decided to check out the situation. The line to meet him wasn’t very long, so we jumped into the fray. No more than three minutes later we were shaking hands with Frank Thomas himself. The dude was massive! He was listed as 6’5″ 240 pounds when he played, but he’s even bigger now – it wouldn’t even be fair to guess how much he weighs – but just look at him next to my brother in the picture. I think that says it all.

We showed Frank that we were drinking Big Hurt Beer and he told us we didn’t need more than one and half of those to be ready for the game (not much of a sales pitch if you ask me). Thomas was also drinking a BHB when we met him, so we all clanked cans for our picture. I later tweeted the picture of the three of us and Frank Thomas retweeted it on his account (don’t follow him if you don’t want to hear about Big Hurt Beer — that’s all he tweets about). I thought that was pretty cool.

It was a brief encounter, but one I won’t forget. I loved Frank Thomas. He not only shined for the Chicago White Sox, but he also played for the Oakland Athletics (twice). I was a huge Bash Brothers (Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco) fan as a kid, and my love for the A’s grew with me from there. If you play for my team — you’re one of my guys — so I became an even bigger fan when Thomas came to the Bay Area.

There’s no doubt Frank Thomas will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He’s a career .301 hitter with 521 home runs (tied for 18th on the all-time list) and 1,704 RBI. The guy was a walk machine as well, getting 1,667 free passes in his career (10th all-time). Frank’s a two-time American League Most Valuable Player and a five-time All-Star. Simply put — he’s one of the best to ever play the game.

Have you ever met Frank Thomas? How about any other baseball stars? I would love to hear your stories! Leave a comment right here or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. You can also connect with me on YouTube and Pinterest as well!

Feel Free To Boo Robinson Cano

Since when is it not OK for fans to boo an athlete? I think it’s every ticket holder’s right to do whatever they want (within reason), especially when ticket prices have soared to an all-time high. If you’re paying $100 to watch the All-Star Home Run Derby — feel free to boo Robinson Cano — or anyone else for that matter.

Here’s a quick rundown of what I’m talking about:

Robinson Cano Kansas City

New York’s Robinson Cano during the Home Run Derby

New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was selected as the captain of the American League team for this year’s All-Star Home Run Derby. The game was in Kansas City, so Cano said that he would select Royals first baseman/designated hitter Billy Butler for his squad. Well, he didn’t. Cano went with Toronto’s Jose Bautista, Detroit’s Prince Fielder and Los Angeles’ Mark Trumbo instead.

Let’s just say the Kansas City fans weren’t very pleased. When Cano came to the plate at Kauffman Stadium for the Home Run Derby, the boos started to echo through the stands. The fans didn’t stop booing until Cano stopped hitting. As Cano recorded his final out, the boos actually turned into cheers. That’s because (as karma would have it) Cano, the defending Home Run Derby champion, went homerless in his first at-bat — in turn — eliminating him from the competition.

The boos didn’t go over well in the world of baseball. Commissioner Bud Selig told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that, ”While I understand Kansas City and I understand the whole Billy Butler thing, I really felt very badly.” Union head Michael Weiner even voiced his displeasure after the Home Run Derby by saying, “It struck me that it moved a little bit past traditional, good-natured booing, particularly for an event like that, and got into another area.” Wait, so you can boo, but don’t boo so much that you might hurt a players feelings? I didn’t realize there were different levels/areas of booing. That’s just a ridiculous statement.

Billy Butler Robinson Cano

Kansas City’s Billy Butler watching the Home Run Derby

Athletes are in the spotlight. They choose that lifestyle. When they sign their name on a multi-million dollar contract, they open themselves up to criticism. It’s just part of the deal. They know exactly what comes with the territory. I don’t feel bad for Robinson Cano, or anyone else who gets booed. This is what they signed up for.

I honestly don’t boo at games myself. Most of the time I can’t because I’m a member of the media and there’s a “No cheering/No jeering” rule you have to abide by. But, even when I go to games as a fan…I stay away from booing. It’s just not the way I am. With that said, I’m not opposed to other people booing. Think about it – boos are the only way a sports fan can voice their displeasure. The folks in Kansas City could write an angry letter to Robinson Cano, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything, because Cano would never read or respond to them. But, boos, there’s no hiding from those. I think Cano heard the message loud and clear.

What do you think of the Robinson Cano situation? How about booing at sporting events in general? I would love to hear your opinions. You can leave a comment right here or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget you can also find me on Pinterest and YouTube, or you can always visit http://allaroundtim.com for more!

Lee Smith | Meeting A Baseball Legend

I love 1980s baseball. There’s no hiding that fact. My buddies and I can throw around names from that era for hours. I’ll even go through my old baseball cards every so often just to relive the “glory days”. That means it’s a real treat when I get to meet one of the guys I idolized back then — and to some extent – still do today. Enter –> Lee Smith.

I just got back from a trip to Chicago with my dad and my brother. It was strictly a baseball vacation. We watched the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox at Wrigley Field on Sunday, June 17th, and then had tickets to all three games of the Chicago Cubs versus Chicago White Sox crosstown rivalry at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that week.

Lee Smith Baseball

Lee Smith and me at Murphy’s Bleachers in Wrigleyville

I have to admit there’s no place in baseball that matches Wrigleyville for pregame atmosphere. I’ve been to ballparks all over the country, and the only place that even comes remotely close is Fenway Park in Boston.

It was my first trip to Wrigley Field, so we strolled around Wrigleyville before finally posting up at Murphy’s (Murphy’s Bleachers to be exact) for a couple beers. Well, luck would have it, Lee Smith was there to sign autgraphs and take pictures with fans.

SIDENOTE (for those who don’t remember or don’t know Lee Smith) >> Lee Smith is one of the best relief pitchers in Major League Baseball history. He recorded 478 saves in an 18-year career with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos. He held the career saves record from 1993 to 2006, before San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman finally took the top spot (since passed by New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera). Not in the Baseball Hall of Fame yet (he’s been on the ballot since 2003), there’s an ongoing debate if Smith belongs with the game’s elite or not.

I didn’t hesitate at the chance to shake hands and get my picture taken with a legend (remember my passion for 1980s baseball). Smith, who looks more like a defensive end than a pitcher, was a friendly guy in our brief encounter. He even let me snap my picture with him for free instead of paying the $20 rate he was charging everyone else.

My Lee Smith story doesn’t end there. A different celebrity sings “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch of every Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. It’s a tradition first started by long-time broadcaster Harry Caray, who passed away in 1998. The special guest that night we were there to see the Cubs against the Red Sox was – you guessed it (or at least you should have) — Lee Smith. Here’s the video I shot at the game (you can hear my excitement at the start of the clip):

It’s not the best rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” ever, but it was still a cool experience to hear Lee Smith lead the Wrigley Field crowd during the 7th inning stretch.

Lee Smith isn’t the only legendary baseball player I met on the trip, but that story is for another day/blog post. I’ll give you a hint though – his first name starts with an F and his last name starts with a T. Any guesses?

Have you ever met Lee Smith? How about any other 1980s baseball players? I would love to hear your stories. You can leave a comment right here, or reach me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. As I mentioned before, I’m down to talk 80s baseball anytime!