I Think Vince Vaughn Is Following Me

I think Vince Vaughn is following me. No, I’m not kidding. Well, maybe he’s not. He’s either following me, or Vince Vaughn and I just keep ending up in the same place at the same time. Come to think of it – it’s more than likely the latter. Whether I have an A-list stalker or it’s just a matter of odds, I keep crossing paths with the actor.

Actor Vince Vaughn

Vince Vaughn

My first encounter with Vince Vaughn happened about two years ago in Las Vegas. My brother and I were strolling through the Cosmopolitan late at night when my brother suddenly said, “Dude, that was Vince Vaughn.” I didn’t see him, and my brother wanted to be sure his eyes didn’t deceive him, so we turned around to make sure it was actually him. My brother was spot on. Standing right there in the high rollers area (an isolated area away from the riffraff) was Vince Vaughn. We caught a glimpse of him and kept walking, but others took notice and were much more blatant — staring at him, talking about him (some almost screaming) and taking pictures.

My second incident with Vince Vaughn is just flat-out strange. It happened when my dad and I went to Chicago last December. We hopped on our flight to the Windy City, and the flight attendant introduced the flight crew. I missed the captain’s name, but the co-pilot was a guy named Vince Vaughn. Knowing that the actor Vince Vaughn actually lives in Chicago, and I’d recently crossed paths with the guy in Las Vegas, my dad and I looked at each other kind of funny. To make sure we heard her correctly, my dad asked the flight attendant if that was really our co-pilot’s name. She confirmed that it was. To be funny, my dad and I were going to take a picture with the co-pilot after the flight (to post on Facebook joking that we met Vince Vaughn), but by the time we landed in Chicago we forgot. So, just hours later, my dad and I are at the Tavern on Rush in Chicago. I was sitting right next to the window, but not much was happening outside. I did notice a police offer approach a guy and shake his hand though. Well, it wasn’t just some random dude — it was Vince Vaughn (the actor — not the co-pilot). It looked like Vaughn was just on a late night walk with his wife and kid. Vaughn talked to officer for a minute or two (they were literally at arms reach if the window wasn’t in the way), and then he continued on his way. I can’t even explain how bad I wish we had taken a picture with the co-pilot, because my dad and I both agreed that we would have asked the actor for a picture as well. That would have been the perfect way to cap an improbable story. We wanted proof it actually happened, because we knew there would be skeptics. I mean…seriously…what are the odds?!

My next encounter with Vince Vaughn happened just a couple of weeks later. This time he was in my city. I was working in Spokane at the time, and was out covering some high school basketball. My phone suddenly started vibrating like crazy. A friend of mine (who knew about my previous meetings with Vince Vaughn) texted to tell me that her friend had walked by Vince Vaughn at Northern Quest Resort and Casino, while my brother texted to say he’d just seen Vaughn on ESPN Friday Night Fights which was being held at — you guessed it — Northern Quest Resort and Casino. I’m not really sure why Vaughn was at the boxing event, but he was with actor/director Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from A Christmas Story). This time I didn’t see Vaughn with my own eyes, but it was still really random. It’s not often a guy like Vince Vaughn is seen hanging out in Spokane.

Vince Vaughn

Vince Vaughn at Wrigley Field

I didn’t see Vince Vaughn in my final story either. It was just a matter of being in the same city at the same time again. My dad, brother and I went to Chicago in June for a baseball trip that included a game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have a special guest sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch of every home game, so my dad, brother and I put in guesses as to who the performer would be. We jokingly talked about how funny it would be if it was Vince Vaughn. Well, it wasn’t. Instead we were treated to a terrible rendition of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ by former Cubs relief pitcher Lee Smith. I was surfing the web the next day and started reading a game story from the night before (we went to the game on Sunday, so I was reading about the Cubs game that happened on Saturday). At the bottom of the article were a few bonus notes, including the fact that Vince Vaughn threw out the first pitch and sang ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ on Saturday night at Wrigley Field. That means we missed Vaughn by just one day, making it another close encounter.

Seeing Vince Vaughn once is pretty wild, but having four different stories about the guy is just flat out weird. I feel like I’m a magnet for celebrities though (take last night for example — I randomly saw soccer star Abby Wambach in Seattle), so maybe it’s not that strange after all. I’ll probably have a fifth Vince Vaughn story coming soon – especially if he keeps following me around.

Have you ever crossed paths with Vince Vaughn? What is your own favorite celebrity encounter? I’d love to hear from you! Simply leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to check out http://allaroundtim.com for other great stories about sports, music, travel and more!

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.

Chicago | Willis Tower Skydeck And The Ledge

As you drive from O’Hare International Airport into downtown Chicago, you get an incredible view of the city skyline. There’s no bigger presence on the horizon than the Willis Tower (Sears Tower for those of you who refuse to let go of its old name). The 108-story landmark towers over a city of massive buildings that seem to stretch for miles. Willis tower is like a magnet — it’s impossible not to stare.

Willis Tower Chicago Flag

Willis Tower in Chicago

Since my grandma lived right outside of Chicago, I visited the Windy City a lot as a kid. I remember going to the top of the Sears Tower with my family. Back then, the Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world (Willis Tower now ranks ninth on that list), so it was heaven for a little boy. It was impossible to not be in awe of the incredible views. It’s a moment I never forgot, and one I wanted to relive again — so I did.

I’ve been to Chicago a few times over the last year and a half, but I never took the time to visit the Willis Tower Skydeck until my most recent vacation there (check some of my other adventures/misadventures from the trip). My brother and I finally decided to take the 1,353 foot ascent to the summit of the city.

There was no line when we first arrived at Willis Tower, but little did I realize the wait didn’t start until you took a short elevator trip to a different floor. We were told by one of the workers the line would take an hour, and it looked like it would, because there was a horde of people snaking around to the ticket booth. The wait wasn’t very long at all though. It only took my brother and me 35 minutes from the time we stepped into the building to get onto the Willis Tower Skydeck. We were there on a Monday, but the place was still bustling with summer tourists.

Willis Tower Chicago Skydeck

A view of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan from the Skydeck

NOTE: I have a quick tip for anyone who wants to save time at the Willis Tower Skydeck. Part of the waiting/line process includes a movie. The staff shuffles you into a little theater for a video about the building’s history, etc. If you’re like my brother and me; you want to see the views — not watch a movie. That’s why we walked into the theater and directly out the exit to get to the elevator to the Skydeck. I’m not sure how much time we saved, but I know we beat the crowd that sayed behind to watch the flick.

It costs $17.50 to visit the Willis Tower Skydeck, but it’s worth every penny. After a one minute+ elevator ride to the top (the Skydeck is on the 103rd floor), you’re introduced to unbeatable views of Chicago. I immediately felt like a kid again. I honestly think my jaw was hanging to my feet from the time I stepped onto the Willis Tower Skydeck to the time I stepped off. On a clear day, you can actually see four different states (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana) from the Skydeck. Some of the highlights from my eyes were U.S. Cellular Field, Wrigley Field (a little tough to spot) and the United Center. The best view of all though is looking over downtown and Lake Michigan. It’s a view of the city you’ll never forget — and one that makes you realize how big Chicago really is (it almost looks fake).

Willis Tower Chicago Ledge

The Ledge

The biggest difference from my first trip to the Sears Tower Skydeck to my latest visit to the Willis Tower Skydeck is the Ledge. The Ledge is actually four glass boxes that extend more than four feet over the side of the building. Yes, the boxes — all glass from top to bottom — extend beyond the side of the building (meaning you can look STRAIGHT DOWN). The Ledge gives you a unique (and thrilling) view of the city — if you can stomach it. There was a short line to get onto the Ledge, but nothing that took more than two or three minutes to get through. It was a truly amazing experience, and something I would suggest to everyone (unless you’re deathly afraid of heights).

There are a million things to do and see in Chicago. I totally understand that. I’ve been there 10 to 15 times in my life, and there’s still more I want to accomplish every time I visit. The one thing you have to do — no matter what — is take the time to visit the Willis Tower Skydeck and the Ledge. You won’t regret it!

Have you been to the top of Willis Tower/Sears Tower? Have you braved the Ledge? I would love to hear about your experience. You can leave a comment right here, or you can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. And, don’t forget, if you can’t travel the world; experience the world with me at 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!

My Vacation Beard And Its Demise

As a sportscaster, I have to shave every single day. I can’t have scruff on television. It just looks sloppy. I’ll be dead honest with you though – I hate shaving. It’s my least favorite part of the day. When I have the opportunity to go without shaving; I jump all over it. It’s usually just a weekend or a quick vacation, but on my trip to Europe last month — my facial hair got out of hand.

Tim Lewis Vacation Beard

My vacation beard at Wrigley Field in Chicago

I worked my last day in Spokane on May 25th, and that was the last time I would shave for weeks (because I didn’t start my new job until July). During my trip overseas, I went from a hip looking scruffster, to a guy with a regular beard, to frickin’ Paul Bunyan. I loved staying away from the razor for so long (I went 24 days without shaving). Aside from the constant itch, I liked having a beard. My brother told me that I “wore it well.” I’d honestly grow a beard again (for a short spurt) if I had the opportunity.

After I returned from my trip to Europe, I immediately jetted off to Chicago for another vacation. That’s where the beard situation came to a head. My facial hair didn’t fare well in 98 degrees and 90% humidity, so it was finally time to say goodbye to my growth.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to attack my beard. I didn’t have clippers to trim it down, and I knew it would take forever if I just used a normal razor. In other words, it was going to be a pain (literally and figuratively) to get the hair off my face. Instead of dealing with it on my own — I let someone else do the shaving.

I strolled downstairs at the Hyatt Regency (where we were staying in Chicago) and walked into the Spa Di La Fronza Salon. That’s where I met Frank La Fronza — the owner. Frank sat me down in his chair and the adventure began.

Tim Lewis Before After Beard

Before / After

I’d never had someone else shave my face, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This situation played out much different than I anticipated. Frank first trimmed by beard with clippers, prepped my face with a warm towel, and then got to work with his straight edge. The only problem — Frank didn’t use any shaving cream. No joke — the dude did a dry shave on my face. It felt like he was either slashing my face with his razor or tearing off half my skin with every stroke. He would lightly slap skin, tug on my face, and then shave some more. It was one of the most painful/strange experiences of my life, but it got the job done.

When Frank was done with my face, he started to clean up around my ears. I was a few weeks overdue on a haircut, so I appreciated the gesture. I thought it was just part of the face shave, but suddenly Frank started cutting my hair. He didn’t ask me if I wanted a cut — or how I wanted it done — he just clipped away (later explaining that it needed “shaping”). I sat there in awe as Frank started chopping of my hair. The guy is straight old school. He didn’t use clippers (like most of my barbers do); he just used his scissors. The blades never stopped moving. Even when he wasn’t trimming my hair, the scissors were still quickly clamping down on the air. Frank was precise — he wasn’t going to miss a hair (even though I never asked him to cut one of them) — looking at my hair from every angle before he called it good.

After Frank finished up his masterpiece, it was time to pay. I was sure there had to be a set price for a shave and a cut, so I asked Frank how much I owed him. In response, he told me “whatever you want.” I’d never run into anything like that before. Since he didn’t take debit/credit cards, and I don’t carry money, I had to go to the cash machine. I took out $40, walked back over to Frank, and handed it over. It looked like I gave the guy a bar of gold (I clearly overpaid). He said thank you, opened up his drawer, grabbed a business card (which was sitting right next to the latest edition of Playboy), gave it to me, and told me to come back again anytime. Frank knew a whale when he saw one.

Frank La Fronza

Frank La Fronza from an article on ChicagoMag.com

I learned a lot about Frank La Fronza that day. Originally from Italy (he has the accent to prove it), he’s lived in the United States since 1966. He’s a short older guy — I would guess mid-to-late 60′s (or maybe even 70′s) – with style. Frank loves his salon, but the economy is hurting business, so he’d like a smaller location. He calls his female employees “baby” and is clearly loved by his regulars. They just stop in to say hello to him and chat – not even looking for a cut. It’s a real barbershop-type experience. At one point, Frank told one of his guests (a guy who was a regular when he lived in Chicago, but now lives in Colorado Springs) that life is a “mother f^&#er” sometimes — referring to business being slow. It was pure entertainment just listening to Frank talk.

In the end, I wish I would have kept the beard longer. I should have stretched it all the way to July just to see how ridiculous it would get. At the same time, I wouldn’t have met “Franky Baby” (as I now refer to him). The $40 I paid feels like a bargain when you can walk away with a story like that. I do it all over again if I had the chance.

Do you have any wild salon/barber shop stories? Am I the only one who hates shaving? I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Google+. Don’t forget you can also connect with me on YouTube and Pinterest as well!

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!