Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mik’s Food Scrapbook: Tropicana Field

During the Rays game Mik tried the chicken and fries. He thought the chicken was not that good and the fries were barely better. It was not as bad as Chik-fil-a, but not that much better.

Baseball Museum 19: Ted Williams Museum/Hitters Hall of Fame

Back on July 27, 2009, as part of going to the Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field we visited our 19th and final Baseball museum of the trip, the Ted Williams Museum/Hitters Hall of Fame. This museum once had its own home, but it could not keep in operation financially, so it is now inside Tropicana Field as part of the attractions. Because it was once on its own, it is quite a large collection and not very small like the Yankee Museum. It is even bigger than the Braves Hall of Fame. Also, it is free to visit on game days, although the gates open only 1 and a half before the game and this did easily take 45 minutes of our pre game time in the park. In case you are wondering why it is located at the Rays and thinking he never played or had any ties to the team, this is the area he retired to and in fact he threw out the first ceremonial first pitch in Rays history.

The museum begins with a few displays on the first floor. The displays include a Babe Ruth ball that is the only one Ted Williams ever asked for and was stolen and lost for over 25 years. They also have some random displays on things like the Negro Leagues, 500 home run club, woman’s baseball and the Rockford Peaches, Baseball Movies (even a Field of Dreams sign autographed by Ted Williams), and Ted Williams the Outdoorsman. It is kind of the hodge podge of stuff in the collection, but it is still mostly tied into fitting in the Ted Williams museum because it is a lot of memorabilia he collected over the years, autographed by him, or autographed to him.

The real museum, though, begins up the steps on the second floor. I honestly thought it was just a small hall of fame for the Hitters Hall of Fame when we began up the stairs, but was surprised to find that the upstairs is twice as large as the second with it mostly being about Ted Williams life and baseball career. I am not sure how you get up here with a wheelchair, as Mik did not want to go upstairs, but I imagine somehow one of the Tropicana Field elevators can get you access to this level and part of the museum, as it really is the bulk of what there is to see.

The Ted Williams part of the upstairs has items from his life from early baseball career in college to his time in the US Marine Corps to his Major League Baseball career and beyond. A lot of the displays include commemorative bats about the different parts of his career. Of course, there are also some actual bats he used. There is plenty to see and many signs to read about each display and the part of his life it is about, although due to wanting to get to our seats before the game started we kind of rushed through it. It is kind of sad that they do not open the park earlier because this museum would have been great to have been able to linger in and at the same time not miss any of the game. With it being in an indoor stadium there is not even ever the chance you could further explore it because of a rain delay.

The last part of the museum is called the Hitters Hall of Fame. This Hall of Fame features a variety of players including some that are actual National Baseball Hall of Fame members and some that are still current players. There is also a lot of lesser known/those that are not playing anymore and have not made it to the Hall of Fame. For each player they had a good size display of memorabilia related to them. It is so much different than the other Hall of Fames, as they actually have a display for every player in it and at least for now each player seems to still have their whole display still on view. It is not like there are only a few in it, either, but there has got to be at least 40.

Overall the Ted Williams Museum/Hitters Hall of Fame was an impressive museum/hall of fame. I just really felt like I was not able to pay that much attention to everything and really take it all in due to the limited time to see it before the game. It is a shame that they do not open the park earlier, but at least this museum does still exist and has not entirely disappeared, which very well could have happened, as it used to be in its own building in Hernando, Florida.

Day 72: Getting on I-10

We just got on the I-10. It now really feels like the last stretch of the trip being on the interstate that we live less than 2 miles off of. It is not really the end yet, though as we are staying in Texas this weekend and the last driving stretch is not until Monday.

Mik’s Mini Bat Collection: National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum

At the National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum they had several different colored mini bats, but they all had the same design. Mik went with the darker natural color. The mini bat says National Softball Hall of Fame & Stadium Oklahoma City, OK in gold lettering.

Day 66: National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum

On July 24, 2009, we visited the National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum in Oklahoma City. It is not exactly baseball, but it is a closely related sport, so I decided to make it part of the trip. Plus, I was a softball fan for a few years when we had a NPF team in Tucson. Sadly, though, that league apparently is not related to the ASA as nothing about the league is in the museum. However, softball in the Olympics did have its whole own room of the museum, which is really saying something because the museum rather small.

The Hall of Fame begins with a little bit about how the sport of softball was started in Illinois. It has some early softball items on display related to that, but after that the first floor gets rather boring unless you know about the softball players of the past. That is because this floor is mostly the hall of fame with circular plaques of players and others inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame. I had not heard of more than one or two in the hall of fame and it was sad to see how the place is upkept, as it goes as bad as seeing one guys hall of fame circle actually entirely missing while others looked ready to fall off.

The one part of the whole museum that I did enjoy was the Olympic room off to one side of the Hall of Fame. This room does have the upkeep issue of things falling off the wall behind the glass in some of the display cases, but it does have some cool things. They have a large display case devoted to the 4 Olympics softball was an event (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008). The top of each display case says what Team USA got (Gold for 3 and Silver for 2008). Things on display included team rosters, tickets from the games, signed softballs from the games, uniforms, and bases.

The museum also has a basement floor to it. It sure was not obvious how that floor is accessible for wheelchairs, but Mik did not want to be here anyways, so we did not even ask if there was some hidden elevator. By the way even finding a staff member to ask would not have been easy, as they were mostly absent including the gift shop mostly being unmanned. The lower level has some interesting stuff, but a large portion of it is just photos of teams and the only info is just names. They do have a college section, though, which includes items related to different championship teams including the University of Arizona.

Overall the National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum was not worth going out of our way for. Most of the small museums we have visited have been very worthwhile, but this one is on the verge of being a more big time one while it really is a neglected small museum. Many small museums are the ones you find the people actually passionate about it, but this one does not even have actual staff working other than the take the admission money or ring up your gift shop purchases. Actually that is the main staff role at all the small museums, but at every other one they are least at people that were friendly and/or interested in being there. Not even those paid to be here seem to want to be here and that seems to really say something about its quality.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Game 30: Atlanta Braves 3 @ Florida Marlins 6

Our final game of the trip and our last ballpark in hindsight was not the optimal way to end a trip. Seriously I should have thought of it and about half way through the trip I kind of realized that ending here probably was not going to be that great of an end, but it is still awesome to have finished the trip even if it was at one of the most blah ballparks. Actually, it barely can even be called a ballpark. It is only one because the Marlins do still play here, but it is very much just Dolphin Stadium (technically now Land Shark Stadium, but still says Dolphin Stadium in a lot of places) and as that it is mostly about the football team. It is not as bad as the Metrodome, but it is not the best of the football/baseball stadiums either, as that honor goes to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

The main thing that makes this not feel like a ballpark is that you walk off the elevator and onto the main concourse and the concourse is huge, as you expect at a football stadium. Of course, the expanse of empty upper deck seats all around give the same feel of it being way too big for the sport. The biggest down is that it really is deserted and shows that it is not for baseball.

There are few concession places open and way less than even at regular ballpark. That is partially obvious because they have a lot of concessions closed that only are for football season, but it is obvious that they do not need that many because the fan turn out is extremely minimal. Seriously, though, who wants to go to a game when the rain is often a possibility this time of year and if it is not raining it is miserably hot and humid. It was still humid tonight, but after the rain all day it was not as hot as it had been earlier this week for us in Florida, so surprising not too bad for an outdoor Florida game. However, it will be much better to go to a Marlins game in 2012 when they get their new ballpark, which they just broke ground for earlier this month. It will not only actually be built for baseball, but it will have a roof in the style of Safeco Field and Minute Maid Park.

There is a few good things about tonight's game and the main one is that it actually ended up being played completely with no rain delays. All day there were thunderstorms off and on up until only an hour before the game. I give the grounds crew and staff here big props for actually being very efficient and having the game start on time. So many parks do not actually have the top of the first start at game time and usually they are just finishing the pre game ceremonies and such as that time or the team is just taking the field to warm up for the inning. Here, though, they really did start the game at 7:10 with the actual first pitch to the opposing first batter.

One of the other good things was that it was actually a pretty good one. The pitching was not overall that superb, but the relievers did pretty good and for the most part it was decent. It was not a major slugfest, which personally I am kind of tired of, but there were some homers including 3 by the Marlins. The most exciting of the homers was the 3-run one hit by the Marlins starting pitcher. There was also some uniqueness of the Braves manager and catcher getting ejected. We never could figure out what they were arguing about, but I think it was that the catcher was called out at first on a double play and they thought he should have been safe.

Overall the Marlins game experience was pretty good, as the Marlins and Braves both have some good players worth watching. However, the ballpark experience is rather dull and makes it so obvious that the Dolphins do not want the Marlins here at all. For those that do not know the history between the two teams, the Dolphins own the stadium and told the Marlins back in like 2004 that they would kick them out in 2010 unless a ballpark is eminent. Not at the bottom of our ballpark experiences, as there are worse (Dodger Stadium, Skydome, Citi Field), but definitely close to the bottom.

Updated August 4, 2009: Added photos finally