Baseball 2021

There is a debate about what priority the COVID vaccine should be given. The official NuckolBall position is:

  1. Healthcare workers
  2. Vulnerable population (especially grandparents who are kidney donors/kidney donor recipients)
  3. Major league baseball players and staff

Last year Jack Season was cancelled, so we had an extended Alex Season. We went all in on camping and had a great year for that. But this year it is pure Jack Season. It’s the final year I have with my boy, and we are planning as much baseball time as we can swing (and still afford college).

Here are the trips that are currently under consideration:

The Bronx Boo-Fest — When the cheating, worthless Astros come to the Bronx, Jack and I will be there to boo them murderously. We’re going to bang trash cans, hurl insults, and generally make their lives as miserable as possible. These lowlives deserved to be booed for the remainder of their careers and we intend to do our part.

The Lakes Loop — This involves driving to Cleveland, hooking up with Avi and Solomon Cover, and making an epic baseball loop. The loop will include Chicago (White Sox), Milwaukee (Brewers), and maybe…maybe….Minneapolis for the Twins. We’ve got multiple drivers to make this doable.

The Dallas Dash — We normally see Shani’s parents 3-4 times a year, but COVID has created a miserable dry spell. So the instant everyone is safe and vaccinated, we are getting on the road, getting down to Arkansas, getting everyone in the car, and getting our butts to Dallas to check out the new Rangers Ballpark.

The Aunt Joan Jaunt — It is ludicrous that we haven’t been to Fenway. Ridiculous. It’s 5 hours away and we actually go to Boston every year. Well that gets fixed this year. We’re making our annual Boston trip, and this time, Jack, me, and my Aunt Joan are going to see the Red Sox (hopefully lose).

The West Wildcard — The summer is tough to figure out. When will diving competitions come back? When does college start? Lots of variables at play, but we absolutely plan to pull off an epic family road trip. That could mean Phoenix, Seattle, San Diego, Oakland…who knows. But I suspect we’ll work in a park or two for sure.

Jack and I currently stand at 17 out of 30 ballparks visited. I think getting to 20 this season is a distinct possibility.

Stay tuned.

White Flag

Welcome to this season’s final installment of NuckolsDIVE and the official transition back over to NuckolBALL. I have Alex diving updates, a stadium review, and a true milestone in the history of this blog. Here we go.

Alex Nuckols is officially the 45th best diver in the country (among 12-13 year old boys). And while he did not have a particularly good performance in the finals in Atlanta, as my dad said: “I’d like to be 45thbest at anything.”

The finals took place over 5 days in Atlanta, which made for a strange vacation. The four of us had a hotel room. We had both sets of grandparents. And for an joyfully obsessive planner like myself, it was tricky. The whole schedule revolved around Alex’s diving practice, which isn’t finalized until the night before.

“What are we doing tomorrow?” Jack, Shani’s dad, my Dad would ask me.

“I don’t know yet,” I’d answer every time.

But we did a great job being flexible. Jack and I rented scooters and buzzed all over downtown. We went to the aquarium, the human rights museum, Shakespeare Tavern for dinner. We ate at Fat Matt’s BBQ and Old Lady Gang for world-famous soul food. We did a lot of catching up in the hotel lobby. It was also the first time the boys spent time with both sets of grandparents at the same time.

Actually…here are some highlights.


The dive meet itself didn’t have the drama of the others this season. In the other ones, Alex was always right on the cusp of making it through to the next level, so they were filled with tension at every dive.

For this meet, Alex was among 40 divers and only the top 6 would advance to the semi-finals. From the start it was pretty clear Alex wasn’t going to make it. Even if he’d had the dive meet of his life, the talent and size of the competition was still out of reach.

But it made for a fun, relaxed watching. I sat next to my dad, who almost immediately became an expert at judging the dives. In most cases he was able to predict the scores, but occasionally he was way off.

“Either I’m wrong or all these judges are wrong,” he said to me. “And I’m pretty sure it’s the judges.”

Alex wasn’t particularly happy with his performance, but his stated goal was “don’t come in last”, and he didn’t. The next day we took him to the World of Coca-Cola Museum and let him drink as much soda in the tasting room as he wanted. (Note: we spent 90 minutes in there.)

So the dive season is over. The boy will spend August watching Netflix.

We also hit SunTrust Park for a Braves game, which I’ll get into in a minute, but first…

Atlanta is the most exasperating city I’ve ever had to drive in. The traffic is soul-crushing.

Every day, I’d have to drive Alex to the pool at Georgia Tech and then pick him up a few hours later. The pool was just over a mile from our hotel. Round trip through Atlanta, it was 35-40 minutes each time. At every intersection I would sit through 2, sometimes 3 cycles of traffic lights before finally getting through so I could wait at the next intersection. For 5 days I had been gritting my teeth through this traffic.

Jack and I headed to the ballpark a solid 3 hours before the game and still we spent 45 minutes to drive the final mile to reach the ballpark. And this for a Marlins game that couldn’t have had more than 10,000 fans. God knows how bad it would be close to game time and with a packed park.

Even to get into the team store and buy shirts, there was a roped off line you had to wait in before they let you in.

The pitcher for Atlanta was Julio Tehran, and he is one of those pitchers that is the epitome of what people hate about baseball. Look in, get the sign from the catcher, shake it off, new sign, shake it off, step off the mound, pick up the rosin bag, back to the mound, get the sign, finally get set, long pause, finallythrow the pitch.

Ball one.

Do it all over again.

By the middle of the 4thinning the game was almost 2 hours long when Starlin Castro came to the plate. Castro and Tehran went into a duel of delays. Tehran would step off the mound. Castro would call for time out. Tehran would shake off more signs. Castro would leave the batters box again. Batter delaying, pitcher delaying…and all the days of traffic boiled up inside me and suddenly I was on my feet:

“Come on, you guys!” I roared. “PLAY BALL!!

The entire section around me become quiet. I could feel my in-laws and Jack looking at me with some shock. It was decidedly awkward. And in spite of the fact that we were in the nosebleed seats behind third base, I am almost certain both Tehran and Castro heard me.

But the big thing about the Brave game: Alex didn’t come with us. And with that, I’m going to call a full stop to this narrative about Atlanta. Because in reality, this is not a blogpost. This is a surrender.

Start here:


Like his older brother, Alex started playing T-Ball when he was 4.

Unlike his brother, Alex didn’t like it.

Alex had two problems with T-ball. First, he didn’t want to hit off a tee. Second, they didn’t keep score – which made playing totally pointless.

At the last game of the season all the kids got their trophies. Alex and I started walking back to the car and he said: take my picture. And he plopped down right on the sidewalk with his trophy in front of him. I took the photo, he got up, and we went to the car. But I had a little pit in my stomach.

Something about him insisting on that picture…and that fake smile…

He thought that was what he was supposed to do. His job was to get that trophy and have that picture taken with it. He wasn’t playing baseball because he wanted to. He was playing because I wanted him to. Because he thought that was what he was supposed to do.

We had to ask him a few times the next season, but he finally admitted that he didn’t really want to play. Alex and I have actually talked about it many times, and been really glad that he had the courage to admit he didn’t want to play, and I had the wisdom to not make him do it.

Looking back, I could have done it too. Without much pushing, Alex would have stuck with it. By playing, he would have learned to appreciate the game. He and Jack could have played catch in the yard and hit ground balls to each other at the playground. It all would have been pretty different. Alex probably wouldn’t be diving.

When Alex was 5 and Jack was 7 we made our baseball pact. We agreed that we would go to all 30 stadiums together. That summer we took a road trip to Washington DC and over the course of a magic weekend we went to a Nationals game. The boys got to run the bases after the game was over.

We’ve done Toronto, Cleveland, St. Louis. Skyline chili dogs in Cincinnati. Alex barfed after the Mets game because he ate too much popcorn and soda. The boys flipped the giant K placards at the Giants game in San Francisco. We’ve been to 14 ballparks together, and each one is a blazing, joyful memory of time spent with my two sons.

But Alex has opted out. And I get it. He doesn’t like baseball at all and he never has.

And I get all the dads have to let kids be who they are stuff. And I know that is true and right, and it’s what I’m going to do.

But if I’m being honest, my heart is a little bit broken.

It’s the last one that really gets me.

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Official Stadium Rankings

New rankings! It has been a banner year for the NuckolBall staff. We hit Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Coors Field in Denver, and took Shani’s parents to Camden Yards in Baltimore to celebrate their 50th anniversary. This brings us to 14 out of 30 stadiums. So I gathered the entire staff:

  • Editor in Chief, Mike Nuckols
  • Sports Editor and Head of Baseball Operations, Jack Nuckols
  • Food Critic, Alex Nuckols
  • Arts and Literature Editor, Shani Nuckols
  • Senior Correspondents, Don and Eileen

I gave everyone ranking sheets to conduct a proper evaluation.

And it fell apart from there.

Alex calculated his totals solely based on the food, Shani’s folks have only been to 4 of the parks, and Shani…well, her sheet (as well as everyone else’s) is included at the end of the post.

The result was a hodgepodge of numbers that was completely incalculable. I did the best I could.

So, without further delay, here are our official “best of” stadium selections and then our countdown to the overall #1 park.

Best atmosphere: Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals

These are fans who watch and love and honor the game of baseball. And then you combine that with a die-hard passion for their team. Damn is it a great time. In truth, I would recommend every Phillies fan should plan a visit and take notes.

Runners up: Yankees Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, PNC Park 


Best baseball watching experience: AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

From every single seat you can see and enjoy the game. It’s intimate and you feel amazed at how close you are to the players. The seats are angled perfectly so the game is right in front of you.

Runners up: Yankees Stadium, PNC Park 


Best views and stadium design: PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates

The views of the bridges and the cliff walls and the city and the stadium itself — this park is an absolute wonder.

Runners up: AT&T Park, Camden Yards


Best food: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati Reds

Skyline chili cheese dogs. Nuff said.

Runners up: Citi Field, Citizen’s Bank Park, PNC Park


And now, the rankings from 14 to 1…

#14: Rogers Center, Toronto Blue Jays

Horrible view of the game. Food is boring. Totally dated. We did see a naked guy in his hotel room, though. And you can see the CN Tower.

#13: Citi Field, New York Mets

Really nice stadium. Great food. Odd crowd. Boring team, but starting to get more interesting.


#12: Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers

The history and mystique and weather and glamour carry this team and the experience. But as stadiums go, Dodgers Stadium is kinda weak.

#11: Nationals Park, Washington Nationals

The was our first park and none of us were happy with our rankings or evaluation. This clearly needs to be a 2018 outing with our Senior Correspondents.

#10: Coors Field, Colorado Rockies

View of the mountains and a nice stadium (although with some design flaws). Food sucks. The crowd is happy as hell to be at the ballgame, but I’m not sure they really follow the team.

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#9: Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians

This park is comfortable. You can see the entire park from your seat so kids can explore. Dollar dogs. Decent crowd. Street parking.

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#8: Citizen’s Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies

I think this park got hit with familiarity bias. The food is great (cheesesteaks and crab fries), a crowd that’s into the game, a gorgeous park. But for whatever reason, the numbers came back low. So I’m actually embarrassed that this is in our bottom half.

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#7: Yankees Stadium, New York Yankees

Highly disputed internally — but for all its flaws:

  • A Yankees crowd is like no other
  • The subway ride to the park is one of the greater experiences in the world
  • We have some serious Yankee bias


#6: Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City Royals

By FAR the best scoreboard in the sport. Terrific, raucous crowd. Food is bleh. Some seats kinda suck. View from the stadium is underrated.


#5: Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals

The best fans in the game, bar none. The view of the arch. Mediocre food and some basic stadium design flaws.

#4: Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati Reds

Shocker pick for #4 — but our scores put it way up there in the rankings. This park has 2 things going for it:

  1. A crowd that is awesome even when their team is not
  2. Skyline chili dogs


#3: Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles

The temple of baseball. A glorious place to sit and watch a game. Intimate and grand at the same time. Put it on your bucket list.


#2: AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

Gorgeous stadium that feels tiny. Right in the heart of a glorious city. Garlic fries and Ghirardelli sundaes. Some criticize the Silicon Valley crown, but wait until the relief pitchers warm up and tell me it isn’t fun as hell.


#1: PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates

The views, the stadium, the crowd, the vibe, the pot roast nachos. You’re not in a stadium, you’re participating in some kind of transcendent art. Go to this park. Go to this park. GO TO THIS PARK.

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AND…as promised, here are the official score sheets from the NuckolBall staff.

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X-Rated Post from SF


To quote Alex: “Dad was cursing. A LOT!”

We just came home from a fantastic 2-week road trip vacation in California. And towards the end we hit AT&T Park in San Francisco, which is #2 on my park list. We got there 2 hours early for batting practice…which turned out to be the source of my foul language.

So…here is the typical thing you find at batting practice before a game. A bunch of kids trying to get balls and autographs. Warms my heart.

But take a look at some of the people in the crowd. Why do grown men have gloves with them?

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LOSERS! God, I’m getting all mad again as I write this. Grown men should not be trying to get balls. It’s embarrassing as hell. Wait…here’s my favorite shot. Look at how cool this guy thinks he is because he got a ball.


He was literally tossing it up and down in the midst of a bunch of kids who were dying to catch a ball. What a putz. For God sakes, you’re a grown man. If you want a ball, buy it. On several occasions, I saw these buffoons swoop over kids to catch a ball.

It’s especially bad when a player actually tosses a ball to a kid and these guys grab the ball. Eventually I got so mad I headed down to say something to one of these guys, but Mets closer, Jeurys Familia, called the guy out and demanded the ball be handed over to a kid.

Anyhow…here are all the words I used to describe these guys as I was ranting in front of Alex. For the sake of avoiding an X-rating, I have typed them into my iPhone and let auto-correct fix them.


Aside from my fury, the game itself was absolutely terrific fun. Actually, the whole 2-week trip was one of my favorite 2 weeks ever. But still, if you are a grown-up getting balls, you have to stop.

Here’s a video of Jack flipping the K placard.




Tampa Rays Blues


We begin…with stress. At work, we were launching a new product and the big launch meeting was in Orlando this week. Our client was a flaming ball of stress heading up to the meeting, which led to some seriously uncomfortable phone calls over the weekend where she used the word “disappointed” a lot.

But the launch meeting went off beautifully. She was getting praised left and right. Tuesday night she apologized to me and my co-worker, Tony (or at least as much as a client ever apologizes). We had known that a Tampa Bay game was a possibility, but up until then we thought we’d be in high-stress meeting mode. But suddenly the weight was coming off our shoulders…next thing we knew we were in the car wearing shorts and headed for a baseball game.

There are 4 people I know who love baseball more than I do:

  1. Jack (obviously)
  2. Andrew Kaufman (in a class of his own — see end of that blogpost)
  3. My friend, Wade
  4. Tony

Tony is a real-deal, haunted, Philadelphia sports fan. Sports are part of the boy’s core makeup. You know how some kids have manners drilled into them and it stays with them for life? Kids in Philly are taught sports that way.

Which leads me to…

Official NuckolBall Review of Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

There’s a big moment going to a new park when you first see the stadium. You come around a corner and spot it. Or in this case, you see it from the highway. It was a big white bubble with a slanted roof. Here’s a shot Tony took from the car:


We found $10 parking, scored $19 tickets in the 4th row in left field, and learned it was $2 hot dog night. Then in we went. Check out this video…

I’ll confess, I expected Tropicana Field to suck. But as we walked in and looked around, I thought it looked pretty cool. It was a dome stadium, which made it feel small. It had incredible access to the field and any seat was close to the action.

“Maybe this isn’t so bad,” I said to Tony.

But that wore off quick. Here’s what’s wrong with Tropicana Field:

1) Turf

It doesn’t seem like real baseball. When guys run for a fly ball, something seems off. Scuff marks on their pants seem odd – it’s not real dirt, why should it stain their pants? Plus it look absolutely awful. Check out the photo, the surface looks like a worn out, greasy sweater.


2) Concessions

Modern ballparks are designed so you can get to the concessions without leaving the action. At the Trop, you descend into a blue cavern that is completely cut off from the field. Parts of it felt like the Philadelphia Airport (worst, most claustrophic airport in the country). Parts felt like the halls of a hospital.


My living room has higher ceilings.



This way to radiology.

3) Blue

The Rays have no logo, no marquis player, no real history to speak of, no fans. They have the color blue. That seems to be their entire identity. Every damn thing was blue.


4) Atmosphere

Maybe it was the roof, or the lighting, or the turf, or the lack of people in the stands, but it didn’t feel like a major league baseball game. The place was completely, freakishly devoid of any atmosphere whatsoever. There were no crowd noises, just a weird murmur. The sound of the ball and bat were muffled and off. It felt like a trade show being held at the local college arena. Everyone was sitting around waiting for the college team to finish up their practice before we could start setting up our folding tables.

But there were some good things. Parking was easy. It’s a great place to get a ball. Tony introduced me to “The Game” and then promptly lost $11 to me (I will not explain The Game). Actually…the best part was getting to go with Tony. Tony is a fan who sees more things than I do, was excited about stuff I didn’t know to be excited about, and was generally even more comfortable in a ballpark than I am. It was a real treat to go with him.


To conclude, Tampa Bay was my 18th park, and it has taken over the bottom spot of my rankings. It’s even worse than the dreadful Rogers Center in Toronto. But still, as we drove off on 275 headed back to Orlando, Tony and I were jabbering away, happy as a pair of songbirds. Even the worst ballpark in the country is still cause of celebration and joy.


A Quick Deke to Comerica Park

We begin our Tiger Tale with this:


I had a free night and asked the hotel if they had a map. How classy, right?

Then we go to this:


I got it for $30 off a scalper. Great seats – field level, 20 rows back off 1st base. I was feeling good, and then…




That moment when you first see the stadium. That’s a big deal to me. It’s genuinely awe-inspiring. There it was – with giant statues of tigers and huge bats. The big lights and sheer scope of it. My bouncy step got that much bouncier.

I went through, got to my seat and check this out…


That’s Miguel Cabrerra not 50 feet away from me. Dynamite, right? OK…look closer. The field seats at Comerica are on a low pitch, which means it’s really hard to see. People’s heads in front of you block your view. A true design flaw if you ask me. But then again, people’s heads in my way was secondary to…

OK, time out. An important lesson for non-baseball fans. This is a cardinal rule at a ballpark.

Do not get up from your seat in the middle of an at-bat. Same goes for returning to your seat. Wait for the at-bat to finish and THEN you can get up/sit down.

Why? Because people (like ME!) are trying to watch the damn game! And for some baffling reason, Tiger’s fans had no idea this rule existed. I was stunned. And getting irrationally furious.

Oh, and the other thing that was happening – EVERYONE was taking selfies. I’ve never seen so many selfies in my life. It was like a selfie flashmob. In fact, the mother in front of me took a selfie of herself and her little girl. Then the little girl started demanding and whining that her mother delete the selfie. And when mom refused, the little girl started fake crying.

I felt like I was losing my mind. After a few innings, I sort of staggered away feeling frazzled. I bought a hot dog and took the escalator up to a higher deck.

Now…let’s look at this photo and tell me what you see?


It’s the shot from my new seat. In fact, as I entered the section, I found 3 guys standing at the back waiting for the at-bat to end before returning to my seat. But back to the photo, because it contains 4 things I loved seeing.

  • The kid at the bottom left is wearing a baseball glove. It’s hard to see. Just at the bottom of the frame. He was hoping to catch a pop up and carefully watching the game for his chance
  • In the center, a kid is on his dad’s lap and they are keeping score. The dad is teaching his son how to log a game.
  • Top of the frame is the view of downtown Detroit – a view I couldn’t see at all from section 118.
  • Far right? Oh yeah – that is a real deal baseball mutant. She and her mate were chattering away about the game and having a great time. Pros. She was eating soft tacos and snuffling them down like an anteater. I got her in mid-snort.

What was also nice about this section was the view of the field. I could see what was going on. No heads in my way.



So now…I could give excuses. I had an hour drive back to my hotel and I had to get up at 6 and run an all day workshop. High profile for a big client. And the game was out of reach for the Tigers (down 12-3) and every pitcher just kept walking batters and then they’d switch to another pitcher who would warm up and then walk the next guy.

And then…and then…oh God. OK.

I left. I left before the end of the game. I did. I did that. Here’s a shot of the sunset over the city I shot on my way out.


So…not sure if it’s even valid considering what I just admitted, but my review of Comerica Park is:

  • GORGEOUS stadium. Grand and majestic. It feels like you’re entering the Roman Coliseum about to watch something enormous take place.
  • Fans suck in the spendy seats. Fans are solid in higher decks. Plus the seats are better.
  • Food is nothing special.

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Official Stadium Rankings

Following the game this weekend in The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, our sports editor, Jack Nuckols, produced this document:

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Based on this, we will be providing official rankings of the 10 stadiums the boys have visited.

Jack’s Rankings

(based on field, view, food, and atmosphere)

1.              PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates
2.              Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City Royals
3.              Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians
4.              Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals
5.              Citi Field, NY Mets
6.              Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati Reds
7.              Nationals Park, Washington Nationals
8.              Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies
9.              Yankees Stadium, NY Yankees
10.          Rogers Center, Toronto Blue Jays

Alex’s Rankings

(based on food)

1.     Great American Ballpark, Skyline Chili Dogs
2.     PNC Park, Pot Roast Nachos
3.     Citi Field, Shake Shack
4.     Kaufmann Stadium, Those pretty girls took us out of the cheap seats and into the great seats – free nachos and ice cream!
5.     Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies
6.     Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians
7.     Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals
8.     Nationals Park, Washington Nationals
9.     Yankees Stadium, NY Yankees
10. Rogers Center, Toronto Blue Jays

Mike’s Rankings

(based on field, view, food, and atmosphere)

The Transcendent

1.     PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates
2.     AT&T Park, SF Giants

The Exceptional

3.     Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles
4.     Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals
5.     Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati Reds
6.     Coors Field, Colorado Rockies
7.     Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians
8.     Petco Park, San Diego Padres
9.     Nationals Park, Washington Nationals
10. Dodgers Stadium, LA Dodgers
11. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies
12. Citi Field, NY Mets

The Meh

13. Coliseum, Oakland A’s
14. Angels Stadium, Anaheim Angels
15. Yankees Stadium, NY Yankees
16. Rogers Center, Toronto Blue Jays

8 Observations from a trip to Cincinnati

This weekend we made it to Cincinnati for our first game of the season. A roadtrip to meet up with Shani’s folks at The Great American Ballpark. Here are 8 random observations:

1) I could be a professional baseball park travel agent. I got prime seating for $28, parking for $5, and executed an exit strategy that was easy as pie. All this for a sold-out game. I have this down to a science. In fact, NuckolBall readers should feel free to contact me for consultation if you’re visiting a ballpark. I’ll set you up.

2) I found the people of Cincinnati to be incredibly kind and helpful. And every single one of them want to talk about why Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.

3) During batting practice, baseballs gather in between the pitcher and hitter. Every once in a while a bat boy has to run out an pick up all of those balls. But with the Cardinals, all the players go out and do it as a group. These are millionaires and they’re doing it like they did in little league. I have never seen another team do this – and it speak volumes about the Cardinals to me.

4) If you get to Cincinnati, get your ass to Skyline Chili. They make these chili dogs that have a 6-inch cloud of finely-shredded cheese piled on top. You wonder how you can fit in all in your mouth, but then it mushes together into cheesechilihotdogonionsmustardheavenallgone. Alex is digging in to one in this photo:


5) 90% of the time, Shani is the worst co-pilot on earth. She alternates between reading, dozing off, and fiddling with her phone. She sets her water cup overtop my carefully arranged power cords. She is deeply annoyed when I ask her to put the creamer into my coffee because I’m busy driving a car.

But then there’s the other 10% of the time. She’ll pull out a chapter book and read aloud in her melodious voice. The boys will be captivated and keep begging for just “one more chapter.” Or she’ll snatch up my phone (the phone I’m using the navigate with) and start cycling through TV theme shows on Spotify.

“You know this one, I bet.”

“Is that Dallas? No…Dynasty!”

“It’s St. Elsewhere, silly.”


“How about this one – I loved this show!”

And yes, we’ll miss our exit, but still we’re in hysterics as we sing the theme to Moonlighting together.

6) My boys’ ability to road trip is simply mindboggling. We did 11 hours straight on Friday and come Sunday they jumped right back in the car, eager to hit the highway.

7) Shani’s parents are my perfect role models for what I want to be as a grandparent. They drove 600+ miles to spend 24 hours with the boys. Saturday morning they took Alex to Target so they could get a sewing kit. One of his stuffed animals had a tear and required “groin surgery”.

Shani’s folks get it and they do it 100% right.

8) My life is divided into 2 seasons, baseball season and not baseball season, and there is a valve in my heart that opens up in April and then slides shut with the final out of the World Series.

This Saturday I sat in the sun at The Great American Ballpark and watched the Red and the Cardinals play. My son was next to me talking with his grandfather about Stan Musial. A few seats over, Alex was chattering away as he showed Shani and her mother photos he had taken of the game. I could smell the mucky spring scent of the Ohio River, which flows behind right field. I had a big, cold Bud Light and a bag of peanuts.

That valve in my heart was wide wide open.

It’s 2015. Play ball.

Reader’s note: The NuckolBall sports editor, Jack Nuckols, has now officially ranked the ballparks he has visited. That list will be coming this week.

Here are some photos from the weekend.

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The Oakland Coliseum – Official Stadium Review

Every once in a while I try and rank all the stadiums I’ve visited, and I have a tough time with it. However, one thing is always very easy: Oakland is last. In fact, on virtually any stadium ranking you find, Oakland will be last.

I went there three years ago with my college roommate, Reef. The stadium is basically a circular concrete staircase with metal chairs bolted in. There was no crowd in spite of the fact that the A’s were a playoff team. In fact, we had the entire section to ourselves except for a woman who I’m pretty sure was a crackhead. And I’m fine talking baseball with a crackhead, but this lady kept coming over and yammering on about stuff that made no sense and was certainly not baseball-related.

But this past week I was on the West Coast. Reef and I made plans to hit a game. Now…let me show you the experience of just going to your seats.

First, you cross a bridge over a chemical factory and an industrial water trench.


Then you get to the stadium and go through a series of concrete monolith passages. Look at this…






It’s like traveling through the city sewage system. Horrible. The Coliseum is a throwback to the NFL of the 70s and is completely out of sync with the gorgeous steel and glass marvels that baseball stadiums have become. When we reached our seats in the bleachers, I was not at all surprised to find the stadium practically empty.


And then…

OK, have you ever found a bar or a restaurant that is just AWESOME, and no one knows about it? The food is great, it’s cheap, it’s never crowded. It’s the perfect place to go hang out – in fact you can’t believe no one else knows about this gem.

Let’s start with the people in the bleachers. Look at the photos.




We’re talking 30 fans, tops, and another 30 in the right field bleachers. But these 60 people fill the entire stadium with a force equal to a full crowd at another stadium. They are tremendous. Watch an Oakland home game on TV for 30 seconds and they’ll certainly show these folks.

In other stadiums it is the scoreboard and PA system that sparks the crowd. They play the “charge” bugle call or start flashing signs that say “LET’S – GO – TEAM” and try to get the crowd to chant along. At Yankees Stadium they still play the insufferable “Cotton Eye Joe”.

There is no need for pumped-in crowd enthusiasm in Oakland. These people lead the crowd. They have drums, cowbells, massive flags, and blaring bugles. God, they’re fun! On top of that, they are real deal baseball fans watching the game like pros. Proof? See how the game played out:

Oakland pitched poorly and by the 8th inning were down 6-0. Not one person left. Nor did they let up on the cheering and drumming. Each Oakland batter was chanted and cheered for in spite of the game being completely out of reach.

When Oakland got a run in the 8th, the crowd went bananas. Then they scored 2 more runs to make it 6-3.

Then in the 9th, the Mariner’s closer came out and the A’s put 2 more runs on the scoreboard. It was amazing and the crowd was bonkers. They were part of the team and part of the comeback.

But the final score was 6-5. The Mariner closer Fernando Rodney* finally got the last out. Then…and only then…did the crowd leave.

So want to know what the Oakland Coliseum is like? The food sucks (although the people who work the food counters are incredibly nice). The stadium is a pit. But the crowd is a home run. Spend the $14, sit in the bleachers, and get ready for a great time.

*Regarding Fernando Rodney. I would be rooting for the Mariners if it were not for him. He is their closer, and every time he closes a game he makes this asinine motion where he pretends he is drawing a bow and firing an arrow into the sky. It is beyond obnoxious. I so wish that someday circumstances would force him to bat so the pitcher could BLAST a fastball into his fat ass.

Here’s a clip of the arrow crap:


Not to mention, when you’re asked to close out a 6-3 game and give up 2 runs before closing the game, maybe you should tone down your stupid arrow celebration.

As a matter of fact, here’s a clip of Rodney blowing a save where Mike Trout and Albert Pujols mock the crap out of Rodney.

OK…sorry about the digression there. But to get back to the point — get your but to Oakland.

Petco Perfect

I remember a comedian talking about how easy it must be to be a weatherman in Sand Diego.

“Today’s weather? Nice. Tomorrow? Nice. And then next week? Nice.”

I was there for the weekend and everyone kept marveling at how nice it was outside. Every time I stepped outside someone would say, “God, it’s gorgeous out here.” It was sunny, low 70s, no humidity.

I had meetings through Sunday at 11:30. Then I hustled up to my room, changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and made it out to the front of the hotel as a faded black pickup truck rattled in. This was my cousin Max to pick me up so we could head to Petco Park: Padres vs Dodgers.

Full stop to the narrative…Some background on Max. [And a note of apology – this background will be too long unless you’re a family member.]

I knew Max mostly when he was a kid. When I was 22 I moved to LA and lived with my Uncle Coddy, Aunt Mary, and their two sons (Max and Sam). I spent 6 months living there and I consider it an immersive pre-training parenthood camp for me. Max was 7 at the time.

To say Max has grown up would be an understatement.

Max is huge. His head is huge. His shoulders are broad. His torso is massive. He somehow carries a bigness to him that’s hard to explain. I remember looking over at his arm as we drove. It’s not muscular like a weightlifter and it’s not flabby either – it’s just big. Several times in the course of the afternoon when we stood up from our seats I was shocked that Max wasn’t a foot taller that me. He seems like he should be 6’9”. If we’d blown a flat I feel like Max would have simply gone to the rear bumper and lifted the truck up while I changed the tire. He wouldn’t groan with effort or call attention to it. He might laugh about it if you said something. But then he’d set the truck back down once the spare tire was on and climb back into the vehicle.

To go along with the hard-to-define bigness of Max there is a hard-to-define gentle quality about him as well. He’s one of those rare people who listen to every word you say during a conversation. He leans in and nods as you speak. It felt like the simple updates I was giving him about Shani and the boys were precious to him and he would hold them with care in his humongous hands.

As Max and I headed towards the ball park, the first thing we did was try and nail down when we’d last seen each other. In fact, no one in my extended family has seen Max for years. Fact is, he’d been sucked away by a girl.

It was his first long-term relationship. She had anxiety disorder and a messed-up family situation. You can see how Max, with all his patience and soft kindness, got sucked in. You can see how her anxiety attacks before a family reunion meant Max stayed to care for her and sadly let us all know he wouldn’t make it after all. You know this story.

In March they broke up. They have only spoken twice since then – and that was only about logistics of misplaced boxes. That chapter is over. Now Max is headed to Ireland in July to bum around for a month. He even has a layover in NYC and is staying with us for a few days to hang out with my boys. We’re going to drive out together and see my brother and his family. You can see the life return to my cousin, yes?

PHEW! Forgive the long exposition, but family members who read this blog will delight in this update about our Max. And suffice it to say, I was thrilled he was making the drive down from LA to go to the game with me.

Here is a map of the area around Petco Park:

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 7.05.44 PM

The area I circled is the convention center with hotels and restaurants and corporate rich people that can come over and enjoy a game in the nice San Diego weather. However…here’s where we parked:

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 7.09.57 PM

The area I have circled in this image is the area we walked through to get to the park. It was absolutely teeming with homeless people. I’m not talking about a few panhandlers, either. Under the bridges and on the sidewalks along chain link fences there are rows and rows of tents and cardboard shelters. I snapped a few photos.


Petco Park

I was stunned. I suppose homeless people recognize the nice weather as well as anyone else does. Nonetheless, we scored street parking right near the entrance ramp back onto the freeway. We were set. Six blocks later we had walked to Petco Park.


So here’s Petco from the outside. I thought it was an art museum until I saw the sign. And I’ll tell you, the area outside the field was amazing. It was unlike any park I’ve ever been to. There are raised walkways, hanging gardens, and terrace bars. I’ve never had so much fun just getting to my seats. Check out the photos:




We made our way to our seats just just before the first pitch with Hodad’s burgers and cups of good beer in hand. We had cheap seats, but still we had a great view of the field. Here’s our view:

View from PEtco 309


In plenty of parks (Blue Jays, Yanks, Phillies), the view from the cheap seats is substandard. At Petco you can see everything. Max and I sat back in the sun, and instead of watching the game with my normal laser focus, I started jawin’ with my cousin. We talked about the break up with his girl. He told me about his plans to go back to school. I told him all about Shani and the boys. There’s nothing like a ballgame for men to have leisurely conversation. If we’d sat in a living room for three hours it would have been some effort to talk one-on-one for all that time. But at that ballpark, time moved along like it was a cool stream that Max and I were dangling our feet into. And I’m embarrassed to admit it, because normally I’m aware of every ball and strike, but I found myself saying: “What inning is it?”

Mike and Max

In the 3rd inning we headed out to get another round. Right outside our seats was the Stone Brewing Company Bar. If you’re into microbrews you know how special that is. And here came my next baseball sin. Standard protocol for me is to grab beers and get back to my seat as quickly as I can. But here’s this patio bar with seats overlooking the city, two knockout bartenders serving Stone “Petco Park” IPA. Well hell, how could we not sit down and enjoy our beers at the bar and watch the game on the flatscreen. I know it’s sacrilege, but look at this place. That’s it up on the right with the palm trees.

Stone Bar at PETCO PArk

God it was nice. We went back to our seats eventually, and stayed there until the 7th inning when we decided to check out the terrace of the Western Supply Company. Petco Park was built on the site of this beautiful brick building called the Western Supply Company. Instead of tearing it down, they made it part of the stadium. See it out there?

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.53.35 PM

Max and I wandered over there to see if we could watch some of the game from one of the decks. Not surprisingly, it was reserved for private parties, but they let us take a few photos and then we went and sat in right field for the rest of the game.


Western Supply Company

Official NuckolBall recap of the game? This is actually a bit shameful to report.

In the first two innings when the Dodgers were batting it seemed to take forever. They got men on base, walked, stole, hustled, and brought in 2 runs. Conversely, the Padres went down in what seemed like minutes.

Then we went to the Stone Brewery Bar and I could barely see the flatscreen with all the sun — so I missed a few innings.

The middle innings were even and steady. Well-executed groundouts, good pitching, a nice diving stop-and-flip from the Padre shortstop. No runs on either side.

Then we left to explore the terrace. When we finally got seated again I was shocked to find it was the top of the 9th. The Padre catcher threw out a Dodger baserunner with a gorgeous throw and suddenly the crowd was up and the game seemed winnable for San Diego. Just 2 runs.

But it was not to be. The Dodgers are heavy with talent and their closer put the Padres down 1-2-3.

Official NuckolBall review of Petco Park? I’ll say the area outside the actual field is unlike any other park and it is utterly gorgeous. Plus it has the best beer I’ve ever had at a ballpark (which is appropriate for San Diego). But the field itself? I guess I’ll say it’s like the weather in San Diego: “nice”.

It’s funny, I was jotting down the ballgames I’ve been to in the last 5 years and for each and every game I know who went with me. I didn’t have to wrack my brain to come up with it either. Pete, Julio, Patrick, and Reef were with me at the Giants game. With Matt at Dodger Stadium. With Hal for the Rockies. I can name ’em all; it’s an inherent part of each experience.

So with that said, I could not be happier to have gone to Petco Park with my lost cousin Max.


Note there are two Grade A baseball mutants behind us.


Hodad burgers and Sculpin IPA.