Sports

USA: Day-trip to Oakland for some Freak Pitching, 18 June 2016

O.co Coliseum

18 June 2016: Oakland Athletics vs. Anaheim Angels (Andrew Triggs vs. Tim Lincecum)

We would have been ok either way – staying in Oakland overnight, or simply day-tripping from Seattle for a day baseball game, but the stars aligned perfectly. This also gave me the opportunity to return to Seattle for dinner with my friends. The truth is, we couldn’t have planned the day better. The Angels signed Tim Lincecum after his showcase, and he was slotted to be the starter for this game. As a Giants pitcher for all of his career to date, this will be his first start in any other MLB uniform. It’s always interesting to watch the Freak pitch – the guy has some crazy mechanics to generate sufficient torque to pitch.

Because it was a one-pm game, we didn’t feel compelled to go into Oakland too early, so we booked the 10.20 flight, which arrives in Oakland at 12.30 ish, giving us plenty of time to make it to the Coliseum.

O.co Coliseum

Getting there and back:

The ride from the airport to the Coliseum is really, really easy. The sky shuttle from the airport literally drops you in front of the Coliseum. Unfortunately, it’s not free, even though you don’t have to pay at the shuttle station. You will have to pay $6 to get out of the shuttle and into the BART station, and ditto for the way back from the Coliseum to the airport. Nevertheless, this is about as easy as it gets.

O.Co Coliseum and seating:

Pulling into the O.Co Coliseum from the airport sky shuttle, I can see why people hate the Coliseum. I have no strong feelings about it, but it is a really run-down park. When I pointed it out to my boyfriend, he was in disbelief, and thought I was making stuff up again. Turns out I was right – the run-down stadium is indeed the Coliseum. The stadium itself is also rather run down. The barricades are made of that green plastic that you are more likely to see at older college baseball stadiums. This stadium really reminds me of U Hawaii baseball stadium, the one and only college baseball game I ever attended.

We started our tour from the top (Level 3oo), which offered great views of the stadium. If you want to do panorama shots of the stadium, do it here. Most of the upper level seats were not for sale at this point, with only 3 sections for sale. These tickets are affordable (~$18) and comes with $6 credit on a weekend game.

You can peep into half of the Level 200 seats, but otherwise, the rest are closed-access club seats. The view ain’t too bad, and if you need some shade from the sun shining down, these seats will be great.

Oakland Bullpen Warming Up

We had seats at Level 100, behind the As bullpen. The bullpens are by the foul lines, and the mound is really just right there. If you sit around section 127, you will be right behind the As bullpen. If you are in the business for heckling, you’d be in perfect heckling distance. Or signatures. Whatever floats your boat.

Food: 

They do have some interesting options as well. Price-wise, it’s pretty average for ballpark food. They have a nice looking deli, serving freshly carved sandwiches, and I thought their hamburger poppers ($8) looked really interested. It was a shame that by the time I decided I wanted to try them, the stand was closed by the sixth inning. I wound up with cheeseburger and fries ($10), which was pretty good value and tasty as well.

Overall:

The O.Co Coliseum is probably the most rundown stadium we went to so far. I actually enjoyed it nevertheless. The atmosphere was great – the game was well-attended and the fans are super friendly, and I got to see quite an offensive display by the Angels. Oh, and I specifically picked up Tim Lincecum for this game, and he only gave up 1 ER, and got me a W.

Tim Lincecum is Pitching - first time in Angels uniform

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USA: My Queendom for the A/C in Chase Field, AZ, 11 June 2016

Chase Field

We were in Phoenix earlier this year for Spring Training, but decided to make a second visit this time as part of our US MLB Ballpark tour. After our stressful car rental experience, we booked into the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, which is a couple of light rail stops (~30 min factoring in waiting time and transfers, $2 per ride) from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and a short walk to Chase Field.

I shall come out and state the obvious – Phoenix is HOT in June. I was born and raised in Singapore, where 90+ temperatures are the norm, but man, this was really on the edge of unbearable. We had plans to explore downtown Phoenix, but we ducked into a Carl’s Junior at Talking Stick Resort Arena across the street from our hotel.

Chase Field

Chase Field

It was Native American Day at Chase Field, with a hat giveaway (the hat is really pretty!), so we decided to head over early, to check out Chase Field and check out batting practice. The lines waiting to get in were long!!! I have a couple of fantasy players in the Arizona D-backs vs. Miami Marlins game, so I didn’t mind checking out some of the guys on my team.

Batting Practice @ Chase Field

Hat giveaway

First off, Chase Field is pretty cool. Like Safeco, it can open or close, depending on the weather. It was REALLY hot outside, so it was closed, and they had turned up to the A/C. Inside the stadium itself, it was a nice, cool, 80 degrees.

Native American Day @ Chase Field

Chase Field - Open Roof

Tickets:

They are really cheap relative to many other ballparks. Their club level seats with an all-you-can-eat buffet is $45 even for weekend games. Their home plate seats are available for ~$95, which is great value, considering that these run around ~$300 at other ballparks. They don’t come with special perks like complimentary dining, but if you just wanted to sit behind home plate, this would be a good ballpark to do it.

We got front row seats at the 300 level for $40 for 2 tickets. It offered a great view of the game, though I did have to lean over from time to time because of the railing.

Food: 

They have very interesting options. They have gourmet burgers featured in Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. They also had some other eclectic options like Churro Dog, which is donut patties with a churro wrapped inside, topped off with ice cream. Sugar bomb!!!

But they are most famous for the D-Bat, which is an 18 inch corn dog stuffed with cheese and jalapeños, set on a bed of chips. It’s not cheap at $30, but I guess if you are attending the game with a group of friends who really love corn dogs, it’s a good sharing food.

D-Bat - 18 inch corn dog

I personally went with a Sonoran dog, which is a foot-long hotdog, wrapped in bacon ($11), topped with pico de gallo and beans. It was pretty ok. I wouldn’t rave about it.

Foot-long Sonoran Dog

One note about their souvenir soda cup ($7.50). We were surprised to find out that they do not offer free refills like other ballparks. They only offer $2 refills to their season ticket holders. They do have a bunch of $2.50 for 2 dogs, $2 sodas, and $2 popcorns, but these are limited in supply, and involve standing in line while waiting for fresh batches to be made.

The more interesting food options are one the first level. The third level just has rather standard ballpark fare.

Chase Field Concourse

Self-Upgrading:

This is probably one of the few ballparks where the attendants take their job rather seriously. We were standing along the concourse to take some photos, and were constantly being chased away by the attendants. This was true even in the late innings. This is not a ballpark that would be friendly for self-upgrading.

Overall:

Chase Field is pretty enjoyable. The highlight of the game? I got to see Ichiro get his #2974 MLB hit. He’s now been relegated to the role of pinch-hitter, but I’m still rooting for him to get to #3000.

Ichiro is at bat - got a hit. #2974 in MLB.

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USA: Yes, there’s a beach at Long Beach, CA, 28 – 30 May 2016

Sunset at Long Beach

With my impending departure from the USA, I decided to use my stash of miles and points to travel with my friends and loved ones. My best friend’s little 3 year old loves the beach and children’s museums; I am still on my ball park tour program. Hence, I suggested Long Beach. I transferred some of my UR points and booked 2 nights for my friends at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach. This is my first friend-cation in a long time, and the first time with a toddler.

Queen Mary

Day One:

The hotel check in took longer than expected, and killed 2 hours of our time. On a bright note, the hotel is at a great location, with plenty of restaurants and things to do nearby.

After lunch, we went to visit the Queen Mary, formerly a trans-oceanic cruise liner, which has been permanently moored at Long Beach since 1967. We made the mistake of going into the lego room, and that almost de-railed our whole trip, because Sky (my friend’s toddler) wanted to stay put. We also had some hilarious Sky-in-Titanic-pose shots on the ship. The engine room was really fascinating, and there’s an awesome graphic in that exhibition of where everything used to be, including how different class cabins used to look.

Angel Stadium

In the evening, we parted ways, and drove to Angel Stadium in Anaheim to watch a game. Tickets were cheap, and there’s free parking across the street from the stadium. It was also fireworks night, so we stayed for the fireworks show.

Postgame fireworks @ Angel Stadium

Day Two:

After breakfast at our suite (the club lounge was packed!), we had separate plans from my friends. We took a short walk along the beach before driving to Los Angeles to meet up with my friend who’s relocated there.

Long Beach

She took us to Road to Seoul, an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant in K-town, which was excellent, and great value for money. After a belly-on-wheelbarrow lunch, we tucked into Cafe Terrace that’s just a block down, a very lovely rustic-deco Korean cafe for some coffee.

Cafe Terrace in K-town, Los Angeles

In the evening, we re-joined our friends, who wanted to finally check out the beach. I was still sluggish from food, and Sky’s parents were happy to leave their bundle of terror to my partner, who spent some time playing int he sand with Sky.

This was a very chilled out trip. We didn’t do much, we also didn’t need to do much. We just had a great time hanging out with people we love.

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USA: Mucho sports in Arizona, 26 March 2016

Peoria Sports Complex: Mariners vs. LAD SS

10 30: We woke up too late for the hotel breakfast again. My stomach wasn’t helping. I also convinced mister that the Mariners are kinda unpopular, so we probably can get Spring Training tickets when we arrive at Peoria.

11 00: The line at In & Out by the Peoria Sports Complex is insane. I still couldn’t get the Ultimate Animal-Style Fries from the secret menu (Chili cheese fries), just Animal-Style Fries (Cheese fries). Oh well.

Animal-Style Fries and Choc/Strawberry shake, In & Out

12 00: Yep, nobody loves the Mariners, so we managed to get tickets at the gate. FWIW, if you want to sit at the lawn (the cheapest tickets) on a weekend late in Spring Training, you might want to purchase that in advance. Those were sold out. We did want seats in the stands that were in the shade, because the sun was brutal.

Peoria Sports Complex

15 00: I was falling asleep, so we left in the 7th inning (before Kyle Seager hit his third hit for the day). We got some Starbucks to keep our energy up.

15 30: We checked in at our second hotel in Arizona. We were really pleased with our upgrade!

17 00: Mister suggested we attend a NHL game. I didn’t even know that Arizona has a NHL game. Aye aye, sir! We got tickets via Stubhub. It’s Arizona Coyotes vs. Philadelphia Flyers.

18 15: Time to set out for game at Gila River Arena in Glendale.

Gila River Arena

19 00: At the gate, we found out that the seller on Stubhub either accidentally uploaded expired tickets from two days ago, or did it on purpose to try and cheat a buyer. If it’s the latter, MATT JOHNSON, I hope your p**** falls off. And Stubhub, shame on you for not doing better verification. We did get tickets at the gate, and Stubhub refunded our purchase, and gave us a $20 Fan Code for the next purchase.

21 00: A bunch of goals were scored by the Coyotes, there was a fist fight. That’s all I ask for at an ice hockey game. My stomach was killing me at this point, so I requested we leave by the end of the second period.

Arizona Coyotes vs. Philly Flyers @ Gila River Arena

23 00: We ate a late dinner of leftovers in our suite (I completely forgot we actually had leftovers). The microwave came in super handy.

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USA – Mexico: 8 Tacos bite the Dust, El Centro to Mexicali, 18 March 2016

Accompaniments to tacos al pastor

10 30: We (meaning he) drove to Calexico East, as there was no wait time. We breezed through immigration … so easy to leave, so hard to return!

11 00: He took me to his favorite taco al pastor place that’s by the junction of the street he lived. We killed 5 tacos al pastor each (18 pesos = ~ 1 USD)

Tacos Al Pastor 11 00 – 14 30: Mucho Mexican love. I sat like a deer in headlines (no habla espanol)

14 30 – 15 15: I got treated to a fun activity of how Mexicans find each other. They played car tag, where his cousin and him were calling each other and trying to find each other on the highway. That was an adventure.

15 30: 3 more tacos al pastor bite the dust.

16 00: Raspado. Some Mexican shaved ice thing – my stomach is officially hating me.

Raspado

16 30: More family time for him.

18 30: Time to go to Estadio B-Air. Oh boy, I do love the concession stand offerings there. There’s only so much overpriced hot dogs, burgers and nachos I can eat!

World Baseball Class at Estadio B-Air

19 30: Team Mexico kills Team Nicaragua. The mercy was so sick, Nicaragua fans in the stands were jeering their own team. 😛

22 15: Don’t ever go to Calexico West. We waited for 1hr 40 min to get to immigration.

0030: ZZZZ

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Itinerary: That’s a Lot of Baseball, 17 – 27 March 2016

Thanks to two credit card sign-ups with Southwest, my US baseball plan will be funded by my stash of Southwest points. Beyond that, I also earned the very lucrative Southwest Companion Pass on 02 February, giving me the privilege of taking someone with me for free (well, just the $5.60 security fee and international taxes) from 2016 – 2017.

I have a rather weird itinerary for this trip, because my partner wants to visit his grandparents in El Centro, and he wants to watch the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in his hometown of Mexicali.

17 Mar: Seattle – San Diego – El Centro

18 Mar: El Centro – Mexicali – El Centro

19 Mar: El Centro – San Diego

20 Mar: San Diego – Houston – San Jose, Costa Rica

21 Mar: San Jose, Costa Rica

22 Mar: San Jose, Costa Rica

23 Mar: San Jose, Costa Rica – Houston – Albuquerque

24 Mar: Albuquerque

25 Mar: Albuquerque – Phoenix

26 Mar: Phoenix

27 Mar: Phoenix – Seattle

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Road trip Canada: Vancouver Day 2, 23 January 2016

Vancouver 0600 – Why am I up so early??? I didn’t want to disturb the sleeping mister, so I headed over to the Sheraton Club Lounge, and proceeded to grade 40+ papers on Nazi Germany. Complimentary latte was nice.

0930 – I made reservations at Kirin the day before for a 10 am sitting. We head out. The mister knows he’ll be dead if we miss the reservation.

0950 – Line builds before Kirin opens. Reservations are a good idea.

1000 – Kirin Richmond is decent, but not as good as the one at Kirin Vancouver. Mister’s first experience at the Cantonese restaurant. He’s the only non-Chinese at the restaurant. And the only person who ordered a Sprite. 😀

1100 – We survey the hotel grounds. Pretty impressive for an airport hotel!

1245 – Time to circle round Yaletown in Vancouver. Finding a parking meter that takes credit cards wasn’t easy (they have some on Hornby Street!)

Vancouver

1300 – Long walk across the bridge to Granville Public Market. Why aren’t there stairs that lead directly to it? I bet I can make a fortune with a repelling business. Or bungee jumping to the market.

Vancouver

1330 – Mister now agrees with me that my decision to park at Yaletown was inspired. There was quite a line of cars trying to drive into Granville Public Market. We also found out that we can take a ferry back to Yaletown (3.50 CAD one way, 5 CAD return. Prices might be higher if you go to further parts of downtown Vancouver) The Aquabus leaves every 15 min or so.

Vancouver

1400 – Magicians, buskers, crazy mishmash of goods, kiddie exits at the Kid’s Market, and lots of glorious fresh produce. Mister finally got a crepe – he was happy. I was slightly annoyed that if you paid in USD, they will charge you as if it was at parity with the CAD, i.e. if something is 7 CAD, and you gave them a 20 USD, you will get back 13 CAD. We did need change for our ferry ride, though.

Vancouver

1445 – We got on the Aquabus. We then headed to a cafe on Granville Street for me to get some work done.

Vancouver

1545 – Time to drive to Langley for the game. I messed up – I paid for our lacrosse tickets with my credit card, and we were supposed to take up the tickets at Will Call. I sock-drawered that credit card after meeting minimum spend, and so, it was not in my wallet. (the dangers of this game – there’s a limit to wallet space for credit cards) We’re going early to rectify the situation.

1650 – Guy at Will Call never asked for my credit card. Whew!

1700 – I nap in the car because it’s just 1 hr before the doors at Langley Events Center open, which doesn’t give us enough time to go anywhere. Also, it’s bobblehead night, and mister really wants one.

1900 – First lacrosse game. Where is the ball????? That’s some mad skills right there. Lacrosse is like street soccer with sticks, and some of the violence of ice hockey thrown in. Pity – nobody got into a fight. The Vancouver Stealth got massacred by Colorado Mammoth.

Vancouver Stealth at Langley Events Center

2045 – Sushi restaurants are all closed. We get some Wendy’s, head to our hotel, and that was it for the night.

Wallet Damage?

Food + drinks: 35 USD

Transport: ~5 USD

Game tickets: 25 USD

Accommodation: 64 USD (but I get 11550 IHG points) I could have actually made another redemption to make this night free, but 64 USD for 11550 IHG points is a good value to me.

Total: 129 USD

 

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Tampa FL, USA: Flying into TPA for some Rays baseball, 18 – 20 September 2015

It’s one of my close friend’s birthday, and as a treat, I decided to use my Delta Skymiles to fly us to Tampa, so he can attend games for his favorite MLB team – Tampa Bay Rays.

18 September 2015: Seattle, WA – Tampa, FL (direct on Alaska, redeemed with 12500 Delta Skymiles

19 September 2015: Tampa, FL

20 September 2015: Tampa, FL – Seattle, WA (direct on Alaska, redeemed with 12500 Delta Skymiles)

This isn’t a spectacular redemption or anything, but I am happy with it, because I got him a direct flight from Seattle to Tampa, on one of the best domestic carriers – Alaska, as opposed to my epic, multiple connection redemption to Panama City (SIX different airports! SIX!!!!).

I bought a ticket on Alaska separately for this trip ($385 initially), and used the $100 airline fee credit gift card trick from my AMEX PRG sign-up to offset some of the cost. After learning about the Alaska Airlines Lowest Price guarantee from this informative blogpost, I watched the airfare on Google Flights, and managed to get back $58 in Alaska credits, bringing the actual cost of this flight to ~$227 USD. That’s not too shabby for a 5 hr non-stop flight!

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USA: Day trip to San Francisco CA, 13 September 2015

San Francisco

Taking advantage of the Delta Award sale, I redeemed 10,000 Delta points for a same-day round-trip ticket to San Francisco. I had to plan this quite well, as my main goal was to check out AT&T Ball Park, and so, I had to ensure that I flew in on a day when the Giants were playing a day game at home. The stars aligned for today.

San Francisco

Getting to downtown San Francisco

Getting from SFO airport to downtown is easy. I took the free AirTran to the BART, which sells tickets at the station, and bought a ticket with my Citi credit card to cash in on the 3X transport bonus to Embarcadero ($8.65 – one-way, a fare chart is by the side of ticket booths), as I planned on eating lunch near there before making my way to the game.

Just a small note – you might want to get round trip tickets if you know your plans in advance. I had a lot of trouble locating a machine that took credit cards when I was buying my ticket back from the Montgomery Street Station. I had to try about 7 machines before I got one that took credit cards. The rest took debit/ATM cards. Weird. You do not get a discount for getting round trip tickets.

San Francisco

The BART trains are rather oldish, but comfortable. My tushy appreciates the padded chairs! The train to/from the airport runs every 15-20 min, and the journey takes about 30 mins. The signs should be fairly self-explanatory, and the driver makes announcements at every station.

AT&T Park

I was trying to eat lunch at Rubio’s, which was featured on Business Insider, but guess what? The Embarcadero location is closed on Sundays. Grr!!! It was nice to check out the Ferry Terminal building, and the buildings on Market Street, nevertheless. After striking out on my lunch plans, I simply walked along the waterfront to AT&T park. It was a pretty nice walk, where you see a mixture of older buildings, along with those modern tall glass buildings. I would say it was a 15-20 min leisurely stroll. San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco also has a bike share program alike Seattle (well, Seattle probably copied them, whatever). It costs $9 for 24 hrs, and you can check them out for 30 min stretches, but I have severely strained quad muscles, so riding a bike didn’t seem like such a good idea. So, stroll, it was. There are a number of little eateries along the way, if you want to get your munchies in before going to the ballgame.

I would say I generally liked AT&T park. At the bleachers, it has some nice views of the bay. My friend, who attended a game some time back at the terrace level, didn’t like how he couldn’t get to certain places because of his ticket. I was mostly on the main level with my bleacher ticket, and I thought it was kinda nice. The AT&T Park children’s play area also looked cooler than the Safeco field play area.

One of the nice things about the bleacher area is that, there’s a dining area behind the bleachers. While you cannot watch the game from this dining area, it has picnic tables, and a nice selection of interesting food options (i.e. not just ballpark food) – a crab shack, a seafood stand, a BBQ place, and a taco place. I got a crab and shrimp sandwich ($13.50) from Crazy Crab, which I thought was tasty and fresh.

One small little tip about drinks at the ballpark. They do have soda machines near the kids’ play area, and they sell bottled sodas for $3, and take credit cards as well. I would highly suggest this option, if you want to save some money, but don’t want to drink water either. It is a good deal for ballparks, considering how watered down sodas in cups full of ice cost at least $5.50 usually. If you did not get a chance to see/get on a cable car, they do have a sample cable car by the bleachers.

San Francisco

San Francisco

Unfortunately, after 7 innings, I had to leave, as I did want to check out other parts of San Francisco as well. I walked down 3rd Street, towards Market Street (and Mission Street further south), where the BART runs underground, as I was planning on catching the BART back to the airport. I was gonna check out a cafe, and do some writing in a cafe, but wound up at Ghirardelli chocolate cafe. Apparently, a store attendant handing out free chocolate is all it takes for me to walk into a store! In the short time that I was here, I did like the buildings clustered around Market Street. They have the early 1900s flavor, with ornate carvings, high ceilings. It is a shame that I had so few hours in San Francisco!

Costs:

Flight: $11.20 + 10000 Delta Skymiles

To/From SFO – San Francisco: $17.30

Lunch: $13.50 + $3

Ballpark tickets: $16

Hot chocolate: $5

Total: $66 + 10000 Delta Skymiles

Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa at Ghirardelli, San Francisco (Met Trust building in reflection)

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San Francisco, USA: Day trip to AT&T Ballpark, 13 September 2015

Delta Airlines is having a mileage and airfare sale. There are one-way fares going for 5,000 miles. I had 10,000 Delta miles lying around, which wasn’t good for anything (most domestic one-way airfares start at 12,500 miles), so I jumped on this deal. Because accommodations in San Francisco are prohibitively expensive, I decided to book a day trip to San Francisco, to accomplish one of my side projects – visiting all the MLB parks in the US! I found two non-stop one-way tickets, with the first arriving in SFO at 10.45 am, and the second one-way ticket leaving SFO at 7 pm. That’s time enough for me to take in the 1 pm game, and do some sightseeing around San Francisco!

So, for 10,000 Delta Skymiles and US 11.20, San Francisco, here I come!

Stuff I want to do:

1. Eat In&Out again

2. Ride the cable car

3. Check out a coffee shop

4. Watch a Giants game.

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