Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Rick Eymer on the Road

Mark Mauro is an umpire in the Eastern League. The reason that’s important for this particular story is that he’s the reason I was able to visit Miller Park in Milwaukee, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Comerica Park in Detroit, and old-time favorite Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Mauro and I attended the same high school in San Mateo, Calif. (Serra High) that produced Barry Bonds. Mauro later graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. When he was accepted at Umpire school in 1997, I promised him I would visit him at least once every year at what ever level he was working.

That meant trips to Billings, Mont., Medford, Ore., Kane County, Ill. and San Jose, Calif., all various levels of Rookie and A ball, the past few seasons.

Mauro made it to Double-A this year, and I decided, along with friends Randy Vogel, Stephen Vogel and the Hewey family of San Diego (whom all know Mark), to make it a vacation trip. Milwaukee, Detroit and Pittsburgh, all new parks within the past two years, were a must to visit and close enough to Altoona, Pa., where Mark was working that week, to make the trip.

Marty Lurie is also a good friend of mine, and I told him I was bringing along the T-shirt from his radio program on KABL “Right Off the Bat” that he gave me during spring training. I made it my trip shirt.

Randy, Stevie (he’s a 12-year-old from San Jose who knows more about baseball than Randy and I put together) and I flew into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, immediately rented a car and made the trip to Milwaukee.

Miller Park is 180 degrees from County Stadium even if the Brewers are struggling again. The fans in Milwaukee may be the friendlist in baseball.

We began by sitting in the wrong seats, and the couple who came in the first inning to claim them were apologetic for kicking us out. It pained them to do so. Everything about the new parks are available at Miller. We sat in the upper deck as Chan Ho Park beat the Brewers. Our view of left field was slightly blocked, but that’s the only complaint I had about the stadium.

Parking was a pleasure and traffic ran smoothly in and out. Wrigley Field, depite all the new stadiums in the past eight years, is still my favorite. I try to attend at least one game there every year. If there’s one park to visit in the major leagues, this is it. Nestled into a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, it’s what every new ballpark aspires to achieve. We were fortunate enough to be there on a day Sammy Sosa went crazy: four hits, including a home run, six RBIs. A beautiful day.

The next day, we met up with the Hewey family at the Pittsburgh airport, rented a van and drove to Akron, Ohio for a minor-league game between the Aeros and New Britian RockCats. Eddie Taubensee was making a rehab start for the RockCats. Akron has a nice new ballpark that was filled with participants of this year’s Soap Box Derby.

The Football Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a visit to Jacobs Field in Cleveland followed. Our seats were one row from the top of the stadium down the left field line. Needless to say, we couldn’t follow the game very well. The Chicago White Sox beat the Indians, 5-4, as Jose Canseco hit a three-run homer.

In case you didn’t remember that my name is Rick!

We followed the Indians to Detroit the next night, and Cleveland was more successful with Bartolo Colon on the mound. Comerica Park would be the jewel of the majors if some national writer would pay attention. The Tigers paid attention to detail in designing this park, right across the street from Hockeytown Cafe and the Fox Theatre, where Nina Simone was performing that night. We had great seats in the lower level down the left field line.

As good as the fans are in Miwaukee, are as bad as the fans are in Detroit. This is more of a hockey town and it didn’t appear that many of the fans cared about their fellow patrons. The younger fans were especially inconsiderate of others, standing and moving about without concern for the action of the field.

However, the park itself is worth the trip. Detailed work all the way around, with Tigers being the main theme: Tiger statutes, concrete Tigers holding lighted baseballs in their mouth, and the Tiger player statutes out in right center field. Beautifully constructed, and a pleasant place to watch a game despite fans’ behavior.

PNC Park in Pittsburgh also seemed to take all the lessons of its precessors and put it to good use along the Ohio River. It’s a breath-taking stadium. Get there early enough to take the river walk and you won’t be disappointed. Take time to walk around the inside of the park too, and stop by the pizzeria, one of the best deals in sports. Generous portions at a decent price. Brian Giles’ grand slam homer in the bottom of the ninth highlighted a terrific comeback by the Pirates in a 9-7 win. Even three homers by Houston’s Vinny Castilla weren’t enough.

We ended the trip in Altoona, which has a roller coaster just beyond the right field fence. It’s a hoot. Another new park. If you ever run into Trevor Hewey, ask him about, well, I forgot their names, but they were pretty cute girls. We spent two days in Altoona visiting with Mark and his umpire partners. We also saw Terry Mulholland pitch a couple of innings in a rehab start.

It’s great to support your local teams, but baseball can also be enjoyed when you’re on the road. Pick a couple of parks, and Wrigley Field, Comerica Park, Miller Park and PNC Park are good places to start, and you’ll begin to appreciate how baseball is played.

Of course, another way to appreciate baseball is to listen to Marty Lurie’s show on KABL (960 AM in the Bay Area) 1 hour and 10 minutes before every Oakland game.


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