Beer.

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A recent Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.

I like beer. It’s a very refreshing drink on a warm summer day, or a great way to wind down from a long week at work. Over the past 5 years, my taste in beer has changed.  Luckily for me, most places that I attend on a regular basis, have embraced the craft beer movement.  U.S. Cellular field is no different.

For 7 years I lived in Huntington Beach, CA.  California has become a beacon for the craft beer industry, but sadly I stuck to my watered down American domestics during my time out there.  It makes me sick now, but that is just the way it was.  It took years for me to understand that since I liked Guinness, I would more than likely enjoy other stouts.  In 2010, along with my brother-in-law, I traveled to Minneapolis, MN for Soundset. We meet up with a high school friend at Brit’s Pub, which is a lovely place to grab a drink.  While we we sitting at the bar, one beer seemed to sell more than all the others.  While drinking my Guinness, I remarked to my brother-in-law, that we had to try this beer since everyone was drinking it.  Without missing a beat, the bartender threw me a taster of this mystery beer.  I took a drink and it tasted like a beer infused grapefruit. I loved it.  That beer, it turns out was Surly’s Furious. Great beer, I was hooked.

Later that year, I was in Rock Island, IL at RIBCO watching the Smoking Popes.  I had been drinking a bunch of local stouts and trying whatever I could. While there I asked for a coffee stout and the bartender threw me a taster of Founders Breakfast Stout. Delish. I had two before I noticed my ears getting hot and feeling the booze just a little.  Later that month, I bought a case of Breakfast Stout.  I love that beer.  That began my love affair with craft beer which continues to this day.  Always try something new, always try the local fare.

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A long summer night in 2014.

U.S. Cellular Field has a pretty good array of craft beer that will keep most beer lovers happy.  They have their “Beer’s Of The Midwest” stands (Sections 108, 124, 142, 155 & 531) that have a great selection of craft and domestic offerings including: Revolution Anti-Hero IPA, Lagunitas IPA, Lagunitas Day Time Pale Ale, MillerCoors Smith and Forge Hard Cider, Miller Fortune, Veteran Beer Company Blonde Bomber Ale and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.  Behind section 113 (and 513) is the secret gem though.  If the game is poorly attended, these stands might not be open, which is always a damn shame.  At these stands they pour 24oz drafts of both Revolution’s Anti-Hero and Lagunitas IPA.  Last year they were $9.75 a draft which is 40¢ an oz.  For comparison, the 16oz Lite’s that they sell for $8 are 50¢ an oz.  But this year, the Sox have increased the price of these drafts to $10.75 which is still a pretty decent deal at 45¢ an oz.  Also consider that the ABV of Anti-Hero is 6.5%, Lagunitas IPA 6.2% and Lite is 4.17%.  So not only do you get a great tasting beer, you also get drunker if you are into that sort of thing.

I go to games with a group of guys that are big beer drinkers, well, big drinkers in general.  Most nights or days start on a porch by the field, drinking some beers.  Most nights end at that same porch or at ChiSox Bar and Grill (maple wings / half price).  I would say that most of us appreciate a fine malted beverage, but when mass consuming them (like we do most of the time) we stick with the domestic stuff.  I’ll drink a Lite with the best of them, I think every Beer Snob needs to have that domestic fall back.  I was a huge Bud Light fan back in the day, but they don’t serve that at the Cell.  I also have been known to drink a TON of Busch Light, but that isn’t available either.  This year they offer MGD, Lite and Coors Light in the seats for $8.  Pretty decent selection that I am sure encompasses about 90% of beer drinkers.  You also can get a Summer Shandy in the seats, but that is $9.25, and Summer Shandy isn’t worth a $1.25 more.  Guys I roll with like Miller High Life, which is pretty damn hipster.  I like it also, but after a few good beers it is pretty darn hard to choke down.  Lite seems to go down pretty easy regardless.  So Lite is my fall back, which is crazy to me, since that is a beer I have talked so much shit about. Welcome to Chicago I guess.

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Opening Day 2015. Anti-Hero.

So for 2015, I have decided to bring back my blog, but only to talk about the game experience and anything else that I might wanna bitch about in general.  There are plenty of baseball blogs that do a baseball analysis much better than I ever could.  So if you are looking for that, seek them out. I had some loyal followers back in 2012, hope some of you give me a chance again this season.  I can’t say how many blogs I will do this year, but I have started and have a few ideas already cooking.  If you want, follow me on Twitter or Facebook.  MySoxSummer is at both places.  I don’t do either that regularly, but I try to at least check in for the games.  If you need to contact me, send me an email at mysoxsummer@gmail.com.  Thanks for reading and looking forward to seeing you all at a game this season!

Da Stats.

A bunch of people were asking for me to release the stats of My Sox Summer, so here you go!  Not a detailed account, but enough for what ails ya.

I saw the Twins the most at 9 games.  Tigers were second with 8 games.

My win / loss record was 31 W – 22 L.

I bought 40 tickets from the box office and 13 from scalpers, including the free tickets.

My first 10 games cost $103. My second 10 cost $19. My 3rd ten cost $111. My 4th ten cost $95.  My 5th ten cost $49. My final 3 games cost $3.

I sat in the upper deck 31 times and in the lowers 22 times.  (I did walk down to the lowers a few times and had a suite experience one time too)

I lost two Whitetail Unlimited koozies, within a week mind you.  And I broke my streak of no “#2’s” at the Cell at game #49.  Dang delish mexican food!

I walked down to the park 52 times and walked back 53 times. 1 game was cancelled due to rain, 1 game was called due to rain. Just a couple delays.

I made an accounting error somewhere along the line, and I will check this when I go through my tickets, but my final money total was $380.  I missed $12 somewhere along the way.  Now, I did buy a ticket voucher package for $45 from Smart Circle.  I sold 3 of those vouchers for $25, so if you add in that $20 I am at a round number. A round $400 for 53 games.  Still a pretty good number.

So those are the stats! If you have any direct questions you can tweet them to me @mysoxsummer or email me at mysoxsummer@gmail.com

Thanks for reading folks!

Game 53- 9/29/12 – Sox vs. Rays (My Final Game of 2012)

I took a video while I walked to the park this day, which I will post at a later date.  I plan on making a video with all the pictures and tickets set to some music.  I hope to have some time soon to do it, but be patient.  It’s gonna be a long off season so I think I will be done before 2013.  Ha.

On my walk in I met up with Soxman (@thesoxman72) and Bat Boy who were both great guys.  What I found very funny was that Soxman talked to Bat Bay using only the Bat Boy name. It was just by chance that we ran into each other, but it was a great end. We talked about the organization and attendance, would love to get a beer with this guy in the off season.  Was nice to meet ya!

After the loss the day before, it was a rough walk to the park, but I was still excited when the music started at the Cell. The game was what the season had become in the last few weeks.  No offense to back up decent pitching from a rookie.  The crowd was rough on the team that many had cheered on only weeks previous, especially when the playoff tickets sold out.  I don’t wanna call some fans out as being fair weather, but many there were.  It was tough one to watch, but after it was over, I didn’t want to leave.

I walked around the park and went down to the dugout to talk with other Sox fans.  Took some pictures and just soaked it up.  Thanks White Sox for an unexpected season that make this quest for me one that I will remember all my life.  Something that I hope my kids (god-forbid) see and admire.  It was a fun time and I met a bunch of great people along the way.

Next year I won’t be at as many games, but I will go to as many as I can. My father and I are gonna try to go to all the AL Central stadiums to see the Sox play.  Hope we can do it with a work schedule that I hope to have by next summer.  And regarding that, if you ever need printing or graphic design work done, please check out my website at

www.midwest-creative.com

Thanks for following my blog! Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed doing it.

Game 53- $367 ($1, box office. Thanks Smart Circle!)

Game 52- 9/28/12 – Sox vs. Rays

 

Well, this was the end.  The Sox lost this one and the season was pretty much over.  Not because of the game lead or anything, but rather the Sox just looked beat out there.  Sale had an awful game and the pitching was just dismal.  They gave up 10 runs on 13 hits.  If O-Dog hadn’t hit the grand slam in the 8th, we would have been shutout.

The fans really turned on this team, which I expected, but it was still sad to see.  It soured a great season for Sale which also was sad.  Just wish we could have has the offense in this final home stand, but that’s baseball folks.  And that is the exact reason I love and hate this sport all the same.

Game 52- $366 ($1, box office. Thanks Smart Circle!)

Game 51- 9/27/12 – Sox vs. Rays

This was a rough one for me.  The Sox won, but it was the final night game. I stayed a little longer after the game and just soaked up the night and air from my perch in section 530.  I didn’t know it, but it was the last W I would see in 2012.  A pretty cool fall night, the best in the midwest.

That pic is one of my most favorite of the year.  These seats in the uppers are the best by far.  Just a little to the left of the plate so you can see the pitch.  I enjoyed them very much.  The Sox had the offense that night to get the W which was good to see, but we were still down a game with only 5 left.

Game 51- $365 ($1, box office. Thanks Smart Circle!)

Game 50- 9/27/12 – Sox vs. Rays (In honor of Devin)

So here it is.  My 50th game this summer. White Sox are 1 down for 1st place and are battling for their lives. And my game partner is also my partner in life, my live-in girlfriend Devin. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Devin decided that she wanted to go to this game because it was NIU night and we also knew it was gonna be my 50th. The Sox and NIU are both instrumental in our relationship so it was a nice way to celebrate game number 50. We went early to enjoy some beers in the lot with fellow NIU alum Brian, Kristie Lynn, Natalie and Brad. Brian brought the good beers for Devin and I pounded Bush Lights, like every good kid from the Sauk Valley does.

It was also Lily’s first game, she is an NIU baby from Brian and Kristie.  So my 50th was her first ever. Pretty sweet if ya ask me.

So it was set up for a great time.  My friends Bridget and Sam met us in there and so did another Brian who dates my cousin’s wife’s sister.  Ha.  We didn’t see him, but he was there for support.  I filled out a survey earlier and the Sox gave me two free tickets in the lowers, we sat by the bullpen.  Thanks Sox!

I got an Italian combo for dinner, which was great. Before we sat down we ran into Victor E. Huskie and Southpaw was right up the way.  We walked up to them and got a pic. Which Southpaw RT’d later. Thanks buddy!

The White Sox also RT’d my message before the game which was great to see-

So back to Devin. She has been very supportive this summer of my quest, which I am very thankful for.  I am also very thankful for her being in my life.  She just provides me with what I have been looking for all my life.  It’s been a great year plus with her and it only gets better.  So thanks Devin for taking an underemployed artist in and loving me all the same. I love ya and can’t imagine my life without you.

Unbeknownst to me, there was a plan this night and it came up in the 3rd inning.  I had just joked with Devin that she should be watching the scoreboard cause there might be a message up there for her.  And then this came up-

So thank you Bridget and your cousin! That was a great treat and a sight to behold.  I saw on a message board that someone saw it and knew what it meant, so that was cool too.  I made the scoreboard! It was a great night.  Just wish the Sox would have played better.  Jake pitched a decent game, but we just didn’t have the energy or hitting to win this one.  Still a great night spent with my love and friends on a cool night in September.

So thank you to EVERYONE that helped me achieve this goal.  It was a great summer, and even though the result wasn’t what I wanted, I still had a great time.  My 50th was as much fun as my 1st, and that is all that matters.

Game 50- $364 ($1, I already bought a ticket for the game. Thanks Smart Circle!)

Game 49- 9/26/12 – Sox vs. Tribe (In Honor of My Friends)

Most of my friends have been my friends since grade school. Despite miles between all of us, we have made an effort to keep in touch and get together as much as possible.  It just so happened that my buddy Anthony was in town this week and I had an extra voucher for a ticket. So I took in my first professional baseball game with my good friend.  He’s always been my other White Sox friend, so it was cool he was there for my 49th.

In high school, Anthony, Matt and I hung out alot.  We started a band, we watched tons of movies, listened to tons of music.  I couldn’t imagine my high school years without either of them. Both great guys and no matter how much time has passed we still pick right up from the last visit. Thanks guys.

This was a rough one too.  The Sox moved into second place with the loss. hard one to take.  There wasn’t a lot of people at this game either so we moved down to the same seats as the day before behind the dugout.  The closest my buddy has ever been.  It got ugly with the fans, lotta booing.  That is one thing I will never get, boo the other team, the ump, but not your own squad.  Years ago, Chester Frazier was a point guard for the Fighting Illini basketball team.  For the first part of the year Chet was booed every game.  But by the end of the year, he was running the offense of a great basketball team with awesome perfection.  Towards the end of the regular season, Chet hurt his ankle and the Illini struggled the rest of the way and lost the 1st game in the tournament.  I felt that this was karma from the booing earlier in the season.  Who knows, but  you should always support your players.

So down one, with my big game coming up.  I was hoping that we could take out the Rays.  We’ll see!

Game 49- $363 ($0, gift from my cousin and godson)

Game 48- 9/25/12 – Sox vs. Tribe (In Honor of Baby A.)

Recently, after a long time coming, my sister announced that she is pregnant with her first child.  Which means by default I will become an uncle for the first time.  They don’t know (and don’t wanna know) what they are having so in the odds that it is a boy (or a girl who likes sports) this game is for him or her.  You are gonna make my sister and bro-in-law so happy and be coming into a great home with two great people.  You have a great grandma and grandpa too, who can only be accused of caring too much.  I (much like most of the family) can’t wait to see you and watch you grow.  Love ya already.

Well, this starts the fall down.  The Sox lose a tough one to the Tribe.  I was in the uppers but about the 3rd inning I moved down to behind the dugout.  I saw a ton of extras down there, and plus it was in the sun so many people had moved. Great seats, especially for free!

It was a great day for a ball game, amongst the 13k people there.  Now, this game was a time change so I get why attendance was low. But the other games there was no excuse.  You could kinda hear the air coming out of the sails and the fans started turning on the team.  We lost the game and were now tied with Detroit for 1st.

Game 48- $363 ($0, gift from my cousin and godson)

Game 47- 9/24/12 – Sox vs. Tribe (In Memory of my Grandpa Darkow)

My 47th game is in loving memory of my step-grandfather Harold Darkow.  If you have read my earlier post, my fraternal grandfather passed when I was 2.  If you haven’t read it, here’s the link-

https://mysoxsummer.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/game-45-91212-sox-vs-detroit-in-memory-of-my-grandpa-swartley/

How my step-grandfather came into my life is a great story, two people (both who had lost their spouses) fell in love and married for companionship. When I was a kid, Grandpa Darkow wasn’t the easiest person for me to be around. It wasn’t till years later I learned why, he made me work and didn’t kiss my ass like my grandma did. He was very disciplined but yet hard work was rewarded and I always had a bunch of fun with him too.  Later in life me and my grandpa (which I bet most of my cousins will say too) bonded over drinks and dinner. My grandmother fell and was confined to a wheelchair and my grandpa took care of her for the remainder of her life, which was quite the feat.

On a side note, the first time I saw my grandmother after she fell, I was in tears and my grandmother in her wheelchair says “Oh look at you Jacob, when did you get so fat?”  Just a little way to show me that she was ok and we could still joke around like before.  That same weekend we were having dinner at my cousins house and my grandma yelled out when deserts were served “I bet Jacob wants more pie!”.  Miss and love ya grandma.

I would call my grandma and grandpa as much as I could and many times I did it during my commute from work.  Great coming of age conversations.  My grandma telling me I should make commercials like the Aflac duck cause it was funny. Listening to them talk about what they ate the day or night before.  Fun times.  After my grandma passed the calls didn’t stop.  I was stuck in traffic one Thanksgiving weekend (I was driving from Cali to AZ) and em and my grandpa talked for 2 hours.  He was always just a phone call away, and most Fridays I would call him just to talk about what was going on in our lives.  I can not imagine who I would be without him.  He was a huge influence in my life and taught me many things.  He stepped up for my grandma and my family.  Just a great person who is missed dearly by my whole family, especially me.

Ironically, my grandfather was from Ohio, and he was a huge Tribe fan. He would have been calling me before this series talking crap, like he did with the Bulls and Cavs epic series years before.  But this night the Sox got the better of the Tribe.  I sat in the uppers and ended up meeting with Deb and Dave in the 3rd inning.  We watched Dunn hit his two homers (oddly his final ones of the year) and the season outlook was coming back around.  They had a rough road trip, losing 5 of 6 so this win was a big one.

  

This was also the game I noticed the crowd.  It was half price night, Sale was on the bump, and there was maybe 15k fans there.  I tweeted about it-

Half price night, Sale is pitching, fucking no one here. Kinda ashamed of local Sox fans right now. Be lucky to get 16k tonight.

It’s been a huge debate in the media here about the attendance and this game sealed it for me.  What more can the Sox do? 1st place, Sale, tight race to win the AL Central.  It was sad to see.  I don’t blame the fan or the team for 100% of the problem.  The one thing I would change, but I know it won’t, is the parking.  $20 to $25 for parking keeps some people away.  If there 4 people going, $20 isn’t bad to split.  But for two of you, that is crazy.  Maybe drop the price during the week to $15 or less, or even offer a free parking pass if you buy tickets through the internet. I couldn’t have done this quest if I had to pay for parking every game.

Game 47- $363 ($7, box office)

Game 46- 9/13 (17) /12 – Sox vs. Detroit (In Honor of My Dad)

I was gonna wait till a later game to honor my father, but due to the rain out we got to attend this one together.  The person most responsible for my love of baseball is my father. He’s a huge Sox fan and also taught me the patience to enjoy this great game.  Growing up, my father was working his ass off to provide for his family and run his own business, so Sox games were a premium.  We didn’t go to many but it’s understandable when we lived 2+ hours away from the Cell.  But when I moved away, we had two things that we kept up on together- Fighting Illini basketball and White Sox baseball. Lotta phone calls during 2005 when both teams had great seasons.  He came out to Cali for a weekend filled with baseball, more than once.

My father is an amazing man, and I would not be who I am without him.  He’s always been pretty honest with me and let me go out there to make my own mistakes.  Years ago, I had a great tryout in a baseball practice.  I was up for a pitching spot, and I was pretty amped.  I went back the next day and they told me I couldn’t do it cause I was too old and I had to move up. It was a hard one to swallow. My birthday was right on the cusp of the cutoff.  I was always one of the youngest in my class, so I developed a little later, which wasn’t good for my athletic career.  In any case, when I was told I couldn’t pitch I was rather upset.  My father told me then, and I still think of it now, “There is always gonna be someone better than you and you will be better than someone.”.  I think it was lost on me then, but I still remember that.

So thanks Dad for passing on the values that make me who I am.  Allowing me to go out into the world and become the person I am today. Thanks also for being the one person I can ask to help me move.  You are a pretty amazing guy and I hope I have shown you that.  One hell of an example of how to be a father, husband and friend.  Thanks, I look forward to the next game and the one after that.

 

 

I first tried to go to this game on the 13th.  The game was postponed because of weather, which seemed kinda odd since they played in worse weather than it was that night.  It was gonna be Sale vs Verlander, and I was pretty happy to get to see that.  Bears were playing the Pack that night, but eff that, we have a chance to make the playoffs, it’s not football season yet.  So the game got called and was to be played on Monday.

My folks came into the city on Saturday and they decided to stay till Monday so my dad and I could attend the game.  Due to a friend (Thanks Lisa!) getting me a great ticket from Thursday, we had some pretty sweet seats. They were pretty relaxed with letting most people sit downstairs so we had a full house down there.

It was pretty electric.  Obviously the Sox needed this win to go up 3 games, which would be great in our last game vs the Tigers for the season.  Quintana faced off against Fister, not a Sale / Verlander championship match, but pretty damn close. This was playoff baseball.  Sox got down early but turned it around in the 4th.  They played tough baseball and worked for all the runs they got.  No home runs and we still got the W, which is pretty amazing.

Easily was the best game of the season so far for me and I was glad to have my dad sitting right next to me.

Game 46- $356 ($7, box office)