Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dining with Grandpa

So, WEEK (NBC-25) lost Eric Shangraw last week to the Peoria Disposal Company.  My favorite news clips from Eric weren't necessarily news, but restaurant reviews from his "You Gotta Eat" segments.  They were never chain restaurants and featured restaurants from Canton to Bloomington.  In fact, that's how Laura and I found Cracklin' Jake's in Banner, IL.  We watched the video clip, it looked good, and off we went!

I think my Grandpa and I should apply to be the new "You Gotta Eat" guys!

I met Grandpa for lunch today at Billy's Phillys on Farmington Road in Peoria.  Apparently this quaint little restaurant has been open for nearly 21 months and somehow it managed to elude my radar until today.  We were greeted by the owner, who took our order, cooked, and served us.  Turns out he is a former carpenter from Philadelphia, which appealed to Grandpa, and he helped build the Phillies' Citizen Bank Ballpark, which kept my interest!  He couldn't find work in Peoria, so he turned to his love of food.
Place your order at Billy's Phillys!

The food was awesome and I thought it was a pretty good value: two cheese steak sandwiches, two drinks, one order of fries, and some TastyKakes for dessert. Total price: just under $20.  The sandwiches were nicely done, I had onions, green peppers, and cheese wiz on mine... mmmm...   The rolls are shipped in daily from a place in Philadelphia and bring good flavor to the sandwich without drowning out the taste the cheese steak, which almost melts in your mouth. 

I've always considered myself a pizza and burger man, but if all cheese steaks were like Billy's, then I might have another "go to" menu item!

Oh, and don't forget the TastyKakes!  Billy's Phillys are the only place locally that you can pick up TastyKakes.  Oddly enough, peanut butter was the variety today, which I couldn't have been happier about.  After tasting one all I can say is, "Happy, Thank You, More Please."  (Which is also the title of the last movie Laura and I watched.  Check it out if you like romantic comedies.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My First Foul Ball

Last night was a big promotional night at the Chiefs game.  The traditional Saturday night fireworks display was the big draw, but I saw many families take advantage of another deal that included 4 hats, 4 meals, and 4 tickets.  Needless to say, the ballpark had a fair number of fans in attendance.

The game started 15 minutes late because the early rains that Peoria saw.  It started raining sometime in the middle of the first inning (7:00-ish), and they stopped play in the top of the fourth around 8:00.  Play resumed around 10:10.  By that time, the powers that be had announced that the fireworks show was cancelled and actual attendance was under 100 people.  The game finished a little after midnight.

I have been to over 100 Chiefs games since they opened the new ballpark in 2002, but I have never caught a ball.  I have had run-ins in the past, but nothing that ever materialized in my favor.

I parked my self up on the right field concourse and was the sole proprietor for the last five and a half innings of baseball.  In the top of the ninth, the two little girls in front of me got baseballs.  The first ball was lost in the seats just below me and I guided one of the girls to its resting spot.  Heck, if I snagged the ball, I would have been heckled!  A couple of pitches later, one landed in the bullpen and her sister was the beneficiary.  Seemingly, all of sudden the territory down right field became a hot spot!  Two batters later I had one land a few feet from me!  No worries, no catching for this log-splitting dude.  I let it bounce twice and quickly snatched it up.

*Warning* - Below follows a rant...  Read at your own discretion!

One of the aforementioned girls looked at me as if to say, "May I please have the ball."  I told her I was keeping this one for myself.   The girls had just corralled their own souvenirs, yet I was still the subject of heckles from the super fan that many of you know as "Red Beard" and his rather large companion.  I was not a big Red Beard fan before this incident, but my opinion is not etched in stone after he called me a jack*ss loud enough for a small minority of fans to hear.  To top it off, Red Beard's friend snagged his third foul ball of the night in the bottom of the ninth, and decided to give two of his three souvenirs away while shunning a young boy.

Be sure to vote in the poll at the top right of the page!

Anyways, I have my first ball and I already have plans for it!  Have a good one!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Let's Review, Shall We?

Things Tom Dislikes

1.  Being hot.  The heat.  Humidity.
2.  Blood and stories referring to it.  (Okay with my own most of the time.)
3.  Mushrooms. (Learning to live with them on pizza, but it's a slow go.)

Change #2 to read, "Blood and stories referring to it.  (NOT okay with my own.)"

Laura and I thought we would burn some calories today by splitting and stacking wood at Mom & Dad's place today.  We're a little more than an hour in and before we knew it we were on our way to the emergency room.

Since this intended to be a PG-13 blog we won't show any "real" pictures of the event, although Nurse Laura has one on her smartphone that I'm sure she'll share if asked.  Here's a little math equation instead:

So, yeah. Um, I'm not Dr. Evil, but his left pinky does look much better than mine. I'm not real big on details (see #2 above), but I guess my pinky has a "minor open fracture" and a decent sized laceration that required 9 stitches to close.

In all honesty, I was due.  Actually, way overdue to do something stupid beyond all doubt.

Many thanks to the ER nurses for not letting me pass out, to Ben for stitching me up, and for Laura being a rock during the whole series of events.

I guess I'm on the DL (disabled list) for at least a week.  Bummer.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rays: Yes, more please!

Tropicana Field has engaged fans, air conditioning, a hitting Hall of Fame, good food, an entertaining baseball team, and a fan friendly ballpark.  I would buy season tickets, and the scary thing is that they are affordable!

We saw a 4-0 shutout of the rival Boston Red Sox, featuring a formerly beloved Carl Crawford (last year was a Ray and left for Boston for big $$$).  Crawford was booed each time he came to bat and then promptly cheered each time he was retired.  Good stuff!

We sat in the upper deck behind some season ticket holders. They were probably in the 60s, but they were an absolute hoot.  They were very into the game and not afraid to get behind their team.

We spent time before the game in the Ted Williams and Hitters Hall of Fame which is located in Tropicana Field.  On display there were numerous Ted Williams items, a player contract signed by Babe Ruth, and then different exhibits on the best hitters of the game.  No Ryne Sandberg material, but Andre Dawson was represented!

Jeff: trying to lose a finger.
During the 5th inning Jeff and I ventured out to the Fish Tank in right-center field and were able to feed and pet the rays.  There were two large southern rays and probably a dozen or so bullnose rays.  Plus, the tank had two horseshoe crabs that I was allowed to pick up off the bottom of the tank!  Pretty cool experience: only ballpark I know of that has a petting zoo!

The makings of a rally were in place in the eighth inning and during a Red Sox pitching change DJ Kitty made an appearance on the jumbotron in right field.  He did his thing for a good minute and it was a riot. He's almost a dead ringer for Gus!  Checkout the youtube video if you get a chance.

Overall, it was a great experience, and if I was forced to retire in Florida, it would definitely be in the Tampa/St.Petersburg area! 

Marlins: if MLB were to contract a team...

It's summer, so that means baseball trips!

Jeff and I flew down to Florida and took in the Marlins/Dbacks game Monday.  What a sad state of affairs the Florida Marlins franchise is. They've won two more World Series in the last 15 years than the Cubs have in the last 100, but that doesn't speak to their ballpark, which is a converted football stadium, or their glaring attendance issues.
Jeff finds a fan!

It was hot & muggy, and we saw some horrid pitching as the teams gave up 30 combined hits and 21 runs.  I'm a pitching guy, that simply will not do!  So I focused on what was going on around me... a bunch of football accomplishments and banners, Billy the Marlin, scantily clad cheerleaders, and more bad baseball.

Jeff and I sat comfortably, spread out, amongst the other 5,000 or so other fans (perhaps an overestimate). Luckily for the Marlins they will be moving into a brand new ballpark in 2012, and the novelty of a new park will bring more fans, but they will only keep attending if the product on the field is worth watching. 

The food wasn't bad, but everything else was bottom of the barrel quality in my eyes.  I had to resort to eating a cordon bleu crepe, because many of the concessions stands were closed!

I don't blame South Florida for staying away.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Things Tom Dislikes

1.  Being hot.  The heat.  Humidity.
2.  Blood and stories referring to it.  (Okay with my own most of the time.)
3.  Mushrooms. (Learning to live with them on pizza, but it's a slow go.)

Running the Chicago 13.1 half-marathon this past weekend did nothing but reaffirm my distaste for the heat.  I trained pretty extensively: 200+ miles over the three previous months.  But my problem was that those miles were logged in fairly cool temperatures.  Saturday was anything but cool.  I had a personal goal of finishing in under 2 hours, but I gave that up at mile 8 when my pace wasn't cutting it any longer and my tank was was empty.  I ended up walking quite a bit the last 5 miles, something I never did in my training, and I settled for a time around 2:14.  For my efforts I may have ended up with a mild case of heat exhaustion; well, that's at least what my intestines and stomach were trying to relay to me.

No worries.  I'm good now.  I'm still not too pleased with my time.  I'm not used to falling short of my physical/athletic goals that I set for myself.  I'll rebound, and may even try another half marathon.  But, Mother Nature is a bearcat, and I'm in no hurry to get back out there.

Just for those that are curious... The start time temperature of the race was 78.  When I finished it was in the middle to upper 80's.  They administrators "black flagged" the race when I made it to the 11 mile mark, which meant they would no longer keep time and we were supposed to slow down or walk.  Ten ended up going to the hospital and there was one unfortunate casualty.  Pretty miserable running conditions on the whole.

Update: I have found pictures of me during the race, although they are all copyrighted and I figure that I shouldn't post them on the web.  C'est la vie.