Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

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Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

The 2014 Eagles schedule is finally out, and for thousands of fans, now it’s time to figure out which road game to go to.

We’ll eliminate East Rutherford and Washington, which are close enough for a day trip (not that you’d want to take a day trip to East Rutherford), and focus on the Eagles’ six other 2014 destinations.

So let’s take a look at the six potential weekend road trips for Eagles fans who like to travel. We’ll rank them in order, from best trip to worst, and give you some ideas for what you can do with your free time.

San Francisco, Sept. 28
If you haven’t been to the Bay Area, you simply have to go. Eagles game or not, it’s one of the greatest destinations in the Lower 48.

Plus, this year, you get the benefit of seeing the 49ers’ new stadium, the spectacular Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, about 45 miles south of downtown San Francisco. Anything would be an upgrade over the dilapidated Candlestick Park, but word is that Levi’s Stadium will be one of the league’s best facilities.

Top five attractions
1. Marin County, the Redwoods, Wine Country: To really appreciate the area, you need to drive north of San Francisco and experience the spectacular natural beauty of Marin County and nearby Sonoma and Napa counties. Wineries, redwood parks, the coastline ... a day north of San Francisco is worth the trip.

2. The Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Point: It’s not just a bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge affords amazing views of the city, the bay, Alcatraz, the ocean. There’s a pedestrian walkway across the bridge and Vista Point on the west end of the bridge, where you can park and take pictures. Best of all is Golden Gate Point on the Marin County side, accessible via Conzelman Road off Rte. 101 south. This is the vantage point seen on the cover of the Grateful Dead’s Dead Set, and the views are just astonishing.

3. Alcatraz: A short cruise from Pier 43 gets you to the Rock, and tours of the notorious prison and its grounds are available. Check out the cells once occupied by Al Capone, the Birdman of Alcatraz, Machine Gun Kelly and Whitey Bulger. Warning: Don’t go if you’re easily creeped out.

4. Fisherman’s Wharf: A little touristy, but the Fisherman’s Wharf area has tons of shops, bars, restaurants and vendors, plus the Wax Museum, the famous sea lions and the Pier 39 marketplace.

5. Lombard Street: Drive down the world’s crookedest street. Why? Why not. You’ll understand when you get there. But keep it slow. The speed limit is 5 mph.

Arizona, Oct. 26
Once upon a time, the Cardinals were in the NFC East, and it was good. It didn’t make geographical sense, but I wasn’t about to complain about an annual trip to the Valley of the Sun.

These days, a trip to Arizona is rare, and it’s highly recommended.

Top five attractions
1. The Grand Canyon: You’ve seen pictures, and trust me. They do not do it justice. You simply have to see the thing before you die. It is insane.

2. Sedona: If you don’t have time to make the 3½-hour trip to the Grand Canyon, Sedona is a heck of a consolation prize. Block after block of New Age shopping mixed with the spectacular beauty of the Sonoran desert makes Sedona one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

3. Historic Scottsdale: The ritzy northern suburb of Phoenix was once named the most livable city in the U.S. and it’s still one of the most visitable cities, with high-end shopping, restaurants, hotels, spas, much of it centered in Old Town. Oh, and bring your debit card, you’re going to need it.

4. Tonto National Forest: Driving through this vast wilderness area northeast of Phoenix is like driving through a living postcard. Cactus, wildlife, giant shards of rock jutting out of the ground, plenty of hiking areas ... just please watch out for snakes.

5. Montezuma Castle: You won’t believe your eyes when you see the 12th-Century cliff dwellings about an hour and a half north of Phoenix. Breathtaking. Just think ... people lived there nearly a thousand years ago. Crazy.

Green Bay, Nov. 16
There isn’t a whole lot to Green Bay other than the Packers, but if you’re a hardcore football fan, you have to make the pilgrimage to Green Bay at some point.

Top five attractions
1. Lambeau Field: Like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, Lambeau is one of a dying breed -- a stadium that manages to mix historic charm with modern amenities. It opened 15 years before the Vet, and it’s still as majestic as ever.

2. Packers Hall of Fame: Even if you’re not a Packers fan, you’ll appreciate the history of an NFL franchise that dates back to 1921. And several of the members have area ties -- long-time Eagle Reggie White of course, Mount Laurel native Dave Robinson and Philly native Herb Adderley among them.

3. Green Bay trolley tours: A great way to see the city and learn about the Packers and their history is the narrated trolley tours.

4. Outagamie County Historical Society: Located in nearby Appleton (where you’ll probably be staying), the historical society includes a display about the life of notorious senator Joseph McCarthy.

5. Hazelwood Historic House: The best example of Greek Revival architecture you’ll find in Green Bay. Seriously. (And, yes, finding five things to do in Green Bay isn’t easy, but it’s still a great trip!)

Dallas, Nov. 27
There’s the Grassy Knoll, and there’s everything else. Just like visiting the Grand Canyon is mandatory when you’re in Arizona, making your way to the Grassy Knoll and book depository is mandatory when you’re in North Texas.

Top five attractions
1. Dealey Plaza: Even all these years later, you still get chills exploring Dealey Plaza, the grassy knoll and the site of the Texas School Book Depository, where President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. There’s now a museum in the old book depository. Any list of things to do in Dallas has to start at Dealey Plaza.

2. Jerry’s World: The Cowboys’ new stadium, now called AT&T Stadium, is so ridiculous it has to be seen to be believed. It’s absurdly huge, hopelessly garrish and hilariously over-the-top. If you’re going to the game, make sure you allow extra time just to walk around and soak it all in.

3. George W. Bush Presidential Center: You don’t have to be a Republican to appreciate the history of one of only four two-term Presidents of the last 50 years. The Center is more historical than political, and even the most liberal Eagles fan will find plenty to see at the Bush Center.

4. Geo-Deck: From 470 feet above Dallas you’ll get the best views of Dallas and the entire North Texas region.

5. Cowboy Hall of Fame: No, not the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame. This is the museum of actual cowboys. Hey, you’re just not going to find this stuff in Pennsauken.

Indianapolis, Sept. 15
No major city in the United States has grown in recent years as much as Indianapolis. Thanks in great part to the 2011 Super Bowl, Indy has added tons of new restaurants, hotels and attractions. It’s actually not a bad place to go these days.

Top five attractions
1. The Speedway: Whether or not you’re a NASCAR fan, the Brickyard is definitely worth checking out. There’s an Indy 500 museum and gift shop, lots of cars from throughout Indy 500 history and even a bus that takes you around the track ... a little slower than you’re used to.

2. Hinkle Fieldhouse: Once upon a time, Butler’s fieldhouse was the largest college arena in the country. Those days are gone, but along with the Palestra and Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym it’s one of the oldest and most historic on-campus arenas in college basketball. Hinkle opened in 1928, one year after the Palestra and three years after Rose Hill.

3. The Eiteljorg Museum: Located in the center of town, the Eiteljorg hosts countless Native American artifacts and artwork of Western artists.

4. Indianapolis Zoo: An easy walk from downtown across the White River, the Indy Zoo is one of the nation’s best, and it’s located within the White River State Park, a terrific destination in itself.

5. Fountain Square: Fun little neighborhood just south of downtown with tons of Bohemian shops, unique bars and restaurants and diverse attractions.

Houston, Nov. 2
OK, let’s face it. You don’t want to go to Houston. You’d rather spend a weekend in East Rutherford. But ... we’ll try here.

Top five attractions
1. NASA Space Center: The Johnson Space Center’s visitors center features lots of exhibits, displays, interactive games and theaters and even a restored space shuttle capsule that you can go inside.

2. Battleship Texas: Located just east of Houston in La Porte, the Battleship Texas rests now at the mouth of Trinity Bay. The Texas, first launched in 1912, participated in both World War I and World War II and has served as a museum since 1948.

3. The Beer Can House: Yes, there’s a house made out of beer cans. About 50,000 of them. This probably should have been ranked higher.

4. Underground Houston: A 7½-mile network of tunnels connects most of the buildings in downtown Houston and features tons of bars, restaurants and shopping areas. It’s great, since it allows you to not actually have to see Houston.

5. The Strand District: Located about an hour from Houston, the Strand is a historic landmark in Galveston filled with antique shops, galleries, restaurants, clubs, museums and hotels. Worth the drive.

Todd Herremans recalls unforgettable draft-day call from Eagles

Todd Herremans recalls unforgettable draft-day call from Eagles

When the Eagles held training camp at Lehigh, the day the full team reported to camp was marked by a parade of flashy, high-end vehicles.

In 2009, however, offensive lineman Todd Herremans drove up in something else.

A black — actually matte black — van.

“It was like a crossover — Scooby Doo, A-Team," Herremans said on this week's edition of the Measured Takes podcast with Amy Fadool and Marshall Harris.

Why a black van? Herremans explained how his first couple vehicles were minivans, the second a hand-me-down from his parents, which he drove in college and as a rookie in the NFL.

“After I started to buy different cars, wasting my money — I always drove these mom vans — I was like, you know what, I’m going to make a manly van. Hence the black van," he said.

Herremans, who spent 10 years with the Eagles and last played in 2015 with the Colts, discussed several topics in the podcast (listen here), including how football players can benefit from using marijuana (speaking of the black van), and the NFL draft — and about how he became a Philadelphia Eagle.

The Eagles selected Herremans in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of Division II Saginaw Valley State. 

“I went to a small Division II school in Michigan and had a pretty tight group of friends there. I went to a very small high school and had a pretty tight group of friends there too. Mostly family and a few other close friends.

“So when I was thinking that I was going to get drafted, it was pretty big news. We had all of my high school and college friends over to my parents’ farm. We just kinda hung out there, set up some tents and campers in the backyard, and hung out and watched the draft and partied. Had a keg. Might have smoked a pig. It was a good time. 

"We thought that we were going to get picked on the first day. For some reason. Because that was rounds one through three back then. Maybe I was being a little overambitious, but I thought that some of the coaches that I had talked to while I was traveling around were telling me, ‘two or three — it looks good for you. If you’re there, we’re going to take you.’ I’m like OK, perfect. 

"We’re sitting there, and after the draft ended that day, we’re all feeling pretty good, but a little let down. Like ah, didn’t happen, oh well. But I’ve got all my friends over, might as well go to the bar! So we went to the local watering hole and just got into it. We were up late, and then the next day when the draft started, we were all just laying around, like hungover, couldn’t even know what was going on. Half awake. My phone rang. 

"So I jumped up and I went over and I answered it. I think it was (then Eagles general manager) Tom Heckert. (He said) 'Hey Todd, Tom Heckert, Philadelphia Eagles. Hang in there, I think we’re going to trade up for you right here.' I was like oh — hungover — like huh, that sounds good. 

"It just happened. He goes, ‘Welcome to the Philadelphia Eagles.’ I was like, oh OK cool. (He goes) ‘Here’s (offensive line coach) Juan Castillo.’ So I don’t even get to talk to my family or anything. I look in the room. It’s on the TV. Everyone is going nuts and (Todd impersonates Castillo) Juan’s like, ‘Hey, hey Todd how you doing? You got a second?’ Anything Coach, I just got drafted! 

"So I got into the next room away from everybody cheering and popping champagne and everything — and install offense for the next 40 minutes with Juan Castillo. Then he’s like, hey sounds like you’ve got your stuff together, you’ve got a good handle on this, go enjoy this time with your family and we’ll see you in a little bit. So when I meet up with my family, nobody’s hungover anymore, my family and friends — they’re all drunk again. 

That's odd, because those are normally perfunctory phone calls that last a couple minutes at the most.

“I think they are,” Herremans said.

But not this one.

“Juan’s a special guy," Herremans said. "Because Juan was a Division II guy (Texas A&M Kingsville), and he’s drafting me, a Division II player, I think we had an immediate connection in just the way we got along. I respected him. He respected me. Both hard workers. And we just clicked. So I don’t know, he know I wold stick on the phone with him for 40 minutes because I was from a Division II school, and he knew it would be an uphill climb for me.”

Listen to the rest of the podcast and subscribe to Measured Takes.

Nick Pivetta excited for big-league debut — even if rainout delays it a few days

Nick Pivetta excited for big-league debut — even if rainout delays it a few days

The Phillies' starting pitching rotation, for the time being, features four arms that were acquired in trades that have coincided with the team's rebuild, which started after the 2014 season.

Nick Pivetta will become the latest to join the group when he is officially activated. He was in the Phillies' clubhouse Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled to pitch on Wednesday, but those plans changed when Tuesday night's game against the Miami Marlins was postponed because of rain.

No makeup date was announced.

The rainout means Pivetta's big-league debut will be pushed back. Vince Velasquez, Tuesday's scheduled starter, will pitch Wednesday night against the Marlins and Jeremy Hellickson will start the series finale Thursday. Jerad Eickhoff and Zach Eflin are likely to stay on turn and pitch Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles. That means Pivetta's debut will likely happen Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Not a bad venue for an unveiling. He does not have to be activated until that day. In the interim, the Phils are carrying an extra reliever in Mark Leiter Jr.

Even with the weather-related change in plans, Pivetta was thrilled to be in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

"I've achieved my goal of getting here eventually," the 24-year-old right-hander said. "I'm happy to be here. I want to get my feet on solid ground right now and just take it one step at a time.”

Pivetta is a Canadian from Victoria, British Columbia, about 100 miles northwest of Seattle. As a kid, he watched Toronto Blue Jays' games on television and idolized Roy Halladay. (see story).

Victoria must now be Phillies territory. Michael Saunders, the team's rightfielder, also hails from the town.

"You see it more and more, more Canadians getting into the game of baseball, so it’s always nice to see another one in the locker room," said Saunders, 30. "Clearly he’s pitched well enough to earn his way up here and I’m looking forward to seeing him play."

Pivetta is 6-5, 225 pounds. He was originally selected by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. The Phillies acquired him for Jonathan Papelbon and cash in July 2015.

Pivetta will take Aaron Nola's spot in the rotation. Nola is on the disabled list with tightness in his lower back. He could be back as soon as early next week.

Nola said he probably could have pushed himself and stayed in the rotation, but the team chose to be cautious.

"I don’t think it's any big thing," Nola said.

With Pivetta on board, the Phillies now have four pitchers in their rotation that came over in "rebuild" trades.

Eflin arrived in the December 2014 deal that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers.

Eickhoff came in the July 2015 deal that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers.

Velasquez came in the December 2015 trade that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

Pivetta did not immediately pitch well upon joining the Phillies organization. He had a 7.31 ERA in seven starts for Double A Reading in the summer of 2015. In 28 1/3 innings, he struck out 25 and walked 19.

Pivetta was a different pitcher last season. He registered a 3.27 ERA in 148 2/3 innings between Double A and Triple A, struck out 138 and walked 51. That performance earned him a spot on the team's 40-man roster.

“In 2016, he showed us the potential to be a really good major-league pitcher,” said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. “He was a little excitable after the trade in 2015, but he came back calm and confident last year. His stuff is legit — 93 to 96 (mph) with life on the fastball, good breaking ball and good feel for the changeup.”

His control continued to improve this season as he got off to a 3-0 start at Triple A. He pitched 19 innings, gave up just two earned runs, walked just two and struck out 24.

"Just getting ahead with my fastball," said Pivetta, explaining the early-season success that put him in line for the promotion. "First-pitch strikes are big. Even if I get into that 0-1 count or that 1-1 count, getting back to that 1-2 count is big. So being able to even up those counts have been really big for me, as well, and being able to finish off with my off-speed later in the counts, too.”

Pivetta pitched for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March. He made one start and took a no-decision in the team's 4-1 loss to Columbia. Pivetta worked four innings and allowed one run.

“That helped me," Pivetta said. "It was awesome. It was like having playoff baseball in March."

It's not clear how long Pivetta will stay in the big-league rotation. But he has more than put himself on the map, and if he continues to pitch well, he'll make more starts with the big club this season.

“I did not expect to be here this early in the season," he said. "I am happy to be here right now. I'll see how long I stay and just have fun while I am here.”