On the Definition of Insanity
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs vs. Lancaster Barnstormers
Clipper Magazine Stadium
Outside of the Game: The definition of insanity, is, of course, repeating the same course of action and expecting a different result.
And this week I was going back to Lancaster again, because I had to see the Barnstormers before their season ended. And as much as I'd like to believe I wasn't going to leave early, I did.
And on 78 again. I was beginning to hate I-78, except for the fact that it is so much better a road to travel than the PA Turnpike in nearly every way. It has more lanes, is better maintained, and yet has less construction going on. It was a fast ride out to 222, where the turn south began. I stopped off for lunch at an Arby's where 222 basically turned into a local road, and made it down to Lancaster with little difficulty.
I drove out to find where the stadium was first, and it turned out to be literally right next to campus, in what was in my time a disused railyard. The area was now undergoing renovation, the heart of which was the ballpark. With a couple of hours before the gates opened, I drove back to the F&M campus and parked on the street.
In the light of day, the place was less obviously filled with ghosts as the week before. Hot and bright and smelling of the harvest, the scene was familiar, but not menacing. I managed to walk around without any incidents. I even ventured off campus to some of the places I had known in my earlier years. I visited the Arts House, which was a rickety pile of lumber about to blow over twenty years ago, but managed to still exist in its exact same disreputable state today, adorned with a sign labeling it the "Farts Haus" in the wit only available to collegiate art students.
Back across campus, it was easier to define all the new buildings that had appeared in the intervening decades. Even the older places had received face lifts. In the light, the student center didn't even loom that large. The radio station was less imposing in the light, with the failing neon sign unlit and the empty studio less mysterious. I even ventured a walk through the student center itself, which had now been renovated with an art studio and other things that were new to my eyes. I didn't quite make it up those stairs; there was still some bad mojo there. But I saw a sign for the "No Show, No Show" for the radio station, which was the semesterly meeting held for people to sign up for shows. There was something fairly reassuring that that meeting was still going on, though the email and social media avenues to RSVP were something new-fangled and unwelcome.
As it was on the way back to the stadium, I decided to drive out to the train station and see if the comic book shop that I frequented at school was still a going concern. To my great delight, it was still there. Beside the physical new titles on the shelves, it had changed precious little since my last visit. This was a more reassuring thing than a threat, and it put a more positive spin on the whole endeavor. I found it odd I could remember nothing specific about the proprietors, considering the amount of time I spent there. It was very weird hole in my memory to have.
I eventually set off to find parking for the game and go about my business. The fireworks after the contest sealed off my parking lot until it was over. I made an inadvisable attempt to try and find a back way into the parking lot, but was completely lost by my overconfidence in my familiarity with a landscape that had completely changed over time. I eventually returned the way I came and struggled to find my car in the dark after the lot was opened at the conclusion of the display.
Sick, finally, of I-78, I took the PA Turnpike back, my radio tuned to my college station. After an hour, the station began to fade, and in the night, in the same car I was in the last this happened, I lost my grip on time for a while. I was trodding on the same path I had at times in the past, and it became muddy again. Now, then... I was the same person in the same car in the same place. Old man in a young body, or old man in an old body -- it was indistinct.
But the station faded to static. As the 'Mats say, "Passin' through and it's late, the station started to fade." But I turned to WFAN, and I was back in the present, as my back ached from sitting and my soul hurt from another Met failure, and I was just waiting to go to sleep. I made it home and eventually got my wish.
The Stadium & Fans: The unfortunately named Clipper Magazine Stadium (yes, that Clipper Magazine) did not inspire much confidence with its name. As mentioned, the park is located in the area of an old rail yard that is a fixer-upper for Lancaster, and the surrounding neighborhood hasn't quite caught up, but it is clearly on the road to gentrification, for better or worse.
The parking situation is a bit chaotic, with several smaller (free) lots scattered around the park. Figuring out where to go was a bit of a challenge, but you can't beat the price. The park has several entrances around its perimeter, all of which are walkable, but only the main one by home plate (and opposite most of the parking) is available when the gates open an hour before gametime. There was a large party in the picnic zone that was allowed entry early, and skybox and season ticket holders got in fifteen minutes before the hoi polloi. The plaza by the main entrance has several plaques and displays about the history of Lancaster baseball, and, in a nice nod to the baseball community I hadn't seen in any other park, it has a sign telling people to patronize all the other nearby ballparks in the area, not just in the Eastern League. That was sporting of them.
The main entrance opens out onto the main promenade, which extends, eventually, all around the stadium. One section of seating extends down from the promenade from about left field to right field, and a second deck of luxury boxes runs from about first to third. A large picnic berm runs from left to center field, and in center to right field, there is the huge Weis BBQ Pavilion, which hosts groups and special events, such as the ones this night. In dead center is "Home Run Harbor," home to a small bumper-boat pool, which wins points for originality, if not relevance. A main scoreboard out in left-center is supported by a smaller scoreboard in the right-field wall that adds more context data.
An extended kids area is behind left field, including a well-lit carousel. You can eventually walk all the way around the park on the promenade (which narrows to a small asphault path in the outfield), but you have to go behind the extensive BBQ area in right to get there. Concessions are arrayed at regular intervals along the infield promenade, and the team store is located right by the entrance behind home. The walkways are festooned with album covers parodied to the Barnstormers, such as "Lancaster Calling" Or "Check Your Red."
The on-field games were run by monster Cylo (silo -- get it?) and the fun team run by, god help us, I.M. Fun. Many of the games were clear lifts of Price Is Right and standard minor league races and skill games. That night, they were honoring local heroes. The hero of honor was a firefighter who had been severely injured in a blaze earlier this year while trying to rescue people in the structure. The Barnstormers team had dedicated a seat to him at the start of the season, and this evening, he was finally well enough to take his seat during the seventh inning stretch, where he was greeted by his family and a phalanx of his fellow firemen. It was all very nice.
In this meaningless late-season indie game, the place was still easily 3/4th filled with fans, with a surprisingly substantial contingent for the visiting Southern Maryland team as well. One local tradition of the fans was to have someone call out a player's first name, and the rest of the fans answer by calling out his last name. I am unsure of how the person who does the first name is determined, but it seemed to work for them.
At the Game with Oogie: I got seats, as per normal, behind the home dugout. I snuck in as a single in the second row into the season ticket section. There were families all around. Behind me was a three-generation job, with grandparents, a mother, and her daughter. The daughter kept taking pictures for Facebook, and her grandpa wasn't down with being on the "Internet thing." The granddaughter eventually got a last-out ball from one of the players, and during a beachball toss game, the ball with the winning number landed by grandpa, who had to be told by his daughter and granddaughter that he won. He got his prizes and teased his granddaughter by telling her that he wanted the t-shirt before eventually giving in to her squealing glee.
I got a Weis pulled pork sandwich to eat, which was part of a meal deal they had that included a drink and chips for $8.50, which was a pretty good. I'd like to say that I didn't go crazy in the team store, but that would be a lie. I got a t-shirt and a mascot doll and some postcards, and I eventually also bought a souvenir cup as well. I'm not proud.
The Game: This was an Eastern League face-off between the Barnstormers, who just missed the playoffs, and the Blue Crabs, who were clinging to the last place in the division. It didn't seem to be much of a contest, but it did not follow projections.
The Blue Crabs started the game with two quick outs, but the third batter drew a walk. The cleanup hitter was having his first Eastern League at-bat, likely meaning he was just cut from some official MiLB franchise at the end of the season. He took the ball deep to right for a two-run home run in quite an impressive start in the league. A flyout ended the half with the Blue Crabs up, 2-0. The Barnstormers got a two-out double and nothing else in their half.
The second inning featured a one-out single for the Blue Crabs, followed by a double that made it second and third with no outs. A sacrifice fly to center brought in the run, but it was part of a bizarre double play, as the runner from second was basically walking to third on a cut-off throw to home and tagged out after a half-hearted run-down. The Barnstormers only managed a two-out single this time, leaving the score 3-0, Blue Crabs, at the end of two.
The Blue crabs cooled down and went in order in the third, and the Barnstormers only got a one-out single in their half. The Blue Crabs followed with only a two-out single in the top of the fourth frame, but the Barnstormers finally got started in their half. A two-out single was brought home by a following double, and then a single came after that to plate the runner from second. A fly-out ended the rally at a score of 3-2, Blue crabs.
The Blue Crabs got a one-out solo homer in the top of the fifth to open back up the lead, and the Barnstormers went in order. Both sides went in order in the sixth and seventh, but that changed in the top of the eighth. The Blue Crabs got a one-out walk that was followed by a triple to bring in the run. The next batter was hit by a pitch, and the one after him sacrificed the run in from third with a pop to right. A groundout ended the damage at 6-2, Blue Crabs. The bottom of the eighth began with the Barnstormers manager arguing with the umpires for no apparent reason and being tossed. The Barnstorms answered their manager's call with a solitary two-out single.
The scoring kept going in the ninth, as a lead-off single and a two-out double got another run across for the Blue Crabs. The Barnstormers went in controversial order in the ninth to end it 7-2, Blue Crabs. (That controversy came from the second out, a ground-out at home plate ending in a 2-3 put-out. The batter claimed the ball hit him in the batter's box [making it a dead ball], and after a lengthy and unprecedented regroup with the entire umpire crew, the original call was upheld. The manager, gone since the bottom of the eighth, likely had an opinion on the matter that was left unvoiced.)
The Scorecard: The scorecard was a free handout at the park. It was pamphlet-sized on glossy magazine paper. As it was on glossy paper, it made writing with pencil more difficult, and the printing was apparently done on the cheap as there were some smudging issues that got worse as the game went on.
The scorecard itself was all on one page with no ads. It was convenient, if a little cramped, but it had all the necessary categories, and special lines for winning/losing pitcher, saves, umpires, weather, temperature, time of game, and attendance (although it wasn't actually announced at the game; it's a no-no to have a category on your scorecard if you aren't going to announce it.)
There was an odd one in the game. This was the "SF DP 8-6-4" in the top of the second, as a lazy runner got caught in a rundown after a sacrifice fly. A truly outstanding sliding catch into foul territory in the bottom of the fourth got a gem (!). The Blue Claw's Gac got a homer in his first Eastern League at-bat, which was worth a note, and the bizarre and unexplained ejection of the Barnstormers manager in the bottom of the eighth also got a write-up.
Everything else was largely run-of-the-mill.
The Accommodations: Hoboken, again
View the Flickr picture set for this trip.