Saturday, August 25, 2007

Syracuse

A Side Trip


Alliance Bank Stadium
Alliance Bank Stadium, 2007

Question:
You know what's fun to say? Answer: Gookie Dawkins
Date: Saturday, August 25, 2007
Ottawa Lynx (Philadelphia Phillies) vs. Syracuse SkyChiefs (Toronto Blue Jays)
International League North (AAA)
Alliance Bank Stadium
Syracuse, NY
Promotion: Comic Book Night


Stadium & Fans:
The stadium was a nicely appointed AAA stadium right next door to the biggest farmer's market I have ever seen in my life. A train track that may at one time have carried the team's namesake runs behind the outfield walls. Several cargo trains passed by during the game, but were surprisingly unobtrusive and of great interest to the children in the stands.

One thing of note is that this was an Astroturf field, which stood along with Tampa Bay as the only professional turf fields I've seen. I'm not sure why the ownership would use plastic grass given the field's location in the middle of farm land as far as the eye can see. I can only assume it is to save money. But for whatever reason, hard grounders not hit directly at an infielder went through, and outfield shots that weren't hit into the gap were universally just singles. However, given the well-known medical issues that turf can produce, it is especially surprising to have it on the AAA farm club's field. I can't help but think it gives the upcoming Blue Jays players a disadvantage, and that does seem to be borne out by their performance in recent years.

The crowd was a little sparse (we were able to get tickets right behind the plate with no problems), but that is to be expected from a late season game between the bottom two teams in their division. There were a vocal contingent of Lynx fans whom I presume are following the team around. Having some support on the road is always appreciated, especially in the minors, but one bellowing Canuck who screamed when each player came to the plate could have stayed home as far as I'm concerned.


The Game:
The game was about what you'd expect from two bottom-feeding AAA teams playing out the season. There were the requisite amount of errors (though the game the next night between the two teams would make national news, as it included a whopping 10 errors for the Chiefs and lots of runs (as any AAA pitcher who is in any way worth his salt is up with the big team at this point of the year). The Chiefs got the lead and lost it, but won it in the bottom of the ninth, after squandering a one-out triple by trying to score on an infield grounder. (You'd think the Chiefs' manager would know they are playing on turf.) But they eventually singled home a run, sending away the home team fans happy.

There was torrential rain driving up to Syracuse (producing two or three rainbows at a time), but the stadium itself escaped the torrential rain, though starting in about the third inning or so, there was intermittent rain throughout the game every inning or so. Although it did get heavy in places, the game was never delayed.


Scorecard:
The scorecard was a nice, $2 paper booklet, with generous space for players and notations. The regular paper did make things a little iffy when the rain started, but I carried on. My policy is to always fill out the scorecard as presented, which made their insistence on listing the entire bullpen and bench a tad bit annoying.

Lynx vs. SkyChiefs, 08-25-07
Lynx vs. SkyChiefs, 08/25/07. SkyChiefs won, 5-4.

Miscellanea:
The promotion was free comic book night, and in addition to the comic book, there were also several people dressed up as Marvel heroes in the grandstand to take pictures with kids. The comic book itself was a curious item. It told the story of Reed and Susan Richards taking their children and the rest of the Fantastic Four to the AAA All-Star game. Coincidentally, Peter Parker was also taking his Aunt May to the same game. For some reason, they were all speaking very didactically about the positives of AAA baseball. Soon after the first pitch is coincidentally throw out by Iron Man, the Sandman (who is also coincidentally at the game) proceeds to slam into Bruce Banner (who is coincidentally working as a concessions man at the game while trying to keep a low profile) while stealing a foul ball from a little kid. After Sandman is quickly dispatched, the greater problem becomes an enraged Banner, who turns into the Hulk. After the assembled heroes each try and fail to subdue the Hulk, he is pacified by a young boy who gets him to sing "Take Me Out To the Ballgame," and after more prose singing the glory of AAA baseball, they all enjoy the rest of the game. The idea of the Hulk and the Fantastic Four catching a game is especially ironic when placed in the context of the current Marvel storyline, which has a vengeful Hulk holding NYC ransom as he hunts down the people responsible for shooting him off into space, led, of course, by Reed Richards.

The Stadium Race:
There was no stadium race at the game, but the usual minor-league fan participation events. They did have the K-Man, a common minor league promotion where an opposing player is chosen as the "K-Man," and some fans will get prizes should he strike out during the game. It always struck me as a rather mean-spirited promotion, and if I was chosen as the K-Man, I imagine I would do everything short of bunting with two strikes to try and avoid striking out, and I generally root for that guy. However, the Ottawa K-Man finally succumbed in the ninth, giving some people some free Taco Bell coupons.


Travel & Other Non-Game Activities:
This game was all in the context of a visit up to see Mr. Wilson. However, the night before I was heading up to Ithaca, my car died after I picked it up from my parent's house, where I had coincidentally left it for inspection. It died, meaningfully enough, under a mile from the mechanic who had inspected it, leaving me to wait for a tow that would take under two minutes. Undaunted, I borrowed my mother's car and was off for the weekend again. It was a surprisingly quick drive up through some nice countryside.

The shortstop for Ottawa is named Gookie Dawkins. This, apparently, is very, very fun to say. Try it yourself. See?


The Hotel:
Casa di Wilson. He has again chosen a rustic house at the foot of a wooded hill, but this time in the outskirts of Ithaca.


2007 Side Trip