Saturday, May 28, 2011


On Seeing a Game with the Old Man

Riverfront Stadium
Riverfront Stadium, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Riverfront Stadium
Can-Am League
Newark, NJ
6:40 PM

Outside of  the Game:
At the end of a very long week where my failed relationship with my job had gone from the “silent loathing at dinner” stage to the “screaming arguments in public” stage, I was in desperate need of getting my mind off things. Not having been to a Bears game recently, I once again retreated to baseball to take my mind off of life. I was going to go one way or another, but knowing that my father has enjoyed going to a Bears game before, I gave him a call to see if he wanted to go. We agreed to meet at the stadium after he went to church, and I set about the rest of my woeful inadequate attempts to de-stress for the rest of the afternoon.

The stadium is about a fifteen minute drive from my house, but in keeping with my luck for the week, the one bridge that I have to take in the most direct route to the stadium was undergoing some severe road work, so I had to trust in my TomTom to find an acceptable alternate route. And this I found, though it took longer than I wanted and added some more unwanted stress in an otherwise stressful week. Did I mention stress?

My father had already bought tickets by the time I parked in the lot that makes up the right field wall. We met up and went to claim our seats behind home plate.

There was a fireworks display after the game in which neither of us was particularly interested. We said our goodbyes in the parking deck, and the drive home was, of course, uneventful, as I had nowhere to be.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, Riverfront Stadium
Home plate to center field, Riverfront Stadium

Riverfront Stadium was built in the late 90s in the explosion of independent league baseball, with facilities at about AA or AAA level. The stadium has one large promenade circling the entirety of the structure, where play and picnic areas, concessions, and stores line the back of the walkway so people can shop and get food while still watching the game. The seating bowl descends down from the walkway, looking out into the not-so-scenic rail yards of Newark. Some modest luxury boxes ring the broadcast booth area behind home plate.

The stadium has seen better days. Letters droop off of the hall of fame behind home plate, and most of the shops and concessions areas are undergoing renovations. A huge hit early in their career, attendance has dropped off significantly in recent years, and the Bears switched from the Atlantic League to the
CanAm League this year to save money with a shorter season and shorter commutes to most road games.

The stadium was between a third and half full, mostly with families wanting to see a cheap ball game, but my absolute favorite part was a line of older men, all keeping score, who were in seats at the top of the seating bowl on the promenade. I imagine that is me in not-so many years.

At the Game with Oogie:
Indie scoring

As I mentioned, I went to the game with my father. It is such a cliché, but we really do interact best when watching baseball, when there are no real demands on us except watching some hardball, and in having nothing to talk about except a ballgame, we have more real communication than we do for the intervening year.

We had some seats behind home plate, which are ridiculously cheap for at an indie league game. They had switched up the vendors this year, and we both ended up getting a turkey meatball sandwich to eat, because we were both able to lie to ourselves that it was at least within the realm of healthy. I mean, we didn’t get the regular meatball sandwich, so… healthy.

Outside of sitting, eating, and watching, the only real excitement was a rainstorm that blew in during the middle innings that eventually got so strong as to make us retreat up to the deck to get under cover for a half inning or so, before reclaiming our rightful seats. Rupert the mascot stopped by later in the game to do mascot things for the kids a couple rows ahead of us.

The Game:
First pitch, Boulders vs. Bears
First pitch, Boulders vs. Bears

This was pretty much a romp for the home team from pitch one. The Boulders only managed a single (whose runner got nailed trying to steal second) in the top of the first. The Bears went to work immediately, leading off with a single. A strikeout looking was the last out for a while. A walk and a short single loaded the bases, and a hit batsman brought a run home. A double cleared the bases, before a strikeout looking, an intentional walk, and a final strikeout ended the inning. Good news: struck out the side; bad news: four earned runs.

The Boulders didn’t do much better in the second, ratcheting a single and a bunch of fielder’s choices. The Bears got another run on a solo homer and scattered around some hits, leaving it 5-0 going to the third. The Boulders went in order, but the Bears finally chased the Rockland starter with four runs on a walk, two singles, and a three-run homer, making it 9-0 Bears.

Both sides went in order in the fourth, but the Boulders finally got on the board in the fifth. Two runners got on with a single and walk that were brought in with a triple. That runner came home on a sacrifice fly to right before a strikeout ended it 9-3. The Bears got one back in the bottom of the inning, scattering three singles, a walk, and a sacrifice fly.

The Boulders had a walk and then went in order in the sixth, while the Bears scored again on two walks and a single, leaving it 11-3. A leadoff triple and a single for the Boulders got them back one run, but the Bears outdid them five-fold on a bevy of walks and singles and a double, batting around with the score 16-4 Bears at the end of the inning.

And both sides went mostly in order the rest of the game, leaving the blow out at that score.

The Scorecard:
Boulders vs. Bears, 05-28-11. Bears win, 16-4.Boulders vs. Bears, 05-28-11. Bears win, 16-4.
Boulders vs. Bears, 05/28/11. Bears win, 16-4.

I had recently purchased the Eephus League Official Scorebook, and I fortuitously decided to try it out for the first time at this game, as with the recent league switch, the Bears didn’t have a scorecard to beg, borrow, or steal, let alone buy, at the stadium.

The scorebook is lovingly designed and has a bunch of fun elements in it, such as recording who sang the national anthem, what you ate, and the seat location. But the one thing I worried about was the lack of space for substitutions. I figured that it might get eaten up at a National League game, or any game without a DH, but CanAm uses a DH, so it seemed like a safe place to get started with it.

And especially for a casual game such as this, the scorecard was fantastic. Its small form factor made handling it while eating and taking pictures as easy as possible, and it even held up well under the drizzle and downpour that we had during the game.

Outside of keeping up with the cavalcade of Bears runs, there was nothing of scoring note, although the game did feature the sons of two former big leaguers (Raines and Gossage) on the Bears side.

The Accommodations:
My apartment, of course.

2011 Stand-Alone Trip