Sunday, September 16, 2012

Central Islip

On a Hell of An Afternoon for a Ballgame

Bethpage Ballpark
Bethpage Ballpark, 2012
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Camden Riversharks vs. Long Island Ducks
Bethpage Ballpark
Atlantic League (Independent)
Central Islip, NY
1:35 PM

Outside the Game:
With the season winding down, I wanted to see if I could get in a couple more games before dragging me kicking and screaming into the off season. Most of the minor league teams in the area are shut down once major league call-ups start, but some of the longer-season independent leagues still have games through at least the middle of the month.

I hadn't been out to Long Island yet to see the Ducks, which was odd, given their relative proximity and close affiliation with many ex-Metropolitans (such as former manager Gary Carter). Their last home game of the season was on a Sunday afternoon, and figuring that early Sunday was as good a time as any to cut across Manhattan, I gave it a shot.

I started on my trip about when I wanted, though instead of listening to Ed Randall and Talking Baseball, I was subjected to NFL preview shows on this Sunday morning. It indeed being Sunday morning, there was no traffic going through the Lincoln Tunnel and only a modicum of heartache driving across Manhattan proper to get to the Queens Midtown and 495. Once through the tunnel, it was relatively smooth sailing all the way out to Islip, and I arrived at the stadium just before they set up the parking lots. Because of this, I accidentally parked in the handicapped lot (which was the only one that was obviously a parking lot when I got there), but I moved my car over to the regular lots once there was someone to show me where to go.

After the game, the place emptied out pretty easily, and I was back on 495 westbound in no time. There was a bit more traffic this time on the approach to the Queens Midtown tunnel, but surprisingly less on my way across the City to the Lincoln. I got home with little fuss and spent the rest of the evening downloading and labeling all the pretty pictures.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, Bethpage Ballpark
Home plate to center field, Bethpage Ballpark

Bethpage Ballpark is located out in the middle of nowhere, ever for Long Island, but was a nice enough park, especially for an indie-league stadium. The park's brick exterior was all terraced, and each of the entrances had imposing portals at the top of nice staircases, even if one end of the stadium did jut up against a block of apartments.

The entrances emptied out onto a main promenade above the seating bowl, which extended in two levels of seats separated by another lower walkway. The seats extended from left field to right field, and a row of luxury boxes ran from base-to-base behind home plate. In right field was party zone and in left was a larger picnic area. Concessions ran along the promenade (all with fowl-pun names, though with a nice selection of ballpark food, including corn dogs), and there were some specialty concessions out in left for a local barbecue place. The inevitable team store was located behind third, named, of course, "The Waddle In Shop."

The mascot duck was named Quackerjack in a way that made me wonder if the Crack Jack corporation had heard about it. He had an above-average suit, and actually performed a number of impressive tricks, including one-armed push-ups in a giant duck suit. He was involved in most of the on-field festivities throughout the afternoon.

And he's manly

It was the last home game of the season, and therefore Fan Appreciation Day at Bethpage Park. All attendees received a free program and scorecard for showing up, and they had a pre-game autograph session with the team and a post-game running the bases event. The managing duties that day were handled by the winner of a contest to be "Manager for a Day." I don't know how much of the on-field tasks he got to perform, but he did throw out the first pitch and exchange the lineups and the like in full uniform. There was an on-field MC in charge of the program of events, the primary of which was multiple mountain bike giveaways during the course of the game. Also thrown in were the typical minor-league fare of musical chairs, bat races, food mascot races, and t-shirt giveaways.

For a Sunday day game this far into football season, there was a respectable crowd on hand who kept very into the game. Getting crowd noise going was not a problem as one of the most popular fan items were duck whistles that quacked when you blew on them. These kept the kids in attendance entertained for most of the proceedings.

At the Game with Oogie:
Corn dog
Corn dog

This one was a weird one, because I saw one of my own kind. It was odd, because it was almost a Highlander thing, and I felt the presence before I even saw him. But as I was walking around waiting for the gates to open, I saw a heavy-set guy with a mid-range camera out taking a picture of the September 11th memorial, and realized that he was another baseball tourist. He was even also wearing a Brooklyn Cyclones hat, for the love of Pete. I had no idea what to do with this. We made awkward eye contact for a minute and then went about our business. I didn't exactly know how to breech the subject with him, and kept on thinking what I would do in a similar situation. I repeatedly saw him in the tiny stadium taking pictures, and then, when he whipped out a big plastic clipboard so he could score, I thought I was on Candid Camera. So there was that.

The closest I was able to get to the dugout was the second tier of seats, which still game an excellent view of the field. Presumably, all the lower deck seats were season ticket holders, but most of those seats were vacant for the game. I was mostly situated among families, though one of them was less welcome than others. About two rows behind me was a walking (more waddling) stereotype of what everyone hates about New Yorkers. The paterfamilias of this clan was just your garden-variety overweight loudmouth know-it-all jackass who had to bellow every last thought coming out of his mouth. It got maddening after a while, though eventually the crowd more or less drowned him out, but only more or less.

The Game:
First pitch, Riversharks vs. Ducks
First pitch, Riversharks vs. Ducks

This was a simple tale of dominating pitching. The Ducks were starting former Phillies' farmhand Matt Way for the first time, and he absolutely ate up the Riversharks, beginning by striking out the order in the top of the first. The Ducks did little better, with three straight fly-outs (the first by former Metropolitan Timo Perez, now lead-off man for the quackers).

The Riversharks went in order again in the second, with the Ducks only getting a lead-off single in their half. The Riversharks went down in order again in the third, suffering two strikeouts along the way, but the Ducks had something going in the bottom of the inning. A one-out double was brought home on a single from the aforementioned Timo Perez before two strike-outs ended the inning with the score 1-0 Ducks.

In the top of the fourth, the perfect game was marred by a lead-off walk, quickly sacrificed over to second, but a blazing line out to short caught the runner off the bag and doubled-up to end the inning. The Ducks went meekly in order in their half, and the Riversharks had a quick ground-out to start the fifth. But then a poorly hit dying quail landed in left-center to break up the no-hitter. But two quick outs followed to end the half. Seemingly in sympathy to their pitcher, the Ducks broke it open in the bottom of the fifth. A one-out triple was brought in with a single, who then promptly swiped second. After a pop-out to first, a single brought the runner home, followed by a double to bring him home in turn. The next batter hit a clean single, and the runner tried to make it home from second, but was gunned down at home to end the inning with the Ducks up 4-0.

The Riversharks got a two-out walk in the top of the sixth and nothing else to show except for two more strikeouts, and the Ducks stranded a two-out double of their own. After another strikeout to start the seventh, the Riversharks got only their second hit, left on base by a following fly out and strikeout. The Ducks got something going with a lead-off hit batsman who stole second and then got driven in with a two-out single, leaving it 5-0 Ducks at the end of seven.

Not quite done shaming the Riversharks, Way struck out the side in the eighth, while the Ducks likewise went in order. At the top of the ninth, they pulled Way, and I nearly fell out my seat as Armando Benitez came out to close it for the Ducks. All the Metropolitan fans in attendance immediately started ragging on him, and he was clearly trying very hard to ignore them. He did not disappoint, giving up a lead-off single before improbably putting the next three down in order to secure the 5-0 Ducks victory.

The Scorecard:
Riversharks vs. Ducks, 09-16-12. Ducks win, 5-0.Riversharks vs. Ducks, 09-16-12. Ducks win, 5-0.
 Riversharks vs. Ducks, 09/16/12. Ducks win, 5-0.

First things first: The Ducks get a lot of love from me for being so incredibly pro-scoring. As it was Fan Appreciation Day, everyone at the park that day got a free program and a free scorecard. The scorecards are usually sold in stand-alone kiosks with programs, and normally cost $1 each.

The scorecard itself is a quad-fold cardstock, and although it has ads, small boxes, and little space for replacements, it is well laid-out, and has special places for the sort of thing that I record anyway (such as weather and start times). Above and beyond that, they even made an announcement before the game about how the best way to follow the game was with a scorecard and where you can get one and where the lineups were posted. This was literally the only stadium I've been to that has made such an announcement, major, minor, indie, or otherwise. I salute the owners heartily for their commitment to the scoring arts.

As to the game itself, the story was in the strikeouts. The Duck's Way notched 13 strikeouts over his eight innings, while only scattering two hits and a pair of walks. He only faced three more than the minimum because the first walked batter in the fourth was erased on a lineout to the shortstop who doubled up the runner on second. While an interesting exercise, it was only the second-best pitched game I'd ever seen, behind Metropolitan Bobby Jones' 1-hitter against the Giants in the playoffs.

There was nothing else too out of the ordinary, except the triple in the bottom of the fifth that was somehow ruled a triple instead of a three-base error. Granted the fielder was diving for it, but the ball actually hit his glove.

The Accommodations:
Hoboken, nothing more

2012 Stand-Alone Trip

Saturday, September 1, 2012


On the Difficulties of Leaving

Friday, August 31, 2012
Miami, FL

Outside the Game:
I made the reservations for this trip back in February, after the schedules had just come out. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, because travel on Labor Day is kind of a pain in the butt in general, and specifically, Miami has one last really big hurrah over Labor Day weekend. Even this far ahead in the year, I was only able to get my flight out for after work on Friday and my return really early in the morning on Monday. Secondly, teams usually quickly sell out their new stadiums for the entire season, which is why I grabbed my seat as soon as they were available to the non-Marlins faithful. I had no idea that the Marlins would fail so thoroughly on this account.

I was worried when my flight out was moved up an hour or so, but I again got a pleasant surprise at work in that we were getting the Friday before Labor Day off as well as the traditional Monday. The move-up would have been a problem if I was leaving from work, but with the whole day to kill, it became nothing more than an interesting factoid.

Sadly, I would be laid low with some medical inconveniences right before my trip, again. I started to feel particularly bad at work as the day went on Thursday (outside of the obvious), and I strongly suspected a number of work-mates who got that "thing going around the office" (and refused to stay home) of infecting me with it. As it turned out, it was just another instance of my allergies acting all unreasonable again and turning into an upper respiratory infection. The day off from work came in handy again as I got an early afternoon appointment to go see my doctor and get some meds to help me through the weekend.

A nap or so later after the doctor visit, I was off to the airport. It being Labor Day weekend, I turned down invitations to drive me and decided to take mass transit to spare people some traffic. I had done something similar once before last year when I went to Chicago, but this time I was going straight from Hoboken instead of work. I took the PATH to Newark, then grabbed a train to Newark Airport, and after a short monorail ride, I was at Newark Liberty Apple Pie Protestant Work Ethic International Airport. It only took an hour, and I probably could have even shaved some time by going NJ Transit all the way. But with time to play with, I wasn't pushing the pedal by any extent.

As it stood, I was two hours early for my plane, so I had time. To my surprise, I breezed through security (after having my computer swabbed, presumably to make sure it wasn't a bomb) and still had tons of time to kill. I went to one of the diners and had me a fancy sit-down dinner and then spent the rest of the time wandering around and window shopping until it was time to board.

It turns out I was one name away from getting an upgrade to first class, which was a minor disappointment. I had to wait until I boarded for the major disappointments. We boarded on time, and everyone got on fine, or so it seemed. Before we closed the door, there was a big hullabaloo, and they kept calling this elderly Cuban woman to the front of the plane. Someone's ticket got scanned who wasn't on the plane, and we had to wait to leave until they found these people because now that they were scanned on the plane, we had to wait for them. Or something.

I was spending the time trying to figure out how the new entertainment systems worked, and then I realized what the problem was. It was now all pay-per-view Direct TV. There were no free channels, not even audio. This nickle-and-diming really pissed me off for some reason (and eventually prompted an angry flier satisfaction survey which I'm sure will be the turning point in overturning this policy). The guy behind me couldn't seem to figure out that the controls were on his armrest instead of the touchscreen in front of him, and like a girl on prom night, I got tired of the ineffectual poking and gave him some proper direction. After that, it was settling in for a TV-less flight of reading and messing around on my computer.

Even with the delay, we managed to land a little on the early side. They had decided to land us in the farthest corner of the farthest reaches of the farthest terminal of Miami International, so it took a good deal of walking to get to the people mover thing that would take us to the rental terminal. It was a surprisingly low-key and relaxing monorail ride out to the rental car building, where I located my rental car company, filled out my paperwork, and was on my way down to the parking lots.

Rental car
The chariot awaited

I eventually found my car with the assistance of a helpful parking attendant, and after some brief questions about directions, I realized that I had no idea where I was and where I was going beyond "downtown." I had already entered the hotel address into my TomTom, so I was fairly certain I could eventually get where I was going, with the general fiat of "south."

My rental car was a Toyota something-or-other and it was generally a very nice ride. My problem was that the TomTom had conveniently "lost GPS connection" as soon as I left the parking garage, so I was wildly following whatever signs said "downtown" or "south." Eventually, the TomTom found its signal again, and I was off for the rather short ride to the hotel, as the airport is within the city limits.

During this short ride, I came to an amazing conclusion: There were worse drivers in the world than Boston drivers. The lack of turn signals is kind of a gimmie, sure, but the cutting across four lanes of a highway as if one was making a left turn was truly breathtaking. I was literally astounded by how completely disregarded  traffic laws were, even accounting for it being late on a Friday night in a big city. Boston and Pennsylvania, I'm afraid you both fall down a slot in the rankings. Make your peace as you will.

After some navigation among the worst drivers in the country, I made it to my hotel and was able to turn in for the evening just before midnight.

The Accommodations:
Hyatt Regency
Hyatt Regency

Far back in the primal history of this year, I booked a room at the Hyatt Regency in the Miami Convention Center. It was a reasonable rate, seemed to be centrally located, and was away from all the major party spots. As I pulled up that night, I found out that there was some manner of hip-hop convention in town, and the center had been host to a show that had just cleared out. The staff had the shell-shocked appearance of someone who had not rested in a while, so when I drove up, they had seen better days. I went to check in and found out that there was a slightly more expensive valet option that they comped me for the first night since I got in so late. I got my bags, left the car with them, and went to my room.

Or I should say suite. I was up in the top floors of the building in a corner suite that was perhaps as large as my apartment at home. There was a full living room with a pull-out couch, chairs, table, and a desk. In the middle of the room was a large flat-screen plasma TV that swiveled so you could watch it in the living room or the bedroom. The bedroom had a big king-sized bed, two nightstands, and a dresser. The long exterior wall of the room was a window out into the bay (thankfully also with dark shades to keep out the light in the morning). The bedroom was also huge, with three areas for the toiletry counter and sink, the toilet, and another for the shower and tub.

The air conditioning was set to 65 in the room, which I thought odd, until I realized where I was and that the windows on the room faced east.

On Defying Many Expectations

Marlins Park
Marlins Park, 2012
Saturday, September 1, 2012
New York Metropolitans vs. Miami Marlins
Marlins Park
National League East
Miami, FL
7:05 PM

Outside the Game:
I woke up the next morning with the shades in my room barely holding back the sunlight that seemed to be burning through the east-facing windows in an attempt to immolate me. Not having anywhere to be, I got out of bed at my own pace, and then got dressed to partake of the hotel's breakfast buffet.

And what a buffet. It was pricey (though I would later find it was included in the price of my room), but it had an extensive selection of every breakfast item you could imagine, plus free beverages, and you could order any type eggs you wanted. Just to see if it worked, I ordered a bacon omelet before my first foray to the buffet table, and came back to find a bacon omelet awaiting me, which I ate. I also got a free newspaper, so I pretty much set up shop at my table for a while. Before heading to the buffet again, I ordered up two sun-sided eggs with wheat toast, which were waiting for me when I got back. I got what I thought was my money's worth out of the buffet. Bacon, eggs, sausage, oatmeal, toast, cereal, cold cuts, tea, juice... I filled the heck up while working my way through the Saturday paper. I would eat so much that lunch would be forgotten without notice. I eventually dragged myself up to my room for a nap before washing up and heading out to the day.

Miami is... uninhabitably hot. By mid-day when I was heading out, it was just obnoxiously hot. I didn't pass out or anything, but even staying the shadows, I was drenched in sweat pretty quickly. I got a little lost when I first left the hotel, but I eventually headed off to visit the nearby Bayfront Park and Bayside Mall. At the park, a group of skaters riding right by the "No Skateboarding" sign got rousted by a cop, in a scene that I found somehow nostalgic. The skaters ignored the cop until he was forced to get out of his car into the noon heat, at which point they scattered, exacting what little revenge they had available to them.

Skate or die

Around the Bayside Mall, there were tour buses and cruises, and as I had a free day tomorrow and no real idea of what to do or where I was, I decided to take a tour bus to get the lay of the land. It was actually two hour-and-a-half tours, one for mainland Miami and one for Miami Beach. I took the mainland tour first that hit all the main attractions of Little Havana, Coconut Grove, the Biltmore, and so on. It was as informative as those kinds of things can be, and provided some ideas for Sunday, which is all I was ultimately looking for. The second tour to Miami Beach was a little underwhelming, at least for me. I heard the word "Kardassian" far too often for me to take anything that went on in Miami Beach seriously, and the holiday traffic had the island all clogged up anyway. It sounded like exactly the sort of place that held absolutely no appeal to me in any stage of my life. I survived the bus trip back to the mainland and headed off to the hotel for a much-needed shower and change of clothes.

I called down for my car, and then headed off to the game. Marlins Field was another short drive from the hotel, and as I had paid ahead time for parking (as there is none to be found around the stadium), I got into my super-reserved lot quickly before the game, and in leaving, was equally quick out and back to the hotel.

It was relatively early once I got back, and feeling peckish, I ordered a Cuban sandwich from room service, that was delivered with great fanfare. Opening up the shades to the now docile night sky, I had my quasi-dinner in my living room, overlooking the bay before turning in for the night.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, Marlins Park
Home plate to center field, Marlins Park

Marlins Park poses a problem for me, because it removes the easy answer to the question of "What is the worst park in the majors?", which was, until this year, "Landshark Field," or whatever name they were putting on Dolphins Stadium during baseball season. (In retrospect, the new answer to the question is probably "Oakland Coliseum.")

There was a lot of confused awe when certain design elements of the new park were revealed during construction, from the multicolored designs and uniforms, to the inexplicable monstrosity of a center field sculpture that has been charitably described as a "Pride Parade Float." There are quite a number of art installations in the new stadium, and most of them seem less garish in situ, with the notable exception of the sculpture, which still remains a horrible mystery.

Dear lord, why?

The outside of the park is nearly surrounded by parking lots, one at each entrance to the park. The lack of parking beyond the stadium is one of the big knocks against it, so they doubled-down on parking lots at the stadium. On the outfield side of the park is one of the larger art installations, representing the old Orange Bowl (on which the field is built) being subsumed for the new field. Also outside of the outfield is a version of one of the South Beach bars, the Clevelander, which looks right out into left center field and houses some wading pools for the partiers in the fandom.

On the outside of the home base side of the park, the two jutting rail supports for the retractable roof buttress either side of the building. There are more art installations out in front, and a party area with a stage for bands and activities for younger fans. The main team store is also located there, along with some outdoors concessions right by the home plate entrance.

All the entrances lead up to the main promenade area that circles the entire park. All the lower-deck seating is down from the promenade, and you have to go up another flight of stairs to reach the upper-deck areas that circle around home plate and go around in separated sections for most of the outfield. A middle deck of Lexus luxury boxes forms the middle row of the stadium and other specialty seating areas are on field-level behind home plate and in the outfield.

The promenade houses most of the food concessions for the stadium, in addition to specialty areas such a UHealth workout room, a memorial to the Orange Bowl, and the "Booblehead Museum" (housing bobbleheads both recent and ancient from all the teams in the league). Out in left field is the "Budweiser Porch," with its attendant bar, and a small video game area (with Pac Man in addition to Guitar Hero and MLB 2012), and in center is specialty "Miami" concessions, along with the previously mentioned statue (entitled "Home Run Sculpture," nattily enough. Sadly, it did not go off during the game, because perhaps the action of the statue redeems it, as otherwise, it is just a mess of something.).

Bobblehead Museum
Museo de Bobblehead

Outside of the required walk up the stairs, the upper deck areas were fine, with good views and concessions available in the hallways. There was even a weird glass box towards right that was branded Pepsi something, but I was not quite sure what it was supposed to be except perhaps another special "box" seating area. There are two big scoreboards, the main one out in right-center, and a smaller, but far more detailed one, in left-center, that things such as full batter and pitcher stats and mapping of previous hits in the game.

Festivities on the field were hosted by Billy the Marlin and the "Marlins Vision" team, with the hot Latina announcer, and Marlins dance squad, who, in addition to doing some dancing, seemed to have the job of non-stop mugging behind the announcer during all the between-inning bits.

As to the fans, to be positive, it was a significant increase from my last visit, where a handful of fans sat cowering the shade. There was a decent crowd, but it was not near close to a sell-out for the first year of a stadium, and over half the fans were for the opposing team, which are not good long-term indicators of health for the Miami franchise. The blame can no longer be laid on the park, as Marlins Field was surprisingly well done. And also apparently pet-friendly, judging by the one or two dogs I saw in attendance.

The fans that were there were into the game, and had the decency to drown out the visiting fans when they attempted to get "Let's Go Mets" chants going at opportune times in the later innings.

At the Game with Oogie:
Indoor scoring

This was an interesting one, because for one thing, even though we were the visiting team, the Metropolitans fans were clearly in the majority. Especially early before the game, people in Mets gear outnumbered the folks in Marlins gear by at least two to one. Waiting to get in at the stadium, I got into a conversation with someone asking how the Cyclones were doing, because this was one of the only places where my hat was easily recognizable.

I was one of the first into the stadium to do my thing, and as the gates only opened an hour and a half before the game, I had to move to get in all the photos. I eventually finished my business and got some food at one of the downstairs concessions stands and found a perch to eat before heading down to my seat.

As mentioned before, I had bought my tickets as soon as they were on sale to the general public in February. I got a single seat on the isle in the area right behind home plate, about ten rows back from the field. Little did I know then that there would still be this many seats available for games.

I made my way down to my seat, and I was right behind an older woman and her adult daughter. They turned into my row and took the two seats one off from the aisle, and it turned out that I had the seat right on the end of the aisle, which we found pretty coincidental. They were both Marlins fans who were making their first visit to the new stadium this night. We were in a sea of Mets fans, including two older women right in front of us, one in a Seaver jersey.

I had a great time with them at the game, as we both were rooting for our respective teams through the game in a very civilized fashion. For anyone who has talked about the myth of the Marlins fan, I sat next to two of the genuine article at this game. They even got on the main scoreboard towards the end of the game, along with the edge of my scorecard. Fame at last.

Even though the tumult of the last innings, we kept up our good will, and as they settled in for the post-game fireworks, I wished them a good evening. They seemed to have a good enough time even given the outcome.

The Game:
First pitch, Metropolitans vs. Marlins
First pitch, Metropolitans vs. Marlins

This battle for the basement of the NL East with two end-of-rotation pitchers held all the promise of a game... between the last two teams in the NL East with their crappier pitchers. And for most of the game, it certainly lived up to those expectations.

Both sides went quickly in order in the first. The Mets managed a walk in the top of the second to break up the perfect game, but then the next nine batters went in order. The jokes about the players having pressing engagements after the game began to fly.

In the bottom of the third, the Mets perfect and no-hitter disappeared with a clean lead-off single to center. The runner moved to second on a fielder's choice, but after a strikeout of the opposing pitcher, a double to the gap drove the runner in, putting up the seemingly insurmountable lead of 1-0 at the end of three. The Mets only managed a one-out walk in the top of the fourth, while the Marlins had a lead-off single that made it to third on a wild pitch and a fielder's choice before being stranded.

The Mets shocked everyone by breaking up the no-hitter with a lead-off double in the fifth that came home on two straight fielder's choices, knotting it up at 1-1, while the Marlins went in order. In the top of the sixth, the Mets only got a lead-off single to show for their half. Turncoat shortstop Jose Reyes got a one-out single in the bottom of the inning who was driven home by two straight singles before two pop-outs stranded everyone else, with the Marlins retaking a 2-1 lead.

Both sides went in order in the seventh, and the Mets had a lead-off single erased on a double-play in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the inning, Jose Reyes got a one-out walk, stole second, and then sped home on a sharp single, before a double-play ended the inning with the Marlins owning a 3-1 lead.

The Marlins brought in their closer, and all the Metropolitans fans in attendance waited for the inevitable fold, but they surprised everyone with back-to-back singles to start the inning. A strikeout and a single followed to bring in one run, and line out to short came after. The closer walked the next batter to load up the bases, and backup catcher Kelly Shoppich lined one to center. The Marlins center fielder booted the ball trying to rush a throw. At the end of the play, three runs came in, and Shoppich stood at third with two outs. A strikeout ended the inning with the Mets improbably up, 5-3. Francisco came in for the save, and another seemingly inevitable fold failed to happen, as the Marlins went in order to seal the win for the visiting Metropolitans.

The Scorecard:
Metropolitans vs. Marlins, 09-01-12. Metropolitans win, 5-3.
Metropolitans vs. Marlins, 09/01/12. Metropolitans win, 5-3.

The good news is that the scorecard was a free giveaway on bi-fold cardstock. And there the good news ends. The scorecard looks to be a re-printed version of the old Marlins scorecard, with tiny boxes, few lines, no pitching lines, and an updated logo. I had to ask at two or three souvenir stands to find any of the free scorecards available. It appears that they printed them up at the start of the season and then never reprinted, left to be delivered for free for the oddballs such as myself that sought them.

Scoring-wise, there was nothing that out of the ordinary in this one, which is logical given the lack of action. However, even with only a handful of pitching changes and substitutions, this scorecard was pushed to its limits. Simply awful.

The Accommodations:
I spent most of a very lazy morning in my hotel room and the breakfast buffet at the Hyatt Regency before stopping back to shower and change for the game.

Room service
Room food

After the game, I had some room service and watching the downtown Miami night before going to bed.

On Spending a Day in the Sun

Hotel sunrise
Hotel Sunirse
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Miami, FL

Outside the Game:
Befitting a Sunday, I got up at a leisurely pace, and I repeated the previous day's activities of eventually slouching into some clothes to get breakfast at the hotel buffet, and then dragging myself back to the room for an additional nap to sleep off all the food I had eaten. I eventually re-awakened to clean up and go out into the day.

This was completely unscheduled, but I had decided based on some research and the tour the previous day to go visit Vizcaya and the Miami Science Museum, which were both located literally across the street from each other in Coconut Grove.

It was another short drive out there, where I nearly drove right past the somewhat hidden entrance to the Vizcaya Museum. A rambling and grandiose road eventually got me to the parking lot, where I was sure to find a space in the shade before heading off to the main entrance. Vizcaya was the grand turn-of-the-century estate of James Deering, a farm equipment magnate of Deering McCormick. The palatial Italian-inspired estate cost $20 in the 20s, and would easily cost a half a billion dollars today.

Fancy schmancy

Because of some reconstruction work on the main atrium, the entrance fees were reduced, so I had that going for me. The place really defies any description besides "decadent." Constructed as a modern villa mansion, the  main house was filled with priceless Old World relics pried from Rome, Venice, and Spain and turned into elaborate rooms centered around them. Guest rooms were more opulent than most mansions of the time. I do know that if I do ever get that kind of rich, I want a library that looks exactly like the one in that house.

The big thing was that the main house was only the start of the extravagance. The grounds extended seemingly forever, jam-packed with folly Roman shipwrecks, grottos, casino houses, and gardens each more opulent than the last. The truly astounding bit was that this was only a small potion of the estate, which extended out a mile or so and included a full town for the help and workshops to provide essentials for this early Miami outpost. Several of the in-progress renovated garden were visible, which just added to the scope. On the one hand, I suppose I should be offended at the excess, but man, if you're going to be hyper-rich, this is the sort of legacy you should leave behind. The mega-mansions of the Gilded Age in New York are something, but they lack the sheer scope of places such as this.

Awaiting renovation

After my fill of Vizcaya, I went across the street to follow more nerdy pursuits at the Miami Science Museum. I got there right as a planetarium show was starting, so I got to spend some time in a cool, dark room for a half hour, which was especially appreciated on a today such as that. The museum was pretty interesting, and in addition to the regular science exhibits, they had a bit of a zoo out back with rehabilitation facilities for raptors, mangrove seedlings, and some big old turtles who were very unimpressed with everything going on around them.


When done with the science, I made the short drive back to my hotel to go and shower up, pack up all my stuff, and wait for the sun to go down. I got dressed for dinner and went to a nearby steak house to eat, and then spent some time walking around Bayfront Park again to help digest and get me ready to try and go to sleep. While sitting down at a bench, I was joined by an older man, and we got to talking, as can happen. He asked if I liked Miami, and I said it was nice enough, but right now, at night and in the mid 80s, was as hot as I'd ever want it to be, and pointing to a bandstand a small distance away where a salsa band was playing, I said that residents considered this an appropriate temperature in which to dance. Because of that, this place just wasn't for me, all things considered.

On the way to back to the hotel, I tried out the fully electric and conductorless people mover trams that Miami has in downtown. I was surprised that the stations weren't gratified nightmares and that the trains weren't homeless hotels. It was a pleasant enough experience, but I still have to wonder why it hasn't completely fallen to rot yet.

Robot transit

I went back the hotel and turned in for my early morning the next day. Since I would be getting up far before sunrise, I left the shades in the room open and watched the Miami night on my way to sleep.

The Accommodations:
I was at the Hyatt Regency again. Outside of the lazy morning, I didn't spend much time in the room except to shower up before dinner and pack my bags for the early departure the next day afterwards.

On Leaving Early

Miami International, early
Monday, September 3, 2012
Hoboken, NJ

Outside the Game:
Four forty-five AM is no time that any god-fearing individual should need to awaken in a just world. With my flight at a little after 7, I had to get going, because I always prefer a lot early than a little late, or even close to the last minute. I called down for my car, cleaned up, threw on some clothes, and then went down to check out.

At check out, the bill for additional services was far lower than I expected, and it turned out that my breakfast buffet was actually included in my price of the room, which made the deal even more exceptional. I settled up, went outside to pick up my car, and was on my way back to the airport (which, incidentally, was north-west of my hotel, not north). An extremely short ride later had me at the rental building, where I dropped off my car and went to the people-mover thing back to the main terminal buildings.

I got there an hour or so before my flight was to board, and most of the stores and concessions weren't yet open. Despairing any sort of food options once I got into the gate area, I walked around until I found an open Burger King, where I purchased and devoured two Croissanwiches before heading to security.

Due to the hour, there was no line, and I got through quickly, and after walking around, validated my decision to get some food before I came in. My gate was all the way at the end of the terminal again, and I walked on down and waited for the flight to board. Nearly everyone was of the same frame of mind: They wanted to get on the plane so they could get back to sleep. We boarded on-time and without incident, and everyone got right to the task of going back to sleep. I joined them for most o the flight, waking up just as we were beginning the descent to Newark.

We all got off the plane and I went out to grab a cab. Still early on a holiday weekend, we made it to Hoboken in about ten minutes, and then promptly spent ten minutes in Hoboken traffic due to a fire emergency somewhere. I eventually got to my apartment, dragged my stuff up, and started to run the tub for a soak that I very desperately needed at that point.

The Accommodations:
Hoboken, for better or worse

2012 Stand-Alone Trip

Saturday, August 18, 2012


On the Fickleness of Rain

Dodd Stadium
Dodd Stadium, 2012
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Aberdeen Ironbirds (Baltimore Orioles) vs.
Connecticut Tigers (Detroit Tigers)
Dodd Stadium
New York-Penn League (Short Season A)
Norwich, CT
7:05 PM

Outside the Game:
This day did not start under auspicious circumstances. Before I left home, the forecast for Saturday was a bunch of rain in the morning, and then it was going to clear up for the rest of the day. In an inverse of the previous week, the weather report kept getting worse as time progressed. By Friday night, it was rain until mid-day the next day, and by the time I woke up Saturday, it was rain until mid-day, then no rain, and then more rain later in the evening. It did not look good to get this game in, and it was the last time the Tigers were going to be home before Labor Day, when I was going to be out of town to see the new Miami park. The Sunday game was not scheduled to start until 4 PM, making it very problematic for getting in a game (especially with questionable weather) and then getting home at a decent hour for work the next day.

 I had a fine breakfast at my hotel, packed up, and decided to head to Mystic Seaport anyway to see what I could see.

Almost immediately upon getting my tires on the road of 95, I hit a ridiculous traffic jam that completely validated my decision to avoid 95 like the plague on the way out. What should have been an hour ride was taking over an hour and fifteen before I bailed and used the TomTom's "roadblock" feature to take me off 95 for the rest of the way to Mystic.

It seems that everyone where I live had visited Mystic Seaport as a kid, and when polling around for something to occupy my Saturday morning in eastern Connecticut, it came up multiple times that I simply had to visit it since I missed the experience earlier in life. Not having anything better to do, I acquiesced.

Mystic Seaport

It was raining hard for all the trip down, and it didn't look to be stopping much when I arrived. I don't mind rain all that much at places such as these. It thins out the crowds. Seeing the way things seemed to be playing out, I broke out my rain gear from my game bag and rain slickered up.

I went to the entrance, payed my way in, and headed off into the rain. The place was nearly deserted, so I had my run of the area to myself, which is always appreciated. I poked my way through most of the exhibits at my own pace, and only the indoors ones had any other people around. In addition to walking my way around on the various ships they had at dock, my favorite part of the museum was the row of craftsmen shops they had. Each place (blacksmith, printer, instrument maker, cooper, etc) was staffed by a person who actually worked at the profession and was there to give talks and demonstrations to the visitors. Since it was so sparsely populated with guests, I ended up having long and excellent conversations with all the craftsmen about their work. It was really engaging. Especially of note was the printer, who had a hand-printed "rules of baseball" framed on the wall that was available for purchase at some of the stores on the premises.

And that was it operating properly

I spent a quite enjoyable afternoon walking around the place. There was an antique marine motor exhibition going on at one end of the seaport, and talking to some of the people there, they said that the radar showed that the rain was eventually going to let up soon, and, more importantly to me, that the storm had been just hugging the coast and had already passed up north. This gave me some hope that I may still yet get the game at Norwich in, and, as was foretold, the rain shortly started to let up and stop.

Almost immediately, more people appeared out of nowhere, and the seaport started to fill up. I stopped at a restaurant in the park to get some late lunch (again), and then I hit the museum store to get my poster and a bunch of other things I don't really need, before heading back to the car to go up to see if a baseball game was being played that evening.

Things looked up nearly immediately as I left Mystic, the sun was out and pounding down, giving credence to the reports from the folks in Mystic on the weather. The drive up went quickly, but it turns out that Dodd Stadium was located in the back of a winding commercial park. At the very start, I was heartened by the "Game Today" sign I saw at the entrance to the facility, but I got less and less enthusiastic every couple of minutes of curving driving that led to yet another sign to the park. After about ten minutes of this process, I eventually made it to the stadium, cracked a bad joke about getting there to the traffic attendant, and then went about my business taking pictures until the park opened.

After the game, the temperature had dropped, and all the cars in the lot were covered in dew. It took me a while to find my car, as it was hidden behind a large van that parked next to me after I left. With the sparse crowd, it was pretty easy to get out of the stadium. Remembering my lessons on 95, I managed to trick my TomTom into going the northern route home by picking waypoints along the path to feed to it until the way I wanted to go back to the Tappen Zee was the most direct route. I encountered no traffic on the way back, although night driving on the Saw Mill was a little nerve-wracking. I managed to pull into Hoboken a little before 1 AM, the same time I arrived from New Britain two weeks earlier.

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

Dodd Stadium, besides its insane location at the very back of a commercial park that does not seem to have an end, was a nice enough A stadium. Outside, the facade extends between the outfield. A small walkway goes most of the way around the place, dead-ending in the back by left-center. All of the wood outfield wall is exposed, and over on the left field side is a narrow chain-linked path out to a gate in left.

There is an entrance in left field to the Manshantucket Piquot BBQ area, but the main entrance is behind home plate. The old Navigators mascot, Tater the Gator, stands outside in statue form, between the main ticket office and the team store. Directly inside the gate is the main fan services area, where the autograph signings and bat giveaway for the evening were set up.

The stadium has the standard alignment of a two-tiered row of seats from outfield to outfield around home plate. A second level of luxury boxes runs from third to first. Out in left field is an extensive picnic and barbeque area, along with a small kids' play area and a picnic berm. The bushes out on the top of the berm are spray-painted "Tigers 1" in a show of home-team support. In right field is a specialty burger concession, a "Hole in the Wall" bar, and a gazebo with deck chairs and a small garden on top of another picnic berm. Regular concession line the walkway around the seating areas, and the team store is located by home plate.

I've heard that the franchise gets good attendance overall, but on this rain-soaked day with dire predictions of nothing but more rain for the rest of the night, the crowd was sparse, and mostly located in the luxury boxes and on the Tigers' first-base side of the field. Those in attendance were pretty into the game.

There was the usual between-inning tomfoolery you expect in low A ball. There were skills contests, and races, and give-aways to the crowd. The Tigers had an odd mascot situation. There was the obvious CT the Tiger, but the old Norwich Navigator mascot (before the team changed affiliations), Tater the Gater, was so popular that he was apparently also brought back this season. In addition to these two, a giant chicken rounds out the extensive mascot parade.


The mascots are joined by a rather sizable events staff that also dress up and throw out things throughout the course of the game, in addition to leading certain audience participation events throughout the evening.

Perhaps trying to evoke some of the mystique of Wrigley Field, the radio announcer for the team leans out of his broadcast booth and leads the fans in "Take Me Out To the Ballgame." Another Caray he is not.

At the Game with Oogie:
Hot dog
Jumbo Dog

As surprised as I was that the game was actually going to be played, I was still there prior to the gates opening up. There was some manner of pre-game prayer meeting going on near first base, but the regular folk would not be let in until an hour before game time.

In doing my regular walk-around the stadium, I came across one of the Tiger players walking back opposite to me from the back of the stadium. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it turns out that it dead ends behind the stadium, and the only way back is the way I came, so I started to wonder exactly what he was doing back there. A mystery it shall remain.

It was a free mini-bat giveaway at the stadium, so I suppose I was a little cautious of things, but nothing came of it. I had again sprung for seats behind the home dugout, but given the light turnout, I don't know if the ticket seller misunderstood me about wanting to sit right behind the dugout, or if there were a lot of season ticket holders who didn't come out because of the weather. I ended up with great seats in the second tier behind the dugout, but there were tons of free seats in the areas in front of me.

There was a small family directly behind me for the game who seemed to be season ticket holders, but there was no one else in my immediate area. The first-base side was the most filled area of the park, with the exception of the "luxury" boxes. It was mostly families, and given the weather, the light turn-out was pretty much expected.

The Game:
First pitch, Ironbirds vs. Tigers
First pitch, Ironbirds vs. Tigers

Towards the end of the single-A short season, most of the players who have any real promise find themselves elsewhere, so it can be a crap shoot on what you get. Tonight's game was low offense.

The visiting Ironbirds went down in order in the first with two strikeouts, and the Tigers did only slightly better, scratching out a single. There was some activity in the second, however. The Ironbirds led off with a questionable single to second. A ground-out moved the runner over to second, and a straight steal got him to third. A strike out got us to two outs, but another questionable single back to the pitcher brought the run home before a ground-out ended the inning. Not to be outdone, the Tigers had a one-out walk followed by a single and another walk to load the bases. A wild pitch brought in a run, and a throwing error by the catcher let another run score and moved the man on first to third with only one out. The pitcher calmed down and got a strikeout and a liner to second to end the inning 2-1 Tigers.

The Ironbirds went meekly in order in the third, and the Tigers got only a single, erased on a double-play. The Birds went in order again in the fourth, but the Tigers got going. A lead-off walk scored on a triple, then two straight strikeouts looked like the Ironbirds may get out of it. The next batter, however, walked, and a new pitcher was brought in. The runner at first attempted a steal of second and drew the throw and a rundown, allowing the runner at third to score before he got tagged out, leaving it 3-1 Tigers at the end of four, with only one RBI to show for any of those runs.

The anemic Ironbirds went yet again in order in the fifth, and the Tigers only had one epicly plunked batsman (the ball bounced off the helmet and almost made it to first base) to show for their half. The sixth played out the same way, with the Tigers going in order as well. The Birds continued to get mowed down in order in the seventh, and the Tigers only managed one two-out hit.

The Ironbirds finally got on base in the eighth with a two-out walk and a single, and a passed ball got them to second and third, only to be stranded by a weak ground-out to the pitcher. The Tigers went in order in their half on three quick ground outs. For their last licks in the ninth, the Ironbirds got their lead-off man on with an E3 on the first baseman, but he was quickly erased on a double-play ball. The next batter struck out, and the Tigers secured their 4-1 victory.

The Scorecard:
Ironbirds vs. Tigers, 08-18-12. Tigers win, 4-1.Ironbirds vs. Tigers, 08-18-12. Tigers win, 4-1.
Ironbirds vs. Tigers, 08/18/12. Tigers win, 4-1.

The scorecard was part of a free newsprint program. The cheap paper and inlaid logo made scoring with pencils difficult, but with experience, I was able to pull it off. The scoring boxes were also unnecessarily small, with wide tracts of land wasted on the pitching lines and the scorekeeping instructions.

There were a number of calls I disagreed with the official scorer on. In the top of the second, there were two infield "hits" that just had to be errors. It had real implications as well, as if those hits were rightly called errors, the Tigers had a no-hitter going through 7.6 innings (though with a myriad of pitchers), until a legit single in the bottom of the eighth.

A 3-6-3 double-play went down in the top of the third (always a welcome occurrence), and there was a weird one in the top of the eighth when the first baseman broke the webbing in his mitt on a throw over from the pitcher. This entailed a rather lengthy period where the first baseman tried to fix his glove and then had to rummage in the dugout for a replacement that was not readily available. As mentioned, the four runs for the Tigers had only produced one RBI, and only two of the runs were earned. Defense can be a killer, folks.

The Accommodations:
Late, but Hoboken

2012 New England Weekend

Friday, August 17, 2012


On the Beauty of the Unexpected

McCoy Stadium
McCoy Stadium, 2012
Friday, August 17, 2012
Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees (New York Yankees) vs.
Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston Red Sox)
International League (AAA)
McCoy Stadium
Pawtucket, RI
7:05 PM

Outside the Game:
I decided to take my "Summer Friday" at work to try and knock off the last two teams left on my Connecticut/Rhode Island list: Pawtucket and Norwich. Since they were both over three hours from home (on a theoretical traffic-less trip on 95), I decided to do a sleep-over for them, bunking up after the first night, and then seeing how long the second game went before deciding on whether to drive home after the second night or get another hotel.

After getting another pep talk about how bad 95 was on the weekends from a colleague at work, I decided to take the "long" way around. Although the "northern route" up and over was another half-hour longer, there was at least a half-hour of traffic waiting for me on 95 (if TomTom and Google Maps were to be believed [and they were]), and I'd rather be driving for that time than sitting and stewing.

I was trying to get started at 10 AM , eventually was physically behind the wheel and driving a little before 11, and decided to chance a city crossing. I went through the tunnel, and then straight up the West Side, taking 9 up and out of the city before hooking up with 684. And from there, it was mostly straight east for the rest of the trip. Beside some minor congestion at some work sites or near cities, it was smooth sailing all the way there.

In fact, it was such smooth sailing that I forgot to stop for lunch. So when I eventually pulled into Pawtucket a little before 3 PM, I was seriously hungry. Some construction was going on in town that took me the long way to the hotel, but I eventually got there, checked in, and dumped my stuff in my room. I made a quick walk to a local fast food place to get some late lunch, and then went back to the room for a nap before leaving for the game.

It was only a mile to the stadium from the hotel, but I drove it anyway, since I didn't want to be walking around in the dark at night in an unfamiliar town, and I didn't know how tired I'd be. It only took a minute to get there, and I was one of the first in the free parking lots outside the stadium.

After the game, it was mostly the same in reverse, although the TomTom took me on 95 for no reason. I got back to the hotel before 11 PM, and spent the rest of the evening getting ready for tomorrow and working on the scorecard.

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

The home of the AAA affiliate of the Red Sox, McCoy Stadium is an old place that has been renovated a bunch of times, and it is absolutely great. It is probably on the small side for AAA parks, but it is an old bandstand park, with one large seating area under a classic overhang that runs from base-to-base behind home plate. An old-style broadcast booth lies parked up behind home plate, with honest-to-goodness restricted view seats located behind them.

All around the outside walls of the park was a "Walk of Fame," with big posters of all the major-leaguers of note who came through the "PawSox," with special note of the world series winners. There were also no less than three barbecue areas arrayed about the outfield seating for people with special tickets. You could walk all around the stadium, and there was a high-school track located next door. A family across the parking lot from the stadium decorated the back of their house to be a scoreboard, and they have lawn chairs and the like for, I guess, listening to the game, since they are staring right at a wall of the stadium.

The main entrance to the stadium was out in right field, with access to the team store on the ground floor before spiraling up in a staircase. It was located next to the main ticket window, the team store, and a number of baseball-themed statues out in a little park. A martial arts school was doing demonstrations next to the park for most of the time before the game, and would latter do a pre-game demonstration on the field.

The main seating area of the stadium is divided into a lower area by the field, a middle area, and an upper area. As mentioned, the upper area has some restricted-view seats, especially by the old press box. Due to a particular layout quirk of the stadium, the dugouts are actually inset into the stadium, under the lowest row of seats (probably due to one of the previous expansions). So instead of hanging on the top of the dugout to ask for autographs, kids "fish" for autographs, by tying books and whatnot on strings with pens and lowering them down in front of the dugout. Players will then sign throughout the game, and the seekers can drag up their catch at the end of the game to see what they got. The "luxury" boxes in the stadium are also all field-level, as opposed to above the action at most places.

Extra innings
The longest memorial in minor-league history

There is a main walkway that extends around the stadium between the middle and lower seats. All the concessions are arrayed throughout this area, as well as tributes to great moments in Pawsox history. A particularly large display is dedicated to the 33-inning game at McCoy field, the longest game in organized baseball history. There is also a small icy stand by the main entrance staircase dubbed "Paw's Pavilion." A small kids area sits in right. There is a walkway above the upper level that leads down to the upper-area seats. These are reachable by spiral ramps located sporadically around the circumference of the seating area. They are decorated with painted baseball cards of notable Pawsox alumni.


The outfield seating is its own entity. In left, by the Pawsox bullpen, is the "berm" seating, with an open-seating picnic berm. In center to right are two BBQ areas around the bleachers proper. The "Red" BBQ tent sits out in right, with a large tented area for barbecue, and a small bleacher area out front for people who actually want to watch the game. (Someone managed to fall off of it at the game I was at, so there was a lot of paramedic activity in the area.)

There was less of the regular minor-league tomfoolery between innings. The main feature seemed to be "Pawsox Idol" where singers came on between innings to sing for the approval of the crowd. There were a few contests and a t-shirt toss, and the standard seventh-inning fair. The mascots (Paw and Sox) made their way through the crowd for most of the game, and were only on one or two on-field activities.

There was a large crowd for the game that night (especially, perhaps, because it had connotations for the league playoffs against the hated Yankees), and everyone was into the game. As with the case in New England, there were a lot of scorers in attendance that evening as well. What was surprising was the sizable contingent of Yankee fans in the house. Although they are everywhere, seeing them all in the park this deep in New England was a thing to behold. In the later innings, they even took up the "Let's Go Yankees" chant, and in some cases, drowned out the Pawsox fans. But the local crowd stayed in it, even to the bitterest of bitter end, though a lot of people made for the exits before the top of the ninth.

At the Game with Oogie:
Old-school scoring

On a fluke, I decided to take a look at what seats were available online when I was making my hotel reservation the night before leaving. There were precious few seats still available for the game, so it is lucky I did. I was able to get a seat in the middle section behind the home dugout since I was only a single, but all the non-handicap seats in the lowest section were already booked.

I was in an area right behind third base and to the left of the protective netting, so all in all, it wasn't a bad seat by any stretch of the imagination. It was in was sandwiched around several rows of some kind of social club for older gentlemen who were making a yearly trip to see the team. They were all on a chartered bus, so they were gassing up pretty heavily, but they weren't out of control by any means, just there to have a good time. Everyone was talking with each other, and, as the game progressed, yelling at the team and the umpire crew.

There was a group of two guys to my left who appreciated the two-pencil scoring style I was using. We had a brief talk about that, and then I became the go-to guy when anyone had any questions about what had happened earlier in the game.

The group perked up considerably when an in-game announcement about the major league match-up between the Sox and Yankees was given, with the Red Sox jumping into the lead. But the lack of updates and the particular kick when they were down would happen when the announcers confirmed the major-league Yankees had come back to win that game as well.

The Game:
First pitch, Yankees vs. Red Sox
First pitch, Yankees vs. Red Sox

When you out-hit someone 14 to 8, you'd probably expect to win. For this game, you'd be wrong, as Pawtucket got nearly double the hits of the Yankees, but had nearly triple the men left on base. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Pawtucket was the visiting team for this night's contest even while in their home park because of renovations at the Scranton Yankees facility that had them on the road for the entire season. The Pawsox were up first, and got it first and third with two outs with a couple of long singles, but killed their own rally when they tried to send the guy from third home on a wild pitch. He got gunned down by a mile to kill the half inning. This would set the stage for the entire game: questionable choices and men left on base. In the bottom of the first, the Yankees blasted a one-out homer to right that may have landed in Boston, ending the first up, 1-0.

The Pawsox got a single and walk before two straight fly outs, and what would have been the last batter in the inning struck out, but a dropped third strike led to a bases-loaded situation. But a weak ground out to the pitcher quickly snuffed the threat and left even more men on base. The Yankees had a single (erased on a double-play) to show for their half of the inning. In the top of the third, the Pawsox finally broke through. A lead-off single was followed by a double, leaving it second third with no outs. After a strikeout, a single brought in a run to tie it, but on the next play, they decided to test the left fielder's arm on a fly out, and the runner (not sliding for whatever reason) was gunned down by a mile in the second half of the inning-ending double play. The Yankees got a two-out walk and a double to quickly regain the lead, 2-1, at the end of three.

In the top of the fourth, the Pawsox again mounted a rally. Three singles in a row brought home the tying run and left the bases loaded, but a grounder to third for a put-out at home and a double play ball that followed left it tied. As if to show the Pawsox how not to leave men on base, the Yankees got their first two batters on with a walk and a hit batsman, followed with two quick outs, and then had the next batter hit a towering homer to left to clear the bases, with the inning ending with the Yankees up, 5-2.

Things settled down then for a while, with the Pawsox just getting a walk and the Yankees going in order in the fifth, and the Pawsox going in order and the Yankees just getting a walk in the sixth. The Pawsox went in order in the seventh, but the Yankees got a lead-off homer to make it 6-2 at the end of seven. The Pawsox scattered two singles in the top of the eighth to no effect, while the Yankees had a lead-off single, and then a foul out to third, and then the entire frickin' world ended.

The Yankees center fielder hit a ball out to the corner in left. It was called a foul initially, but after some yelling from the Yankee dugout and a huddle by the umpires, it was called a two-run home run. And that was about all the Pawtucket manager could take, as he came out and quickly got himself ejected, and the pitching coach soon followed, needing to be restrained by other players and coaches while still no doubt earning some fines as he bumped up a storm on the umps. The pitcher got out of the inning with the score 8-2 Yankees. But on the way back to the dugout, he had words with the home plate umpire, got ejected, and had to be tackled several times by teammates to prevent further altercation that may have ended in bloodshed.

Perhaps energized by the actions of the umpires, the Pawsox got a lead-off walk and then a homer in the top of the ninth (that lead the right fielder to go spout over teakettle over the outfield fence trying to corral it), and with two outs, they launched another homer to left, before a weak ground out to first made the final score a more respectable 8-5.

This win helped put some distance between the Yankees and the second-place Pawsox in their division race, and, coupled with the big team Sox's loss to the Yankees, the crowd did not leave happy in any way from this game.

The Scorecard:
Yankees vs. Red Sox, 08-17-12. Yankees win, 8-5.Yankees vs. Red Sox, 08-17-12. Yankees win, 8-5.
Yankees vs. Red Sox, 08/17/12. Yankees win, 8-5.

This was one of the most pleasant surprises of a day of pleasant surprises. Say what you want about New England, but they are a people that take their baseball scoring seriously, apparently even in the minors.

Scorecards were for sale at a kiosk outside the stadium, right next to a printed standee that had the lineups for the evening. The scorecard cost $1, and was its own booklet on heavy-weight paper, with the scorecard proper as the centerfold of the booklet. It was a very appealing size, with no ads on the scorecard pages to scrunch up the scoring space, either. The paper was a delight to write on, and was clearly made to be used with pencils. It handled erasing and re-writing quite well, and had copious space to record everything. It used a standard pre-printed diamond boxes, but unlike my last foray with such things, it was easy enough to write over the diamonds legibly, even with pencils.

The first weirdness to deal with was that the Sox were the visiting team in their own park this evening, as Scranton was playing all their games on the road. I made some notations to deal with that. There were some minorly odd or uncommon plays of note, like the 4-1 put out in the bottom of the first (when the first baseman got pulled so far off the bag to make an attempt on the ball that the pitcher covering first eventually got the throw from the second baseman who made the play), and the L-6-3 DP in the bottom of the second (which just doesn't happen all that often).

But the true oddness happened in the bottom of the eighth with the home run call. What looked (or at least hoped) to be just a foul ball was overturned after the ump huddle. I've never had one of those before, so I made a note of it on the play, along with the initial ejections of the manager and the pitching coach. I had to add a further notation at the end of the inning when the pitcher got the hook, as well. Certainly a record for ejections I've seen, and perhaps home runs as well, with a total of six for the game.

I also took issue with an official scorer's decision to call a grounder to third a hit instead of an error. I'm not sure if they hold people to lesser standards in AAA, but that was a routine grounder. I put an asterisk on the scorecard and left it at that, but sometimes I wonder about the people they have scoring games for real.

The Accommodations:
Comfort Inn
Comfort Inn

I was only able to find one hotel actually in Pawtucket itself, as opposed to the many in surrounding Providence area. I made my reservation for the Comfort Inn on the night before I left, and after my rather relaxing drive up, I pulled in during the mid-afternoon.

It was about as nice a mid-scale hotel as I expected. The room had its own desk and lounge chair, and parking was free. It was directly attached to a restaurant and right down the street from some fast food establishments that I partook of throughout the day. For some reason, I found the knowledge of a free breakfast the next day very exciting.

One other thing of note: The previous occupant of my room used the notepad, and at a quick glance, I noticed the word "password" embossed on the top sheet. Using my Encyclopedia Brown skills, I went over the pad with the side of a pencil, and I had the full login credentials for the back end of a company site -- left in a hotel room. Lucky I'm a decent person, but when people talk about "physical and human resources security" being the weak point of any system, they are not kidding.

2012 New England Weekend