Sunday, May 27, 2012


On Even More Wonderment

Consol Energy Park
Consol Energy Park, 2012
Sunday, May 27, 2012
River City Rascals vs. Washington Wild Things
Consol Energy Park
Frontier League
Washington, PA
7:05 PM

Outside of the Game:
There was yet another morning and afternoon of practicing the nerdy arts, with breaks for breakfast and lunch. Because Washington, PA, was even closer than Pittsburgh, we had an extra hour or so with which to do things that would have gotten us stuck in lockers had we still been in high school.

Washington is nowhere near the size of relative metropolis Pittsburgh, so we had no fears about the drive out, nor were any warranted. The drive there and back went without much notice, except that on the way back, I tried out using the "automatic" manual option on my rental car, marking the first and only time that I had driven a manual transmission car. You're all desperately interested, I'm sure.

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

Consol Energy Park is located right door to the Pony League National Headquarters. I wasn't aware that the Pony Leagues even had a national headquarters, but it is apparently located right next door to Consol Energy Park in Washington, PA.

The nomenclature of the park was a delicate subject, it seemed. Out in front of the park was a statue dedicated Angelo Falconi, who apparently brought the team to Washington, and there are several places around the park where references to "Falconi Field" still reside. However, Consol Energy's money apparently meant a little bit more, as Angelo now stands in front of a park that no longer bears his name.

Consol Enrgy Park (nee' Falconi Field) was a nice little establishment, about the equivalent of a A or AA minor-league park. Two rows of seats extend from base to base around home, with special seating areas extending out into the outfield on either side, with no bleachers or seating behind the outfield.

Left field held some special concessions, the kids play area, and the "Party Pavillion" for rental by groups, while the right field side had the "Party Deck" and the team store. Out beyond the right field stands was the back entrance to the park, which had a long walkway of concessions and a giant bobble head of the Wild Things' mascot between the league standings and line-ups for the game. Former Pittsburgh Steeler and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson was on hand there signing autographs before performing his ceremonial duties with the game's first pitch.

The game featured all the between-inning events that you'd expect at an indie or minor-league game. It was all orchestrated by a head MC and his fun team of marketing interns who jumped in and out of several costumes through the course of the game, the most extravagant being the ones to promote the circus that was appearing next door for the holiday week. Of particular note was the musical chairs event they had on yoga balls. The thing about yoga balls is that the average adult-sized yoga ball can hold more than one average-sized child. This led to a lot of grappling for the last seat open, and the last two contestants both sat perched on the last yoga ball until someone on the staff arbitrarily declared a winner to the satisfaction of none.

The Wild Thing

There was a large crowd out, mostly of families and baseball fanatics, even with the other baseball options available in the general area. With certain exceptions, everyone was out for a good time.

At the Game with Oogie:
Messy meatballs

We sprung for some "expensive" indie-league seats behind the home dugout. This has become something of a tradition for me at the minor and indie level, as you get the best view, unimpeded by the netting, that makes for a good place to score a game and take some pictures to boot. We both grabbed dinner before the start of the game at a stand that sold meatball subs, and both enjoyed a guilty and messy pleasure wolfing them down on the top of the dugout.

Sadly, our good luck from the night previous did not hold up. We were sitting by some couples, one set of which was from Europe and were being explained the game by another of their group. However, the one couple at the end had a Bench Manager who was riding the home team incessantly, and was less than sober for most of the night, to the great embarrassment of his lady friend. Though coming just short of the "I thought this was America" speech from South Park, he repeatedly ignored all blandishments from his compatriots to reduce  the tone and fervor of his comments. He thankfully headed for the gates in the later innings, sparing the rest of us his insightful commentary on the play of the game for the remainder of its length.

The Game:
First pitch, Rascals vs. Wild Things
First pitch, Rascals vs. Wild Things

After last night's event, I think I was about ready for anything. I expected about a AA-level of play from the Frontier League (as that is about the level of ball that the players wash out of to end up in these indie leagues), and that is about what I got, with a lot of hits, and less pitching and glovework.

The second batter for the visiting Rascals put one over the right field wall, staking them to a 1-0 lead. The Wild Things did not let that stand, stringing together a one-out walk and a single. The sacrifice bunt to move them over (and potentially be a suicide squeeze) got botched by the pitcher, bringing home a run and leaving it second and third with one out. The pitcher calmed down, however, and got the last two outs, but not before walking another batter to load up the bases. The first ended in a 1-1 tie.

The Rascals had a lead-off double in the second, but the Wild Things set the next two down in order. However, the first baseman muffed an easy throw, bringing in the runner from second. A short single made it first and second with two outs, and then the pitcher balked them over to second and third, before a strikeout ended further damage. The Wild Things got a cheap single and nothing else in their half, leaving it 2-1 Rascals.

The top of the third went in order, but the Wild Things got three straight singles to drive in a run and leave it first and third with no one out. A grounder back to the pitcher got the runner from third trying to score, but another single loaded up the bases before the pitcher bore down and struck out the next two he faced to end the inning in a 2-2 tie.

The Rascals again went in order in the fourth, but the Wild Things had a one-out double moved to third on a ground-out and brought home on an E6 to make it 3-2 Wild Things, with their first lead of the night. In the fifth, an error and a walk gave the Rascals some base runners they couldn't bring in, and the Wild Things only managed a walk erased on a double play. The sixth had a walk and a hits batmen left on by the Rascals, while the Wild Things went in order.

The Rascals stranded a lead-off double in the seventh, while the Wild Things lost a one-out walk to a caught stealing, and then stranded a back-to-back walk and a single with two outs. The long ball came to the Rascals again with a lead-off homer in eighth, to make it 3-3, while the Wild Things went in order. The top of the ninth went in order, while the Wild Things made a bid to end it in walk-off fashion. A lead-off single got sacrificed over to second. The next batter was intentionally walked, and the batter after him was unintentionally walked, to load up the bases. Both of the next two batters got three balls on their counts, nearly forcing a literal walk-off win, but both struck out, sending the game to extra innings.

Apparently wanting to go home, the Rascals got a one-out single and a two-out triple to bring home a run, making it 4-3 before the end of their half. Unable to muster anything else, the Wild Things went in order in the bottom of the tenth, leaving the final score 4-3 Rascals.

The Scorecard:
Rascals vs. Wild Things, 05-27-12. Rascals win, 4-3.
Rascals vs. Wild Things, 05/27/12. Rascals win, 4-3.

For the first time in what seemed like a pretty long time, I had a new home scorecard to use. It was part of the free program you were given on the way into the park. It was a bi-fold pamphlet-sized booklet on shiny paper. It was easy enough to write and erase on without undue smudging, and it held an extra-inning game well, to the point of having no summary columns defined at all, just innings through fourteen. An extension of its small dimensions were scoring boxes on the smaller side.

There were a number of weird plays in this one, including an insane amount of errors, leading to few of the runs in the game being earned, and a balk in the second. The oddest notation came from a come-backers that wacked off the pitcher's arm to the shortstop, leading to a 1-6-3 putout at first.

The Accommodations:
The guest room at my friend's house again.

On Leaving

Mister Roger's Neighborhood
The Neighborhood
Monday, May 28, 2012
Hoboken, NJ

Outside of the Game:
On Memorial Day, it was time to head home. As I had flown down this time, it was more a matter of driving to the airport for a short flight home than driving for most of the day. Subsequently, I was able to get up much later, and have breakfast and lunch with my friend before heading out a little after noon to go to the airport.

I got to Pittsburgh "International" with plenty of time to spare. It was very quick to drop off my rental, and I even found a semi-secret pathway to a secondary screening area that got me through security with absolutely no wait, which left me with a bunch of time just walking around the entirety of the airport.

As is always the case when I arrive super early for a flight, my plane back was delayed, but it was only fifteen minutes or so, so it wasn't all that bad. I slept on most of the flight back to New Jersey, and my father helpfully picked me up and dropped me back at the apartment without incident, leaving me just to ponder and dread another week at work.

The Accommodations:

2012 Western PA

Saturday, May 26, 2012


On a Long Weekend

Friday, May 25, 2012
Morgantown, WV

Outside of the Game:
Early on before the season, I had arranged my yearly visit to my friend in graduate school at WVU, in what had become our yearly pilgrimage to PNC Park. This year, I decided to make the most of the time and fly down on Friday evening into Pittsburgh, rent a car to drive to his house, and fly out on the Monday. It sure beat driving the seven hours, I had Silver Elite status for the year thanks to my trips to Japan, and I had serious doubts that my aged car would be able to survive the trip again.

It turned out that I got the Friday before Memorial Day as a half-day at work, so I moved up my flight to leave even earlier in the day. For once, the flight boarded and got off without a hitch from Newark Freedom Amen Airport. Upon landing in Pittsburgh, I went on down to the car rental desk to pick up my car, where a veteran was selling those cloth flowers. It being Memorial Day Weekend and all, I bought one, to which he thanked me very, very loudly to those around me who didn't buy flowers. For some reason, this made me feel even more self-conscious about the process.

Rental car

My car turned out to be a red Chevy Sonic, which seemed like every other economy car that I'd ever driven before, except for one thing. I don't know if it was a design flaw, or a flaw flaw, or whatever, but the blind spots on this car were absolutely horrific. Any time I had to move at all laterally in the car, I spent all my time whipping my head around to make sure there wasn't a school bus full of nuns hidden somewhere I couldn't see from one vantage point or another. Early on, I just assumed that it was just my getting used to the car that was the problem, but it eventually turned out to just be awful blind spots. I even had my friend give it a go, and he agreed with me. So, well done, Chevrolet.

The drive from Pittsburgh to Morgantown was only a little over an hour and a half. Upon unloading at my friend's house, we went out for some dinner and spent the rest of the evening in various nerdy pursuits.

The Accommodations:
I was again staying at my friend's house, and after another year of work on it, he had a fully functional guest room, which is more than I needed.

On Not Expecting That

PNC Park
PNC Park, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
PNC Park
National League Central
Pittsburgh, PA
7:15 PM

Outside of the Game:
For most of the morning and afternoon, my friend and I continued our various nerdy pursuits, as is nearly always the case when we get together. After a break for lunch, and with last year's traffic still fresh in our mind, we gave ourselves some extra time for the drive up to Pittsburgh this afternoon. We headed out in my rental car, so having a second person to check voluminous blind spots was also welcome.

Unlike last time, there were no multiple events happening in Pittsburgh to snarl traffic, so we managed to try out a new parking lot across the river from PNC. This place has turned into our go-to parking lot for ever and ever. It is right at the end of the street on the river, and after the game, we pulled out directly onto the ramp that would send us south and back to Morgantown. It was a frictionless get-away and most of the trip back to the house was filled with how awesome our exit was.

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

What more can I say about PNC Park except to extend its plaudits to say it is one of the top three baseball stadiums in the world instead of just the major leagues. As often seems to be the case, we went on a day with fireworks after the game, and as jaded as I am by fireworks displays, the explosions framing that park on that river come as close as I can get to enjoying the experience.

Un Parrote

On the street outside the park before the game there was some manner of mass aerobics workout going on called "Lighten Up" that just thoroughly confused me and provided flashbacks to the late eighties. Despite that, it was a big crowd on hand in the park, even before their mystifying mid-season surge filled up the neglected seats at PNC. Though there was a large Chicago contingent in the stands, the Pirates were clearly the most numerous, and everyone seemed to be having a good time at this early-season match up.

At the Game with Oogie:
Post-game fireworks

We sprung for club-level seats again this year. Arriving with time to spare, we availed ourselves of the specialty concessions and had ourselves a leisurely dinner before the game. Even though I bought the tickets super early in the year, I was only able to snag some seats that were slightly off of home plate instead of the ones right behind home plate that we usually get. This was a tragedy of world-shattering proportions. Except it wasn't, and the seats were just as good. There were mostly families around us, and for good or bad, there wasn't much to say about our seat mates for the game.

The Game:
First pitch, Cubs vs. Pirates
First pitch, Cubs vs. Pirates

I doubt this is one that either team is going to have on their highlight reel at the end of the season.

The Cubs went down in order in the first, and beside a two-out single that got the runner all the way to third on a wild pitch, the Pirates didn't do much better. The Cubs had a lead-off single erased on a double-play in the second, whereas the Pirates got their lead-off hitter to third on a stolen base and a fly-out. A walk made it first and third with one out, before the next two went in order to end it.

With two outs in the top of the third, the Cubs got a single in the gap. The next batter hit one back to the pitcher, who promptly threw it into right, sending the runners to second and third. And then there was a grounder to third, and for no good reason, the runner a third was going on contact and got gunned down at the plate to end the inning. The Pirates started their half with a hit batman who got sacrificed over to second. The dangerous McCuttchen got a free pass to first, but the next batter lined one to center to bring the run home and leave it first and third with one out. A sacrifice fly brought in the runner from third, and the next batter had a short single, followed by a walk to load them up. However, the next batter grounded weakly to short, to end the inning with the Pirates up 2-0.

The Cubbies got on the board in the fourth with a two-out homer to dead center, to make it 2-1, while the Pirates went in order. Continuing their two-out magic in the fifth, the Cubs strung together a double and a triple before a ground-out ended it, tying the game up at two apiece. The Pirates scattered two walks with nothing to show for it. Both sides went in order in the sixth, but the Cubs would find spectacular ways to fail in the seventh. A one-out walk was followed by a deep double to right. The runner at first tried to make it home, but was gunned down by the relay throw from second, letting the batter get to third on the throw. Another walk followed, but a new pitcher got a strikeout to end the half inning with the score still tied. The Pirates managed a hit and an intentional walk in their half, but got no one across.

Both sides went in order in the eighth, and the Cubs kept it going by falling down in order in the top of the ninth. Then the weirdness happened. The Pirates started the bottom of the ninth with a single and a walk before the Cubs pitcher got the next two. On the second out, a fly out to deep center, the runner at second made it to third. The runner on first walked over to second on the first pitch to the next batter due to defensive indifference (as the runner at third was the only one that mattered). The Cubs eventually walked that batter, and loaded up the bases with two outs. The pitcher was clearly feeling the pressure, and promptly plunked the next batter, for your run-of-the-mill walk-off hit-by-pitch, giving the Pirates the 3-2 win.

The Scorecard:
Cubs vs. Pirates, 05-26-12. Pirates win, 3-2.Cubs vs. Pirates, 05-26-12. Pirates win, 3-2.
Cubs vs. Pirates, 05/26/12. Pirates win, 3-2.

I was rocking the Baseball Writers Association of America scorebook again (having been to PNC many times before), as I was really starting to come to love the small form-factor and convenience that it brought to scorekeeping for me.

There were some odd ones in this game. The 9-4-2 put-out on the double in the seventh was surely a first, as was the walk-off HBP. Go big or go home, I guess.

The Accommodations:
Once again, I was crashing at my friend's house, in the room with the insane amount of LEGO in the closet, also known as the guest room.


 2012 Western PA

Saturday, May 5, 2012


On the Difference a Month Makes

Citi Field
Not Shea Stadium, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Metropolitans
Not Shea Stadium
National League
Queens, NY
4:05 PM

Outside the Game:
I don't know what possessed me to go to a game on Cinco di Mayo, but it was almost a month to the day after my last game, the Metropolitans weren't doing nearly as badly as everyone expected, and Johan Santana was pitching. Saint Johan. Johan the Great. But not as of yet.

It was a 4:05 game, and it was unseasonably warm, so I decided why not. I puttered around and did my normal Saturday routine before heading off to the park. The subway ride out was uneventful, if full of other Mets fans taking advantage of the warm weather and the lack of collapse this far in the season to take in a game.

Yah, mule!

I was a bit worried about the ride back, but the game packed up early enough that the hard-drinking crowd wasn't out yet, and I was able to slip back to my apartment before the place turned into Barter Town.

The Stadium & Fans:
Center to home, Citi Field
Center field to home plate, Not Shea Stadium

As mentioned, it was still a bumper crop of fans out to see the Mets perform way over their heads -- and not inconsequentially get a Tom Seaver Bobble Head. The stadium news of the day seemed to be that they gave the cops at Not Shea tactical Segways to ride around on, because if there's one thing that the cops need was another way to not have a walk two feet.

The feet of greatness

While grabbing lunch at Blue Smoke, I got to witness a rare occurrence. A panel in one of the huge scoreboards at the back of center field had gone out, and I got to watch them replace it. Those giant scoreboards aren't all one display, but a series of smaller synchronized displays, so that if one of them goes out, they don't need to replace the entire unit. This repair is apparently done by removing an adjacent "square" from the board, unplugging the damaged square, reaching out with a new square, and slapping it into place. Frankly, I would have though that the process would have been a little more high-tech, but there you go.

There were a bunch of people in cheesy Mexican sombreros, which I found a little inappropriate. I doubt they would be wearing novelty yarmulkes on Passover, for example. Everyone seemed to be happy with the Tom Seaver bobbleheads, at least. The "Veteran of the Game" was a ninety year-old World War II vet and his wife who were celebrating that selfsame birthday at the park. (They also subsequently won the Kiss Cam, which smelled of a fix, really.)

Mr. Met
He welcomes you all.

The only other weirdness was the all-white version of the Blue Man Group that performed the national anthem. I'm pretty sure they mentioned the group's name, but I'm sure it didn't register at all with me.

At the Game with Oogie:
Score time

I was in the bronze Ceasar's Club seats this time, parked behind our majestic third baseman (who had his first 0-fer in what seemed like the entire season that day). The seat and view were exactly what I'd come to expect, and the fans around weren't annoying, so victories all around.

There was a family sitting to my right, and the father was fighting the losing battle of keeping his youngest daughter more interested in the game than in her Gameboy-thing. He eventually gave up and spent most of his time talking with his pre-teen son, who at least seemed engrossed in the proceedings on the field.

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

I've not had stellar luck seeing Johan Santana pitch live, so I didn't have a ton of hope for this game. Still, the D-Backs went in order in the first, but so did the Metropolitans. Johan set down the first two in the top of the second before giving up a monster homer to center and then a double to left after that before closing it down. The Mets scattered a single and a walk, but the second ended with the score 1-0 D-Backs.

Johan scattered two long singles in the top of the third, and the Mets only had two base runners of their own in the bottom. Arizona threatened in the top of the fourth with a back-to-back walk and single with one out, but Santana ended that half with two fly outs.

It was in the bottom of the fourth that the Mets would do their damage. After a ground out to third to start the inning, two back-to-back short singles were followed by a walk to load up the bases with one out. Knowing this team too well, I didn't get overly excited, but Mike Nikeas singled to center to bring home two runs, and Santana bunted everyone over to make it second and third with two outs. Torres singled to bring them in before Tejada flew out, ending the fourth with the Mets up 4-1.

Not one to make this easy, the Mets looked to give it all right back. Two singles and a double in the fifth brought two home to make it 4-3 Mets, and the Mets only managed a single in their half of the inning. The D-Backs got a runner in scoring position in the sixth with a single and sac bunt, but they could not bring him in. The Mets did nearly the same in their half, with no change in score.

The D-Backs went in order in the seventh, and the Mets only managed a single. Parnell came in for the eighth and only let a single get by him, while the Mets went in order.

And then our "closer" came in. Owner of an ERA north of 6 and a 1-1 record, this was not exactly comforting. After getting the first batter to fly to center, Francisco gave up a walk, and the pinch runner promptly stole second. Waiting for the inevitable, I was pleasantly surprised as another fly to center and a strikeout proved me wrong and cemented the 4-3 Metropolitans victory.

The Scorecard:
Diamondbacks vs. Metropolitans, 05-05-12. Metropolitans win, 4-3.Diamondbacks vs. Metropolitans, 05-05-12. Metropolitans win, 4-3.
Diamondbacks vs. Metropolitans, 05/05/12. Metropolitans win, 4-3.

Once again, I was using the BBWAA scorebook in three colors, plus regular pencil. There wasn't anything scoring of note, except that there were a lot of strikeouts (13 total), and the Mets went exactly 50/50 on swinging and looking. David Wright, who was hitting over .400 at the time, had one of his first 0-fer games of the year, and Frank Francisco, rocking a 6.97 ERA at this point, managed to notch a save without giving up a run.

The Accommodations:
Hoboken, as per usual

2012 Stand-Alone Trip