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