Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All-Star Queens

On a Game with All the Stars

The 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field
The All-Star Game at Not Shea Stadium, 2013
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
American League All-Stars vs. National League All-Stars
Not Shea Stadium
Major League Baseball
Queens, NY
8:10 PM

Outside the Game:
This likely being the last time that the All Star Game would be in Queens in my lifetime, I decided to take the plunge and get a ticket. The cheapest way to do so was to get one off of Stub Hub, as the alternatives meant getting a season ticket plan that guaranteed a seat, and then being forced into buying an "All-Star Package" that included tickets to Fan Fest and the Home Run Derby, and everything else. I had little interest in all the other fluff, and the upper-deck ticket I snagged from StubHub before leaving for Taiwan was pretty expensive, but it was much less so than every other option, by far.

To recoup this investment, I took a half-day off work that Tuesday to ensure that I'd be there when the gates opened and get my best cost-per-hour at the park. With careful avoidance, I was able to leave for work on time, although there were several scares right before I had to leave. I went home and changed my clothes and headed back out with my game bag for the PATH and subways. It being mid-afternoon, the trains weren't crowded, and there weren't even that many people going to the game on the subways yet. All the doors were going to open at 4:30, and it looked like I'd be getting there at about 4.

The parking lots had just opened, and even still, it was about a quarter filled by the time I arrived. I did a bunch of walking around and taking pictures of the festivities before going in, and the gates did promptly open at 4:30.

The mad dash out

The way home wasn't as bad as I had feared. It was about the same as any early-season game with a big crowd. The express 7 trains were packed to the gills, but it wasn't unbearable. By the time I got to the PATH trains, it was well past midnight, so there was only one train running from 33rd. It wasn't even that crowded, though. By the time I got home, I dumped all my stuff on the kitchen table, went to the bathroom to wash the grime off of an evening spent waiting in the heat, and then trudged off to bed to get not enough sleep for the next day's work.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, 2013 All-Star Game
Home plate to center field, 2013 All-Star Game

Not Shea Stadium was still Not Shea Stadium, but they dressed it up quite a lot, and there were more people than usual. In the apple plaza, there were a bunch of contest and merchandise stands set up. Along the third base side of the parking lot, a giant Modell's tent was selling stuff for people who couldn't wait to get inside. Vendors selling programs were lined up at the exit to the subway, in addition to being scattered throughout the outside of the park. Out where the Cirque du Solei usually was located was the "All Star Pre-Party," that you had to have special tickets to get in. From what I could tell, there was a concert stage, and a bunch of activities, including a zip line. I could not have been any less interested. Around the back of the park was closed off with media and VIP tents and all sort of extra things for people better than myself.

All-Star Casey
All-Star Casey

Once inside, everything was more expensive, there were All-Star signs everywhere, and there were more vendors stuffed into every available space on the promenade. Oh, and there were tons more roving vendors and people in the place, but that was mostly it. The home run apple got an All-Star makeover as well. The Accela Restaurant got turned into extra press space for the game, and there were two extra seating areas wedged into the area behind home plate, protected behind large Plexiglas walls so the inhabitants wouldn't be murdered by foul balls.

All-Star Apple
In case you were wondering

The networks had at least three basecamps. There was a broadcast booth set up right by Shea Bridge, there was one near the Pepsi Porch, and there was one for the MLB Network on the field down the right field line that stayed constructed until the very last minutes before the game. (It was then re-assembled rather quickly for the post-game as well.)

The crowd turned out to be the largest in Not Shea history, which I suppose makes sense. It at least gave the random guy in the Brewers jersey who you see at every game a reason to be wearing a Brewer's jersey at Not Shea.

But everything about the park seemed the same, to be honest. Just more people.

At the Game with Oogie:
All-Star Scoring
Of course I scored it. From a distance, however.

I was a big old sucker as far as merchandise went. I bought the All-Star game home-run apple, and a T-shirt, and a Matt Harvey All-Star fake-LEGO minifig, and the commemorative smooshed pennies. They saw me coming, let me tell you. The give-away at the door was a crappy "cause wristband," but a Walgreens stand on the promenade gave you free bags to hold your stuff and a pedometer, for some reason. The one thing I didn't buy was the fake-LEGO baseball field sets they were selling for something like $75. A LEGO ballpark was a project I was thinking about for the off season, and this would have been perfect except for two things: 1) the baseplate was just a crappy printed-on field instead of something more substantial, and 2) they didn't have a Mets set for sale at the Mets' stadium. I mean, really.

All-Star Merch
Sucker twice-removed

But my first stop was the Shake Shack in back, because I knew what level of epicness those lines would get to later. I got my single shack and fries at the jacked-up All-Star prices they justified by throwing in a pair of cheap sunglasses with the meal.

The seat I had bought at StubHub was in the upper deck between third base and left field. It turned out to be in the next-to-last row in the stadium, but to be honest, the view wasn't that bad. Only the furthest corner of left field was obscured from view, so it wasn't awful. The view to the field was fine, and everything didn't seem very far away. I was jammed between some Yankee fans on my left and some Cardinal fans on my right, and Mets fans in front and behind. It was weird seeing Not Shea this filled, and I will say that a big crowd actually adds something important to the park that is not there when it is only half filled.

My night ended with a personal touch. Bud Everything-That-Is-Wrong-With-The-World Selig was in attendance, and after the game, he presented the MVP award to Mariano Rivera and his family. By this time, I was able to get downstairs to watch the presentation. As he was walking off the field, I yelled, "You suck Selig!" as loudly as I could. It was at a quiet moment, and he turned his head a little when I yelled it, so I like to think he heard me.

All-Star Rivera
A legend, and some guy in an ill-fitting suit

And if you are reading this, Bud: You do suck. Stop killing baseball, you useless piece of excrement.

The Game:
First pitch, 2013 All-Star Game
First pitch, 2013 All-Star Game

In theory, a tightly fought, low-scoring game is the sort of thing I live for, but with the constant replacements and the lack of overall flow, the game just sort felt kind of dislocated. Also, the fact that the teams were both using the DH in a National League park smacked of Selig's dire intervention and the slippery slope to the abolishment of the last vestige of real baseball we have left in this league that is rapidly become more plastic than it was in the 70s.

Tom Terrific

The pre-game was all very dignified, with Red Sox, Phillies, and Braves players getting booed within an inch of their lives. There seemed to be some confusion on the American League line-up and everyone was shifted down way more than they should have been. There was a tribute to veterans that some sort of voting was done about before the game. They came out after the players were announced, and each one of them received a flag flown at the stadium of their favorite team by the All-Star player from that team, which was nice.

For a game being hosted in NY, this All-Star game had the smallest roster of NY players in decades: two a piece for the Mets and Yankees, and only three of those were starters for their respective teams. (The entire Yankees first-string team being on the Disabled List for most of the season likely had something big to do with it. The only two Mets that deserved to be there were there.)

But one of those Mets was the starting pitcher and sophomore phenom, Matt Harvey. This would mark the first time I would see him pitch in person, and given the negative juju that often brings to Mets' pitchers, I was a tiny bit worried about it.

When Harvey's first pitch in the top of the first was doubled to the gap, I wasn't that worried. Trout was clearly sitting dead red and got his shot in. Bravo, and let's move on. His second pitch decked one of the only other New Yorker's in the game, Robinson Cano. He took his base to make it first and second with no outs, but he was quickly pulled from the game for a pinch-runner. This wasn't going to be a fiasco. Everything was going to be all right. Krusty will come... Krusty will come...

Harvey then got Cabrera, Davis, and Bautista in order, striking two of them out, and then I knew it would be okay. The National League went in order in their half, and let's get used to that sentence for the rest of the night. Harvey neatly took care of the AL in the second, striking out one, and making a perfect All-Star game debut, if you ignore those pesky two first batters.

It was then that the cavalcade of every-inning pitching switches came into play. The Mets' David Wright led off the bottom of the second and ironically grounded out to third. The NL went in order after him. The AL did as well in the third, and the NL went in order again in their half.

The AL got something going in the fourth. Another leadoff double moved over on the following short single. A sacrifice fly got the run in before lumbering David Ortiz hit into a double play to end the half with the AL up, 1-0. Perhaps not up to tying the game, the NL at least broke up the no-hitter with a one-out single by Carlos Beltran, who was replaced by the Pirate's McCutchen at first. The pinch runner promptly stole second, moved to third on a ground out, and then got stranded there.

The AL went back to it in the fifth with another lead-off double followed by a single. Play was then interrupted during the next at-bat by a Yankee fan in a Cano jersey running out onto the field. He was all smiles when he reached second base and playfully raised up his hands as security approached. He stopped smiling as he got leveled by a security guard and roughed up before taken off the field where he was cuffed and charged by the waiting police. The batter grounded to second after the delay, but he got the run in from third before a double-play ended the inning 2-0, American League. The NL went in order, as did the AL in the top of the sixth, and the player replacements started to come fast and furious. The NL mixed it up with a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth before going in order, and the AL did the same in the top of the seventh.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, David Wright got his last at-bat and gave the home crowd what they wanted, with a clean single. This led to a change of pitchers for the AL, a strikeout, and then another pitching change and another strikeout to strand Wright at first. Wright was swapped out after the inning, and my interest in the game waned considerably.

Neil Diamond came out between innings and sang "Sweet Caroline," the Red Sox's standard, for about a half hour. There were verses I never even imagined in that song. The AL seemed energized, as they got back-to-back singles in the top of the eighth before a double-play erased two of the runners. Kipnis then got a double to bring in an insurance run. He then made it to third on a wild pitch before getting stranded there by a strikeout to end the half. Given the offensive production to this point, the AL had an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

All-Star Mo
The greatest

And then Mo. AL manager Leiland brought Rivera in for the eighth because if the NL inexplicably came back to get the lead in the bottom of the eighth, Leiland would likely reneg on his promise to use Rivera in the game, as the NL might not give them the opportunity to have another pitcher. I found out later than Rivera and the catcher came out alone to warm up, but at the time, I didn't even notice they were alone. They started to play "Enter Sandman," and I was torn between being really annoyed they would play that in our park and being appreciative that the tribute to Rivera was happening. He stood out on the mound acknowledging the crowd for about five minutes before warming up. He eventually got the NL in order.

The most unlikely of events happened in the top of the ninth, as Prince Fielder hit a line drive to right that got past the diving right fielder and let the sweating, huffing, bulky Fielder drag himself around the bases for a triple. Of all the things I saw this evening, that was the statistically least likely, unless he decided to try and steal home. The AL went in order after that, giving him time to catch his breath. The NL started the bottom of the ninth with two strikeouts, but a two-out double by Goldschmidt gave the NL a tiny ray of hope, before Pedro Alvarez snuffed it out by grounding weakly out to second. The AL won, 3-0. And I'm not sure anyone cares.

The Scorecard:
American League vs. National League, 07-16-13. American League wins, 4-0American League vs. National League, 07-16-13. American League wins, 4-0
American League vs. National League, 07/16/13. American League wins, 4-0.

In a day full of rip-offs, the scorecard was particularly galling. The "Special Stadium Edition" of program (as opposed to the "Special Collectors Edition," also on sale) was a whopping $15. Granted the program was a bit more beefy than normal, it in no way justified the jacked-up price that much.

It does mark the first time that I even underestimated a scorecard. Usually, I assume that the card is crammed in and will not going to provide enough space for everything, so I immediately start by conserving as much space as possible by trying to get two people on the same line or saving up space for the pitchers in a long game. For once, the All-Star game scorecard actually provided more room than I actually needed, with a plethora of space for position players and fielders. And it was on nice, heavy-weight cardboard.

Thus ends the nice things I'll say about it. They chose to make the background color dark and solid, so it was impossible to write legible notes anywhere in the margin. Also, they printed the scorecard on two sides, so you had to keep going back and forth, but they didn't even print it on two sides so that you could keep the book in one position and just flip the one page. You had to flip over the entire book every half inning, and it made it incredibly hard to quickly check something on the other team's side.

All of that said, there wasn't much really odd scoring-wise that happened in the game outside of all the replacements. I did get to make a note on a fan running out on the field, which I never got to do before. (But it had to be crammed into a blank line above the umpires listing because of the solid background.)

The Accommodations:
I was back at my apartment in Hoboken, early enough to still be exhausted, and late enough to know that I was going to continue to be so the next day.

2013 Stand-Alone Event

Friday, July 5, 2013


On Adventures in Travel

Rental car
My rental car, eventually
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Morgantown, WV

Outside the Game:
Thanks to a stretch of jury duty and some previously approved vacation time, we were short-handed in my department at work, which made for an already hectic short holiday week even more hectic. I had made it clear that come hell or high water, I had to leave at 5 PM in order to make my plane, so most of the day was spent playing defense. It was not looking good for me getting out of there until court let out early, one of my staff was able to come back, and so I was finally able to wrestle everything into place and get out of Dodge.

I changed from my work clothes to my time-off clothes and headed to the subway station with my bags. At the suggestion of a co-worker, I decided to try the run to Newark Freedom Liberty Apple Pie Airport from Penn Station all the way instead of taking the PATH to Newark and then taking a NJ Transit train to the airport. I got to Penn Station easily enough and managed to not have to wait forever and a day for the ticket machines. I did have to wait a bit for the next train that was going to the airport, though, and had the luxury of stewing in one of the overheated rat tunnels of Penn Station for my troubles.

The train eventually got me to the airport stop, but if I had taken the PATH trains, it would have been quicker, as the PATH trains come more frequently than the NJ Transit trains, and there are more NJ Transit trains going to the airport more frequently when leaving from Newark Penn Station. But regardless, I got there with time to spare.

But the monorail would not be as accommodating. It was running on a delay for some reason, so we were packed like sardines when one did come. We got exactly one stop before we were told to get off. There was a train stuck on that track between there and the next stop, so everyone had to get off our train, go across the track, and get on the other train. And everyone on the other side had to get off their train and come over to our track. You couldn't think of a more cumbersome process to get already haggard travels more annoyed. I had to wait for the second train in order to fit on and go the two minutes to the next stop, which, coincidentally, was my terminal.

Once there, the news didn't get any better. While there was inclement weather in the area, my plane had shown no delays when I checked on the NJ Transit train over. Now seeing the big board, it showed that the previous plane to Pittsburgh was delayed and scheduled to leave when my plane was scheduled to leave, although there was no delay on my plane, yet. But it was obvious to be coming.

I got through security and made it to the gate right when boarding was supposed to begin. At that point, we had no crew and no plane, and the gate was actually showing a flight to DC that had been delayed since four in the afternoon. Then another gate crew showed up, and the gate switched to our flight. This back and forth happened at least five times while we were all waiting there, giving most of us trapped travelers on both flights the hope of the two gate crews having a fistfight for our amusement. Sadly, that spectacle did not happen, and we were moved to another gate where they had snuck our plane and crew.

We eventually boarded, but our travel ecstasy was not yet complete. Once we all got on and got ready for take-off, our flight crew informed us that the tower had given them an impossible flight path to Pittsburgh and that they needed to sort this out with them. Frankly, all I wanted to know was what that flight path was, because I was keenly interested in how an impossible flight path was not something they checked for before sending them to the planes.

An hour or so after we boarded and nearly two hours since we were supposed to board originally, we finally got to taxi out to the runway and wait in the weather-lengthened line for departure. The delays, of course, would be longer than the one-hour flight time to Pittsburgh, which we traveled with little incident once we were on our way. Upon touching down, I got my bag from the jetway and went to claim my rental car. I'm sure I probably got swindled on some charge or other at this point, but I didn't care as long as I got my car and could leave.

I settled into my rental car at about 10:45, putting me at my friend's house at a little after midnight. I ignored most traffic laws and good sense and made the run in an hour and fifteen minutes, guided by the soothing tones of my TomTom.

The Accommodations:
At my friend's house, eventually

On Celebrating Independence through Slackery

Thursday, July 4, 2013
Morgantown, WV

Outside the Game:
In a considerably better mood after a good night's sleep, I got some breakfast, and my friend and I spent the day in nerdly pursuits that are likely of little interest to the readership, only taking breaks for lunch and dinner. As it was raining out rather severely, we did not venture out to see what passed for the local fireworks.

The Accommodations:
My friend's spare room again

On a Unique Occurrence

Huntington Park
Huntington Park, 2013
Friday, July 5, 2013
Louisvlle Bats (Cincinnati Reds) vs.
Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians)
Huntington Park
International League (AAA)
Columbus, OH
7:15 PM

Outside the Game:
We got up relatively early to drive out the Ohio for the game, got distracted by a video game, and then left in a rush. It being a holiday weekend and there not being any real reason for most people to go from Morgantown to Columbus, we didn't hit much traffic. Our route was up to Washington, PA, and then dead west to Columbus, so we went, in progression, from West Virginia, to Pennsylvania, to West Virginia, to Ohio, thanks to that bit of panhandle in WV.

We stopped for lunch about an hour out of Columbus, got gas, and then drove straight to a mall on the eastern outskirts of Columbus. This mall was closest to Morgantown that happened to have a LEGO store, and my friend has a bit of a problem in that regard. We stopped in so he could make his purchases (with his club discount card, he got a free mini-set for making a purchase above $X), loaded it into the trunk, and continued our way to the hotel. There's a beltway around Columbus that we had to navigate with the help of our loyal TomTom, and a short time later, we were checking into the hotel and sitting around for a bit.

The hotel turned out to be about a five or so minute walk from the field, so we didn't bother with the car to the game. A piddling rain finally stopped as soon as we got within a block of the place. It was a short walk to the venue, where it turns out my friend knew someone who was lined up next door to the stadium to see a concert that evening, and the guy working security at the door was the long-snapper for the WVU football team. It is a small world, after all.

After the game, we walked back to the hotel to dump our game gear and then went for a drink or two at a pub in the arena district. Then we went back and watched Adult Swim until we wanted to go to sleep.

The Stadium & Fans:
Center to home, Huntington Park
Center field to home plate, Huntington Park

Huntington Park was not quite what I expected. It was a well-designed park with clearly a lot of thought put into its construction and a good deal of respect paid to its past. The left field entrance facing the main street has a little plaza with a ticket office and a statue dedicated to former league president Harold Cooper. Along the outfield wall facing the street, the field wall is the structure's wall (similar to AT&T park in San Francisco), with grills in the walls under a covered area where penny-pinching fans can watch the game for free. The home plate entrance is on the other side of the park away from the street and facing an old Buggy Works building.

A promenade walk extends around the stadium from left-center field around to right field. The complete circuit is blocked by the wall abutting the street outside. All along the promenade were displays on the "speed of baseball," which talked about the average times for things in certain positions (to throw to second, to decide to swing on a pitch, etc) that included pictures of great Clippers from the past that did that particular thing well. One seating bowl extends down from the walkway for most of its run. Taking a trick from the majors, a ticketed-only VIP section is located behind home plate, extending up to a special food and bar area on a second floor with an overlook to the field. Luxury boxes on the second level extend out from the VIP area to first and third bases, respectively.

In left field running to center, there is a picnic area near some statuary, a bleachers area, and then a picnic hill. An old re-purposed factory building (AEP Power Pavilion) behind the promenade houses the team store and a Bob Evans on the ground floor, a restaurant on the second floor, and a chicken concession on the top floor (Rooster's on the Roof) that comes with its own section of bleacher seats. The stairway to the top of the building has murals of the various Clippers teams of the past, which include some current and former Yankees stars from the Clippers' long years of affiliation as the minor league franchise of that club. The park, in general, did much to remind everyone of that affiliation. Section 2 was still adorned with a picture of Derek Jeter in his Clippers' uniform, for example.

Out in right field, there is a double-decked "Hamburger Balcony" (sponsored by Wendy's) where you can stand up and watch the game while eating, which is good because right next door, there are some specialty stands, including City Barbecue that is the crown of Huntington Park foodstuffs. That night, they were having live music on the stage right by the stand and $2 pulled pork night, which was extending the lines to major-league proportions.

Even on a holiday weekend, the park was packed with fans, especially in the more expensive VIP section. They stayed for the entire game and were quite into it. It was a fine showing for the people of Columbus. There was a smaller contingent of Bats fans in the crowd who made their presence known on occasion.

Speaking of the holiday weekend, the Clippers uniforms were an ungodly explosion of red, white, and blue that I can only hope was for the holiday. It reminded one unfavorably of the 1984 US Team Olympics uniforms.

Mascots and the opening act

The between-inning antics were run by Lou Seal and Krash the parrot. However, this evening was an appearance by the "Zoonatics," guys in inflatable animal costumes with some pun on a sports star's name. For example, there was Harry Canary (who also spouted silly string "beer" from his mouth), Peewee Geese, Centipete Rose... you see where this was going. They mostly came out and danced and fell around, or abused the "umpires," "opposing team members," or "grounds crew" (really members of the entertainment group dressed up as the former).

One other thing worth noting: There was a Taiwanese player on the Clippers named Chun-Hsiu Chen. His music when he came out to bat was "Gangnam Style" by Psy, a Korean singer. If he didn't chose that song himself, that's, like, seriously, seriously racist.

At the Game with Oogie:
Sacred barbecue

As mentioned, I was with my friend at the game. He went off to eat while I did my normal insanity. I bought tickets back in April, so we had excellent seats a couple rows back from the home dugout.

The lines for the pulled pork stand were rivaling that of Shake Shack at Not Shea because of the $2 offer that night, so I checked with the guy in front of me at what I thought was the end of the line, just in case I was in the wrong place. He confirmed I was where I wanted to be, and we got talking about things while we waiting for our food. He was here with his family, and it was one of his sons' birthdays. I eventually got introduced to the whole family as they visited him in line. They all seemed less impressed about my exploits than their father was. Such is life.

The only other interaction of note was some drunk guys behind us. They apparently heard my friend and I talking for most of the game, and in one of the later innings, one of them asked if we were baseball scouts. My friend explained that scouts don't sit here; they sit behind home plate. The drunk guy explained he was making a joke, and my friend told him that was nice. Drunk people -- hilarious in their own minds.

The Game:
First pitch, Bats vs. Clippers
First pitch, Bats vs. Clippers

Here's a phrase you nearly never hear in baseball: "And then he pitched a perfect game after the grand slam." There are many reasons one doesn't hear this, but the circumstances around it are interesting to say the least.

The Clippers versus the Bats wasn't set up to be one for the ages. The two International League teams both had losing records coming into the game, so you might expect some punchless baseball on the horizon. The game started with the Bats going in order, fitting the expectations to a "T." But after an initial ground-out, the Clippers got three back-to-back singles. With runners on first and second and one out, the third single was laced to right, and the runner on second tried to score, but he was cut down at the plate by the right fielder. A strike-out ended the inning, so perhaps "hapless" was still in play for the game.

A leadoff walk in the top of the second moved over on a ground-out, but looked to be stranded after a weak pop-out to the catcher. But the next batter fired a double to left to score the run, before a pop-out ended the half with the score 1-0, Bats. And then... Well. Okay. The Clippers opened the second with a double to deep center. The next batter laid down a sacrifice bunt to third that was good enough to get him to first safely, making it first and third with no outs. The next batter hit a grounder to the shortstop, who decided to cut the runner off at home. He prevented the run, but everyone was safe with no outs. The number nine hitter scorched a liner to center, where only an amazing catch saved a clearing of the bases, but it was good enough for a sacrifice fly to tie up the game and leave it first and second with one out. A grounder to second erased the runner from first, but moved everyone up. The runner at first took second on a steal without even a throw from home, and a single from the next batter brought both runners in. A double moved it to second and third with two outs, and a walk loaded the bases. The DH then murdered a pitch to left for a grand slam, and also marked a batting around of the order. The next batter flied to center, but not before 10 batters came to the plate, and seven of them scored, making it 7-1, Clippers.

And then the offenses seemed to get tired. Everyone went in order until the top of the fifth, where the Bats lead off with a hit batsman and scattered in a single to no effect. Everyone went in order until the top of the seventh. A one-out walk to the Bats chased the Clipper's starter, and a single made it interesting, but the Bats could ultimately get no one across that inning, either. The Clippers, again, went in order.

The Bats finally got something going in the top of the eighth. A leadoff error on the first baseman got a man on base. A one-out single made it first and second, and then another single scored the lead runner and made it first and third with only one out. A sacrifice fly brought in the run from third, but a strikeout ended the threat, with the a score a slightly more respectable 7-3, Clippers.

As we started with, it is worth noting that after giving up the grand slam, the Bats' pitcher did not allow a baserunner until the bottom of the eighth. That was 5.3 perfect innings in a game that I have no idea why he was still in. The manager wasn't warming anyone up, so probably from one of those earliest trips to the mound, the skipper made it clear that the starter was going to have to get out of this mess himself. Finally, in the bottom of the eighth, he walked the leadoff batter. He then got the next two easily before walking another and ultimately getting chased from the game. Everyone gave him a round of applause. It was certainly one of the gutsiest performances I'd ever seen from a pitcher. The reliever got the final pop-out, and the inning was over.

The Clippers' closer gave up a two-out double in the top of the ninth before a grounder to short ended it, 7-3 Clippers.

Corky Miller
Corky Goddamn Miller

The player of the game, for me at least, was the Bat's catcher, Corky Miller, a big slab of beef of a man with a gunslinger mustache. He was a 36 year-old journeyman player who apparently had a series of cups of coffee in the majors, playing out his stretch in AAA. Not only was it reassuring to see someone in my age bracket still playing ball, but such a throwback player as this guy who all but screamed "70's catcher." Corky went 2-4, with 1/3rd of the Bats hits for the game.

The Scorecard:
Bats vs. Clippers, 07-05-13. Clippers win, 7-3.
Bats vs. Clippers, 07/05/13. Clippers win, 7-3. 

Unlike many minor-league parks, the program was not a free give-away, but a $2 purchase from vendors in the stadium. It was worth the money, though, in a pamphlet-sized program with good-quality magazine paper and a high-weight paper scorecard in the centerfold. It was a little unnecessarily cramped with ads, but it did give full pitcher lines as well as players, with room for replacements. There was only nine lines for position players, but in a league with a DH, it wasn't that big a deal.

As described above, there were some oddities with this game, with the Clippers batting around in the second, and then having all of two baserunners for the rest of the game. There were two defensive indifferences on the basepaths, which was quite rare in my experience. I scored one of the few grand slams I've seen in person, but outside of the overall oddity of the game, the plays itself were fairly straightforward.

For the curious, the final line for the Bats' starter was 7.6 IP, 8 hits, 7 ER, 3 BB, and 5 SO. Erase that second inning, and you have yourselves quite a ballgame.

The Accommodations:
Courtyard Marriot
Courtyard Marriot

For our one-day stay-over,  I found a downtown Columbus hotel close to the park. As it turns out, the park is in the "arena district" downtown. There were a couple of options, but I got a good enough deal at the Courtyard Marriot downtown on a big room with two double beds that would suit our purpose.

We didn't get into the hotel until mid-afternoon, so we checked in with no trouble. I wasn't sure if we were going to have to use the car to get to the game or not, so I used the valet service for the rental car, which would allow us to retrieve it whenever we liked for no additional cost. We didn't turn out to need it, but it was nice to have anyway.

Our room was on the first floor, which is the first time I'd been on the first floor in a hotel in a long time. Our room was nice enough, with the two big beds on one wall, the Tv and dressers on another, and a desk next to the dressers. The bathroom was one with an outside sink and vanity and the toilet and shower in an interior room.

We didn't spend all that much time in it, but it turned out that my friend's bed was completely lop-sided, and the room's hair drier caught fire and smoked out when we plugged it in the next morning, so I wouldn't exactly recommend the place to visitors to Columbus.

On Driving and Other Things

Saturday, July 6, 2013
Morgantown, WV

Outside the Game:
After a good night's sleep, we checked out and headed back on the road. The drive back was fine, and the only thing of note was stopping for lunch.

Once back at the house, we spent the afternoon in nerdly pursuits until the evening. That evening, I went to print out my boarding pass for the flight the next day and found that they had screwed up and erased my seat assignment. I called them up and was told the wait was 3 minutes. An hour later, I hung up and decided to try again the next morning, because I was tired and wanted to sleep.

The Accommodations:
The guest room at my friend's house, one last time.

On Dealing with Travel

Paragons of Pittsburgh
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Hoboken, NJ

Outside the Game:
This was going to be my travel day back home. Since I stayed on hold so long last night with no result, I had to get up a little early to call the airline again with my friend's cell and wait another half hour until I got a human being and, finally, a seat assignment. I dallied with the thought of going back to bed, but my friend was up and building his LEGO Treebeard and re-watching this season of the Venture Brothers, so I decided to just have breakfast and watch with him.

It was eventually time to go, so I set off for Pittsburgh airport. There was nothing much to the drive up. I returned my car at the rental car garage and got through security and took the tram to the terminal. I had about an hour until boarding, so I decided to have as nice a lunch as possible. I went to a TGI Fridays, which was all that came close, but then waited at my table for over ten minutes being passed by by waitresses in a not-too-busy restaurant, so I got up and went to Quiznos to get a sub. I made my visit to the Mr. Rodgers' exhibit, and it was eventually around time to board.

I went to my gate, and there was a plane with a crew inside, but we weren't boarding. There was one haggard-looking guy manning the counter, and he didn't seem to be making any move to get ready to board the plane. A half hour passed, and it suddenly dawned on him that, as the plane was scheduled to take off now, it might be a good idea to board the thing. He got two people into the boarding process before he looked flabbergasted at the equipment and had a passenger wait to the side. A whole section boarded before the machine beeped in a way he didn't like, and then he abandoned his post completely to come back with some sixteen year-old. He left the sixteen year-old to board the plane while he walked away. Apparently, the kid could do this better than he did, as the rest of the plane (at least up to me) boarded before he got back.

Down the ramp, we were greeted by a flock of people heading back up the jetway because Captain Competent hadn't given them the gate-check tags for their carry-on luggage. Eventually, we closed up and took off, despite that guy's best efforts.

The flight was another hour puddle-hop, but we got put in a circling pattern around Newark, and we were hitting some serious chop in our small plane, so it was a glorious experience of getting tossed around for a good fifteen minutes while Newark sorted their stuff out. We eventually landed, and I got my bag and met my father for a ride home and an evening of extreme laundry.

The Accommodations:
Sweet Home Hoboken

2013 Stand-Alone Trip