Saturday, September 27, 2014

Queens

On Closing Out the Year


Citi Field
Not Shea Stadium, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014
Houston Astros vs. New York Metropolitans
Not Shea Stadium
MLB, Interleague
Queens, NY
7:10 PM


Outside of the Game:
It was the day before the end of the season, and I had just worked 60 hours the last week to get a couple of work proposals out the door before an 8 PM Friday deadline. I don't even recall coming home Friday night and going to sleep, but I do remember waking on Saturday and thinking that I might as well go to a ballgame while I could.

I had spent all but a handful of days this summer traveling to games, so I figured I might as well put a period at the end of the season by seeing a game on the next-to-last day of the season. Sunday was the Fall Arts Festival in Hoboken, as well as Jeter's last game ever, so it seemed like a no-brainer to go. I went online and found that StubHub prices were pretty much the same as the face value, so I grabbed a ticket in the Caesar's bronze level by third base and went about my morning. After running some chores, I felt completely run-down--I don't know if it was just the previous week's workload, or if I was fighting off the cold that was going around the office, so I spent most of the afternoon in bed watching TV and napping before heading out to the park at about 3:45 PM.

I got the PATH station just in time to see the 33rd Street train doors close, a veritable sign from heaven on the omen for the trip. I sat sullenly for the fifteen minutes for the next train to come, and then had an uneventful trip to the NYC subway, where I caught an orange as the doors were closing, and then waiting ten more minutes for a 7 going out to Queens.

The 7 was packed when it came, but the good news was that it was running express due to construction, perhaps the first time in history that subway construction has worked for me. Eventually, all and sundry were disgorged at Willet's Point and, after retrieving my ticket from a kiosk, I got on line to get in.

The way home was less crowded than normal, as a good deal of the crowd was staying for the post-game concert by the auto-tuned teeny-bopper person. I got on a diamond 7 in the front car, secured a seat, and finished proving out my scorecard for most of the trip.

About halfway home, I finished up, and some college-aged guys across the train asked if I kept score at all my games, and this, of course, led to the whole discussion about things. We talked for most the trip back about my ramblings and whatnot, while their bored girlfriends sat by and listened.

I got back to Hoboken without much incident and quickly retreated out of the Saturday mayhem to my apartment.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Citi Field
Home plate to center field, Not Shea Stadium

Nothing much had changed in the park from earlier in the year. In fact, if something did change, I didn't notice it. Usually the major stuff happen in the off-season, so it is no real surprise that nothing had changed since April.

Twilight Professor
Twilight Professor

It was Cheer Night, so there was a positively huge amount of people in sparkly spandex all over the place, and there was a big to-do on the field before the game. Mostly, the big news of the night was the post-game concert by some teeny-bopper I had never heard of. I've got to imagine that most of the sparse crowd was either there for or related to Cheer Day, or for the concert afterwards. But Metropolitans fans being what they are, those that weren't there for either of those two reasons helped cheer the team on to victory, for what little it was worth at this stage in the season.


At the Game with Oogie:

Scoring
Advances in scoring

As I got to the game just as the gates were opening, I came to remember why I always get there super-early for games if I want to go to Shake Shack. I got into the stadium maybe ten minutes after the gates opened, and, rushing back to center field, the line was already out of the roped area. I mean, seriously. So I went next door and got a Blue Smoke Pulled Pork sandwich, and I realize I'm knee-deep in first-world problems at this point. But still.

Grub
Second choice

This game was to be part of the Mets' Post-Game Concert Series, and the artist in question was something called an "Austin Mahone." I had never heard of the individual in question, but it was quite obvious that all in the tweener girls in the crowd that night had, and if it was at all in question, all the signs they had proclaiming that they were--and I swear I'm not making this up--"Mahonies" would dispel any lingering notions you might have had. The family behind me was filled with such individuals, who alternately spent the entire game talking about how boring it was and screeching in such a way that ended in a register only heard by dogs and the baying demons of Hell whenever Mr. Mahone was mentioned, or, god help us all, put on one of the scoreboards.

Some jackass
What's an Austin Mahone?

This entirety did little to improve my experience during the game, though the concert set-up did give me the time to finish off my scorecard before retreating to the subway before the auto-tuned little bastard could start "singing."


The Game:

First pitch, Astros vs. Metropolitans
First pitch, Astros vs. Metropolitans

On the face of it, this penultimate game of the season had nothing on the line, especially with Metropolitans' rookie phenom pitcher Jacob deGrom scratched from the start due to a season-ending injury. Houston's one bright spot, outside of escaping the cellar thanks to the unprecedented collapse of the Texas Rangers, was their second baseman was the leader in the AL batting race. The Metropolitans, despite another guaranteed losing season, were only two games under .500 and in an actual race for second place in the pitiful NL East with the similarly sad Atlanta Braves. So there's that.

The seemingly blah game started in decidedly blah fashion. Both sides went in order in the first. The Astros scratched out a two-out double in the second, but nothing else. The Mets also got on with two outs, thanks to an error by the third baseman. A walk made it second and third with two outs, and a single to deep short with the runners in motion gave the third base coach the crazy idea to send the runner from second home, where he was gunned down by a mile to end the threat and the inning. Good ole Mets.

In the third, Houston got a one-out double this time before stranding him, and the Mets went in order. In the fourth, the Astros got a one-out single, and the runner stole second. A two-out walk made it second and third, a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, and a walk loaded the bases. But the pitcher bore down for a strikeout to end the half. The Mets went in order.

The Astros started the top of the fifth with a strikeout and then a one-out single, but a hard grounder to third resulted in an around-the-horn double-play to the end the half. The Mets went in order. Something of note finally went on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth. A one-out Houston single was followed by a deep single to left that brought the run in and chased the Mets' starter. Another single made it first and third with one out, but two quick outs ended the half-inning at 1-0, Astros. Perhaps feeling their oats, the Mets managed a one-out double that was stranded at third after a fielder's choice moved him over. Exhausted by this offensive outburst, both sides went in order in the seventh and eighth.

The Astros kept the streak going by going in order in the ninth. Facing the Astros closer, the Metropolitans continued the streak to ten straight outs thanks to a fly to center. But then a feast of miracles began. Eric Young, Jr. hit a triple to deep left, requiring only a pop to get him in to tie. However, Daniel Murphy hit a tepid fly to left that was not enough to do the job, and left the Mets down to their final out. But Lucas "Camptown Ladies Sing This Song" Duda strode to the plate and hit a screaming liner off the foul pole in right for a two-run walkoff home run, ending the game with another Mets victory, 2-1.

Mets win
Man of the hour

Next season. Just you wait. You gotta believe.


The Scorecard:

Astros vs. Metropolitans, 09-27-14. Metropolitans win,2-1.Astros vs. Metropolitans, 09-27-14. Metropolitans win,2-1.
Astros vs. Metropolitans, 09/27/14. Metropolitans win,2-1.

I went with the BWAA Official Scorebook again with quad-colored scoring. I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to do balls and strikes, however. It was also my first official run with the fielding cards that I printed out on notecards. For tallying game-long stats on put-outs, assists, and errors, I always just did hand-drawn charts with innings on one side and positions on the others, on both sides, one for each team. I put an "X" for a putout, and "O" for an assist, and an "E" for errors. Taking it to the next level, I made a similar grid in Excel and then printed them out double-sided onto regular index cards.

Since I was using the BWAA, I had to record fielding stats, so I used the cards for the first time this night, and I was able to keep up each inning with the stats pretty easily. So I'll call than a success.

Otherwise, outside of large number of dropped third strikes and a 6-2 caught stealing put-out in the bottom of the second, there was nothing of note scoring-wise in this game at all.


The Accommodations:
I got home to find my jackass neighbors had another yard party. They had left, but they managed to leave on all the lights right outside my bedroom window. Huzzah.



2014 Stand-Alone Trip

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Eastlake


On One Over the Minimum

Classic Field, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014
Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds) vs.
Lake County Captains (Cleveland Indians)
Classic Field
Midwest League (A)
Eastlake, OH
1:35 PM


Outside the Game:
I had another semi-lazy morning in another nice hotel. I knew I was going to have a long ride ahead of me later that afternoon and had showered and fully packed up the night before, so I stayed in bed for a good while before getting up. As I didn't spring for the breakfast voucher, I was on my own for food, so that wasn't a concern. However, the rain overnight and the threatening clouds that remaining in the morning certainly were.

I had to be at the park less than an hour away no later than noon, and my checkout was at 11 AM. So, I eventually dragged myself out of bed and got dressed around 10:30 AM. I packed up my car and drove around to the front desk to check out, but I was unable to find anyone at the front desk to check me out. Eventually, someone called over from the cafe and told me just to leave my key on one of the desks. And so I did and was off.

I pulled into the drive-through of the McDonalds next door to the hotel and got two Egg McMuffins to eat on the ride north. After a quick stop-off to prepare the sandwiches for in-car consumption, I was off on the road north. The directions were fairly easy in that I pretty much had to stay on this road until I nearly reached Lake Erie. If I hit water, I had gone too far.

The drive up was uneventful and short, and at a little after 11:30 AM, I was at the park. I quick drive-around eventually found a parking entrance. It seemed like it was at the back of the stadium. I asked the attendant if there was some place I could park to pick up my tickets. He told me that I could use this entrance, so I asked him if I could leave the lot and return, since I was looking to drive a little after I got my ticket. This confirmed, I paid him, drove around to the other side of the stadium, and parked. I walked and picked up my will calls at the booth and then walked around the park to do my regular picture routine.

In course of my photography, I ran into the parking attendant again. We got to talking about what I was doing and why. We talked about my trips, and the site, and what there was to see at the park. He told me that the game was a lock as he was wearing his lucky pirate glasses, which were undefeated for the year. And eventually I was on my way.

As I made my way to the other side of the park near the ticket office again, the other parking attendant saw me taking pictures and asked if I was the baseball blog guy. Apparently, the first attendant had radioed him and let me know I was coming. So I spent some more time talking to him about things, as sporadic early season ticket-holders arrived at the park. Eventually, he got a cell phone call from his wife that he had to take, and I went off to finish my picture run.

One of my topics of conversation with the two gentlemen was where to see the lake. I was under a mile away at this point, and since I came this far, I might as well see it. They both said to head down the main drag in town that was next to the park until I hit water. There was a big industrial chimney that was to be my destination. About 11:50 AM, I went to my car, pulled out, and headed north. When the road ended in a T intersection, my first decision was to pull into a side residential street, but this proved fruitless as the local property owners made it illegal to park on their streets, and there were no good vantage points. I went back out to the T road and drove for a bit in one direction. Most of the properties next to the lake were closed off, and, running short on time, I drove down the dead-end entrance to a large apartment complex, jumped out of my car, stood on a dumpster at the end of the road, and took a picture or two of what I could see through the trees. I then headed back to the park.

At a little after noon, I pulled back into the VIP lot, got my parking pass ripped officially, and parked again, this time closer to my original exit, which I was told would get me to the roads connecting to 80 faster. I got in the short line at the entrance, and the team mascot, Skipper (a Sesame-Street green monster type thing) was already outside the gate and entertaining the waiting fans, paying special attention to the kids in the group.

It was here that I got a bit of a shock, as Skipper was wearing a yarmulke on his head. This was unmistakable. I started wondering the worst about this big-nosed monster mascot being portrayed as Jewish, but I discovered later that this was just part of Jewish Day festivities at the game, and not some bizarre anti-Semitic enclave in northern Ohio.

The doors eventually opened shortly thereafter, and as I entered, I got my ticket ripped by the Captain himself, an older gentleman in nautical attire.

On the way out of the park, the parking attendants were handing out things to and directing the traffic of the leaving fans, and I said a final goodbye. And off I went.

If everything went right, I was about seven hours from home. With the weather questionable, and who knew how much construction or traffic looming, I was content getting home before 1 AM. If everything went right, departing at 4 PM would get me home at 11 PM.

There was a bit of going on back roads and state highways for about a half hour or so, but I eventually got dumped onto an X80 extension, which put me on 80, and from there on, it was a matter of not getting off the road. 80 became a toll turnpike in Ohio, so I got nabbed for $2.25 driving East, over double my $1 Delaware Memorial Gap bridge total for the ride out. Once I got into Pennsylvania, there were a number of construction lane closures that I experienced on the second day of driving after my blow-out, but the traffic kept moving.

After the construction, I didn't even have to slow down once. It was just keeping my wounded car on the road and heading east in as sensible a speed as I could manage. And that's all it was. Around 9 PM, I was running low on gas and high on hunger, so after a couple of false starts, I pulled off at an exit with hop off gas and food. I hit the McDonald's drive through (although I didn't even realize it at the time, it was the first time I had McDonald's for multiple meals on the same day in probably a decade) and then got some gas, as a local in a pickup truck made a truly awful attempt to flirt with the gas station employee trying to collect the garbage can liners. (Let's just say it involved him talking about wiping his ass and leave it at that.)

I was back on the road in under ten minutes, and from there on, it was just a matter of not getting too tired. The food certainly helped and gave me some extra attention, and the drive itself was uneventful. I pulled into Hoboken a little after 11:00 PM, and I was parked and dragging my stuff back to my apartment by 11:20 PM.

My apartment was pleasantly empty, and all I had the energy to do was dump all my stuff at the top of my stairs, proceed to the bedroom, and crash out for about eight hours.


The Stadium & Fans: 


Home to center, Classic Park
Home plate to center field, Classic Park

“Classic Park” is perhaps one of the most generic things you could name a ballpark, but there you are. It also features a faux brick façade that extends around the park, housing the two entrances (home plate and 3rd base), as well as the team store and the admin offices, and clubhouses for the team. The main parking lot is across the highway from the park (along with unaffiliated “Captain’s Club” sports bar), and a large pedestrian walkway spans the distance to the park.

Both entrances are up a flight of stairs from ground level, and empty out onto the minor-league standard promenade that runs around the entire park. All the seating on the grandstand is reached from stairways down form the promenade, the only exception being the bleachers in left field, located on top of the walkway. The grandstand runs from just beyond the bases behind home plate, with a second level above them holding party decks, luxury suites, and the press box behind home plate. All of the concessions are located on the promenade, mostly in the main grandstand. There is a picnic hill in left field, right field, and center field, all topped by a row of oversized beach chairs. The main digital board is stacked atop the digital scoreboard in right-center, both above a one-tier outfield wall covered in local ads and backed by trees behind the wall. Left field ends in the Castaway’s Bar, and the kid’s area, while a tented party area is in right field. There’s dedication and memorial plaques on the outside of the park, as well as a “Captains to the Major” plaque wall and a Youth Sports Wall of Champions.

Mascot
Skipper surfs

Generic baseball monster with baseball nose Skipper is the mascot de jour at the park. In addition, there is an older human dressed up like the titular “Captain.” Both were there from the opening of the front gates onward, hanging out with the crowd before the game and participating in the on-field games between innings. It is hard to gauge exactly how the mid-innings festivities usually go down, because in addition to some garden-variety races and contests, it was Jewish Heritage Day at the park, so most of the entertainment was Jewish related, including singing, dancing, and playing the shofar. Additionally, the miniature lighthouse in center lights up and explodes whenever the home team hits a home run. Even with the threatening weather, there was a decent crowd that filled about half the park up. While they definitely were into the non-game activities, they did pay attention to the on-field action as well.


At the Game with Oogie: 


Scoring
Ohio scoring

I made the purchase for the seat for this game the morning before along with my ticket for Akron. After a bit of confusion, I was able to secure my ticket behind the home first-base dugout. At the park, it was a little sparse on the season-ticket section of the park, but there was a large extended family in front of me. The several children were trying quite intently to get a ball or a free t-shirt, but they disappeared for innings at a time, no doubt taking in the other entertainments the park had on offer.

Grub
The FDA does not recommend internal ingestion of "The Barge"

As for food, I had grabbed some McDonalds for breakfast, and I was pretty hungry by the time I got into the park. As with everything else at Classic Park, the food stands were nautically named. I settled on a stand on the first-base line with "The Barge," which was a foot-long kielbasa sausage with sauerkraut. I went from "hungry" to "full" rather quickly, to the point that I didn't think about food again until after 9 PM that night.


The Game: 


First pitch, Dragons vs. Captains
First pitch, Dragons vs. Captains

This was my first game in the A-level Mid-West League, with the playoff-bound Captains facing off against the playing-out-the-string, intra-state rival Dragons. And the game played out about as you'd expect, only more so, especially with top-prospect Lugo going for the Captains.

The Dragons did start off with a leadoff single in the first, but he was erased on an inning-ending double-play after a strikeout. The Captains wasted no time. A leadoff single was followed by a grounder to short that got the lead runner and a failed base-stealing attempt erased the trailing baseman. But a walk and a line-drive over the right-field wall put the Captains up early, 2-0.

The Dragons again got a leadoff single, and he was again erased on a one-out double-play to end the inning. The Captains only managed a one-out single in the bottom of the second, erased in their own inning-ending double play.

And that was pretty much it for the Dragons. They went in order until the ninth inning, where a one-out single without a double-play to clean it up meant that Lake County pitchers only faced one over the minimum, though surrendering three hits.

In the bottom of the third, the Captains hit back-to-back solo homers to raise their lead to 4-0. In the fourth, a one-out single and walk was followed by another homer to deep center to make it 7-0. In the fifth, a leadoff double moved over on a one-out single. He came home on the next batter's double-play ball, marking the first run not scored on a homer. A two-out double and single followed, and yet another homer left the yard in center, making it 11-0.

Lake County went in order in the sixth, but in the seventh, they were back to it. A one-out single was followed by a double and a walk to load the bases. A sacrifice fly to right brought a run in, but that was it, cranking the score to 12-0. The Captains only had a two-out walk in the eighth but cruised to a 12-0 shutout victory.


The Scorecard: 


Dragons vs. Captains, 08-31-14. Captains win, 12-0.Dragons vs. Captains, 08-31-14. Captains win, 12-0.
Dragons vs. Captains, 08/31/14. Captains win, 12-0.

The tabloid program was a free hand-out at the gate, but there is no scorecard to be found. One must avail oneself of the guest relations desk to get a free roster sheet and scorecard pamphlet. It was on regular paper with reasonable amount of space for scoring and the bottom quarter of the layout taken up by poorly photocopied scoring instructions that are nearly impossible to read.

The story of the game was nearly seeing the minimum batters come to the plate for the Dragons. It is probably even rarer for this not to happen for an imperfect game, as you need caught stealings, double plays, or interferences to erase baserunners once on the base paths. This unlikely arrangement stayed in play until the top of the ninth, when the Captain's closer let a one-out single go, and then struck out the next batter, erasing the possibility of a double-play. It was a little disappointing, to be honest. I doubt anyone noticed or cared besides myself, however.

Given the lack of anything on the Dragons side, there was not much out of the ordinary scoring-wise except for the five homers. There were a number of little notes, such as the home "Ice Cream Batter" (who went 0-4), the opposing "beer batter" (who struck out, resulting in half-priced beer for an inning), and two play notes, one of a fly ball to right in the bottom of the fifth that resulted in a collision that required a trainer's visit to resolve and a foul ball off a batter's foot in the bottom of the sixth that required a trainer visit before the batter would pop out to short.


The Accommodations: 
Hoboken, before the break of September

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Akron


On Backing It In

Canal Park, 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014
Erie Seawolves (Detroit Tigers) vs.
Akron RubberDucks (Cleveland Indians)
Canal Park
Eastern League (AA)
Akron, OH
7:05 PM


Outside the Game: 
After getting up and enjoying some breakfast buffet, I thought better of the whole awake thing and went back to bed for a while. That seemed to be working a lot better with me.

Eventually, I had to get going, if only for fear of getting kicked out my apartment--uh, hotel room. I dumped everything back into my injured car and made the short ride to Akron, down the road a piece.

I got to the stadium, and after a little driving around, I found out that the parking meters were off for the weekend, so I parked on a street outside of right field. I picked up my tickets, discovering that the game was sold out in the process, and then walked around to take my outside pictures and stop at the team store. The game only opened up an hour before first pitch, and I'd need every second to explore the park, so I figured I'd at least get my shopping done ahead of time.

In walking around, I found a nice little park in the back dedicated to the Erie Canal. There was even a museum about it, but it was closed on the weekends. I also found out that there would be a concert in another park down the street from the ballpark, so it would probably behoove me to get back here for the game on the early side.

After doing what I do, I sent myself in the direction on the Akron Zoo, which was but a short drive away. On this fine, holiday day, the parking lot was quite full. I found a space, bought my ticket, and went off into the zoological afternoon. I immediately bought a drink to stave off the insane heat of the afternoon I had ignored to this point. The zoo had just undergone a lot of renovations, so there were a bunch of new exhibits. There was an amphibian/rain forest building that also held one of the major concession areas. I ducked in to get some lunch before seeing the exhibits. There was a working Frogger machine in the building, but sadly, it would properly accept quarters, so you couldn't play it. Which was a disappointment.

Zoo
Debonair

I spent some time walking around the zoo. As I was getting to the end of my circuit, they were about to do a training exercise at the bear exhibit that I stayed to watch. And observing these giant monsters do tricks that facilitated their zoological care, all I could think about is how lucky it is we have guns, because in a regular confrontation, those bears would just make short work of us. To underscore the point, there was a scale near the exhibit that let you know how much your weight was of a bear's daily food intake before hibernation. The subtext was quite clear.

Eventually done, I headed off to my hotel, which turned out to just be a short drive from the zoo. I checked in, dumped my stuff in the room, and tired from an afternoon in the sun, I took a shower and a nap. In short order, it was time to head back to the park.

Another quick drive later, I was back at the park, but all the free spaces were long since gone. A parking lot just across from the park wasn't yet filled, and just $5, so I pulled in there. The lot was an empty lot, and a building was clearly there before, because I ended up driving over a building bracket of some sort while parking, wondering if I had punctured my tire in the process. Not being able to do anything about it at the moment, I went to join the ever-growing line to get in.

Not caring for the fireworks, I found my tires still inflated, so I headed back to the hotel at a reasonable hour. Having to head out a bit on the early side the next day, I packed up as much as possible, showered up, and made an early night of it.


The Stadium & Fans: 

Home to center, Canal Park
Home plate to center field, Canal Park

Canal Park was pretty refreshing in being a relatively new park that was an anchor to a downtown revitalization effort that wasn't immediately sold off to corporate naming, unless there is a "Canal Corporation" that I'm not aware of, in which case, ignore everything I've said up to this point.

With its fake brick fronting, the park is right on the canal in the middle of downtown. You can circumnavigate the outside by going along the canal park, skirting the other parks and performance spaces in the area, and wandering down the downtown sidewalks. The "Diamond Boardwalk" outside of home plate connects with the canal. On the outside of the park are several facilities, including the several ticket booths, the team store, the Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame, and "The Game" restaurant, with its lighted sign by its right-field location proclaiming what meal it is serving and if there is a game today. Entrances to the park are at home plate, third base, left field and right field.

The grandiloquently named "Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame" is unaffiliated with the Ducks, but the space offers free admission to the galleries, which features great local players, the Hall of Fame itself, and stories of the various teams that have played in Akron. The place has seen better days, unfortunately, as--for example--the "F" in "Of" in "Hall of Fame" was dangling precariously when I visited. The guy who runs the place was a hoot and half, though.

Hall of Fame
Hall O...f

All the entrances dump out onto a wide promenade that runs from right-center field to left field around home plate. Center field is inaccessible, so you can't circumnavigate, but the walkway is very broad, so getting around is not a problem at all. The single section of seating all extend down from the promenade by regularly spaced stairwells, with regular seating running out to right field and to third base on that side of the park, with a table service "Fowl Territory" section running from third base to the left field corner. A second level runs from about dugout to dugout, housing the luxury boxes and the press box above home plate. All the concessions are found along the promenade, either built into the back of the grandstand or as free-standing carts in other parts of the park. Patrons of The Game restaurant can look out from right field, or eat on outdoor seating in the right field plaza to watch the game.

A single-tier outfield wall covered in ads winds through the outfield behind the impressively black batters' eye in center, the main digital video board in right-center, the auxiliary strip board in left-center, and the Akron skyline in the backdrop. A bit of local color is added by the fact that the center field wall by the batters’ eye indents into the field dramatically, leaving a pointed wedge in the wall, whether from necessity or being "quirky." Left field on top of the Fowl Territory ends in a large party area, while right field terminates in a kids' Fun Zone and a Tiki Terrace bar. The park also has a ton of memorials and dedications. There's a POW/MIA seat, a plaque dedicated to fans who met and married at the park, and championship banners along the right field wall.

Mascots
Mascot lineup

Webster the Duck and Orbit the Cat are the local mascots. Webster can even remove his mascot hat and hand it out to fans, as he often does during the course of the game. Most of the between-inning entertainment was minor-league standards, although there were a couple of unique twists such as slip-n-slide bowling, and less common things such as a seventh-inning grounds crew dance. As this was a potentially playoff clinching event, the game was eventually sold out, and it was rocking, even when it didn't look like it was going to work out for the home team.


At the Game with Oogie: 

Scoring
Night scoring

I bought my tickets before setting out from Niles, and it seems like a good idea that I did. By the time I showed up mid-afternoon to buy my ticket, the potentially clinching game was sold out to standing room only. With my magical single ticket, I had managed to get in the season ticket section behind the home dugout anyway.

After casing the place for food, I decided on a cheesesteak from local favorite Eddie's, and man, was that the right decision. The $9 cheesesteak was simply one of the best I've ever had, and exactly the right size to fill me up without feeling like you've eaten too much.

Grub
Eddie's cheesesteak

As mentioned, the game was a sell-out, but as I was in the season ticket areas, I had the least populous area of the park due to no-shows. That said, there were still three or so families sitting around me. There were a couple storylines in the stands that night. The family in front of me had a young girl that just wanted to get a ball. She tried all game, and around the seventh inning, she finally got the player who caught the last out of the inning to give her a ball, and she was deliriously happy for the rest of the game.

On less happy news, there were a group of pre-teen boys who were sitting in the section to our left who had friends in the section to our right. Since there were a lot of open seats in our section, they kept running back and forth across our section instead of going up the stairs and back down the other stairs. This eventually annoyed the families in the way enough that they yelled at them on their next attempt, and, in the way that only kids who have been yelled out by adults can act, not only walked up and down the stairs, but avoided eye contact with our section for the rest of the night.

The family behind me had the star of the night. This family had a young son who never ceased in his Little League-level-of-enthusiasm chant of "Let's go Ducks!" And frankly, he seemed to be the only one to never lose spirit for the entirety of the game, featuring all of those improbably near comebacks by Akron throughout the night. He eventually made friends with some of the other boys and girls in his section, and he had them all chanting along for the rest of the night, up until the last rally in the bottom of the ninth.


The Game: 

First pitch, SeaWolves vs. RubberDucks
First pitch, SeaWolves vs. RubberDucks

This was a potentially playoff-clinching game for the RubberDucks, with their magic number staying at one due to a loss the previous night. I'd never been to a clinching game before, so this was potentially a first for me.

It started off well for the Ducks, as a leadoff single in the first by the SeaWolves was picked off, and the rest of the side struck out. Akron got on the board quickly, with a one-out single in the bottom of the inning, who then stole second and moved to third and a deep fly to center, scoring when the center fielder threw the ball into the backstop, allowing the unearned run. Two quick outs ending the inning at 1-0, RubberDucks.

The lead lasted until the top of the second, as the first Erie batter was plunked and then came home on a homer to right. A one-out double was erased on an inning-ending double-play, but not before the SeaWolves were up 2-1. Akron only managed a two-out walk in the bottom of the second, and both sides went in order in the third.

Not so the fourth. Erie strung together four straight hits (three singles and then a double) to start the inning and bring in two runs. A walk followed, and a single brought in two more runs. The runner at second was gunned down trying to steal third, and two more outs ended the half at 6-1, Erie. Akron managed only a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, and both sides went in order again in the fifth.

The SeaWolves stranded a one-out double in the top of the sixth, but Akron tried to get back in the game. They started the bottom of the inning with a single that went to second on a passed ball. The next batter tripled him in, and a single brought him in in turn. A double made it second and third with no outs, and grounder to second brought a runner in and over on the put-out to first. A double brought in another run and chased the Erie starter, but his replacement got two quick outs to end the scoring with a slim 6-5 Erie lead.

In keeping with the pace of this game, the SeaWolves opened up their lead in the seventh. A leadoff single was followed by a walk and a double-steal to make it second and third with no outs. A new Akron pitcher allowed a double to bring them both in, before getting out of the inning at 8-5, Erie. The RubberDucks went back to work in the bottom of the inning, starting off with a single, a hit batsman, and a single to center. The single brought in a run, and a misplay by the center fielder brought in the runner from first and put the batter at second with no outs. A single made it first and third with no outs, and the runner at first was pulled for a pinch runner. A groundout to short finally got an out, and a new pitcher was brought in, efficiently stopping the bleeding with a strikeout and fly out to left, preserving the Erie lead at 8-7.

And Erie opened up the lead again in the top of the eighth. A leadoff walk was erased on a caught stealing, but another walk followed, and he stole second. A new Ducks pitcher gave up a single to short that was subsequently bobbled by the shortstop, allowing a run to score. Another deep single on a hit-and-run brought in the speedy runner all the way from first, but two outs ended the half at 10-7, SeaWolves.

The RubberDucks went in order in the eighth, and Erie had two-out, back-to-back singles in the top of the ninth, and nothing else. Akron made one last try in the bottom of the ninth. Back-to-back doubles started them off, followed by a short single and a stolen base to put the tying runs in scoring position with no outs. But the Erie pitcher hunkered down and got three straight outs to end the last rally short with a 10-8 SeaWolves win.

That said, the team chasing the RubberDucks lost, so Akron did clinch their playoff berth, and the team half-heartedly put on playoff t-shirts in the dugout after the game.


The Scorecard: 

SeaWolves vs. RubberDucks, 08-30-14. SeaWolves win, 10-8.
SeaWolves vs. RubberDucks, 08/30/14. SeaWolves win, 10-8.

The scorecard was part of a free program, but unexpectedly, it wasn't given away at the front gate at all, but needed to be asked for at the fan relations booth. The gentleman behind the counter looked a little taken aback by my request, but eventually went into a back room, returned with a box, and removed a stack of programs that he put on the counter for myself and other patrons. I'm not sure if he just forgot to put them out, or I was just the first person to ask in long while.

The program was a full-colored tabloid pamphlet, with the somewhat cramped scoring area taking up the entire centerfold. Each player line had room for three substitutions, and the visiting pitchers were listed with the opposing team, aligned perpendicular to the batting lines.

For all the on-field scoring, it was a rather conventional game from a scorekeeping perspective. There were certainly more replacements and pinch-runners than I had seen in a while, but outside of a few mildly odd plays (a 1-4-3 putout in the bottom of the third and a K-1-3 in the top of seventh thanks to the uncaught third strike bouncing back most of the way to the pitcher's mound), there was nothing much of note. Two after-play errors by the SeaWolves center fielder and one by the Akron shortstop were all that was left to mention. In the bottom of the first, after making a catch, he threw away the ball letting a run score, and in the bottom of the seventh, while fielding a single to center, he again threw the ball away, allowing another run in. In the top of the eighth, a ball to deep short was knocked down, getting the batter a single, but the shortstop threw the ball away, letting a run score.


The Accommodations: 

Courtyard in Akron Stow
Courtyard in Akron Stow

After the Residence Inn the night before, anything short of a castle would probably be a letdown, but I decided to stay at another Marriott property, the Courtyard in Akron Stow, which was just off Route 8 a little north of downtime and pointing towards my destination for the next day.

While no Residence Inn, it was quite nice. The bathroom was off to the right of the room entrance, with the sink and vanity outside the bathroom proper, with the toilet and shower through the door. In the back room, my bed was against the perpendicular wall, facing the windows. The TV, desk, and dresser were on the left wall, and a small couch and dining table were on the right. The windows were sliding doors that opened out onto a small patio landing, with two chairs and a table. So, it had that over the Residence Inn, but no free popcorn.