Saturday, May 31, 2014

Trenton

On Agreeable Company

Arm & Hammer Field
Arm & Hammer Field, 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014
Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox) vs.
Trenton Thunder (NY Yankees)
Arm & Hammer Field
Eastern League (AA)
Trenton, NJ
7:05 PM


Outside the Game:
Every single time I thought work couldn't get worse, it did. This time it was the most incompetently handled lay offs that I'd ever encountered in my professional career. It actually ended with our CEO talking about what an awful week she was having. Frankly, that was just a taste of the tone deafness with which it was executed. So off for a game I was.

As they are only an hour away, I had been to the Trenton Thunder during my first "official" trip way back when in 2006, but I hadn't taken many pictures, so I decided to revisit them. Checking their Website, they were doing a (two-admission) double-header to make up an earlier rain-out in the season. The first game was at 2 PM, and the second at 7 PM. Being so close, I decided to try for the 2 PM game, setting out around 11 AM.

I made it maybe five miles. They inexplicably were still doing construction on the NJ Turnpike northern spur that had the entirety of it backed up nearly to the Holland Tunnel. After crawling along to the Bayonne exit for nearly twenty minutes, I bailed off at that exit and decided to go to the later game.

I drove back home ad did some odd chores and shopping, and then set out again around 4 PM. Duly warned by previous attempt, I took 1&9 from Hoboken around Newark Airport to hook up with the Turnpike after the spur. The drive down was quick and uneventful. I took my initial pictures and then walked around at Waterfront Park until the gates opened. I found some weird, off-limits, pillbox-looking thing above the park, but did not venture in. Eventually, it was time to line up to get in.

On the way out, there was some congestion at the front entrance because of all the school buses at the evening's event, so I left out the back and got home quickly, early, and without incident.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Arm & Hammer Field
Home plate to center field, Arm & Hammer Field

Last time I was there, it was named "Waterfront Park." But the park in Trenton had apparently garnered the new title of "Samuel J. Plumeri, Sr. Field at Arm & Hammer Park." So, there's that.

There is now a statue of Mr. Plumeri in front of the park with several baseball-loving children, and an open seat to take pictures next to him. The main plaza is in front of the park where the statue sits, with the ticket booth on the bottom of the structure, and two entrances into the park up two stairways on either side of the ticket booth. There are two other entrances/exits between first base/right field and third base/left field. The left field entrance also has full handicapped access.

It is a fairly standard minor-league park layout. All the entrances have stairways that lead up to the upper promenade, which extends from left field to right field around home plate. A luxury level runs above from first base to third base. The press box is located on the walkway level behind home plate, and above the press box on the suite level is a giant, main "Yankees Suite," with big windows facing towards the field. Above the suites runs "Thunder Country," which showcases pictures of the mascots and many of the former Thunder players who now (or have) graced the majors, including Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciapara. Above the press box is a championship banner and the retired numbers.

There are two scoreboards, one in left-center and one in right. The one in left was used for pitchers stats, while the right-field board was edge-to-edge display and used for videos between the action, as well as listing full lineups and batter's stats during the game. This was rather unique for AA ball.

Right field was anchored by a Kids Zone that was at field level, and a picnic area sat at then end of the promenade in left. Concessions lined the top walkway, with the Waterfront Grille in right featuring local favorites from Chickie & Pete's and Case's. Behind home plate are the entrances to the suite level, the team store, lineups, and the "Road to the Majors" exhibit. A lower walkway runs the same course and separates the box seats below from the grandstands above.

Mascot
The didactic Thunder the thunderbolt

The stadium was packed, as it was visited this evening by most of the New Jersey Special Olympics, as well as several other school groups and teams. Apparently, they are introducing baseball to the Special Olympics this year, and the NJ final will be played at Arm & Hammer Field. Boomer (the bird) and Strike (the thunderbolt) led the on-field antics. It was your regular races, quizzes, and contests, though they did have a "Dog of the Day" event with the local animal shelter to try and get a pet adopted, which is always nice.


At the Game with Oogie:
Scoring
Thunder scoring

I was starving when I got to the park, despite having lunch. I went to the Waterfront Grille in right and got a Case's pork roll sandwich early, which was a good idea, because there was quite a line later on. You place your order at the front, get a form with said order, and then claim it at the end in back. This was the first stadium in a while that did not have a helmet of fries available.

As per usual, I got a seat behind the home dugout on the first-base side. There was only one older woman in the row with me, who had to move out of my way on my way to my seat. We eventually fell to talking, and she and her family are quite the baseball fans. They are from Staten Island, and they have season tickets to both the Staten Island Yankees, as well as the Trenton Thunder, so they are intimately acquainted with most of the Yankees low minors system, to say the least.

Grub
It is Taylor Ham, you barbarians.

I was wearing my Cylones cap, as always, and we got the trash talk out of the way early. She was good-natured about it, which clearly placed her in the one-third of tolerable Yankees fans of the world. We talked for most of the game, with her pointing out who was good and who was bad on the team, and expressing joy and disappointment in the events as the game progressed.

They showed the MLB scores between innings on one of the scoreboards, and as the Mets had managed to inexplicably go to extra innings again after blowing a lead, my rowmate surreptitiously kept up on the score of the game on her phone and let me know when the Mets went ahead and eventually won. What more can you ask of an evening?

After the game, I wished her well back to Staten Island, and told her that I may see her later this month, as I expected to re-visit the SI Yankees for the same reason I came to Trenton that day.


The Game:
First pitch, Sea Dogs vs. Thunder
First pitch Sea Dogs vs. Thunder
This was only to be a seven-inning contest, as Eastern League rules prohibit more than seven innings if the minor-league teams play a double-header. The Sea Dogs were the Red Sox affiliate in this league, and the Thunder are the Yankees affiliate, so there was a little bit of juice to this game, especially considering that the Sea Dogs were so dominating their division. Also, the Thunder were using a back-up manager, as their regular manager was off at a college graduation of one of his children.

Additionally, my rowmate had told me that the day's Thunder pitcher had apparently just come off the disabled list and immediately been thrown into the game--a testament to his quality--as well as being so good that another Thunder fan a short distance away had a K board set up for him on the railing. He lived up to his billing in the top of the first, getting the Sea Dogs in order, including two strike-outs. The Thunder had back-to-back, two-out singles moved along by an error on a throw, leaving first and third with two outs, but a pop to third ended the threat.

The Sea Dogs only got a one-out walk in the top of the second, and the Thunder went in order in their half. The third inning shook things up. After two quick ground-outs, the Sea Dogs broke up the no hitter with a single to right. A double to right brought in the run, another single to right drove that run in, and another single made it first and second with two outs, before a strikeout ended the half at 2-0, Sea Dogs. The Thunder went in order again.

In the top of the fourth, the Sea Dogs managed an one-out double to center and nothing else. The anemic Thunder again went in order. The Sea Dogs got a leadoff single in the fifth, but it was erased on a double-play. A two-out walk was stranded with nothing across. The Thunder went in order, yet again. Facing a new Thunder pitcher, the Sea Dogs similarly went in order in the sixth.

But in the bottom of the sixth, the Thunder found some... thunder. A one-out double to center got them started. A grounder to second moved over the runner, and the next batter singled him in. And then there was a monstrous homer to left field to clear the bases. A fly to center ended the inning, but the Thunder were up for the first time in the game, 3-2.

They held that lead for five minutes. A two-out walk was followed by a double to left, to make it second and third with one out. A single brought them both in, and then the runner stole second. He made it to third on a ground out, but another ground out stranded him, with the Sea Dogs back in the lead, 4-3.

The Thunder started their half of the (last licks) seventh inning with a double to right. A sacrifice bunt moved him to third with only one out, but the bottom of the order (with a total batting average of under .300 and not pinch hit for) could not get him home, as a strikeout and fly to right ended it at 4-3, Sea Dogs.


The Scorecard:

Sea Dogs vs. Thunder, 05/31/14. Sea Dogs win, 4-3.

The scorecard was a free paper program handed out at the door. Although it was black-and-white printing except for the cover, it was of reasonable size and handled pencil writing well.

Beside being a seven-inning game, it was rather conventional from a scoring perspective. The most interesting bit came from the "strike out" inning in the third, where the Thunder did get a strike out to end the inning, but only after coughing up two runs. There was one double-play, and in the first, there was an infield hit to third that also had an error attached to the end of it on the throw to first, but that was about it. The Sea Dogs K-Man did not strike out.


The Accommodations:
Hoboken, at a reasonable hour


2014 Stand Alone Trip.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Salisbury

On Reasons I Don't Like Delaware

Friday, May 23, 2014
Dover, DE


Outside of the Game:
The Friday before Memorial Day was technically a holiday for my company, but for some reason, my team and I were working all day. We had some last-minute deliverables that we had to submit before the end of the week, and, of course, we did not receive them from the necessary folks until the submission day. And so we worked until 6 PM in an empty office, but we did eventually get done what we needed to do.

Getting home "early" that Friday (or at least earlier than I had in about three weeks), I was able to more leisurely do some laundry and rudimentary planning. It was still before the short-season June leagues opened, and my only choice within a reasonable driving distance was the Delmarva Shorebirds in Maryland. That said, they were near the east Maryland ocean beaches on Memorial Day, so I'd make my best time driving at night. I could leave to go down Friday night, and since the game was at 7:05 PM on Saturday, I'd be driving back at night. There were no other teams in the area playing, it would be easier driving on Saturday, and I had to be around on Monday, as it is a holiday in America, and not in Europe, and some work stuff might come through. A plan was born.

I packed up and left at 10 PM into an intense downpour that had been on-and-off during the day and evening. It made the driving slow going, and, more importantly, it rained out the in-progress Mets game, which just left me with the Yankees game in dry Chicago to keep me company on the drive south.

Right around the shore, the rain let up, and I proceeded to make up some time getting out of Jersey--until I had to get off at the end of the Turnpike. There were only three cash booths opened at midnight, and it took nearly twenty minutes to pay the toll and be on my way, eating up a lot of precious driving time.

Once I finally got past the toll gate, it was relatively easy going onto the Delaware Memorial Bridge (probably remembering how much money they're taking). Thankfully, I wasn't going across the second stick-up of the 30 miles of 95 in Delaware, but heading south on 1 to ride the length of the state.

While I had discussed my distaste with the cash grab that is driving in Delaware previously, I had never really spent much more than the time necessary to drive through the state in the state, with the exception of the game I took in at Wilmington last year. As with most people, I don't have a really good grasp of Delaware. It has no identity to speak of. Outside of them being the first state in the Union, hosting a ballclub in their capital, having a water gap and a state college that is the safety school for every Jersey resident, and grabbing every last penny from people driving through the state, I don't know a whole lot about it.

Driving the length of the Delaware this evening, I found out some more, and I didn't like much of it. For one thing, for such a small place, there is a lot of nothing. Between Wilmington and Dover, there are wide expanses of not a lot. And what few things there were, most of them were churches. Everyone can have or not have whatever religion they want, but I didn't really expect Delaware to be so Jesus-y. But there were more churches per capita on at least the roads I drove on than in some places in Italy.

At around 12:30 AM, I passed the outer edges of Wilmington's suburbs and headed south on 1. I made the fateful decision not to stop for the night there as I imagined there would be other places along the way at regular intervals. That was a false assumption. There was literally nothing (at least, nothing advertised on road signs) between the southern end of the suburbs and Dover, about an hour to the south. As it creeped up towards 1:30 AM, there was a hotel of some sort just north of Dover. I pulled in to find a large group of people in the front parking lot having a party with blasting music at this hour of the night. This was a serious warning sign, but I was getting really tired and running low on gas. I went inside to find the only room available was a queen suite for $200 or something like that, and I told them what to do with the room, and hey, they might want to stop that party out front. There was a motel across the highway, but it had no vacancies.

This was apparently when 1 and 13 (the two big state roads, such as they are) diverged, so I found myself led down 13 by my TomTom, and wondered if the soothing British voice was sending me in a direction that had no gas or hotels. Ten minutes or so later, I came up on the outskirts of Dover, which had a cluster of hotels by the first exit. Seeing a Holiday Inn Express, I immediately pulled in, but I found myself curiously in a check-in line, as a family had probably had the same experience as myself and was getting a room for the night as well. I was able to get a single King for a reasonable amount of money, with the caveat that it was a handicapped accessible room. I told the clerk that as long as a handicapped person didn't need it, it was fine with me. I parked the car, grabbed my gear, went to my room, dropped said gear, and went the hell to sleep.


The Accommodations:

Holiday Inn Express
Holiday Inn Express

So, as mentioned, I was in the Dover Holiday Inn Express. This was the second time I had been in a handicapped-accessible room. The previous time was in my first visit to Miami. The rooms are largely the same, with the exception that everything is lowered so that it can be easily used by a person in a wheelchair, and there is a collapsible seat in the shower.

The room had a couch and table in the bedroom, and a slightly oversize bathroom to accommodate wheelchairs. I didn't spend much time in it at all once I had built a pillow fort in my bed and gone to sleep.


On the Weirdest Half-Inning Ever

Arthur W. Purdue Stadium
Arthur W. Purdue Stadium, 2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014
Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) vs.
Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore Orioles)
Arthur W. Perdue Stadium
South Atlantic League (A), Northern Division
Salisbury, MD
7:05 PM


Outside the Game:
Thanks to seemingly unavoidable habit, I woke up later that day at 8 AM. Being solidly awake, I went down to take advantage of the free breakfast, piling on bacon, sausage, and biscuits and gravy with my seemingly superfluous oatmeal. After eating what I blearily thought was my fill, I headed back up to the room. Thankfully, the check out wasn't until noon, so I re-piled my pillow fort and nestled in for some serious napping. I turned on the TV and threw the remote on the couch before discovering that a block of Two and a Half Men was on. I was so bleary that I could not get out from the nest to get the remote, but dear lord, is that one unfunny television program. How can it still be on the air?

A little after 11 AM, I re-emerged from the cocoon. I took a shower and packed up while calling the stadium to buy a ticket. At a little before noon, I checked out of the hotel, got some gas, and pointed my car southward. I was a little under an hour and a half from Salisbury and not in any rush. The game wasn't until seven that evening, and I had a whole day to kill. I took a leisurely drive down, stopping for lunch on the way, and got into town a little before two.

The good news was that Salisbury had not just a zoo, but one of the few free accredited zoos in the country. And that always spells a way to kill an afternoon to me. I got to the park containing the zoo and was able to get one of the few parking spaces left, as the zoo was packed this holiday Saturday.

Zoo
Not entertained

I gave a donation at the gate and made my way inside. For a small zoo, it was quite well done. The grounds were laid out with some forethought, and besides a few signs of dubious age, everything was kept up-to-date. A leisurely walk around encompassed an hour or so of photographing the animals and spending some time out of the car and stretching my legs. After I had my fill of the zoo, I took some time to walk around the surrounding park before heading back to my car. It was around 3:30, and the ballpark was only ten or so minutes away, as the TomTom goes. I took a drive over there, and it was easy enough to find, so I swung back to town.

I spotted a Rest Area off the highway on the way back, and feeling a little sleepy and knowing I probably had a long drive that night, I went into a designated Rest Area to use it for its stated purpose for my first time ever. There were about three other cars in the area, driven by more aged individuals. I pulled into a shaded space, turned off the car, pulled my hat over my face, and napped for about a half an hour.

Upon waking up, I felt as like unto a god. It was around 4:30 PM, so with nothing else to do I went to park. I did my normal walk-arounds, picked up my ticket, and got in line to get into the park at 6 PM when the gates opened.

On the way out, everyone was still pretty much asses-in-seats for the post-game fireworks and the charity ball toss. Not caring much about either, I made my way back out to my car in the lot, watched the first few salvos of the fireworks, and got into the car.

It was already ten, and I had at least a 3.5- or 4-hour drive ahead of me, if there were no delays. With the nap under my belt, I decided to risk it, and set out to get onto 13 northbound. While driving can be a pain sometimes (mostly due to other people), there is something to be said for heading out at night, with nothing but a direction to drive, a full tank of gas, and open road in front of you.

Thankfully, there were no delays on the drive home. At around 1:30 AM, I pulled into my parking space in Hoboken and unloaded all my stuff for the walk back to my apartment. In a case of multiple miracles, even the downstairs neighbors seemed to be gone for the holiday weekend. For the second night in a row, I just dropped my stuff where it lay and went to a much-needed bed.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Arthur W. Perdue Stadium
Home plate to center field, Arthur W. Perdue Stadium

Arthur W. Perdue Stadium is named for the chicken magnate of the same name, which is apparently headquartered in Salisbury, along with the stadium. The press box is similarly named for Frank Perdue, which those of you of a certain age will recognize from his unavoidable television commercials during the 80s.

Perdue Stadium is a fairly standard single-A park. Two entrances are at the top of stairs, leading to the upper promenade that rings most of the stadium above the entire seating bowl. The lower, middle entrance opens to the lower walkway around the park behind home plate. The upper walkway runs from left field to right field behind home plate and houses most of the concession stands. In right field is a party/picnic area with terraced tables down the seating bowl, while in left field there is the kids area, highlighted by a large carousel at the entrance. A picnic berm also sits at the end of the seating bowl in left. The lower walkway runs about the same distance, and separates the lower field boxes from the regular grandstand seating. There are kids concessions behind home plate (pizza and candy), but nothing else on offer. A club level rises above the regular seats from first to third base, with the "Executive Club" on the first-base side, the press box behind home plate, and a more open party area on the third-base side.

Somewhat oddly, the home dugout in the park is on the third-base side. This no doubt has to do with sun fields and which side of the park is more pleasant for day games. Two aging scoreboards in various states of repair sit out in left and right field, with the one in right seemingly only semi-functioning.

Next to the center entrance to the park is the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. It has a free admission and extensively goes into the rich baseball history of eastern Maryland, an area--perhaps ironically--that these days is known as the hotbed of lacrosse is the country. The museum has exhibits about all the previous and current teams in the area, sportcasters from the area, Negro League teams that played in Delmarva, as well as the Hall of Fame itself and an exhibit/meeting room on high school baseball in the region. It was a nice little museum that was clearly a labor of love for those involved, and you can't beat the price.

 Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame

Even though it is only single-A ball, the fans came out and were quite into the game, if needing of some prompting in certain areas. The park was mostly filled with families out for some fun, and fun they seemed to have, so there's a good transaction. (Except, of course, for the Orioles' clubs continued mangling of the National Anthem with their "O" shout.) Of note was a young woman in my section who I'm imagining was a girlfriend or family member of one of the players. They moved her down to the box seats early in the game, and she spent the rest of the game taking pictures of the Shorebirds.

Mascot
What you looking at?

Sherman the Shorebird (sure, why not?) is the master of ceremonies for the minor-league hijinx between innings. The regular sponsored contests and t-shirt cannons are there, with a few wildcards like a cash box. One aspect defies easy explanation. A company called "Hardwire" sponsors the team, and, for lack of a better description, they make products for scared white people. They are, I kid you not, bulletproof shields that can be camouflaged into everyday school or office items, such as white boards. Now, we've all watched The Wire, and I know Baltimore and DC can be rough places, but are the suburbs so over-run with gun crime that we really need this product? And--let's buy into the premise for a minute--if you do, is a white-board sized bulletproof shield really going to be what saves you from a gunman? Nevertheless, they have the shields at regular intervals around the stadium, and they do a "Shield the Field" chant they do when they are trying to protect a lead. All in all, it might be the most bizarre thing I've seen at a ballgame, and I've watched Steve Traschel pitch.

Sad
White fear, in marketing form


At the Game with Oogie:

Scoring
Wait for this story

I got a ticket right around the home dugout on the third-based side when I called up in the morning. I was sitting in a row filled by a family. There was another family there before, but it turned out they were in the wrong section. The field boxes were not numbered in a straightforward manner, so perhaps their moving would have been a hint to check my own ticket, but I didn't until the owner showed up. He was with the larger group, and since there was a space next to my seat (well, his seat), he let me stay put for the game. It being a pain to move in the middle of things with all my crap, I accepted his kind of offer.

Grub
Corndog and a helmet full of fries

The main concession stand had a foot-long corndog and a batting helmet full of fries (which seems to be the big thing these days), so my eating choice was a fairly obvious one.


The Game:

First pitch, Intimidators vs. Shorebirds
First pitch, Intimidators vs. Shorebirds

Well, this was a weird one. Let's just get this out there. It also included the strangest half-inning of baseball I think I've ever seen. Also, one of the teams was called the "Intimidators." Seriously, that is their name.

To start us off, the Intimidators managed a bloop single to center in the top of the first, and that and two strikeouts were all they had to show for it. The Shorebirds, however, started differently. The first batter hit a long fly ball to right-center. Both fielders were racing for it, the center fielder even got his glove on it--and deflected it to right field. By the time the ball hit his glove, the speedy runner was already around second. By the time they threw it to the plate, he didn't even have to slide, but he did, marking my first ever in-person inside-the-park home run, and a 1-0 Shorebird lead. After a flyout to third, the next batter got one off his fists to the same area that just went too far to catch, for a single. And the batter after him did the same thing to right field, making it first and third with one out. A strikeout followed, but then so did another fisted single to left to bring in the runner from third. A walk loaded the bases, but a ground-out to short ended the half-inning at 2-0, Shorebirds.

The Intimidators went in order in the second (with two more strikeouts), and the Shorebirds started their half of the second with another weak single off the fists just over first. A grounder to short got the lead runner, and then a weak fly to right was dropped, but with enough time to get the runner at second on a force-out, because there is no "outfield fly rule." A fly-out to right ended the threat. Just to mix it up, the Shorebirds struck out the side in the top of the third. Bad defense reared its ugly head again in the bottom of the third, and a grounder to short was throw into the dugout to start the inning. It was followed by a walk, but a double-play ball to short and a pop to first ended that threat, as well.

In the fourth, there were two more strikeouts for the increasingly mis-named Intimidators, but a runner made it to first after getting plunked. That batter also happened to be the only batter to get a hit off the Shorebird's starter so far, and I'm sure that's coincidental. The Shorebirds started their half with another bloop single to left, but the runner promptly got caught trying to steal. Two quick outs ended the inning. The Intimidators started off the fifth with a single to center, but a ground-out and a double-play wrapped up their half. The Shorebirds again started off the inning with a bloop single over third base, but a double-play and a grounder to short ended the inning.

It is worth noting at this point that the Intimidator's pitcher was a hard-luck case. The Shorebirds had a lot of hits, but every last one of them was off the hands. Bad defense accounted for most of the other baserunners at this point. The Shorebirds' pitcher, on the other hand, was dominating. He had nine strikeouts to this point, and the Intimidators hadn't even gotten a runner to second all game, and only four had made it to first.

This changed in the sixth. The first Intimidator batter got plunked and moved to second on a passed ball. A single made it first and third with no outs. Another single brought in a run and made it first and second with no outs. The first baseman ole'd a grounder to load up the bases, and the Shorebirds pitcher hit the showers. The new pitcher got a fly out to mid-depth left, but the fielder had such a gun the Intimidators didn't send the runner from third. With one out, there was another fly out to left, but this time, it was deep enough that the runner made it home on a close play. A strikeout ended the half with the score tied, 2-2.

Which brings us to the most bizarre half-inning of baseball I've ever watched. The first batter smoked one out of the park in the left-field corner to give the Shorebirds back the lead. A line-out to third was rather routine. A clean single to center followed, and a ground-out to second moved over the runner. The next batter grounded one to second, but the ball made a jump and got by the fielder, bringing the run all the way in from second.

The next batter is when things went nuts. The batter popped out to second to end the inning. The entertainment team was already coming out onto the field to do a horse race, when everyone stopped and ran back. The umpire had called interference on the catcher, as the batter hit the catcher's mitt when popping out. So now it was first and second with two outs. The next batter looked at ball four out of the strike zone. He didn't get a walk because the ball skipped off the catcher's mitt and bulls-eyed the umpire in a particular spot. He was out of it for a good while. The trainers came out and everything. The original ball four was never resolved, but the batter walked on the next pitch, and that was it for the Intimidator's starter. The switch didn't help as the next batter doubled to left to clear the bases. There was a single to center that brought him in before a grounder to second ended this insane inning at 8-2, Shorebirds.

The Intimidators had some life in the seventh, with back-to-back singles to start the inning. A ground-out to first moved the runners up, but two strikeouts ended the half. The Shorebirds kept going in the seventh with a lead-off single. A pop to first got an out, but two more short singles loaded the bases. A grounder to second got the runner at second but brought in a run. A single brought in another run, and a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third with two out. A new pitcher got a ground-out to end the inning at 10-2, Shorebirds.

The Intimidators had a leadoff single and nothing else in the eighth, and the Shorebirds went in order. The Shorebirds' closer got the Intimidators in order in the ninth to cement a 10-2 win.


The Scorecard:

Intimidators vs. Shore Birds, 05-24-14. Shorebirds win, 10-2.
Intimidators vs. Shore Birds, 05/24/14. Shorebirds win, 10-2.

The scorecard was a free hand-out at the gate. It was a small tabloid on shiny paper that made colored pencil usage rather difficult. The scorecard was in the centerfold and was a little on the cramped side. It used large diamonds in the boxes, which made charting the path around the bases easier, but it left little space for notes, which was desperately needed for this game.

As mentioned, there was a lot of wackiness. In the first place, every player promotion was fulfilled, which may be a first for me at a minor league game. The K-Man struck out. The "Healthy Hitter of the Game" got a single. And the "Home Run Inning" in the sixth was led off with a homer to left that netted some lucky fan a one-ounce gold coin, or some such.

I made a note of the first inside-the-park homer I saw. I may come up with a special notation for it (four lines in a box, maybe) if I feel ambitious for the future. I also made notes of the player promotions above. And then there was the home sixth. I made a note of the "F-4" that was erased by the catcher's interference. I also made a note about the walk that wasn't because the umpire got beaned in the beanbag. I don't even think is a scoring for such things.

Otherwise, there were other small things. The Shorebirds struck out 15 over the course of the game, which is a lot. The Intimidators didn't get a batter to second until the aforementioned sixth. And there were three double-plays in the game, along with three errors.

Ah, the joys of low-minors baseball.


The Accommodations:
Hoboken, early the next morning


2014 Stand-Alone Trip

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Philadelphia

On When Philadelphia Seems an Improvement


Citizens Bank Park
Citizens Bank Park, 2014


Saturday, May 17, 2014
Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Citizens Bank Park
Major League Baseball, National League
Philadelphia, PA
7:05 PM


Outside the Game:
Work. Stress. Impossible. Increasing. Etc. We've discussed this.

I had a Saturday free, at least. Until June came around and the short-season leagues opened up, there wouldn't be many new stadiums that were under 4 hours or so away. To avoid a 7 or 8 hour drive, I had to content myself with revisiting Citizens Bank Park, a stadium that I had seen on my first "official" trip, much like Hagerstown a week or so before. I wanted to get some more extensive photography, and Philly, a scant two hours away, was playing a night game on this Saturday.

I did some various little chores in the morning, and then headed out at around 2 PM. It would be 95 nearly all the way down, which is why it was a little disappointing there was construction almost immediately on the Turnpike north spur leaving only one lane open, for some reason.

That congestion was annoying as I was starting out, but it would pale in comparison rather quickly. I only had about a quarter of a tank of gas left, and I thought it would make sense to set out first and gas up on the Turnpike. This was a horrible, horrible mistake. I passed the first few service areas, then exited at the third to get gas. I spent as much time as it had taken me to drive to the service station to get some gas. It was just a cluster of inefficiency that gave me flashbacks to my work problems.

I eventually drove off, frustrated and flooring it to make up the time, in an unmistakably mature reaction. And the turnpike was nearly completely clear for the entire rest of the way down, so I did make up the time, pulling into one of the parking lots at Citizens Bank at slightly after 4 PM. I did my normal walk-arounds, bought a ticket, and eventually went to line up for when the gates opened at 5:05.

As I had gotten a fancy club-level seat, I determined to use the home plate club-level entrance into the park. At a little before five, there was a father and his son already there, and the son was dealing with the longest wait of his life to this point. He kept checking to see if the people inside were going to open the doors, and then the time, and then the doors, and then the time again. And they eventually did let him and his father (and the rest of us) finally come in. He flew through the doors, quickly followed by his father, to reap his baseball nirvana.

Exodus
Leaving Philly is always a good idea

On the way out, I took my time leaving the park, eventually making my way back to the car. I believe I parked in the same lot the first time I went there and remember getting out was fairly easy. And it was the case here as well. I had arrived early enough to grab a spot right by an exit, and after a bit of traffic congestion on some surrounding streets, I was off and over the bridge back to the Turnpike in no time. Outside of some pointless lane closures that slowed down traffic in places, I was home at a relatively reasonable hour, to be greeted by incessant barking from my neighbors' downstairs apartment. They had either just gotten a dog, or had a dog visiting, and so considerately decided to house it in the part of the apartment under my own (as opposed to, say, the back yard), so that I would have to deal with the barking all night.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Citizens Bank Park
Home plate to center field, Citizens Bank Park

Philly had been the fourth stop on my original baseball trip way back when, and it was only the second of the "new generation" of parks (that had sprung up since Camden Yards started the revolution back in the 90s) that I visited. I remember enjoying the experience--if it being a little more damp than I wanted--and after seeing 90 parks in the interim, I was interested in what my re-reaction would be.

Citizens Bank Park is located in the big sports complex that Philly has constructed a distance off from their downtown. Baseball, football, and hockey (and basketball maybe? -- who cares) are all within walking distance of each other, surrounded by truly extensive tracts of parking. I'm not sure how much of a pain it is getting there from downtown (in addition to the lots, there are surface and subsurface transit options), but for driving from Jersey, it was a relatively painless experience, at least at the early hour I showed up. I have to wonder how hellish it can be if multiple sports are having events on the same night, but it seemed to work out okay for baseball only.

Surrounded by parking lots on all but one side, the last side of the park abuts the other parts of the sports complex. A lot of tailgating goes on before the game in the football lots (which are open for baseball events), and the McFadden's attached to the park and the big sports bar in the complex seem to be teeming with pre-game folks as well. Though that is just as likely because there is nothing else in this "neighborhood" to speak of.

Jersey Dreaming
Jersey Dreaming

In wandering around the parking lots, several of the old sports statues from the departed Veterans stadium made a move over into the back area of lots. There also was apparently the base layout of the Vet in one of the lots, but I was unable to locate it. All the walkways around the park and the entrances were well-manicured, and most entrances were festooned with at least one statue (Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, and Robin Roberts). The big outside event for the evening was tied into a food bank drive at all entrances, and by the main third-base gate, there was a DJ, and tents from different stores doing give-aways, including Shop Rite, with some Can-Can dancers.

I got to enter via the home plate suite entrance, which was filled with Phillies murals and mosaics. The park itself is a three-decked affair, with a central walkway around the park that lowers into the seating bowl from left to right field. A suite level extends above from about first to third, and then a club level runs nearly the length of the main bowl from left to right field. The upper deck runs above from first to left field, and then a separate section rises in right. The double-decked Harry the K's restaurant sits out in left-center field, under the main scoreboard.

The big area of note in the center field Ashburn Alley, named for the Phillies namesake player and presided over by his statue in dead center. The Alley runs from the double-decked bullpens in right to Harry the K's in left. Behind the batter's eyes is the Phillies timeline and their Hall of Fame (curiously blocked off during this game), along with some tips on how to throw pitches overlooking the bullpens. The Budweiser Rooftop runs above the Alley, with a small section of bleachers with a bar and the two sets of retired numbers.

An All-Star Hall of Fame runs along the walkway in the Alley, celebrating Phillies by position who have been elected All-Stars. Specialty concessions line the Alley as well, and near the right field end are the main team store and the throwback gear store. On the right-field end of the Alley is the giant Bull's BBQ near similarly giant trivia and run the bases games for the kids. A statue of Harry Kalas anchors the left field end, right next to the Schmitter sandwich stand. The upper deck houses a more modest selection of concessions than the main concourse, and ramps and elevator banks make it a workable experience up and down.

The club level was quite well-done. A baseball wall lines most of the area, inlaid with Phillies milestones, and in the center of the club level is a huge display about Cooperstown that honors (in different sections) Philadelphia natives who made it to the Hall of Fame, Phillies who have made it to the Hall of Fame, and Philadelphia Athletics who made it to the Hall of Fame. It was really kind of disappointing to see a club level so well done, with such a sense of team, town, and history, because the Mets, for example, have some completely failed at doing so in Queens.

The main scoreboard (PhanVision) is located in left-center, but a truly dazzling amount of auxiliary screens dot the park, showing pitching lines and speeds, official scores, out-of-town scores, and, in a particularly nice touch, a scoreboard dedicated to all of the Philadelphia farm clubs. The giant Liberty Bell light sat out in right-center, which goes off every time the Phillies hit a home run, and it had been, for the home fans at least, depressing silent for a long time.

Mascot
You interest me...

The Philly Phanatic was, of course, on hand. He came out on a four-wheeler before the game to mug for the fans, made his way around the park during the game, received the ceremonial first pitches, and drove out on another four-wheeler equipped with a hot-dog cannon later in the game. The regular sort of big-league revelry passed the time during commercial breaks between innings, with kiss-cams, give aways, find-the-balls, and the like. One thing that really stuck out was the there was a proposal between innings, which isn't so unusual, except for the fact that it was sponsored by a jeweler. I think we may have finally come too far, as a people.

Perhaps the biggest change from the last time I visited were the fans. Maybe it was because I was in the club level, where mayhaps the blood is a little bluer, but there was not nearly as much of the, well, stereotypical Philadelphia sports fan this time around. Or perhaps the success in the intervening years had taken the edge off. It might have been the crowd in the pricier seats, but everyone wasn't constantly riding the home team (even when they were losing), and a majority of the noise was cheering instead of booing. Wonders will never cease.


At the Game with Oogie:

Scoring
Sun scoring

So I decided to splurge on a "Hall of Fame Club" ticket, as since I was there to take pictures of everything, I figured that I might as well get as close to a run of the place as I could. My tickets were down the first base side, as that is where I had sat the last time I was there. Besides being directly in the sun until it finally set, it was a good seat.

In my area were a lot of older fans. There was an old couple in back of me (who eventually got on the big screen for some reason), but my favorite was an older gentlemen to my right in the row. He was head-to-toe in Phillies gear, and as soon as he plopped down in his seat, he turned on a jogging radio strapped to his arm and started to listen to the game on the wireless (which, perhaps ironically) was being broadcast from this level just a hundred or so feet away. He was clearly a die-hard, so I could only feel so much spite for the Phillies since he liked them, and I was legitimately happy for him when they finally pulled off a win, much to his dignified pleasure.

Grub
Wit wizz an unyuns

For food, I had to go with the cheese steak from Campo's in center (wit wizz and unyuns). There was fancier versions of everything on the club level, but I didn't see any particular reason to get the high-class grub. In the hallway to the Cooperstown exhibit, the club has strangely placed Japanese-style representations of all the exclusive food at the club-level concessions. It was a first in a MLB park, at least.

Worth mentioning was an encounter I had with some upper-deck ushers. As I was in the stratosphere taking pictures, I ducked into the last section of the upper deck and started snapping off photos. One of the ushers asked if I was a professional, and frankly, the question stumped me for a minute. I told him that it was a matter of opinion, as I had been paid to do this in the past, but this particular evening was just for my own person peccadilloes. And I wished them a fine evening, as I ducked out to get back to explore the club level.


The Game:

First pitch, Reds vs. Phillies
First pitch, Reds vs. Phillies

Cole Hamels was going for his 100th win, again apparently, in this game, a square-off between mediocre National League teams who wear red. For the Philies, it was even more dire, as they'd been shut out the last two games they'd played during their losing streak.

And it seemed more of the same for the Phils, as the Reds started the game in the first with a one-out double, which was followed by a walk and an infield single to load the bases, before a ground-out to second brought a run in from third. A come-backer to the pitcher ended the half at 1-0, Reds. The Phillies looked to have some life with back-to-back singles to start off their half of the first, but three straight outs ended the opportunity with the Phillies still trailing by one.

The Reds and Phillies both had two-out walks to show for the second inning. Hamels struck out the Reds' side in the third, while the Phillies went down in less spectacular order. A two-out single was all the Reds had in the fourth, and though he was pitching a pretty impressive game, Hamels was still on the hook for the loss.

That changed in the bottom of the fourth. A leadoff walk was moved over to third on a following double, making it second and third with no outs. Another double brought in both runs to mark the first Phillies scoring in several days, and no doubt their first subsequent lead in the same period. The next batter went yard to the upper deck in right, bringing everyone home with still no outs. A single followed, and the first out came as Hamels bunted him over to second. A strikeout looked to perhaps show an end of the bleeding, but another single brought in the run, and finally chased the Reds' starter. The new pitcher uncorked one to move the runner to second, and yet another single brought the run in from second. A strikeout finally ended the inning at 6-1, Phillies.

Perhaps tired, both teams went in order in the fifth and sixth. The Reds kept it up in the seventh, but it was another scoring frame for the Phillies. A new pitcher for the Reds plunked the first batter in the bottom of the seventh, and then walked the next two to load up the bases. A grounder to the pitcher got a force at home, but that was the last of the Reds' luck for a while. A short single brought in a run, and then a long double cleared the bases. A strikeout got the second out, but a wild pitch moved the runner to third, then brought home by another double, before another strikeout closed out the seventh at 11-1, Phillies.

The punchless Reds went in order again in the eighth, but the Phillies had a one-out solo shot to keep the scoring going, but a two-out single and walk back-to-back went nowhere. The Reds managed a two-out walk in the ninth, but nothing else, and Hamels got his 100th win, 12-1 Phillies.


The Scorecard:

Reds vs. Phillies, 05-17-14. Phillies win, 12-1.Reds vs. Phillies, 05-17-14. Phillies win, 12-1.
Reds vs. Phillies, 05/17/14. Phillies win, 12-1.

Even though I had been to the park before, I decided to go with the $5 Phillies program. The scorecard was quite nice. It was a solid, large cardstock tri-fold in the centerfold, with perforations if you were inclined to rip it out for easier scoring. The instructions for scoring they had were just gibberish, but it was a good-sized scorecard that worked well with pencils, with plenty of space for National League-level replacements and pitchers. A small section for cumulative hitting totals was on both sides, as well.

From a scoring perspective, there were a lot of little things, again. The fact that both teams only got a two-out single in the bottom of the second, for example. Both teams went a little nutty in the late innings with replacements. There were lots of vertical lines down the scorecard, and even one position change. The Reds pulled the dreaded double-switch in the seventh, but that was the last pitcher used by the Reds, so it didn't get messy. There were also rather more wild pitches than one sees in an average Major League game.

The Philies did make it a little hard to get the scorecard set up. They used the main scoreboard "PhanVision" for programming for most of the pre-game, and only went through the lineups once. The batting team had batting averages listed instead of positions, so it was difficult to get started with the visiting players. But a small auxiliary scoreboard did make scoring a bit easier by listing the official scoring of each play almost as soon as it was over.

And, of course, special note was made of Hamel's 100th win.


The Accommodations:
Hoboken, my Hoboken


2014 Stand-Alone Trip

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Hagerstown

On Why I'm Never Staying At a Red Roof Inn Again

May 2, 2014
Harrisburg, PA


Outside the Game:
Work was again threatening to evaporate what was left of my fragile brain away. The way things were played out, there was no extra work that I could do that weekend to get my projects more on track, and it appeared that it would be the last time I would be able to say that for another month. So I decided to run away again to watch some baseball.

This week, however, I would almost offhandedly mention my plans, such as they were, to my friend in West Virginia. I was set to go see him over Memorial Day Weekend, but with work being what it was, I had all but cancelled those plans and resigned myself to working through the holiday. For the current weekend, my plan was staying over as far as I could make it into Pennsylvania, amusing myself with something in the Harrisburg area in the morning, and then driving down to the game that afternoon.

Graduate school was treating my friend as badly as the private sector was treating me, however, and he expressed an interest in meeting up. Especially given those recently cancelled plans, this was as good a turn of events as could be expected. If I had been planning at all the week before, he likely would have come out to Frederick as well, which is a scant half-hour from Hagerstown.

With something more of a plan than the week previous, I did a necessary load of laundry, packed up a bag, and hit the road at a little before 10 PM. With a definite destination for the next day, I wanted to see how far I could get so that we could meet up in Hagerstown at around 11 AM.

Once again, the ride out at that time of night was uneventful. I put on the Mets game, found them losing big in Colorado early, and then switched over to the Yankees game, where they were only behind by two runs. Since WFAN's signal would last longer, I stayed with the game that had a little more chance of interest, and indeed, the Yankees did tie it up. I had no idea at that point for what I had signed up.

Outside of a closure to one lane somewhere in the Pennsylvania midlands, the trip across 78 was uneventful. But the Yankees game I was listening to did not end. This was an extra-inning affair for the ages, and the Bombers squandered many scoring opportunities in many bizarre ways to extend it. The farther west I got, the signal would often blur out at inopportune times, and I'd have to wait for the recap after to play when the signal returned to find out exactly how the Yankees didn't score this time.

All the other games, even on the West Coast, managed to close up shop, but the Yankees contest was dragging on. Eventually, well into the midnight hour, I was getting bleary enough to become a danger, and I was approaching Harrisburg, where the hotel rates would get much higher. I pulled off at a Red Roof Inn on the outskirts of Harrisburg just as the Yankees blew another scoring opportunity in the top on a double-digit inning. By the time I got into my room for the evening, they had given up five runs and lost. So it goes.


The Accommodations:

Red Roof Inn
Red Roof Inn

I realize there is a bit of a spoiler in the title this time. I dumped off of whatever road I was on (78 or 81 -- it was late), and there was a something-something suites and a Red Roof Inn, and as I just needed a bed for the night, I chose the later. And that, my friends, was an error.

I again semi-coherently greeted a night manager for a hotel and tried to secure a room. She went into her well-rehearsed patter about it being pet friendly, and on and on, and she mentioned she only had a double available, and it was on the ground floor, as they were nearly full up because of a lacross tournament and a horse show that weekend. A smarter or more awake person would have noted this and gone to the other hotel, but neither of those described me at this point. Her computers were "acting up," so she couldn't give me the AAA rate. I didn't care. I was dead tired.

I eventually drove to find my room in a building in the back, and I had to park a good distance away thanks to the near-capacity crowd. As I dragged my stuff to my room, a dog in the next room began barking wildly for several minutes until an owner was awoken and shut him up. I fell into my rather okay room and got everything set for the next day, did my nightlies, and got into bed. I was immediately asleep just shy of one.

I would be awake at 5 AM, as people outside noisily loaded up into cars and left. This woke me up on and off for the next few hours. Around 7:30 or so, I was able to get back to sleep, to be awoken just shy of nine by housekeeping. Maid service before 9 AM? Really? I angrily sent them away, but at this point, it was just enough time to get up and get going slightly early.


On Battlefields and Cakewalks

Municipal Stadium
Municipal Stadium, 2014

Saturday, May 3, 2014
Hagerstown Suns (Washington Nationals) vs.
Lexington Legends (Kansas City Royals)
Municipal Stadium
South Atlantic League (A)
Hagerstown, MD
5:00 PM


Outside the Game:
After my (not so) restful night of sleep, I headed out to meet my friend at one of the malls in Hagerstown. He being the one with the LEGO problem, we were, for some reason, meeting in the LEGO aisle of the Toys R' Us in that mall.

The remaining hour or so of driving to Hagerstown went without incident, and I quickly parked and met the aforementioned friend in the LEGO aisle. Leaving with our inevitable purchases, we drove over to the main mall to grab some lunch and plot out our day.

A trip to see the Hagerstown Suns was not new to either of us, as, in fact, it was the second "official" stop on my whole stadium journey back in 2006, when we went to PNC Park and then both drove out to Hagerstown for a game, before he went back home and I continued on the rest of my proof-of-concept trip.

Over lunch, we decided to burn the early afternoon at the Antietam National Battlefield Park, a short drive south of town. As my car was over twenty years old and his was under three months, we left my car at the mall and headed out in his. We made a brief stop at the ballpark to see if the ticket office was open (it was not), so we drove the just under half-hour to the battlefield.

The Battle of Antietam during the American Civil War proves that sometimes a tie can mean something. A tactically sloppy bloodbath that ended in a strategic tie was frankly the best that the Union forces could hope for. Incompetently led and greatly outnumbering the Confederate forces, they just about managed to not lose and not win, which was a great accomplishment against the (to that point) invincible and invading Robert E. Lee, which prevented European recognition of the Confederacy as a nation and gave Lincoln the opportunity needed to introduce emancipation into the war in its first, limited way.

A small museum in the visitor center gives the overview, while a film downstairs and even-better volunteer talks in the observation room (with a panoramic view of the battlefield) serve to inform you of what you need to know about the site.

A sprawling battlefield that is the best-preserved of the Civil War, Antietam is only completely experienced over several days in a car. We only had a few hours, so we saw the sites closest to the visitor's center, and then drove down to the Sunken Road and Burnside's Bridge, two sites of the most intense fighting and questionable leadership during the battle.

Antietam
Down the barrel

A rather sad commentary on my mental state occurred in the Army Observation Tower near the Sunken Road. Upon emerging at the top of tower, I immediately saw some cows in a nearby field (some land is let out to farmers to preserve the historic use of most of the battlefield) and called out, "Moo cows!." A short time later, a family ascended to the observation level, and the five year-old son saw the same cows and screamed, "Moo cows!" No further context is necessary, I trust.

When it was time to go, we headed back to the mall so I could get my game bag from my car, and we went over to the stadium. The park was opened at an hour and half before gametime, and I left my friend to get tickets as I did my regular walk around the ballpark before going in.

After the game, we headed back to the mall. Before we both set out, we got some fast food and both drove off a little after 8 PM. I went back onto 81 North, went an exit or two until I found a convenient off-and-on gas station, and then pointed the car towards home. It was just a matter of not crashing for just under four hours. When I was able to start getting NY stations again, I was greeted by the Mets blowing a six-run lead against Colorado, and I was treated to this game of the ping-ponging lead for the rest of my trip before the Mets inevitable defeat.

My only real travel wrinkle was getting around the Pulaski Skyway, which was closed northbound towards New York. The soothing TomTom voice eventually took me home via the Turnpike extension, and after paying exactly $1 on tolls the way out, the $3 or so to get home before midnight was not much an issue (especially after the toll thrashing I took on 95 the week before).

I parked and lumbered the rest of the way home, to find my downstairs neighbors had left a broken cooler and dozens of smashed beer bottles at the base of the stairs to my apartment. Oh, it was good to be home.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Municipal Stadium
Home plate to center field, Municipal Stadium

Municipal Stadium was old when we went eight years ago, and it is old now -- the third oldest stadium in the minor leagues. One of the only concessions to modernity between then and now was the addition of a digital scoreboard in left field behind the outfield wall, in addition to the manual scoreboard still located beneath it.

The park is rightly proud of its history, and has no less than ten historical or commemorative plaques around the park. As with most historic parks, the area around the field is what got built up, and the main plaza is behind home plate, housing concessions and some children's games and arcade. Also relatively new was a "beer garden" out along left field, with a picnic area and the beer garden proper. Also out in left is the grounds crew shed and what appears to be an old, unused bullpen. In right field are both the visiting and home clubhouses, with some special seating right by the entrance for those who want the chance to interact more with the players.

The rest of the park is strictly old-school. Covered wooden grandstand seating is behind home plate, with the press box perched precariously on top of the roof. A "VIP" seating area behind home plate offers slightly more posh seating. A few rows of field-level (and, no kidding, it is on the field) seats run out from the grandstands to first and third, and bleachers rise up above them on either side (sponsored as the Ellsworth Family Section on the third base side, and the Ollie's Discount Warehouse Cheap Seats on the first base side). The bullpens are in the right field corner (below retired numbers), and the visiting bullpen in located in left-center, behind an in-play chain-link fence, perhaps a first for me. Heck, they even have a "hit it here" sign in left (and a heavily re-used one at that -- several layers of promotions have been glued on through the years).

Because of the old-school dimensions of the park, they have an interesting ground rule. Yellow lines on the outfield wall denote the "official" center field, and to be a home run, any ball hit into that area must clear the wall, or it is still in-play. The manual scoreboard in left is dutifully run by an attendant, but not the colorful, dancing character who did so in years past, but instead a seemingly disinterested older gentleman.

Scoreboard
Manual

The park is a very old-timey experience, and it even forgoes most of the regular minor-league shenanigans. Which is to say that they don't have a goofy contest every half-inning, just every inning. And there are more low-key events, such as brushing off home plate before the game, taking out water to the umpires in the late innings, and Little League team lineups with the players during the national anthem. Heck, while the team mascots usually dominate the between-inning events at most minor parks, the Suns' mascot only made one, brief, early-inning appearance, and then disappeared for the remainder of the game.

Many of the mascots duties were taken up by one of the concessionaires. I actually ran into him before the game as I was taking my pictures of the park, and then he alternately demanded that I take his picture, and then refused to let me. Everyone at the park clearly knew him, and each section was excited by his coming. If people wanted some item he didn't have at the time, he marched back to the concession stands to retrieve it for the kids. He got into contests with the press box on whipping the crowd into "Charge" cheers, and he so consistently won that eventually a white hanky was flown out the box window in defeat.

The only thing to be said against the experience was that there were so few to enjoy it. In a park with a capacity of 4,000, there was an announced crowd of under 800. I'm not sure that they can keep this up with that kind of return, and it would be a shame if this historic place were to go by the wayside because of it.


At the Game with Oogie:

Scoring
Scoring

As mentioned, I was with my friend with whom I started these trips so many years ago, recreating the second stop on the inaugural 2006 run, when I had been to under five total baseball stadiums, ever.

I left him to buy the tickets, and he got us front-row seats next to the dugout and right before first base. The seats themselves were technically on the field, as the chain-link fence that separated us from the infield left about an inch of fair territory in the seating area. The seats were also protected from the field by a relatively high fence with a padded top, and it seemed a necessary thing as any righty who was late on the ball could likely decapitate us. We joked early in the game about flying bats, and then, in the later innings, one of the Legends players actually lost his grip on a bat, which sailed (harmlessly, as luck would have it) into the seats past first base, and then bounced back into play. Needless to say, we were really close to the field, and for a while we amused ourselves by trying to determine if we were closer to the pitcher than the batter (though some rough geometry would put our distance at about 100 or so feet).

Sun Dog
Sun Dog

At the recommendation of the program salesman, we got our food at the grill station behind home plate. I asked what made the "Sun Dog" special, and was told that it was stuffed with cheese and bacon. And for $5, the Sun Dog meal (which came with chips and a drink) was one of the better deals I had run into at a ballgame. My associate got a sweet Italian sausage, with which he was similarly pleased.


The Game:

First pitch, Legends vs. Suns
First pitch, Legends vs. Suns

This one was over early, but it didn't end for a while. The Suns, defending champions of the northern division of the South Atlantic League, were out to their winning ways again, and they were facing a mediocre Lexington team, but what did you really expect from the low minors of the Royals franchise?

Though somewhat wild, the Suns pitcher only gave up a two-out walk in the top of the first, but the Suns didn't waste time getting on the board. A leadoff double moved to third on an errant pick-off throw by the pitcher, and then scored on a ground-out to deep short. A two-out double was followed by a single to drive him in, before a ground-out ended the first at 2-0, Suns.

The sloppy play continued in the second as a one-out double was followed by a booted grounder to third that made it first and second with one out. But a strikeout followed, and a grounder to short ended the threat. The Suns changed it up with a triple to start the bottom of the second. A ground-out to short brought in the run, but two quick outs followed to make it 3-0 Suns at the end of two. Lexington went in order in the third, and even the Suns only managed a one-out walk in their half.

Lexington stranded a one-out double in the top of the fourth, but the Suns wanted more runs. A one-out single was followed by a fielder's choice that nailed the lead runner. A walk was followed by a wild pitch, to make it second and third with two outs. A single to right yielded two ribeyes, but that runner was nailed trying to steal one pitch into the next at-bat. It was 5-0 Suns at the end of four.

Lexington got the first two on in the fifth with a single to left and a hit batsman, but three outs in a row ended the half. The Suns also got a lead-off single, but two passed balls moved him over to third, and a one-out single brought him in. Another single followed, but two fly-outs ended the inning 6-0, Suns. Lexington only managed a single in top of the sixth. The Suns, however, had a one-out triple and then a walk. A balk brought in the run and moved the runner to second, who made it to third a fielder's choice. But he was stranded when a strikeout ended the inning at 7-0, Suns.

Lexington squandered another opportunity in the seventh, with a one-out single and walk. A two-out single loaded the bases, but a great grab on a bouncing liner to third ended the half with nothing across. The Suns, presumably tired from all the scoring, only had a two-out single this half-inning. Lexington finally broke through in the eighth. A leadoff double moved to third on a ground out, and a Legend finally found his way back to the plate thanks to a one-out double. Two pop-outs followed to end the top of the eighth at 7-1, Suns. The Suns had a leadoff single erased on a double play to short, and then proceeded to get a walk and a single to leave it first and third with two outs, but a strikeout ended the opportunity and the eighth.

Lexington went in order in the ninth, and the game was finally a Suns win, 7-1.


The Scorecard:

Legends vs. Suns, 05/03/14. Suns win, 7-1.

Surprisingly for A-level ball, the scorecard was not a free giveway at the park, but part of a $3 program. The program, however, was quite a nice item, with good printing on good-quality paper, and with a rather extensive scorecard in the middle. It was clearly a Scoremaster variant, with balls and strikes boxes, a row of on-base indicators (1B, 2B, etc.), and even RBI boxes. There was extensive room for two default replacements per player, and comprehensive totals that made proving out the card easier. It was some work to get done, and the "RBI" printing could have been moved a little, but otherwise, it was an excellent scorecard. And it even held up well under the minor showers we encountered. Worth 3 bucks? Maybe not by itself, but close, which is more than you can say in most cases. The other downside was it was not copacetic with colored pencils, but that's more my issue than the card's.

There were a lot of little things in this game scoring-wise, but nothing life-changing. There were two triples, for example. We got another minor-league balk, and this one brought in a run. There was in infield fly rule in the fifth. And three players got a three strike-out Sombrero, two for the Legends, and one for the Suns (who managed to look at each third strike). So there's that.


The Accommodations:
Hoboken, again, after much driving, again


2014 Stand-Alone Trip