Saturday, June 28, 2014

Staten Island

On a Strange Glimpse into the Future

Richmond Country Bank Ballpark at St. George
Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George

Saturday, June 28, 2014
Brooklyn Cyclones (New York Metropolitans) vs.
Staten Island Yankees (New York Yankees)
Richmond Country Bank Ballpark at St. George
NY-PENN League (Short-Season A)
Staten Island, NY
7:00 PM


Outside the Game:
After my trip up North (west) the week before, and my trip up North (East) the next week, I needed to stay relatively close to home to keep my sanity on this weekend. I was way behind on all my writing, and next week would just give me more.

It was fortuitous, then, that the Staten Island Yankees were home this weekend. I had seen them on my first "official" trip way back when, but I hadn't gotten any good photos, so I wanted to go back and correct that, especially because I could then order my Flickr book of the first 100 stadiums I visited.

As PATH has seen fit to prohibit both ferry and PATH train service to lower Manhattan on the weekends (the former as a matter of course and the later due to "maintenance"), I had to be a little creative in getting to the Staten Island ferry. I took the PATH to Christopher Street and then walked over to the red line, which could take me to South Ferry. As this would also take me past work, it would be an unpleasant reminder of Monday. Speaking of unpleasant reminders, there were also police barricades up for, I recalled, the Pride Parade. This led to some hectic thinking about whether the parade was Saturday or Sunday, as I can't imagine the Hell of trying to get back to the PATH in the aftermath of the parade.

Staten Island Ferry
I wonder where the ferry is.

I made it to the ferry without incident, and got on the cattle call that was the boarding process. There was a nice breeze blowing, I spent a relaxing ferry ride up on the open deck. We were eventually disgorged on Staten Island, and I took the brief walk to the park.

After my photographic ramblings, and sitting in the sun for an unconscionable amount of time waiting for the Will Call office to open, I eventually got in line and entered the stadium as it opened at 6 PM.

The way out was fraught with more worry. I kept an eye on the clock, slowly ticking over 10:30 PM, and the last ferry for a half hour. The game mercifully completed itself at 10:56, and I left on a sprint for the ferry. Breathlessly arriving, I was greeted by an announcement that due to "police activity," the ferry was going to be delayed ten minutes.

Statue of Liberty
Passing some lady on the way home

Defeated by fate, I walked back outside to catch the post-game fireworks over the park, then trudged back into line as the ferry boat finally showed up at the dock. We boarded, and I spent another enjoyable ride above-decks trying to do some nighttime photography. The red line took me to the PATH and home, where I did a little work on the scorecard before heading to bed.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George
Home plate to center field, Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George

With the lengthy--and somewhat confusing--title of Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George, the name needs a little deconstruction, much similar to "Nippon Ham Fighters." The stadium is the "Ballpark at St. George," and it is sponsored by "Richmond County Bank" (much in the same way it is the "Nippon Ham" company sponsoring the team, the "Fighters").

That out of the way, this riverfront park is right next to the Staten Island terminal of the Staten Island ferry, which makes getting to and from the park relatively easy, as long as you're taking the ferry. It is an urban park, bordered on all sides by city streets, though the outfield wall faces out to the river and the riverwalk. During batting practice, I was walking by as a well-struck ball came screaming out of the stadium, hurtling over the shoulder of a confused gentleman sitting on a bench on the river walk, bouncing once, and then bounding to the depths of the river. "You should have dove for it," I offered.

Unlike most short-season A parks, it has entrances at all corners, with the main entrance and ticket booth by home plate; an entrance by the Will-Call box offices at third base; an entrance in the left field corner; and another entrance and ticket office in right field, closest to the ferry terminal. There is an extended plaza by the left field entrance by the river, which has a small playground, and ends in the Staten Island 9/11 Memorial, which brackets the site in lower Manhattan now being occupied by the Freedom Tower. I am not going to talk about how ridiculous a name that is now, however. This is me not doing it.

The park has a slightly unique layout in the walkways in the park are dual-leveled. The entrances in the outfield start on a lower level, and then, around first and third bases, there are stairways up to an upper promenade that extends around behind home plate. Above that upper walkway extends a second level that houses the press boxes, as well as an extensive (for A ball) section of club boxes. The seating bowl extends down from the upper walkway and is not spilt up by any intermediate walkways, just two landings for handicapped seating at around first and third bases.

The right field walkway ends at that entrance, and along the lower walkway is the Professional Baseball Scouts Wall of Fame. Various other concessions run along the lower and upper walkway (including the team store in the area behind home plate). A sizeable kids area is at the left-field entrance. Just after the kids area is the extensive tented patio for the All-You-Can Eat seats near first base. The main scoreboard sits in left, and the wall in right is a narrow auxiliary scoreboard. Retired numbers perch on the club level near home plate, and the championship banners sit on the same level near first base. The home dugout is on the third base side, no doubt because it is the first section to get the shade in the setting sun.

Mascot
He's a holey cow, get it?

On-field antics are run by the "Pinstripe Patrol" (which, in a great heresy to all things baseball, include a team of "dancers," who are barely concealed cheerleaders) and mascots Scooter, the Holy Cow, and monkey Red (allusions to late Yankees' announcers Phil Rizzuto and Red Barber). Most of the entertainment is minor-league standard races, contests, and dancing. As it is Staten Island, and the ferry is literally next door, the scoreboard race is of ferries, and they did have one unique contest, a "Princess Race," for fathers and their daughters. The dads are dressed like kings, and the daughters princesses. They have to race to put on glass slippers, grab a tiara, and then kiss a frog, before running back to the king. It was a nice catering to girls that you don't often see in parks, if a smidge stereotypical.

The crowd was packed about 50/50 with SI Yankees and Cyclones fans. Unlike other low-A ballparks, while there were families here, the majority of the crowd was hard-core baseball people.


At the Game with Oogie:

Scoring
Dueling scoring

As this was a Brooklyn/Staten Island game, I had gotten my tickets the day before online. This secured me a seat right behind the Cyclones dugout, but it did necessitate going to the Will Call window. They only decided to open that at 5:30 PM, and a line was forming, so we had to stand out in the sun for a good, long time before the window opened. To add insult to the injury, we had to watch the college-aged attendants literally re-arrange furniture for a good ten minutes or so before they attended to guests.

By the time the windows were opened, there was a snaking line going nearly to the corner. Some woman walked up just as the windows opened and asked if this was the line for all the windows, and tried to shove past me to get to the other window. I explained that, yes, the line was there for a reason. She then started acting all huffy, and I apologized to her for her inability to know what a line is, and then went to get my tickets.

Once I got in, I did my normal walking around. I ended up at one of the specialty concessions in left field that had meatball parm sandwiches, which I got, along with a drink. I had an early lunch for some reason, so I was starving at this point. I washed all of it down with a pretzel or two.

Grub
Meatball parm

As mentioned, my seats were just behind the Cyclones' dugout. In my row was an older Staten Island fan, but for the most part, I was surrounded by fellow Brooklyn supporters.

Especially the guy next to me. He carried two bags worth of stuff with him, including scorecards, and a big, handwritten daily schedule that I couldn't quite ascertain the purpose of. He did have a season ticket package with the SI Yankees, which I can assume to be for all the Cyclones games there. He had an All-You-Can Eat bracelet, as evidenced by his frequent trips up the stairs, which he would return from with various hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches, which he would drown in ketchup and then lustily eat.

He cheered on the Cyclones in a subdued way, as he juggled his scorecard (which he kept in the empty seat next to him), his mystery schedule (which he consulted every half inning), and his never-ending supply of food (which he got up every inning or so to refill--seriously, I've never seen someone put away that much food).

The guy was harmless, but I did wonder if I was looking into a slightly more Jewish version of my future. I already had the scorecard and the bags while at the games alone. I have to figure I'm only a step or two away from the manic scribblings of my own calendar. The top of my computer desk is already covered in note cards filled with team schedules and dates. Frankly, putting them into a single schedule just makes sense.

I'm sure there is some greater truth to be had of all of this, but I stopped thinking about it after he checked his watch for the last time and tottered off in the eighth inning.


The Game:

First pitch, Cyclones vs. Yankees
First pitch, Cyclones vs. Yankees

This was to be a game between the first-place Cyclones and the struggling SI Yankees, but I was in attendance, so, of course, it was a blowout for the Yankees that was worse than the score suggests.

The game at least started according to plan. The Cyclones got a leadoff single that moved to second when a grounder to short got booted. A single to center brought a run in, but the trailing runners were stranded after three straight outs, leaving the score 2-0, Brooklyn. They would hold that lead for several minutes. The Yankees began their assault with a one-out single to center. This was followed immediately by a homer to left that tied the game up. With two outs, the Cyclones pitcher walked two in a row, then gave up a run-scoring single, and was pulled from the game in the first. The new pitcher gave up a double to clear the bases before a fly out to left ended the inning 5-2, Yankees.

In the second, the Cyclones only managed a baserunner on a one-out error. The Yankees kept going with a leadoff double, joined on the bases by a hit batsman. An odd attempt to steal third failed, and then a strikeout and fly to center ended the threat. The Cyclones managed an one-out double, which they stranded. A new Cyclones pitcher came in the bottom of the third and gave away the rest of the game. A double led off the inning for Staten Island, and a grounder moved him over to third. The next batter walked and stole second. A sacrifice fly to right brought in a run and moved the runner to third, and an error by the third baseman brought him in. The next batter homered, and the one after him doubled. The next two batters, perhaps coincidentally, were both hit by pitches to load up the bases again. A short single brought in a run and completed the batting around before a fly to left ended it at 9-2, Yankees.

Brooklyn managed only a two-out walk in the fourth, but Staten Island led off with a triple that was brought in a one-out sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 10-2. The Cyclones got a leadoff walk in the fifth that moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a ground-out. A two-out single brought him in before a strikeout ended the inning, and minorly closed the gap to 10-3, Yankees. The Yankees, this time, only managed a two-out single for their half of the fifth.

The Cyclones had a leadoff walk in the sixth, followed by a walk and another single, but the Yankees' pitcher put it together to strike out three in a row and end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Staten Island had a two-out walk followed by another walk, but they were stranded by a pop fly to third.

The Cyclones finally got something going again in the seventh. Another leadoff walk moved to second on a following single, and then third on another wild pitch. The runner on first moved to second on defensive indifference, and then everyone came home on a towering home run to center. The next batter singled, but was stranded by three straight outs, with the score a more respectable 10-5, Yankees. Staten Island came out with a leadoff single in their half, and then a two-out double brought in the run to make it 11-5, Yankees.

In the eighth, there was the first clean frame of the game, as the Cyclones went in order. The Yankees for their part only had a two-out hit batsman and a walk, which were stranded on a fly out to left. The top of the ninth was the second clean frame of the game, as Brooklyn went in order to seal up the 11-5 Yankees victory.


The Scorecard:

Cyclones vs. Yankees, 06-28-14. Yankees win, 11-5.
Cyclones vs. Yankees, 06/28/14. Yankees win, 11-5.

The previous (and only) other time I visited, the scorecard was a photocopied one-sheet that didn't even come with a program, so in that regard, you can say that things have improved with the SI Yankees. The scorecard now comes in a color tabloid newspaper program that includes some of the standard minor-league program amenities.

But that color newsprint just rubs off on everything. Wearing light colors as I do in the summer to abate the heat, a few minutes of carrying the thing around made me look like a coal miner from the 19th century. It rubbed off everywhere.

That said, the scorecard itself was both large and cramped. It got a page all to itself, but the actual scoring squares were tiny, an impression made more so by the fact that ball and strike boxes were included a'la Scoremaster, and space was taken up on both sides by an inch of space for the running line scores across the bottom that could have been better spent on more pitching lines. Some information in the scorecard was pre-printed ("Field" and "Start Time"), but overall the effort was rather poor, which no doubt explained the prevalence of personal scorecards that most of the regulars seemed to employ. They even put the home team on top, standing convention on its head, which had me scoring the scoring boxes despite my best efforts for nearly a half inning.

Scoring-wise, the interest was in errors and futility. There were seven wild pitches in the game and four hit batsmen. (Two came back-to-back in the third with nary a warning from the umpires.) Ten walks littered the proceedings, and "only" four errors (though there were at least three more questionable calls that could have been scored either way that got a little home cooking, in my opinion). There was also an embarrassment of strikeouts, with twenty-three whiffs by both teams.

With all that scoring and futility, it is not surprising that ten pitchers were also used by both sides, with the first pitching change happening in the bottom of the first inning. It was just a sloppy game, where the pitchers alternately could not get an out or couldn't be stopped from striking someone out. Of particular note was the fact that the Cyclones failed to have a clear 1-2-3 inning all game, while the Yankees only managed two.

I also logged what I think might be my first caught stealing at third (2-5), just given the rarity of the attempt.


The Accommodations:
Hoboken, after much sea travel


2014 Stand-Alone Trip

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rochester

On 100

Frontier Field
Frontier Field, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston Red Sox) vs.
Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota Twins)
Frontier Field
International League (AAA)
Rochester, NY
7:05 PM


Outside the Game:
With the game finally complete in Erie, I had about a 2.5 hour drive to Rochester. Thanks to the identical situation of a rain-delayed game being resumed over there, the gates were effectively opening three hours before game time for me. With the game being resumed from the previous evening, I couldn't keep score even if I wanted to (and, of course, I wanted to). It presented me with a unique opportunity to watch a ballgame with no scoring interest.

But I had to get there first. I headed out of the Erie ballpark at around 2 PM. I dumped myself back into the car and started driving. With one or two minor exceptions, the drive out was uneventful, and completed in about the estimated duration. I got to Rochester at a little after 4 PM, with the gates already open for the resumed game. I parked, picked up my ticket from the Will Call tent, and did my outside photography before going in, guilt-free for the first time at arriving this close to a "first pitch."

The perhaps more critical drive after the game did not go as smoothly. Dragging all my rain gear and game materials, I stripped off the plastic and threw everything unceremoniously into the passenger seat up front in order to just get on the road. There was a bit of congestion getting out of the stadium area and out to the highway, but once I was back on the Rochester expressway system, I figured I was home free, even given the late hour and hour drive ahead of me.

That was until I ran into construction. The three-lane circuit highway around Rochester was narrowed to two lanes, and then one, and then we weren't moving for a while. I'm sure there was a lot of screaming on my part as every second I was stuck in this traffic at 11 o'clock at night on a damn Wednesday was a minute less sleep I was going to get that night.

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I finally cleared the construction and had the good sense not to floor it, as Smokey had several speed traps out that nabbed drivers coming out of the congestion. I waited until I was back to the Thruway to floor it, and despite the issues (and the fact that I seem to have made the first half of the drive with my headlights off), I made it to the hotel only a little after midnight.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Frontier Field
Home plate to center field, Frontier Field

I was making the jump from AA to AAA in Rochester, and, after a week of somewhat complicated park names, it was nice to walk into plain-old Frontier Field. Located in the heart of Rochester, with the Kodak Tower peaking in over left field, the park is serviced by a large parking lot just outside the main gate.

Flanked on all but one side by city streets, the park has two main entrances. The primary entrance is just behind home plate, with a exterior plaza featuring the ticket booth, the corporate offices, and a statue to the patron saint of Rochester baseball, Morrie E. Silver, namesake of the previous ballpark. Another entrance lies just beyond left field, with its own smaller ticket office. Will Call tickets are handled in a small booth near the main entrance.

Once inside, there are entrance plazas by both main entrances. At home plate, you're greeted by the team store, program concessions, and a giant horse statue named "Horsehide," as it is made out of baseball gloves. There is a wide walkway leading straight to behind home plate, which was out of ordinary for most stadium designs looking to cram every last "premium" seat behind the plate. In left field, you enter into a plaza with the kids' play area, a statue to Joe Altobelli, picnic tables that overlook the visitor's bullpen, a grass seating berm, and some specialty concessions.

You get around by exterior and interior walkways. The walkway in the seating bowl rings the stadium from left field to right field and separates the box seats below from the 200 level above. That level is in turn split in half by the cut-out entrance behind home plate. Above the 200 level are luxury boxes, and the press box behind home plate that houses the park's secret weapon: a live organist. The exterior walkway also circles the park from outfield to outfield and hosts nearly all the concessions in the park, and you can lose count. The amount of different food concessions is staggering, especially at a AAA park, and range from healthy choices to a full bar out by left field.

There are several special seating areas. A party room is at the end of the luxury boxes in left field. The 200 level in right is topped by the Hardball Cafe. In deep right field is a group picnic area, and in center is a small party area with its own seats, next to the home bullpen. Three--count them, three--scoreboards keep you up on the action. The actual line score of runs and hits is on a board in left, and two video boards in center and right keep you up-to-date on everything else.

Mascot
Thus enters Spike

Mascot birds Spike and Mitsy help with the between-inning festivities, which are mostly regular minor-league fare of goofy contests and races. Before the game, there is a pre-game show that is produced on the field, and special guest Bill Lee was the subject for this game.

Even with the threatening weather, the place was packed for the single-admission double-header that finished off the previous night's game before starting on a new seven-inning contest. The visiting PawSox had a sizeable rooting contingent, as well. Even with the intermittant rain, the crowd was fairly die-hard and stayed involved until the bitter end.

Retired numbers are on the outfield wall in right, and championships are on the wall in dead center. There are several hall of fames in the exterior walkway: Section V (presumably the college area), the Louisville Slugger Hall of Fame (for eating a gigantic hot dog sold at the stadium and no relation to the bat company), and the copious Red Wings Hall of Fame. In addition to the statues already mentioned, Cal Ripken Jr. gets his own special plaque (and rock, for some reason) out in the left field plaza.


At the Game with Oogie:

Scoring
Damp scoring

As mentioned, this was a weird one for me. The game that I was there to see wasn't starting until 7:05 PM, and probably later, as they had five innings of baseball to finish from the night before. Yes, there was two hours to do it in, but there was going to be a half-hour break between games, so the start time of seven seemed, at best, aspirational.

The pleasant offshoot of this was that the park was essentially going to be opened at least three hours before game time, as far as I was concerned. This greatly influenced my decision to catch the second half of the Erie game earlier that day, and after all was said and done, I ended up getting there slightly after the gates opened for the "first" game of the night.

Above and beyond not caring if I was at the park the moment the gates opened, there would be a game that I couldn't possibly completely score going on, so I would be walking around the park with a game going on, and that never happens. Usually no less than fifteen minutes before the start of the game is AIS time for me (Ass In Seat), and I nearly never leave my seat before the end of the game. So a night of firsts all around.

I picked up my tickets from a nice old lady in a Will Call tent separate from the ticket booth. She asked me if I'd been there before, and we started talking, and she politely refused to act like I was crazy when I told her that this was the 100th park I was visiting. She told me to take a picture of the Kodak Tower, because she didn't know how long it was going to still be there.

So nearly three hours before any game I cared about was going to start, I went into the park and did my normal picture thing. Finishing up, I was interrupted by the National Anthem for the resumed game that was starting at 5 PM.

Bill Lee
The Spaceman, Lee, not Spiff

Red Sox and Expos favorite Bill "Spaceman" Lee was signing autographs before the game, and having all the time in the world, I was able to get in line to get one. The line moved by pretty quickly, until Bill presumably had to take a bathroom break or something, and he disappeared for ten minutes or so. I eventually made it to the front and got my ball signed. This marks only the second baseball autograph I've ever gotten, and the first I've acquired myself.

I only had a pretzel at the game in the morning, and I was fairly starving when I got into the stadium. I got a roast beef sandwich from Red Osier roast beef sandwich to start with, and then an angus burger to finish things off.

Grub
Roast beast

As per usual, I had a seat behind the home dugout. These seats were in high demand, and since it was a single-admission double-header, I was able to use my seat for both games, but didn't sit down until the first game was over. I spent what free time I had during the first game to watch it from various vantage points around the park.

I eventually seated myself in a crowded section. There was a family behind me, another sitting around me, and a solo gentleman to my right. When the rain started up, nearly everyone around me left, except the gentleman to my right, whom I apparently offended in some way, as he wandered off to the section next to us after an inning or two of rain.

There was a clutch of ladies in the section to my left who were prepared and stayed the entire, rainy game. Most of them were scorekeepers as well, and they had an animated discussion about a questionable error call, and one of them proclaimed, "Well, it is an error in my book, and that's the only one that matters." Well done, madame.

Contest
Winner, winner, chicken... book

Also worthy of note is that I finally won a program contest, a minor-league and indie staple. At least once--and sometimes several times--during the game, the PA announcer will tell fans to flip to a certain page in the program, and if a specific ad has a stamp or a player signature, the person has won a price. Now, as of this night, I had been to 100 stadiums, and I had never, ever won one of these. The law of averages says that eventually I'd win one, and that night was tonight. In the top of the second, I checked the page in m program, and I had the stamp. During the break in the inning (but not the rain), I ran up to the guest services desk and retrieved my prize--a book on minor-league baseball. So I have that going for me.


The Game:

First pitch, Pawsox vs. Red Wings
First pitch, Pawsox vs. Red Wings

Watching the end of the game that was suspended the night before, I had some idea of what I was getting into. While they picked up in the fourth inning at 5 PM, the game didn't end until 7:30 PM, nearly 2.5 hours for five innings. The Pawsox and Red Wings were playing slow, and that would be the name of the game for the (thankfully) seven-inning contest that started up at a little after 8 PM.

That said, there wasn't much too it. A lot of it was pitchers that were glacial with men on base. A lot of it were long at bats that went into double-digit pitches. But with the exception of one or two innings, there's no place where you can clearly see where the time went.

Victors of the suspended contest, the Pawsox didn't coming out roaring into the second game. In the top of the first, a one-out hit batsman made it to third on a follow-up single, but a double-play ended the threat. The Red Wings went in order. The top of the second brought a leadoff walk and some intermittant showers. The walk was the only action in the half, and the Red Wings had just a two-out double to show for the bottom of the inning.

The third inning brought some minor action. Pawtucket had a one-out single who stole second, and then a two-out walk to make it first and second, but a strikeout ended the half. Rochester was a bit more productive. A one-out walk was moved to second by a two-out hit batsman. A single to center brought in the runner from third, moved the man on first to third, and ended up with the batter on second on the throw home. An intentional walk loaded the bases, but a grounder to second ended the inning at 1-0, Rochester. Both sides went in order in the fifth, and the Pawsox did the same in the sixth. The Red Wings only managed a leadoff single in their half of the sixth.

All Rochester needed was three outs to close up the seventh and last inning, and boy, they did not get them. They started out strong with a strikeout, but then gave up three straight singles that brought in the tying run. An intentional walk loaded the bases to try and preseve the tie, and a new pitcher was brought in to hold the line. He did not, but to be fair, he had help. A grounder to first was thrown to the backstop at home, letting in two runs and leaving it first and third with one out. Another walk loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly to center brought the runner from third in. Yet another walk loaded the bases again, but the batter who struck out to start the inning struck out to end it, with the score now 4-1, Pawsox.

The Red Wings did their best in the bottom of the seventh. They started with a single and double, to make it first and third with no outs, but three outs ended the game, and the doubleheader sweep, at 4-1, Pawsox.


The Scorecard:

Pawsox vs. Red Wings, 06-18-14 (7 innings). Pawsox win, 4-1.Pawsox vs. Red Wings, 06-18-14 (7 innings). Pawsox win, 4-1.
Pawsox vs. Red Wings, 06/18/14 (7 innings). Pawsox win, 4-1.

The scorecard was part of a tabloid color newsprint program. On the plus side, it was somewhat spacious, and included fielding stats. But the newprint paper is always tricky with pencils, most of the space on the scorecard was taken up with ads, and they didn't even include any space for pitching lines.

The game itself does not represent the tedium it had on paper. The only inning of note was the top of the seventh, where the comedy of errors led to four runs coming home. Of particular note was the E3 with one out that directly led to two runs. At this point, they could have still stopped the bleeding with a force play at home, but the throw was just a choke that put the game out of reach. The batter striking out to start and end the same inning may also be a first for me.


The Accommodations:

Best Western Inn
Best Western Inn

I'm sure I made an impression on the staff of the Best Western Inn at Buffalo International Airport when I blew through the doors a little after midnight. I boldly marched straight past their desk by the front doors and needed to be guided back by their helpful suggestions when I found myself irreparably lost. I may or may not have be trailing part of my rain gear behind me. We eventually established my identity and my purpose in being there.

Having received my key and set up a wake-up call for not nearly far enough in the future, I went back out to my car, grabbed all of my random crap and threw it all into the elevator.

My room, of which I had a short-term rental, was quite nice. The bathroom was right by the entrance, and the sink area was outside the toilet and shower. My king-sized bed was on one wall, and a dresser and desk were on the other. On the far wall was a fold-out couch (and one of these days, I need to find out why most king-sized rooms include those).

In the interest of getting to sleep as quickly as possible, I started recharging everything that needed recharging, repacked up my suitcase, and then took a quick shower. I set out everything as perfectly as possible and then collapsed into my bed for an inadequate amount of sleep.


On Weather

Airport
Buffalo Airport

Thursday, June 19, 2014
Hoboken, NJ


Outside the Game:
And it was off, hopefully, to home again.

I beat the wake-up call again, and managed to finish packing everything up just as the phone rang to scare the crap out me. I went down for a quick breakfast before checking out and loading everything into the car for the incredibly short drive to the airport. The rental car was dropped off, and I was off to the terminal, for my completely on-time flight.

While my boarding pass had been emailed to me, I had no way of printing it ahead of time, so I went to a kiosk in the United area, paid the idiot tax for early boarding, and then zipped through security with over an hour to kill. I walked the length and bredth of the airport, such as it was, and eventually found some rocking chairs strategically located near my gate, and had myself a rock for a while as I used the iPad to browse with the free wifi.

It did not escape my notice that there was some weather in the NY area, and several flights from both New York and Philadelphia had already been cancelled, although the weather in Buffalo could not have been nicer. My plane coming in from Newark was still on time, however, and it could not have been such if it was delayed, so I took heart in that.

Lo and behold, at the appointed time, our plane landed and offloaded. We had a plane and crew and perfect weather in which to take off. But just as a crowd was starting to mill for boarding, the gate person announced that there was air traffic delays in Newark, and we would board in about an hour. So off I went back to the rocking chair for some serious Web browsing, and perhaps an episode or two of Louie.

But an hour later, we did board. It was the flying bus to end all flying buses, with 1/2 seat rows and low ceilings. I was in the very last single seat at the back of the plane. One of the flight attendants had a fold out seat in the middle of the row between myself and the two people in my row. All nice and settled in our seats, the pilots turned on the engines, and then came on the intercom to let us know we were going to be delayed another fifteen minutes, as we didn't get clearance from Newark to take off.

So I took a nap, and awoke as we hurtled into the sky. I was feeling particularly unmotivated and spent the hour listening to music, napping, and playing inane iPad games. The flight was over quickly, and once at the gate, I waiting for my gate-check bag and went out to grab a cab.

Thanks to the Polaski Skyway closing, the drive back home in the rain was slightly longer than usual.

Eventually back home, I dragged my bags up the stairs, and started the complicated unpacking and laundry process. I had a fleeting idea of going to the SI Yankees game that evening, but given the weather--and not coincidentally, my complete exhaustion--I decided against it.

I spent the remainder of the evening getting everything put away and filed and clean while simultaneously packing for my weekend in Connecticut. The evening went much more quickly than you'd expect.


The Accommodations:
Hoboken, yet again.


2014 Western New York

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Erie

On Bad Omens


Jerry Uht Park
Jerry Uht Park, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox) vs.
Erie SeaWolves (Detroit Tigers)
Jerry Uht Park
Eastern League (AA)
Erie, PA
7:05 PM


Outside the Game:
The day started poorly, and from that, I should have stayed in bed, but, well... I'm getting ahead of myself.

This was the only night this week that I could properly sleep in with no consequences. My game for today wasn't until this evening, I was already in town thanks to the drive the day before, and there wasn't so much that I wanted to do that I had to be out immediately in the morning.

I again managed to wake up at some unholy hour, so I went down to grab some breakfast. Back to my room by eight, there was some proper going back to bed to be done at this point. I stripped back down and went back to sleep.

An hour later, there was a banging on my door. Wondering what was up, I found it was housekeeping, who had ignored the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. I yelled at her until she went away. She then proceeded to go next door, and slam the door every two seconds dragging things in and out. I still managed to get back to sleep, only to have her again bang on my door a half hour later.

I lost it at this point, and yelled that "do not disturb" means not to disturb my ass, and then got dressed and went to my car. On the way, I complained to an apologetic desk staff, but it didn't do anything towards getting me my catch-up sleep back.


My first stop that day was the Erie Zoo, because I'm all about zoos. It was only ten minutes from my hotel. It was during this ten minutes that my phone started ringing. Fearing work, I fished out my phone and saw it was my landlord, and I immediately went into panic mode. What could possibly gone wrong that they needed to call me? Had the idiots downstairs finally done something destructive? I was still several minutes from the zoo, but I ignored several traffic laws to get parked as quickly as possible.

Calling my voice mail as soon as the car was in park, it turned out that my landlord was going to be in town for the next few days and wanted permission to do some maintenance work while she was there. Quite relieved, I called her up and told her I was vacation, and confirmed that it was fine, and then went to pay my way into the zoo.

Zoo
Mooooom, people are loooooking.
I had my fill of the place after several hours, up to and including going on the small-scale train ride around the park, and bonding with another Sicilian Ass, which seem amazingly prevalent in the zoos I visit. I was wearing one of my Tokyo Swallows t-shirts, and I ran into an older couple taking their grand-daughter around the zoo. This was only exceptional because he was wearing a Tokyo Giants hat, and I asked him what the chances were of someone with that hat and my T-shirt meeting in Erie, PA. We had our polite laugh and moved on. I decided to head back to the hotel to drop off some purchases and check some information.

I was in the room for about ten minutes. The room had already been made up, and before I headed out, I heeded a call of nature. Not a minute in the bathroom, the housekeeper was trying to get into my room again, prohibited from doing so only by the bar I had thankfully put on my door. This was beyond all my reckoning. On the way out, I complained again and went on my way.

My next stop was Presque Isle State Park, which was on a tiny sliver of land that juts out into Lake Erie. I figured spending this much time around the Great Lakes, I might as well actually see one. The circuit of the park is ringed by a two-way road, with stop-offs along the way at various beaches, facilities, or historic markers (mostly for the War of 1812). The first part of the road goes around the part that faces the closest shore, so it presents the visage of a large, if ordinary-looking, lake that is rather unexceptional.

Great Lake
Now that's a great lake.

The other side of the loop passes on the side facing Canada, and this is the much more water-to-the-horizon impressiveness that you expect in your average Great Lake. I stopped at several of the park pull-offs until it was time to get back to the hotel for a shower and a nap, which I did with a "Go Away" sign on a Post-It note to supplement the "Do Not Disturb" sign on my door, just to be sure.

The ballpark was a similarly short drive away, and I parked in a municipal lot across the street from the park, and then went out to retrieve my Will Call ticket, take photos of the outside of the park, and got in line to get in.

After the game, it was still pouring (retroactive spoiler warning), so I went to pick up my car bedecked in my rain poncho. On the way back to the hotel, I decided to get gas before the next day, wherever that would take me, grabbed some Arby's, as I was still hungry, and then went back to the hotel for the night, hanging up my damp clothing and putting out my two signs and hoping for the best.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Jerry Uht Park
Home plate to center field, Jerry Uht Park

After spending most of the week in the more modest confines of short-season A stadiums, I was looking forward to the upgrade that would come with the AA Jerry Uht Park. And it even had a 200 level.

The park is located in the middle of downtown Erie, and it sort of gives definition to "regional capitol." The park is next door to an arena that hosts the minor-league hockey and basketball franchises for Erie, as well as the concerts for B and A-Listers that come through town. It is undoubtedly urban, as the park is bordered on nearly all sides by city streets, with the exception of the main entrance, which has a small plot of land large enough to call a park in front of it.

Seating extends from outfield to outfield. A lower walkway extends through the seating area around the park separating the lower box seats from the 200 level above it. The exterior of the park is ringed by an outer walkway that similarly goes from right field to left field. The upper levels are split into several sections. One row extends up behind third base and ends at the top in luxury boxes and the press box. Running from home to first base is another second level that is accessible only from stairs on the promenade, hanging over the box seats below. A walkway runs along the top of those seats to provide access. And in right field, there is a two-level section of the Picnic Garden (below), which houses concessions and the All-You-Can Eat Buffet, and the Beer Garden (above) with beer and food concessions along a long bar, right in front of special club seating in prime home run territory. Left field ends in the kids play zone and its own picnic area with several specialty concessions. The remainder of the concessions run along the interior and exterior walkways. The stadium store is in the large entrance plaza, along with other concessions.

Retired numbers reside on the right field wall, championship banners hang next to the press box, and a Hall of Fame runs along the exterior wall on the third-base side. The main scoreboard sits in right-center, and a smaller auxiliary board hangs on the building abutting left field.

Mascot
C. Wolf, get it?

C. Wolf (get it?) runs the on-field fun, which, from what limited examples I saw this night, were standard minor-league contests. For a Tuesday night game, they had quite a respectable crowd, with some good representation for the visiting Sea Dogs as well. And a sizeable portion stayed until the game was inevitably called.


At the Game with Oogie:

Scoring
Casual scoring

I did my usual tour of the inside of the park, and there was a brat grill stand out in left, so food was covered rather quickly. There were a couple of chatty old guys who ran the stand who were extra awesome. The guy who grilled up my brat told me to use the stadium mustard on it, which I did, and it was awesome. I sat down at some picnic benches in left field to down the dog, and going back past the stand, the guy wouldn't believe that I had eaten the brat already. I told him that I was hungry and it was gone, and he acquiesced. Walking further around the park, I found another concession stand that had corn dog bites, and so there was a second course to dinner that evening.

Grub
Braaaaat

I had my regular tickets behind the home dugout, but as logistics would have it, I was in the very last row of seats in the section, technically on the promenade level. This row had spaces between the seats for handicapped fans, and actually had quite a nice view, as I was above the first section of seats with nothing obstructing my view. One catch to this was that I wasn't really sitting near anyone. There was one fan behind home plate who had iron lungs and was riding the umpires the entire game while giving support to the home team.

The rain drove me from my seat multiple times. The first time, I made the misguided choice to try and make it back to the area behind home plate, and I caught a lot of rain because of it. When the skies opened up the second time, I made the move to around the left field seats, which was much faster. I broke out one of the ponchos at this point, and took my chances walking around the park until they eventually called the game. After the game was called, the grounds crew came out and did shoulder-to-shoulder belly flops across the tarp to amuse the damp and disappointed crowd.


The Game:

First pitch, Sea Dogs vs. SeaWolves
First pitch, Sea Dogs vs. SeaWolves

This was a contest between the short-season A teams of the Tigers (the home SeaWolves) and the Red Sox (the visiting Sea Dogs). Outside of the jaunty nautical theme, it involved the Red Sox, the only team during my travels who managed to give me a rain-shortened game. The weather was certainly foreboding, and an extended "discussion" between the umpires and managers went on before the commencement of the game. Sitting by the dugout as I was, I heard one Sea Dogs player ask another what the group was talking about. On cure, some thunder crashed in the distance, and the other player answered, "That."

A little later than expected, the game got underway. The Sea Dogs went in order in the first, and the SeaWolves managed only a two-out double. The top of the second got one at-bat completed before the skies opened up to the point where the game was suspended. The tarp came out, the fans went for cover, and we all waiting. The sky seemed to be alternatively light and dark, so it looked like the game might sneak in.

Eventually, the rain stopped, the tarp came off, and play resumed. A two-out single was followed by a homer to the right field corner, and before a strikeout ended the inning, the home team's will to get this game in likely vanished into the 2-0 Sea Dog lead.

But the bottom of the second started positively for the SeaWolves. Back-to-back singles put them in a great position, before the skies catastrophically opened up again, suspending play.

Rain delay
Saaaaaaaaaaafe

With tarp out, and what little crowd remained hanging by, there was a long delay before the official calling of the game. This was a bit of controversy, as depending on who was saying it, the game was suspended or called. If suspended, it would be picked up in the same place the next day. If called, an entirely new game would be played from the top of the first on. The last story I heard at the park was that the game was called. This, of course, would prove to be wrong.


The Scorecard:

Sea Dogs vs. SeaWolves, 06-17-14. Suspended by rain.
Sea Dogs vs. SeaWolves, 06/17/14. Suspended by rain.

After the money-grubbing for programs at the low A parks, it was refreshing to get a free program just inside the gate at the park. It a color-cover, pamphlet-sized program, with the scorecard in the centerfold. It was on good paper that took the brunt of the rain quite well.

As my last information was that the game was called, I finished filling out the card. In less than two innings of work, there was nothing particularly special to note, except that this was only the second called game that (I thought) I had been to before.


The Accommodations:
I was again at the Farifield Inn. I got back that evening a lot earlier than I was expecting. After dealing with packing up and trying to work out what to do the next day, I was too tired to care and went to sleep a little on the early side, hoping that the housekeeping crew wouldn't see fit to wake me up in the middle of the night.



On Finishing What You Started

Jerry Uht Park
Jerry Uht Park, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox) vs.
Erie Seawolves (Detroit Tigers)
Jerry Uht Park
Eastern League (AA)
Erie, PA
11:05 AM


Outside of the Game:
If you had told me before the start of this trip that I would be seeing two professional baseball games with start times at 11:05 AM, I would have rightly called you mad. Yet here we were.

Some research had revealed that Rochester was in the same boat as Erie, and they were going to continue their game from the night before, starting at 5 PM. Given this, I decided to risk trying to catch the end of the Erie game and then head up to Rochester. As long this game was over before 3:30 PM or so, I should be okay.

Up unnaturally early yet again, I went down to get some breakfast, finished packing up, and then loaded the car and checked out of the hotel. Having gotten all my stadium pictures the night before, I didn't have to get to the park much ahead of game time.

Since the park was so close, I managed to park and exchanging my rain check (for a slightly better seat, it would appear) at about 10:30 AM. What happens after the game will be handled in its own entry.


The Stadium & Fans:
Not much had changed in several hours at Jerry Uht Park. C. Wolf came back, and while the crowd seemed certainly different, it was an even more impressive turn-out for a Wednesday morning game that a Tuesday night game. The crowd was very into the game, and the between-innings contests were more of the same minor-league races, contests, and skill demonstrations. One unique event was the "Kids Stampede," which gathered up all kids who were interested in left field, and let them lose to run to right field, with the inevitable adorable stragglers.


At the Game with Oogie:


Scoring
Ready for rain

This was the first resumed game that I had ever been to, but it missed by two days being the first game I'd been to with a start time of 11:05 AM. They were going to finish the last six innings of the game from the night previous and then play a seven-inning version of the regularly scheduled noon game. (Double-headers in the minor have to be scheduled for only seven innings, so they could get away with resuming a nine-inning game and then playing the second seven-inning contest).

Since it was a single-admission double-header, my original seat was occupied, so I actually got upgraded to a single in the first row behind the dugout. The crowd didn't really show up until around eleven when the gates were scheduled to open for the previously booked noon game. It seems that the early noon game was a group event day much like in Jamestown. There were some schools, as well as a special needs school, with many in attendance. Some of the special needs students were behind me. For everything you could say about them, they were paying more close attention to the game than most of the fans there, and when they saw I was keeping score, they asked me questions about players and plays throughout the game. I also got to let them know that they didn't arrive late, and that there was an entire other game to be played when the one we were watching was over, and they seemed to enjoy the news.

Since it was around 11, I couldn't quite get myself to buy another brat, but I did grab a pretzel and a drink, and that drink was important, as when the rain cleared up, it got brutally hot for the remainder of the game.


The Game:

Resumed first pitch, Sea Dogs vs. SeaWolves
Resumed first pitch, Sea Dogs vs. SeaWolves

And so we resumed in the bottom of the second, with the SeaWolves having two on and no outs. A new pitcher came in to resume the game a walked the first batter to load up the bases. He got the next batter to strike out, but walked the nine hitter to walk in a run and leave the bases loaded. A single then brought in another run. The next batter hit a sacrifice fly to center that brought in a run, but the runner from second made a break for it on the throw, and got caught stealing in a 2-6-2 put out. But the SeaWolves had the lead, 3-2.

Portland had only a two-out single in the top of the third, and Erie went in order in their half. But the Sea Dogs led off the fourth with a double, and a short single made it first and third with no outs. A grounder to short brought in the tying run, but two more outs left the score tied at 3-3. Erie again went in order.

The Sea Dogs worked a two-out rally in the top of the fifth. Back-to-back singles brought in a run, but the following double only made it second and third with two outs. A new pitcher ended it with a fly to center, but Portland had the lead back, 4-3. Erie seemed to take offense, and started their half with three short singles to load the bases. A double brought in two runs, but the runner on first got gunned down trying to make it three. A stolen base got a runner to third, and a sacrifice fly brought him in before another pop up ended the inning with the SeaWolves leading, 6-4.

Portland started the sixth with a double, but stranded the runner there. Erie, however, started their half with a triple to right, who came home on a one-out sacrifice fly. The next batter got a single, and then went to second on a wild pitch. A deep single to right brought him in, but a groundout ended the damages there at 8-4, SeaWolves.

Both teams had singles and nothing else in the seventh. But Portland started the eighth with a solo homer to right. A single afterwards was stranded, closing the gap to 8-5, SeaWolves. In the bottom of the inning, there was only a one-out hit batsman to show for it.

The Sea Dogs would not go quietly into the night, or early afternoon in this case. The started the ninth with a single, a walk, and a single. Another short single loaded the bases, after a desperately needed strikeout, a sacrifice fly to right brought in a run. But another fly out to left ended it with an 8-6 SeaWolves victory.

Another seven-inning game followed, but I was driving in my car by the first pitch.


The Scorecard:

Sea Dogs vs. SeaWolves, 06-18-14. SeaWolves win, 8-6.
Sea Dogs vs. SeaWolves, 06/18/14. SeaWolves win, 8-6.


This was the first suspended game I had to pick up, and as I finished my scorecard the previous night, thinking the game was cancelled, I had to copy over the scoring for the first 1.5 innings into the new scorecard. This, of course, was a first.

Scoring-wise the game was notable only for the small things. There were more caught stealings than normal, as well as unsuccessful attempts to extend hits. The 2-6-2 put-out in the bottom of the second was pretty unique. Otherwise, the game was rather run-of-the-mill, if with a lot of scoring. Also, the time of game, taken literally, was quite impressive, as it began at 7:10 PM, and ended at about 1:50 PM.


The Accommodations:
None, as we now jet off to the second part of the day...


2014 Western New York

Monday, June 16, 2014

Jamestown

On First Pitch When?

Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park
Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014
Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Cleveland Indians) vs.
Jamestown Jammers (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Russell E. Diethrick, Jr. Park
NY-PENN League (A-)
Jamestown, NY
11:05 AM


Outside of the Game:
Needless to say, 11:05 AM is an odd start time for a ballgame. This was predicated by "School Day" at the park, and five hundred or so students being bused in for an afternoon of baseball, which is everything this country should be, frankly.

The early start time prompted the drive down to Jamestown the night before for the morning game. For another night, I woke up unnaturally early despite my best efforts. I dragged myself down to the breakfast buffet, which was largely deserted at this ungodly hour. I had some eggs, cereal, and apple juice while sort of browsing Reddit on my iPad. I dragged myself back upstairs and napped in for another hour or so completely immersed in the copious pillows available to me.

Eventually, I had to drag myself back out of bed. Already packed up, I headed out to the car with my bags and then checked out of the hotel.

A truly short drive later got me to the park at a little after 9 AM. The ticket booth wasn't yet even open and nothing was going on outside the park, so I did my walk-around and took my pictures. Next to the park was a soap box derby track, or the soap box derby track. It was unclear. Either way, it was much shorter than I expected a soap box derby track to be.

Soap Box Derby
Soap Box Derby

With my photos done and no indication that the park would be opening any time soon, I drove downtown to see what I could see. I knew about a couple of little museums, but at this ungodly hour, they weren't even thinking about being open yet. I parked and walked around doing some scouting before heading back to the ballpark at ten. And at exactly ten, the ticket booth and main gate both simultaneously opened. I retrieved my ticket from will call and then went into the park.

After the game, broiled to an even 400 degrees or so, I nearly ran back to the waiting air conditioning of my rental car, parked on the grass next to the soap box track and thankfully free of foul ball impacts. I lay supine in the air conditioning for a good five minutes before heading back downtown. As the game was over in under three hours, even with the extra innings, I had some time to kill.

I parked right in front of the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz Museum. When such a thing presents itself, how can one possibly resist? Jamestown is the proud hometown of favorite daughter, Ms Ball, and it has erected a two-part museum to her TV career and personal life. I sprang for the audio tour, hosted by Lucy's daughter, Lucie Arnaz. And despite what you might think, it was actually quite informative and interesting. In addition to reproductions of the most famous sets and episodes of the show, the museum gives visitors a great deal of backstory about the program, DesiLu productions, and the legacy that it left. (For example, I Love Lucy was one of the biggest and first syndicated shows in re-runs because it was the first sitcom that could be re-run, since it was shot on film [at DesiLu's expense], a deal quite similar in implications to Fox allowing George Lucas to have the merchandizing profits for Star Wars.)

Lucille Ball Museum
Recreated TV set

The second museum focused on the lives of Desi and Lucy, from their beginnings, the show, the divorce, and their later lives (including an unknown-to-me spate of board game endorsements by Lucy). Besides completely whitewashing the divorce and the reasons for it--according to the museum, it just kind of happened, and they remained friends for the rest of their lives--it was an informative trip through TV history. The museum hosts a comedy festival every year, which is ironically headlined by Jay Leno this year.

Coming up on three in the afternoon, I decided to head out to Erie. While it was only a little under an hour drive, baking in the sun all afternoon had taken quite a bit out of me. I was getting drowsy, and I had to make an effort to keep attentive, even with a blaring radio and the AC turned up as high as it would go. But despite my limitations and a few left-lane hogs (nearly as soon as I crossed over in PA), the ride was uneventful.

At least until the end. I had completely forgotten everything about the hotel I booked in Erie except for the address and the name. The TomTom calmly guided me to my destination address, which completely lacked any hotel. I looped around the supposed location of the hotel several times, getting more and more annoyed, until I noticed a hotel-like building at the back of a mall. I recalled that the hotel was next to a mall, so the next time around, I pulled into the mall, drove to the very back of said mall, and eventually found my waiting hotel.

I checked in and went up to my room for a desperately needed shower and bit of a nap. I got situated in the hotel, and then headed out for some dinner. Having had lunch at around 10:30 AM, I was extremely hungry for some unknown reason. There was a Cracker Barrel not too far away (shut up--I like then when I'm on the road), and I scarfed down an American-sized dinner and desert while being waited on by a perfectly nice waitress who was so good at her job that she clearly should be doing something else.

Worn down from the day and the travel, and now weighed down by dinner, I went back to the hotel for a quiet and slow night of catching up on writing this thing up before heading to bed early.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park
Home plate to center field, Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park

Russell E. Diethrick, Jr. Park is a tiny little single-A park tucked into the local community college campus. Next door is the All-American Soapbox Derby track, which prompted me to wonder at how short soapbox derby tracks really are. The treeline at the back wall of the park is right in front of the parking for one of the campus buildings, prompting a bevy of warning signs about errant fly balls and the like. Parking for the stadium is on the park by the derby track (and on the derby track), which inspired me to park as far back as possible to avoid any foul balls, or possible soapbox derby cars.

The park has only two entrances behind home plate, one nominally the "main gate" and one for bleachers only, but they both empty into the same place, no doubt due to some renovations at some point in the past. The park is laid out in two rings: the outer wall, and the inner building. The outer brick building holds the concessions (such as they are), bathrooms, and clubhouses, and extended the length of the park. A smaller brick building backs the grandstand and houses the team store only runs from first to third, where they end in an entranceway. Having the clubhouse in the exterior wall means that the home and visiting players have to walk through the crowd to get to the clubhouse, which is a throwback to some older parks (and a boon for kids looking for autographs).

The grandstand behind home plate is the only covered area in the stands. On top of that roof sits the retro press box. Beyond first and third base are straight-out metal bleachers that extend to the edges of the outfield that have a clever two-level walkway. One level is at the base of the bleachers, and then a small stair leads down to the ground, so that people walking by won't interrupt the view of the fans in the bleachers. Left field ends in the home bullpen, and the right field area has the visiting bullpen, plus the "Vineyard" group picnic area. A solitary scoreboard sits in right-center.

Masct
Bubba Grape, the Baseball Ape

Mascot Bubba Grape, the Baseball Ape, helps runs the between-innings activites. Bubba is incredibly popular, but on School Day, in a park packed with kids, he was literally mobbed when he showed up. I'd like to coin a new phrase: "More popular than the mascot on School Day." There were slightly less between-innings contests than normal, and what was there consisted mostly of your standard contests and races.

The crowd, bussed in from local schools, filled the place up and gave some enthusiasm to an 11:05 AM start. They were mostly into the game as well as the between-inning contests, of which they and their schoolmates were heavily featured.


At the Game with Oogie:

Scoring
Morning scoring

So this was an early start to things. When I got into the park at 10 AM, I made my way directly to the program booth to buy one of the same. The gentleman behind the booth got to talking to me, and pointed out that there were about 500 school kids who were going to arrive at any minute, so if I wanted to do anything in peace and quiet, I should do it now.

After taking my pictures and walking around, I decided to get some food before said schoolkids showed up, as there was only the one concession stand, and I didn't want to get stuck behind a wall of kids. Despite the early hour, I got a full-on house hot dog with cheese and chili, which I ate at one of the picnic tables across the way, and watched as the inevitable school children began pouring into the stadium.

Grub
The Swashbuckler

After some more wandering, I found my seat, but it was under the grandstand, and not behind the dugout. There were only bleachers behind the dugout, so I decided to leave my seat vacant. While in the grandstand, however, I saw at least one guy with a "Minor League Parks Tour 2014" T-shirt on. I was going to ask him about that after the game, but he was lost in a swirl of students before I could find him again, and baked as I was from several hours in the afternoon sun, I wasn't in a mood to go looking too hard for anything except shade or air conditioning.

The bleachers behind the dugouts had a row of real pull-down seats, so I grabbed one of these. I was mostly surrounded by schoolkids behind me with varying interest in the game. They were all into the cheering at least, so the home team had that going for them.


The Game:

First pitch, Scrappers vs. Jammers
First pitch, Scrappers vs. Jammers

Perhaps it was the early start-time. Perhaps it was the earliness in the season. For whatever the reason, this game was a mostly punchless contest between the Jammers and regional rivals, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

The Scrappers scattered two singles in the top of the first to no avail. The Jammers had a leadoff walk promptly picked off trying to steal second, and then stranded a two-out single in their half. The Scrappers went in order in the second, and the Jammers had a leadoff single become part of a double-play to end the inning. In the top of the third with one out, the batter reached first on an error by the third baseman, leading to an inexplicably early hook for the starter. The runner stole second and then was joined on base by a walk, but another double-play ended the minor threat.

Jamestown went in order in the bottom of the third inning, as did both teams until the bottom of the fifth, when the Jammers managed to sneak in a one-out single before stranding him. The Scrappers went in order in the sixth, but the Jammers finally found some offense with a one-out triple, brought home by a following single. Two outs eventually ended the inning with Jamestown in the lead, 1-0. Mahoning went in order again in the seventh, as did Jamestown.

Things changed in the eighth, as the Scrappers got a surprise one-out homer to right to tie the game up, 1-1. The Jammers had a one-out walk and a two-out hit batsman in the bottom of the eighth, but nothing came across. In the ninth, the Scrappers got a leadoff walk sacrificed over to second by the next batter. A fielder's choice got him to third, and a two-out walk got him some company, but a ground-out to third ended the half with nothing across. The fading Jammers went in order in the ninth, and we went to extra frames for the first time this trip.

The Scrappers seemed to want to end this quickly, as the same batter from the eighth inning homered to right again with one out. A two out hit batsman was perhaps a message, but he stole second to send a message right back. A walk made it first and second with two outs, but a grounder to short ended it at 2-1, Scrappers. The Jammers gave up the ghost in the bottom of the tenth, striking out in order, capped by a strikeout looking to end the game 2-1, Scrappers.


The Scorecard:

Scrappers vs. Jammers, 06-16-14. Scrappers win, 2-1.Scrappers vs. Jammers, 06-16-14. Scrappers win, 2-1.
Scrappers vs. Jammers, 06/16/14. Scrappers win, 2-1.

Once again, I had to spring a couple bucks to get a program/scorecard at a short-season A park. I guess they must make money this way, or they wouldn't do it. This one, at least, was a handsome color magazine program, with a scorecard centerfold, and truly plentiful mimeographed and stapled player data for up-to-the-minute information and opponent rosters.

The card itself was magazine paper, which made it difficult to write on with colored pencils, but not nearly as bad as Auburn's program. The scorecard itself was two whole magazine-sized pages without any ads, so it had generous space to write on, and also included instructions for scoring newbies.

The game itself was rather mundane, scoring-wise. There were a ton of strikeouts (17 total), with a corresponding dearth of offense. (But, sadly, the K-Man did not strike out.) Perhaps the only oddity of note is that both Scrapper runs came from the same number 8 hitter belting two home runs in back-to-back at-bats. One wonders why he wasn't walked the second time.


The Accommodations:

Fairfield Inn
Fairfield Inn

For the next two nights, I was to be staying at the rather well-hidden Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Erie. Once located, it was a nice enough place. I had a king-sized bed with an inordinate amount of pillows (and even more hidden in the dressers, so it seemed), with a pull-out couch, refrigerator, and a microwave. The bathroom was generously sized as well.

I spent a great deal of the late afternoon and evening in the room. The travel was starting to catch up to me, and I spent most of the night seeing how many pieces of furniture on which I could site and avoid typing up this travelogue.


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