Saturday, July 26, 2014


On Just Being Out of the Heat

Prince George's Stadium
Prince George's Stadium, 2014
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates) vs.-
Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles)
Prince George's Stadium
Eastern League (AA)
Bowie, MD
6:35 PM

Outside the Game:
After the tiny bit of frustration the day before, I decided to take it easy this morning. I lounged around in bed for a bit, went down and had breakfast, and then headed back to my room to lounge around some more. I then settled in for some serious lounging.

With an 11 AM checkout looming, I eventually go dressed, loaded up the car, and turned in my key. My first stop was a gas station to fill up (since I used far more gas than expected the day before for some reason) and get some money, and then I was heading out to Bowie (which is pronounced Boo-ey, and not Bow-e, as one would expect).

I didn't actually have anything planned, but after the previous day, I decided to get to the park and figure everything else out later. Although there were the prerequisite traffic lights eating away at the very concept of time itself, the drive up went relatively smoothly, and I pulled in at the park a little after noon. I got a ticket and did my regular walking around, and I then decided to head out to see what I could see.

Which wasn't much, to be honest. There were a couple of little museums I wasn't in the mood for, and it was mostly a suburban community for Baltimore and DC. It reminded me a lot of my hometown of Clifton, and that is not a flattering comparison.

I got some lunch for lack of anything better to do and drove around for a while looking for anything interesting. There was an "Old Town Bowie," but it turned out to be a couple of antiques shops and a visitor's center. After a half hour or so of this, I started looking for a park to walk around and take a nap, but the heat was starting to get to me. But then I passed a mall with a Barnes & Noble. And so I pulled in and spent some time at the bookstore Cafe checking Internet, and typing on this a bit, and generally not being in god-awful heat.

It's amazing how much time you can kill in air conditioning with the Internet. It was eventually time to head over to the park and so a quick drive later planted me back in the gargantuan parking lot. I picked a spot that was near an exit and went on my way to the park. On my walk-around, I found a divot behind center field that had captured two batting practice balls, which I grabbed up before heading back to the front.

And there I was immediately confronted by Batman, Robin, and the 60's Batmobile. For real. It turned out that it was Superhero night, and a local car collector brought his pet Batmobile copy, and, for some reason, was teamed up with an anti-huffing parents group, taking pictures and giving out pamphlets about why huffing is bad. In the face of this situation, I got on line to get in, and away we went.

The Batmobile
No, really: The Batmobile

After the game, I did not stay for the end of the intern talent contest, nor the running on the bases, and the fireworks were in my rear-view mirror when they started. A few interminable Maryland stop lights later, I eventually made it out to the interstate at just before 10 PM and started to drive home as fast as traffic and physics would allow. After being stuck in the slow lane for approximately two days, it was just floor it and go north as fast as possible. With the exception of a couple of Pennsylvania trucks being in the left lane at one point, it was all smooth sailing, and I pulled into my garage in Hoboken a little before 1 AM.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, Prince George's Stadium
Home plate to center field, Prince George's Stadium

Prince George's Stadium is a suburban field located next to nothing in particular, just off the highway. Which, given how little else Bowie had going on, wasn't that much of a surprise.

That said, it was a nice enough park, if a bit weird. The entrance plaza had a baseball diamond made in the stonework underneath a generic statue of an old-timey baseball player holding hands with a young girl--I never quite figured the symbolism out. Scripted neon signs identified the Tickets booth and "Gift Shop," but they were a little hard to see in daylight with the glare. The park was set in scrubland and backed against a small wood in the back, where low ranch houses held batting cages and clubhouses.

Once inside, the park was a common minor-league design. A main promenade ran from right field to left field behind home plate, with a smaller walkway halfway between the seats, separating the boxes below from the reserved seats above. The press and luxury boxes ran above everything from about first to third base, and most of the concessions were on the main concourse, mainly underneath the luxury areas.

Left field ended in a (roped off) picnic hill and the Bud Light All-You-Can-Eat patio, while right field ended in (another roped-off) picnic hill, children areas (complete with merry-go-round), and a lighthouse off in deep right.

Super Louie

It was Super Hero night at the park, and that permeated all the activities. Mascot monsters Louie and Rocko were decked out in superhero gear, as were the entirety of the college-aged fan crew. There was a new superpower contest, and most of the rest of the regular activities became super-themed (Super Simon Says, Super Tug-of-War, Super Pizzas Giveway, etc, etc.). There was a sizable crowd on-hand for the match, but the contests and super-hero activities seemed to be most their focus.

At the Game with Oogie:
That one thing...

I had seats on the home first-base side. As it was Super Hero night, there were wall-to-wall families in the park, with most of the kids dressed in some sort of costume. There was a small family with well-behaved children to my right, a small family with well-behaved children to my left, and a giant group three families with insane brats sitting in front of me. I shouldn't say that. One of the families were dwarves, and their kids were well-behaved. The rest of them were on my very last nerve.

Corn dog and fries

As my stomach wasn't doing too well, I got a corn dog dinner, because if I was going to go down, I was going to go down swinging a corn dog.

The Game:
First pitch, Curve vs. Baysox
First pitch, Curve vs. Baysox

The bottom-dwelling Curve were playing the third-place Baysox, but the game didn't play out that way. In fact, the word of the day was apparently "doubles," because there were a whole lot of them.

For example, the game started with back-to-back doubles for the Curve (1, 2) that brought in one run. A fly to right moved the lead runner over, and a walk made it first and third with one out. An amazing catch on a fly to right held it to a sacrifice fly that brought the runner in from third, and a ground-out to second ended the half 2-0, Curve. The Baysox went in order, already hinting that this game may be over.

The second inning began with an Altoona double (3), and a sacrifice bunt moved him over to third. An grounder to first offered hope of a short inning, but a single to left brought in the runner from third, before a grounder to short ended the half 3-0, Curve. Bowie went in order.

The third inning went a few batters before a double. Back-to-back singles started the inning for the Curve, and the next batter flied out to left. Then a double (4) cleared the bases, and another double (5) brought him in. The pitcher was chased (3.3 innings pitched, 8 hits, 7 earned runs), and the new pitcher got a strikeout before giving up a single that scored the runner on base. Another strikeout mercifully ended the inning 7-0, Curve. (To be fair, the Baysox pitcher wasn't bad, per se, it is just that all these doubles and hits were on the chalk and going into the corner. It was bad luck all around.) The Baysox started their inning with a double (6), breaking up the no-hitter, and fielder's choices got him to third, but there he stayed.

In the fourth, we waited one ground-out for our Altoona double (7), who moved to third on a short single. Another double (8) brought in a run and made it second and third with one out. A ground-out followed that brought in the runner from third and moved the trailing runner to third, and a single brought him in, while an error by the second baseman on the next batter made it first and third with two outs. But a grounder to third ended it at 10-0, Curve. Bowie went in order.

In a surprising turn of events, the Curve went in order in the fifth, as did the Baysox. In the sixth, the Curve had back-to-back, one-out singles, and a two-out single to load the bases, but nothing came across. The BaySox had a one-out double (9) to show for the bottom of the sixth.

The seventh started with a single for Altoona, erased on a fielder's choice. A two-out walk made it first and second, and a wild pitch made it second and third. A single brought in a run, but a ground-out ended the half a 11-0, Curve. The Baysox got a two-out runner on an error by the pitcher, but on the following double (10), the runner from first was cut down by a mile trying to score, leaving it 11-0, Curve.

The Curve, perhaps tired from all the running, only had a one-out single in the top of the eighth, while the Baysox had back-to-back, two-out singles, eventually stranded by a grounder to third to end the inning. In the ninth, the Curve had a leadoff single and then a one-out single to make it first and second with one out. A double-play ball to second was cheered lustily by a home team fanbase that had little to cheer about all game. Bowie went in order to end the ninth and the game 11-0, Baysox, and get the fireworks started that nearly all in attendance were waiting for at that point.

The Scorecard:
Curve vs. Baysox, 07-26-14. Baysox win, 11-0.
Curve vs. Baysox, 07/26/14. Baysox win, 11-0.

This may be the weirdest scorecard situation I've ever encountered. In the free program they gave you at the door, they had one page of a scorecard for one team, with a note at the bottom to go visit fan services if you wanted a full scorecard--which in no way explains the value of having one page of the scorecard printed in the program. I even asked the woman manning the fan services booth why this was, and she didn't know, either. At any rate, there was a full, pre-printed, one-page scorecard on regular paper at fan services. It has the opposing pitchers with the batting line of the other team, but otherwise was uncontroversial.

Scoring-wise, the only thing of real note were the ten total doubles. There were only two people on the Altoona Curve who didn't have a double (though every player had at least one hit). The 21 hits by the Curve were also of note, and there was a caught stealing 7-2 in the bottom of the seventh when a runner on first tried to score on a double. There was also a rather rare 5U on a grounder to third in the bottom of the eighth.

Another point of interest was an at-bat during the top of the third, where the Curve batter lined a foul on a hard arc over the netting and bulls-eyed a spectator on the promenade behind home plate, who was knocked out. He was eventually okay.

The Accommodations:
Late, but Hoboken. There, I received a voice mail from my landlord telling me that instead of kicking out the girls downstairs, she had renewed their lease. I then spent the rest of the evening staring at the ceiling in the dark.

2014 Maryland

Friday, July 25, 2014


On a New World Champion of Frustration

Regency Furniture Stadium
Regency Furniture Stadium, 2014
Friday, July 25, 2014
Sugarland Skeeters vs. Southern Maryland Blue Crabs
Regency Furniture Stadium
Atlantic League, Freedom Division (Independent)
Waldorf, MD
7:05 PM

Outside the Game:
I woke up rather refreshed and went down to get some breakfast before retreating to the hotel room to laze around in my gigantic bed for a while. Determined to get some work done, I downloaded some new games and played them until it was time to leave.

As Waldorf didn't seem to have much on tap, and since Baltimore was on the way and the Orioles weren't home, I decided to go to the sports museum next to Oriole Park that I didn't get a chance to visit before. It was a quiet drive that dumped me right at the stadium. Since the O's were away, I was able to snag street parking right next to the stadium, although it took me three tries before I could get one of the "easy" street parking machines to deliver an actual ticket to put on my dashboard. I figured I should be heading south no later than 3 PM, so I bought enough time to get me to then, and I headed for the museum.

As I was parking, a group of three young Orioles employees (judging by their outfits and the fact that they were smoking right by a staff entrance to the park) looked at my car, and one of them asked me what year that was. And I told them it was a 91 Plymouth Sundance. And he looked incredulous, and said, "She must run good for you." I said she did and that I was going to give her a twenty-fifth birthday party soon, and we all had a laugh. That was literally the only time anyone has ever mentioned my car on one of these trips.

Upon purchasing a ticket for the sports museum, I realized that I hadn't been to the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, either, and so I got a combo ticket and headed into the Sports Museum. All of the baseball material was very well done, going from the 19th century Orioles, through their various minor-league incarnations, and eventually the O's of today.

Ruth plaque
Probably one of the only people to see both of these.

As expected, there was a rather extensive section on George Herman Ruth (including the sibling of the plaque at Koshien Stadium--I think I may be one of the few people in the world who has seen them both), but they also went through the Negro Leagues in Baltimore, as well as minor-league, semi-pro, and youth baseball. There was an interactive section for the "kids," and there was a bunch of other stuff on football that I kind of blew through. I cleaned out my wallet at the gift shop, and one of the staff directed me to follow the baseballs painted on the pavement to go the short distance to the Babe Ruth birthplace.

Surprisingly enough, following said baseballs painted on the pavement dutifully led me to the museum on a side street several blocks from the park. The museum is housed in the Ruth family house, which means that Ruth didn't live there too long before he was shipped out to the school for wayward boys. There are a couple of restored rooms in the building to recreate how the house appeared when Ruth was there, while the rest of building is dedicated to exhibits on his playing career, his entertainment career, and his family life. Of particular interest was a scorecard someone had of Ruth's first professional appearance on the then minor-league Orioles.

Babe Ruth

They also had a museum store, and I also spent a bunch of money there. One of old men working enthusiastically told me that I should have lunch at Pickles, which is one of the sports bars across the street from Orioles Park. Who am I to disagree with someone who works at Babe Ruth's house?

Center to home, Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Center field to home plate, Oriole Park at Camden Yards

So I stopped at Pickles and had some overstuffed club sandwich or some such, and then went to Orioles Park to take some pictures. They have the pedestrian walkway in the back of center field open on non-game days, so I was able to take a lot of pictures of things that I didn't get the last time I was there, before I got a tad, um, obsessive about such things.

Educated, fed, and photographically complete, I decided to head down to Waldorf at a little before 3 PM. At a little under 50 miles away, I should have arrived there in under an hour.

There's traffic on Fridays during the summer. I get that, I do. Some people even take half-days, but leaving before 3 PM, I figured I was in good shape. And that was a gravely mistaken assumption, as it turns out.

I'm not good in traffic. That is a fault of mine that I freely acknowledge. Traffic is the distillation of everything that I hate about the world in its most concentrated and pure form: illogic, stupidity, and inefficiency due to the previous two items. Boston has the worst drivers in the nation. Of that, there is no doubt. Miami and the entire state of Pennsylvania come in a close second. I don't even acknowledge what people in LA do as "driving," or they, too, would make this list as well.

But there is a new king for frustration while driving, and that is the Baltimore/DC corridor. It is not just the traffic, which is horrific. It is also the fact that everything about their road systems seem to be designed to increase traffic instead of alleviate it.

For example, there are the traffic lights. Whoever designed this traffic light pattern should be dragged from his bed, thrown to the street, see everything and everyone he loves or cares about killed or destroyed in front of him, and then be stabbed in the stomach with a typhoid-laced rusty spoon--careful to miss any important bits--and left to die, slowly.

The way these lights work for a four-way intersection is thus: one lane of left-turn lanes only are given the green. Then the opposite side left-turn lane is given the green. And then one side of straight or right-turn traffic is given the green, and the other. This then repeats for the perpendicular traffic. What this means is: if you just miss a green light, you are going to be spending the next three to five minutes of your life waiting to move again. And not only is that infuriating in itself, it also blocks up the traffic behind everyone for miles more than if the lights kept any sort of reasonable pattern.

At any rate, my TomTom decided to take me down some two lane highway called the Baltimore-DC Parkway (or something) instead of 95. This was fine until the lights began and stopped traffic dead. I turned off and made it to 95 South, which got me relatively quicker to the inner loop beltway, which is where all hope goes to die. It took an hour to get around the Beltway with stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic that had me at my absolute wit's end. The TomTom helpfully told me to miss the exit it was trying to take me to. (I can only imagine that there had been a traffic pattern change recently, as the "exit ramp" a quarter mile after the real exit ramp was didn't exist, so I had to go one more exit, turn around, and then fight the traffic in the other direction until I reached my actual destination.)

At my exit, I was then dumped into another "highway" with traffic lights every quarter mile, so that the ten miles that I needed to traverse took another half hour.

Sweaty, enraged, and beyond my depth, I found that the TomTom address for the hotel was nowhere near an actual hotel. The address on the Website hadn't matched up with my GPS at all, and I called earlier in the day to get a new address. That address put me in the middle of nowhere. I pulled into the nearest driveway and called the hotel in a rather foul mood. After talking to three people, I eventually talked to someone who could give me actual directions to the hotel, and five minutes later I was there, a good hour and a half later than I intended to get there and ready to impose bloody murder on any situation to displease me.

When I inquired at the front desk how people get anywhere down here, they replied that they were impressed that I made such good time getting there from Baltimore. Realizing we weren't even speaking the same language, I went up to my room and unpacked.

With a shower and a nap out of the timetable, I cleaned up a little and went back to my car. It was about 5:20 PM, and the stadium was about ten minutes away according to the TomTom, and I was off.

Except that it was still Maryland hell. There seemed to be traffic lights--without exaggeration--every five feet, and I missed them all. I didn't pull into the parking lot until 5:45 PM. I parked my car, made a brief effort to remember where I parked, and dashed up to the ticket booth to get a ticket, and I then did a turbo run around the park to take my pictures before getting on the line of people entering the stadium. This was as close to gate as I'd ever been at a park, and it (and the heat) made me reek with failure.

At least the fireworks were pretty.

After the game, I set out as soon as the game was over and was to my car as the fireworks started. I watched for a minute, and then started the drive back to my hotel. I was able to make the 10-minute trip in only twenty minutes this time (while only getting lost once), a great achievement in this hellscape of driving purgatory.

I went up to my room and peeled off my disgusting clothing, took a shower, finished packing up, and flopped into bed.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, Regency Furniture Stadium
Home plate to center field, Regency Furniture Stadium

Given my late and upset arrival, I pretty much did a run around the outside of the park before the gates opened, all the while cursing every last thing about Maryland.

The park itself, perhaps especially because of its corporate branding naming, appeared a little... it is hard to say. I'm going to go with "shackish." Perhaps more "pre-fab gazebo." It really is hard to say. Something was off about it.

Inside, it struck me similar to the Rockland Boulders' place, in that it was a very nice stadium, but perhaps it was too much park for an indie team. There was one section of seating extending down the main promenade, running from short left field to short right field behind home plate. The press box and luxury boxes extended above in a second level from about first to third base. Most of the concessions extended that same expanse. There's a patio and kids' area in right field and a picnic area and a "Legends Club" in a another pre-fab shack-looking building in left field. A boardwalk extends around the entire outfield. There is a lawn berm extending most of the way around the outfield, with bench seats right by the wall. Bumper boats and a sand play area with playground toys is in right center.

A manual scoreboard is in the wall in left and a digital video board in right field. Alien-looking furry mascot Pinch runs the standard indie between-inning contest along with human helpers lead by an MC in a flop hat and tie-dye. The crowd was quite respectable given the time and the location, but they mostly seemed in it for the entertainment as opposed to the baseball.

At the Game with Oogie:
Sad scoring

I purchased my ticket much later than usual, but I decided on the same place, box seats behind the home dugout (third base side, this time).

It was well-attended for an indie-ball game during vacation season, and there were families all around me. To my immediate right was three generations of the same family: a grandfather, father, and the granddaughters. The grandpa was patiently explaining everything about baseball to his inquisitive granddaughter, and we got to talking during the game, especially about the unbelievably bad officiating that was going on--but more on that later. Behind me was another family and a visiting guest. It was their guest's first professional baseball game, and they got him and his friend on the field to do the sumo suits wrestle between innings.

Chicken sandwich and soda
Since I was so hot and disgusting, I wasn't very hungry. I got a meal deal for a chicken sandwich and fries to get a jumbo soda, and I think I downed about two Gatorades before and during the game to keep my fluids up.

The Game:
First pitch, Skeeters vs. Blue Crabs
First pitch, Skeeters vs. Blue Crabs

This game was, if nothing else, made to engender a respect for major-league umpires, as the independent variety do not hold up to scrutiny. It is often a cop-out to claim a game was stolen by the umps, but in this case, the boys in blue nearly wrapped up the game in a bow for the visiting Skeeters.

The Skeeters started the game with a single, but then went in order, and Maryland went in order in the bottom of the inning. Sugar Land got their leadoff hitter on base again in the second with a leadoff walk, but he was similarly stranded with three subsequent outs. The Blue Crabs went in order again, as did the Skeeters in the top of the third.

Maryland got something going with four straight singles to start the bottom of the third, bringing in two runs. A sacrifice fly to left brought in the runner from third, but the trailing runner got picked off flatfooted to end the inning 3-0, Blue Crabs. Both sides went in order in the fourth.

Things went odd in the top of the fifth. Sugarland started the half with a single and a stolen base. A fly out to center moved the runner to third, and a walk followed. Then the umpires called a balk on the pitcher, which was a balk only to the umpire and no one else. It wasn't even close to a balk. This scored a run and moved the trailing runner to second. Two more outs stranded the runner to make it 3-1, Blue Crabs. The bottom of the inning began with some manner of hit for the Blue Crabs. The hit was originally called foul, then reversed to a double, then reversed again to a single. A sacrifice moved the runner to second, but two strikeouts ended the threat.

The sixth started with a walk, a strikeout, and a change of pitcher. Another walk was followed with another out that moved the runners to second and third. A single brought them in. The next batter walked while the guy on first was stealing, but the umpire did not make the call in any sort of timely manner, so the catcher threw to second and into center, getting the runner to third. Luckily, a ground-out stopped the damage with the game tied at 3-3. The Blue Crabs went in order in the sixth.

The top of the seventh broke the tie with a one-out homer, making it 4-3, Skeeters. In the bottom of the inning, Maryland only managed a walk. Another new pitcher for the Blue Crabs got two outs in the eighth, but then gave up a double and a single to bring in another run before a fly to right ended the half at 5-3, Sugarland. The Blue Crabs went in order again.

Another Southern Maryland pitcher came in and got two outs, but to shake it up, he gave up a single and then a double to bring in run before a fly to right ended the top of the ninth at 6-3, Skeeters. The perhaps tired Blue crabs went in order on last licks to end the game at that score for the opposition.

The Scorecard:
Skeeters vs. Blue Crabs, 07-25-14. Skeeters win, 6-3.
Skeeters vs. Blue Crabs, 07/25/14. Skeeters win, 6-3.

The program was a pamphlet-sized give-away at the door. The scorecard was a one-pager on cheap magazine paper that lead to a lot of smudging and poor pencil adhesion. Also worth mentioning was that this was a scorecard for ants. It was crammed into one page, with the bottom quarter of the page taken up by an ad. There was absolutely no space for substitutions, and barely enough room to score with line notation.

That said, the story of the game was the poor umpiring, and there are extensive notes on the ball four screw-up, as well as the foul that was a double that was a single. Otherwise, the only scoring of note was the 1-3-4t caught stealing in the bottom of the third, and the fact that I think the Blue Crabs were getting paid by the pitcher, as they managed to cram in seven in a nine-inning game.

The Accommodations:
Hilton Garden
Hilton Garden

I was staying at the Hilton Garden, and eventually even found it.

The hotel was nice, not that I was in a mood to appreciate it when I got in. My room was also nice, but not as nice as the night before. A big old bathroom was just off the entrance (no tub, but the shower did its work well), and the main room was separated into my big old bed on one wall, with an easy chair next to the window, and a desk, TV, dresser, and a little kitchenette with refrigerator, coffee machine, and microwave on the other side.

The bed slept well, and after the unending frustration that this day had foisted upon me, it was quite welcome.

2014 Maryland

Thursday, July 24, 2014


On When Resting Is Not Restful

New Yankee Stadium
New Yankee Stadium, 2014
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees
New Yankee Stadium
Major League Baseball, American League
Bronx, NY
1:05 PM

Outside the Game:
This would be an unusual baseball trip, as it was starting with a game at "home," and then progressing further afield.

One of my cousin's kids in Florida wanted to see Derek Jeter during his last season. He was going to fly out this week, and we were going to go to a game. As Thursday afternoon games were the easier ticket, and I could take my comp day for working on Memorial Day (and the fact that Jeter didn't often rest at home this year), we got tickets for this Thursday.

The worry originally had been the weather, but the storm that was supposed to hit on Thursday came in Wednesday night. The Yankees played an extra-innings marathon on Tuesday night, so it looked like Jeter would sit out Wednesday. But he played in the rain-shortened Wednesday game, which made his inevitable sit-out on Thursday all the more mundane. There's only so much you can do with planning.

Jeter sits
Sir Not Appearing in This Movie

Although I had the day off, I got up at the same time as usual, as I wanted to make sure we could get into Monument Park, which involved getting there before the gates opened at 11 AM. My father showed up with guest in tow a little after 9 AM, and instead of taking my advice and going to the roomier parking lot by the hospital, my father insisted on going to the sardine can shops down by the river to save some walking. He again ignored my advice to go into an above-ground lot and instead went to an underground lot and was surprised that his suburban sled car did not fit into any of the available spaces. He had to get it valet-parked, but at least we were all off.

We got to the PATH trains, and I helped them get a Metrocard that both of them could use. Because they didn't heed my urging to hurry up, we missed the 33rd Street train and had to wait for the next one, which can be a sizable wait after rush hour.

Once we got going, it was relatively easy going after the change to the D train at 34th Street. We piled out into the early afternoon, and I walked them to the gate by Monument Park. My father was tired of walking, so I told him to stay there and wait on line while I took our guest around the park. Halfway around, my father showed up, saying he wanted to walk. Amazingly and completely unexpectedly enough, by the time we got back to the gate by Monument Park, the lines were down the street. I told them to get on line and wait while I scouted ahead.

There was a second, much-shorter line on the other side of the gate, so I got on that one and called my father on his cell phone. He didn't pick up, so I called him again. And he didn't pick up, again. So I had to run down to them and drag them back to the other line, while 50 more people had gotten on line while I was collecting them.

Eventually, the gates opened, and we went in, but more on that in a second.


The way out was the "welcome to the big city" moment, as we had to pack into a D train going south, heading into rush hour. It was a wall-to-wall people sandwich until we got off at 34th. We eventually got seats on the PATH back to Hoboken, and we quietly cooled off on our way back to retrieve the car for one of several identical-looking commuter parking lots.

They dropped me back off at my apartment a little before 5, and I put in a load of laundry and took a major nap. I put the clothes in the drier when I woke up, took a shower, and then booked my hotel for the night, about halfway down the route to southern Maryland.

A little before nine, I finished packing up and started driving south. Outside of another ten-minute delay paying cash to one of two open lanes on the NJ Turnpike at the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I quickly got shaken down in Delaware and reached my hotel a little after 11:30 PM.

The Stadium & Fans:
Center to home, New Yankee Stadium
Center field to home plate from Monument Park, New Yankee Stadium

It had actually been a couple of years since I had been to New Yankee Stadium, and it was my first visit to the new Monument Park. On this return visit, I was really struck by how claustrophobic the interior walkways of the stadium are. This is done to make the ritzy areas behind home plate and center field hermetically sealed from riff-raff. But the experience waiting to get into Monument Park and the Yankees Museum are certainly diminished by waiting in line in a generic concrete hallway that would seem more at home in a Cold War-era military base. The only nod to adornment by the Monument Park entrance are giant representations of the retired numbers.


The stairway into Monument Park is particularly grim, akin to walking down a dimly lit stairwell into a middle school sub-basement. But once you get outside, it is a different story. The panoramic view to home plate from the center field and the carefully manicured and maintained park itself are clearly a place rivaled only by Cooperstown in baseball history and reverence. Plaques old and new are enshrined, along with a particularly egregious dedication to George Steinbrenner, easily twice the size of any other memorial in the park. (And since his passing, another "modest" monument to the Boss dominates the top of the bleachers.)

Besides a few new minor additions, such as memorials to the yearly "Pinstripe Bowl" on the outfield wall and new flip-pictures of the players in the area by the food court, not a lot has changed.

Even for a weekday, mid-season game, the crowd was still rather substantial, although almost to a person disappointed in Jeter's no-show on the roster that day. Several fan signs were specifically addressed to the issue. And the crowd seemed a little too excited when Jeter's replacement was plunked on the arm in the bottom of the third, perhaps hopeful that Jeter would be called in to replace him. Sadly for the masses, the injury was not severe.

At the Game with Oogie:

Rodeo burger

As mentioned, my primary companions at this game were my father and my cousin's son. For the most part, I was showing him around the stadium, and we got there very early so as to see Monument Park. It was my first time in the new Monument Park, as well, so that was worthwhile all-around. While we were inside, I met one of the stupidest people who ever lived. This woman was complaining that Monument Park was a big letdown, because all it contained was "plaques."

Frankly, I don't know what she was expecting. Did she hope for holograms of each of the honored recipients? Perhaps she expected the shambling reanimated remains of those interred there to scare her as if in some haunted castle? I don't know what to make of it.

Monument Park
LINE! The Ride.
We eventually decided against going to the museum, as the wait in that line would take us to just before first pitch, so I took my relations around to the more noteworthy parts of the park, and then we settled on some lunch at the Johnny Rockets concession (as the lines at Nathan's had grown too long), and we hunkered down in our seats.

Straight out of central casting sitting next to us was a blowhard, everything-is-awful Yankees fan, who couldn't keep his trap shut the entire game, and mentioned how every action that wasn't an immediate out for the opposing team or run for the Yankees was evidence that Yankees manager Girardi didn't know what he was doing, and that the Yankees stunk. Presumably, the evidence from the outcome of the game was damned to be ignored.

The Game:
First pitch, Rangers vs. Yankees
First pitch, Ranges vs. Yankees

Considering both pitchers sported ERAs north of 5, this match between the Rangers and the Yankees didn't look to be a pitcher's duel, but looks can be deceiving. To start, both sides went quickly in order for the first two innings.

In the top of the third, however, a leadoff walk for the Rangers changed things up, only to be quickly erased on a double-play. The next batter got an undeniable hit to center, as did the the next batter, and the next batter, plating a run. But a fly out to center ended the half at 1-0, Rangers. The Yankees only managed a two-out hit batsman in their half of the third, and the train kept rolling on as the Rangers went in order in the top of the fourth.

In the bottom of the fourth, however, the Yankees led off with a double, but two outs looked to leave him stranded before a two-out single to right brought in the tying run. A ground-out to first ended the inning at 1-1. In the top of the fifth, Texas had their own double (this one a two-out variety), and though the next batter walked, a strikeout ended the threat with nothing across. The Yankees started the bottom of the fifth with a walk, and a double brought him in to take the lead. The next batter bunted, and it was a bizarre play as the third baseman threw to the second baseman covering first, who did an awkward slide of his own near the base. The batter was called out, and the play was challenged, but upheld, as replay showed him barely touch the bag just as he caught the ball. After the challenge, a walk made it first and third with one out, and the runner at first stole second. A deep sacrifice fly to center brought the runner at third home, and another walk made it first and second with two outs, but a fly out to left ended the inning at 3-1, Yankees.

Texas went in order in the sixth, and the Yankees only had a two-out single to show for their effort. The Rangers started the seventh greeting the Yankees new relief pitcher with a no-doubt home run to left, but the subsequent three outs held the lead at 3-2, Yankees. The Yankees went in order, as did the Rangers in the eighth.

The Yankees started the bottom of the eighth with a single and double that brought the run home. The trailing runner made it to third on a fielder's choice, but was stranded there, with the score at 4-2, Yankees, after eight. Robertson came in to save the ninth, and gave up a one-out walk that stole second, but nailed down the 4-2 Yankees win.

The Scorecard:
Rangers vs. Yankees, 07-24-14. Yankees win, 4-2.Rangers vs. Yankees, 07-24-14. Yankees win, 4-2.
Rangers vs. Yankees, 07/24/14. Yankees win, 4-2.

Not seeing a need to fork over $10 for a scorecard, I used the BBWAA scorebook. There were a couple of odd scoring moments in the game. For example, in the top of the third, the inning began with back-to-back singles that were uncontroversial. The third single to center field, however, was just out reach of the second baseman, who, having missed the ball, booted it further into center field. They originally scored it a single and an E4 that got the runner on first to third, but they changed the ruling to be two-bases on the single.

There was a challenge on a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the fifth, where the covering second baseman made an incredibly awkward sweep slide in the vicinity of the base, but the replay clearly showed that he got lucky and was touching the edge of the bag with his foot when he just caught the ball before completely pulling off. The only other moment of note is the top of the fourth, where a 5-3 putout ended with a rather superfluous tag by the first baseman, just to be a jerk, I guess.

The Accommodations:
La Quinta Inn & Suites
La Quinta Inn & Suites

Pretty much on a whim, I picked some place about two hours distant from my house that was along my route, and that turned out to be the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Elkton, MD, just over the border from the Delaware shakedown, as I didn't want to give those bastards another red cent.

My room turned out to be a humongous efficiency suite. The room entrance was at a living room/kitchen, with a fold out couch and easy chair on one side of the room, and in a smaller alcove, there was a full desk and kitchenette, with refrigerator, sink, a real coffee maker, microwave, and dishes and cutlery in the drawers. The next room in was the bedroom, with the king bed and end tables on one side, and the TV and dresser in the other. Around a corner was the bathroom, with the vanity and sink outside the bathroom, and the toilet and shower inside.

As I got settled in and was doing my various things, what eventually struck me was how completely quiet the room was. Located next to the elevator, I was worried about being disturbed by it all night, but instead, the clearly well-insulated room was eerily and completely quiet, except for the noises that I was putting out into it. And it was then that I went from being a little weirded out to considering the options of moving here permanently.

2014 Maryland

Saturday, July 12, 2014

State College

On Heading West into Questionable Waters

Ramada Hazelton
Ramada Hazelton -- Don't stay here
Friday, July 11, 2014
Hazleton, PA

Outside of the Game:
Work, etc. No need to even go into details at this point.

I got back to my apartment after work, put a load of laundry in the washing machine, and puttered around the apartment getting little things done while waiting for the laundry in the drier. I had done a good deal of planning work earlier in the week, so it was just a matter of cleaning up and getting out on the road at 9 PM.

And so I headed out on time. Since it was only a weekend trip, I had my small bag filled with my necessary junk, which was deposited in the trunk as I set out. It was going to be an 80 weekend, and the first time I had been out on that road in a while. The TomTom was taking me on the Turnpike to get onto 280, and I rebelled and went out to 3, which was a parking lot. I immediately begged for forgiveness, and the soothing British voice got me back on the Turnpike.

Once I got out to 280, it was a matter of driving west and stopping when I got to where I needed to be. The goal was Hazleton, PA, almost exactly two hours from home and two hours from State College. It seemed as good a location to stop to prevent overly long drives on Friday and Sunday. I was originally going to meet up with a friend of mine on this trip, but an unexpected family commitment came up, so I was staying by myself anyway.

The drive out was relatively uneventful, besides dealing with Pennies clogging up the left lane at regular intervals. Around 11 PM, I pulled off the exit for Hazleton and found it was about ten minutes off I-80 to my hotel. Arriving at the subject of my search, I checked in and then drove next door the Burger King for some supplementary dinner before heading back to my room for the night.

The Accommodations:
As mentioned, I decided to stay in Hazleton for logistical reasons. Many of the hotels in the area were already booked up, which is why I ended up down the road a little instead of right off of 80. I could have sprung for the Holiday Inn right off the interstate, but it was an extra $40 a night. There was a cluster of hotels near the Hazleton airport, and in my booking, I found a Ramada Hazleton for a reasonable amount a night, and, never having a problem with a Ramada before, decided this would be a good idea. There were a couple of concerning reviews, but it is always the people who had bad experiences who go online and yell about it, and there were a lot of positive reviews as well, so I pulled the trigger.

The people who left positive reviews of the hotel were clearly plants. I pulled into the hotel at around 11:15 PM, and there was a big group of people having a party in the parking lot. I would find an even larger group having a party around the pool. None of this particularly mattered for me, as I had a second-floor room toward the back of the place. The hotel had clearly seen better days during the Reagan Administration and possessed a weird layout, but I wasn't too concerned until I got to the room.

The room was a little worn down, which I can't necessarily criticize, but there were legitimate things to glom onto. The TV sported big stickers warning that they would not work if they left the premises. The curtains didn't close correctly to prevent people from seeing into the room unless you do some complex origami with the edges of the curtains. The fire alarm had been ripped out of my wall. The heat lamp in the bathroom had been replaced by an energy-efficient bulb that was just another light. And then I found the desecrated socks under the bed frame. They clearly had been there for a while, and looked and smelled like they had been regurgitated by a whale.

The bed was nice enough, and the TV, dresser, and desk were all serviceable. The room had a split bathroom, with the sink and vanity outside, and the toilet and shower in a separate room. Everything worked, more or less, but that $40 more a night I could have spent at Holiday Inn Express suddenly seemed a penny wise choice, and I had finally found a Ramada that was disappointing.

On Interesting Conversations

Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, 2014
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Staten Island Yankees (New York Yankees) vs.
State College Spikes (St. Louis Cardinals)
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
NY-PENN League (Short-Season A)
State College, PA
7:05 PM

Outside the Game:
I woke up the next morning with no particular agenda for most of the day. I took my time getting up and dragged myself downstairs for some breakfast buffet. On the way, I found out that someone had left the large, burning remains of something next to my room. So I had that going for me.

The breakfast buffet was crowded with a religious group whose organizers were trying to usher said group out as quickly as possible. "Switch the AM to PM, guys, and that's when we get home." So, I'm assuming some manner of a 12-hour drive ahead of them. I snuck in and got some of the under-appealing food (I mean, how do you screw up tater tots?), ate and went back up to my room.

Showered, I began packing up for the day, when I realized that I had left my game bag at home the night before. Because it was going to be this kind of day. I added a trip to an office supply store to my To-Do list, and headed out to my car. It was driving a little rough the last night, so I decided to check out my oil levels. I found out two things in quick succession: 1) The "Low Oil" light on my car doesn't work, 2) I needed some oil pronto.

A quick stop at a nearby gas station later, I topped off my oil, and then pointed the car east again to get to State College. Thankfully, it was another uneventful ride. Having no other destination, I had my TomTom take me right to the ballpark, which was in the heart of the monster of Penn State, literally across the street from the Stadium that Predatory Pedophilia Built (aka the football stadium). I drove around the block a couple of times, and decided to just go for it and park in the VIP lot behind the park and hope I didn't get towed in the five minutes it took me to buy a ticket.

I was successfully able to buy a ticket and get back to my car without incident, so I headed up the road to the Visitors Center, because Penn State is so friggin' huge, it needs its own Visitor Center. I was surprised by the number of cars there in the middle of the summer, but I soon found out there was weekend-long arts festival in town, which certainly explained why there were no hotels available in town when I was considering it.

I grabbed some pamphlets and maps, and I immediately saw my first stop, a local park that shared the last name as a friend of mine. A short drive got me over there, and once I parked, a quick phone call established that a branch of his family had headed to central PA, and apparently done well enough for themselves as to rate a memorial park with a dog run and a butterfly garden.


After traipsing about the park, I needed to get some lunch. I looked in the TomTom for the nearest office supply store, figuring that there would probably be a fast food restaurant or two nearby. My gamble paid off, and I grabbed some lunch before going into a Staples and buying regular pencils, colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, an eraser, and some rubber bands. I didn't get any strange looks at the register, but I went out to my car in the parking lot and assembled my hasty game kit, which I could now leave in the car against other similar emergencies.

With a chunk of afternoon still in front of me, I considered playing some mini-golf, but instead headed over to Boalsburg, a olde timey town right near State College that seemed to have a couple of museums worth seeing. Well, it turned out that the huge arts festival was just across the main drag from Boalsburg. After fighting through the traffic to get to Boalsburg proper, it turned out that most of the attractions in Boalsburg were being co-opted for parking for the arts festival. I was able to find a space and walk around a little, but everything I was interested in was closed for the festival.

I eventually went up the Penn State Arboretum for a bit. There was a wedding being held there, and I just walked around until I found a shady spot, and took a nap to refresh me from the humid afternoon and steel me for the ride back to Hazleton after the game.

It was time to get to the park, so I drove across town to the stadium, found that the parking lot price had dropped $2 in the intervening time, and put my car near an exit. I got out with my impromptu game bag, took my pictures, and got in line for the game.

On the way out, I was out of the stadium before they even lowered the lights for the fireworks. I made it to my car and got out to I-80 at around 10 PM with no traffic holdups. It was then a matter of pointing my car east and flooring it until I was back in Hazleton. It was just a 20-something car screaming through the night with a forty-something driver, and I made it back to the hotel a little before midnight.

Back at the hotel, I was reassured to find the gang of middle-aged fishing enthusiasts partying in the lot the night before replaced by college-aged douchebags partying in the parking lot at midnight. I bought a bottle of water and went up to my room, packed up, and went to bed hopeful of getting some rest.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
Home plate to center field, Medlar Field at Lubrano Park

Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is one of these stadiums that gets as much naming as possible for the dollar crammed in there. It is located within the Penn State athletic complex, right across the street from Beaver Stadium, the House that Pedophilia built. When not in use by the Spikes, Medlar is used for the Penn State baseball team, and perhaps as such, it is much nicer than the average NY-PENN League stadium. You can circumnavigate the outside of the park, but as it is in the sports complex, there's nothing much around it than other stadiums and parking lots, except for the Porter Gardens, one last gasp to cram in some more naming opportunities. A small VIP lot is in the back by the players' entrance, but one of the big football lots across the street is also used to house baseball fans.

A jutting archway with the ticket booth separates the season ticket holder entrance on one side from the larger main gate to the other side. Both empty out into a main entrance plaza behind home plate, with access to the main team store, and space for folding tables for autograph sessions or whatever groups are doing promos at the park that day.

A main concourse runs from outfield to outfield above the seating bowl below. There are no paths in between the seats, but the rows are far enough apart that walking isn't an issue. A second level tops from first base to third base, housing the press box and luxury boxes, a fairly rare item in the short-season A league. In right field, there's the "Spikes Fun Deck," a patio with a couple of unique concessions and patio seating, which ends in right-center with a deck of bleachers rising up from the promenade. Left field ends in a kids play area (including an arcade), and the Pepsi Picnic Pavilion, housing an all-you-can eat patio. All the concessions are along the promenade, and have some slick signage at the entrance to the park. A plaque about Mount Nitany is on the third-base side, facing out to the mountain itself in right-center a mandatory "road to the show" display is at the entrance, as well as the memorial plaques for the parks many namesakes just outside the main entrance.

Spike the deer. That is not a command.

There's a bunch of mascots for the Spikes. There's the namesake Spike the Deer, the blue Nook Monster (sponsored by a local bank), LuCKy the Lion (who mostly mans a K-board out in right field), and "Jane Doe," a woman in an old-timey women's baseball uniform, with the addition of a deer tail. Most of the on-field events are your standard minor-league races, contests, and give-aways. They did have a unique contest where a contestant gets to roll three dice, and if they spell out "KIA," she wins a car, as well as an event when the fun crew just comes out and throws candy to the crowd. This definitely would not have been welcome at my last stop, Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

There was a proposal the night I was there. While I was watching it up on the scoreboard, I completely missed that it was happening about five seats down to my left. The intended said "yes," and there was a good five minutes of promotional picture taking with Spike after that proposal acceptance.

At the Game with Oogie:
Pulled pork platter

I had gotten a "Diamond Club" ticket behind the home dugout, as is my normal method of operation, so I was a little surprised to find when I entered the park that it had foul ball netting that extended largely from first base to third base. I wondered for a moment if I had been transported to Asia, but this was the first park in America that I had seen with extended netting in a very long time.

In doing my walk-arounds, I decided on some BBQ brisket meal from a place in left field to eat, and then, still hungry, I got a Polish sausage from a stand by home plate.

My seats were quite good, but, as mentioned, behind an annoying foul ball net that made me a little bit sad. There was a family sitting to my left, and a couple a little older than me to my right. Sometime in the middle innings, the head groundskeeper came up to them to ask the husband for some field care advise. He had mentioned during the conversation that his daughter was working on the grounds crew for the Reading Phillies.

We had spoken once or twice during the game about plays in the game, but I used the opening of her daughter working for the Reading Phillies to mention how much I loved that stadium, and we got talking. He did some grounds crew consulting, clearly, and I started talking about my trips, which carried us through in pleasant conversation for the rest of the game.

When the couple went away to grab some beer before last call, I became aware of an older couple behind me that I either couldn't hear or wasn't paying attention to because of my own conversation. The older woman was having a very quiet conversation with everyone at bat for the home team, telling the batter that we just really needed a hit right now, or to take to a strike, or other instructions. There's no way the players could hear her, but she kept on this endearing stream of consciousness with them for the entirety of the game.

The Game:
First pitch, Yankees vs. Spikes
First pitch, Yankees vs. Spikes

The Spikes, dominating their division, were facing the faltering SI Yankees, struggling to stay in a tie for second place in their division. There was some noise early, but this one ended up playing out as you'd expect.

The game began with a walk, which is never a good sign. The runner reached second on a ground-out to short, and then scored on a two-out triple, before a pop-out to left ended the half at 1-0, Yankees. The Spikes came right back in the bottom of the first. Back-to-back singles made it first and third with no outs, and then the trailing runner stole, and the catcher put the throw in center, allowing the lead run to score and the trailing runner to make it to third with no outs. A single brought him home as well. A one-out single made it first and third, and a grounder to short brought in a run and let the lead runner make it to second. The next batter got plunked, but a fly to left ended the bottom of the first, with the Spikes gaining a 3-1 advantage.

The Yankees cooled down in the second, with only a one-out single to show for it. The Spikes had a one-out single followed by another single. The lead runner tried for third too late and got caught in a complicated run down, ending with himself out and the tailing runner at second. And he'd stay there, as yet another fly-out to left ended the half.

Staten Island had a rally in the third, with back-to-back, one-out singles that left it first and third. A grounder to third scored the runner, but a fly (to center this time) ended the half at 3-2, Spikes. State College came back with a single to start the inning that chased the Yankees' pitcher. A one-out single made it first and third, but the trailing runner was gunned down trying to steal second. A two-out single brought the lead runner from third in before a ground-out ended the inning 4-2, Spikes.

There was finally a clear frame as the Yankees went in order in the fourth, as did the Spikes. The Yankees kept it going in the fifth, but the Spikes apparently had some more work to do. Back-to-back walks started the bottom of the inning, and then a double cleared the bases. A grounder to first moved the runner to third, but a liner to second by the next batter caught the lead runner off the bag to end the inning with an unusual double play, but not before the Spike's hadn't extended their lead to 6-2.

Staten Island had a leadoff single in the sixth, but he was erased on a ground-out fielder's choice to short. For some reason, the Yankees' manager had an issue with this, and eventually got tossed from the game and made a slow, petulant walk to the outfield clubhouse. A ground-rule double temporarily prevented a run and made it second and third with one out. A sacrifice fly brought in the runner from third before a groundout closed the half at 6-3, Spikes. State College got a one-out single who proceeded to steal second before the next batter was walked. And then, just for fun, he also stole third. The trailing runner was caught in his own steal attempt, but the next batter was hit by the pitcher. The rally ended, however, with a ground-out to short.

The Yankees went in order in the seventh and eighth, as did the Spikes. In the top of the ninth, however, the Yankees had a leadoff single, but it was erased on a double-play. Another single followed, but a strikeout ended the game at 6-3, Spikes.

The Scorecard:
Yankees vs. Spikes, 07-12-14. Spikes win, 6-3.
Yankees vs. Spikes, 07/12/14. Spikes win, 6-3.

Unlike a lot of NY-PENN League teams, the Spikes give away a free, pamphlet-sized newsprint program, with color magazine covers. It wasn't tissue-paper newsprint, however, so the scorecard in the centerfold wasn't constantly getting ripped or torn by the mere act of writing on it with pencils.

It was a bit of an odd design, as it had somewhat small squares, but it wedged in ball and strike boxes, which made it nearly impossible to write in how the batter got to first base outside of a single line for a single hit (but the direction had to be foregone for space concerns). I ended up writing anything other than a single (walk, hit batsman, etc) on the inside of the pre-printed diamond. Also, the scorecard lacked a pitching line. I used the small notes area in the bottom-left corner to at least list out the pitchers.

Unlike a lot of my previous games that did not have any interesting scorings, they were abundant in this contest. The first was in the bottom of the second, with a "CS 4-5-4-5-6-5t" thanks to a rundown drawn out to let the trailing runner make it to second. In the bottom of the fifth, there was the uncommon "DP L4-5" combo, as a liner to second doubled up the runner at third who was too far off the bag to get back. And in the top of the ninth, the game ended with another odd double-play, a "DP 4t-4-3," as the second baseman tagged the runner going to second before firing to first for the force play.

The Accommodations:
Regretfully, the Ramada Hazleton again.

On Getting It Over With

Sunday, July 13, 2014
Hoboken, NJ

Outside the Game:
I seriously reconsidered my choice of hotel at 6:30 AM in the morning, when some manner of alarm went on outside my room for a good fifteen minutes. I was really kicking myself when it went off again just shy of 8 AM.

I finally got up for real, grumpy and looking for trouble, at a little before 9 AM. I packed up my car, got some breakfast, and checked out. I was accosted at the counter by an overly enthusiastic Indian gentleman who wanted to know how I was doing. And so I told him for a good five minutes, and then told him to stuff his apologies up a part of his anatomy. I believe I had mentioned I was grumpy.

I was out on the road around a quarter after nine, and listened to the end of the staticy first segment of Talking Baseball as I headed East. I just wanted to get home at this point, and there are a couple of traffic laws that may have been slightly ignored during the trip. Thankfully, there was no traffic to speak of, but circumventing idiots from Pennsylvania sitting in the left lane (while not passing and barely doing the limit) is nearly impossible, especially when you're their misbegotten homeland.

But I pulled into Hoboken at around 11 AM just as Ed Randall was signing off for the morning. I parked up, dragged my stuff back to the apartment, and prepared for a strenuous afternoon of soaking in the tub and napping. There was also some laundry.

A fine time was had by all.

The Accommodations:
As always, Hoboken

2014 Stand-Alone Trip