Wednesday, March 11, 2015


On Seeing Something New

brighthouse field
brighthouse field, 2015
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies
brighthouse field
Grapefruit League (Spring Training)
Clearwater, FL
1:05 PM

Outside the Game:
The day began after all the residents from the house had left. Well, at least all those residents with only two legs had left. As I staggered downstairs the next morning, all three dogs whom I had just become acquainted the night before were waiting at the pet gate at the bottom of the stairs, demanding to know where I'd been for the last eight hours and why they weren't invited--and, hey, we forgive you, can you please pet us? Oh, yes. Right there.

Actually, only two of them were at the base of the stairs, because Loki is so rambunctious that he has to be kept in his crate all day, lest he completely destroy the house. I had been asked to let everyone out before I headed out that morning, so I liberated the prisoner, sent them all outside, and waited for them to do their doggy business.

Business complete, I tried to herd them all back inside (which was easy enough), but getting day-pass back into his crate took some doing. I eventually had an idea and I faked getting into the crate myself, and Loki finally got territorial enough to claim it for himself. Sealing him in, I grabbed my stuff and headed out into the Florida morning.

It was under an hour to the stadium, and it was another park with an early opening, so I headed straight there. Once I got to the area of the stadium, I made a quick stop off for gas and some breakfast at a 7/11 and then went to find the lot at the park.

I did a run around the entire facility. While there was cheaper $5 parking to be had down the street, I paid $10 for the lot closer to the field, locked up, and headed over to the stadium.

I arrived right as the park was about to open 2.5 hours before gametime, so I did my once-over of the place. On one side, the practice fields prevented me from going all the way around, and the walkway ended in a VIP parking area on the other side, so I eventually went in the second entrance in the back and did my thing.

After the (extended) game, I walked back out to my car and set out immediately back to my friends' house. It was 4 PM by the time I was on the road, and I was looking to avoid as much traffic as possible. As it stood, I had about 10 minutes of slow-downs tacked onto my trip, but that was about it. I pulled in right before her husband, and I went up to the guest room to shower off three layers of sunscreen and sweat before dinner.

With a pleasant dinner behind us, we shot Nerf guns and other amusements until they went to put the kids to bed, leaving the adults to watch a TIVOed Agents of SHIELD from the night before while enjoying some adult beverages before heading to bed.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center, brighthouse field
Home plate to center field, brighthouse field

Brighthouse Field (or "brighthouse field" as they would have it, in Cummings fashion) sits in the home of the world's favorite cult, Scientology. There's nothing overtly obvious about the cult at the park, but as with everything in Clearwater, they have a hand in it somewhere. No better place for the Phillies to be, really.

The park itself is of recent vintage. All the entrances are up stairways from the sidewalk that surrounds the park. The main entrance is behind home plate and just in front of a baseball fountain. The plaza is right next to the ticket office and the team store, and it overlooks the Phillies' practice fields on the right, just past the third-base side of the field. The sidewalk extends down the first base and right field line outside the park, with a second entrance up the stairs by first base, and a suite entrance a little further on from that. Outside the park on the right field side ends on a service entrance.

Both entrances to the park empty out onto a promenade that circles the park from the top of the seating bowl, and all the stores, concessions, and other facilities are on this walkway. The main seating bowl extends down via regular stairways to seats that ring the park from outfield to outfield. Right field has a picnic hill that extends to center, and left field has an area of four-seat tables that runs to left-center field under Frenchy's bar in left, with another berm hill in dead center. The main digital video board sits in left-center, and a small auxiliary board is in right-center. Both extend up from a single-row outfield wall covered in local ads, looking onto a backdrop of palm trees and nothing just beyond the park.

A second level extends above the seats running from first to third base behind the dugout, holding the press box, a party deck, and the luxury boxes, as well as giving a little bit of shade to the grandstand. Hooters sponsors a VIP dugout seat section that is manned by bored-looking Hooters girls who double as ball girls for the game. Lifeguard seats are available in left field, overlooking the Phillies' practice fields beyond left field and third base. Besides the standard dedication plaques, there is a statue for the minor-league mascot Phlipper the dolphin, a "Heart Walk" around the park, and a Phillies' World Series banner on the right field wall.

The Phanatic makes friends

The good news is the only decent thing about the Phillies' team, the Phanatic, makes the trip down for the Spring, doing his thing before, during, and after the game. He is involved in many of the between-innings happenings, manning the hot dog shooting gun, hosting contests, and facing dance-off contenders. The Phillies also pulled a decent crowd for a Wednesday Spring Training day game, and no one booed Santa Claus for the duration of the game, nor were any cars set on fire, so the Philadelphia fans were on their best behavior.

At the Game with Oogie:
Dueling scorekeeping

I had purchased these tickets at the same time as all the others, yet they chose to wait until the day before I left on the plane to show up. Assuming that even the Phillies would put their fans in the shade side of the field, I had picked up a single three rows behind the dugout on the home side, to find that you can take only so much Philly out of someone. The home dugout was sitting solidly on the "stew & bake" side of the field, while most of the visiting Pirates fans rested comfortably in the shade.

Per kismet, the person in the seat directly to my left was an older Hispanic gentleman. He was right-handed, and I know this because as soon as he sat down, we immediately bumped elbows as we were writing in lineups in our scorebooks. We made a little joke about it.

A line of (drunkish) bikers from Philly were in the crowded row ahead of us, and a sole Pirates fan was also in front of me, with a wan-looking Philly fan to my right. We all got to talking, and the Pirates fan gave me good insights on some Bucks (and former Bucks) players (not to mention the extra baseball at the end of the game), while the guy on my right did the same about the Phillies players. They either didn't notice or were too polite to mention the Cyclones hat I was wearing, as always.

Just because

I got my requisite hot dog to eat (and the default dog here was cheap, filling, and tasty), and, since it was the Phillies, I also got a cheesesteak. It being a million degrees, I also partook greatly of the Gatorade on sale. Two or three were downed in the glorious goal of not dying of dehydration.

The Game:
First pitch, Pirates vs. Phillies
First pitch, Pirates vs. Phillies

This meaningless Grapefruit League game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies made even less sense than the normal games, as you'll see in a bit. Spoiler: the Phillies won, for whatever it was worth.

The game started slow, with the Pirates having only a walk in the top of the first. Philadelphia threatened in the bottom of the inning to no avail. A leadoff walk got to second on a pickoff throw gone awry by the pitcher and a sacrifice bunt over to third. He was cut down on a grounder to second, ending the threat. Pittsburgh just had a single in the top of the second, while the Phillies went in order. The Pirates started the scoring in the top of the third, with a walk and a homer to left giving them a 2-0 lead. Philadelphia got one back in the bottom of the third with a leadoff single that made it around with another single, a sacrifice bunt, and a ground-out to deep short to make it 2-1.

Both sides went in order in the fourth, and Pittsburgh had only a walk in the top of the fifth, while the Phillies went in order again. The Pirates went in order in the sixth, while Philadelphia finally shook it up with two runs in the bottom of the frame thanks to a walk, a single, and a ground out to a take a 3-2 lead.

Pittsburgh went in order in the seventh, and the Phillies just had a single in their half. The Pirates had a single in the top of the eighth, while Philadelphia went in order. In their last licks, Pittsburgh had a one-out single, but two ground outs ended the game with a Phillies' 3-2 win.

Except it didn't. The Phillies came out to bat in the bottom of the ninth even though they had the lead. Apparently, they do this sort of godless communism in Spring Training ball to make sure everyone gets their at-bats. Well, Philadelphia tacked on a two-out homer to center in the bottom of the ninth to make it 4-2. But not officially. I'm as confused as you are.

The Scorecard:
Pirates vs. Phillies, 03-11-15. Phillies "win," 4-2.Pirates vs. Phillies, 03-11-15. Phillies "win," 4-2.
Pirates vs. Phillies, 03/11/15. Phillies "win," 4-2.

The scorecard was the centerfold of the $4, full-color magazine program. The centerfold spread, however, was on thick paper stock and not glossy, so it was good was scoring in pencil. That about ends the positives. The scorecard was, at best, 50% of the spread, with the rest taking up by ads and ground rules. There was color printing behind the scoring squares which decreases legibility, but at least it didn't smudge or erase easily.

Each batting line was wide enough to encompass a replacement player, and each batting line ended with a batting summary, and each inning column ended with inning stats. There were no pitching lines included. There was at least some white space around the card for notes.

Ignoring the weird plays for a minute, let's talk about this game. First off, the Phillies played with a DH, while the Pirates did not. I wrote in the pitchers on top of the scorecard. And then there was the Phillies playing the bottom of the ninth inning. This required a bit of work. Firstly, I did the traditional double slash at the end of the eighth inning to show the end of the game. At the end of the superfluous ninth, I put a triple slash. For the four batters for the half inning, I put in their totals for the "real" game, and then a parenthetical for their stats in the last inning. I also drew a boarder around the inning total for the bottom of the ninth to set it apart and did a parenthetical totals for the team stats as well.

That out of the way, there were a couple of plays of note. A single in the top of the second happened because the pitcher didn't cover first base. There was an outfield assist in the bottom of the sixth as a Phillie tried to turn a single into a double and got CS 7-4. The teams did the ceremonial swapping of players, nearly all between the sixth and seventh innings. Only two players for the Phillies stayed in the entire game, and one of them hit the homer in the bottom of the ninth.

Sheesh. What a game.

The Accommodations:
As mentioned, I was at my friends' house again. My guest room with private bath remained large and private, so I had that going for me.

2015 Grapefruit League

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