Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Danville


On a Big Rivalry Writ Small

American Legion Field
American Legion Field, 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2018
Kingsport Mets (New York Metropolitans) vs.
Danville Braves (Atlanta Braves)
Appalachian League (Rookie+)
American Legion Field
Danville, VA
7:05 PM

Outside the Game: 
Even with a good amount of sleep the night before with no drive ahead of it, it was still a lazy, lazy morning getting up. I had a lazy breakfast, followed by lazily going back to my room, and taking a lazy shower before packing lazily, and then lazily flopping back on the bed for a bit. After another doze, I had enough energy to pack up, check out, and hit the road.

It was just under two hours down to Danville from Salem. If you aren't paying attention and miss the exit, you can easily slip right across the border to North Carolina, which I almost did, delaying my first visit to that state by at least a year. Thankfully, I turned off the road just in time.

Danville isn't exactly a mecca of activity, but it did have one attraction I was looking forward to: The AAF Tank Museum. I pulled up to an empty-looking parking lot, which should have been a bit of a sign, but I ended up having to get out and wander a bit before seeing the sign saying that the museum was only open on the weekend. I was disappointed, but it was pretty much my own fault for not checking more closely, which is the sort of thing I am wont to do.
The only other place of interest in town was the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History. I'm not exactly sure where the "fine arts" worked itself in, but the museum was in the Sutherlin mansion and the cause by which Danville calls itself the "Last Capital of the Confederacy." A fleeing Jefferson Davis made it to Danville ahead of his Union pursuers and spent a night at the house before the end of the war, making it the last traitor capital. The mansion itself was quite nice and well-kept, and ignoring the fact that they had a slave mannequin in the main bedroom, it had a surprisingly even-handed approach to the history, talking about why the stars and bars wasn't so special, and even admitting that slavery was the cause of the war, which you don't hear often enough in the South.
I spent some time there before heading out to my hotel, yet another Best Western. I got my stuff in and took a much-needed nap and shower after a hot afternoon before heading out to the game. A short drive got me out to the field, which was pretty much a slightly upgraded American Legion ballpark, and I parked in the small lot before grabbing a ticket and heading inside.

After the game was more of the same, with a short drive back to the hotel, where I settled in for the remainder of the evening on the couch (because why not use the couch?) before heading to sleep.


The Stadium & Fans: 

Home to center, American Legion Field
Home plate to center field, American Legion Field

American Legion Field is just that: an American Legion Baseball field that got spruced up a little for its minor promotion to a Rookie-league field where the ambiance is still decidedly "chain-link." There is just one entrance to the park, through one of many chain-link fences, just next to the tiny little outbuilding ticket booth that services the stadium. The entrance opens out into a little plaza that runs behind first base to home plate, where a lot of the stands, concessions, kids area, and team store are located. Small walkways run behind the stands to the bullpens in the outfield corners, with an additional opened-up picnic area and bar in left field around the corner from the main concession stand.

Three separate, covered grandstands with cooling fans and bunting are behind home plate, and then smaller ones flanking them on either baseline, ending right by the dugouts. Bleacher seats run the rest of the distance down the baselines out to the outfield, with small walking paths at the base of each bleachers or grandstand. The press box sits at the top of the home plate grandstand. Everything shy of the bleachers is covered by netting or chain-link fences, presumably for safety.

A double-tier outfield wall stands in front of a hill and tress that provide the stadium backdrop. A small digital scoreboard sits in left-center to keep the fans appraised of the goings-on. Some art and murals are on the back of the grandstands, along with a road to the show plaque, stadium dedication plaques, and some player banners.
Blooper the bird is the local mascot, and he spends the entire game schmoozing with fans or leading the limited between-inning entertainment common to rookie-league ball. He seems pretty well liked, especially by the kids, who sprint to see him whenever he appears.

The turnout was sparse for this weekday game. There were few people in the grandstand and fewer in the bleachers. And for whatever it is worth, there were more than a few Mets fans in attendance, and my personal appearance was a not insignificant part of the crowd who happily saw the Metropolitans beat the Braves in literally any scenario.


At the Game with Oogie: 

Scoring
Chain-link scoring

I actually had a rooting interest in this game, as the visiting Mets were playing the Braves in the big-league rivalry write small. So, I got a seat on the grandstand near the visiting dugout. I was actually in the last row right against the chain-link fence overlooking the walkway between the dugout and the visitors' clubhouse, so I was able to get a good look of the baby Mets coming and going throughout the game. There was an older couple in front of me, and off to the right, there was a young woman keeping score of the game who was clearly the girlfriends of one of the Kingsport players. For all of it, no one seemed to notice my Cyclones hat, except for one of the trainers on the Mets who happened to look up on his way to the clubhouse and pointing to his head when he saw me looking down at him.
Going local, I grabbed a baloney sandwich and iced lemonade to eat, along with a tiny souvenir cup of soda.


The Game: 

First pitch, Mets vs. Braves
First pitch, Mets vs. Braves

This little-league matchup between the rookie-league clubs of the Braves and the Mets didn't quite have the fire of the clash of the big clubs, but it was a tight pitchers' duel, that either bodes well for the teams' future pitching or poorly for the teams' hitting, or perhaps both.

The visiting Mets got two, two-out singles in the top of the first and nothing else. Danville started the game with a single that made it to third on a stolen base and an error by the catcher, but he was erased on a suicide squeeze attempt, and the score remained nil. Kingsport went in order despite a leadoff single thanks to a caught stealing, and the Braves went in order in more conventional fashion in their half. The Mets got a man to third of a single, balk, and a ground-out, but stranded him there, while Danville did the same with a leadoff walk, single, and ground-out.

Kingsport went in order despite a reach on error due to another caught stealing in the top of the fourth, while the Braves had only a single to show for the bottom of the inning. In the top of the fifth, the Mets loaded the bases with an error and two singles but, in true Mets fashion, stranded everyone, while Danville just had a single the bottom half. In the top of the sixth, there was finally a score, as Kingsport got a two-out homer to right, while the Braves went in order.

The Mets managed to go in order again despite a walk with a double play in the top of the seventh, while Danville had a one-out single get all the way to third thanks to an error by the catcher, but the runner was thrown out trying for home by the third baseman. Kingsport went in order in the eighth, while the braves got another leadoff single to third base and no further with a stolen base and another error by the catcher. The Mets went out in the top of the ninth with just a single, while in their last licks, Danville got a one-out single swapped for a pinch runner, but on first he stayed, and the visiting Mets walked away with a 1-0 victory.


The Scorecard: 

Mets vs. Braves, 06-30-15. Mets win, 1-0.
Mets vs. Braves, 06/30/15. Mets win, 1-0.

The scorecard was part of the $1 full-color magazine program, and it was bizarrely located near the back of the pogrom instead of in the traditional centerfold. It was only one page, but took up nearly the entire page, except for the team header at the top. It, however, had glossy magazine paper, so it was hard to write in pencil, and especially colored pencil. Each batting line had space for one replacement and batter totals at the end, with inning totals at the bottom of the inning columns. Each scoring square had a pre-printed diamond, which frankly just took up precious real estate in the tiny scoring squares, making it cramped to record the game. Pitching lines were beneath each batting line, and there was given space for umpires (not announced), date, and start and finish times.

There were a number of plays that got specific notes. The bottom of the first features a 1-2 put out on a failed suicide squeeze. The Kingsport catcher was the K-Man of the game, but he did not strike out. In the top of the fourth was a CS 1-3 that was on a pickoff. And in the top of the sixth, after a called third strike, the hitting coach got himself ejected for arguing the call with the umpire. The bottom of the seventh had a truly bizarre play with a man on first. A bunt was throw away by the catcher for a two-base E2, but the runner at third kept going, and was the victim of a 5-2 put out at home.

From the hard-luck department, Braves' reliever Phillips was hung with the loss, despite the best pitching line of the day, with 3 innings pitching, 1 earned run on one hit, but with six strikeouts otherwise. On, well.

There was also Baseball Bingo that night, and you got free cards with the program. I didn't win, or even get close with the two cards I was given.


The Accommodations: 
Best Western
Best Western

I was in a suite at the Best Western Windsor Inn in Danville for the evening. The suite entrance was just to the left of the bathroom, with its big tub, room-length vanity, and toilet. The sitting room came next, with a pull-out couch, lounge chair, coffee table, and desk. And then was the bedroom, with the king-sized bed and nightstands across from the dresser with the TV above it. It was comfy, quiet, and I abused the hell out of that tub.


2015 Virginia

Monday, June 29, 2015

Salem


On Certain Things Being True

Salem Memorial Stadium
Salem Memorial Stadium, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015
Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland Indians) vs. 
Salem Red Sox (Boston Red Sox)
Carolina League (A+)
Salem Memorial Stadium
Salem, VA
7:05 PM


Outside the Game: 
I had a bit of a lazy morning in Harrisonburg, flopping back onto my bed after getting the breakfast buffet. Another nap girded me with enough confidence to get on with the day, so I had a quick shower and packed up for the rest of the drive to Salem.

The drive out wasn't bad at all, and since there was not much to do in Salem, I went to next-door Roanoke to kill my afternoon. The first stop was the Mill Mountain Zoo, which, as you might imagine, is located on the top of a mountain, necessitating a little bit of complex driving up a windy and steep switchback road. There is quite the view from the top, however. It was a fine little zoo, and I went through and saw all the animals before grabbing some food from the cafeteria there and heading back down the mountain.

Zoo
This caavy did not like me.

On the way down, a glance at my gas tank got me terrified, as I was dangerously low on fuel and had just noticed it. The good news is that I could literally just coast down the mountain using no gas while I frantically tried to find the nearest gas station at the bottom of the mountain on my GPS. It was just a few turns away, and I managed to quickly rescue myself from a bad situation, as well as find out exactly hold large the gas tank on my rental car was.

Model train
Dino attack

With a new, full tank of gas, I made my way over to the Virginia Museum of Transportation, which was an eclectic little place. There was a whole section on model trains, and a display in there just about circus trains, which was all so specific I couldn't help but love it. A large garage area had a bunch of old cars--including a DeLorean and a Model 42 electric car from 1912--as well as a recreation of a regional gas station. An outside rail shed area had a number of trains, streetcars, and even an old horse and buggy hearse.

DeLorean
Get in the car, Marty!

When I had been through all the museum, I drove over to my hotel for the evening in Salem, checking in and dumping all my stuff in my room as the skies grew grey. I took a quick nap and then headed over to the stadium, where I had to park a long distance away because of a fair that was being assembled in the parking lots closest to the park. I did my due diligence outside and went in as soon as the gates opened.

After the game, I took the short drive back to my hotel, and reveled in an early evening that let me catch up with my paperwork, organize a bit, and then hit the sack early to try and get back some energy that had been sapped out of me by long drives the first few days of the trip.


The Stadium & Fans: 

Home to center, Salem Memorial Stadium
Home plate to center field, Salem Memorial Stadium

Lewis Gale Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark is a bit of a mouthful, but then, so is the park, especially for A-ball. The Rex Sox always have top-flight facilities throughout their minor-league system, whether or not there are fans there to support it. The brick-faced park is part of a larger sports complex that includes a football field next door and an indoor sports facility. There’s a large parking lot for it all, but it was mostly taken up by a carnival that they were setting up. The only entrance was at the plaza fence behind home plate, although the season ticket holder entrance had a fake red carpet painted on the pavement. Stand-alone ticket booths lurk outside the gates as well.

The entrance gate opens into a wide pavilion outside of the grandstand. It is a misnomer to even call it a promenade, as it is just all the area outside the seating bowl, although there are sidewalks around it. This is paralleled by a wide walkway in the seating area that runs outfield to outfield and splits up the lower box seats from the upper seating area, with several ramps connecting the two. The outer walkway holds concessions and outbuildings that house the admin offices, the team store, the white-picketed birthday zone, and the Salem Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame. It also has a Whiffle-ball-scale Fenway Park, complete with Green Monster. The grandstand walkway also has concession stands on the first and third base ramps.

A double-decker second deck runs around the home plate area, hosting the press box and a variety of luxury boxes and party decks. Left field ends in a large picnic party deck, behind home plate has a wide patio area with bar seats and tables, and right field also ends in a large party deck overlooking the bullpen. Most of the seating bowl is a lower and upper seating area spilt by the walkway, but the areas from about the dugouts to the short outfields also have an upper level. While lacking a proper “Green Monster,” the double-tiered outfield wall in the batter’s eye is a dark green approximation, with the rest of the wall covered in local ads and overlooking the trees and mountains that provide the backdrop for the game. The digital video scoreboard rises in right-center to keep fans appraised of the game. There are a number of memorials and dedications in the park in addition to the stadium dedication, including a POW/MIA seat and the championships baseball on the press box.

Mascot
Drunk townie, the mascot

Mugsy the dog, fairly reminiscent of a drunk Boston townie, whether intentionally or not, is the mascot of the roost. He and the human entertainment team ran the between-inning entertainment, a minor-league standard of quizzes, races, and contests. The crowd was extremely sparse, whether due to threatening weather or otherwise. But the groundskeepers had a dog to help them, so that was a bonus.


At the Game with Oogie:

Grub
More boneless wings

 I got in at gates open and started taking all my pictures at the unexpectedly large grounds of the stadium. I was also starving, so I managed to have three meals over the course of the evening, starting with a "Boston Dog" basket with fries, then getting a pulled pork sandwich, and not quite yet being full, I snagged some chicken wings and fries, which was eventually enough to tide me over for the rest of the evening.

Grub
Boston Dog and souvenir soda

My seat was in the lower deck just short of first base. There was next to no one in my area, as these were probably season ticket holders, and with the threatening weather, I guess a lot of people weren't looking to come out for a Monday ballgame. After a brisk 2.5 hour game, I was back on my way out for the short drive back to my hotel for a mercifully early evening to make up for the ton of driving I'd been doing on the trip to this point.


The Game: 

First pitch
First pitch, Hillcats vs. Red Sox

This was a mid-season contest between the division leading Lynchburg Hillcats and the bottom-dwelling Salem Red Sox, and it went exactly as you'd expect it to, although the game was probably closer than you'd imagine.

Lynchburg began the game by going in order, while the Red Sox jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a double and a single to bring him in. The Hillcats had two stranded singles in the top of the second, and Salem went in order despite an infield single thanks to a caught stealing. Lynchburg left a walk and a single on the base paths in the top of the third, and the Red Sox went in order in their half.

The Hillcats finally got it in gear in the top of the fourth with a leadoff double and a one-out double combining to tie it up at one apiece. Salem only had two walks in the bottom of the frame. Lynchburg had a leadoff double in the top of the fifth, but he only got as far as third, while the Red Sox stranded their own man at third in the bottom of the inning after a two-out triple. The Hillcats went in order in the sixth, while Salem just had a single to show for their time at bat.

Both sides went in order in the seventh, but Lynchburg found the plate again in the top of the eighth with a leadoff single, error by the third baseman, and two sacrifices (bunt and fly) to bring in one run, and a single and a long double to bring in another, to stake themselves to their first lead at 3-1. The Red Sox got a man as far as third thanks to a single, walk, and ground out, but no one came across. The Hillcats had a solitary one-out double in the top of the ninth, while Salem could only muster a one-out hit batsman as the Lynchburg closer sealed up the 3-1 victory.


The Scorecard: 

Hillcats vs. Red Sox, 06-29-15. Hillcats win, 3-1.Hillcats vs. Red Sox, 06-29-15. Hillcats win, 3-1.
Hillcats vs. Red Sox, 06/29/15. Hillcats win, 3-1.

The only thing worse than a bad scorecard is a potentially great scorecard that was ruined by some questionable choices. The Salem scorecard was a $1 full-color tri-fold on good cardstock. Half of the center three panels was taken up by the scorecard itself, with the rest bearing two columns of ads on either side of the card and a small ad at the top for the printing house that did the card--who shouldn't be so proud, really. Because they arranged the card so that the two scoring areas were bisected by the two folds, which made it incredibly difficult to score with the fold locations. Moving the ads to the right of each scoring area would have easily fixed this problem, but instead we are left with this monstrosity.

Otherwise, it is a very nice card with a lot of room for scoring. Each batting line comes with spaces for two replacements and includes batting totals to the right of each batting line and full inning statistics at the bottom of each innings column. Each scoring box has a Scoremaster-esque balls and strikes boxes in the upper left corner, along with a pre-printed diamond that wasn't an issue because of all the space. Pitching lines were at the bottom, above lines for the catchers and umpires. There was color printing beneath the scorecard, but as it was printed into the cardstock, smudging wasn't an issue, and it was printed on a white background, so there was plenty of space for notes.

With the balls and strikes boxes, I recorded fouls as well using right slashes for swinging strikes and left slashes for fouls. There were a number of plays of note, as well as the usual minor league shenanigans. The Hillcats DH was the K batter of the game, but he did not strike out, and the Red Sox center fielder was the RBI Man of the game, but he didn't get an RBI.

The weird plays got going early in the bottom of the first, when with a man on first, there was a pop fly to left that was mangled by the left fielder, leading to a two-base error. The first pitch of the next at bat, there was a wild pitch, and the runner from third came home, but was caught out, CS 2-1. Then, in the top of the second, there were two odd plays. First, there was a grounder to third that was played roughly by the third baseman, and his throw to first was not in time. It was originally reported as an E5 but it was reversed to a hit in the third inning for some reason--perhaps some quiet reflection. Also in the top of the second, there was a hot grounder down the first base line that was nearly a 3-1 putout, but the pitcher had to come off the bag for the throw, but it was immediately scored an infield single. And in the top of the eighth, a runner got around the bases a little non-regularly. There was an infield single to the third baseman, who then managed to throw it away after the runner made it to first, thus sending him to second. A sacrifice bunt got him to third, and then a sacrifice fly to center scored him, but only after a tremendous effort by the center fielder to make a diving catch on the blast to left center.


The Accommodations: 
After several days of checking out, going to a game, and then driving to a hotel, it was nice to settle down in one place and not have a long drive after the game. Except that the Comfort Suites at Ridgewood Farms was undergoing renovations, which would explain why I got in so cheaply. Even with the construction, which really didn't affect me too much, it was a good stay.

My room had two double beds and a nightstand and easy chair on one wall and a desk and dresser and TV on the other. A sizeable bathroom was off the entrance to the room, with a big tub and decent-sized vanity. As I said, I was able to get rested without being bothered by the construction at all, so win/win as far as I'm concerned.


2015 Virginia