Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dayton

On Appropriate Civic Pride

Fifth Third Field
Fifth Third Field, 2015


Saturday, September 5, 2015
Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto Blue Jays) vs.
Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds)
Fifth Third Field
Midwest League (A)
Dayton, OH
7:10 PM


Outside the Game: 
I woke up to torrential rain in Perrysburgh, which didn’t give me great hope for the day. I subsequently had a lazy morning, eventually mustering enough enthusiasm to go down to breakfast and then come back up to my room to sulk for a while longer.

Reaching back into my reserves, I again found the courage to shower, pack, and head out into the rainy early afternoon for my two-hour drive down to Dayton. In a small miracle, the weather got better and better as I drove, eventually arriving in Dayton to an impossibly hot and sunny late summer day. I went to the stadium, bought a ticket, took my outside pictures, and then went back to the hotel to collapse for a while. The trip was taking a toll on me at this point, and I was pretty sure I was done for the year.

I spent the afternoon just wallowing on the bed with intermittent naps until it was time to drive out for the last game of the trip, and probably the year. It was a short, uneventful drive, and I parked up and went in at gates open.

The trip back after successfully seeing the game was uneventful as well, and I spent the rest of the evening planning out what to do with my unexpected free day the next day. I had a tip from a co-worker that I was probably going to act on, so I did some research and then spent some in the tub before turning in.


The Stadium & Fans: 

Home to center, Fifth Third Field
Home plate to center field, Fifth Third Field

The second Fifth Third Field of my trip was in Dayton. It is another park dropped in the middle of a downtown Midwest “city,” with its brick facing and iron fences taking over a block or so of downtown real estate, along with a broad plaza in the shape of a baseball diamond dedicated to Don Crawford. Just around the corner from the stadium is “Ted Mills Baseball,” apparently a well-regarded baseball academy run by a local legend. Next to the main entrance in the plaza are a row of ticket booths built into the building, as well as the suites entrance to the park. Another general admissions entrance is found in center field.

The entrances dump out onto entry plazas at home and center onto a promenade that circles the entire field. All the concessions, stores, and other offerings are on the promenade facing the field so that fans can get food while still viewing the field. A single area of seats, accessible by intermittent stairways, extends down from the promenade, running from outfield corner to outfield corner. There is an additional area of seats in left field (“The Dragon’s Lair”), while a large picnic hill covers right field to center. A legitimate upper deck runs from first to third base, with a row of luxury boxes and party decks at the top of the upper seats, as well as the press box. The single-tier outfield wall only has three ads in the outfield corners, and it runs non-symmetrically, with some indents and out-dents in left-center and center. In one of the indented sections in left are a series of plaques to home sellout streaks and a retired number. The batters’ eye in center rises up to a large backing that covers part of the downtown cityscape that frames the park. The gigantic main digital video scoreboard looms in left-center, topped with a more sinister looking version of the mascot Heater which breathes fire with every Dragon home run. Auxiliary scoreboards are in the outfield wall and on the fronting of the upper deck. There are a covered picnic area in left field, and statue of the mascots at the home place entrance plaza.
Heater the dragon (get it?) is the local mascot, along with his distaff counterpart, Gem (also a dragon, but with a less aggressive themed name). Mascots are always popular, but Heater and Gem did seem particularly beloved by the fans, and they were mobbed as soon as they made their appearance in the entry plaza at the gate opening. There was a third mascot, the inflatable Wink, who I guess was a dragon as well. They schmoozed with the crowd all before and during the game, taking time out to help host the between-inning games on the field. Most of those activities were your standard-grade minor-league fare of silly contests, races, and give-aways, but there were some at least unique twists on them, including a tire race (where participants were girded in inflatable tires and forced to race) and a farm dance (a standard dance-off for kids, but they were dressed up in cow and chicken outfits for the duration). There was also a junior dance group on display this evening, who spend some of the inter-inning periods dancing on the tops of the dugouts.

Dayton has a placard boasting of their 1,000 consecutive sellouts, so it is not surprising that they drew a big crowd for the game, even if it was a relatively meaningless late-season contest. And the crowd was into the game as well as the other entertainment, so it seems that Dayton has at least a bright baseball future.


At the Game with Oogie: 

Scoring
Ohio scoring

I got in when the gates opened, and that was important, because there was a lot of ground to cover in the deceptively large stadium. Not to make a TARDIS analogy, but it was way bigger on the inside. I did my normal walking around and taking pictures. As I was getting my landscape shot from home plate, I sent a lady skittering to get out of my shot. It turned out she was a local reporter, and we talked a little bit about our particular gigs before I set off again on my quest.

I hit the steam store, got my score card filled with the lineups, and then went out in search of food. A brisket sandwich and souvenir soda were a good start, but a Polish sausage was necessary later to finish off the meals for the evening.
For most of the trip, I’d managed to find a dead space of seats, even in the most crowded parks, and that was the case again tonight. I was in the lower deck of the stadium in the last few rows of seats near third base. There was no one in my row or behind me, and there was only one older couple in the row ahead of me, so I was again mostly left to my own devices for the game.


The Game: 

First pitch, Lugnuts vs. Dragons
First pitch, Lugnuts vs. Dragons

This matchup between the Lugnuts--you know what's fun to say? Lugnuts--and the Dragons was a close contest until some late-inning scoring.

The Lugnuts got on the board first in the top of the first with a one-out homer to center. The Dragons came back with their own run in the bottom of the inning, with a one-out double brought in by a single, leaving it knotted at 1 at the end of one. Lansing loaded the bases in the top of the second with only one out, but while a grounder got the lead runner at home, a line drive was snagged by the shortstop to end the threat. The Dragons went in order for their part. The Lugnuts went ir order in the third, but Dayton opened the bottom of the inning with a double, and two short singles eventually brought him in, for a 2-1 lead at the end of three.

Lansing immediately tied it up with a homer to dead center at the start of the fourth, but them went three and out, while the Dragons went in order for their part. The fifth and sixth flew by, with everyone going in order except for a leadoff Dragon's double in the bottom of the sixth that was stranded.

Lansing went in order again in the seventh, but the Dragons got their scoring shoes on. A leadoff single was erased on a pickoff, but the next batter tripled and then a walk made it first and third with one out. A sacrifice fly to center brought in the lead runner, and a double to left brought in the runner from first. A single drove in the runner at second, leaving 5-2 at the end of seven. The Lugnuts got one back in the eighth, with a leadoff walk going to second on a ground-out and third on a wild pitch. A sacrifice fly to center brought him in, shortening the lead to 5-3.

But the Dragons got it back in the bottom of the eighth, with a two-out rally, starting with a single to center. A grounder to short turned into a two-base error, and a single brought in the lead runner from third to make it 6-3. The Dayton closer only gave up a one-out single in the ninth, and the home team sealed a 6-3 victory.


The Scorecard: 

Lugnuts vs. Dragons, 09-05-15. Dragons win, 6-3.
Lugnuts vs. Dragons, 09/05/15. Dragons win, 6-3.

The scorecard was the centerfold of a nicely put-together, free, full-color, half-tabloid program. The magazine paper was not glossy, so it was easy to write on, even with pencils. It included the rosters for both teams, with the opponents filled in. The thing that was most noticeable about it was that it had an actual ounce of visual layout design applied to it. It was extremely noticeable compared to most other programs in the minor (or even the majors) because of their absolute lack of the same. It was nice to see something so well-designed, and certainly tied-in to a community and ownership that actually cared about the quality of the team. So, really, top marks all around.

There were a couple of plays worth note from a scoring perspective. In the top of the second with the bases loaded, a grounder to first was thrown home to the pitcher on a sacrifice bunt attempt, who erased the runner with a tag, not a force at the plate (3-1t). In the bottom of the seventh, the triple with one out was partially due to the center fielder for the Lugnuts getting injured on the play and not able to retrieve the ball. There was also a brief rundown on the caught stealing before it, with a CS 1-3-6. A first for me was the bottom of the eighth where the Dayton DH was thrown out of the game after arguing a strike call in the end-of-inning strikeout. There was no digital lineup, so I have no idea who replaced him, as he wouldn't come up again--a mystery that remains unsolved at this point.


The Accommodations: 

Dayton Marriott
Dayton Marriott

For this stopover, I splurged a tiny bit at the Dayton Marriott. The average bathroom was right off the entrance to the room on the left, with the slightly premium fake granite and hardwood vanity. The bedroom had a large king bed with end tables and an easy chair with side table on one side of the room, and a large dresser with flat screen TV and a desk and chair on the other.

For my purposes, it was quiet, clean, and comfortable, so it did its job for me that night.



On Flying High

National Museum of the Air Force
National Museum of the Air Force

Sunday, September 6, 2015
Dayton, OH


Outside the Game: 
On the advice of a co-worker from the area, I heard about the National Museum of the Air Force, and especially the Air Force One exhibit, which required you to get their early for tickets. This prompted an odd situation for me.

I got up early, right when the museum was set to open, and then I drove out, bought an admission, and signed up for a later bus for the Air Force 1 exhibit. This caused great confusion of the people at the desk. People who show up right at opening are usually there to get on the first tour bus to the exhibit, so when I said I wanted to go later, they had to actually go and find the sign-up list of the later buses because I was not something they expected. I then went back to my hotel, had breakfast and went to sleep for a little while longer.

I woke up and booked the same hotel I stayed in on my first night just outside of the airport, and then got packed up, checked out, and went to the museum for real this time. The National Museum of the Air Force is an extensive facility in several huge hangars that traces American military aviation from its earliest times up through the government space program. There were also exhibits on such diverse subjects as the Holocaust, Bob Hope, and Walt Disney. The section on the US nuclear arsenal was particularly evocative. It started with a replica of Fat Man and continued with life-sized nuclear missiles. There was something just foreboding about it, especially as someone who lived through the 80s. The world could be completely ended just by these bland metal tubes seemed incredibly silly.
One of the main things that I took from the museum is that we really need to bring bomber jackets back. There was an exhibit on WWII and Korean jacket art, and they are seriously the most bad-assed things we've ever done in the US military. They deserve a second act.
But the Air Force One exhibit was really the key experience. You have to go onto an active air force base to see the hangars that hold that exhibit, as well as the experimental planes section, hence the buses and the tight schedules. They drop you off right by the hangar, and then they come to collect you promptly after an hour.

You get to wander around a historical collection of Air Force Ones (and Twos) throughout history, including the one on which JFK died after his assassination. Some of the aircraft (including the first AF1 for FDR) have truly horrifically bad mannequins of the presidents. The 50s era Air Force One features an Eisenhower mannequin that looks much more like Yul Brenner than Ike.
After I had my fill (both in the museum and at the cafeteria), I headed out for my three-hour drive back up to Detroit. There was no traffic, thankfully, and it was just a matter of driving up. I eventually got to my hotel, and checked in, grabbing dinner at a nearby fast food place and went to bed ahead of an early morning the next day.


The Accommodations:

Comfort Inn
Comfort Inn

I was back again at the Comfort Inn Detroit Airport, but there was some construction, or something, going on. All the hallways were being heated in the waning weeks of the summer, for some reason, so walking to and from your room was enough to break you into a sweat. Thankfully, however, the air conditioning in the rooms still worked. For the time I was staying there, I just kept the air conditioning cranked and lived with it.

My room was fine otherwise: a standard bathroom off the entrance to the left and one bedroom with a king-sized bed across from a dresser with TV and desk.



On Leaving Early

Sunrise
Really early

Monday, September 7, 2015
Jersey City, NJ


Outside the Game: 
I had an early flight home this morning, so this is where re-using the hotel right outside the airport came in handy, despite all the issues. I got cleaned up and packed, and at 7 AM, I only had to drive in a straight line to return my rental car and catch the shuttle to the airport.
I got through security with little issue, and I was off to the races at the deserted airport. I found a stall open for breakfast, and thankfully, there was no problem with the flight. An uneventful jaunt (that I mostly slept through) later, I was at Newark Liberty God Bless America Freedom Bald Eagle airport and caught a cab back to my apartment for an afternoon of laundry and more naps before going back to work the next day.


The Accommodations: 
Sweet home, Jersey City

2015 Ohio

Friday, September 4, 2015

Detroit

On Visiting the Big Cats


Comerica Park
Comerica Park, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015
Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers
Comerica Park
MLB, American League
Detroit, MI
7:05 PM


Outside the Game: 
I had a big drive this day, and then a little one after the game, so I decided to rest up as much as possible. I had yet another lazy morning, grabbed breakfast, and then did my shower/pack/checkout routing before hitting the road back up to Detroit.

Seeing the Tigers again was an optional detour on this route, as long as I didn't get rained out of any of the games. I had a couple of flex days in the schedule just to make the most of it after the trip earlier that summer was so plagued with rain.

I had about three and a half hours ahead of me on the road, so I was off before noon, and the early afternoon brought me to the recovering environs of Detroit. One of the biggest regrets in my previous trips was not seeing the old Tigers Stadium before it was torn down. What's left still exists, so I made it a point to have my first stop be the remains. A small field used for vintage baseball and other amateur pursuits was left on the site of the old field, maintained by the "Navin Field Grounds Crew." Not much of the stadium remains except for a run of the exterior gates down one of the roads, and the flag pole from the old park. Even though it wasn't there anymore, you could still get a sense of the shape of the place by its absence. It was more than a little spooky walking around it, and you really got a sense of how wedged into the city the old park really was. There were some weird reminders of the field not just in the area of the park, but in details such as the "Eat 'Em UP!!!" graffiti still on the walls across one street. It was one of my most rewarding stops on any of those tours, if tinged with great regret about not getting to see the old lady when she was still there. After that, I drove over to the new park, and the only lots that were open most of the day were the ones furthest away, which were also closest to the interstate, so I was fine with that. I had to work a little to find someone to pay for a ticket that early, but I got parked, and then I went out exploring for the rest of the afternoon.

I spent some time walking around the exterior of the park and taking pictures of the fantastic stadium and making my stop in the team store. I dumped off my purchases back at the car, and then I headed into the downtown area and take my chances.

Detroit has, by no measurement, retained its former glory. But, it certainly has made a tremendous recovery from even where it was ten or twenty years ago. The downtown area seems alive again, and it looks like it is moving in the right direction for the first time in forever. I showed up the weekend of the Detroit Jazz Festival, so there were plenty of pavilions being set up, and there were extra vendors flooding downtown.

I went down to the waterfront to see my favorite statues: the tribute to Union labor that has an unfinished arch at the top, the fisting arm of labor, and the northern terminus of the Underground Railroad statue. The last was always particularly ironic, because it showed people wistfully and hopefully looking to Canada and the city of Windsor across the river, a feeling that anyone that actually had to live in Detroit could certainly sympathize with. When it was time, I walked back to the park and got on line at one of the side entrances with a small line, where I got into a conversation with one of my line mates about the game and why I was there. The gates opened, and we went out ways.

After the game, I was one with the first wave of people out of the park, and after a longish walk back to my car, I was able to head out. It was just an hour drive after the game to my hotel on the outskirts of Toledo. Being in one of the outer lots, I was able to quickly make my escape to the freeway, and I was at my stop for the night in about exactly the driving time that Google predicted. I made a coherent check-in and then went up to my room to unpack, shower, repack, and get ready for the next day's travels before hitting the hay.


The Stadium & Fans: 

Home to center, Comerica Park
Home plate to center field, Comerica Park

Comerica Park is one of the only ballparks left in the major leagues that has any whimsy. Sure, there are more historic parks. Sure, there are newer parks with more technology or “wow” factor, but Comerica might be the only that has a real sense of design and theme. That theme, of course, is “tigers,” and it is embraced on every level of the stadium. The location in the slowly revitalizing downtown is nearly next-door to the home of the Lions at Ford Field across the street.

The exteriors of modern ballparks have evolved to be extravaganzas, but Comerica really is at the top of the class. Tigers, baseballs, and sometimes, tigers with baseballs are to be found all over the exterior of the park. Entrances dot the periphery of the park, but the main one at home plate has two white tiger statues patrolling above a balustrade of bats, and the epic first-base entrance has four of the white tigers arrayed around tiger columns and photographs of heroes and announcers past. Other white tiger busts (with balls mounted in the mouths) line other of the brick-exterior building, and two full-color tigers prowl the main scoreboard at the third-base entrance. Plaques outside the park honor Ty Cobb, Turkey Stearnes, the stadium dedication, and the College of Law building that previously stood at this downtown locale.

Club entrances provide VIP entre to the Tiger Den and the Tiger Club. The extensive team store is also accessible from the outside early before game days, containing a display showing the evolution of the Old English D throughout the years. Long rows of ticket booths string out from the main entrances, and the Beer Hall Bar sits at the far corner of the exterior of the park.

All the entrances open up on a main promenade that runs around the entire park. All the seating areas run down from this promenade, and they are further separated into two sections by a walkway that runs the length of the grandstand. The VIP box seats close to the field are below this walkway, and the less prestigious seats are (mostly) in the upper area, though there are some premium seating areas in that section by the dugouts and behind home plate. The seats run all the way around to center field, where a large batter's eye complex topped by Chevy cars sits. An additional, full-sized upper deck runs the length of the seating area, though the section in right field is separated from the main grandstand, and ramps from the upper promenade lead out to a walkway above the upper deck box seats and below the regular seating above. As with all modern parks, in between the two is a mostly double-decker row of luxury suites and party rooms, as well as the press box.

The park looks out onto the downtown Detroit buildings from about left-center to the right field corner (obscured by the batters' eye in dead center), while the monolithic video scoreboard dominates the entire left-field corner, topped with two colorful tigers that light up in the night. Also visible in left-center is the statue walk, with the names and (where applicable) numbers of the players enshrined in the nicest baseball statuary wall this side of Pittsburgh.

The main promenade holds most of the concessions, along with an endless array of Tigers history, including stands for each decade, pennants from the ceiling, the aforementioned statues, giant player bobbleheads, the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame, a roped-off statue to late broadcaster, Ernie Harwell. There are two, large, special areas on the ground level, including a food court area with the merry-go-round in the center, and a picnic area with concessions, a baseball Ferris Wheel, and baseball-themed topiary. The upper deck isn't neglected, either, with special area such as Bar 416 and The Jungle.

Another noteworthy item was a concession on the lower promenade that let you get buy a 3D printing of yourself as an action figure in Tigers gear. I knew that technology had advanced, but I didn't know that it was this ready for commercial prime time. A combination of a steep price tag and my unwillingness to be immortalized in Tiger gear prevented me from partaking, but who knows what happens if this shows up at Not Shea. Beloved mascot Paws arrives before the start of the game to glad handle with fans young and old alike. After spending so long in minor-league parks, you realize that the major-league between-inning events aren’t that much better quality, they are just on a bigger scale, and with much bigger budgets. It is still a race around the outfield, but the participants are in professionally made car outfits and projected on an obscenely large jumbotron. It was also a "cheer night" at the park, so before and during the innings breaks during the game, there were several cheerleading exhibitions, which were okay, I guess.

Even though it was a largely meaningless late-season game with a jazz festival competing for eyeballs, the park was more than 50% filled, and they were very much there for the game, even though Cleveland very much beat up on the home-town kitties this game, the crowd stayed until the bitter end.


At the Game with Oogie: 

Grub
Brat and Gatorade

I got in as soon as the gates opened, and I made the most of my time, sprinting through the park to take all sorts of pictures in all sorts of places. And I needed all the time to hit every last nook and cranny I could in the place, which had some many details crammed into so many places.

I eventually settled on a super brat and a Gatorade topped off with a corn dog as my dinner for the evening before heading down to my seat in the "Tiger seats" on the third-base line. These were covered seats up from the seating walkway with solid wooden chairs that each came with their own little table (where I kept my scorecard) and table service (which I didn't take advantage of).

There was no one else in my section of seats, but I did manage to have an embarrassing interaction with a couple in the section one over from me, as I had read the ticket wrong and were in their seats, but I was convinced I was in the right place until they patiently explained my error, and I sheepishly went one section to the left for the remainder of the game.


The Game: 

First pitch, Tigers vs. Indians
First pitch, Tigers vs. Indians

This meaningless late-season contest between the bottom of the barrel Tigers and the hanging around .500 Indians didn't mean much in the standings, and Cleveland’s walk-over was done pretty early.

Cleveland started, however, by going in order in the first, while the Tigers just had a leadoff single to show for their part of the inning. A double-play helped the Indians go in order again in the second, and they were joined by Detroit. Something finally got started in the top of the third, as Cleveland had a leadoff walk followed by a homer to left to stake them to a 2-0 lead (all they would need as it turns out), while Detroit again went in order.

The Indians went in order in the top of the fourth, while the Tigers had a walk to show for the bottom of the frame. The fifth was the scoring inning for Cleveland, starting with a leadoff homer to center. A single, two doubles, a hit batsman, and two walks (one intentional) lead to them batting around for four runs, leaving them with a 6-0 lead, while the Tigers went in order. The Indians went in order in the sixth, while Detroit finally got on the board with a leadoff double brought in with a fly out to deep left and a two-out single to left to close it to 6-1.

Cleveland got the run back and more in the top of the seventh with a two-run half on the back of a walk, a single, and a double, to extend the lead to 8-1. The Tigers went in order. Both sides went in line in the eighth, and the Indians went in order thanks to another double play in the top of the ninth. The Tigers largely laid down for their last licks, getting only a two-out single to seal up Cleveland's 8-1 win.


The Scorecard: 

Indians vs. Tigers, 09-04-15. Cleveland wins, 8-1.
Indians vs. Tigers, 09/04/15. Cleveland wins, 8-1.

The scorecard was a separate $1 item from the program. It was a four-page center fold on good cardstock, with the scorecard taking up the entirety of the left side of the centerfold, with the right side dedicated almost exclusively to showing how to score. The complete lineups for both teams were printed under each team, and the opposing pitchers' limes went with the opposing team. There wasn't a ton of place for replacements, but that is less of an issue in the AL, and the entire card was on a white background with plain scoring boxes for good readability.

There weren't many plays of scoring note during this game. In the bottom of the seventh, there was a ground-out into the regrettable resurgence of the overshift, which I recorded 4o-3. Outside of that, it was all pretty pedestrian.


The Accommodations: 

La Qunita Inn
La Quinta Inn

My hotel for this night was the La Quinta Inn just outside of Toledo. It was just on the edge of fancy-ish, but once again, if it is clean, quiet, and I can get a night’s sleep, I don’t care too much.

The bathroom was right at the entrance to my room, with the vanity and sink on the left of the entrance and the shower and toilet to the right. The bedroom was nice enough with a king-sized bed (with only three pillows) with an end table and lounge chair on one side of the room and a desk, low dresser with TV, and refrigerator and microwave on the other.


2015 Ohio

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Avon

On Adequateness

All Pro Freight Stadium
All Pro Freight Stadium, 2015

Thursday, September 3, 2015
Joliet Slammers vs. Lake Eerie Crushers
All Pro Freight Stadium
Frontier League (Independent)
Avon, OH
7:05


Outside the Game: 
I had a slow morning, one of many on this trip, where lying around in bed seemed like a peachy idea, until it was almost too late for breakfast, which eventually drove me downstairs, and then back up to the room for more lying around, and perhaps a nap. The inevitable time for checkout arrived, and I had to shower, pack, and check out and hit the road.

My research showed me nothing much interesting near the Crushers stadium, which was deep in suburban Ohio. I decided to drive out and see if the locals had any better idea, so I made the two-and-a-half hour ride without much incident. My first stop was the stadium, where I bought a ticket and took my outside pictures. Getting in and out was a little complicated by some roadway work they were doing, which made finding a working entrance a little more difficult than it needed to be, but with the main highway literally right outside the stadium, it was pretty quick in and out.

I was at a hotel a suburb or so over, and I went over to check in, but even their wall of pamphlets couldn't suggest anything interesting in the area, just in nearby Cleveland, and when Cleveland is your big cultural draw, you know you aren't working with a lot of anything. I got into my room, unpacked, and got ready for the next day, and lacking anything better to do, I took a shower and a nap and then spent some more time looking for perhaps other ways to kill time. And I found there was literally nothing to do on a Thursday afternoon in this place.

It was eventually time to get out to the park, and I decided to get there really early, because it was the best option I had at the time. I showed up and parked, and took more pictures while waiting for the gate to open.
After the game, studied up on the construction and how best to get out, I was quickly on the way back to my hotel room, where I soaked in the tub for the evening before finishing my scorecard and going to bed.


The Stadium & Fans: 

Home to center, All Pro Freight Stadium
Home plate to center field, All Pro Freight Stadium


All Pro Freight Stadium sounds like a fine name for a football stadium, but it is less evocative of the national pastime. The stout brick building has two imposing towers by its entrance, which is where the military relevance ends, and a small ticket booth extrudes by the only main entrance. The park is located literally next to the highway, and there are even warning signs to prevent people from wandering too far into the embankment by the park to avoid accidentally falling into the highway.

The stadium follows a very familiar minor-league layout, with the entrance leading to a main promenade that rings the entire park above the seating areas, whether they be the seats in the main grandstand running to the short outfields, or the picnic hills in the outfield. By home plate, the top of the seating area has reserved table service in specials sections, along with sponsored floral arrangements. A second level runs nearly the length of the grandstand, hosting the press box, luxury boxes, and some party decks. All of the concessions and other concerns were on the promenade, facing the field, so fans can get food without missing the action. A single-tier of outfield fence runs the length of the outfield and covered in ads except for the batters’ eye that rises up n dead center. The digital scoreboard looms over right field, in front of the backdrop of some trees and a lot of blue skies.

A small picnic deck ends left field, and a small kids’ play area is on the picnic hill in right field. A small championship banner hangs by the press box, and there is a mascot-cut out picture stand on the promenade--and that is about the beginning and end of the frills at this indie park.
Stomper the bear is the local mascot, and he and the human MC run the crowd through the minor-league standard paces of games, contest, and give-aways between innings. There was a decent crowd here for the game, though it wasn’t a sell-out by any means. Especially for indie-ball, they seemed engaged with the game instead of the other entertainment, so there is a positive for the local baseball fans in Avon.


At the Game with Oogie: 

Scoring
Indie scoring

I got in and did my photography and shopping at a brisk pace. I was particularly hungry this evening, so I started with a brat, fries, and souvenir soda, and then followed it up with a Proper Pig pulled-pork sandwich when that didn’t fill me up all the way.
My seat was right behind the dugout on the third-base side just to the left of home plate. The season ticket holders in my area weren’t there that night, so I had a small oasis to myself, although the other areas further down on either side were pretty packed.


The Game: 

First pitch, Slammers vs. Crushers
First pitch, Slammers vs. Crushers

This contest between the visiting Slammers and the home-town Crushers was not a slugging contest by any extent. The home team didn't even manage a baserunner until the bottom of the third.

Both sides started the game going in order. Joliet opened up the second with three straight one-out singles to drive in a run for a 1-0 lead. The Crushers went in order again. The Slammers got a man on base with two outs thanks to an error in the third, and Lake Eerie got its first baserunner the same way.

The Slammers got the scoring working again with a one-out double in the top of the fourth, followed by two singles to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Lake Eerie had a walk and a single to kill the no-hitter, but they both got stranded in the bottom of the frame. Likewise, Joliet stranded a single and a walk in the top of the fifth, while the Crushers had back-to-back singles and a passed ball to make it second and third with one out, but a two-out grounder got the runner trying for home, and the score remained 2-0. The Slammers went in order in the sixth, while Lake Eerie got a man to third on a walk, stolen base, and groundout, but left him there again.

Joliet went in order despite a walk in the top of the seventh thanks to a caught stealing, while the Crushers just had a single in their half. The Slammers had a walk in the top of the eighth, while Lake Eerie went in order despite a leadoff hit batsman due to a double play. Joliet went in order in the top of the ninth, and the Slammers could only manage a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth, finalizing the 2-0 Slammer win.


The Scorecard: 

Slammers vs. Crushers, 09-03-15. Slammers win, 2-0.Slammers vs. Crushers, 09-03-15. Slammers win, 2-0.
Slammers vs. Crushers, 09/03/15. Slammers win, 2-0.

The scorecards were free photocopies given away at the fan relations booth, separate from the free full-color program given out at the door. Copyright violations were front and center here, as the scorecard sheets were clearly twelfth-generation photocopies of original Score Right scorecards, as the copyright notice was still legible in the bottom left. The photocopies were off center, so some information on the edges were cut off, and after so many copies, all of the original information in each scoring box disappeared.

The scorecard was quite complex. While there was a space for a player and a replacement in each slot, the totals for each batter included At Bats, Runs, Hits, Doubles, Triples, and Home Runs. Originally, I think that there was supposed to be a second part of the line for strikeouts, stolen bases, sacrifices, RBIs, Put Outs, and Errors, but they were lost with the multiple photocopies. The top of the scorecard had a total score by inning for both team and final score. Underneath that but above the player lines were pitching statistics, and put outs, assists, and errors by position per inning. Because of the way the pitching lines were arranged, I wrote upwards for the Crushers, who used a ton of pitchers in the game. There were also only nine innings printed, which would have made extras interesting. Even though the data was smudged, I used the pre-printed text in each scoring box to record the plays.

Despite the complexity of the scorecard, there were few scoring plays of note. There was a 5-2t put out in the bottom of the fifth, and a CS 1-3 play in the top of the seventh as the catcher fired down to first to catch a napping runner. Everything else was pretty straightforward, except for a double-switch causing me to use a reference letter for the pitchers' line in the batting order.


The Accommodations: 

Comfort Inn & Suites
Comfort Inn & Suites

For the night, I was at the Country Inn and Suites in the next suburb over from Avon. I had a big suite for some reason, with the large bathroom right off the entrance. Next in was a sitting room with an easy chair and a couch, and then the bedroom, with the king-sized bed and night stand in one corner, and a dresser, TV, and two inexplicable dining chairs on the other wall.

It was quiet and comfortable, so I had no complaints.



2015 Ohio

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Toledo

On Flying to Detroit

Airport
The absolute end of Terminal C

September 1, 2015
Detroit, MI


Outside the Game:
So it goes.

Work was deciding to be complicated again, but because of the good fortune of being between two projects at the moment, I had nearly full coverage already built-in for my vacation, as well as a string of untimely good luck that was riding me through the week.

Things had turned around from two weeks prior when a 60+ hour work week while my boss was on vacation had nearly driven me from my job again. I was quite skeptical about a new project that I was being thrust into like some human band aid to assuage some client where things were turning south. Well, it wasn't all good news. I found out on Monday night that I was being sent to LA to meet said client the week I was coming back. Los Angeles is literally the worst place on the planet, as anyone who has ever talked to me knows. It is the worst place in the world, filled with the worst people in the world, and it should be burned to the ground and let turn fallow into the godless desert that begat it. Laid barren, but not forgotten, no: It should be remembered for all times as the price of human folly and wickedness and a warning of a repeat of the same.

Where was I? Right, baseball. Anyway, outside of the trip, things were going uncharacteristically better at work, and the Tuesday of my departure doubly so. Projects were just flying off my to-do list to ease the burden of those covering for me. Things were getting a little hairy towards the end of the day, but thanks to a late flight, I was able to guilt my way out the door at a reasonable time and make my way out to the airport.

Even the subway cooperated, as an early evening ride up the 1 was only mildly interrupted by waiting for an express to pass, and after a minimal amount of endless wandering I was able to find the NJ Transit trains at Penn Station. A went at a time of a virtual cornucopia of airport connection trains, boarded, and napped contentedly to my destination.

Even security on a Tuesday evening was nothing of a concern, and my only problem was arriving at the airport too early for my flight. I availed myself of a restaurant, had no problems with the credit card machines this time, and had a peasantry overpriced meal, eventually walking around until it was time for my flight.

Surprisingly, demand to go to Detroit on a Tuesday was not high, which might contribute to why the ticket for this flight was so relatively cheap. All things considered, it worked out, as the flight was at most half sold. Boarding was almost simultaneous, as the gate staff rifled through boarding groups, and even though I was a lowly Group 4, I was called within the first three minutes of boarding.

Everyone got on the plane in a relaxed mood, and the only real downside was that I was one of the few single people who had someone next to me, so I was unable to spread out into two seats.

It was also a new plane that I had never been on before. It has full-sized overhead bins, so I didn't have to gate check my bag, and everything was relatively modern and comfortable. All the lights were digital LEDs, the air sprayer was actually effective and cold. It was like moving into early 90s technology, which was a welcome upgrade over most planes I had been flying on.
The flight went without incident, but not without a little nap. We got to the airport a little early and had to wait for our gate, but we were quickly out the doors,  I was off to the rental car to pick up my red Nissan something-or-other, and I was off to semi-coherently check in to my hotel by the airport and crash.


The Accommodations:

Comfort Inn
Comfort Inn

I stayed at the Comfort Inn at the Detroit Airport. I had a tidy room, with a king-sized bed, nightstand, desk and easy chair on one wall, and a long, low dresser under a flat-screen TV and yet another desk on the other wall. The bathroom was just off the entrance, and had a room-length vanity and sink, toilet, and shower.

It was clean, quiet, and away from the flight paths, so it was everything I needed that night.


On Relating to Maxwell Klinger

Fifth Third Field
Fifth Third Field. 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds) vs.
Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers)
Fifth Third Field
International League (AAA)
Toledo, OH
6:30 PM


Outside the Game: 
I got up late and had a lazy morning. I wasn't swapping hotels this night, so I didn't have to do a pack and run. I had a really short drive to Toledo to and from the game, so I took it easy most of the morning, had a leisurely breakfast, and then I went back to the room for a shower and pack up for the day.

The only attraction that really beckoned outside of the ballpark was the Toledo Zoo, which was really a mid-sized zoo and aquarium. I had a pleasant afternoon wandering around and looking at the animals, especially the orangutans--as always--my favorite. They had a really nice ape exhibit as well, so I spent most of my time amongst my fellow primates, although there were also penguins, but sadly, no puffins. The most indelible memory of the day was some diver in one of the large fish tanks who was cleaning all the coral, and I have to wonder if he was thinking about why he bothered to get a graduate degree in zoology if this would be his job.
After my fill of the zoo, I drove over to the stadium, took my pictures, and picked up my ticket. I went in as soon as the gates opened. Leaving was easy from where I was in the lot, having parked early, and I had a nice, short drive back to my hotel, where I spent the rest of the evening in the tub.


The Stadium & Fans: 


Home to center, Fifth Third Field
Home plate to center field, Fifth Third Field

Bank Fifth Third has gone on a corporate naming spree to put Coca-Cola to shame, as I’ve been to as many parks named for the bank as I have the beverage giant. Perhaps their crowning jewel is Toledo’s Fifth Third Field, an AAA International League park. The park is built right in the middle of downtown streets, and it is the cornerstone of an urban renewal campaign for the area, including a new “Hensville” area of shops and apartments that was still under construction across the street when I was visiting.
The park has got a ton going on even before you enter the gates. All the streets around the park are named for local baseball luminaries (Gene Cook Way, Ned Skelton Way, etc), and the square in the front of the main entrance is named first black players in the major leagues (before the “Gentleman’s Agreement” forced him out), Moses Walker. Toledo’s favorite son and the reason that the Mud Hens are perhaps the second most famous minor-league baseball team, Jamie Farr as Max Klinger in M*A*S*H is prominently featured on a mural. There are a dedication and a memorial plaque on the square, which also had the fan brick walk. The ticket booth is lodged in the brickwork on the side of the main entrance, and the park has a lot of decorative touches around the way, including baseball themed fences and railings and even branded sewer grates. Along the outside outfield wall, which has a barred wall you can look through, there is a statue of “knothole kids” called “Who’s Up?” Gates to get in are at regular intervals around the park and at nearly every cardinal point of the field, including an inexplicable “2nd Base Gate” in center field. The 1st Base Gate has “The Swamp” team store in its small plaza.

All those entrances empty out onto a main promenade that circles the top of the lower deck seating around the entire park. Nearly all the concessions are on the promenade face the field so fans can grab food while watching the game. The lower-deck seating is all accessed by stairways down from the promenade and runs from outfield corner to outfield corner, with a large picnic-table party area running from the right field corner to center field. The upper deck runs from short outfield to short outfield around home plate, with the seats extending down from the upper walkway and a large row of party deck, luxury boxes, and the press box sitting on the top of it. “The Roost” party deck with a wedge row of seating is in the right field corner, and the Muddy’s Marsh play area is behind the batter’s eye in center field.

The outfield wall is a single large tier covered in large ads, except for the blue and black batter’s eye in dead center. The main digital scoreboard with a video board above it rises above left-center field, while a digital video board looms above right-center field. All of this is in front of the Toledo downtown buildings that form the urban backdrop for the park. There are several plaques and dedications around the park, including a statue of kids scrambling after a home run ball in center field (“I Got it!”), the dedication plaque for the stadium, and three retired numbers for players and broadcasters on the facing of the upper deck in left.
Now, hang on to your hats, but the local mascot is Muddy the mud hen. (I actually had to look it up, and it is a real bird. Go figure.) He looks like the Poochy version of Big Bird from Sesame Street to be honest, with his cap carefully askew. In the annoying trend of mascots needing better halves these days, he has a distaff companion Muddonna (get it?). They run the on-field shenanigans along with a human crew. For all the AAA pretenses, it was mostly the minor league standards, with races, contests, and giveaways. They even had a post-game ball toss.

The crowd was a little sparse for this late-season game, but those that were there were into the game itself as much as the between-inning entertainment.


At the Game with Oogie:

Scoring
Late-season scoring

I got in with the opening of the gates, and I did my photography and shopping to get that out of the way. There was a lot to take in at this park, so there was a lot of good walking going on. I eventually settled on a gigantic Polish sausage for dinner before settling into my seat a couple rows back from the home dugout on the first base side. There was no one around me, so I was left to my scoring devices for the game.
… with the exception of the fire. I had seen the faux pub they had on the promenade called "The Hen and the Hound," and was considering eating there. Except the place did burst into flame sometime in the middle innings. There was an alarm that people were trying to identify the source of, then firemen were streaking around the promenade, and then eventually some smoke wafted from the walkway as the fire was put out. No one really panicked in the stadium, and they made a calm PA announcement about it.

It was evidently a kitchen fire that was easily contained, and everyone mostly calmed down once the fire alarm stopped ringing. On the way out, they just closed up the slide wall on the stand, and beside the smell of smoke, you couldn't even tell there had been a fire.

But that was the fire that happened in a stadium while I was in it, so a check mark for Wednesday, I guess.


The Game:

First pitch, Bats vs. Mud Hens
First pitch, Bats vs. Mud Hens

These two AAA teams were way below .500 and playing out the string, and at least the home-team Mud Hens had something to cheer about over the visiting Bats at the end of it.

Both sides went in order in the first, for a scintillating start. Louisville went in order in the second even with a leadoff single, thanks to a double-play. The Mud Hens had a leadoff single that made it to third on an error and then scored on a one-out double, giving them a 1-0 lead. Both sides went in order in the third, with the Bats striking out in order.

Louisville started the fourth with a single, but stranded the runner, while the Mud Hens had a one-out homer to dead center to extend their lead to 2-0. The Bats got one back in the top of the fifth with a leadoff homer to center,  but Toledo got the run back with a one-out single, stolen base, wild pitch, and double to leave it 3-1. Louisville went in order again in the sixth, while the Mud Hens stranded a leadoff single.

The Bats managed to strand a walk and a double in the top of the seventh, while Toledo went in order. Louisville got another man to second in the top of the eighth only to strand them there again, while the Mud Hens worked hard to only score one run. A leadoff double was followed by a single to make it first and third with no outs. A grounder to first led to a double-play that caught the runner at third in a rundown, but a two-out double finally scored a run, giving them a more comfortable 4-1 lead going into the ninth. The Bats only got a one-out walk in the top of ninth, so the Mud Hens walked away with a 4-1 victory.


The Scorecard:

Bats vs. Mud Hens, 09-02-15. Mud Hens win, 4-1.Bats vs. Mud Hens, 09-02-15. Mud Hens win, 4-1.
Bats vs. Mud Hens, 09/02/15. Mud Hens win, 4-1.

The scorecard was a free printout separate from the surprisingly free program. The double-sided sheet came pre-printed with the lineups for both teams, though there was no space for replacements. Each scoring box was empty, with a lot of space, but there were no cumulative stat lines for each player, though there were 12 innings printed. The pitchers were in the upper right hand corner, next to the pre-printed defensive alignments. One side had a box score and pitching stats, with time and attendance under the pitching lines, while the visiting side had the umpires in the same space.

There were a couple of plays of scoring note. In the bottom of the second, there was a pickoff attempt on a batter at first. The first baseman tried to throw over to second to get the advancing runner, but the throw hit the runner and bounced, letting the runner get to third. The strikeout player of the game fanned on his first at bat, winning someone some prize or other. A double in the top of the seventh was really a fly ball that got lost in the lights, and the fiftieth batter of the game struck out, which won some other prize or other. And finally, in the bottom of the eighth, with a man on first and third and no outs, there was your run-of-the-mill DP 3U-2-5t, as the first baseman took the force at first by himself, and then caught the guy at third in a rundown, 2-5t.


The Accommodations:
I was at the Comfort Inn for another night. I could have gotten a place in Toledo, but it was such a short drive that it was worth it to be able to lay my head down in the same place for two nights. Nothing much to report again.



2015 Ohio