Monday, July 3, 2017

Brooklyn

On an American July 4th-ish
Monday, July 3, 2017
Connecticut Tigers (Detroit Tigers) vs. Brooklyn Cyclones (New York Metropolitans)
MCU Park
NY-Penn League (A-)
Brooklyn, NY
7:00 PM

Outside the Game:
With my previous plans for the holiday weekend not coming to pass due to tornadoes in upstate New York providing very subtle hints, I decided to head out to Coney Island to see a game. I hadn't been out there in so many years longer than I had thought, as it turned out, and I also was unable to make much plans further from home because of the work situation I was in. I hadn’t been out to Coney Island for the same duration, although I tend to make trips to the beach in the winter, but hadn't in the last few years.

I bought a ticket online the night before, but I was able to sleep in and did not get out the door until 11 AM. As the game wasn't until the evening, it wasn't that big of a deal, but I did want to spend some time at Coney as well. I debated grabbing an Uber all the way there, but a look at the traffic discouraged that idea, so I grabbed some jerky I bought at the farmer's market the day before and set out to mass transit. The light rail to PATH to the F outbound went surprisingly quickly. This was offset by a delay at the very end of the line due to some train problems. After waiting 10 minutes to get into the aquarium stop, I decided to get off there instead of taking it to the end, in case of further delays.

I wandered out into the blazing Monday afternoon sun. I walked over to the Cyclone to get beat up for entertainment's sake, and then stopped at Nathan's to dump some food in my agitated stomach. It is important to get the order on those two things correct. They were setting up everything for the hot dog contest the next day, so a lot of the tables were blocked off. I walked out to the stadium on the boardwalk, passing the newly re-opened Thunderbolt. So soon after lunch, I decided against trying it out. I picked up my ticket at the will call window and then headed back to the aquarium.

I really, really, really don't want to be that guy, but I saw them finishing construction on an Applebee’s and Cinnabon on Surf. They tore down the buildings that were there, and they were opening chain store America into Coney Island, a place that corporate America couldn't find on a map for thirty or so years. The old buildings that were torn down for those stores were the abandoned buildings where the homeless used to go to have sex in peace. And I know it seems odd to say it, given a choice between the area having an Applebee’s or a homeless bang shack, I really wish the bang shack would come back. The gentrification cannot be stopped.

The Brooklyn Aquarium was still undergoing renovations after Hurricane Sandy. There were a limited amount of exhibits open, but since I'm a member, I didn't have to wait or pay to get in. The aquarium was absolutely packed with people huddled around the exhibits that were open, and I spent my time to see what was there and then beat a hasty retreat out to the street. My next stop was the Freak Show, which had partnered up with the Coney Island Museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed that Monday, which was disappointing. I, however, accepted that fact, as opposed to a yuppie family that came in after me that badgered the people to let them in because they had come really far to see the museum.

Well, if you had come that far, you probably should have checked if it was open on Mondays. Even the freak show had gone upscale. They had their own trust-fund grungy bar now and a gift shop. I bought a trinket or two and grabbed a soda before heading back out into the world.

Even the Wonder Wheel park had gotten its act together, with electronic passes to go on the rides, and the amusement park had expanded out into two areas. The Wonder Wheel itself was still there and delightfully unimproved. I also stalked around to find some of the light rifle games that had been there since before I was born and shot up some dark-ride leftovers with beams of justice. The funky old dark ride was still there as well, so even in this wave of gentrification, it is nice to some old school remains.

There was a big art wall exhibit in one of the parking lots where I walked around for a bit before stopping off at a White Castle cart for a slider or two to tide me over until the game. I walked out to the boardwalk again and out to the end of the fishing pier to take some photos. Eventually, it was time for the gates to open, so I walked back out to the park to get in as they did.

After the game, I left as the fireworks were still going off. It was an easy enough ride from the F back to Hoboken on the PATH, where I decided to grab a cab back to the apartment in Jersey City, because I had walked quite enough for this particular day.

The Stadium & Fans:
The last time I was at MCU Park, it was “Keyspan Park.” I actually had to look up if one didn't become the other, but apparently Keyspan Energy got bought by the British and no longer exists, so MCU bank stepped in to buy the naming rights.

So, it had been a fair bit of time since I came to the park, which is sad, because it is one of the best minor league parks around.

There were a number of changes to the place since I'd last been there. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, they changed the field to turf, which was awful. Budweiser grabbed the naming right to a rooftop party deck on the top of the luxury suites by home plate. There were new retired numbers along the luxury boxes, and there was a new area in the outfield called "The Backyard," a catered party area that had a view through the new mesh outfield walls. I also got to go into the admin and access area for the suites for the first time, which hosts a large mural of the team as well as the Alumni Wall and Sandlot Baseball Hall of Fame. Also, as with nearly every minor league club these days, they snuck in a MIA seat behind home plate. Otherwise, the park pretty much structurally remains the same, with a little musical chairs on concessions and some cosmetic changes to the team store.

The mascot situation remains the same, with Sandy and PeeWee hanging around the park for most of the festivities. Local kids’ entertainer King Henry is still on hand to MC the events, and the stupid cheerleaders are still around, for some god-awful reason. The between-inning activities remain mostly the same, with contests and races of questionable skill. There was a fireworks display after the game, but as per usual, I didn't stick around for it.

There was, as always, a healthy crowd, even with the holiday weekend. Brooklyn baseball fans flew the flag, even if the game didn't reflect their wishes.

At the Game with Oogie:
There's always room for one. I had managed to score a single seat right next to the Cyclones dugout in the middle of the season ticket-holders' seats, with a look straight down into the dugout. So, I had that going for me.

In walking around to see what had changed, I found there was a new rice ball concession open, where you can mix and mix six-packs of egg-holders of rice balls. It was obviously that I got for dinner, such as it was. I did my walking around and my stop at the shop, and I was AIS at about a half-hour before game time.

As I was in the season-ticket area, most of the people around me were regulars who knew each other. There was a clutch of college-aged kids in the area in front of me. One of them was also keeping score, and we helped each other out every now and again on some of the trickier plays. Right next to me in my row were two badda-bings. We talked a little bit, but they kept on doing their Guido thing next to me for most of the game.

The Game:
This early-season (at least for the short-season NY-PENN League) matchup between the Tigers and the Cyclones was a laugher all the way, with the home team's hopes dying with their only lead in the first.

The Tigers began the top of the first with just a single to show for it, but back-to-back walks to start the bottom half of the inning and a short single loaded the bases. The Cyclones would show their relation to the Metropolitans as they only managed to bring in one run in on a sacrifice fly that included a double-play, nevertheless staking themselves to a 1-0 lead. It lasted a half inning. Connecticut started the second with a single and double to make it second and third with no outs. A run scored on a ground out, and a sacrifice fly brought in another, reversing the lead to 2-1 for the visitors. Brooklyn had back-to-back singles in the bottom the inning stranded on the base paths. The Tigers leapt going in the third with a one-out rally of two walks, three singles, and a sacrifice fly to get three more runs across, expanding the lead to 5-1. Brooklyn answered in the bottom of the third with a two-out rally of their own, stringing together a single and four straight walks to force in a run and cut the deficit to 5-2.

Connecticut kept scoring in the fourth with a leadoff walk, stolen base, and single to re-extend the lead to four runs at 6-2. The Cyclones went in order in the bottom of the frame. The Tigers only had a stranded baserunner from an error in the fifth, while Brooklyn countered with its sole walk. The sixth went similarly quickly, with both teams putting up a lone single.

The seventh was more productive for Connecticut, as back-to-back leadoff singles and a double brought in two more runs to make it 8-2, while the Cyclones only had a hit batsman and walk in their half. The Tigers went in order for the first time of the night in the eighth, while Brooklyn made its last real run with a leadoff home run to right, but they stranded one-out doubles and singles to just close it to 8-3. Connecticut put up some more unneeded insurance in the ninth with a leadoff walk, two singles, and a ground-out bringing in two more runs. The Cyclones had two singles and a walk to load the bases with two outs, but a pop out to third ended the game, with the Tigers winning easily, 10-3.

The Scorecard:
The scorecard was part of the free mini-tabloid game program. Although the form factor had changed from a full tabloid since the last time I visited, the same flimsy newspaper was used in the program, remaining very fragile and prone to tears. The scorecard itself was smaller than the space on the two-page spread, which made it very cramped to use and hard to record the game legibly.

There was only one play worthy of scoring note. In the bottom of the first, there was an 8-8-5 double play that was also a sacrifice fly. With the bases loaded, and no outs, the batter flew out to center and successfully brought in the run from third, but he also threw out the runner advancing from second to third, completing the 8-8-5 DP.

The Accommodations:
Jersey City, Sweet, Jersey City


https://www.flickr.com/photos/baseballoogie/sets/72157683659740773

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Plattsburgh [Rain Out]

On a Serious Rainout
Friday, June 30, 2017
New Baltimore, NY

Outside the Game:
So, almost by accident, I found out about a new pro baseball league that had sprouted up in the northeast the year before: The Empire Pro League. It was a small four-team circuit that basically serves two functions: a place for unsigned players to get a second look, and to act as a minor-league circuit for the independent leagues in the US. Because it is turtles all the way down.

There was a team in upstate relatively close, a team far upstate, a team in Vermont, and a team in Maine. The league runs from June until August, and for whatever it is worth, they seem to be fairly regular call-ups of players to the indie leagues and even some to the low minors, so it is doing its job.

Knowing that the east coast for me was no longer close to complete, I had to start seeing them all. I was going to try to see the team in Plattsburgh, NY. I was going to drive up part of the way during the night, and get the rest of the way in the morning.

I got home from work at 9 PM--sadly, about usual for that stretch--and was packed and on the road with my new EZ Pass by 10 PM. There wasn't much traffic at this time of night, although there was a little rain. Ironically, a friend of mine had just moved to the tri-city area in NY (supposedly temporarily), and it looked like I was going to end up stopping for the night about a half hour or so north of there.

I finally burnt off the first tank of gas in my new lease car, and it was about time to head in for the night. There was a camping stop that I passed up, but by the next exit, it was time to get off. I pulled up to a Holiday Inn just off the exit, but it turned out they weren't taking any guests because their well had run dry, and it wouldn't be fixed until the next day. (Weird Water Event of the Day 1.)

I drove a little further up the road and found a Best Western that had working water. They gave me a deal on the Honeymoon Suite (who goes on their honeymoon in a Best Western north of Albany?), and that had a Jacuzzi tub. (Weird Water Event of the Day 2.) I checked in, made use of the Jacuzzi tub, worried about the party that was going on upstairs, and then just gave up and fell asleep.

The Accommodations:
So, the "Honeymoon" Suite had two double beds, which makes me wonder what kind of weddings they have up Albany way. Across was a regular dresser and small desk. There was a vanity outside the bathroom, and a small bathroom that did, in fact, have a Jacuzzi tub in there. It was fine for me, but not something that you'd find really "honeymoony" at all.


On Tornadoes
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Jersey City, NJ

Outside the Game: 
I had managed to sleep through some rather significant thunderstorms during the night. I groggily went down to grab breakfast, and the news was blaring stories about massive flooding in upstate New York, and several small hurricanes that were touching down in the area.

Eventually, my garbled brain processed "hurricanes," and the likelihood of seeing a ball game became less and less likely. A quick look out the window confirmed it was still coming down in buckets.

I went back to the room, got cleaned up, packed, and checked out. I figured it was worth at least calling the team to see how the field was since I was already halfway there, so I looked up the phone number online. Upon calling it, I was surprised to find not the ticket office picking up, but the actual owner of the team. Well, the owner of a couple of the teams in the Empire League. He confirmed that the field was under a foot of water and there would be no game, and as he also owned the team in Maine (which was a backup plan and the only other team home that weekend) that they were rained out as well.

With that definite news, I headed to the car, gassed up, and went home. It rained all the way until I was nearly home. I took the opportunity to visit my parents for a bit since I had nothing else to do, and then headed home, parked up, and walked back to my apartment.

The Accommodations:
Sweet home, Jersey City