Sunday, August 13, 2017

Burlington (NC)

On the Last Licks
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Danville Braves (Atlanta Braves) vs. Burlington Royals (Kansas City Royals)
Burlington Athletic Stadium
Appalachian League (Rookie +)
Burlington, NC
6:00 PM

Outside the Game:
In a week of lazy mornings, this lazy morning took the cake. I woke up and had breakfast, then went back to sleep until 11:45 on a noon checkout. I quickly booked a hotel for the night, showered, finished packing, and checked out by my noon deadline.

It was just under four hours from Bristol to Burlington, NC. The drive seemed to go on forever, but it kept moving with only one minor backup just across the border. I stopped for lunch at a Wendy's somewhere on 40 in North Carolina and got to the park early.

I parked up and bought a ticket, and then did my walk-around of the stadium. A pair of visiting Braves fans were just ahead of me and managed to scoop up all the balls that I was just a little late to get. All's fair, etc. etc.

In just my brief walk around the stadium, it was obvious this was going to be a brutally hot and humid day. I retreated back to my car and turned on the AC for a little sit down/nap until it was closer to gates for the 6 PM game.

Braced for the heat, I headed out with a healthy crowd waiting for the gates to open. It was "Princess Night," with all people dressed as princesses getting in for a free general admission ticket, so there were plenty of pretty, pretty princesses waiting to get it, and the crowd swiftly entered when the gates opened up.

After the game, I was straight to the car and the blessed air conditioning for the hour ride out to my hotel for the night. As I pulled into the Microtel, my tank was just about out of gas, a perfect condition to return the pre-paid gas car.

I checked in, showered all the humid off me while blasting the room's AC, and then packed and prepped for the flight the next day. I then watched Game of Thrones and went to sleep.

The Stadium & Fans:
Burlington Athletic Stadium has escaped corporate naming so far, which is a point in its favor. The stadium is also in the middle of nowhere, so there is space around it without being wedged in somewhere.  The parking lot was even a short distance away from the field, which was certainly a rarity with moist of the Appalachian League parks.

The park had clearance all the way around, so you can walk completely around it. The woods in the back are a nice breathing space, and a picnic area in that woods is protected from home runs by a large wall to prevent picnickers from getting picked off by homers. The admin offices are even in a separate building from the main complex, which was rare at this level, as well.

There was one main entrance to the park behind home plate, guarded, as per Appalachian League mandate (apparently), by the single ticket booth. A large concrete promenade extends around the outside of the seating area, from outfield to outfield, with entrances to the seating area from ramps at home plates and at first and third base. As with most Appalachian League parks, all the facilities are built into the back of the seating area, for the most part. The concessions are constructed in the back of home plate, and there were several stand-alone beer concessions, in addition to a separate team store behind third base, along with the "Grill 1986." The field house behind third abase lso has the bathrooms, and for "Princess Day" a number of stands were set up on the plaza to help decorate the princess further with face painting and temporary hair dying.

Seating was split into three areas. The main grandstand behind home plate had several rows of flip-down seats and them more rows up of bleachers, all under cover, with the old-time wooden press box on the top. Separated from the grandstand at each base was a run of bleachers going from beyond the dugouts into just past the bases. Right field ended with a picnic area, and a sizeable children's play area behind it. Left field ended in another covered picnic party area. The digital scoreboard was in right-center above a single-height outfield wall covered in ads, except for the batters’ eye in center in front of the tree line running the length of the outfield.

"Future Stars" posters were just under the stadium sing at the main entrance, the broadcast booth was named for Stephen Gates, the field house was named for Richard Robinson, and several former players had their jerseys painting onto the field house wall, including Big Sexy, Bartolo Colon.

Weird-looking monster-ish mascot Bingo was on hand before and during the game to help with the usual between-innings shenanigans and contests. For a late Sunday-afternoon game in the summer, there was a decent crowd, and an appreciable number of pretty-pretty princesses. It didn't quite work out for the home team, but they seemed in good spirits.

At the Game with Oogie:
After all the rain and discomfort from bleacher seats, I treated myself to a reserved seat under cover and with a fold-down seat behind home plate.

Of note was when I was walking around, I saw a woman with an Eephus League scorebook with her. I asked where she got it, and she said it was her husband’s, but he couldn't make the game tonight, so she was keeping score. I thought that was pretty neat.

I did all my pictures in the slogging humidity, and then grabbed a cafeteria-style pizza and pulled pork sandwich along with a Gatorade from the one concession stand. I grabbed a couple more bottles of water to help me survive the rest of the game.

There was a decent crowd, but there was only one family with two kids in my area, off to the left. The kids spent most of the time running down the mascot and otherwise occupying themselves, while the mom and dad watched the game.

The Game:
The home Burlington Royals and the visiting Danville Braves finally gave me a pitchers' duel in the Appalachian League, with a brisk 2-0 win taken by the visiting team.

That said, the scoring did start as early as possible, with a leadoff home run to left in the top of the first to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. Burlington just had a walk to show for the bottom of the first. Danville continued in the top of the second with a leadoff double to right, which combined with a single and a ground-out to stake them to a 2-0 margin, and who knew that would be it for the day? The Royals got their leadoff man on in the bottom of the second, and he got as far as third before being stranded. The Braves just had a two-out double in the top of the third, and Burlington just had a runner reach on an error in the bottom of the frame.

Both sides went in order in the fourth, and Danville had two baserunners erased on steal attempts in the top of the fifth. The Royals just had a single in the bottom of the fifth. The Braves stranded two singles in the top of the sixth, and Burlington went in order in the bottom of the inning, while both went in order in the seventh, and eighth.

Trying to finish with some luster, the Braves had a one-out double reach third on a wild pitch before getting stranded, and in their last licks, Burlington had a two-out single make it to first and third with another single. With the tying run on third, and the winning run at bat, the game ended without heroics and a ground-out to short, to seal the Braves’ 2-0 victory.

The Scorecard: 
 The scorecard was part of a free, full-color newsprint booklet program as the centerfold spread. It was actually pretty involved, with each scoring frame having a Scoremaster-type layout, with pre-printed diamond, ball and strike boxes, initial on-base box, and out-number box. Each player line had a place for subs, as well as batting average, position, and inning entering the game. The full pitching lines were unnecessarily crammed into the bottom right of each score box, especially since there was an area for the officials on the bottom left of the scorecard with more lines than there have ever been for umpires in any ballgame, ever. Each inning tally had a full slate of stats, including not just runs, hits, and errors, but also earned runs, left on base, and double plays. Thankfully, the scorecard took up the entire spread, and it was printed on white, so there was enough space to record all this information.

That said, there wasn't a lot scoring plays of note except for a pickoff 1-5 in the top of the second and a 2U with the bases empty in the bottom of the fourth, resulting from a pop hit foul at the plate, called fair by the umpire, and the runner got tagged out by the catcher. Statistically, there were 17 strikeouts in the game, so you can tell why it went briskly.

The Accommodations: 
 I ended up at the Microtel right by the Raleigh-Durham airport again. It was another tiny but clean room, with a small bathroom right off the entrance to the right, and a small bedroom with a twin bed and end table on one side of the room, and a small built-in desk, dresser, and TV on top of the dresser on the other side, with a small built-in window couch and drawers over the AC unit.

It was cheap and quiet, and I spent about ten hours total there, so it did its job.

On Naps
Monday, August 14, 2017
Jersey City, NJ

Outside the Game:
So after everything, I slept really poorly my last night. I got up, finished packing, showered, and checked out. I smugly returned my running-on-fumes rental car with my pre-paid gas. I got into the airport and through security in a timely manner and grabbed some breakfast.

As soon as I got to the gate, my delay was announced. Not being in the mood for it, I plopped down at the gate and took a nap until it was time to board. I trudged on the plane and immediately fell asleep again. I woke up in time for snacks, and then woke up again in time to land. I grabbed a cab, went back to my apartment, did laundry and napped some more, dreading my return to work and wondering if I was getting too old for all this running around.

The Accommodations: 
Sweet home, Jersey City

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Johnson City

On Dollywood or Bust
Friday, August 11, 2017
Pigeon Forge, TN

Outside the Game:
So, I had a bit of a conundrum. Even though it was a Friday, none of the teams that had been rained out previously were playing at home, and none of the other teams that I wasn't planning to hit this trip were home, so I was left with a free day.

For some reason, Dollywood sprang to mind. It was only about two hours from Bristol, and I had a bug in my ear about it for a while. Dolly Parton in a saint in Tennessee, and although a bit of kitsch character, she fully embraced it. And she was a decent enough person. She made a theme park right in the poor area where she grew up, bringing tons of jobs to the area, as well as doing things like having a charity that sent a free book per month to any child that signed up. That, and being this close to something as "Dollywood" and not going when I had a free day seemed like a wasted opportunity.

So after a long sleep, I got up and had breakfast, showered up, and headed off. It was a crisp just-under-two-hour drive straight down 81 to where it turns into 40, and I was at Dollywood fairly soon after it opened. In fact, the only real traffic I hit was when you had to turn off 40 to state road 66 to get to the park.

I got to the garish entrance and was quickly whisked over to a picket-fence-lined parking lot, and a short tram ride later, I was at the entrance to the park. I opted to grab an amusement park-only ticket, and not a double-ticket to the water park next door, which would turn out to be prudent, and not just because I didn't have a bathing suit with me.

You walk into Dollywood and are immediately faced with the Palace Theater with the Dollywood sign out front, where nearly everyone stops to grab a picture. I took a walk to "Craftsman’s Valley," where Smoky Mountain craftsmen have all sorts of stores. I got about a quarter of the way in before I saw the handmade bat store, called "The Batter's Box." I ordered up a custom bat, and found out they had a service where you could just get everything you bought in the park hand-delivered to the gift shop at the exit so you didn't have to carry it all around, and as I walked out to see the bald eagle rescue area across the way, I was completely bought into the experience.

There are a number of all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants in Dollywood, which is to be expected I guess, and I passed "Miss Lillian's Smokehouse," which was an all-you-eat place with nothing but smoked meats. And I went in and had lunch. And I just kept eating until I could just about move. And I also got a souvenir cup that you could refill for cheap around the park. And eventually, I waddled out to the park. I stopped at another craftsman place where you can blow your own glass ornament. And I did that, too. And it also was sent to the front for me to pick up. I even dipped my own candles and bought a bunch of old-timey stuff like liniment at a "general store." And it was all shipped to the front entrance for me.

I walked out to the fairground area of the park, and road on Ferris wheels and played skeet ball and other fairground games. I put all my stuff in lockers and started to go on some of the roller coasters. It was a Friday afternoon in August, yet the crowds weren't bad at all, so I was able to go on a lot of rides quite quickly with no wait. As I was going up to another roller coaster, all the rides suddenly shut down. A guy out front said a thunderstorm was coming through, and they had to shut down as a precaution until the storm was however many miles away from the park. Fair enough.

I went on a few inside rides, and then as the rain started to fall, I went inside to the Dolly Parton museum at the park, to be greeted by a Dolly hologram before seeing the story of her life. There was even a section on the Imagination Library and places to sign up your kids for the free books.

The steam train was still running, so I ran over to get a ride on that when I came out of the Dolly museum, and we went on a damp ride on steam train, which at least served to keep the smoke and askes from the rain tamped down, as they had a safety message on the train about what to do if you got an ember in your eye during the ride that I was glad I didn't need to put to use.

The rain looked to be slowing down, so I headed back to my original locker to grab my stuff and move it over to a locker nearer to the rides I was going on. As I got there, the sky really opened up to a torrential downpour where you couldn't see two feet in front of you, and the small group of people who had the same idea as I did were trapped with me in the small overhang until the rain gave up. It was so long a downpour that I called my parents out of want of anything better to do, as the WIFI didn't reach to the location we were at.

Eventually, the rain gave up and I retrieved my stuff, and I started walking around. No one had any idea how long it would be before the rides started up again, so I spent my time with a couple inside rides and going through some of the other stores in Craftsman’s Valley to bide the time. I had an unofficial estimate of a half hour on the rides, and just as that time was about to come up, it started raining again. Giving up, I headed back to the entrance, did some shopping the gift shop there, and then went and picked up all the stuff that I had bought in the various other stores throughout the park.

The park, even at this late hour, were letting you get a rain check on your ticket, but as I didn't know if I'd ever be back in the area again, I demurred. I damply got back to my car, and damply rode the two hours back to the hotel.

I grabbed some dinner on the way back and spent the rest of the evening drying out my clothes and gear. There was a hot shower and soak in the tub to cap it off, and I was in bed at a relatively early hour, exhausted from the endeavors of the day.
The Accommodations: 

Not much time spent in the hotel at all today. Mostly, it was after coming home from Dollywood.

On Slipping, Shipping, and Dripping
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Elizabethton Twins (Minnesota Twins) vs. Johnson City Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals)
TVA Credit Union Ballpark
Appalachian League (Rookie+)
Johnson City, TN
7:00 PM

Outside the Game:
I had another extremely lazy morning, getting up just in time to grab the last of the breakfast buffet, and then heading back up to the room for a post-shower nap.

Once motivated to leave, I took a 20-minute ride south-west of Bristol to another commercial cave, Appalachian Caverns. This was a larger commercial cave, and it even had a wild cave tour (where you do actual caving and have to get dressed properly). I wasn't feeling particularly energetic, so I stayed with the commercial tour, which was run by the female owner of the cave, and she brought along their terrier dog, who loved to go running around in the cave.

With me was a family and another couple, and the guy--a veteran by all accounts--was charitably one of the dumbest people I think I had ever met. Now, he wasn't a bad guy by any stretch of the imagination, but his cognition level had me surprised he was an army vet and not eating crayons with the marines. (My dad was a marine; I say it out of love, leathernecks. Please don’t kill me.) I mean, one of his first questions was how long it took someone to dig out this cave, and it went downhill from there. How long did it take them to fill the "pool" (the underground river)? Were there any monsters living in the cave? These were all, honest-to-god, real questions he asked seriously.

The cave itself was quite extensive and beautiful. There was a lot of wildlife in the cave, including crickets, bats, and cave fish. They had even installed a bridge over the river in one place. The cave saw action as a Confederate hospital during the war. A big room in the cave relatively close to the entrance was used to house wounded, with its high humidity and stable temperature. The location was previously used by the natives for ceremonies.

On the way out, I stopped at the gift shop and stocked up on knickknacks, and then drove back to the hotel. I packed up to leave the next day, grabbed a nap, and then went back to the Burger Hut for lunch. I then grabbed all the stuff I was shipping home and my game bag and headed out for the night.

I stopped in at a FedEx Office location in Johnson City and packed up all my stuff for home, including a  shipping tube for the bat from Dollywood. A little while later, I had a much lighter load, and headed off to the park.

I got to the stadium and bought a ticket and started to do my walk-around the park when it started raining again. By the time I had done my circuit, it was really starting to pour, so I retreated back to my rental car to wait out the torrential downpour. As luck would have it, it slowed down a lot and stopped right as the gates were scheduled to open, so I went right in.

On the way back, it was an easy out of the parking lot, as most of the crowd was still watching the fireworks. I made the 45-minute drive back to the hotel in about a half hour, and then hit the shower and the tub, finished packing, and then hit the sack.

The Stadium & Fans:
TVA Credit Union Ballpark unfortunately sounds like a higher-level minor league park with the inevitable naming rights, but it was actually at home in the modest Appalachian advanced rookie league. It certainly was a stand-out park from most of the others in this league and looked like a higher-level, purpose-built park as opposed to others in the league. The park was actually on a large footprint, taking over the entirety of a plot of land, and you can completely walk around the outside on a sidewalk next to the iron fencing with brick posts.

There was one ticket booth and one entrance on the first-base side behind home plate. The entrance opened into a wide promenade that extended around the entire outside of the park from outfield to outfield. All of the concessions, stands, and activities were out on that promenade, with entrances into the park on the third- and first-base sides and via a walkway under the press box to behind home plate. The main concession stand was just to the left of the press box ramp, and the team store was just off to the right. The rest of the promenade on the first-base side was covered with tents hosting beer concessions, local groups, and even a band (that could only play sporadically due to the weather). A small children's play area was at the right-field end of the walkway.

The seating bowl was a little unusual. Two rows of box seats (ironically not under cover from the overhang) ran from dugout to dugout. The rest of the seats were bleachers running from base to base. The press box sat at the top of the seats behind home plate, and an overhang covered most of the bleacher seats from about dugout to dugout. There was a party area called "The Perch" in short left field. A small digital scoreboard was part of the double-height outfield wall in left center, with the rest covered with ads for local businesses, with the exception of the batters' eye in dead center and a championship placard in right-center. An affiliate banner hangs in right field, and plaques honoring Lonnie Lowe and Howard Johnson are in the ramp under the press box. Players banners run the length of the brick wall outside of first base.

Even with the weather, there was a more than healthy crowd at the stadium that day to cheer on the home team. Mascot Jay Cee the cardinal was around before the game and between innings for a full suite of minor-league mayhem of contests, games, and quizzes.

At the Game with Oogie:
Most of my time in the park was spent dodging the intermittent rain storms. Given the weather, I sprang for a reserved seat under the covered grandstand by home plate. I was in the first row, so it was a good view, obviously. After a bit of a wait when the sun came out, I grabbed a Gatorade, hot dog, and Bojangles chicken sandwich from the one concession stand, made a trip to the team store booth, and then settled in for the game.

There was a large family of no-doubt season ticket holders beside me to the right and behind me, and there were somehow two rotating families in the seats to my left. I wasn't quite sure how that worked.

The Game:
No one will ever call this game between the visiting Elizabethton Twins and the Johnson City Cardinals a pitcher’s duel. But even given the score, there was a lot of nothing in this game, with a ton of action crammed into the bottom of the fifth where the Cardinals would blow the game open for good.

Elizabethton jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first with a one-out single, triple, and sacrifice fly, staking them to a 2-0 lead. The Cardinals went in order in the bottom of the first thanks to a double-play after a one-out walk. The Twins would also go in order in the top of the second, but Johnson City tied up the game with a single, hit batsman, single, and a misplay by the center fielder, leaving it 2-2 after 2. Elizabethton went in order again in the top of the third, while the Cardinals got another run a single, two wild pitches, and a ground-out with a purpose, giving them their first 3-2 lead.

The Twins went in order again in the fourth, while Johnson City tacked on another run off a leadoff double, and a single, increasing the lead to 4-2. Elizabethton went in order yet again in the top of the fifth, and the Cardinals absolutely obliterated the opposing pitching staff in the bottom of the frame. The inning started with a walk and a wild pitch, but a home run to left made the wild pitch moot and cleared the bases. The next batter singled, but was caught stealing, giving the first out of the inning. The next two batters walked and singled, and then another wild pitch moved them up a base. Another walk loaded the bases, and a hit batsman forced in a run. A fielder's choice gunned down the runner at home, but left the bases loaded. Two more walks forced in two more runs, and then a double left it second and third with two outs. The next batter mercifully popped out to second, but the batting-around damage had been done, with seven runs in and the Cardinals out to a 11-2 lead. After that inning, the Twins responded with a sole walk in the top of the sixth, and an exhausted-from-the-running Johnson City team only had a single in the bottom of the inning.

In the seventh, Elizabethton got a little something going, with two singles and a sacrifice fly helping to close the lead to 11-3, but the Cardinals got in right back in the bottom of the seventh with a single, hit batsman, walk, and a groundout, to make it a nine run game again at 12-3. The Twins started the eighth with a leadoff double and a walk. A two-out hit batsman leaded up the bases, and a ground out and a balk brought in two runs to make it 11-5, and Johnson City only had a sole single in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the ninth, the Twins had a leadoff walk, and nothing else, ending the long, drippy game with a 12-5 Johnson City victory.

The Scorecard:
The free scorecard was part of the free, half-tabloid, full-color program. The problem was getting one. With the rain at the time of gates opening, they didn't have anyone giving them out. After asking around, I eventually had to go back to the ticket booth to have someone dig one out for me. The scorecard was one page of a spread at the back of the program, with the other page providing scoring instructions on one half and an ad on the other. As with most Cardinals scorecards, it was bad. There were lines for players with replacement, as well as pitching lines, and each scoring square had a pre-printed diamond. But everything was so tiny as to make it really hard to be legible, and the glossy paper made it hard to write with pencil. Even the pre-printed categories were almost too tiny to write in. It looked as though it may have been designed for a two-page spread and then shrunk down for one in the worst way possible.

That said, outside of a balk in the top of the eighth and the complete collapse of the Twins pitching staff in the bottom of the fifth, there wasn't anything of note as far as scoring.

The Accommodations:
I was spending my last day in the Comfort Inn. Not much time spent at all.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


On the Meaning of "Them"
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Princeton Rays (Tampa Bay Rays) vs. Kingsport Mets (New York Metropolitans)
Hunter Wright Stadium
Appalachian League (Rookie +)
Kingsport, TN
6:30 PM

Outside the Game: 
I didn't sleep well the night before, so it was a super-slow and lazy morning. I grabbed breakfast, and I went back for a nap after my shower before finally getting the energy to get on with my day.

My first stop for the day was Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium, a nature preserve/zoo out by the Kingsport stadium I was going to later, but still only about a half hour from Bristol. As it was an overcast day with on and off rain, it was pretty hard to find any of the animals, who mostly had the sense to stay under cover and out of sight in this weather. At the visitor’s center, I signed up for a barge ride later in the afternoon, then headed out to see what animals I could find and then take a walk on one of the nature trails that surrounded the artificial lake created by the damn that ran on one edge of the park. The trail itself goes over the dam on a small railed walkway, and after thinking to myself how I definitely should not do anything with my glasses while on this precipitous path, I nearly dropped my eyeglasses in the lake while fiddling with them due to the power of negative thinking, or some such.

Even overcast, it was a very beautiful area to walk around in, and it was nice to stretch my legs for an extended period out in nature. On my way to the barge ride, I tried to stop into the visitor’s center, but I was directed to go in the back door by the bathrooms only as they were filing some television segment inside. As I only needed the bathroom, that worked out, and it turned out the local news was talking to the planetarium folks about the solar eclipse later in the year and how to prepare for it and watch it safely. This reminded me to find my eclipse glasses when I got home, as I had completely forgotten there was going to be a solar eclipse in the US for the first time in forever.

After not being able to find much wildlife, there was a flock (further research indicates "herd" is the right term) of semi-tame deer that followed me along the walkway from the visitor's center. I got down to the barge ride, and it started to rain, and unsurprisingly, it was just me on the trip. A young college-aged girl was taking the barge out today, and over the course of the ride, it was clear that she really, really liked beavers. She went through all the talk she was supposed to give about the other areas of the park, but she went on and on about beavers, and the lodges, and how she kept up on them, and that she could identify all the individuals by sight, and that she was going to go closer to the one dam because those beavers were more active in the rain. She was pleasantly geeky about her beavers, so it made for a nice ride.

It started really coming down during the barge ride, and it was still going as I made my way back to the car. I headed to a Chik-Fil-A for lunch and got the number for the stadium. I called and got constant busy signals, so I gave up and went back to the hotel, grabbing some gas on the way. I lay down for a "short nap" of 1.5 hours -- it seems the walking and the weather really took it out of me.

When I woke up, I called the stadium again and got through, and they assured me that the game was still going on because "they" wanted to get the game in. And that was the first "they" of the night. "They" want to get the game in can be a number of people. "They" can be the managers, because they will miss an off day if they have to make up the game or have an unfortunate commute for a make-up game or another double-header. "They" can also be the ownership, who want to get a game in on a weeknight so as not to have another doubleheader wreck their concession numbers, or for some of the same scheduling reasons. "They" can be the umpires, or the league, and on up the line, and the further up it went, the more likely "they" were to get their way. At any case, "they" are never the stadium workers, who universally hate working soggy games that go on forever, and the players, for exactly the same reasons.

Since "they" said it was on, I drove back out the half hour again to the stadium, parked, did my outside photography and grabbed a ticket. It started raining again as soon as I got inside.

After the damp but glorious game, it was a quick drive back to the hotel, where I just grabbed a hot shower and went straight to bed. Because after bad sleep and a long, damp day, I couldn't even muster the enthusiasm for a soak in the tub. And, of course, the bathroom was full of my ponchos and clothes from the day hanging out to dry.

The Stadium & Fans: 
The Metropolitans generally have a problem with stadium location for their affiliates. Locations range from "in the middle of nowhere" (GCL, Spring Training), to "next to an abandoned insane asylum" (Columbia), to "right next to a rail yard" (Binghamton), to "in an auto parts depot" (MLB). Outside of the Cyclones, the stadium locations all suck, and Hunter Wright Stadium falls solidly in the "middle of nowhere" category. But, especially for an Appalachian League park, it was quite nice.

In following the Appalachian League tradition, there is one entrance behind home plate, guarded by the one ticket window. A walkway leads to the field, and splits of in several directions. One goes up the third-base side by the merchandise stand, one goes into a covered area under the press box above that houses the concession stand, and one curves around to drop in from a hill on the first-base side. There is a small stand of plastic fold-down chairs behind home plate (topped with an outside "Owner's Box"), and the rest of the seating, running from home plate to just beyond the bases, are tiered bleachers. None of them have cover, which was a particular issue this rainy night. The only covered area was a picnic area at the top of the hill on the first-base side. The digital scoreboard peaks out over a one-level outfield wall plastered in advertisements, set amongst a bucolic tree line along the entire outfield.

The Don Spivy Press Box towers over the field behind home plate as part of the one sprawling building that constitutes the only building in the park. It contains the clubhouse and umpire areas, covers the concession stand in the tunnel under the press box, and extends down the first-base line with the merchandise stand peeking out from the end closest to first base. There is a picnic area just outside the concession stand tunnel, along with a "Wall of Fame" road to the majors for the team. There was a sign for a kid’s area in the right field corner, but given the weather, they did not bring out any of the inflatable rides next to the batting cages.

Slider the mascot made a damp appearance for the game, and there were a number of minor-league standard games and contests between innings, perhaps to reward the dripping stalwarts that sat it out for the entire game. Also notable and a source of personal pride is that the game did not have an official pre-game prayer, although both teams huddled up on the field for private prayers before the start of the game.

You can't really judge a fanbase fairly on a rainy Thursday night game, but the people who stuck it out were invested in the team, and by their sighs and harrumphs as the K-Mets nearly blew it and surprise at them actually pulling it out, you could tell they were truly fans of the Metropolitans organization.

At the Game with Oogie: 
I purchase a general admission ticket on the way in, and with the paltry crowd that day, it hardly mattered, as I could eventually sit wherever I so desired. My first stop was to the merchandise stand, where I stocked up of another Metropolitan affiliate's gear. I then grabbed a slice of pizza on a frisbee and a burger and went out to the covered picnic tables to have a soggy meal.

All through the hour rain delay before the start of the game, I spent the majority of my time in the overhang area by the concessions stand, not coincidentally with most of the on-field staff and what few other patrons stuck around for the game. We all knew each by sight before the game started. Someone rather senior in the team management was bitching about how "they" still wanted to get the game in, so it was most likely the league officials that wanted to get the game in for whatever reason, which meant that one way or another, this game was probably going on.

Once the rain stopped and they got everything ready for the game, I picked out a seat on the bleachers on the home first-base dugout that wasn't marred by netting. There were two die-hard locals in my section a row or so back from where I was, and that was about it in my area. They went on talking to each other for most of the game, and I was left to myself.

When the K-Mets pulled the win out of their hat, they threw little foam victory baseballs into the crowd, such as it was. I got one, because I was one of the only people they really could throw them to. The two guys in back of me got balls as well.

The Game: 
Whenever I visit a Metropolitans affiliate, I always expect the worse. This was the case as the Kingsport Mets faced off against the Princeton Rays on a rainy evening in August. So you can imagine my surprise when the K-Mets not only came back from behind late and held on to a win by the skin of their teeth. I was as shocked as the dozen people left in the stands at the end of the soggy game.

After a delayed start, the Rays jumped all over the Mets with a two-out rally in the first. Three singles and a double quickly drove in two runs and put the Rays out to an early 2-0 lead. The Mets went in order. In the second, Princeton went in order (although the last batter singled and was caught stealing). Surprisingly, the Mets came back in the bottom of the second, turning two singles and a double into two runs to tie it up, 2-2. The Rays went in order in the top of the third, while Kingsport kept going with a walk, a double, and a throw-away ball by the second baseman turned into two more runs, staking them to a 4-2 lead.

The Rays came back in the top of the fourth with a leadoff homerun to cut the lead to 4-3, while the Mets went in order. Princeton went in order in the fifth, while Kingsport stranded two singles. The Rays tied it up in the top of the sixth with two singles and a stolen base, while the Mets only had a walk to show for the bottom of the frame.

Princeton had just a walk in the top of the seventh, while Kingsport broke the tie. A leadoff single was followed by a triple and a sacrifice fly to gain a lead again at 6-4. In top of the eighth, the Rays closed it to 6-5 on a walk, double, and double-play ground out. Kingsport just a had a single in the bottom of the eighth. At the top of the ninth, it looked like the Mets would blow it, as is their birthright. They managed to load the bases with back-to-back singles to start the inning, and then they hit the next batter. Amazingly, the pitcher got a clutch strikeout on the next batter, and then a pop-up to the shortstop. After a long at-bat, the last batter grounded to the third baseman, who stepped on the bag for a force out and cemented the rain-delayed 6-5 victory for the K-Mets.

The Scorecard: 
The scorecard was part of the $1 magazine-size program. The program was printed on semi-gloss paper, which made writing with pencils difficult, but not as bad as other paper of this type. The scorecard was on the centerfold spread, but the scorecard was only about half of the spread. The top of the spread was ads, and the bottom was stadium regulations and scoring instructions. There were plenty of players lines, but nothing for pitchers. I used several of the copious players lines to at least list out the pitchers. The scoring boxes didn't have diamonds and were small, but usable. The background was white, which allowed for marginal notations, a welcome change from most Metropolitan-affiliated scorecards.

There weren't that many scoring plays of note. There was a CS 9-6 in the top of the second as a runner tried unsuccessfully to extend a single into a double, but that was about it. Everything else was run-of-the-mill.

The Accommodations: 
I was at the Comfort Inn again, and there was nothing really to mention, except I had plenty of space to hang up all my wet gear from the day's activities.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


On Unexpected Enlightenment
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Greenville Astros (Houston Astros) vs. Elizabethton Twins (Minnesota Twins)
Joe O'Brien Field
Appalachian League (Rookie+)
Elizabethton, TN
7:00 PM

Outside the Game:
I had a lazy morning the first day in Tennessee. I rolled out of bed and down to breakfast, and then rolled back up to my room where I took a supplementary nap after a shower.

Eventually up and out the door, I headed downtown to the excessively named "Birthplace of Country Music Museum." The museum refers to the "Bristol Sessions," a set of recordings by a New York record producer in 1927 to sample what was then known as "Hillbilly Music." These recording would launch the careers of the first real stars of what would become known as "country" music.

Now, outside of a penchant for Johnny Cash, I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a country music fan, but this was exactly the sort of place that I loved to find on these trips. Under normal situations, I would never, ever go out of my way to see a place such as this, but it was quite informative to me, and I learned a lot. I walked out of the gift shop with a CD of the recordings and a biography of the producer who made it happen, and I know much more now than I did then. And that's all I can really ask out of life. Before being the "Big Bang" of country music, Bristol was famous for being bisected by the Virginia/Tennessee border, and an electric sign arch over the road where the state line passes is another tourist attraction, which I saw as I drove to the museum earlier.

I stayed in the area downtown after the museum to look for lunch, and I saw a hole-in-the-wall lunch counter called the "Burger Bar" that wouldn't have been out of place in the 40s. It was everything I hoped it to be, as I sat at the crowded counter and got a relatively cheap burger and fries combo to die for. And it wouldn't be the last time I visited.

After lunch, at the suggestion of my friend, I drove a little out of town to the Gray Fossil Site and Natural History Museum, an active archeological dig site that came into being after road construction turned up a mother lode of dinosaur fossils. I went through the small museum they had and tramped out to watch somehow-still-pasty paleontology students digging at the outdoors site, as well as even more pasty paleontology students in the labs upstairs working on the bones that were dug up. I had told the person at the counter that I was interested in a walking tour out to the site, but she went on break at some point and did not tell the new person at the front, who apologized and said it would be another half-hour before someone could take me out due to the missed connection. Not wanting to see the dig up close that much, I jumped into my car and went back to downtown Bristol.

I tooled around in the row of antique shops on the main drag for a while, picking up a couple of old knick-knacks for my trouble before heading back to the hotel for a nap. After waking up, I grabbed my game bag and got ready for the short, 30-minute drive to the park.

The drive was uneventful, but the address for the stadium did not have me ending up at a stadium. After some fiddling with GPS, I was able to get the stadium as a location and not an address, and I got within sighting distance of the light towers, which is all I generally need to get to me a park these days. I parked up, bought a reserved seat at the ticket booth, and then headed in.

After the game, it was another quick ride back to the hotel. Falling into a rhythm, I finished up my scorecard, soaked in the tub for a bit, and hit the hay.

The Stadium & Fans:
Joe O'Brien Field is about as far from a "cookie-cutter" ballpark as you might imagine. The main entrance is a low facade of a building right by the main parking lot. You can't much go around the park before access is cut off. The park is jutted up against the river, which you can't see from the main entrance. The field is at the end of a river park, and once I entered, I found out there is another entrance from the river park, essentially a back-door wedged in behind third base.

The entrances both empty out onto a large plaza, and a smaller walkway underneath the stands and buildings runs from third to first base outside the seating area. The main plaza area is behind first base, and houses two low buildings that hold the sole concession stand and souvenir shop. A small group of picnic tables and the Road to the Show run under the first base stands, along with a stand-alone Italian ice cart. A small inflatable fast-pitch also sits in this area, along with a 1960s-era drink machine in the back of the ticket booth.

There is one section of actual seating behind home plate in an uncovered grandstand. On either side are two pillbox buildings up on stilts over the claustrophobic walkway that holds the handicapped seating underneath. One box is the press box, and the other is "The Cave" party area. Two rows of bleachers run separately from the dugouts to the bases on both sides.

The double-decked wall is covered with ads along the outfield, with the exception of the blacked-out dead-center batter's eye, the digital scoreboard in right-center, and a championship and league board further towards right field.

The park has been there for a while and has accumulated a number of memorials. Hrbek, Puckett, Mauer, and Morneau all have wooden placards at the top of seating areas, with the dates they played for the team. There is also the aforementioned Road to the show under the first base seats. Additionally, there were a number of veteran memorials, including the de rigueur POW/MIA seat in the plaza, reserved veteran seating in the parking lot, and another banner for vets in the plaza.

There again was a prayer before the start of the game, and in the program, they advertised a "God and Country" night, which was probably to be expected. The mascot didn't make an appearance, but there was a decent crowd for the game, and they were into the action on the field, as there were again limited between-innings antics and contests. It was also safe to say that a lot of the people in the stands knew each other, as most folks didn't get five feet walking before greeting someone.

At the Game with Oogie:
So, after sitting on the hard concrete and then the metal bleachers on the previous night's games in Bristol, I decided to splurge on a reserved ticket, which at least ensured be a plastic seat with a back. Sadly, they were molded plastic, but it was still an improvement over the last night.

I grabbed a brat and chicken sandwich at the sole concession stand at the park and did a little shopping at the sole merch stand next door. I was running low on money as I forget to grab cash that day, and was down to my last $100, which was going to have to tide me over until after the game at least.

I had an assigned seat behind home plate and had the row pretty much to myself. Right in front of me were two locals and behind me was a family of fans for the visiting Astros. The Astros family got loud, but they were good natured about it, especially when their team started to tank the game.

I again won the program contest, scoring a $5 local Dairy Queen gift certificate. Not ever going to be back in the area, I asked the guys in front if they wanted the prize. After a bit of negotiation, they agreed to take it. They also wondered if I was working for a radio station or something because they heard me "calling the game" behind them. I had to sheepishly tell them that it was just me muttering to myself (too loudly, it would seem) as I scored the game. They seemed satisfied with that answer.

This also marks the first time I’ve ever been called a "Yankee" to my face. The gentlemen in front of me also inquired if I was one when they heard me speak, so another check mark for that day.

As the sun set, a large flock of mosquitos (subsequent research has informed me it is called a "scourge") settled in to snack on the crowd, but the lighting of some torches on hand for just such an occasion lessened their impact.

The Game:
This match between two top teams in the Appalachian League looked to be a better match-up than we actually got, with the hometown Elizabethton Twins blowing the visiting Greenville Astros out of the water.

The Astros went in order in the first, while Elizabethton managed to waste a leadoff walk and double with no one across in their half. Grenville had two walks and a single to load the bases in the top of the second, but likewise got no one across, and the Twins went in order. Both sides hung it up in the third, going in their respective orders.

In the top of the fourth, Greenville stranded a one-out double, but the Twins got on the board. A leadoff single was followed by a homer to stake them to a 2-0 lead. The Astros stranded a lone single in the top of the fifth, while Elizabethton kept on going. A walk and single went back-to-back to start the inning, and a wild pitch moved them over to second and third, and a subsequent single brought them both in to open the lead to 4-0. Greenville went in order again in the sixth, while the Twins racked up three doubles and two runs in the bottom of the sixth to open a commanding 6-0 gap.

Both sides went in order in the seventh, while Greenville finally got on the board in the eighth with two walks and a single to close it a little to 6-1. The Twins scattered two baserunners on an error and a single to no avail, but the Astros only had a single to show for the top of the ninth, leaving Elizabethton with a 6-1 victory.

The Scorecard:
The scorecard was part of $2 color newsprint tabloid program. The profits went to charity, so it is hard to work up much of a froth about it, but it was a pretty bad scorecard. It was part of the centerfold spread and perhaps half of the top of the spread was dedicated to the scorecard, while the rest was 75% ads and 25% scoring instructions. There was a colored background, which was smudge city on newsprint, especially colored. There was only one line for each lineup spot, but it was long enough to allow substitutions on the same line. The scoring boxes were unnecessarily tiny, which made it hard to score legibly.

There were a couple of scoring plays of note. There was a strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double play in the bottom of the fourth and a ground-rule double in the bottom of the sixth that went off the third baseman and into the stands for the double, which is an odd way to get a double to be sure. On the disappointing front, in the bottom of the seventh, there was a 3-6-1 DP, and I know that is how they are running the play these days, but it will never be as satisfying as the old 3-6-3 DP. I will now go and yell at some clouds with an onion on my belt.

The Accommodations:
I was at the Hampton Inn again. Not much to report, there.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


On an Historic Event
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Danville Braves (Atlanta Braves) vs. Bristol Pirates (Pittsburgh Pirates) -- Game 1
DeVault Memorial Stadium
Appalachian League (Rookie +)
Bristol, VA
6:00 PM

Outside the Game:
The day began with a lazy, lazy morning in Princeton, grabbing breakfast, washing up, and then checking out with the same people who had checked my friend and I in several days before. I entered my trip to Bristol into my new GPS, got gas, and headed out for the two-hour drive.

The trip was thankfully uneventful, and I stopped along the way for lunch. I discovered an issue with the hotel bill at that time. My friend had put his credit card down when he arrived first at the hotel. I had subsequently given my card to charge the room, as my friend had slipped me some cash when he left town the day before. But both of our cards had the room charge on them. A quick call to the hotel later, it turned out the charge on my friend's card was just a hold for the room and it should disappear in a day or so (which it eventually did). I called him up to make sure everything was straight, and then continued to Bristol.

Now the thing about eastern Tennessee is that it is the only place that has less going on than western Tennessee. Another friend of mine grew up in the area he accurately described as the "belt buckle of the Bible Belt," but he was from the somewhat more progressive west, and he was at a loss to what I would do with myself in the eastern part of the state, where one of the only real attractions was the Appalachian League that I was there to see.

The one thing that part of the state did have going for it was caves. The area of the state is riddled with caverns, and that was just fine with me. So, my first stop in the state was Bristol Caverns, a rather popular commercial cave just outside of the city.

I parked up and walked in just as a tour was ready to leave, so I and a group of about twenty people were led into the cave by a guide who gave a history of the cave as well as its commercial exploitation. One of the first things you pass in going to the entrance was a second entrance that was attempted in the 80s but failed for a number of reasons. The guide explained that the old family that owned the cave now had no real ambitions for it beyond what it was, as it brought in a tidy income for their golden years, and they weren't about to fiddle with the golden goose this late in life.

The caverns themselves were quite lovely, with a lot of interesting features and an underground river, but the guide was a bit of a character. When speaking of the rumors about the Native American use of the cave, he let drop the line that he was 1/8th Native, and I almost failed to stifle my laugh when he said it. You see, there is next to no chance that this good ole boy had Native blood in his lineage. It has become a hip thing for people to claim, even in the capital "S" South, but in reality, most tales of Native American blood (as in, nearly all of them, especially in the South), are a case of older relations trying to cover up African-American lineage. A little Native American blood was borderline acceptable and perhaps a tantalizing point of pride, but any "Negro" blood definitely was not, and it was an easy way to explain away some darker colorings.

Anyway, after the tour, I drove to my hotel and checked in, unpacked, and took a nap. And then I was off to grab some money and head to the game. The park was an oddly arranged affair with a shared parking lot with the football stadium next door. The sole ticket booth was at the end of a long walkway that led to the stadium, so I was able to score my general admission seat and head on in for the first of two games.

The Stadium & Fans:
DeVault Memorial Stadium was an odd duck of a park, as many Appalachian League stadiums would turn out to be.

The park was located right next door to a football field (another common occurrence), and the one ticket booth was at the head of a long, winding walkway the led to behind home plate of the field. A dual-level building behind home plate housed the "Mose" Saul Pressbox (upstairs) and the Fred & Brenda Scott Concession stand, and the Dotty Cox  Souvenir Stand (downstairs). Further memorials were a POW/MIA seat, and a commemorative plaque on a 27-strikeout perfect game thrown in 1952 by the Bristol D-league franchise of the day. A cement walkway ran above the reserved seats and below the bleachers from outfield to outfield. Three rows of fold-down reserved seats ran from dugout to dugout behind home plate. From the bases into the short outfield, and behind the reserved seats at home plate were three rows of bleachers, metal in by the bases and straight cement behind home plate.

Behind the third-base side home dugout there was "Home Run Alley," a party porch with its own bar. Further behind the third base side was a steep picnic hill, topped a covered bench area (the only covered seats in the park). The basic electric scoreboard in left-center field is part of the two-level outfield wall covered in billboards and backed by trees. The park banned tobacco, and the only place to buy liquor was in Home Run Alley, which surprisingly enough, is where the lushes congregated for the duration of both games.

The team had two costumed mascots, generic monster "Ding" and pirate Captain Buc. There was also a human Captain Buc who wandered the stands interacting with the kids and blowing balloon animals and such. There was a decent enough crowd for a mid-week double-header, and they seemed into the game as much as you can be, given the outcome. Not surprisingly, the Home Run Alley crowd was the most vocal. There was a minimum of activity between-innings and mostly centered in the stands.

It is worth mentioning that they had a prayer before the start of the game. I had been to games in countless states and countries before this, but the moment I see a game in the Belt Buckle of the Bible Belt, they have a prayer before the game. It was a first, but sadly not a last, as it would be repeated for the rest of the games in Tennessee. I mean, seriously guys: even West Virginia didn't pray before games.

The area behind home plate were also packed with scouts. As in, there was a clutch of them with their speed guns taking notes after every pitch. That's rookie league for you.

At the Game with Oogie:
I grabbed a GA ticket for the game and still sat right behind home plate, so that worked out well, though the concrete seats were a bit too much, if you ask me. My back certainly agreed by the end of the first game. I scored a lot of cheap grub before the start of the first game and retreated to my seat for the duration.

Well, almost the duration. There was a Baseball Bingo game going that I didn't win, but my program came with a contest ticket that I did win. When I went to the souvenir stand to claim my prize, they seemed a little confused that someone bothered to come get their winnings, such as it was. It turned out to be a leather Volvo keychain, which I guess made some sort of sense in some way I didn't understand.

The bleachers behind home were pretty packed for the game. In front of me was a young family with a baby. She was catered to by the human mascot for a while, and then settled down for a nap in the later innings on a fuzzy blanket laid over the cement seats.

The Game:
This Appalachian-League contest between the Danville Braves and the Bristol Pirates was going to be two, seven-inning games to make up from the rain-outs that had been affecting this area, as well as where I had been further north. It would turn out to be a historic one, at least for me.

Danville started the game with a leadoff single that was erased on a double-play. The Pirates second batter was hit by a pitch and erased on a fielder's choice to end the inning, so not much to brag about for both teams. Both sides also went in order in the second. The Braves woke up in the third with a leadoff infield single to third, a double to score the lead runner, a single to make it first and third, and then another double to bring in the lead runner and make it second and third with no out. The pitcher promptly uncorked a wild pitch to score a run and move the lead runner to third. A deep fly to center from the next batter looked to be a tailor-made sacrifice fly, but the center fielder gunned down the runner at home for an unlikely double play, and another fly out to center ended the half with Danville up, 3-0. Bristol again went in order in their half.

A single, a double, and a wild pitch somehow didn't score a run for the Braves in the top of the fourth, and the Pirates went in order again. Both teams sat down in order in the fifth, but Danville got it going again in the top of the sixth with a leadoff walk. A single, groundout, and booted grounder by the first baseman got in another run, staking them to a 4-0 lead. The Pirates again went in order, as it started to dawn on everyone that they were being no hit, and just missed having a perfect game thrown against them except for the hit batsman two guys into the game. In the seventh, Danville scraped another run across on a single, two groundouts, a wild pitch and a passed ball, and Bristol, in their last licks, went down quickly, cementing the Braves 5-0, no-hit win.

The Scorecard:
The scorecard was part of the $1 program, which came with a Baseball Bingo card, as well as a raffle ticket. It was a solid program, as a full-sized tabloid with cardstock paper. Instead of the centerfold, the scorecard was on one page in the early part of the program. It took up the entirety of that page, on white background, with a decent amount of space for scoring, with each square not having a pre-printed diamond. There was not a ton of places for replacements, however, but that didn't affect me as it was two seven-inning games, and there were only three pitching lines, which also would have been a problem if these were normal games. The scorecard even had a brief paragraph in the upper left-hand corner about ground rules, and not chasing foul balls into the football field next door.

The big story here, of course, was the first no hitter that I had witnessed in person, even if it was only a seven-inning affair. It just missed a perfect game by the hit batsman two players into the game. The only odd scoring play of note was the DP F-8-2 in the bottom of the third when a runner on third tried to take it home on a fly-out to center and got gunned down by a great throw.

Also, I just noticed that I put the home Bristol Pirates at the top of the scorecard for some reason. Maybe that jinxed them.

And, to sum up, no hitter.

The Accommodations:
There was a second game to see before rest, though I did take a nap in my room before heading out to the game.

On Playing Two
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Danville Braves (Atlanta Braves) vs. Bristol Pirates (Pittsburgh Pirates) -- Game 2
DeVault Memorial Stadium
Appalachian League (Rookie +)
Bristol, VA
8:20 PM

Outside the Game:
The second game of the doubleheader ended at around 10:30, and I was back to the hotel in no time. I finished up both scorecards and set my head to rest in Tennessee for the first time.

The Stadium & Fans: See above. Most of the crowd stayed for both games, brisk as they were.

At the Game with Oogie:
Between games I went to the concession stand and grabbed a hot dog to tide me over for the second game. I decided to take in the second game from the bleacher seats behind first base. The metal bleachers were actually a welcome relief after the stiff concrete for the first game, and I sat at the very top, so I had some backing with the chain-link fence, so that was even more relief. Much as it must have been a relief to the home fans when the Pirates got a hit and then eventually even scored some runs.

There was no one sitting near me for the second game, although some teenagers were running back and forth around my section intermittently. I was able to see some foul balls go into the football field just beyond the first-base side of the park. Even though the program had a notice not to, enterprising kids hopped the fence to grab souvenirs when they thought the adults were suitably distracted.

The Game: 
 The second match-up between the Braves and the Pirates started at the odd time of 8:20 PM. It looked to be more of the same until a breakout inning halfway through the contest gave the home team something to cheer for.

The game began spectacularly with a passed ball third strike allowing a runner to reach base. A single got him to third, but he was thrown out by the catcher when he was sleeping too far off the bag at third. With two outs in the bottom of the first, the Pirates finally got their first hit in a while, though he was stranded there. Danville got a sole baserunner in the top of the second due to an error, and the Pirates went in order, while both sides went in order in the third.

Danville scattered a reached-on-error and walk in the top of the fourth, but the Pirates finally woke up. The inning started with a walk and then a bunt single. Everyone advanced on a grounder that the pitcher threw away after the play, letting a run score. The next batter grounded to first, and a play to home was too late. Another grounder was not played cleanly, and a single brought in another run. A walk loaded the bases, and a grounder to short was sent home to cut off the run, but the play moved up the runners. A hit batsman forced in a run, and then a would-be sacrifice fly to right field turned into a F9-2 double play, as the runner from third got nailed trying to score. But Bristol was out to a 4-0 lead. Danville went in order in the fifth, and the Pirates had a reached-on-error in the bottom of the frame.

In the sixth, the Braves finally got on the board with a leadoff double that got driven in with two short singles to close the gap to 4-1. Bristol had the first two batters of the bottom of the sixth hit by pitches, but they left them stranded there. In their last licks in the top of the seventh, the Braves only managed one baserunner on a two-out boot by the pitcher of a ground ball, and the Pirates got their 4-1 win of the nightcap.

The Scorecard:
For the second game, I used the BBWAA scorebook to record the game.

While not a no-hitter, this one had a couple of scoring plays of note. In the top of the first, there was a runner that reached on a third strike thanks to a passed ball. He was eventually caught stealing off third 1-2-5 when the catcher saw him too far off the bag. The eventful fourth inning had some plays of literal note. What was ruled a bunt single was actually an E3, thanks to some home cooking. That runner would score on a fielder's choice 3-2, where he was called safe. In the top of the sixth, a hit was ruled a double, but it really was an infield fly with no one on that dropped for a hit. And the inning ended on a DP F-9-2 where another sacrifice fly ended up on a double play due to the outfield arms being faster than the runners from third.

The Accommodations:
For most of the remainder of the trip, I was staying at the Hampton Inn Bristol, which was just on the Tennessee side of the border. I went with a nice efficiency room, and it proved to be a convenient and pacific base of operations for the rest of the week. Just off the entrance to the right was the somewhat small bathroom, which had a nice-sized tub that would get a lot of use over the stay.

The bedroom had a big king bed, with night tables, a refrigerator and microwave, and large easy chair with Ottoman on one side of the room. On the other was a small luggage table, a dresser with TV, a large bureau, and a desk by the window, that would be my base of operations for the trip.

It was comfortable, quiet, and had some space to move around in, so it would serve my purposes quite well for my time in Tennessee, as well as purging some awful memories of Arizona, where my last long-term stay was… not as enjoyable.