Sunday, July 1, 2018

Rome

On the Braves Ruining Most Things


State Mutual Stadium
State Mutual Stadium, 2018

Sunday, July 1, 2018
Kannapolis Intimidators vs.
Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves)
State Mutual Stadium
South Atlantic League (A)
Rome, GA
2:00 PM

Outside the Game:
Sadly, I didn't have a great experience that night, as I was repeatedly woken up in the middle of the night by noise, so whatever little sleep I would have gotten was regularly interrupted. I had to leave early anyway, with a four-hour drive ahead of me, and my alarm at 7:30 AM was not very welcome.

I pulled it together as best as possible, showered, packed, and then decided to treat myself with a bed and breakfast in Rome that evening that had a previous life as a Victorian mansion. At least dreaming of better things, I was out on the road at 8 AM to start my drive.

Perhaps the greatest miracle of this trip was that I had to drive through the center of Atlanta to get up to Rome, and on this Sunday morning, I drove from the outskirts of Atlanta, through downtown, through the hell that is the downtown interchanges, and back out without hitting any sort of traffic. Considering I hit a legitimate traffic jam at 1 AM at one point in the past around Atlanta, this was nothing short of a miracle.

I pulled into the park at about noon, not having slept well, or eaten anything since lunch the previous day. I stumbled out of my car into the burning afternoon and grabbed a ticket. By great luck, it turned out that the gates for the 2 PM game opened at 12:30 PM with my ticket, so I just did all my outside photography before heading into the park.

After the game was called for rain, I went out into the damp parking lot, not hitting any traffic at all from the few souls that remained at this point. It was a short drive the downtown B&B in the rain. I came up to the intersection downtown where I had to turn for the hotel, and I obliviously made my left turn, not realizing until I was halfway through the turn that there was a horrible T-bone accident in front of me. Nothing else to do for it, I sheepishly continued my turn and drove the short distance to the hotel.

Or at least where it was supposed to be. The innkeeper had given me some vague warnings about the entrance being hidden, and it took me two or so passes around the block before some half-remembered advice he gave my half-awake person in the morning became clear, and I drove up the driveway to the establishment.

I piled out, damp and fading, into the courtyard, and the innkeeper met me and took me inside. The mansion was truly impressive, and it was clearly a labor of love from the innkeeper and his family, who were repairing and updating the place. They all lived in the old servants' quarters, while the mansion proper was turned into guest rooms. He took me up the palatial stairway to my room, let me in, and gave me a key.

I lugged all my stuff up to my room and immediately took advantage of the giant footed tub in my bathroom for a several-hour soak that really did fix a lot of things wrong with the world. Eventually, I got out and dressed and went back downtown for dinner.

A lot of the local restaurants were closed on this summer Sunday evening, but I finally went to Mellow Mushroom, which was one of the few places that were open. I got some pizza and then tried to digest a little, walking around the area and sitting in a rocking chair in "The Forum" to watch the river a bit before heading back to the B&B.

I got my tablet and phone and hung out on the porch in another rocking chair, enjoying the stark blackness of the night and meeting the three cats that made their home at the B&B. I made an abortive attempt to try and get some recompense out of United for my flight cancelation the previous week, but it was just getting me annoyed, so I just sat and watched the stars for a while.

I eventually went up to my room, packed up everything I was going to ship back to NY, and then climbed into one of the gloriously overstuffed beds to get some actual rest for the first time in a couple days. 

The Stadium & Fans:


Home to center at State Mutual Stadium
Home plate to center field at State Mutual Stadium

State Mutual Stadium suffered from corporate naming syndrome right off the bat, but it wasn't a bad park at all. Outside was a faux-brick facade that extended around the park. There were two main entrances: by home plate, and then a right field early entrance for club tickets and season ticket holders.

In front of the park, they parked an old bullpen car near giant baseball balustrades and statues of kids pitching and hitting. Dedication and memorial plaques are on the wall of the entrance plaza. The ticket booth and team store are slightly down the outside of the first-base line, and outside of right field is the Donald Evans Picnic Area and the Pavilion party deck that is also rented out outside of game days. Beyond left field is the service entrance and a small AstroTurf practice field for the team.

All the entrances dump out into a promenade that runs from outfield to outfield around the park and meets up with a smaller walkway through the seating bowl at the end of the grandstand near first and third bases. All the concessions are on this outer walkway, including the Three River Club restaurant, are only open to season or club ticket holders, with its own bar and a small collection of Rome baseball memorabilia. All around the park are panels about the history of baseball in Rome, in addition to a number of sometimes odd memorials, including one to GE, the team's championship banners, the Steve McRay Employee Entrance, a generic pitcher statue in front of the restaurant, and a "Hometown Heroes" memorial. Retired numbers run on banners along the top of the first-base seats. A bottom-only row of seats extends out to the outfield on both sides.

The main grandstand runs from about the third-base dugout to the first-base dugout, behind home plate, and is topped in a row of luxury boxes and the press box, with a small awning providing some cover to the top-most rows. The walkway through the seating bowl separate the upper seats from the box seats by the field.

In addition to the regular concessions and the restaurant, old in right field there is the giant "Bubba's BBQ Barn." In right-center, there is the Suzuki Showcase, and in left is the Captain’s Chair area, complete with two boats. There is also a picnic berm in left-center, and picnic tables in both left and right field. The main digital scoreboard sits in right-center, near a smaller digital auxiliary board, and there is a another video board in short left-field for some reason I was not able to ascertain. A single row of outfield wall covered in local billboards sits below the visage of trees beyond in the outfield.

Three mascots grace the field, in Romey and Roxie the monsters, and Roman, the anime-ish legionnaire. The fan team doubles as cheerleaders for most of the game, and the standard retinue of minor-league games and contest run between innings, with some unique offerings thrown in, such a plane toss. It was a sparse crowd for this Sunday game, probably especially with the weather threatening.

Romey
Romey gives away

In a unique screw-up, when the tarp came out, the grounds' crew hit some sort of literal snag getting the tarp all the way out, and part of the third-base line was left uncovered after several attempts to fix the tarp failed. A groundskeeper cart eventually sped away and returned with the bullpen mound cover that was used to fix the gap, but it was this failure that I am sure contributed to the field being declared unplayable after a rather short rain delay and left the last inning of ball unplayed.

At the Game with Oogie:


Ham sandwich and fries
Ham sandwich and fries

So, I got in early because I had apparently purchased a club seat that included admission to the Three Rivers Club restaurant behind home plate. I went around to take my pictures of the park and field and then retreated to the restaurant because I was hot and hungry at that point.

I was seated right next to the window looking out onto the stadium promenade, and the mascots and players were right outside doing an autograph session. I ordered up a fancy ham sandwich platter with fires and a drink, which I wolfed down despite the heat. Still hungry, I got a corndogs platter, which also came with fries. I only made it about halfway through with that one, but the waitress put it all in a Styrofoam to-go container for me, and I carted it around to pick on for the rest of the game.

I had asked for something in the shade when I got my ticket, so they gave me a club ticket that was in the last row behind home plate, under the small awning that ran around the section. I was very much in the shade, and I was also right under the radio booth and the microphone they had sticking out onto the field. For most of the game, I was able to hear the radio call being made behind me, which helped me out once or twice trying to keep track of the game.

For the most part, there was no one near me except and old couple off to my left who probably made the same request I did. The shade turned out to be a good idea in more ways than one when the rain started, and the last couple of rows got crowded with the fans that didn't immediately leave and wanted to stay out of the rain.

The Game:

First pitch, Intimidators vs. Braves
First pitch, Intimidators vs. Braves

This SALLy matchup had the Intimidators facing off against the Braves, and it featured a lot of scoring early that tailed off into the end of the game, and eventually rain.

Things started briskly as the Intimidators turned a double and a single into an early 1-0 lead. But Rome came right back in the bottom of the first with four singles converting into two runs, quickly regaining the lead, 2-1 after one. Kannapolis took the lead right back in the top of the second, getting four runs on two doubles, two singles, and a catcher's interference of all things, tipping the see-saw to a 5-2 lead. The Braves were unable to answer, going in order in the bottom of the inning. The Intimidators took up the cause going in order in the top of the third, but Rome got three runs in the bottom of the frame to tie it on two singles and a homer to right, leaving it knotted at 5-5.

Kannapolis went in order again in the top of the fourth, while the Braves kept on scoring with a leadoff double brought in on a single, staking them to a 6-5 lead. The Intimidators only had a single up the middle to show for the sixth, while Rome only had a hit batsman in the bottom of the frame. Kannapolis had another solitary single in the top of the sixth, as did the Braves in the bottom of the inning.

The seventh saw the Intimidators with another solitary hit, while the Braves went in order. Kannapolis went in order in the top of the eighth, when the rain came down, and the tarp came on, sort of, and they eventually decided to call the game there due to field conditions and not play the last inning, leaving the Braves with a soggy 6-5 victory.

The Scorecard: 


Intimidators vs. Braves, 07-01-18. Braves win, 6-5.Intimidators vs. Braves, 07-01-18. Braves win, 6-5.

Intimidators vs. Braves, 07/01/18. Braves win, 6-5.

The scorecard was part of the $5, full-color magazine program. It was on semi-gloss paper that was alright for pencil writing and was in the centerfold of the program. The scorecard only took up about half of the space of the spread, with the other half being used for team advertisements.

The scorecard had summary statistics for the game at the top of both sides of the scorecard, duplicate on both sides. There were nine player lines, which included a place for substitutions. Each batting line ended in batting summary stats (with errors), and each innings line ended in extending inning summary stats, including errors and left on base. Game totals were located to the right of the innings summaries. Pitching lines were located on the bottom, with only four lines for pitchers, plus catching lines for each pitcher, as well.

Each scoring block was small, with a pre-printed diamond, but quite usable. The scorecard itself was printed on a white background, so there was room for notes, and thank god, because there were some doozies this game.

Let's begin in the bottom of the first, with the longest note I ever had to write on a play. With one out and a man on first after a single, the next batter hit the ball down the third base line. The home plate umpire twice called the ball foul, but the third baseman played the ball and threw to first, where the batter was already past the bag, but the field umpire called the runner out at first. Okay. Up to speed so far? Great.

The home manager came out and argued the call at first base, noting that a runner who was already passed the bag when the throw was made could hardly be reasonably called out, and that call was overturned. The Intimidators manager came out and waged his own valid point that the home plate umpire originally called the ball foul twice, and there should be no play at all, since the ball was out of play. The umpire did not see fit to overturn the entire play. It is times like these when it is helpful to know the names of the umpires. You will never see "Silvestri" and "Acosta" gracing the major league umpire roster any time in the near future.

But that was just the first of odd calls and plays this game. In the top of the second, there were runners on a first and third with no outs. The batter hit a line drive to the third baseman, who fielded it cleanly on the fly. The runner then went to first. And if I wasn't sitting right under the broadcast booth for the radio guy, I would never had known what happened. Apparently, the umpire at home called catcher's interference on the swing with the line drive, awarding the batter first base, but the runner at third could not advance.

In the top of the seventh, the batter threw his bat into the stands on the third strike of a strikeout, and I felt that deserved a note. And finally, although rather mundane, I had notes in there about the start of the rain in the top of the eighth, and the eventual calling of the game.

Also perhaps notable was this was the first time in a long time that no one got a golden sombrero, which meant not hat doodle. Oh, well.

The Accommodations:


The Claremont Room at the Claremont House
The Claremont Room

As mentioned, I was at the palatial Claremont House bed and breakfast, actually staying in the Claremont Room itself at the top of the upstairs. The building itself was an old Victorian mansion that was in great repair, and it was being restored piece-by-piece by the husband-and-wife team of the innkeepers, replacing wallpaper, making upgrades, etc. I enjoyed it all tremendously until I realized that slavery probably had something to do with its construction, at which point I still enjoyed myself, but just a little bit less.

My suite of rooms was amazing. In the entrance room was two queen beds against one wall, with a blocked-up fireplace on the adjoining wall, and a dresser and a desk and mirror on the wall opposite, with a flat-panel TV in the neutral zone. Inside from there was a small vanity, with a period basin, along with a small sink and medicine cabinet and a dressing table with coffee maker. Further in was the bathroom, with a giant footed tub and a toilet tucked in the back corner.

There were a lot of little things that made the room even better, such as every conceivable drawer being filled with books of various stripes, and room-darkening shades that completely darkened the room once you went around to undo all the sashes.

I slept like the proverbial log, though I wondered how people managed to make it through the summer down here before there was the air conditioning that left the room pleasantly cool.


On The Zoo & Other Surprises

Orangutan at Zoo Atlanta
Hanging around
Monday, July 2, 2018
College Park, GA

Outside the Game:
I woke up early the next day and showered and went down for the "Breakfast" part of the "Bed and breakfast." I met the cook, who was a local mom and presumably friends with the innkeeper, who had five kids of her own. She also worked as a housekeeper at the place, but I wondered if she didn't work here just to get away from her own five kids, especially since they were all under 16. I started to do some uncomfortable math in my head on that situation, but wisely decided to stop for the sake of a calm morning.

She delivered up a killer omelet, croissant, and fruit. I surprised her with my request for no coffee, but she got me some juice and tea. After breakfast, I went back on the porch to sit for a while, when I was introduced rather abruptly to the innkeeper's dog, who nearly knocked me out of the chair greeting me, as golden retrievers are wont to do. The innkeeper’s daughters quickly followed, and I met them as well.

After a bit, I went back up to my room for another soak in the tub and then finished packing up. I booked a hotel by the airport for the night and then went back into the giant floofy bed for a nap before leaving.

I packed all my gear up into my car and then tracked the cook/cleaning woman down to pay. I stopped off on the way out of town at the post office to mail my package of accumulated garbage back to myself, and then headed off to the Atlanta Zoo, or, actually, "Zoo Atlanta," for some reason.

I hit traffic this time out, but eventually got to the zoo after nearly two hours. It wasn't just that the parking lot was full; it was that all the streets for blocks around were full as well. Several blocks away, and down the street from the cutest little police station that ever did exist, I finally got parked and then went into the zoo.

It was scorching hot, and I had a constant IV drip of Gatorade and water at all times while I walked around the medium-sized zoo and took my pictures. The good news, at least, was that my dehydration was worth something, as I got a lot of good animal pictures on the way. I hit the store and headed off to my new hotel.

After a half hour of driving, I discovered that my hotel was nowhere near the airport, and it was actually by the new Braves stadium. I called up Hotels.com super pissed, especially as the rain started falling, but to their credit, they handled the situation quickly, and got my reservation cancelled with no fees and put me in a new hotel, actually by the airport, and let me use a free stay day that I didn't even realize that I had. So it all worked out, expect that I had to drive another 45 minutes across Atlanta on a Monday afternoon.

But I did eventually get to the hotel, and I was completely reassured as I checked in, as everyone else was flight crews from the airport from major carriers, so I knew I was in a decent place. I dragged all my stuff up the room and quickly took a nap to get rid of all the frustration so far. When I got up, I decided to turn in my rental car now, as I wouldn't need it and it would just slow me down the next day.

I took the short drive to the rental return and turned in the car. That wasn't the extraordinary part. That was when the college-aged guy who took the car back got the pronunciation of my last name right on the first try. I was pretty damn floored, and I eventually congratulated him on his accomplishment.

I went back to the main terminal and was about to go back to the hotel, but then I realized I should probably just have dinner at the airport, as the restaurants here were probably better than the airport restaurant. I went into a steakhouse there and had a steak and some scotch before catching the shuttle back to my hotel, with two more flight crews in tow.

Feeling pretty beat, I did all of my final packing and organizing and made it an early night, still trying to catch up on the sleep I screwed up on the two long drives of the trip.

The Accommodations:


Hotel Indigo
Hotel Indigo

The Hotel Indigo is an art hotel right by the airport. The suite I got was in the "fun" art design, with photos of old Atlanta street signs servicing as the art in the room. My suite began with an entrance room, with a coffee service on a table. It was across from the huge bathroom with the even huger shower with the rainfall spigot that I made copious use of. The entry foyer lead to a living room with a couch and easy chair and small collapsible tables. Further on was the bedroom with the huge king bed and nightstand across from a desk and dresser topped with a big flat-screen TV.

It was all rather nice, didn't have nearly any airport noise, and let me get a good night's rest. and thanks to a Hotels.com credit, it only cost me $5.


On Coming Home


Atlanta Hartfield International Airport
Atlanta International

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Jersey City, NJ

Outside the Game: 

I was up early the next day, and all I had to do was grab my stuff, check out, and get the shuttle to the airport. On the shuttle with me were two crews going to the NY area, but not the one on my particular flight.

While waiting in the security line, it seemed like they were repeating the process I had experienced the week before for Raleigh where they had a sniffer dog take a whiff of everyone so we didn't have to take everything out of our bags. But we all got red cards, because the sniffer dog was taking a break when we came in, and we had to go through extra screening, which stopped the line dead for a while, for some reason.

I eventually got through and headed off to get some breakfast. I went to the gate, and we boarded up no problem. But there was water or something on my seat, and I called for a flight attendant to clean it up before I sat down. The attendant gave me a lot of attitude about it, saying it was just water. I then invited him to sit in it if he thought it was no big deal, but for some reason he demurred and cleaned it up.

I helped an old lady put up her bag before she sat in my row, but she realized she was in the wrong row. Instead of her having to move her bag again, I told her I would bring it up to her at the end of the flight. Karma wasn't working for me that day it seems, because the United entertainment app wouldn't work for me for the duration of the flight, so I couldn't see the last bit of Paddington 2 that I had seen over several flights the last week or so.

We eventually landed, and I got the lady her bag, and the hot had followed me back to Newark. I was going to try to use Lyft to get home, but then it started raining, and I couldn't be bothered, so I just grabbed a cab home. It was a quick and uneventful ride back, and I started unpacking and doing laundry for the rest of the day, with the good news being I had another day to decompress before going back to work.

And so it goes.

The Accommodations:
Sweet home, Jersey City


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 2018 East Coast Leftovers