Friday, August 31, 2018

Fort Wayne

On Fleeing & Meeting the Future

Nissan rental car
My Nissan rental car
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Romulus, MI

Outside the Game:
Work went from being at a relative downturn to 60-hour weeks working on two consecutive pitches in a heartbeat. A crazy prospective client literally gave us a day for a second pitch and wanted it presented the Tuesday after Labor Day in their offices in California, so it was a big sprint to the finish, except that we weren't finished by a long shot, and I wasn't giving up this trip I had planned months ago.

I eventually got everything to the point where it would go on without me or it would crash and burn, and frankly I didn't care either way. I did my bit. If management wanted this to happen, management could make it happen.

I could only get tickets on the late flight out, so I had a leisurely trip to the airport. I originally thought that I had to travel out of La Guardia, but I remembered that at the last minute, I had found a way to leave form Newark, so I was back to my old devices of travelling up to NY Penn Station to get a NJ Transit train to the airport.

I called my parents while I was waiting for the train, and then piled on and managed to grab a seat by the window. I was trying not to, but the release of the stress from the week had me napping for most of the trip, waking just in time to get off and grab the monorail over to the terminal.

I looked at my upgrade options, and since I had all the time in the world, I just decided to get the extra legroom seat, which would give me some space to stash my rucksack if things went wrong with the overheads. As it stood, there were no lines at security, and I was through in no time at all. I wandered over to the Italian restaurant to get some dinner, which was achieved despite having the slowest waiter in history.

This left me with a bunch of time to wander around before my flight was anywhere near boarding. One of things that I saw was United's new boarding scheme. They were in the middle of converting all the boarding gates in Newark to be--I don't know--some kind of lounges, with tables and seats and rechargers everywhere. There were also modal boarding lines. I think the goal was to get people to "relax," then get boarding groups 1 and 2 on first, and then space out the cattle call. It didn't seem to work much, as people itching to just get on the plane and be done with it were hanging out at the entrance to lines as they always were waiting for their boarding numbers to be called.

My flight boarded on time, and as we weren't in a "converted" boarding area, it was the normal line-up to get in. I was able to get on, grab a small space in one of the overhead bins for my ruck sack, and then sink down into my seat with my baseball bag. Boarding went on for a while, but one of the last few people on were a Japanese couple, who I imagine had standby seats. One of them sat in the row ahead of me, and one sat next to me. I asked the gentleman if they were together, and they were, so I told him I'd switch seats with his girlfriend so they could sit together. I had to wait a bit for the crowd to get to their seats, but we were able to switch seats, and they thanked me again.

Except that it almost came to bite me in the ass. There was a United stewardess looking for a jump seat, and the person up front told them that my new seat was unoccupied. As nightmares of being dragged bloody from the plane swam in front of my eyes, they found her actual seat, and that particular crisis was averted.

After the potential drama, the flight went without incident. I was dumped out into the rapidly ending bit of Thursday and found my way to the shuttles to pick up my rental car at Hertz. I was at the start of a line that was getting longer by the second as the people got off the shuttle bus, but I was quickly moved over to a "virtual assistant," where signs assured everyone that you would be speaking to a human.

There was a line of kiosks with phones and scanners built in. I was hooked up to a gentleman in an indeterminate centralized location who walked me through my rental. I had to hold some documents up to the camera and scan a few others, but in about five minutes, I was done and out the door to claim my rental car, so score one for technology.

I walked out to my designated area, and I picked out a grey Nissan Versa. After taking a minute or two to figure out how it worked, I had put my hotel in my talkie direction box and was off. Unfortunately, even though I had just updated my GPS' maps before leaving on the trip, it had the wrong layout for the airport roads. I got lost for a little bit, and then just did my trick of getting on a main road driving away, and the GPS finally got its act together and dropped me off at my hotel for the evening. I was able to check in and go to my room and collapse for the remainder of the evening.

The Accommodations:
Comfort Inn, Detroit Airport
Comfort Inn, Detroit Airport

I got a reasonable room at the Comfort Inn at the Detroit airport. It was a nice middling hotel, and my room was slightly above average. The bathroom was right off the entrance, with a room-long vanity with sink, and a toilet and tub. The bedroom had a dresser, TV, and desk on one side of the room, and two queen beds on the other. All the pillows were quickly deposited on one bed for maximum pillow fortage.

Outside of the AC not being on when I got the room, and thus having to wait for it to cool down, it was exactly what I needed for this evening.

On History & the Present

Parkview Field
Parkview Field, 2018
Friday, August 31, 2018
Lake County Captains (Cleveland Indians) vs.
Fort Wayne TinCaps (San Diego Padres)
Parkview Field
Midwest League (A)
Fort Wayne, IN
7:05 PM

Outside the Game:
Whether from the naps earlier, or the travel, or whatever other reason, I did not sleep well that evening. I woke up groggy and went down to grab some breakfast before the service ended. While I was zombie-walking through gathering up some breakfast, I overheard some woman praising the eggs to the hotel person who was putting them out. Call me jaded, but I couldn't possibly imagine what would be so good about hotel buffet eggs. The hotel cook took the compliment graciously, but I just slouched over to a table to eat.

I had my eggs last, but damned if they weren't excellent. It marked the first time in history that I went back for seconds of buffet eggs. We live in an age of miracles.

The eggs weren't quite enough to make up for the lost sleep, so I trudged back up to my room and took a nap. Feeling a little better about this second wake-up, I took a shower and packed up and finished my planning for the evening. I called to get tickets for the game that evening, but I was told they only had standing room only. I always have been able to sneak in as a single, but they swore that was not the case. So, I got a standing room seat waiting for me, and then, as a precaution, called up Indianapolis to get my ticket for the next night. They, too, said they were sold out of regular seats, but when I told them I was a solo, I got a numbered seat with no problem.

All that was left was the drive. It was a middling three hours, but the gods were with my tailwind, and I hit no traffic or accidents on the way down. My first stop wasn't Fort Wayne, but about a half hour west in place called Pierceton. The town is a hotbed of antiques shops, but my goal was a reproductions shop named "Jas. Townsend & Son."

Townsend and Son
Jas. Townsend & Son

I first found out about this store while on Boing Boing of all places. They posted a video of a recipe for 18th-century macaroni and cheese. While looking into the comments on the video, most of the people were already familiar with the store, which had this 18th-century food channel attached to it. I went to the site, and it was all 18th-century trade goods and items for re-enactors. Most re-enactors make their own stuff or have informal, local commerce, but this was the first place I saw as general ecommerce for re-enactors and the like. I went on a spending spree for all the neat stuff, and I had ordered a couple times since them from the store. In planning the trip into Indiana, it struck a bell, and I realized the physical store for this company was right outside of Fort Wayne, so I made my plans around visiting it as well.

After three hours, I pulled up and parked a little down the block. As I came in, on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend, there was no one out front, so I just started poking around the storefront. Eventually, one of the shopkeepers (and people from the catalog and videos) came out. I explained what brought me here, and he was excited I came. He took me in the back and showed me around the place. I met some people who worked there. The only real disappointment was that the head honcho and lead in most of their videos was off that day.

He told me that the business was largely split in thirds. One third came from re-enactors, one third came from museums and historical sites to clothe personnel or dress locations, and a third came from Hollywood. That last one surprised me, but it made sense, as he explained that it was cheaper for movies to buy period outfits for background characters from them than it was to have Union seamstresses make the costumes.

He asked why I was in the area, and I told him about the trip. I gave him one of my cards when he asked, and he told me that they really loved their team over in Fort Wayne. What little resistance I had left was gone, so I started grabbing stuff of the shelves. I got a pretty big order put together, and I had to ship most of it back to myself through them, except for a number of small items that I could fit in my bag.

And I was on my way again. A little over a half-hour later, I was at my hotel for the day. I had splurged a little and gotten a high-end residency hotel for a night. I checked in, bought a bunch of cookable food in their pantry store, and made my way up to my room, which was huge. The one issue was that my AC wouldn't turn on. I called down to the front, and the guy who checked me in said it probably needed to be reset and he'd be up.

I unpacked and made myself some White Castle burgers and a bratwurst in the microwave for a late lunch while I waited. Having finished eating, I didn't have my visit yet, and called downstairs again. He apologized and came right up, hit a switch, and I was ready for my nap.

Self-made room service
Home-cooked room service

I set my tablet alarm and then dozed off. I awoke slowly, and then I immediately went into panic mode, as my alarm had not gone off, or it went off and I snoozed it immediately, or something. I woke in a bit of a tizzy, but I still had plenty of time to get to the park. I finished getting dressed, grabbed my game bag, and was out the door for the short drive to the stadium. I got there just as it was opening up, and I went straight to the ticket booth to see if there really wasn't a single seat somewhere left. As always, it turned out there was, and I upgraded by ticket for $5, went off to do my circuit of the outside for pictures, and then went in.

After the game, I ditched out before the fireworks started, but I had a bit of a problem. I forget where I parked. I had remembered some details, but the parking lot always looks different at night in the dark. I had parked by a couple of easily identifiable markers, but I couldn't find them in the dark. I couldn't even sonar the car, as I didn't think I had a remote unlock thing on my key (more on that tomorrow). I eventually asked an attendant about the landmarks I used, and he informed me I was a lot over from where I needed to be, and lo and behold, I was able to find my car in the next lot over, as well as all my landmarks. So, there's that.

Once I found the car, I was right back out again and to my hotel in no time. I had some more pantry food to buy, so I was talking to the attendant at the counter who had checked me in and reset the AC in my room before. He talked about how popular the team was locally. I don't know how we got on the subject, but he told me about a local bar that had a 25-cent beer night every month. I explained how that would end civilization as we knew it if they tried that in New York, but it seemed to go over okay without any fatalities in the great city of Fort Wayne.

I bought a cup of noodles and a Gatorade and went up to my room. I boiled some water and nuked the complementary microwave popcorn that came with my room to have an impromptu second dinner of pot noodles, popcorn, and Gatorade as I finished up my scorecard. I've had worse nights.

The Stadium & Fans: 
Home to center at Parkview Field
Home plate to center field, Parkview Field

Fort Wayne is awful proud of Parkview Field. The program is happy to tell you how it is one of the biggest sports draws in all of Indiana, as well as being the top single A minor-league draw that additionally outdraws most AA and a good portion of AAA teams in the country. It is easily the nicest single A park I've ever been to and is definitely on the cusp of AAA-quality.

The park is in the middle of the city, with sidewalk going all around it. The main entrance is at a plaza behind home plate, with a brick arch way around the entrance, ticket window, and store. Two other entrances are in left field and in center by the "North Gate," where they stash the inflatable mascot. That area was under construction development, so something or other else was going to be right by that entrance in the future.

All the entrances lead out to a main, wide promenade that runs the complete distance around the park. The main seating area extends down from the walkway all around the park, and the main grandstand with regular seats extends from base to base around home plate. A second level hovers over the lower deck, holding the luxury suites and press box, while giving shade to the lower deck. The Huntington College picnic pavilion, with a section of tabled seating under a bar, sits in the right field corner, and the Toyota Field Boxes is a similar area in the left field corner. Xfinity has a "Home Run Porch" section of seats in the left-center corner, and there are two picnic hills in left- and right-center field. In dead center is the exclusive 400 Club and the Summit, a restaurant and seating area worked into the batters' eye, much as with the steakhouse at New Yankee Stadium.

There are several "concourse suites" worked into the top of the seating bowls on the promenades, and a section of seats called the "Treetops" on top of the event center in the right field corner. The center-field entrance has an entire park by it, named for Robert E Meyers, complete with a fountain, pavilion, and an art installation (including a warning sign not to touch the metal structure when it has been out in the sun, lest you get burned). The Orchard team store (along with a "To the Majors" memorial), as well as all the concessions, are on the promenade facing the field so fans can gas up while still watching the game. The home batting cage is built into the promenade so fans can watch, and a championship flag flies inside. In fact, each section of seating has a local baseball luminary on it, some with larger plaques about the person or organization. Another championship banner is on the ground's crew door in the outfield wall.

Of special note was a LEGO wall on the left field promenade with a big tub of bricks that people can use to make things, as well as a resident master builder who was showing off some of his technical LEGO creations. I'm not sure what Fort Wayne's connection with LEGO is, but they are all over the place.

The main scoreboard was a giant digital board about the events center in right-center field, and the outfield wall is a single tier of large, local ads. The backdrop of the park is downtown skyline for Fort Wayne, as well as some condo development that runs the length of left field.

Johnny TinCap is the home mascot, obviously evoking Johnny Appleseed with the tin cap on his cartoonish human head. He helps run all the events on-field, which were a welcome change from the average. At the minimum, they put a local spin on things (such as the Bobby Knight Musical Chairs) and local innovations on contests (such as LEGO mini-fig build-off). The grounds crew even gets into the act with a dance number when they are dragging the field in the seventh inning.

Johnny TinCap
Mascot Johnny

This was a sell-out crowd and the last home game of the year, with the TinCaps being one game out of first place with three to go. The fans were really into the game (some a little too into it, but I'm ahead of myself). But you can really tell when a fandom cares about their team when they have their own derogatory nickname for them. In this case, it is "Potheads," which got thrown around a lot when they were squandering opportunities on the field.

At the Game with Oogie:
Parkview Field eats
Chicken sandwich and souvenir soda

I got in as the stadium was opened and did my walking around, picture taking, and shopping. It was a big and fancy park for single A, which they were inordinately proud of. After doing my bit, I grabbed a chicken sandwich and souvenir soda--about what I could stomach in the heat--and then got a drink or two to last me for the game.

My last-chance ticket put in me one of the last rows in the bottom section in the season ticket area by first base. Right next to me were a single guy (who was really into the ballgame), and a couple (who really weren't), and everyone else around me were families, including one kid behind me with a cough who kept coughing on the back on my neck.

There was another family a couple rows ahead of me with a dad in a Dodgers t-shirt. Later into the game, he got drunk and rowdy, and started cursing up a storm when the TinCaps blew another opportunity. He was talked to by several men around him, and then a stadium attendant came down and talked to him as well. He stayed quiet for the remainder of the game. Make your own Dodger's joke here.

The Game:
First pitch, Captain vs. TinCaps
First pitch, Captains vs. TinCaps

This very late-season matchup found the TinCaps just a game out of first place and basically needing to win out to get a playoff spot, so this game against the visiting Captains meant a whole lot for their playoff chances.

But the Captains were playing spoiler early, as a single, double, and two other singles got them to an early 3-0 lead. Fort Wayne just has a single in their half of the inning. Things kept going in the second with Lake County getting another run on two walks and a single, making it 4-0, and the TinCaps went in order. The top of the third had the Captains go in order for the first time, and the bottom of the frame had some life for the home team. Two singles got brought home by a triple, who himself made it home on a wild pitch to close it to 4-3 at the end of three.

The fourth saw Lake County erase a walk by a snap throw from the catcher, while the TinCaps only had a single in the bottom of the inning. Things slowed, as the Captains and Fort Wayne had solo singles in their parts of the fifth, but Lake County got another run in the top of the sixth on a solo homer to left to extend their lead to 5-3, and the TinCaps went in order in the bottom of the frame.

The uneventful seventh had the Captains strand a single on third after two errors, while Fort Wayne erased a one-out single on a double play with the next batter. Lake County went in order in the top of the eighth, and the TinCaps squandered three singles that loaded the bases with one out by two straight strikeouts, ending the threat and the inning. The Captains only had a walk in the top of the ninth, but the TinCaps made one last run at a comeback. A leadoff double was followed by a single to make it first and third with no outs. But a double play got a run in, yet still kill the momentum, and a groundout ended the game 5-4 Captains, further dimming the playoff hopes for the TinCaps.

The Scorecard:
Captains vs. TinCaps, 08-31-18. Captains win, 5-4.Captains vs. TinCaps, 08-31-18. Captains win, 5-4.
 Captains vs. TinCaps, 08/31/18. Captains win, 5-4.

The scorecard was part of a free, newsprint, mini-tabloid program given out at the gates. The scorecard is the centerfold of the program, taking up about 80% of the space, with a header and some unobtrusive ads filling the rest. There were player lines with some extra lines for replacements, and each batting line ended with cumulative stats, and each inning column ending in runs/hits.

The pitching lines were on the bottom right of each team's card, and the top of the scorecard had an additional section to the left of the pitching line for total game statistics. The scoring boxes were small, but without pre-printed diamonds, they were adequate. The newsprint was sturdier than normal, so there was no tearing, even with pencil.

The strikeout batter of the game finally whiffed in his last at bat in the ninth, and one other play of note was in the top of the seventh, where an infield single prompted an attempt at a 4-6-3 putout that was thrown into the dugout by the shortstop, prompting a note. A further throwing error by the pitcher that inning got the runner to third. There was a balk in the bottom of the third that advanced two runners who would both score. But outside of the that, the scoring was straightforward. Two players earned the golden sombrero sketch.

However, the story of the night was my new scoring pencil. While driving around earlier in August, I caught a pre-game broadcast for a Yankees’ game, and I nearly crashed when I heard them read a promo for "the official scoring pencil of the NY Yankees." When I got home, I looked it up online, and yes, in fact a boutique pencil shop in NY had bought a real sponsorship for the Yankees to be the official scoring pencil, and they were selling a "baseball scorekeeping" pack of pencils on their Website. So, of course, I bought two sets.

Double-ended scoring pencil
The Future, Soon

The pencils in the pack were hand-picked for being able to leave a dark mark but erase easily, and they included a lot of pencils made for scantron testing. I made a trip out to their NY store one afternoon to see what else they had, and I potentially found my Holy Grail: They had a Swiss editing pencil that was black lead on one end and red lead on the other, an actual manufactured version of the two-headed pencil I had been rubber-banding together for nearly a decade now. This was the pencil I tried out this evening, and it was wonderful. Outside of having to have a separate eraser at the ready for corrections and mistakes (two points, no eraser), it was everything that I had wanted.

The Accommodations:
Candlewood Suites
Candlewood Suites

As mentioned, I splurged on the Candlewood Suites just north of downtown. With the exception of having to wait for my air conditioning unit to be reset, it was a flawless stay. The attendant told me that a lot of companies put up their long-term traveling employees in the place, and a woman that I saw when I checked in had been there for several months now. They even had rental appliances for such things as slow cookers.

My room was a spacious suite, with the bathroom just off the entrance to my left. It had a big tub (used welcomingly), toilet, and a large vanity counter. Just across from the bathroom was the kitchen, with full-sized refrigerator, sink, dishwasher, hot plates, and microwave oven. A semi-circular dining/work table extended from the end of the kitchen. Beyond that was the bedroom, with two queen beds that got all of the pillows piled onto one. An easy chair was across from a dresser with a flat-screen TV on top.

I used the kitchen for two meals (a late lunch and late second dinner), both stocked from the pantry store in the lobby. I was also prepared for breakfast the next day.

Great stay; worth the price.

2018 Indiana