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Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Neverending Game

When I got to Louisville, I was concerned that the Bats' game against the Columbus Clippers wouldn't take place at all. It was raining and there was lightning. I went in anyway so that I would get my free hat. Then I waited with everyone else to see if they would actually start. They did - about 45 minutes late. Through the first few innings there were dark clouds and lightning off in the distance, but the field itself was dry and the sky above light. So, the game went on, and on, and on and on and . . .

18 innings later - sometime after 1:30 in the morning the game ended with the Bats' shortstop waving at a moderately hard line drive as it went past (which he would have caught in the first 15 innings or so) and the Clippers got a sixth run. The last three innings the Bats had an outfielder pitching. Pretty sure they wanted to get out of there. And it wasn't just the Bats either. The homeplate umps strike zone had gotten small enough that if batters from either team had just stood there they'd have walked in a run eventually. And the Clippers' midfielders waved at a couple balls themselves as they went by, but the Bats weren't able to capitalize.

Before everybody got close to collapse, during the first 12 or so innings when they were playing hard, there was a pattern to the game. The Clippers put many more batters on base, but had trouble capitalizing as well as they might. The Bats had more trouble getting men on base, but when they did seemed better able to take advantage. Everybody played well, although the most spectacular plays came in the 16th when the outfielder/pitcher caused all three outs. He caught a grounder and turned to fling the ball at second to start an impressive double play. Then he ran across the field to make sliding catch on a foul ball halfway to third base.

All-in-all, if the game had started on time and ended without the passing of epochs it would have been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The stadium is nice and I suggest splurging for the money to get seats on the upper area because they are just about perfectly situated to let you catch every last bit of the game.

Florence Freedom: An Accidental Double-Header

I drove to Florence and almost missed the start of the game because I'd screwed up when I bought the tickets and bought tickets for the 18th of next month (oops). The game started at 5:35, which I realized when I checked into the hotel and looked online to make sure. At the time, I didn't get the implications. It wasn't until I got to the stadium (and bought tickets for the right day) and was inside that I heard the announcer talking about what a great treat we were all in for today.

For a Thursday night there was actually a pretty good crowd and that lasted through most of the first game. Between games they recognized a bunch of elementary school kids from around the area by having them come out onto the field and run to home. The kids and their parent hung around for a couple more innings, but by about halfway through the second seven inning game most of them trickled away (one last day of school was scheduled for the next day).

The second game.
Florence controlled both games, winning the first 8-2 and the second 10-2 over the Southern Illinois Miners.

The Freedom's stadium is a nice place although the entirely astroturfed ball field is a little strange. I'm sure it makes upkeep easier and cheaper, but it looks weird. On the other hand, they have one of the coolest mascots I've seen (although I didn't get a good picture of it).  If you drive through Northern Kentucky you can't miss the stadium. Stop by and catch a Frontier League game (or maybe two).

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bowling Green Hot Rods

The last time I was in Bowling Green it was for an afternoon game that started 15 minutes after a driving storm ended. Consequently, there were about 50 people there. This time it was a clear Saturday night and the crowd was quite a bit larger.

As I described to my friends back home, this was probably the most red-neck crowd I've seen at a baseball game and they were great. Walking around the stadium, you'd have sworn the team's colors were woodland, hunting camouflage by the number of people wearing Hot Rods logoed merchandise in camo pattern. The park didn't engage in any of the security theater that you see at most parks nowadays and I figure that was because if any idiot drew his concealed pistol he'd probably have faced down 20 other guys in his section who had there own constitutionally guaranteed firearms on their persons. I love these kind of people who are just there to drink a few beers and have a fun time.

Since I've been there last, the Hot Rods have revamped their logos. Most of the new stuff really isn't much better or worse than the old although I think the new batmobile(ish) car is cool. The presentation put on by the team was about mediocre. Typical between innings games were rushed and didn't seem all that fun. Despite "Hot Rods" lending itself to all sorts of tailored sounds from the PA system, all they used were sounds from generic baseball package number 1. Worse, they botched "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and then played - much to the crowd's confusion and disinterest - "Sweet Caroline." If not in the Carolina League or in one of the Carolinas this often falls flat and it offers absolutely no connection with Western Kentuckyians.

Worse, the PA system in the stadium was being destroyed by the incredibly loud speakers at an outdoor concert going on at the "Farmer's Market" on the other side of the street from right field. Really, really bad bar-band music was slamming into the field throughout the game. That made it hard to hear anything, much less the PA system. I'm sure the people running the park have no control over this because if they did they would surely shut it down in a hot second. Did I mention that the music was really, really bad? The bands over there obviously subscribed to the "the louder it is the better it is" philosophy of music and they were wrong.

Lucius Fox
In the end, the game itself was enjoyable. The Hot Rods lost to the Lansing Lugnuts 2-3, but it was a tight enough game to keep things interesting. The Lugnuts worried a lot whenever Lucius Fox (SS) came to bat. I saw Fox play last year in the Rookie Leagues and he looked impressive. He didn't really get tested at short that night, but he gave the Lugnuts fits when he came to the plate. The defensive star of the night for the Hot Rods was the second baseman, Robbie Tenerowicz, who ran around snatching up anything that came near him and made a couple sharp plays.

Lugnuts change pitchers

The Day A Cubber Stole My Seat

Last weekend was a trip to Cincinnati to watch the Reds take on the newest evil in the constellation of teams keeping them from their rightful place at the top of the baseball pyramid, the Cubs. As usual with any Cubs game, the WGN Brigade showed up in force. They probably wish they didn't once the Reds ran the bandwagon cam on them on Friday night, but I missed that one. I was there for the Saturday ice-cold homerunfest and Sunday when the weather turned nice.

On Saturday as soon as I got there I noted that the locals were not happy that with the fact that Reed was pitching. When he was left in too long - in the second inning - and gave up a grand slam to put the game out of reach (as the Reds fan next to me was yelling "Go out and get it over all ready!")  they were proven right. Most of the Reds fans left shortly thereafter because it was too dang cold to sit around. The Cubbers sat around for the rest of the game and even did the rather obnoxious thing of yelling "CUBS!" during take me out to the ballgame. In the end, it was 12-8 in favor of the Cubs.

On Sunday it was a different story. The Reds got a good hold on the game early and had pretty good pitching, although the Cubs did try to put together a run in the 9th. The Cubbers in the stands were fairly substantial, but they were substantially outnumbered and whenever they started to yell something pro-Cubs they got shouted down pretty ruthlessly. 

As for me, on Sunday a group of Cubbers were sitting in and around my seat. It wasn't worth fighting for a seat in section 510 and there were plenty others available so I just moved up a couple rows and had a great view of the field. BTW, the view from the lower 500's is still a great view; everyone was still close enough to second guess the homeplate ump. While I know there are some bad seats in Great American Ball Park they are few and far between.

Other observations: Every Cincinnati fan called whoever was at bat "kid." At first I thought this was just one guy, but as the two days went on I kept hearing it around the park. "C'mon kid!" or "You can do better than that kid!" seemed to be the favorites. The exception to this rule was when Votto came to bat. Every single Cincy fan was comfortable using "Joey" whenever he was at the plate. The funny part was that there wasn't a whole lot of love being expressed. It was more like he was the annoying kid from down the street whom your team captain has to pick because he's just that good. When he hit the fans acted like that was there due. When he didn't hit they acted annoyed. That's an interesting dynamic. Of course, maybe they're acting that way because every time a player shows heart and the Cincy fans start to show some fan-luv the Reds see that as a sign the person should be traded. With that to consider the fans may be acting rationally in their mere tolerance of Votto.

Next stops: Bowling Green Kentucky and Nashville Tennessee.
Leaving Ohio (Bridge next to the stadium)