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Monday, April 15, 2019

Salem Red Sox: The Comedy of Errors Continues

I left something out about yesterday's post about the zombie apocalypse at the Salem Red Sox's stadium: the reason I got there 10 minutes before the gates opened. You see, I thought I was going to have a hard time getting in. I'd bought two tickets, but I didn't have them. I'd ordered them to mailed to me on THE NINTH OF MARCH:

And, yes, I did take out the part with my credit card info on it. Y'all seem to be perfectly nice folks, but you ain't getting my credit card numbers. Anyway, note at the top that I was so polite in ordering these tickets that I made the order at 4 a.m. so the good folks in Salem would have even that entire day added on to those it needed to send me my tickets.

However, by THE FOURTH OF APRIL, when I left for my trip I had no tickets. None. Nada. Nary a one. That was fine. I would just use the electronic version and let the nice folks at the park scan my phone like they do everywhere else.

Only, when I tried to do that or anything else which would give me access to my tickets the Salem website stopped me cold. So I showed up early to try to fix this before the game started. And, of course, ran into the zombie apocalypse.

I didn't include it in yesterday's post because it would have propped tipped the whining scales a little too far and I wasn't sure they hadn't arrived with me misplacing them and mail can simply go off track some times. So, I bore this terrible burden in silence.

Then, I got to my office today and found two pieces of mail on my desk. One was an advertisement from the Salem Red Sox exhorting me to come to opening night. The other was - you guessed it - my tickets (which came in a will call envelope inside a postal envelope along with random advertisements).

If I'm reading the postmark on that envelope correctly (click on the picture to enlarge), the tickets were mailed from Greensboro(?) on THE THIRD OF APRIL at 4 p.m. and I think the fact there is no zip code in the stamp and it has an "L" means it was designated as local mail. Don't hold me to most of that; the only thing I'm absolutely sure of is that it was mailed on THE THIRD OF APRIL.

By the time that wound its way through the postal service and arrived, I'd already been to watch the Chattanooga Lookouts, maybe the Knoxville Ice Bears, and possibly even the Carolina Thunderbirds.

Ordered on the NINTH OF MARCH and mailed on the THIRD OF APRIL. That's a delay of TWENTY-SIX days.

It's a shame. I had great memories of going to a game in Salem a couple years back. Now, I'm dubious. TWENTY-SIX days to mail the tickets; not that it mattered, the stadium was abandoned when I got there without my tickets. All around fail.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Zombie Apocalypse Hits Salem

The Zombie Apocalypse has hit Salem, Virginia. It's the only explanation. When I pulled up from my FOUR HOUR DRIVE to the Salem Red Sox's stadium the entire place was empty. It has to be the zombie apocalypse because the only other explanation for a stadium this empty is that they called the game off very, very early - probably the day before. The place didn't even have that couple of employees who didn't get their call not to come in (it always happens).

How do I know it was a zombie apocalypse rather than a rain cancelled game? Well, you see, I know they have my cell number. A nice kid calls every year and tries to sell me season tickets, so I know they could have texted. I also know they have my email:

One of three email addresses that send me Red Sox stuff.
A message via text or email would have come if they cancelled the game. It's not like I was an unexpected visitor; I ordered my ticket sometime at the beginning of last month.

So, you see, it has to be the zombie apocalypse. It's the only reasonable explanation.

Spirit Conquers Sky

Nice stadium - It filled up by game time.

The Washington Spirit play in a small stadium in a soccer complex in Germantown, Maryland. It is a decent little place with plenty of parking and enough room for the rather decent size crowd that showed up. Besides the side I have pictured above, it had about half again as many seats on the other side and a lot of people set up camp on a hill behind one of the goals. They also had a row of on the pitch seats although they only sold about half of those. The field being in a depression, it cut off the wind which was a pretty good thing now as it's still cool, but I imagine must be a bear in July.

The Sky Blue (out of New Jersey) were in town for opening night and they were fighting hard the entire way. In fact, for a good portion of the first half they looked dominant. However, when Washington broke through its shots on goal all looked dangerous. One of them (of course while I was changing batteries in my camera) broke through and the Spirit took a 1-0 lead. That held throughout regulation play. Then in extra time Washington broke through again and finished it off 2-0.

It was a fun game to watch and a nice place to watch it at. If you're in the DC area you should go. The NWSL has the best soccer players in the world. Why aren't you there already?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Delmarva Shorebirds - Baseball in a Freezer

Sherman (the mascot) goofing around with the little leaguers.

The first pitch.

I don't know if this guy'll make it to the Major Leagues, but he's got one heckuva fallback career potential as a muppet.

He's out! Caught in a rundown, the Delmarva runner dodged, went past the base, and tried to dive back.

Delmarva's first run.

Out at home. Fly ball. Tag up. Outfielder with a cannon for an arm. Not good news for the Shorebird.

I think the Blue Claws shortstop might be Zoro.

The Delmarva Shorebirds play in Salisbury, Maryland. Delmarva, by the way, is somebody's clever idea for a name for the peninsula which Salisbury's located on. Both Virginia and Maryland call this "the Eastern Shore." Deleware, for reasons that should be blindingly obvious, does not. Hence, DELeware, MARyland, VirginiA = DELMARVA.

I drove here from Norfolk, Virginia and that meant paying Virginia (to whom I already pay taxes) $14 dollars to drive on one of its roads. And yes, I would like some cheese with that whine. Anyway, after crossing the neverending bridge-tunnel system I drove through the two Virginia counties to get to Maryland and finally Salisbury. There's lots of pretty scenery, lots of farmland, and lots of places selling fish. And then you get to Salisbury which is a city of about 30,000 and seems a decent enough place.

The field wasn't hard to find and there was plenty of parking, although they charge $4. The park itself is a fairly generic single A park with a couple interesting things to note. First, as I went up to the second level (where the vast majority of concessions and the souvenir shop are located), I noticed a closed of set of stairs. Apparently, the way into the park used to be this set of stairs but they closed it off and made a walkway through what I'm pretty sure must have been the business offices at one time. On the lower level you can walk all the way around the outfield. Again, this was obviously not there originally. The walkway is a raised wooden one and a couple feet back from the chain link fence so you aren't actually on the wall.

The weather was not cooperative. With an average low of 55 degrees in Salisbury this time of year, the temperature decided to drop to 48 with a stiff breeze. I was wearing a zip up light sweat shirt; I went to the souvenir shop and bought another light sweat shirt to wear over it. Sitting there with two sweat shirts and both of their hoodies pulled up, I looked dumb, but the they stopped most of the wind and by the end of the game the wind had tailed off and I almost felt comfortable.

As for the game itself, mostly it was fun to watch because it was a lot of small ball. Most of the scoring took place on sacrifice flies after runners had been advanced through interesting play. It was also obvious that the players were feeling the cold too - at least in their hands. There were a fair number of fumbles and bad throws that wouldn't have happened in 70 degree weather. Oh, and there was one home run. Doran Turchin tagged one to start the 4th and sent it over left-center as a line drive. Delmarva just kept pushing forward with 2 in the 3rd, 2 in the 4th, and (after the Blue Claws had made a game of it by scoring three in the top of the 6th) 2 in the bottom of the 6th. It was definitely a fun game to watch.

Getting there may be a bit of a bear, but if you're somewhere in the area, I think running by this park to watch a game would be a great idea (especially when it's a little warmer).

Next stop: Bowie Baysox.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Went to a Fight and a Hockey Game (almost) Broke Out

Yeah, so the glass wasn't exactly NHL quality - suck it up buttercup.

Cleaning blood off the ice in the 1st period.

The Danville Dashers' goalie was not a happy camper.

Christian Pavlas: 24 of 25 stopped.


A 4,000 seat arena and it was packed.

30 seconds left and this might have been the 30th or so fight.
The FHL is an interesting league. It's the kind of place where refs might want to get their kung-fu up to snuff so they can defend themselves on the ice from the coach of the Carolina Thunderbirds (suspended six games) and the owner of the Elmira Enforcers (got a fine). When the Carolina coach got suspended earlier this year his girlfriend took over coaching duties. Was she a former female player? Nope. She's a fitness model (although apparently she's been the team's fitness trainer).

The league's a half step up from a beer league for most of the teams except for the Thunderbirds who seem to have imported a minor league Eastern European team. The difference shows. Carolina has only lost six games this entire year which has gotten it a devoted fan base, but I don't think has made them the most popular team in the league. Oh, and the team's coach, Andre Niec, keeps signing himself to "celebrity" contracts so he can play. He did so for this game (more on that later).

The Carolina Thunderbirds play in a building set up for college hockey and scrub play - except they put in 4,000 seats. Unlike most arenas you go to, this is not a place where they keep the ice cold and your seating warm; bring a coat. Bring a coat, gloves, scarf, and toboggan (or you could go Canadian and show up in shorts and complain about the heat). This is my second time going to the place and each time it's been packed; you'd think the body heat would warm it a little, but nope they've got a really good cooling system in there. And don't expect the nice clean glass you see in the NHL or even the decent, couple of scrapes glass you see in most minor leagues. Nope. That glass looks like it's been used for years and will keep getting used until somebody goes through it.

So, I got a seat on the glass. As luck would have it, the rest of the row was filled with couples from the local college on date night. The girl sitting next to me, when she wasn't semi paying attention to the poor guy trying to make an impression (must have been a first date) was beating the heck out of the glass. And she wasn't just hitting it with two hands like most fans. She was actively trying to hit where the heads of opposing players were when they crashed into the glass. She never quite succeeded, but by the end of the game there were some unhappy Danville Dashers looking rather pointedly at our row. The girl, a few beers in by then, either didn't notice or didn't care.

The first period was a full-on fight for supremacy on the ice. Literally. It started with the Dashers' goalie just plain getting run over and shoved down onto his back in his goal (they lifted it off him and he got up eventually - no penalty). First blood was drawn by the Dashers. Again, literally. They put a Thunderbird down hard and his nose started gushing. He laid there for a few seconds, then got up and bolted for the exit to the locker room. The next 10-15 minutes were spent scraping his blood from the ice.

For a while it was just hard, punishing play. Then it morphed into brawls. And more brawls. And even more brawls. The Danville goalie was angry with the world - or at least everyone in Carolina and he was not shy about letting them know. I even saw him go out during one of the standoffs and hit a Carolina player with his stick. The goalie was trying to pick fights; never seen that before. Of course, nobody fights the goalie so he didn't have much luck. At the end of the first period (ding, ding, ding) the Thunderbirds were up 2-1 and I kept looking around for the ring girl (no luck; they didn't even have ice girls).

The second period was more of a hockey match instead of a boxing one. By its end, the Thunderbirds were up 4-1.

Then third got going (ding, ding, ding) and it was on again. Between the various thumpings, they did manage to play a little hockey and Carolina got three more goals to make it extremely lopsided. Meanwhile, the team's coach got a hat trick with about a minute and a half left which the fans went nuts over. Yes, the coach once again declared himself a celebrity and signed a celebrity contract. Then with thirty seconds left a nasty brawl broke out and once the refs got that sorted out the game ended. The fans stayed to the very end (impressive).

All-in-all, this is much as I remembered it from last time. It is about as fun as you can have watching a hockey match even if I was worried for a bit there that one of the hockey players was going to find a way to come over the glass and beat the heck out of the guys in our row because the girl kept trying to hit them in the head. I strongly recommend the next time you're in the Winston-Salem area you stop by and catch a game.

FYI: Next week the FHL playoffs start. The Thunderbirds should be at home Saturday and Sunday (if needed).

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Predators (Ice Bears) Get Strafed

The Ice Bears were wearing Predators jerseys.
Lasted 10 minutes; gave up 2 goals

And the next goalie came in.

The zamboni may have been the best thing on the ice for the Ice Bears.

2 on 1 mugging.

The Pensacola Ice Flyers goalie is so bored he's just hanging out, leaning on the side of the goal.

FYI: This one didn't go in.

Guess where the puck is.

It's pretty easy to find the arena and there is parking galore here so that wasn't a problem. The worst thing about the place is the price of souvenirs. I always buy a puck - no matter what, and I like to buy pennants or other things to hang on a wall. The Ice Bears don't have a souvenir store, they've got a place out on the outer concourse (the one before they take your ticket) where they've got everything behind a glass counter. You have to get in line and wait your turn to browse and buy.

I waited for about fifteen to twenty minutes and finally got to the counter. The nice young lady who helped me got out a puck and a pennant for me. Then I asked for the price of a plastic sign that said something like "Ice Bears Parking Only" or something else (I was mainly interested because it was in the shape of a shield - not for what it said). She picked it up and said "45 dollars." My response was "Uh, that ain't gonna happen." To put this in perspective, you can buy a metal sign with mounting bracket for your favorite NHL team for $48. Then the guy next to me asked how much the pennant cost and I, of course, mouthed off, "If it ain't less than $8 I ain't buying it." He flipped it over and they wanted $15 (NHL pennants cost $10 when not on sale). That went back in the case. The puck, which I did buy because I always buy a puck, was ten dollars (compared to affiliated minor league teams that range from $5, Nailers, to $8, Checkers). Remember, the Ice Bears are unaffiliated hockey in the SPHL - about the level of single A baseball.

Strangely, the big ticket items seemed to be normal price or even a little lower. A jersey was $125 which is lower than a lot of places charge now. Shirts ran about normal price. The full sized wooden hockey sticks were $35, which struck me as reasonable. As an aside, they made me run through a metal detector and wanded me until we figured out my metal rosary was causing the beep, but they were fine with people buying and carrying into the arena carrying the equivalent of a club.

So, I finally get in and start looking for my seat. I have to walk through the cheerleaders to get there (Woo-Hoo!) and I'm smack dab behind the net. It's a great view of the other end, but unfortunately the goal on my side was blocked from view by the floor. I do have to say, however, that the wooden seats were great. I get so tired of the uncomfortable plastic seats that everyone puts in their arenas and stadiums. After a little while, I moved to the next section left which was empty so I could get decent pictures.

The Ice Bears came out in Nashville Predators uniforms. As well, the Nashville mascot was running around the arena all day long. It was a little strange, but it was the highlight of the day for the Ice Bears.

The fans (all 3,122) were trying hard to get into the game and try to cheer, but the Ice Bears didn't give them much to work with. In about ten minutes, the Pensacola Ice flyers had scored twice and the Ice Bears goalie got yanked. The new guy's gear was better coordinated with his uniform, but he gave up two more over the next two and a half periods. Not that the goalies got much support on the other side; the Ice Bears had 17 shots on goal throughout the entire game.

The players lost interest in the game and got real interested in fighting each other somewhere near the end of the second period. This pleased the fans to no end. On the other hand, the refs were having none of it. I've never seen a more proactive crew. The moment they saw something start they were in there prying players apart - quite literally a couple times. There was even a fight as time ended the game and a ref jumped into the pile to pull them apart.

In the end, the game was a bit of a disappointment, but (as they announced several times) the Ice Bears are going to the playoffs so they must play better most of the time. Maybe I'll come back if they're hosting a weekend home game.

Next up: Carolina Thunderbirds.