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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Louisville Bats : Poppies!

I ended up at the Louisville Bats on Memorial Day. Like most places, they had a hard time understanding that it isn't Veteran's Day, but they were all wearing poppies which made me wonder if I might have wandered into Canada for a minute.

Poppy on umpire's hat.

First run from Toledo Mud Hens. Note the poppy on the uniform.

Steal attempt. Didn't make it.

Looks empty because everyone was hiding in the shade.







The game started at 2 pm on Memorial Day. The Toledo Mud Hens jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first three innings. While the Bats seemed to be swinging for the fences and failing, the Mud Hens seemed to be engaging in flatter swings that put more people on base and moved them across the bases. But it might have been that the Mud Hens had a good read on the Bats' pitcher because once he got subbed out things changed.

The Hens' pitcher stayed in too long (typical in minor league ball) and the Bats boomed in the sixth inning taking a 6-5 lead and then scored in each of the remaining innings. In the end they win 10-6. From the sixth inning on their higher angle swings were working.

Then came the ever so fun five hour drive home.

Monday, May 27, 2019

FC Cincinnati - Lotsa People, No Soccer Team

Finding your way to where FC Cincinnati is playing on the University of Cincinnati campus is a bit of an adventure, but if you persist you can find decent parking within easy walking distance of the stadium.

Click a pic to make it larger.
The local version of the soccer whackos. Not as enthusiastic as I expected. They died down well before the end on the first half.

A large, but not very engaged crowd.

The Red Bull's goalie playing dangerously.

The beautiful game.

Don't get him wet or feed him after midnight.

Okay, so we all know that I prefer going to the NWSL. It's THE top tier soccer league in the world and its fans are hard core and enthusiastic (and you don't see nearly as many flops; refs in the NWSL won't call anything short of an out-and-out mugging and it makes the game far better).

Nevertheless, every so often I go to an MLS game and they've generated some real buzz the last couple years. Some was badish (Save the Crew) while others were good (the Atlanta expansion, and the Cincinnati expansion). Since I have kin and kith in Cincy, I thought I'd go up and see FCC play. Yep, you read that right, FC Cincinnati seems to have resisted picking up an actual nickname; they just yell FCC during the game. I kept looking around for federal agents.

To get there I drove around the campus until I found an open parking garage which was a straight shot from the stadium and only cost $5. Who knows what costs are going to be when they get their new stadium up and running, but for now FC Cincinnati understands that reasonable prices are needed for good attendance. The stadium is UC's football stadium and the vast majority of seats are just plain bleachers. There were boxes and nicer seats above, but I didn't see many people there. The place was packed which means there were over 20,000 people there. Cincinnati is an amazing sports town with two teams in leagues that are top tier in the world (Reds & Bengals), one team in a US top tier league (FC Cincy), and even a hockey team (Cyclones).

The usual group of uber supporters marched in and took their seats at the far end of the stadium. Every soccer team has this and honestly, it's cliche. They all have one big team flag, one or two rainbow flags, and they sing songs while not paying attention to the game (note that they always react a beat or two after something happened). They also set off annoying smoke during the game although most are now limited to after goals. Why do they do this? Because the Euros do. Actually, I was kind of impressed when the Cincy uber supporters (they call themselves the Bailey) settled down pretty quickly and actually watched the game; there's hope for that lot.

The rest of the crowd was interesting. They were clearly watching the game, but there seemed to be a lot more detachment than I was expecting. You go to other sports in town and people are making a lot of noise, yelling, standing, etc. There wasn't much of that here. They were all wearing the colors, but they weren't enthused. It was like they were there because they felt like they were supposed to be there.

Of course, the fact that the Red Bulls were handily taking care of FCC didn't help much. They dominated and scored one in the second period and another in extra time. And it wasn't as close as that makes it sound. Cincy seemed to be playing back the entire game and maybe they were aiming for the tie. If so, it didn't work.

All-in-all, I leave Cincy with mixed feelings. This is a franchise that could blossom or could flop hard. Cincinnati has a strong record of supporting teams that lose a lot, but the Reds and Bengals have been around for a while and have histories with bright moments. This soccer team hasn't got that advantage. If I had to guess, I think it will succeed. It was a second level team in the USL (making playoffs, but never getting anywhere) and it had strong support. Now it's got a boost from the move to the MLS. In a year or two it'll get a boost from it's new stadium. It won't really have to succeed from its product (winning games on the field) for maybe five years. Hopefully, by then they'll have it figured out.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Charlotte Knights

The Knights (AAA White Sox) have a really nice stadium in the middle of Charlotte. I can't imagine what it must be like trying to get to a game on a weekday, but after driving around the stadium twice (through a bunch of roads that were being worked on and half shut down) I found a parking garage fairly close by that was actually reasonably priced (only because it was a weekend).

The park is surrounded by giant buildings and it makes for some pretty fantastic views once you're inside, although the park itself is fairly generic. As a modern stadium, its suitability for a daytime game isn't exactly high. The majority of the seats are baking out in the sun and everybody was crowding anyplace they could find shade.

On the other hand, it was both Girl Scout and Princess day. I'm not sure I've ever seen so young girls at a ballpark. When I first walked in, there was a line that went almost around the entire stadium. As I was walked to the far end of the stadium, eventually I saw that at the far end were all the Disney princesses and the girls were lined up to get pictures made with them. And God bless the women playing the princesses because they kept looking happy and smiling the entire time. I even saw one of them basically get mugged as she knelt there and a young boy slammed into her with a hug around her neck so tight there was no way she was breathing. She kept smiling the whole time. As the youngins say, much props.

Sorry there ain't better pics, folks. I had a space cadet moment and forgot my camera so these are all from my 4 generation back iPhone.

The game itself was pretty good. The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (AAA Phillies) got 2 runs in the top of the second off two homeruns back to back. Charlotte took the lead in the bottom of the fourth with a three run homer by Zavala. The Iron Pigs evened it back out in the top of the fifth with yet another homerun. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, the Knights did something weird and actually pushed two runs across the plate through actually moving runners across the the bags without a single homer. You know - the kind of play which used to make baseball interesting and has almost completely vanished from the game. The Knights did the same thing again in the bottom of the seventh when Peterson scored on Escobar's single. In the top of the ninth, the Iron Pigs rallied a bit to put one more run in, but it wasn't enough and the Knights won 6-4.

Next weekend: FC Cincinnati, Louisville Bats, & Bowling Green Hot Rods.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Hockey Night in Carolina

That was a heck of a hockey game. The 4 hour drive to get to Charlotte was worth it. Next up: The Charlotte Knights AAA baseball.

The Checker's mascot Chubby (no, I'm not making that up)
If you can't play the puck, play the man.
The Marlie's goalie was a little bored in the first period.

The Checker's goalie was busy for the first 33 minutes or so.

Goal 2 for the Checkers
Goal 3 for the Checkers.

Lots of people (the other side was just as full)

So, it took me a four hour drive to get to the game and somebody stole the Mr. Redlegs magnet off the back of my car, but it was totally worth it. The crowd at the arena was a lot bigger than I expected (at least 6,000) and there were even people tailgaiting outside pregame. It was a little jarring walking in from the 80+ degrees outside into a hockey arena, but I had my jersey on so I was okay.

The first half of the game was all Marlies. Their goalie actually looked bored at times and the boys from Toronto got out to a 3 goal lead. Then, with about 5 minutes left in the second period Tomas Jurco scored for the Checkers and they roared back to life.

Pretty quickly in the third, Charlotte got two goals within about a minute. Then it evened out for a while and the place was rocking. BTW, if you're subject to epileptic seizures don't go to this arena; the strobing was a little much. Lights were strobing and everyone was screaming their heads off. It looked like we were going to get overtime for a bit there until, with about two minutes left, Poturalski put a 4th goal in the net for the Checkers and the place went crazy.

A 5th followed into an empty net, but the game was over with the 4th.

Great game. Great place. Now they go to Toronto. The next time they're scheduled to be in Charlotte is next Sunday (if needed).

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Cyclones Wind Down

I drove up to Cincinnati to watch the Cincinnati  Cyclones play the Toledo Walleyes in the Kelly Cup playoffs (the ECHL's version of the Stanley Cup).

After about a four hour drive I got to the riverfront area where the football stadium, baseball field, and hockey arena are all lined up side by side. Then, I sat in a line of cars for forty minutes trying to get into the parking garage near the hockey arena only to have it close (full) when I was two cars short of turning in. I can hear you thinking "Wow, that must have been a heck of a large crowd for the hockey game!" Nope. The Reds had a game scheduled to start 30 minutes before the hockey game. It was raining, cold, and miserable and thousands of baseball fans were everywhere (tell me again how nobody goes to baseball games). On the other hand, there were about 6,000 of us who had enough sense to come in out of the rain and watch hockey.

Unfortunately, things didn't go so well for the home team. The Cyclones were already down 3-1 in the series and came in fired up. The first period was pretty much all the Cyclones swarming the Toledo goalie and by the end of the period the Cyclones were up 1-0. The second flipped the script and the Walleyes were all over and they got the puck into the goal twice. Then they dug in and as much as the Cyclones tried they couldn't get another puck past the goalie. (Boooo!)

Anyway, the crowd was awesome. They were going nuts through the entire third period and they were pretty dang loud through the first two as well. The drunk guy in the next section over from me was upset with me because (a) he had imbibed quite a bit, and (b) I was watching the game instead of spending my time beating on the glass in front of me. He and his buddies were having a blast despite the fact that it was pretty obvious they didn't understand anything about hockey.

Cincinnati's a great sports town. It's a shame they don't have an NHL team and they definitely should have an AHL team, but until that day the Cyclones are a lot of fun and you can buy waffle goetta dogs while you're at the game.

The rare Toledo Walleyed Eagle spots its prey.

You shall not pass!
If you shoot the puck through the ref's legs off the faceoff it's hard for the other team's guy to follow it.