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Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos

The Blue Wahoos have a nice, shiny new and rather generic AA stadium next to the water. Someone clearly put some thought into which way to face the stadium because when I got there at about 5:30 large roofs were providing shade for almost all the seats - a necessity in a place that's 80+ degrees at time of game in April (who knows what it must be like in August).  There were surprisingly few luxury boxes which seemed to be limited to the third base side and behind the plate. The rest of the stadium was entirely field level seating. I must admit that I was a little shocked that there wasn't more to the stadium. After all, this is the place where the Mudcats were drug off to to make a better life as the Blue Wahoos and I thought the stadium would actually be better than the one in Zebulon. The best I can really say is that it's newer.

The crowd was one of the strangest I've seen in baseball. Few were wearing the Wahoos horrendous logo (see my comments here), although there were a surprising number of people there wearing Cincinnati Reds hats and jerseys. The stands were pretty full for a Tuesday night game but the crowd was eerily quiet. There wasn't even the ambient background chatter that you hear from crowds at most parks. The announcer would play about one thing between innings and not much ever between batters - which was a pretty good call because the crowd just remained silent. After a while it really became noticeable and I started looking for explanations. I thought that maybe it was because the stadium was beside a large body of water which was somehow muting the noise, but as I looked around I noticed that very few people were talking much. They were just sitting there. Weird. The best I can figure is that maybe it's a feedback loop. The water causes an atmosphere where sound is muted and consequently the crowd doesn't make noise.

During my trip to the souvenir shop to buy the pennant and baseball I buy at every stadium, a wave of guilt hit me. I am at least nominally a Reds fan and this team is a Reds affiliate. Since I was at the stadium, I should buy a hat. Heck, last year I bought a jersey and hat at the Dragons' stadium. Overcome by guilt I walked over to the hat racks, but the just couldn't make myself buy the gawdawfulfugly primary logo hat. I eventually salved my conscience by buying a hat with the hook-P. I can wear that one; people just won't know what it is.

The Game: Homer Bailey is down in the minors recovering from Tommy John surgery and started the game for the Wahoos. And he got rocked. To be fair, 4 of the 5 runs the Jackson Generals scored against him in the first three innings would not have occurred without the 5 errors his infield had in those innings. In fact, I think the only infielders without errors that led to runs were Bailey and the third baseman. Well, technically the first baseman didn't have an error; he just dropped a really simple foul ball fly that your basic little leaguer would have caught. Bailey threw fairly hard (once I figured out where the pitch mph was I saw several 94mph's) and showed flashes of really good control. However, AA Jackson's batters weren't having a whole lot of trouble putting wood on the ball - not that this would have mattered much with a little solid fielding behind him. A few better plays and he would have gotten out of his innings having given up only a single run and you could see that Bailey knew it and was frustrated.

After the third inning the Wahoos settled down and stopped the Generals' scoring machine, but it was too late. As they rolled into the bottom half of the 9th, the Wahoos trailed 5-3 and the guy running the scoreboard tried to get the crowd fired up by playing some vignette with a fish acting as a secret agent and then flashing psychedelic multi-color fish outlines with the words "RALLY FISH!!!" splashed across them. It was bad and I don't mean cheesy fun bad. That was obviously what they were going for, but it failed miserably and the crowd totally ignored it. The crowd finally did start making some noise, but I think that was in actual reaction to the game situation, not anything anybody up in the booth was doing. In any event, the best Pensacola could do was get a single off the bat of Calten Daal before the General's closer finished them off.

All-in-all, the stadium is nice and there's not really a bad seat in it. Would I go back if I was in the area? Yes. But at least part of that would be because I am a Reds fan. I wish I could get there during a weekend game to see if the crowd engages.

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