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Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Asheville Tourists

If you're going to watch the Tourists, splurge for the "Bojangles Dugout Suites." They cost about $30, but they are the best seats in the house. They built these as additions carved out of the field between the dugout and home plate and behind the net you sit at a bar table as close as you could possibly be to the action. Meanwhile, they give you free food and drinks throughout the ballgame. However, a word to the wise, daytime games here have no shade. A daytime game in April is great; a daytime game in August is like sitting on the face of the sun (made that mistake last year).

The game I went to was between the Tourists and the Greenville Drive. In a lot of small ball, the Drive drove two runs across the plate in both the second and third innings. Meanwhile, the Tourists managed to put a run across in the 2nd and another in the 8th, culminating in a 4-2 Tourists lost.

The Gunslinger
The Tourists' shortstop stood out defensively starting early in the game when he went to his right to grab a grounder, leapt into the air, spun, and shot a laser beam to first for the out. The rest of the game wasn't quite that spectacular, but he clearly controlled his zone.

All-in-all, it was a good game seen from a great seat. Sure, Asheville's stadium could use some updates. However, it's still a solid, enjoyable experience - especially if you splurge for the good seats.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Charlotte Knights and the Mercy Rule

For my trip to go see the Charlotte Knights, I bought the cheap seats in the outfield and proved that there isn't a bad seat in the house.

The game itself was a slaughter. The Knights took it to the Norfolk Tides and just stomped them. Of course, every so often, Moncada (2B) would come to the plate and everybody would hold their collective breaths to see what the White Sox number one prospect was going to do, but the man of the night for the Knights was Hayes (1B) who was personally responsible for 2 home runs (1 grand slam) and 6 RBI's.

After Hayes' grand slam in the 3rd it looked like the game was over, but the Tides pecked away at the lead until the Knights decided to play home run derby in the 6th and 7th innings.  Hayes, Delmonico, Moncada, and Vinicio all got their hits over the wall. Oh, and not to leave anyone out, Garcia also had a homer in the 1st inning.

By the end of the game it was 15-5 in favor of the Knights and judging from the display I saw the White Sox have a lot of power hitting to look forward to in the future.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Freezing My Nose Off at D.C. United

I went to watch D.C United play Philadelphia Union last night. It was painful. The soccer match itself was pretty good, but everything surrounding it sucked. First, I had to drive into D.C. That is terrible in and of itself. Still, it wasn't the death drive that I went through in the Norfolk/Portsmouth/ Virginia Beach area the night before.

 Then I got to RFK, which looks like it might fall over any second, and ended up parked in a lot that had huge pools of water dotting its parking areas. I had to wonder when the sink holes were going to develop. And, to top that off, as soon as got out of my car the first stiff breeze hit. Thereafter, the rest of the night was filled with cold, cold winds blowing around, through, over, and everywhere in the stadium. The temperature dropped precipitously, and I was only wearing a sweater. I bought a hat and a scarf and put both on, wrapping the scarf around to cover the back of my head. Then, I hunkered down and watched the match as I slowly turned into a kensickle.

Philadelphia's die hard fans arrived about 30 minutes early and were sitting in the section behind me yelling their lungs out. They cheered like madmen throughout pretty much the entire game and were fairly impressive in their support for their players. Said players made a point of running past their fans and firing them up before the match.

For a while, it looked like the stands were going to be pretty empty. Then about ten minutes before the festivities started, one side filled with the local version of their rowdies and the other half-filled with regular people (I was in the end, behind the goal). Interestingly, everyone around me was speaking Spanish until about 30 minutes in when the empty seats directly behind me filled with Beautiful People. I'm pretty sure they knew less about soccer than I do and got the impression they didn't care to learn; it was just the cool place to be before heading out to the bar. 

The pregame festivities were interesting. Soccer has clearly looked around and seen that football has the opening toss over the coin, baseball has "Play Ball" (always yelled by some adorable kid), and soccer has . . .  Each one I go to tries to do something, but there's no tradition or gravitas to it. However, they have pretty successfully lifted minor league baseball's program of always running out to the field with a kid's team.

Anyway, they eventually played a soccer match. It went D.C.'s way for most of the first period, although United's goal keeper made at least one impressive save. A seeing-eye shot on goal that redirected after hitting a defender scored for D.C. and thereafter the home town team got a second goal on a penalty kick. 

The second period was much, much more in favor of Philadelphia. I don't know how many shots they made on goal, but if D.C.'s goal keeper hadn't done an amazing imitation of a vacuum they would have scored at least five times. They did score once, but the D.C. goalie was a brick wall otherwise.

Overall, it was a good game to watch with plenty of excitement all around.

Lessons learned: (1) Bring a jacket. (2) My up close seats behind the goal weren't really all that close here. There was a lot of room between the front seats and the wall around the field. (3) If your seats are too close, the "professional" photographers actually up by the wall will block your view.  (4) RFK is one of those stadiums where your A-01 seat isn't on the front row because there are rows A & B in front of you. However, this was more of a blessing than a curse for the game. (5) I don't know soccer well enough to really follow it from close to ground level. It seems to be one of those sports that is better watched from higher up (which I did in the second period). (6) Bring a jacket.

Next on the journey? The Charlotte Knights and Checkers next weekend.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Proof that God Loves Baseball

Yesterday, I got in my car at 4:45a.m. and started driving. Almost immediately, the sky opened up and torrents of rain came down. And they kept coming down and kept coming down and kept coming down until about 2:20p.m., 45 minutes before game time, as I was frantically trying to get down Highway 460 in time for the 3:05 start of the Norfolk Tides / Baltimore Orioles game. Then the sun came out, I made it to the game with 20 minutes to spare, and the field conditions when the game kicked off were perfect. Nine innings of pretty solid baseball followed  and exactly five minutes after they ended the sky opened up again and the monster of all storms hit. I'm serious here. I sat in my car for 30 minutes not going anywhere because I couldn't see anything but blurs outside my car (and listening to my phone squawk tornado warnings ever-so-helpfully at me). But the game was perfect.

It was, of course, a warm-up game for both teams as the season doesn't actually start until next week. So, there really wasn't anything on the line, but when the mothership comes down to your AAA home stadium you want to make things as interesting as you can for them and the Tides did.

Amidst a sea of orange wearing fans cheering more for the Orioles than the home team, the Tides looked tight at times while the Orioles looked like an MLB team. The first event of interest was in the 2nd when the Tides pitcher pretty much handled the Orioles batters he faced. That ended when JJ Hardy tattooed a ball for a homer in the 3rd. At first, the pitcher seemed shaken, but the team got the rest of the side out.
Watching it go . . . and reacting. (Click on Picture)
And the Tides didn't just fold up. They put together some impressive base moving small ball (apparently the Orioles have a exploitable gap between center and right field) in the 6th and took a 2-1 lead, which the Orioles tied up in the top of the 7th with their own small ball. Norfolk got another run across in 8th - at least partially because of a balk and the Orioles got one across in the 9th (at which point the announcer told us all that the game would only go 9 innings no matter what).

Overall, the Orioles looked better, but the Tide looked like they belonged on the field with them. It was a good demonstration that while MLB players may be a little sharper than AAA they aren't that far above the guys waiting to take their  places.

Post game, I went to Victory Lanes in Portsmouth and played some duckpin bowling (both easier and harder than the kind of bowling you do). I go there every time I get anywhere near this area and, I'll admit it, it's part of the reason I was here watching the Tides/Orioles instead of taking the shorter drive to Louisville to watch the Bats/Reds.

Then there was about a forty minute nightmare drive to my hotel through flooded streets and six lane highways with worn out lane markers that were under an inch of water and impossible to see because they locals have helpfully put up street lights every 50 feet that reflected of the top of the water. More than once I went up a hill (where there was no water sitting on the road), was finally be able to see the lane lines, and realized I was straddling two lanes. It's also a minor miracle some local (who all seemed obsessed with driving 70mph in bad conditions) did not plow into me. And now I remember why I moved West into the mountains instead of East toward the sea.

Tonight: Going to watch D.C. United. Yeah, I'm gonna try the soccer thing agian. We'll see . . .