On the Road: Patriotism and Presidential Candidates in Burlington

To see all posts from my July 4 visit to the Burlington Royals, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

My 10th and final stop on my all-encompassing Appy League trip was Burlington, North Carolina. Burlington is the home of the Royals, Kansas City’s Rookie-level affiliate. The Royals play at Burlington Athletic Stadium.

img_0162Believe it or not, Burlington Athletic Stadium was built in Danville, Virginia (where it was known as League Park). After the Danville Leafs ceased operation in the late 1950s, the ballpark was sold to a group of businessmen in Burlington. It was then disassembled, shipped 40 miles south via train, and reassembled in the spot where it stands today. I wrote an article about this, you can read it HERE.

img_0164I was in Burlington on a Monday. Usually when I visit teams on a Monday I hear all about how I should have planned my visit for some other day. But this was no ordinary Monday. It was July 4, a day to celebrate the birth of our wonderful, troubled, maddening nation. I was reminded that it was July 4 while walking toward the ballpark from the parking lot, as the fan in front of me was wearing a shirt featuring a silhouette of a man holding a gun.

“I’m sorry if my patriotism offends you,” it said at the top of the shirt. “Your lack of a spine offends me more,” it said on the bottom, below the picture of a man holding a gun.

It was surely patriots like this man who, in 1776, fought the British until Royal Concessions were made.

img_0165You may recall, as I may recall, that this was not the first time I visited the Burlington Royals. The year was 2011, and at that point in time the facility was most definitely in need of a few upgrades.

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2011 file photo

A few upgrades have indeed occurred.

“Come with me,” said B-Royals general manager Ryan Keur. “I’ll show you.”

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The visitor’s clubhouse showers, for example, have been relocated and renovated.

img_0167And…that’s the only example I have from the so-called bowels of the facility. But, believe me, many improvements have been made to Burlington Athletic Stadium over the last five years. The best improvements. It’s unbelievable. Like, these bleacher seats. They were added prior to the 2016 season, replacing bleacher seats that many people said were a disaster.  img_0169

Behind the bleachers was the “Inflatable Experience.”

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The Inflatable Experience might result in abrasions, vertigo and joint pain, but it will also result in a “whole lot of fun.” Go hard or go home.

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Meanwhile, at the bar, two sandals-wearing bearded gentlemen were attempting to ascertain if they had been separated at birth.

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Just around the corner, I ran into Bingo.

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Bingo is running for president, and he’s easily the best orange-hued candidate out there. Through a spokesperson, I found out that Bingo is a Democrat who seeks to strengthen relations with the Dominican Republic. He would appoint other mascots (except Danville’s Blooper!) to cabinet positions, and his slogan is “Si, Se Puede” (Yes, We Can!)

Bingo, you have my vote.

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The great thing about being Bingo? You never dance alone.

I then made my way onto the field, which is always a beautiful place to be.

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The grandstand retains its timeless charm.

img_1974The Royals were decked out in patriotic jerseys, and their patriotism didn’t offend me. I don’t know who that guy is on the far right, but Hubba Hubba!

img_1977The visiting Danville Braves, who played Burlington at home the night before, looked boring by comparison.

img_0179I threw out a ceremonial first pitch prior to the game, but I appear to lack any evidence of this fact. My notes say that my pitch was “way outside” “a perfect, searing strike” and that “number 41 caught it.”

The National Anthem was beautifully performed, but don’t take my word for it.

I spent the first several innings of the ballgame meeting with my designated eater, and that will be documented in the following post. I then witnessed a Baby Race from an up close and personal vantage point.

Soon thereafter, I took in the early evening Independence Day action from a rooftop.

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The view in both directions was pleasing.

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While on the roof, I visited the press box and spent an inning on the airwaves with Darren Zaslau.

It’s a long way down from the rooftop.

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Back at sea level, more or less, I made my way to the front row and spoke with B-Royals fan (and expert heckler) David Horne.

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In the above photo, Horne was taunting the bat boy as he made his way across the field.

“Go get it, boy! Hurry! That’s a good boy,” he shouted.

Horne has special taunts for all Appalachian League opponents, including “Stop the chop!”, “Smoke the Jays!” “Spank the Yanks”, “Hose the ‘Stros”, “Wet the Mets” and “Skin the Twins.”

Spending time with Horne reminded me of my 2011 Burlington visit, when fellow ballpark traveler Tug Haines recorded the following bit of classic Appy League heckling.

Danville won, 4-1, in a game that took just two hours and 12 minutes to play.

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The ballgame was followed by a concerted attempt to pelt this man with tennis balls.

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It was July 4th, after all. What could follow now but fireworks?

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The men’s room was not a pretty sight immediately following the game, probably because that macho t-shirt guy I’d seen on the way in had too much to drink and his delicate little tummy-wummy couldn’t handle it. Nonetheless, I made an attempt to document the team’s legendary (in some circles) alumni urinals.

Not pictured: Jim Thome

Not pictured: Jim Thome

While in the bathroom, I quickly wrote and disseminated a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke.

This concluded my time in Burlington, as well as the Appy League in general.

Thanks, guys. I did!

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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