Writing a pre-Thanksgiving post on “what I am thankful for” has the whiff of an obligatory elementary school essay assignment, but I want to get something up on this slice of the internet before it all goes (mercifully) dark for the holidays.
And you know what I’m thankful for? That I have a job that puts me in absurd situations on a regular basis. Some highlights from the 2011 season.
The point of this unbridled exercise in Holiday week narcissism is…well…I guess there is no point. But I do want to issue a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who has supported these absurd endeavors of mine. And it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2012 season — please, get in touch if you have any suggestions regarding Minor League places to go and things to do. I really do try to say “yes” as much as possible.
Finally, two stories are up today that I’d really appreciate if you checked out. First up is my story on Greg Halman, who was stabbed to death earlier this week. I talked to people who knew him at all stops on his Minor League journey, and did the best I could to write something that went beyond “I’m shocked that his happened” quotes.
Elsewhere, I have a guest column up on Baseball Propectus. It’s a pretty through overview of the Minor League mindset, and I sincerely hope it brings a few new converts into the fold.
The Bowie Baysox play in an extremely congested area of the country, in terms of both population density and professional baseball franchises. This is a team that plays in the backyard of not one but two Major League franchises (the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals), while also competing with an indy league entity located less than 30 miles away.
The stadium itself is similarly besieged, as it’s located behind a massive shopping center on state route 301. But once one gets beyond these rectangular shrines to rampant consumerism, a much more comforting sight emerges:
The facility is called Prince George’s Stadium because the team plays in Prince George’s County, MD. The Prince George in question was a member of Denmark’s royal family, longtime proponents of the efficacy of the designated hitter rule.
Prince George’s Stadium opened in 1994, after the Baysox had played their inaugural 1993 season in the none-too-intimate confines of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.
Fans waiting to get into the park had to pass through one of the narrowest stadium entrance ways I had ever seen, but once on the inside there is plenty of room to move.
And yes, that is a light house you see out there. These are the Baysox, after all, with the body of water in question being the Chesapeake. And whenever a Baysox player hits a home run, the lighthouse lights up (as lighthouses are wont to do) while a foghorn blasts.
And to the right of the lighthouse is a carousel, the centerpiece of an inflatable-laden kids area.
The Baysox’s nautical connections are also emphasized by their new “pitching fish” alternate jersey, worn during Friday home games.
The fish’s name is indeed “Rocko,” the winning entry in a name-the-fish contest.
“[Rocko] is a combination of the Rockfish or Striped Bass and the Oyster Toadfish,” explained the team in a press release. “Those two species were selected because both thrive in a healthy Bay.”
The team was indeed wearing these jerseys on the evening I attended, but I failed to get shots that clearly convey this. But I did get some shots from the concourse-level press box, where I watched the game begin.
A bobblehead of mascot Louie keeps a watchful eye over all the denizens of the press box.
But his eye is not quite watchful enough to prevent the occasional foul ball from leaving a mark.
The real Louie could often be found atop the dugout, taking in the action.
It was “Autism Night” at the ballpark, featuring informational displays on the concourse and a special “quiet room” in the suite areas.
One thing that I appreciated (and that I think all teams should d0) was this informative concourse display. Here are all the ballpark food options, laid out simply and clearly.
The Black Angus stand seemed to be the most popular. Looking back on it, how did I not order a “Pickle on a Stix”?
More standard items were located down the first and third base lines:
One of my favorite pieces of outfield signage could be found in left field.
No player has yet managed to “drain” that curiously colored clogged sink, but the team does occasionally stage a between-inning promo in which contestants throw footballs through the toilet seats mounted atop the wall.
A Whoopie Cushion would be a good prize for that particular contest, items which happen to be available in the team store. My guess is that these are leftovers from the annual “Most People Sitting On A Whoopie Cushion” world record attempt.
The Baysox also utilize the outfield in their nightly “Home Run Challenge,” the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. While my pictures are quite indistinct, the object was to hit baseballs off a tee over the right field fence.
That would have definitely been a fun contest to participate in, but I soon had my chance to get in on the between-inning action. During the seventh-inning stretch, I joined on-field host Brandon Kaiser in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Video of this has recently emerged on YouTube. If you have 58 seconds to spare, well, here it is:
But my work wasn’t done. After completing my off-key rendition of baseball’s most beloved song, I was ushered into the front office. This is what awaited me.
It had to happen eventually. In fact, I’m surprised it even took this long.
Meet “BennyHilla,” between-inning sumo wrestler:
You get into these things by lying on your stomach and then shimmying inside. Putting shoes on at that point is impossible; thank goodness for interns. This was all accomplished in plenty of time, fortunately, so I relaxed in the stands while waiting for my moment of on-field glory.
Then this kid came along, and you can just see it in his eyes: he wanted to punch me. So I let him.
My opponent was Communications Manager Tom Sedlacek, aka…man, I’m blanking on his wrestling name. It had something to do with “Minnesota.”
And whatever his name was, Sedlacek beat me easily in the best of three series. My “pedal backwards and then duck” strategy was no match for his sheer brute force.
But even in defeat, I was a star. After the match, Sedlacek and I were asked to sign autographs! This was one of my favorite autograph requests this season, second only to when I dressed as a molar in Inland Empire and signed as “TOOTH.”
And while some kids had wanted to punch me, this one just wanted a hug.
That’s life for ya — sometimes you get punched, sometimes you get hugged. But either way you’re getting something. And on that note of faux-profundity, I bid you a kind adieu.