Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 22: Objectivity gives way to Braves and Real Beds

No goofy roadside stuff today, as we are both staying with our folks in the ATL. If you want to know about fun stuff in Atlanta, then, uh, check the internet. Here. This looks promising.

So, after things like free food, naps, laundry, and other sundry facts of life, we took our dads (and Joe and his dad) to Gwinnett to see the Braves AAA team.
If you read our Rome review, you probably have a pretty good idea of how this review is going to go as well, but here are the highlights:

1. The most brutal, mocking videos after Charlotte outs. We were first tipped off to this when Gwinnett recorded its first strikeout. Imagine hearing this every time you do something wrong at work.
2. Celebrity appearance from Martin Prado. On rehab from staph infection, he got 2 singles, a walk, and an RBI. We like Martin.
3. An error that wasn’t. You can only be charged with an error if you touch the ball and then blow the play. If 3 different players converge on a pop up, all thinking that someone else will catch it, and then let it drop, it counts as a hit and is charged against the pitcher.
4. Coach interference. A Knights’ runner ran smack dab into his 3rd base coach and the coach seemed to try to stop him from going home. Result: runner out. It looked like Prado was the one who pointed it out, too.
5. Zach gets a T-Shirt from an air gun. Ben would’ve gotten it, had he seen it before it careened through his haplessly extended hands.
6. Braves Win. G-Braves, at least. The A-Braves still have Scott Proctor on their team.
7. Yet another Throw The Cheese Colored Beanbags on the Burger Colored Tarp promotion.
8. Promotion was about something called 12Stone. It was a church thing that I’m too lazy to look up.
9. Lastings Millege played in the game. Not often we see someone who has 5 years major league experience playing down here when not on a rehab assignment. Although Ben did see Dontrelle Willis in Norfolk earlier in the spring.
10. Best Mullet Ever. Sucker was below the shoulder. And you could see the guys gut protruding from under his shirt. Alas, our hands were full of hot dogs and beer and no one could take a picture.
11. Fireworks again! There were loud noises and shiny, colored lights. You know the deal.
12. Chopper the Groundhog had the biggest rictus smile we’ve seen. He also got into an argument with a fan that wasn’t clapping with him, badgering him with personal claps and eventually flicking his stub tail at him.
13. Tomahawk Chop was in abundance. Still not as robust as a comeback at the Ted, but whatcha gonna do.
14. Tyler Flowers, the guy the Braves traded to Chicago for a year of Javier Vasquez, was abysmal behind the plate, with ugly stops and a throwing error. Zach’s most used heckle of the trip: Your job is CATCHER! From the English: TO CATCH!.
15. Still no one laughs at Zach’s “DEBIT” or “CASH ONLY” cries after the “CHARGE” theme. Kudos to Meg in Chicago, the only person in the history of ever to be amused by the joke.
16. Ratty grounds keeping makes the infield grass look like it has mange. This is good bonus points for “diversity”
17. Snazzy, new park. No troughs.
18. What is it with foamy beer in Georgia? We held up the hot dog line, because we kept getting trapped gaseous particles instead of a beverage. C’mon Georgia Kegs!
19. We were surprised to see that a majority of Gwinnett’s roster was actually older than us. We haven’t kept precise numbers thus far, but we’re willing to bet that this hasn’t happened more than a couple of times before.
20. Other ex-Braves included Diory Hernandez, Brandon Hicks, and Ruben Gotay. Career minor leaguer JC Boscan was present and did not play. Nor did we see Julio Teheran or Mike Minor, just measly old Erik Cordier.

Biased Metrics
Beer: 5 points, give or take. We weren’t really in the mood to do actual math.
Concession Item: 6 points. And another for having both a Braves Dog and a Georgia Dog.
Minor League Personalities: 6 points Local Celebrity (Martin Prado), Minor League Diehard (we count now, right?), Major League Fans (clearly, given the reception Prado got), Drunkard, Teenagers on a date, Families (uh, I guess we count for this one too?)
Bloggers Free Seats: No, but, again, Braves.
Tailgating: 4 points. Not St. Paul, but there did seem to be grass spots specifically designed for tailgating.
Funniest Name: 3 points. I guess Lastings Milledge. But he’s been high profile, so it’s not as funny.
Promotion: 2 points. It existed.
Diversity: 1 point. Pasty white crowd. Lousy grounds keeping.
Men’s Room: 3 points. Surprisingly better than Rome.
Bonus Points: 90 for name recognition. 70 for the old players. 1 point for each foam particle they poured from our beer. 878709879 for the Chop. 413231421342 for Mullet Man. 13487094317 for Just Read the Highlights so I don’t Have to Type Everything Else Out.
Final Score: Lots. Go Braves.

Well, that concludes the road trip. Stay tuned for some sort of summary of the trip in the next few days. Stay Scrappy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 21: Rome Braves; Rome, GA. Don't You Mean the Wigsphere? And the Scrappy Journeymen Feel Rome, Rome on the Range

Today, the Scrappy Journeymen headed home. It's not the end of our trip just yet; still the Gwinnett Braves to come tomorrow. But instead of shelling out the money for another night of hotels or campsites, we decided to head back toward Atlanta today. Which is perfect, because we wanted to hit up our favorite team's Low-A Affiliate, the Rome Braves.

We left Lexington around noon after hitting up a local Waffle House and at least stopping by Legends Field to take a look at the stadium. It looked real pretty, but it's impossible to know how good the game experience would've actually been. Regardless,  I insisted on stopping there to get a sweet Legends T-shirt with their mustachioed mascot on it, which I'd planned to buy during the prior day's game.
Dang that's a sweet shirt. And what's even sweeter? They had it in purple! In my size!

After that we headed south, forsaking the Colonel Sanders museum for a much more important destination: Knoxville! Knoxville! Knoxville! Both Ben and I concurred. Why Knoxville, you might wonder? Remember the 1982 World's Fair, and that sweet Sunsphere? Well, I had to see it. Why again, you ask?
I was expecting less well-kept tourist attraction and more dilapidation, wigs, and Al Gore.

Naturally, I had to indulge my inner Nelson and chuck a rock at it. Unfortunately, my arm was not as effective as Nelson's, as I was unable to bring the tower down in one shot.
Remember, everyone: we're parked under the Sunsphere.

Despite this most ignominious failure, we continued plowing south through Tennessee, where we encountered a most curious sign on a vending machine at a rest area.
Now, much like the Swedish chainsaw that warns you not to stop it "with your hands or genitals," the question that pops to my mind is: Someone had to try this - and complain - to cause this warning to be posted. Right?

At first I thought this was simply a sign put up by one of the "If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you" type-folks, but Tennessee is a surprisingly cosmopolitan state. They even list distances on some roadsigns in kilometers.

Anyway, we arrived in Rome just in time for first pitch!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 20. Lexington, KY: In Which Our Heroes Exchange One Small White Ball for Another, OR God Taketh Away (Baseball), And Giveth Back (Mini Golf), OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mini Golf

If it's one thing religion is really useful for, it's as a scapegoat to abdicate your own responsibilities. So, God punished the Scrappy Journeymen today by causing Zach to forget - in and amongst the hundreds of details you have to work out to make a roadtrip like this click smoothly, it turns out - to check the time of the game in Lexington today.

Consequence: we left Elyria (25 miles west of Cleveland) right as the Legends game was starting. Since the technology for teleportation doesn't exist yet, this was a problem.

Yet when Allah closes a door, he/she/ze/it is supposed to open a window, right? So over lunch at a Wendy's, Ben and I decided to check over the Roadside America maps for Ohio and Kentucky between our location and the hotel we'd already booked in Lexington. What we saw caused us to salivate even more than my lunch.

We drove 2.5 hours to stop outside Waynesville, OH at the Silver Spur Western Shop, where I donned my cowboy hat and went inside to take a look at the biggest collection of western boots and huge Texas belt buckles I'd ever seen. But what we really came for was outside the store: one of the best advertisements I've ever seen:
When I die, I want my ashes to be carried in either this or a clown car to whatever cannon you guys are going to fire them out of.

We then doubled-back across I-71 to the even littler town of Blanchester for a visit to the World's Largest Horseshoe Crab. It's outside a creationist church and is supposed to represent the overwhelming evidence against evolution. I mean, c'mon, it looks exactly like a trilobite! Therefore, evolution NEVER HAPPENED, doy.

Say what you want about their beliefs, there's no denying that is one big goddamn crab.

You can take a nap inside the crab. Really nice on a hot day like this one.

The structure was part of a larger Scripture Garden.

I'll give them this: they're proud of their status. And they appeared in Twilight: Eclipse! So, to recap: evolution, bullshit. Vampires and werewolves? Toooootally legit.
YES! What would a creationist scripture garden be without DINOSAURS?!

We then made the burn for Lexington, where we saw an indication that Lexington might be the biggest party town ever.
To be fair, it would be better if their water tower were a red Solo cup. But still.

Then we checked into our hotel and jetted across town for the highlight of today's activities, and a true gift from Providence: Bible-Themed Mini-Golf!!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 19. In Which Our Heroes...Take a Break?

OK, folks. After working the holidays, we've decided we deserve a vacation. So, for the first time in 19 baseball.

Consequently, I'm keeping this post short. Of course, we spent our day off resting. By which I mean we woke up at 8am and went to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH, the self-proclaimed "Roller Coast of the U.S." Where we spent almost 10 hours walking around in 90-degree heat, waiting in lines in 90-degree heat, and riding coasters in 90-degree heat.

There were indeed some impressive coasters. We rode them. Nothing I can say about them will do them justice.

Many of them were rough. I got a headache. If you go, RIDE MAVERICK. Ride Millennium Force if the line isn't too bad. Iron Dragon is a novel design, but it does not earn its supposed thrill rating of 4 out of 5. RIDE RAPTOR (protip: it's at the start of the park, so if you curl back late in the day there's virtually no line). If you ride Magnum, do NOT push the lap bar down too tight, as it'll kill your thighs. Ride Gemini and Blue Streak. Do NOT ride Mean Streak unless you hate your spine/love your local spine surgeon. Ride Mantis. There, I'm done.

Then we had Italian food for dinner.

And watched this week's Tosh.0.

Then I wrote two blog posts.

Now I'm going to bed.

Tomorrow, on to Lexington, KY, then home to Rome and Lawrenceville, GA to close out our journey on a couple of our favorite team's farm squads. Looking forward to it!

Day 18. Lake Erie Crushers; Avon, OH. What do IHOP Waiters, Baseball Players, and Fireworks Techs All Have in Common?

Oh, justice will be served and the battle will rage:
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage.
An' you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.
'Cos we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.

Hey, Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly and it's gonna be hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell.
And it'll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you.
Ah, brought to you, courtesy of the red, white and blue.

-Toby Keith, Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue

These were the words that were (regrettably? awesomely?) stuck in my head when I woke up this morning. By which I mean they were the words I was belting out in the shower this morning. And that I had on the radio in the car as we drove from Toledo to the (not-so-)little town of Elyria 25 miles west of Cleveland, where my friend Tricky and his family awaited us with a generous offering of shelter.

Before taking advantage of that, though, we had to take advantage of another great American tradition: IHOP. Only because there was no Waffle House, of course. But still. Thanks for working the holidays, guys! I'd hope you got double-time for that, but I know there's no use.

Anyway, we headed on to Elyria, where I immediately set to work re-paying Tricky's family with my (in?)famous Binney Burgers, an ancient family recipe handed down for generations from our first American ancestors in Boston in the 1600s.

By which I mean I accidentally stumbled on the recipe while drinking heavily at my friend's lakehouse in 2006. Tomato, tomahto. Regardless, I grilled up a batch (well, if you can call propane "grilling"...but the sign of a great chef, and indeed a great man, is to work with what you have) and I believe his family agreed they were tasty. I was just happy to take advantage of any chance to play with fire on the 4th. Shout out to Tricky's sister, Marin, for some delicious patriotic cupcakes after the game (strawberries, whipped cream, and blueberries!) and his mom, Sheila, for some superb potato salad and beans.

After dinner 7 of us piled in his family's van for the short drive out to the Lake Erie Crushers game. So, without further ado...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 17. Toledo Mud Hens; Toledo, OH. In Which Our Heroes Find the Sketchiest Ice Cream Truck Ever, Root for Jamie Farmadillo, and Zach Changes His Tune.

Thanks to another long night courtesy of Independence Day and the urge it raised after that to kill more aliens, we got a bit of a late start today. That barely left us time to make the burn to Toledo before first pitch, but we squeezed in just under the wire. Good thing, too; the game was nearly a sellout. More on that later!

In our one meaningful pit stop at a Speedway for gas, something awesome happened without any outside interference for me:

I celebrated by purchasing the lunch of champions: A Coke Cherry Zero, Jamaican Jerk Slim Jim, Milky Way, and a lotto ticket.

Anyway, then we got to Toledo. And I gotta say, my first impression of this town was a little sleazy. But really I'm just basing that on their ice cream trucks. Which all had large red signs saying "Watch Children." Well, all except this guy, who just took it to the next level.
My mom always told me not to accept free candy from strangers. But if I buy it from this guy, that's totally legit, right?
Yeah, that's right, run! We can still see it says "Watch for Kidz" on the back.

Anyway, we carefully avoided all vans and made it to the stadium, which was walking distance from our hotel. How convenient, Toledo...

Before I get on to the actual baseball, I just want to give big ups to the three generations of fans in front of us - C.J., Javian, and Justin - for taking time to give us their thoughts on the stadium and the team. We always appreciate an opportunity to get locals' takes on their parks here at Scrappy Journeymen. Even though we know we already have all the answers.

To the game!

Day 16. Joliet Slammers; Joliet, IL. In Which Our Heroes Commit Crimes, Go to Jail, and Discover a True American Treasure of the Encased Meats Variety.

Our final day in Chicago began innocently enough, as we rousted ourselves after a night of playing Halo and drinking 'til 3am for a trip to a true Chicago institution, Hot Doug's. If you've never been and live in Chicago, shame on you. The owner - Doug, of course - is a master of the art of the encased meat. He's the Emperor of Encasings, the Sultan of Sausage, the Baron of Bratwurst, the Archduke of Andouille, the a Guru of Gourmet Hot Dogs.

How gourmet can hot dogs get, you ask? Well, highlights of our trip included the duck sausage dog with foie gras, the rattlesnake sausage, and a turducken sausage with brie and bleu cheeses on top. Oh, and the fries cooked in duck fat. My hot dogs have a new first name, and it's D-O-U-G Doug.

Of course, we had to wait in line for 90 minutes to get them. In 90-degree heat. With no water. Or at least until an enterprising ice cream truck operator just planted himself outside the line. Brilliant, and most welcome! I had a Mega Missile pop, the only correct popsicle to eat this time of year.

Oh, did I mention our whole meal was free courtesy of Megan's bravery? She has gotten the Hot Doug's logo tattooed on her body. Like, for reals, guys. Which means she and her friends eat free for life. Doug, you're my hero once again.

After this, we picked up my friends Evelyn, Fix, and Loranne and all 6 of us packed into my Corolla for the hourlong trip to Joliet. I'm sure it felt longer for those in the back, but if it's any consolation, guys, I was really entertained. Really should've done some donuts in the Wal Mart parking lot, though.

Post-game we headed back to Chicago to watch our favorite scenes from the greatest movie of all time while drinking copious amounts of appropriate Irish and Mexican beverages. It was glorious, but it's making the grind out I-80 for Toledo today just a bit less pleasant.

Anyway, to the game!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 15. Kane County Cougars, Kane County IL. Classic Chicago Cuisine and Baseball at Comic-Con

Well, we saw our 3rd KC team this evening. It was even a Royals affiliate, and their logo was so similar (though green) that we can only assume that the Royals sought out Kane County simply because of their initials.

But before that, I got introduced to Chicago’s famous Harold’s Chicken. Fried Chicken fresh from the pot with Mild and Hot Sauce and salt and pepper does a number on one’s sinuses. Paying for it across bulletproof glass just added flavor to the meal.

Subsequently we did laundry, but you aren’t reading this blog to hear about things you can do in your own home, so imagine that it was super-amazing laundry with laser guns and dinosaurs and giant ape statues.

The game, though, involved none of those things.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 14. Windy City Thunderbolts; Midlothian, IL. In Which the Gang Totally Doesn't Start a Fire, Finds Shelter From the Storm, and is Reminded How Much We Love DAAAAAAAAA BEARS.

Sweet Home Chicago! There isn't too much to report from the road today, except that if anybody is looking for a business opportunity, try opening up a Wendy's in rural Illinois. That's what we wanted for lunch, and we had to drive over 50 miles for one. And when we got there, the line was out the door. I'd never seen that! Wendy's, you clearly haven't saturated the Illinois market or the arteries of its citizens. Get on that.

We continued on to Chi-city, where Ben and I killed a couple hours at Powell's Books on 57th Street. If you've never been, and you like...y'know, books, you should go. It's epic. And they have three shelves dedicated to baseball. WAHOO!

I decided to play the Walgreen's game (for those of you not familiar, going to a drug store and buying the wackiest combination of items you can to confuse the cashier) at Powell's. So I bought a book about end-of-life care (a take on the Terri Schiavo case from a law professor, specifically), a Thomas Pynchon novel, and a Philip Roth novel. Draw your own conclusions.

Then we dropped our stuff off at my friend Megan's place and proceeded south to the suburb of Midlothian for that night's game.

The game was cut short due to rain, but the 'Bolts were up 6-1 after 6 innings, so that's a victory. We left when they rolled out the tarp, and it was a good thing, too. 'Cause the lights went out about 15 seconds after we hit the road.
Meh, no one cares about traffic lights in Chicago, anyway.

We almost got washed off the road, then it started hailing like a mother right as we were a few blocks away from Meg's place. We took shelter under a bridge, then ditched the car on 53rd Street and took shelter in a most reputable neighborhood establishment. 

The beer is up to $7.25 a pitcher now (I can't keep living this rock 'n roll lifestyle, man), and Ray no longer tends bar, but I still love the place. The lights were on, and we ran into my old drinking buddies Other Megan and JP there. I can't tell you how good it felt to run into my old haunt out of a hailstorm on a random Thursday 3 years after I leave town and find 2 friends there drinking like old times. Glad some things never change.

Now, back to reminiscing about the game.