Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 7, Hickory Crawdads (Hickory, NC): Caped Crusaders, Phriendly Phillies, and Alliterative Adjectives.

We awoke in the other Howard Johnson Express in Florence, SC.  Did you know there were two?  And there is a 20 dollar difference between them when you use coupons? 

We had known todays plan pretty much since we decided 3 months ago to make this trip.  The Crawdads in Hickory, NC were having Dark Knight Night and the midnight release of Christopher Nolan’s opus was showing at the one movie theater there.  So, knowing that we had a long night ahead of us, we decided to avoid any of our normal strenuous activities like Putt Putt and looking at things.  We still had to find some way to kill time between Florence and Hickory, so we pulled our most radical stunt yet.  Over the course of the 3 hour drive, neither one of us surpassed the speed limit.  That’s right, it didn’t matter if we were the only car on a country road; if the sign said 35 MPH, we went 35 MPH. 

Clearly, the Darkest of Knight Nights

So, yeah.  We didn’t do too much before the game.  Sorry.  And after the game we went to see Dark Knight Rises.  It’s good. 

   1.        Ridiculously awesome Public Address guy.  We heard him calling the starting lineups as we pulled up to L.P. Frans field in the car and knew immediately that he could have any PA job he wanted.  Pitch perfect, enthusiasm, and great inflection. If only he had been more in the theme of the night.  I can just hear: 
    Harrrveeeeeey Deeeeeeeeent.
   Bruuuuuuce Waaaaaaaayne. 

   2.       In case you haven’t picked up yet, the whole night was Batman.  The on-field MC, Tall Kyle, was fully decked out as the dark knight, and his associates included Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Riddler, and Penguin.  The home team’s pictures on the tron were also photoshopped to look like Batman characters.

   3.       A whole lot of netting.  C’mon, Crawdads!  This isn’t Spiderman night!  This became a problem when an on-deck batter tried to hand a foul ball to a fan, but couldn’t get it through the net.
Tell me this wouldn't be improved upon by removing the net.

   4.       The play area actually was not netted, but instead had a warning sign informing participants that they were in a foul ball area.  Because kids love to stop and read before they get on the monkey bars.

   5.       The program was bigger than most, and printed on newsprint.  Not that remarkable, but I’m remarking on it anyway.

   6.       Walk-up music was eclectic.  Home team had fairly standard tunes, but the visitors got treatments from the likes of West Side Story and The Jungle Book.  Other music fun included The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for full counts.

   7.       Willy Wonka’s “Good Day, sir!” after strikeouts.

   8.       The visiting Lakewood Blue Claws got joke pictures on the tron similar to Greensboro.  But Hickory had more than one joke for most players.  Some were amusing, like Gerald Ford for Trey Ford and a switch between Duff beer and Hilary Duff for Christopher Duffy.

   9.       Others were confusing.  Josh Ludy got pictures of Josh Brolin and Josh Hamilton.  Do you really want to compare your competition to either of these guys? 

   10.   The fans confused us.  The Crawdads are a Rangers affiliate and the Blue Claws are with the Phillies.  Naturally we should root for the Crawdads, but the fans we had the most direct contact with were Jersey Shore imitators with Red Sox caps.  They heckled poor Trey Ford (.083 batting average) with shots like “You took my spot in the draft!”  “You should go back to rookie ball, pansy!”

   11.   Zach gave them what for, though, with his anti-heckle to Duffy “.394?  What are you doing in A-ball, ya bum?  Get your competent butt up to AA!”

   12.   On our side, though, was a very reasonable couple of Blue Claws fans wearing Phillie shirts.  They were polite, friendly, knowledgeable fans.  They had been to several ballparks in their day and were fans of the Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots, sharing our interest in independent baseball.  But they were Phillie fans.  I felt sort of like we were teaming up with the Riddler against an overly bronzed, antagonistic Commissioner Gordon.
Pictured:  Most of Hickory's 18-30 demographic.

   13.   They had some kids doing a Justin Bieber karaoke contest after an inning.  I didn’t realize the song went on after “Baby Baby Baby Oh”.  Neither did the 9 year old who was supposed to sing it, apparently.

   14.   There was also a dizzy bats race where 2 middle-schoolers raced Joker after spinning their heads on bats.  There was a grand collision between one contestant and Joker while the winner won an oil change.  Glad to see they don’t cater to the youthful interests of their participants.  Though, given Joker’s involvement, they probably changed the oil from motor to canola.

   15.   The stadium was rather unremarkable except for the fact that you entered at the top and the field was down in a bit of basin.  It felt like an amphitheater or football experience rather than a baseball park.  We liked it, and the trek to the concourse for food was a good workout each time.
They should have had Batman act out a scene from Philoctetes in the middle of the third.

   16.   There was a player named Tim Carver.  Naturally his picture was of Tim McCarver, the - hoo boy - Ford C. Fricking hate the son of a-  Ford C. Frick Award Winning Broadcaster.  Although there were no references to his days with Bob Gibson or forgetting the inning or insight such as “And he hit it really hard”, this is not an appropriate name.  Dear Carver parents, the proper name for your son is Ellis. 

   17.   A full café with AC and tables and everything.  Not sure why you’d really want this at a ball game, but I guess it takes all kinds to fill up a stadium.

   18.   After the 6th inning, Batman ran around the bases dressed in a tooth fairy costume with a huge toothbrush that he used to scrub the bases.  Joker, Riddler, and Penguin naturally(?) wanted to stop him, so he had to club them all with the toothbrush.  You don’t see this at big league ballparks.
You can't see it, but it has wings, a kevlar vest, and a big can of whoop-ass ready to be opened.

CRAP Metrics
Beer Prices:  Thirsty Thursday had $1 12 oz beers.  And good beers, too.  9 points

Most Caloric Concession Item:  Not much to choose from.  Popcorn?  2 points

Most Amusing Name:  Rougned Odor.  
Roooog neeed  Ooooooo Dooooooorrrr.  6 points.

Crowd:  Thirsty Thursday drew a pretty decent crowd.  Some clear fans of the Crawdads with megaphones.  And the hens’ teeth themselves, good Phillie fans.  7 points

Men’s Restroom:  7 urinals.  3 points

Mascot:  The crawdad didn’t have a huge presence and his tubby affect did not inspire a lot of confidence in a fight.  Plus, he’s up against a pelican and a shark, both of whom eat seafood.  4 points.

It did say it liked my hat.  How do you respond to that?   "I like yours too?"

Promotion:  Thirsty Thursday plus Dark Knight Night is a win-win situation.  8 points

Random Bonus Points: Awesome PA  guy 5 points.  Too many nets  -1 points.  No net on playground  2 points.  Good music and clips  3 points.  Bizarro fan personalities  2 points.  Sunken field effect  3 points.  Variety of picture puns 2 points.  Tooth fairy  2th points.

Total:  57 points

Overall:  This was a lot of fun.  Not a particularly close game (5-1 Crawdads) but a really solid experience.  On a scale of Calendar Man to Joker, this somewhere between Two-Face and Bane.  Or about a 7/10.

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