Monday, June 29, 2015

Day 1: Wilmington Blue Rocks: Our Heroes brave the wilderness of Delmarva and eat a fruit.

Zach’s unsanctioned jaunt into Charlotte notwithstanding, your scrappiest of journeymen collided today to explore the frozen north and the minor league baseball within.  As this was our first jaunt of the trip, there was little time for non-baseball diversions, though that didn’t stop Ben from seeing the remnants of a flaming Greyhound bus by accident just north of Richmond.  The day consisted of Ben driving to DC, scooping Zach off a plane and then sat in traffic all the way to meet Pat in Wilmington, DE, home of the Blue Rocks.

And let’s just talk about traffic for a minute.  A list of common courtesies to keep in mind.  Please do not block entrances to parking lots with your freakishly large vehicle.  Kindly refrain from parking in two spaces at once.  And if a sign tells you for 10 miles that the right lane will be closed, please make a concerted effort to vacate the right lane at your earliest convenience and save us all a lot of trouble.  And for the love of Pete, don’t fucking move back into the right lane again.

Also on the docket, what’s the deal with Wilmington?  You have a population of 112,000 and yet the majority of the 3.5 hour drive from DC to Wilmington is spent sitting outside your city limits, just inside Delaware, in what a tollbooth guy said was “just Wilmington traffic”.  How does your traffic add 90 minutes to the expected time?

On the bright side, however, Zach and Ben got to experience the entirety of an Interstate Highway!  Interstate 97 is a 17 miles juggernaut of a, well, intra-state highway that goes from Annapolis to Baltimore.  It’s full of fun filled attractions like… cars on the road.  Also, we got a taste of Minor League Radio as Wilmington was completing their suspended game from the night before.  It’s a strange thing to hear, as you hear the announcers, but none of the game sounds.  Part of it may have been that it’s a suspended game, but we heard no cheers, no bat contact or anything aside from the excitement of the play-by-play guy.   And they had a strange fascination with the homeplate umpire, saying his name at every opportunity.  “…the strike zone of Cody Oakes…” “..and Cody Oakes calls that a strike with a fist bump…” “… he delivers to the hitter and umpire Cody Oakes…”

On to the regularly scheduled game!

Highlights and Lowlights:

                1. Free Parking!  In a lot labelled “Mini-Golf”, too.  There seemed to be a nearby Trampoline Park we were sad to miss, as well.  The view from the lot is a lovely image of the back of the stadium.
2.       The front of the stadium looks nice as well.
3.       A full lineup board in plain sight of everyone who comes in.  It’s a nice feature, makes it easy to follow the game, and gets our hopes up that there is actually a player named “Martniez.”
We also hope they misspelled "Moon" somehow.

4.       As we approached the park from the side, we could walk up and see the bullpen working from the previous game.  As the crowd funneled past them, the pitchers made not-too-accidental throws at the fence, scaring the bejeezus out of their fans.
5.       We got to see the last inning of “yesterday’s game”, as the Blue Rocks held off a dramatic comeback in the 9th by the Potomac Nationals.  The double-header of sorts resulted in our main game lasting only 7 innings.  We would say this is an official <2 hour game, but we feel that’s less than scrappy.
6.       Food!  The donut dog, called The Sweenie, was a tasty construction of donut, dog, bacon, and raspberry jelly.  A good mix of salty and sweet.  There were also many options for grilled cheese, filling the sandwiches with a variety of meats and vegetables.  Ben got a grilled cheese with apple and cinnamon, which was marred only by the auto-included pickle spear.  Anyway, all the journeymen hit their requisite fruit allotment for the trip, so we can get back to the really unhealthy stuff next time.
Don't eat donut burgers or you'll end up looking like these two guys.

7.       Fresh grilled corn on the cob, as well, with an assortment of spices for the sprinkling.
8.       Hokey Smoke!  The Blue Rocks mascot is a moose named Rocky Bluewinkle.  If only this team could play against Richmond.  Only our most die-hard followers will get that joke without clicking through.
9.       The moose makes little sense as it is, but you know what shows up behind home plate every time the Blue Rocks score?  A Celery mascot.  Now we know you’re trying to think of what connection celery has to Delaware.  Or perhaps some forced pun around Bleu Rock Cheese or something.  Well, you’ll just have to read to the next number to find out.
10.   They had the costume around and just thought up of some way to use it.  We actually like this a lot and would encourage other minor league teams to behave similarly.  Use what you have and create a culture around it.  That’s the best environment for cultivating a fan base and we love it.
11.   We are no strangers to multiple first pitches, but tonight was just excessive.  10 first pitches by various locals of varying ages.  The younger the pitcher, the better the throw, without exception.
12.   Potomac outfielder Narciso Mesa.  Wonder who his favorite player is…
13.   On field promotion of Tug-of-War.  One group of kids clearly had the upper hand until the adult interns all threw their weight behind the losing team.  We support the Blue Rocks’ efforts to teach children practical lessons about the real world.
14.   Very small kid gets to violently hammer a very large bug mascot with a flyswatter for a promotion.  We actually saw this a few years back in Greensboro, but the sudden and shocking furor of the event struck us again.  Still the most violent promotion since Hit the Hippie.
15.   There was a hobby horse race, in which the two girl contestants colluded so that one of them defeated the boy.  We would make an offensive men’s rights comment here if the announcer hadn’t topped us with “One of these horses will win a prize, the other two will get turned into glue!”
16.   Some other promotion that didn’t make sense ended with a couple standing on top of the dugout and the announcer concluding “Oh, and by the way, IT’S A BOY!  They didn’t know that yet!”  We hope it was only the sex of the impending baby that was a surprise and not the fact that she was pregnant.
17.   Kudos to the pitching performance of Matthew Strahm of the Blue Rocks.  15 outs, 9 of which were strikeouts.  Only 1 run and 1 walk mixed in, so we’re keeping an eye on him. 
18.   There was a crowd Beachball Race in which the crowd races to see which section can move an inflated beach ball all across their section.  We Won!
19.   Nice symmetrical field of 400’ to dead center with 325’ on each corner.  There’s something satisfying about 400’ to center.
20.   A “” PSA billboard on the wall.  It has a picture of a beer punching a brain.  We won’t show them the first category for how we score ballparks…
Don't drink, kids, or the bottle of beer will get smashed into your head.  That's actually not that untrue.

21.   Monkey Rodeo!  We saw the same guy in Salem a few years ago, and it’s the same schtick.  But it’s a Monkey Rodeo!  Monkeys ride dogs who herd goats across a baseball field.  After the 3rd inning, 5th inning, and after the game.  It’s amazing.
22.   And of course after the 5th inning, the dog had to take a crap in the field.  The outfielders made damn sure that the scooper guy knew where to scoop, too.
23.   The Monkey Rodeo guy always kneels down at home plate to conclude his show with a story Wilmingtonians apparently know well.  He talks about how 39 years ago, all he wanted was to own a monkey.  Then he introduces us to all his monkeys and dogs.  America is really important to this guy and he wants us all to know that and help out to make America great.  And then he plays 20 seconds of “Man in the Mirror” and encourages us to take the lyrics to heart.
Not a Democrat, Not a Republican, but an American.  His words.

24.   One monkey took off her clothes during the final rodeo.  The proprietor made some joke about Bruce Jenner and it took us a while to realize he was mocking the Kardashians and not the recent transformation to Caitlin Jenner.
25.   Ben caught a ball!  Sure, it was one of several stuffed balls shot out of a cannon, but a ball was caught nonetheless.  Closest any of us have come to actually getting a ball, at least.
26.  After the game there were fireworks.  Pretty standard show, but the moose came out and blew up TNT to get it started.  And that's a fun sentence to write.
If only Boris and Natasha had left him to his own devices...
Regularly Scheduled Metrics:

Price of Beer: 6.50 for 11 oz Dogfish Head and some local brews.  $6 for regular 16 oz.  4/10

Most Caloric Concession Item:  We’ll go with the Sweenie with chips.  5 points.

Minor League Personalities: The Monkey Rodeo guy had a familiarity with this crowd that we didn’t see in Salem, so we’ll call him a local celebrity.  Little League teams got honored at the beginning of the game, too. Lots of families, too.  3 points

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats: BOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!  Free parking nets them a point, though.

Tailgating: None, despite having a big secluded lot for it.  0 points.

Funniest Roster Name: We’re starting off strong with Khayyan Norfork, Narciso Mesa, John Wooten, Jimmy Yezzo.  But we have to give it to Potomac manager Tripp Keister, named, presumably, for the body part he most threatens to kick.  8 points for this spoiled choice.

Promotion Quality:  Team Ghost Riders Cowboy Monkey Rodeo.  9 points.

Crowd: 2 points?

Men’s Room: 0 points

Bonus Points: +1 for lineup board typo, +1 for radio broadcasters giving Cody Oakes some love, +1 for aggressive bullpen inhabitants, +1 for Rocky Bluewinkle, +4 for violence and callousness in the on-field promotions, +1 for monkey getting naked, +1 for doggie dump, +1 for the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame, +1 for beach ball race, +2 for random Celery costume and use, +1 for actually finally catching a ball, +1 for Matthew Strahm, +1 for local beers, +1 for getting to see the end of the first game, +2 for gourmet grilled cheese and corn, +1 for donut dog, +1 for impressive façade, +1 for fireworks

Summary: 55 points on our totally arbitrary scale.  This was a lot of fun, and the on-field antics went a long way to giving this place some character.  A solid start to the trip and worth your time if you ever find yourself in Wilmington.  The team is a Royals affiliate, too, so you have a good chance of seeing some nice prospects.  7/10

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