Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Day 3: Rain Tries to Ruin Everything But Only Sorta Does, Red Sox to the Rescue, and Arrogant Maineiacs

We began Day 3 by waking up after a few hours' shuteye on Pat's brother's floor and/or futon. We got breakfast; Pat and Ben had something involving toast, while Zach joined his uncle for too many damn strawberry pancakes. After two consecutive nights of arriving at our sleeping destination between midnight and 1am, we were thrilled to have an ETA into our hotel in Portland, ME of around 630pm.

Unfortunately, this is about 6 hours later than we'd initially planned. It turns out the best laid plans of mice and Scrappy Journeymen are subject to the whims of Weathor, who pronounced via an extensive albeit not particularly strong storm system that there would be no joy in Mudville and no game for the Portland Sea Dogs this afternoon. But we already had the hotel room, so we had to end up in Portland regardless, despite being unable to see the adorable Sea Dogs.

Frantically looking for a replacement, the Journeymen considered several options. Based on weather forecasts and complicated cost-benefit calculations ("How hungover are you guys this morning?") we settled on heading back south to Pawtucket, RI for the Pawtucket Red Sox, AAA affiliate of Boston and henceforth referred to by their preferred moniker of "Pawsox." So we headed south for an hour, doubling back later in the afternoon to head north for Portland.

Upon arriving in Maine we were greeted by a sign saying "Welcome to Maine: The Way Life Should Be." Well look who's fuckin' presumptuous, eh Maine? Kiss our Georgia- and Illinois-born asses.

There weren't too many non-baseball adventures today due to the afternoon game, the drive, and the constant, cold, windy rain. Upon arriving in Portland we did head downtown and walked around the cold, rainy wharf for some seafood and local beers. It's charming, but it was 50 degrees and soaking wet in late June. We know this is unseasonable, but still. Only Ben was prepared for this clothing-wise. Zach ate some lobster because he had to make the trip to Maine not a total waste.

All that's left to tell you about is the game. We should have more to report tomorrow as we head out for Burlington, VT and the awesomely-named Vermont Lake Monsters. But for now let's shift focus to today's unlikely hero: the Pawsox.

Highlights and Lowlights:

1. Immediately upon arrival, we were greeted by two of the scrappiest scappers to ever scrap - Pedroia and the YOUKAHHHHHH. Just missing David Eckstein. Anyway, I guess we considered this a positive omen.

Yeah, they're Red Sox, and we hate them. But they're our spirit animals.

2. The stadium was very interesting, with an antique feel and a number of uncommon features. The main entrance to the park was way out in left field, rather than behind the plate-ish. You immediately walk up a flight of stairs to reach the level of the seats, which is necessary because of how high all the seats are. The seats on the right field side also only ran to 1st base, while left field ran well past 3rd, leaving a severely unbalanced seating arrangement. We couldn't help wondering if the stadium used to be layed out differently.

You can see the unbalanced seating here, as well as how high all the seats are: they sit atop the dugouts and other VIP field-level suites. You can also see the unprotected, field-level dugouts on either side of the green padding. There was no netting or protection of any kind, but their tight placement near the plate made fouls fairly unlikely; design was the protection.
The blue staircase on the right is where you enter the stadium.

 The view from our seats. This shows another interesting feature: a tremendous amount of foul ground. Also, dirt on-deck circles that were groomed but not used (obviously, they are far too close to the plate). Another reason we thought maybe the layout used to be different.

3. The outfield berm area had metal shelving to hold beer and food, should you bring it out there. Convenient.

4. The stadium was definitely old in its design, with lots of exposed concrete, and...ramps! Zach was unreasonably excited about this. To be fair, we haven't seen a minor league park with the spiral ramps to the upper decks before.
Look! A ramp!

5. As we stated, the park was old. That did lead to a lot of obstructed view seats, both by the press box and a number of pillars. So if this park ever fills up, watch out when you get your tickets.

6. Upon entering, the lineups were posted, printed, on a sign near the gate. We immediately noticed a lot of ex-MLBers on the list, which makes sense at a AAA game: Shane Victorino (rehab), Eric Young, Jr., Joe Kelly, Allen Craig, Christian Bethancourt, and others we either didn't recognize or don't have room to list here because you're already bored.

7. This was the first - but already not the last - time we've seen a menu of items and prices posted outside of the souvenir stands. Convenient for shoppers, to be sure, and necessary since it really was a stand and not a store you could walk through.

8. Now for a diversion into Baseball Esoterica That Interests Only Us(TM). McCoy Field - where the Pawsox play - was the site of the longest professional baseball game on record: 33 innings. It featured a run scored in the bottom of the 9th by the home team, and then a run scored by each team in the 21st inning before the game finally ended after being called off near dawn after 32 innings and resumed two months later.

Yeah, that's cool and all, but what's really amazing is Zach getting the panorama feature on his phone camera to sort of work.

9. Moving from history to the future, we had a nice conversation with some Pawsox folks who were showing off some artist renderings of a new planned stadium in Providence. The most interesting design feature was the Pawsox's own McCovey Cove, since the stadium site abuts the water. We're not sure if kayakers would really come out to catch home run balls from the Pawsox, but we're not saying we wouldn't come back to do it, either.

10. Sadly, this was probably the most extensive healthy concessions menu we've seen so far, even including a hummus and pita plate. Look, I love hummus. Seriously, I do. But this is a ballpark, man.

11. Even more sadly, the Clam Shack was closed. Really cut down on the Rhode Island/New England ambiance.

12. The players did the "Fan Safety Instructions." We don't get to see players play flight attendant outside of the majors that often.

13. The game was very audible, with every strike call and crack of the bat clear as day. This wasn't due to crowd indifference, but rather good acoustics and not a lot of ambient crowd noise outside of the game. The crowd was actually quite interested in the game, cheering at all the right times.

14. The Gwinnett Braves were visiting, and they had a sidearm lefty starting, which was cool. Then they brought in Peter Moylan, another former MLBer and another sidearmer, for relief, though it looked like he'd tweaked his delivery somewhat. So, two sidearmers for the same team in the same game was kinda cool.

15. The team displayed interesting stats for players the second time through the lineup, which is a pro-grade move. Averages and such also seemed to update in real-time, which is always neat.

16. The Pawsox also had instant replay, which is not something we often see in the minors but of which we are huge fans. Nice work!

17. When they brought out the T-shirt cannon, as all great Minor League Teams do, the first shot went out of the stadium! They were aiming for a guy in the top row, Maude Flanders-style, and apparently had overpumped the cannon. They corrected for this in future shots, like cowards.

18. In a play that caused no shortage of debate between the Scrappy Journeymen and their official former Braves stats guy consultant (Zach's dad), after a dropped 3rd strike with two outs and runners on 1st and 2nd, the catcher threw to 3rd in an attempt to get a force out to end the inning. The players seemed briefly confused, but there was a general consensus that the inning was over one way or the other. We're still debating over whether this was a strikeout (and the drop didn't matter because 1st base wasn't open) or whether it was a force, but we think it's the former. What fun!

19. In SJ IV trivia, this was the first time we'd seen an 8th inning. The first day we came in the 9th of a suspended game, then saw a second 7-inning game. New Britain was 3 innings. So, the Pawsox on Day 3 was the first 8th inning we saw.

20. In other curiosities that likely interest only us, we saw two TOOTBLANs (thrown out on the basepath like a nincompoop). This is why we watch the Minors.

21. One lowlight was God Bless America, which was even worse than usual. First, it was mis-timed at the end of the 6th inning so we couldn't properly steel ourselves against it. Then, it was creepily and horribly sung by a group of preschoolers, incapable of understanding what the song means or represents and really just presenting a kind of alarming tableau. We did not enjoy it.

22. Another lowlight was that when the time came for Take Me Out to the Ballgame, the crowd barely noticed. They weren't even asked to stand! Also, they sang very clearly "I do not care if I ever get back..." rather than "don't," which was just...odd. Oh, and they sang the song 3 times. Again, just...odd.

Regularly Scheduled Metrics:

Price of Beer: 5.125/10 points. Local beer was $7.25-$9/16 oz, while domestics were $6.50/16 oz.

Most Caloric Concession Item: 5/10 points. Chili cheese fries wouldn't normally make it here, but they also wouldn't normally be piled up twice the height of their container.

Minor League Personalities: 4/10 points. MiLB diehards were there in force, so we'll give them double points - at least two elderly folks with radios and scorecards, listening to the game. Ben made Zach promise than when he gets Alzheimer's he'll take him to the ballpark a couple times a week and park him there just like that. Zach reminded Ben he'll be dead years before that happens.

There were MLB fans, too - obviously, Red Sox affiliate. Families galore. We didn't spy any local celebrities, but what do we know about famous people in Pawtucket? No drunks or teens on dates - day game and all. No Minor League Groupies or, surprisingly, Little League Teams (or summer camps for that matter).

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats: 0/10 points. Whaddya gonna do, eh?

Tailgating: 0/10 points. None really to speak of, but the weather  was pretty crappy.

Funniest Roster Name: 7/10 points. Our old friend Mallex Smith is back! We last saw him in AA in Rancho Cucamonga, but he came over from the Padres to the Braves in the Justin Upton trade and has made his way to AAA. We can only hope to soon see Mallexanderm's name on scorecards in Atlanta.

Promotion Quality: 2/10 points. This is one area where the Pawsox fell a bit short. There were no unique promotions on the schedule that really attracted us, and the in-game promotions and such were pretty typical. If you're looking for some friendly, constructive criticism, Pawtucket, you have great fans and an amazing park, so consider focusing a bit of your time here.

Crowd: 6/10 points. Really into the game, and the at least 2 old men intently listening on the radio and scoring grabbed our hearts.

Men’s Room: 0/10 points. I had high hopes for a few seconds after I realized this was an old park and Red Sox, but my dreams were dashed on an extensive row of porcelain urinals.

Bonus Points: +3 for scrappy spirit animals, +5 for various awesome stadium design features, +1 for many ex-MLBers, +1 for souvenir menu, +3 for new park design looking for fan input, +5 for site of longest game, -1 for extensive healthy menu, -1 for closed clam shack, +2 for two siderarmers, +1 for interesting stats, +1 for instant replay, +2 for T-shirt cannon overfire, +2 for multiple TOOTBLANs, +3 for debate-sparking play, -1 for GBA, -1 for weak Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Summary: 54.125 points on our totally arbitrary scale. Honestly, we detest the Red Sox and didn't have high hopes for their AAA affiliate. We felt kinda stuck with Pawtucket. But from the second we got there, the stadium and intense fans had us charmed. The Pawsox were definitely the positive surprise of the day, and we feel a little bad for doubting them as we did. We would certainly recommend stopping there, charming old stadium or beautiful new one (after 2018). But the Red Sox still suck. 8/10.

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