Monday, July 27, 2015

Day 10.1: Bowie BaySox: Hitting-and-Running, Missing All the Hits

Note: not a minor-league ballpark.

On the last day of our scrappy journey we awoke in the scrappiest of cities: Philadelphia. In order to get a head start on another busy double-header, we encamped at the 'Oliday Inn overlooking Citizens Bank Park, as made famous by It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Sadly, despite an exhaustive search (read: none at all), we were unable to find the secret tunnels leading to the park, and had to settle for driving to Maryland for our first game of the day, in beautiful Booey — I mean, Bowie. It really is pronounced Booey, though.

Don't send us no more letters, no.

We pulled off the highway towards what was purported to be the alternate parking lot, but may as well have been Desolation Row. Almost entirely empty, the weed-strewn gravel lot had an ineffable air of melancholy which — anyway, it was pretty damn desolate.

However, unlike some alternate parking lots we can think of, this one was free and still fairly convenient to the park, by way of a charming wooden footbridge. We purchased our tickets and made our way inside, taking note that Bowie still uses the old-school stub-tearing style of ticket — classy! We scrappy journeyman like to appreciate the little things (David Eckstein, for instance).

Speaking of old-timey class, the centerpiece of Prince George's Stadium was this lovely carousel with a variety of animals, including a rooster. You can make up your own joke about riding the cock, but we are above such crass suggestiveness here. I'll wait... Anyway, it was still a very nice carousel, and it really stood out from the typical kidz zone bouncy castle fare.

Though not as striking as some other parks we saw on this trip, the park sits in a slight depression, with grassy slopes along partially enclosing the park down the baselines. At least for this days game, it didn't look like these were used for seating, but they give the park a pleasantly natural feel.

Unfortunately we had to leave early to make sure we were on time for our second game, so we only saw about five innings, but they were action-packed. The first-base umpire failed to get out of the way of a sharp grounder down the line, and the first baseman corralled it off the ricochet, turning a likely double into a ground out for the home team. About an inning later he would manage to dodge a a very similar hit, but for the visitors, which did not improve his popularity. Meanwhile, Erie's manager got into a shouting match with the home plate umpire over a time out call.

Less humorously, Erie's starter took a hard comebacker in the shoulder and had to leave after two innings. Fortunately he wasn't seriously hurt, but it was a frightening moment. On another play we saw the lead runner in a hit-and-run almost hit by the batted ball. We can only assume the ball was haunted by the vengeful spirits of Baysox past.

In one final oddball play, Bowie shortstop Ozzie Martinez hit a grounder down the third-base line and into left field that managed to roll under a gate and out of play, making this the only ground-rule double grounder I've ever seen. These are the joys of minor league park design.

Little did we know that once we left, the offenses would really get going. The teams combined for 18 runs on 35 hits. When the dust settled, Erie came away with a 10-8 victory.

More Highlights & Lowlights

  • Park dimensions: a reasonable healthy 405' to center, but only 309' to the corners. Symmetrical. Only one of those 35 hits was a homer, though, so those short corners weren't responsible for the offense.
  • Free programs (entitled "Baysox Baywatch"), with info for all the series on the current homestand. Seems like a smart way to keep printing costs under control.
  • Bowie had the only female PA announcer we heard this trip, proving that yes, women are capable of talking into a microphone. Kudos to her for breaking into a very male-dominated niche.
  • The home team hitters got walk-up music, which we like, but the third baseman chose some horrible song about dating cheerleaders. Taste like that won't get you to AAA, kid. Everyone knows hitting is 90% song selection, and that song? Well, it's not a hit (admittedly, neither is that pun).

  • The Northeast's obsession with dental hygiene continued, as one of the promotions featured Bristle, a strange, cape-wearing, fly-like mascot who maybe has something to do with teeth? Your guess is as good as mine.
  • We spotted a "Quiet Night" on Bowie's promotion schedule. Good to see that concept flourishing


Price of Beer: $8.50 for 24 oz. of the cheap stuff, and a whopping $11 for the same amount for the good stuff. 4.33 points. Craft options included Devil's Backbone Vienna Lager, local to Virginia, which turned out to be quite tasty.

Most Caloric Concession: It's a burger! No, it's a hot dog! Wait, it's both! Despite stopping at Arby's on the way to the game, Zach insisted on tackling this culinary hybrid, which very nearly defeated him. 5/10.
Tailgating: Not really, although given that we parked on the surface of the moon, that's to be expected. The bridge was nice, though. 1/10.
Crowd: A little light for a weekend game, perhaps, but decently engaged. 6/10.
Free Seats: Well... no. 0 points.
Funniest Name: This is lacrosse country, and Bowie's Quincy Latimore is rocking the WASPiest name this side of George Prescott Bush. Honorable mentions to Erie pitchers Confesor Lara and Joe Mantiply. Be fruitful and mantiply. 8/10.
Promotions: Alas, our hasty exit prevented us from fully judging the promotions. It was purportedly both Back to the Future night and National Ice Cream Day. Tragically we did not get free ice cream, and there was still no DeLorean. Admittedly, they could have done something awesome later on and we would have missed it. A tentative 5/10.

Restrooms: A full complement of urinals, but also this stall partition carrying an advertisement for restroom stall partitions? 0 points.

Bonus Points: +1 for free parking on the moon, +1 for footbridge, +1 for ticket stubs, +3 for carousel, +1 for natural amphitheater park shape, +1 for umpire interference, +1 for manager/umpire argument, +2 for grounder-rule double, +1 for more comebacker near-misses, 0 for the one that actually did hit someone and looked pretty painful, +1 for the offensive explosion we missed, +1 for PA woman, +1 for walk-up music, -1 for terrible walk-up music, +1 for Bristle the dental hygiene abomination, +1 for nothing, +1 for beer price differential, +1 for good local beers, +1 for self-advertising restroom partitions.

Total: 47 points on our entirely arbitrary and travel-abbreviated scale. Bowie does a lot right — distinctive park design, some creative concessions, good beer, and at least on paper some clever promotional ideas. Promotion execution seemed a bit lacking, but it's hard to judge from half a game. I'd certainly give them a shot if you find yourself in the DC or Baltimore area. 7/10.

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