Thursday, July 16, 2015

Day 7, Brooklyn Cyclones, Back to the Future Night Déjà Vu

We awoke on Thursday with two goals: watch some baseball, and stay out of the car for an entire day. To accomplish this, we would need to spend 5 hours on public transit across three boroughs, but such is the way of life in the big city. This also meant we could drink the whole day. After a shot of Malört I brought Zach and Ben over to Skytown, a local bar and restaurant, for a proper Brooklyn-style boozy brunch. Perhaps not surprisingly, we were the only patrons at 11am on a weekday morning. Fortunately they cut us some slack and started happy hour early, so we finished our omelets with a beer-and-shot combo. Then it was off to Queens, via Manhattan, for our MLB interlude at Citi Field, to see my beloved Cubs.

Citi, aside from the product on the field, remains a pretty decent place to see a game, with plenty of food options and several pleasant spots to watch the game if you don't like your seats. This time our upper-deck seats had a tolerable sight line and a pleasant breeze, so we mostly stayed there. Jonathan Herrera and Miguel Montero socked a homer each, Jake Arrieta pitched eight strong innings, and the Cubs cruised to a solid 6-1 victory to finish off a sweep of the Mets. That settled, we made our way to beautiful Coney Island for the day's main event.

After discovering just how many stops there really are on the F train (lots!) we emerged into the bustle and lights of the boardwalk, where it turned out that none of us are any good at carnival games. In particular, we suck at getting a whiffle ball to land gently in a goblet. We contemplated a roller coaster, but at $10 per ride, we settled for a stroll along the beach and back to the park, with a quick stop for another happy hour special at a bar next door.

The competitors in today's game were... wait a minute... the Hudson Valley Renegades and the Brooklyn Cyclones! Hudson Valley liked us so much they followed us to Brooklyn, as the teams played the second game of a strange home-and-home-and-home series. This isn't the NBA finals, guys. Also following us to Brooklyn: artificial turf! MCU Park's turf looked very similar to what we'd seen in Hudson Valley the day before, but with a heavier layer of rubber chips. Whatever they do to it, it seemed a little less lively, and this time the two teams played a relatively clean defensive game with only one error between them.

Check out these zany concourse lights.

Getting up off the turf, Brooklyn's park is visually pretty interesting, with a retro-futuristic vibe, multi-colored concourse lights, and a sweeping view of the rides and attractions at Coney Island. You can see the Thunderbolt coaster immediately out to center in the photo above. The park is slightly asymmetrical and square-ish, with a fairly deep 412' to center, but only 315' to left and 325' to right.

Zach's chili cheese fries.

Concessions were another strong point. You can get a chili dog at most ballparks, but where else can you get a Nathan's chili dog? I was personally thrilled to find Brooklyn's own Arancini Bros. running a stand. If you've never had arancini, they're an Italian innovation consisting of a deep-fried ball of rice stuffed with any number of delicious (often meaty) fillings, and they're delicious. They also used to have a shop in my neighborhood, which unfortunately closed. So naturally I ordered half a dozen.

Alas, one of our other frequent companions on the trip also returned, namely precipitation. It began to rain during the middle innings, gently at first. Unfortunately there was no cover anywhere except for the concourse, which quickly grew crowded with folks taking shelter. Realizing that this was no way to watch the game, we declared our promotional giveaway jerseys "basically ponchos" and determined to ride out the rain in style. Then it got stronger. Trailing 1-0 with delay threatening, the Cyclones mounted a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, scoring two runs to pull ahead. Shortly thereafter we did, indeed, go into delay.

A good chunk of the crowd (perhaps half) called it quits at this point, but we scrappy journeymen laugh in the face of mild weather-related discomfort. Also we were promised fireworks, and we really like fireworks. Fortunately the delay came to and end after a bit less than half an hour, and the teams finished out the game without much in the way of hitting. Final score: 2-1 Brooklyn. Cue fireworks.

More Highlights and Lowlights

  • Great moments in ballpark advertising: "Send in the Clowns" on the left, and on the right, a hotel that wants you to know that they accept bitcoins. So, if you were planning to engage in any illegal activity there that you don't want traced, they are 100% down with that, hypothetically.
  • Cheerleaders?! I mean... cheerleaders! In keeping with the atmosphere of spectacle and activity the Cyclones have their own dance/cheer squad, the Beach Bums, who performed a few routines between innings.
  • On our way in we got free button-down jerseys, in a somewhat throw-back-y design in 100% polyester. They held up decently well, considering, though they were not as effective ponchos as we might have hoped. Zach and Ben were, as loyal Atlantans, appalled to find a large Pepsi logo on the back, but so it goes.
  • Programs were also free and fairly substantial, which we always appreciate.
  • One of the in-stands vendors showed some creativity, shouting, "Help me pay my bills!"

  • There was this thing. The long-unused Coney Island Parachute Jump, a relic of the 1939 World's Fair, sits just a few dozen yards from the park. It constantly changed patterns, among them some seasonally appropriate red-white-and-blues.
  • One downside of the carnival atmosphere was that the music playing over the concourse PAs did not stop for the on-field promotions, which made it hard to keep track of what was actually going on.
  • While the players and coaches duly dispatched foul balls into the stands, we also spotted one of the first-base coaches throwing packs of gum into the crowd. So, hey, free gum.
  • I have a note that just says "maple bacon concoction."
  • The winning hit was a fly ball to right center field with the bases loaded. As the first-base runner waited to see if it would be caught, the batter caught up with him, and was called out for passing the runner. We'd never seen this rule actually put to use before. Sort of but not quite a TOOTBLAN, since he wasn't thrown out.
  • The game-ending out was a hard line-out, nicely snagged by Cyclones 1B Zach Mathieu, who had come in two innings earlier as a pinch hitter. Way to be a complete player, Zach. Also, kudos for using the correct spelling of "Zach." For that, we won't look too carefully at what you've done with "Matthew."
Because America, that's why!


Price of Beer: $7, I think. Possibly due to our spending the rest of the day drinking beforehand, we have no notes on this. Go for anything by Coney Island Brewing. 3 points.
Most Caloric Concession: Whatever it is, I'll bet you can put chili and cheese on it. 5/10.
Tailgating: Not exactly tailgating, but between the boardwalk and having a bar immediately next to the stadium entrance, you could find worse ways to kill time before a game. 5/10.
Crowd: Pretty full stadium, fairly engaged, chanting during appropriate moments, and reasonably willing to wait out a little rain. 8/10.
Free Seats: Eh, whaddayagonnado? 0 points.
Funniest Name: Seeing as we had the exact same rosters as the day before, honorable mentions go to Cade Gotta and ethpethially Tucker Tharp for still having great names. For variety's sake, today's winner is the hilariously-named Cyclones catcher Manuel Hilario. Still worth 7/10.
Promotions: It was Back to the Future Night, which was expressed mainly in the form of jumbotron clips and some moderately challenging BttF trivia rounds between innings.  Also there were fireworks. We love fireworks, and getting free stuff, and we especially love Back to the Future, one of the greatest science fiction movies of the 1980s. I am, however, holding out hope that the next BttF night I see will involve a Delorean on the field, preferably traveling at 88 mph. Even so, 8/10.
Restrooms: Not many restrooms, but a full quota of urinals. 0 points.

Bonus Points: +2 for accessible by public transit, +2 for roller coaster backdrop, +2 for concourse lights and general park styling, +1 for less-terrible turf, +1 for wacky home-and-home scheduling, +2 for authentic Brooklyn cuisines, +1 for sending in the clowns with bitcoins, +2 for cheerleaders, +1 for vendors with character, +2 for garishly bright historic landmark parachute tower, -1 for excessive PA music, +1 for coach throwing gum, +1 for maple bacon something something, +1 for no rain delay until the home team scores, +2 for passing the runner quasi-TOOTBLAN, +1 for pinch-hitter making a sweet play, -1 for the vicissitudes of weather.

Total: 56 points on our completely arbitrary scale, which is in no way rigged, just like that carnival game that all of us were terrible at. In any case, this is a distinctive park that really fits into its setting and embraces the Coney Island atmosphere. The holiday weekend crowd was lively and the promotions were generous. We even saw a pretty good, close baseball game. Now, granted, I was drunk for a lot of it, but I'll call it an 8/10.

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