Saturday, July 18, 2015

Day 8: Trenton Thunder: America, Ameri-cam, and Ameri-OH MY GOD IT'S A BATDOG!

After a long doubleheader and over 3 hours on NYC's subways yesterday, we decided to take it easy today ahead of a short drive to our next stop. We woke up around 11 then headed over to the Lower East Side so our newest cup-of-coffee, our acquaintance Jick, could browse Strand bookstore's 18 miles of books.

Meanwhile, Ben and Zach set off, on Pat's recommendation, in search of a nearby Asian joint called Saigon Market. We weren't expecting what we found - a cavernous, dimly lit sit-down restaurant - but its reasonably-priced lunch special and heapin' helpings were a pleasant surprise. Try the bun xao lunch special if you're there; it tastes kind of like charcoal-grilled or smoked pad thai. Really tasty.

After that we pretty much just headed for Trenton. So let's jump right in to the game!

Highlights and Lowlights:

1. Upon entering we got handed detailed scoresheets and stat sheets, clearly printed up that morning, with up-to-the-minute stats. Pro move, Trenton. Actually, better than pro move...those would never be free in the Majors except for maybe luxury seats.

Indeed, their whole stats operation was solid. They had extensive stat boards for league leaders on dry erase boards updated daily, presumably by interns.

Also, players' stats on the JUMBOtron updated in real time, sometimes even before the batter reached 1st base after a hit. Nice updateable database, Trenton. That really is a pro-move.

2. Since this is AMERICA (and it was almost July 4th), Pat and Zach elected to take advantage of the All-You-Can-Eat pre-game picnic. The picnic was in an area with assigned, numbered tables, so they clearly engage in this gluttony a lot. Zach ate somewhere between 4 and 100 double cheeseburgers, while Pat opted for a more balanced diet of hot dogs, burgers, and BBQ chicken. They even brought out apple pie at the end. All for $13, which sounds like a lot until you consider the concessions that normally buys at even a Minor League park.

A lovely day for a picnic. Of course, any day is a lovely day for shoving your maw full of double cheeseburgers. For America.

3. An intense ad on the JUMBOtron (it really was Jumbo) for a Pork Roll Eating Championship on September 26th. I'm not sure why I noted the specific date; none of us is any good at that. Anyway, apparently pork rolls are very popular in New Jersey, and nowhere else. Best we can tell, they're Jersey's processed pork product answer to Pennsylvania's tastefully-named scrapple.

4. Star Wars good guy and bad guy music for the team intros may be a classic, but some classics never get old.

5. We are huge fans of animals partially usurping ballboy duties, and so we were excited to see that Trenton has a bat dog (Batdog?). It's exactly what you're thinking, but that doesn't make it any less awesome: a golden retriever that spends an inning retrieving the Thunder players' bats. One of the past dogs, "Chase", is even enshrined in their Ring of Honor.
Who's a good boy? Batdog is a good boy! 

6. Sticking with the Ring of Honor, unfortunately, as a Yankees affiliate, they also included Jeetz.

7. Sit down, Trenton. We need to talk about your mascots. Now your main man, Boomer, is bad enough with the gaping maw and apparent lack of eyes.


But your new one, Cloud Man? Just...puzzling. Bizarre. And those suggestive. Think of the CHILDREN, man!

8. While we're on mascots, Chick-Fil-A was out in force at this game for some reason. They have the Chick-Fil-A "Fowl" Poles in the outfield, a Kwality pun. There was also a literal parade of the CFA cows - really, maybe a dozen - and Pat suggested a round of "Hey Cow!", which is apparently a game where you score points for getting cows to look at you after you yell at them. There are no winners, only those losing less slowly.

9. This was our first stop in New Jersey, so we wanted to be Jersey'd. And baby, were we ever! So much BOSS over the loudspeakers. We got a rousing "patriotic" rendition of "Born in the U.S.A.", which we feel compelled to point out is an anti-war song. "Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man" is NOT a line from an uncritical pro-America anthem for people who just want to feel good 'bout 'MURKA on its birthday. Just because it has USA in the title doesn't mean you play it on the 4th. Unless you're doing it as a patriotic protest to U.S. foreign policy, which would be awesome. But let's face it, Minor League Baseball teams aren't thinking that deeply.

10. Speaking of Jersey, the park was lousy with "Thunder Road" references. Makes sense.

11. One last Jersey note: the standard race on the video board was between Waste Management garbage trucks. Tragically, none was driven by large men in tracksuits named Vinny.

12. After the first Altoona Curve hitter got on base, Zach cheered loudly, because screw the Yankees. He was immediately challenged by a Thunder fan in the next row, asking him who the Curve were affiliated with. He correctly answered Pirates, which seemed to shut him up and convince him Zach was an actual Curve fan. He is not. But between Pirates and Yankees, all your Journeymen are squarely in the Buccos camp.

Also, Pat noted that Altoona really screwed the pooch when they called themselves the Curve rather than the Fish. Altoona Fish. Get it?

Pat's fired.

13. This was an odd rest-day lineup, we're pretty sure. Trenton's DH - a regular infielder - was batting 9th. The 8th hitter was batting .300. You won't get that in the Majors, man.

14. In other stat oddities, Stetson Allie is hitting .206 but slugging .401. That means Fedora Avenue's average hit is a double! Beanie Terrace really whacks the ball if he can get the bat on it.

15. On the other side, there was a fellow hitting .346 and slugging .346, with 17 RBIs. Meaning way into the season, with a sizeable number of at-bats, this guy has quite a few singles and nothing stronger. I don't think we've ever seen no extra-base hits that far into the season from such a high-average hitter.

16. The JUMBOtron featured pictures of Thunder players actually, y'know, making plays and put into a baseball card-style frame, rather than just boring pictures of their faces. Way more teams should do this.

17. In other picture-related news, the Wendy's strike-out batter (if he strikes out, some people get some burgers) on the Curve had his actual face replaced with the Wendy's girl. Solid tormenting, Trenton.

18. The game started off exciting with 4 straight hits. Tragically this pace did not keep up, and our projections of infinity hits based on extrapolating the early trend was shown to be off-base.

19. The elderly women in our picnic section were vigorously discussing the new movie, "Magic Max." Way to keep up with the times, ladies?

20. Netting most of the way around the concourse. Weak!

Why pay $6.50 for a beer if I don't even run the risk of getting my teeth knocked out while carrying it back to my seat?

21. The condiments included a pepper dispenser. No, not black pepper. Green bell peppers. You see onion dispensers pretty frequently, but never peppers. Finally, someone has attacked the obvious injustice of an asymmetrical load-your-own bratwurst policy. Free the peppers! Peppers and onions for all!

22. The on-field hype man was, we believe, African-American. None of us can remember the last time we've seen a non-white person with that gig in the minors before, so good on him and good on the Thunder.

23. Less great was their incessant usage of the CHARGE! sound effect. Seriously, every 2-strike pitch, and sometimes 3 or 4 times in a row. It even made Zach tire of shouting "DEBIT!" instead of "CHARGE!" at one point, which was previously thought by scientists to be impossible. We imagine Chalmers is the stadium's superintendent.

24. Somewhere in the middle were the extended montages of bad celebratory dancing from movies whenever the Thunder scored. Those were hilarious and extensive - the interns must've had quite an archive - but they were accompanied by searing, thunderingly loud techno. We mistakenly sat right in front of one of the speakers, pretty much.

25. For near-Independence Day, they had the America-Cam on the JUMBOtron, which appeared to be a regular crowd camera with random images of the Statue of Liberty, bald eagles, and fireworks intermittently pasted on. It was comically shoddily done, so we grudgingly support it.

26. Speaking of Independence Day, the Thunder did put the greatest speech in cinema history on the JUMBOtron. While generally the Journeymen would wholeheartedly endorse this, it felt forced for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was July 3rd, not the 4th. You can't overdo it. Second, they played it between the bottom of the 8th and the top of the 9th, when the home team was up 6. They weren't fighting a losing or difficult battle! They had practically won! It's a great, great speech, and Zach watches it before every rec league softball game, but you can't just slap it in there without thinking. That speech deserves thoughtful treatment; it should be given the same reverence as any national treasure in our Archives.

27. A nice but ultimately fruitless diving stop on a sharp liner by the third baseman. It was a nearly-impossible throw to first and he did indeed fail, but A for effort. Good play for the Minors.

28. A moonshot of a homer well out of the park over the left-field wall.
I know, I know, it would've just landed halfway up the lower bowl outfield seats in a regular Major League park, but it's nice to see one literally leave the park, whatever size.

29. The Thunder are currently a Red Sox affiliate, but until about 2003 they were a Red Sox affiliate. The Red Sox promptly won the World Series a year after Trenton left their system. Coincidence? It's the Blessing of the Trentino!

Trenton's rather extensive Wall of Fame helped your scrappy sleuths figure out the move's timing. Of course the Yankees did trade away a lot of prospects, including to Boston, so it might've happened earlier.

Regularly Scheduled Metrics:

Price of Beer: 4.25/10 points. Beer was $6.25/16 oz craft, $5.75/16 oz swill. Not bad, and at 50 cents a fairly sizable price differential.

Most Caloric Concession Item: 5/10 points. If we counted the all-you-can-eat picnic as a single item, that's a solid 10/10 right there. But that seems like cheating because it's day-based, so we'll remain honorable True Yankees(TM) and choose an every-day item. We'll go with the impressively-portioned fried ice cream, which was sold at an entire separate Deep Fried Delights stand.

Tragically, this was offset by the freestanding healthy options stand, sponsored by a regional health insurance company. Get your nose out of my business, government corporate bureaucrat.

Minor League Personalities: 2/10 points. Heavy on the Families, heavy on the Teens on Dates (or just in roving packs), not so heavy on anyone else. Even Major League Fans, which was surprising because Yankees.

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats: 0/10 points. Rest assured, Yankees affiliate, the feeling is mutual.

Tailgating: 0/10 points. None that we could see. We did park in an auxiliary gravel lot across a big street from the stadium, though. That seemed to be a theme of this trip.

Funniest Roster Name: 7/10 points. Max Moroff. Zach would not stop shouting "Moroff (prono: More of) WHAT!? WE MUST KNOW!" Honorable mention to Bowler Diagonal, mostly because of all the fun we had coming up with Hat-Street names.

Promotion Quality: 5/10 points. All-You-Can-Eat Picnics + shoddily-done Ameri-cam = U-S-A!

Crowd: 6/10 points. They didn't strike us as particularly interested or disinterested in the game, though their steadfast refusal - with the exception of one brave, lone soul - to stand up for even the last strike was disheartening. Still, they weren't a particularly irritating crowd, and they were big and loud at times, so middlin' points.

Men’s Room: 0/10 points. There was only 1 (large) men's room for a pretty large stadium, in a pretty large city, with a packed house. On the plus side, the urinals have cupholders, because you have to maintain balance at all times, I guess? Is Jersey big into that Eastern shit?

Bonus Points: -2 only 1 men's room, +1 for urinal cupholders, +3 for detailed and quickly-updated stats operation, +3 for all-you-can-eat picnics, +1 for intense pork roll championship ad, +4 for Batdog!, -1 for Jeetz in the Ring of Honor, -2 for your two weird mascots, +1 for solid Chick-Fil-A presence, +1 for Springsteen everywhere, +2 for garbage truck race (so Jersey), +3 for lineup quirks, +2 for BA/SLG quirks, +2 for Zach beating Thunder fan's challenge, +1 for non-white hype man, +1 for Magic Max, -2 for concourse-level safety netting, +2 for pepper dispenser, -2 for incessant CHARGEing, +2 for wacky dance videos, -1 for thundering techno music, +3 for Independence Day speech, -2 for its poor usage, +1 for rivalry affiliate switching.

Summary: 50.25 points on our totally arbitrary scale. It's a Yankees affiliate, sure, but they have a bat dog. A BAT DOG. Who's the best bat dog in the world? Who is? Yes, the Thunder's is! If you're in the area it's definitely worth a stop for bat dog and the scoring celebrations alone, though we admit nothing else particularly stood out. 7/10.

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