Monday, July 20, 2015

Day 9. Lakewood Blueclaws. Workers that should be Fired and Fires that didn't Work.

Happy 4th of July!  To celebrate, we drove around New Jersey, the most American of the states, and listened to music written entirely by people not from America.  We took a trip to Atlantic City and despite the nauseating traffic and parking situation (we wound up parking at a hospital) we actually came out on top as a group.

To round out our big America day, we took in a game in Lakewood Township, NJ.  (New Jersey has a lot of townships.)  And the Blueclaws gave us an experience that… well, none of us will forget it for a long time.  Then we left JC in an abandoned movie theater parking lot at 11:25 at night and drove to Philadelphia.  We’re not even joking about that.

Highlights and Lowlights
  1. We showed up so early to the game that we weren’t even able to enter the park.  So we took a trip around the outside of the stadium to see what we could see.  We saw Lady Liberty getting dressed up in her car of bumper stickers.  We saw a door with a sign “Do Not Leave This Door Unlocked” lying open with an unfastened padlock dangling from its handle.  And we saw this
    Introducing the Scrappymobile 2016
  2. Yes, that is an abandoned ice cream truck.  We were as excited as you might expect, and started to investigate to see if we could understand the story behind what brought this poor piece of machinery to this state.  Then we saw this.
    You gotta ask yourself one question.  Do your ears hang low?  Well, do they, punk?
  3. Not even we can imagine a situation that would result in bullet holes in a baseball ice cream truck.  Maybe a gang war broke out between Lakewood and Woodlake and RIvertree and Lumberocean.  We don’t know.
  4. Also, they apparently sell game-used equipment.  There was none for us to buy, but it’s a cool souvenir to get.
    If only the rest of the park had been this empty.  Oh wait, that's coming later.
  5. Once we got into the park, we made our circuit as we always do.  One of the first things to catch our eyes in the outfield were these tall chairs.  They seemed like a pretty cool way to watch an inning or two, and vaguely reminiscent of the chair-on-a-wall we saw in St. Paul.  The sign on it was even an amusing “Utilize at Your Own Risk.”  We just had to try it.
    Normally when there are lifeguard chairs and the phrase "At your own risk" we don't expect the chairs to be the dangerous part.
  6. And Zach ripped his shorts on the edge!  Not just tore the hem a bit, but a full pocket-to-knee, sex-offender-if-he-doesn’t-cover-up rip.  Cue Zack sitting on the chair for fifteen minutes while JC ran to the car to get Zach’s jeans, and the rest of us hoping that he had to tell the ticket people why he needed to return to the car.  And then the awkward shuffle to the bathroom, trying to inconspicuously hold the program in front of the rip.
  7. Newly clad, we took a look at the food options.  There was some really classy stuff here: ribs, fried feta sliders, shrimp avocado salad, rib roll, deep fried cookie dough, mac-n-cheese dogs, 18 oz. family size ice cream helmet, actually good pizza.  And everything we tried was delicious.  Plus this is the only ballpark where we’ve seen Jell-o shots before. 
    Pork roll, egg, and cheeses.  Because why not.
  8. The downside was the wait times, frequently fifteen minutes or more for anything good.  This is probably partially due to the 4th of July crowd (8,500 according to the Jumbotron) and the fact that all the workers wanted the day off.  Seriously, the girl tapping the beer couldn’t have been a day over 17.
  9. Speaking of people too young for their jobs, the Star Spangled Banner was sung by a girl no more than 10.  We’ll give her credit for her pipes, but we haven’t heard anyone milk a song like this in recent memory.  She had eyes closed, mike in one hand, and the other hand outstretched so that we all would know just how emotional she was being as she sang.
  10. And that wasn’t even the worst.  She sang God Bless America at the 7th inning stretch.  Twice.  Each rendition took about 90 seconds, which is interminable anyway, but to do a complete reprise of this mess of a song was just criminal.
  11. And that wasn’t even the worst, either!  After God Bless America, another little girl came out for Take Me Out to the Ballgame.  And sang it in the exact same style as her predecessor, hand outstretched, eyes closed, belting as loud and as slowly as she could.  TMOTBG is not a sacred song that demands reverence and awe (not that GBA is either).  It’s an energetic, boisterous song for hollering together in whatever key you want to let off some energy toward the end of a game.
  12. As it was the 4th of July, so of course there were fireworks.  The music choices were oddly rebellious, with not a hint of Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood.  However, something must have happened because the fireworks fizzled out after only a couple of minutes while Creedence Clearwater Revival played on, unarticulated by fire and works.
  13. Honestly, the vast majority of the problems we faced had to do with the 4th of July.  The lines, the crowd, the God Bless America, the God Bless America, and all that.  Plus, we missed Lakewood’s good promotions.  Just imagine if we were writing about Jurassic Ballpark, Springsteen Night, or Rollie Fingers Autograph and Mustache Appreciation, all of which were upcoming attractions.
  14. We got to see a marriage proposal on the field.  This poor woman had to guess her way through a Wheel of Fortune game (the answer was Will You Marry Me) and her fianc√© had the gall to wear a tank top that says “She Loves Big Sacks”.  New Jersey, we’ve been pretty nice to you so far on the blog, but you’ve got to start making an effort.
  15. An old man standing in line for pizza leaps to miss a foul ball and then plummets to the ground.  Maybe he'd been looking at the mowing pattern in center field for too long and had no balance left.
    The classic outfield positions of baseball.  Left, right, and centrifuge.
  16. Wing and hot dog eating contests broadcast on the Jumbotron.  We’ve seen some of these before, but this one had the mc ask the winner what he would do with the winnings.  “I’m going to Disneyland!”
  17. Remember Whack-a-Mole?  Lakewood has Whack-an-Intern!  We love mid-inning promotions that put weapons in the hands of preschoolers.  We also got to gamble on which mascots would win the mascot races by having an attendant stamp our chosen creatures in our respective programs.
  18. Suspicious smoke coming from the kiddie area.  Could this have something to do with the lackluster fireworks display?
    Once again, we must sadly not take responsibility for this.

Regularly Scheduled Metrics:

Price of Beer:   $9.50 for 32 oz.  We’ve seen a lot of these larger quantities of beer this trip.  5.5 points

Most Caloric Concession Item:  Probably the Rib Roll.  Or the family sized ice cream helmet.  Definitely the ice cream.  A lot of this stuff actually seemed potentially healthy.  7 points 

Minor League Personalities:  Teens on dates in large chairs, Families, Big League Fans (NY Giants fan with the “Big Sacks” shirt), Little Leaguers, two diehards with actual custom Blueclaws jerseys.  5 points

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  0 points

Tailgating: Yes, actually.  Big parking lot with 3 separate groups.  None, unfortunately, gathered around the ice cream truck.  3 points

Funniest Roster Name:  Manaure Martinez might have won if he hadn’t gone by Manny.  Herlis Rodriguez and Rowdy Rose round out the honorable mentions, but the most fun to say is Jiandido Tromp.  6 points

Promotion Quality:  4th of July actually made this game worse than it normally would have been.  All the “America” things fell flat or actively made the game less pleasant.  They tried, we guess.  1 point.

Crowd:  Boy, they were present.  They seemed pretty into it, though it was a little inflated by the holiday.  And they made the lines long.  4 points

Men’s Room: We’ll give them a point for the advertisement outside the men’s room for a company that manufactures restroom partitions. 3 points

Bonus Points: Game-used bats and helmets for sale +1, Whack-an-Intern +1, huge variety of food choices +2, other promotions sound cool +1, marriage proposal +1, big sacks +1, old dude dropping a foul +1, Jell-o shots +1, eating contests and “Disneyland” +1, usher comes by with a trashbag +1 AND -1, fire by the inflatable slide +1, music fiascos -3, fireworks unimpressive -1, big chairs and Zach ripping his pants – priceless (also 2 points)

Summary: 42 points on our arbitrary scale.  Similar to the debacle of San Jose last year, we feel like the 4th of July motif actually made this site one of the weaker experiences of the trip.  Unlike San Jose, though, we never felt like the park itself was flawed, so we probably aren’t giving Lakewood a fair shake.  They did have a really good variety of food, clever on field promotions, good sightlines and everything you’d want for a good Minor League experience.  We just need to stop doing baseball on July 4th.  7/10

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