Saturday, June 25, 2016

Day 2: Frisco Roughriders. Top Notch Top Gun, Bluelight Beer, and Educating the Youth.

We woke up in Jackson, MS (not Michigan, Ben) and hit the road (by which we mean I-20...just I-20) pretty early for Dallas, TX (still not Michigan, Ben). First we grabbed some biscuits with tomato gravy for breakfast at a local farmer's market. It tasted like a light pizza sauce but I'm sure it was mostly butter, so despite the fruit in the name it was probably as bad for us as everything else we've eaten thus far.

The next moment of any merit happened between Monroe and Shreveport, LA when we sped past a sign noting "In the beginning, God created." Then, for more information we were instructed to dial 1-855-FOR-TRUTH. So naturally we did, and oh baby we were not disappointed. We declined to ask any questions of their spiritual counselors, but we did listen to three pre-recorded explanations from their collection of 10 billboards, including the one we saw. We were cautioned heavily against lust, because lust drags men to hell. No mention of women, though, so finally some good news for them!

We hit Shreveport around lunchtime and we noticed the city has no fewer than 8 Whataburgers, a local-regional burger chain in Texas and elsewhere. We'd never been, and Texans are inordinately proud of this place (not as bad as Californians and In-N-Out, but still), so we hit one for lunch. It was actually quite good! The fries are like McDonald's but crispier, and the burger was reminiscent of a Whopper but with mustard, which added a nice tang. Two out of two Journeymen agree that Texans' pride in Whataburger is, in fact, merited.

On the way out we decided to indulge our inner rebels and check out "Fort Humbug", which is basically a replica of a fake cannon made out of a burned log that the "clever Confederates" used to fool a bunch of "dumb Yankees" into steering clear. It was pretty awesome.

Heh, dumb Yankees. That's a LOG, y'all.

Then we hit the road west again. When we crossed into Texas the first thing we saw was mile marker 632. Well, sheeeeit. And that's not even the whole state.

Then we got into Dallas in the heart of Friday afternoon rush hour. So that was fun. But we made the game well ahead of first pitch for reasons that will become apparent below in our game recap!


1. We arrived around 545p for a 705p start (605p gates). Because this was an actual baseball market we bought our tickets and parking ahead of time, which included our first time parking in a garage for a game. Any shade in Dallas in June is nice.

2. There were ~100 people in line outside the right field gate 15 minutes prior to the gates opening. We'd say that's almost ridiculously impressive, but there was a good reason for it...

3. SALUTE TO TOP GUN NIGHT. The 'Riders went all out for this, which was great to see. They played the full movie trailer on the rather-Jumbo-tron; they spliced the players' names into the opening credits sequence; they wore special (and awesome) Top Gun jerseys, complete with call signs on the back (Alex "Iceman" Burg; some guy whose call sign was "Bulltaco" (yes, one word)); apropos scenes for various situations such as homers and Ks graced the Tron all night; there was a pre-game volleyball match between the three (!) mascots with the appropriate scene playing on the Tron; and they of course had a flyover during the anthem, though it was pretty high-altitude so the noise wasn't quite as ear-splitting as we might've liked.

4. The Kwality photoshopping of both 'Riders and the visitors deserves a special shout-out. The 'Riders' headshots were 'shopped into Top Gun, while the visitors suffered less...dignified fates.

Airplane. GET IT?

5. Plus we got some sweet Aviators, which is great since I busted my last decent sunglasses misplaying a fly in beer league softball practice a few weeks ago.

6. DAAAAANGER ZOOOOOOOOOOONEEEEEE! Did we hear it played at least four times throughout the game? YOU BET WE DID. Did they play it as the finale to the post-game fireworks? OF COURSE THEY DID. Did Zach walk around the hotel room singing the chorus for 20 minutes after we got back? Sadly, also yes.

7. The Kidzone was huge (multi-story permanent play structures) and decently segregated from everyone else. Which is the one good use of segregation.

8. In the line to get in, an usher reminded people there was no outside food or drink. Then he said, "If you have any bottles of water, take the labels off." Was this a sponsorship issue? Is it so that they can't tell the difference between water and vodka? We don't know.

9. The whole stadium was reminiscent of a hacienda-meets-state-fairground/themepark, which was an interesting mix. It didn't feel like a classic ballpark and there were a lot of ways to distract yourself from the game. We would normally disapprove of the latter, but somehow it felt pretty tastefully done - think San Jose done right. The distractions didn't feel intrusive. And the hacienda look was admittedly both beautiful and interesting.

Shady, but in a good way.

Tres haciendesque, no?

10. We got free stuff for days. The most exciting were the thing we showed up an hour and a half early for: aviators for Top Gun night. But we also got pocket fans (very useful for, y'know, the summer) and seat cushions.

11. If you bought a specific ticket you could access something called the "Grab-N-Go" area, which was basically an array of hot dogs, chips, and soda machines already laid out that you could, well, grab and go. This seems like a really efficient way to get hungry patrons basic concessions, and we're all for anything that thins out lines. Very clever, Starfox.

12. This park had really long protective nets - the longest we've seen, extending clear to the ends of the dugouts. This might be a result of new MLB guidance on longer nets, which if you've read this blog and know about our plans to found a league with Netless Wednesdays(TM), we're not huge fans of. Why sacrifice excitement on the altar of something as silly as "fan safety?"

13. The team is, as we've stated multiple times now, the Roughriders, so you might not be surprised to hear they had Teddy Roosevelt on everything. And that is every kind of awesome.

The aforementioned Teddy Roosevelt, seen here grinning on a T-Shirt. Along with the even-more-afore-mentioned Aviators.

14. Several teams we've seen have pools in the park. But Frisco is the first one we've seen with a full-on Lazy River, and it looked nice in 99 degrees. They even had lifeguards, which is definitely a first for us.

Lazy, but lifeguarded, so it's got that going for it, which is nice.

15. And the team is proud of their Lazy River. They had a whole insert on it in their program, which among other things called out Zach's Jacksonville Jaguars for having WEAK POOL GAME and gave the volume of the River in cups of nacho cheese, because sure.

16. The visitors' bullpen was located behind some seats. In other words, you could sit in front of and below a team's bullpen. That was odd - none of us could recall this particular layout anywhere else.

That's a bullpen above some seats. Their story checks out.

17. Cheetos popcorn. It was what it sounded like. Texas is dead, long live Texas.

18. There were about 4 or 5 "Ceremonial Pitchers"...which preceded multiple first pitches. First of all, what the hell is the distinction between these two, especially when you have more than one first pitching anyway? Second, when we found the Scrappy League of American Baseball (SLAB), you'll be allowed to have as many first pitches as you want but you bet your ass we're gonna have an ump out there, you're gonna throw from the mound, and those pitches are gonna count.

19. The mascots were a Moose (y'know, Bull Moose? Teddy Roosevelt?) and two others we couldn't quite figure out the details on. They're less relevant because they didn't immediately link to Teddy Roosevelt...or known animals.

20. The Roughriders not only graphics for their players during the lineup, they had pictures of their coaches. That's a seriously Pro move.

21. We were on the visitors' side, and the Corpus Christi Hooks almost always overlooked the gaggle (murder? Parliament?) of kids begging for balls down by the dugout in favor of tossing a ball to a kid further up in the stands actually in, y'know, their assigned seat. We support this policy 1000%.

22. The PA announcer expressed appropriate resignation toward all the promotions. A typical announcement was: "I hesitate because I know what's coming, but now down to the field for karaoke..."

23. Ben, as he bit into his Maine lobster quesadilla from a Maine lobster food truck (that was apparently featured on Shark Tank, if you're into that kinda thing): "I didn't drive seven hours through Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas today to not eat lobster." Right then.

24. The Hooks caught someone stealing 2nd. That's good. They gave up a steal of home while doing that. That's bad. The steal was cursed...and I've lost track.

25. The snarky organist: "Old Macdonald" for Chase McDonald. Tough but fair, old but good, tried and true.

26. When you order lemonade they ask you if you want it sweet or sour. This is the first time we were ever asked this, and we were taken aback. Apparently sour just means more lemons. So yeah, sour me up, then, Frisco.

27. Most teams have a Wall of Fame, but the 'Riders kick it up a notch with LCD screens displaying a rotating series of slides with more details on the most famous wall occupants.

28. The park was full of trees, mostly in the outfield, and including a few on the grassy berm. We don't recall seeing these very often, if at all, before. We generally support trees.

29. Before the 9th inning, their hype-up video featured...what else? a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator, who ended his exhortation with a trademark "Bully!"

30. The 'Riders play in Dr. Pepper Park, which your Journeymen are neutral about (as 2/3 native Atlantans, we respect and honor our Coca Cola heritage). The 'Riders take their neutrality seriously, serving Dr. Pepper/7 Up products as well as RC cola.

31. Ben and Zach schooled some children in the finer points of the Baseball Gods and how to properly address a ballplayer when you want a baseball and you have a program listing their names (Mr. Garcia, not "41! 41!"). Most of this schooling was directed towards a larger version of Li'l Jeetz from last year, begging for multiple balls in the same game. Big Jeetz  just could not grasp the difference between Jesus Christ and the Baseball Gods, the former of whom is a spiritual leader for a couple billion people and the latter of whom rewards ballplayers who don't swing on 3-0 with a 3-1 homer.

...we should not be allowed to have children. Points to the young girl in the row in front of Li'l Jeetz who reacted with a complete lack of surprise when we responded we were not parents.

32. Thirsty Thurs...Friday? In the 6th inning, RKO OUT OF NOWHERE. BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL: $1/$2 domestic/craft beers. Ben and Zach exchanged a wordless look and took off like Roadrunners for the nearest beer stand.

Regularly Scheduled Metrics:

Price of Beer: $7.50/24 oz of cheap stuff but then  BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL, $1/12 oz --> 8.67/10 points.

Most Caloric Concession Item: Everything's bigger in Texas, supposedly, but nothing spectacular jumped out at us. Possibly some form of nachos or a combo basket? 4/10 points.

Minor League Personalities: Judging by the number of people who ran with us for the Blue Light Special, we'll say there were drunks. Definitely a LL team. Minor League Diehards in 'Riders jerseys galore, though no scorekeepers we saw. Teens on dates, families, and Major League Rangers fans in abundance. No local celebrities, unless you count TR, and no groupies though. Still, the closest to a full complement we've had in awhile. 6/10 points.

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats: 0 points. We even bought our seats ahead of time, just to be sure we had some.

Tailgating: We'll give a couple points for the huge line that formed early, even though it wasn't proper tailgating. 3/10 points.

Funniest Name: Fairly rich crop here. Keegan Yuhl, Mott Hyde, Connor Sadzeck (sad Zach...). I think we'll get it to Sadzeck, but it's a shame we took a vote and decided we couldn't include the Top Gun call signs. Otherwise, full points for Bulltaco (again, one word!). 6/10 points.

Promotion Quality: We've already discussed their outstanding work with Top Gun Night. Did I mention Top Gun Night? I absolutely felt like I was in the DANGER ZONE. 8/10 points.

Bonus Points: +1 for garage, +2 more for SO DAMN MUCH DANGER ZONE, +1 for segregated kid zone, +4 for general stadium design interestingness and awesomeness, +2 for so much free stuff, +1 for Grab-N-Go, +1 for Cheetos popcorn, -1 for big nets, +2 for Big Teddy on everything, +2 for the Lazy River but -1 for raggin' on my Jags, +1 for seats in front of bullpen, -2 for so many "first pitches" and "not really first pitches?", +1 for coach pictures, +1 for Hooks throwing balls high up in the stands, +1 for resigned PA announcer, +1 for snarky organist, +1 for sweet or sour lemonade, +1 for trees, +1 for rotating HoF, +1 for "Bully!", +1 for RC, +3 for CHEAP BEER BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL.

60.67 points on our totally arbitrary scale. This was a deceptively fun stop with major Pro elements and appeal. If you find yourself stuck in the Dallas area, we can see few less objectionable ways to burn an evening. 8/10.

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