Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Day 1: Chattanooga Lookouts beat the Pensacola Blue Wahoos 3-2 (or Why Names Matter)

Welcome back to the blog!  It’s scrappy journey number 6 and we continue to increase our membership by bringing along our good friend Ray for his maiden voyage into scrappiness.  This year is to be the best yet, exploring the swamps of Florida, sampling the Cajun take on baseball in New Orleans, perhaps making a quick stop at Disney, and finally finding out which of us made a mistake in our youth at the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp’s “You Might Be the Father” Night.

Or, we were going to do all those things, but then it started raining.  Ben may have a hybrid, but the nice gas mileage precludes it from being amphibious.  So we went the other way and began our trek in sunny Chattanooga, where we saw the Lookouts beat the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. On the way, we solved a murder mystery escape room, got baffled by Tennessee’s time zones, and played a couple of rounds of minigolf at Sir Goony’s family fun center.

Then we joined most of the city at AT&T Field (not AT&T Park; we have not gone back to California) for Star Wars Night and one of the best finishes we’ve seen on these trips.  Highlights are below:

1. The ticket takers tore the tickets instead of scanning.  The Lookouts are Double-A so it could easily have gone the other way. 
2.  While we had to park on the roof of a nearby garage, these VIPs get their own special parking spots.  Who do you have to screw to get- oh, the pitching coach?  We’re not sure if these premium spots are really honors or just a way to make sure the coaching staff is the last to leave.  Plus, this is in prime foul ball territory, so you know the manager has had to replace a couple of windshields.

I think the team's affiliation with the local auto body shop might go beyond simply sponsoring foul balls. 

3.  A pretty decent free program.  Newsprint, with a good scoresheet in the middle, including instructions on how to properly keep score.  There was a “Name that Logo” game for minor league teams.  And a list of the players’ Twitter handles.

4.  The food and beer options were pretty decent, with a Lagunitas stand for us picky drinkers.  There were a couple of local brews available at the general concessions, as well.  The food options included Moon Pies and fried bacon among the customary fare.
For the first time in Scrappy history, some of us have wives.  That's why there's no face in this picture.

5.  Maybe the widest variety of Major League gear among the fans at the park that we’ve seen.  Braves and Reds are the closest geographically, so there was plenty of that.  Some Marlins, Nationals, Pirates, Mariners, Rays, and others were also spotted.  Of note, however, was the apparent lack of Twins representation, given that the Lookouts are an affiliate of said Twins.

6.  It was Star Wars Night!  Actually May 5th was Star Wars Night, but apparently it rained then and it was rescheduled for tonight.  June the Twenty-Fourth Be With You.  The staff was all in costume.  The mascots wore Jedi robes, and various themes from the movies were played during promotions.  Most entertaining was the Mos Eisley Cantina music during the musical chairs promotion.  And the lightsaber duel between a dog and… Louie.  Here’s Louie.
It's not a duck.  It's a hat and a mouth.  The fact that there is also an eternal totem guarding the park just adds to the mystery.

7.  Other inter-inning promotions included a frozen t-shirt contest and a Moon Pie eating contest.  We have to call shenanigans as the winner of the t-shirt contest defeated what looked like two four-year-olds who probably couldn’t have put on a non-frozen shirt without help.  And the “winner” of the eating contest started spitting the Moon Pies back onto the table after we has declared winner.  The staff winner actually held the t-shirt prize in front of the camera to hide his actions from the crowd. 

8.  There was also a “Guess the Attendance” game where three choices were given in a Monty Hall fashion.  The contestant made a guess, the MC eliminated one wrong answer, and the contestant was given the opportunity to switch or keep his original answer.  Probability dictates that you should always switch and to our delight the contestant played the odds and won!

9.  Deck McGuire pitched for the visiting team. Other fun names included Shed Long, Aristides Acquino, and Pensacola hitting coach Gookie Dawkins.  But Deck McGuire is such a good name that we encourage any MLB GM’s who are reading to trade for and promote the man immediately.  Hey, we’ve been mistaken for scouts before.

10.  The attendance was around 6100 and the place certainly seemed full.  But it also looked like there weren’t that many seats in the park.  The third base seats didn’t even extend to third base and it was one of those parks where you can’t walk a full circuit around the outfield.  There weren’t any bad seats, as even our spots along the right field foul line were close to the action.  Across the field was the Little Debbie Hometown Girl Family Section.  Y’know, for Girl Families.
These were the last seats available at the park. We've chosen seats that were worse than these.

11.  Whenever the Blue Wahoos struck out looking, the Jumbotron flashed a picture of a surprised gopher and the caption Strikeout Gopher.  It took us a few confused innings to realize that this was only for called 3rd strikes.  Also confusing was the pitch speedometer, which routinely showed speeds in the 40s.   Knowing that we weren’t observing Eephus pitches, we toyed with the idea that it was having trouble with batted balls, but eventually came to the conclusion that it was just broken.

12.  There was also a Chattanooga Choo Choo just beyond the right field wall.  We think it may come out and toot if the Lookouts hit a home run, but sadly no one even got close this game.

13.  This was a quick game, clocking in at around 2:15.  This was for a variety of reasons, mostly because nothing happened.  No runs were scored before the 8th and only a handful of hits were scattered between the two teams.  When the Blue Wahoos finally scored in the top of the 8th, Ben didn’t even celebrate because…

14.  Holy Smokies, the lines!  This whole park had a very small park feel to it.  Everything felt close to the action, there was a lot of the foul lines and outfield that were simply unavailable, all the concessions were on the main entrance concourse, etc.  But there were over 6000 people here.  At no point in the ENTIRE GAME was there less than an 8 person line at any food stand, and usually at least 5 for beer.  When you combine this with the general speed of the game, each of our scrappers missed probably two innings of baseball getting food and drink.

15.  But the 9th inning made it all worth it!  Down 2-0, the Lookouts needed a small miracle to pull the game out.  As we like to help out the home team when we can, we all flipped our hats inside out for rally caps.  We were the only ones in the park to do so, and as such we take full responsibility for what followed.  Pensacola’s first mistake was replacing Deck McGuire.  Why would anyone ever not play someone named Deck McGuire? Anyway, inning went walk, single, single, single, intentional walk, which, for those of you counting at home, means the score is tied and the bases are loaded with no outs.  Then the pitcher, NotDeck, hits the next batter, Levi Michael, forcing in the run on a walk-off Hit By Pitch.  At least the official pitch speed was only in the 40’s…

16.  It is customary to throw some celebratory dirt or Gatorade on a player who gets a walk-off RBI.  The Lookouts tried to do this, but all that was left in their coolers was ice.  So poor Levi got plunked by NotDeck and then got pelted with hard projectiles from his own team for having the audacity to win the game for them.  I suppose there's a reason he plays for the Lookouts.  Look Out, Levi!

17.  Then the fireworks!  We’ll let the video speak for itself, but we think this is the first time we’ve seen them get set up in the outfield instead of behind the park.  We love us a good fire hazard and ‘Nooga didn’t disappoint.  The show itself was a pacing-be-damned stream of explosions that had no goal other than to put as many fireworks in the sky in quick succession as possible.

LAZY Metrics

This year we are replacing our CRAP metrics with a new system.  basebalL Assessments of the Zixth Year (LAZY).  No long lists of numbers and categories because that was just work for the sake of work.  So here’s the final verdict for the Chattanooga Lookouts.

7.5/10  We really enjoyed this game and the possibility of seeing things like the walk-off HBP is one of the reasons we keep doing this every summer.  The park has good close seating and the staff did everything you could reasonably expect for Star Wars night, with the costumes going above and beyond.  This game is probably weighted a little high due to the circumstances, though, as there wasn’t really any signature food or feature of the park that would draw us back.  And it has to be said that the park does not feel like it should hold 6000 people.  They need a more efficient design to handle that number of guests as anytime we stepped away from the game, it was 2 innings lost.

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