2011-09-11

That Was Fucking Awesome


I have been meaning to head down to Lansing Michigan for a Lugnuts game for about two solid years now. Our boy Jesse holds it down in Low A ball and extended an open invitation for 1BJW to take in any game, anytime. Well the day finally came and it ended up being a do or die playoff game against the Cincinnati Reds affiliate Dayton Dragons. The game was suppose to be played on Thursday night, which happens to be Thirsty Thursdays, but due to a rain out in Dayton for game 1 of the series was pushed back to Friday. My friend who is and always has been a die hard Reds fan and I did some frantic juggling of our schedules and set out to enter the United States of America two days before the 10th anniversary of the senseless September 11th attacks. We were obviously concerned about the whole border thing and left from Guelph shortly after 11AM for a 7 o'clock game start. Everything went smooth (thank God) and we arrived at out hotel around 5PM. I strategically selected the closest place to the park I could find. Here's the view from our room:


Gates opened at 5:50 and after exchanging a few 3 dollar text messages with Jesse about tickets while killing some duty free beers we headed over. During our 3 block walk we observed numerous baseball themed bars that we figured would be a nice area to hang out after the game. Once at the park, we were greeted by a few statues. These ones in particular caught my eye:


What are you guys looking at?

Next stop was the box office. I instinctively headed to the will call and made it know that we were here as Jesse's guests. I was directed to the "special line" which was 2 windows down and was asked were I wanted to sit. Somewhat taken aback, I collected myself and figured that behind home plate was the way to go. My traveling partner agreed and as soon as the gates opened we rolled in. Killing the hunger pains was the first order of business. A wide selection ballpark treats were readily available. It was painstakingly narrowed down to either a foot long dog with grilled onions and peppers or a pulled pork sandwich. Pulled pork won out and we decided to head down to check out our 4th row seats and eat. Here's the view without any zoom:

Notice the blue sky

The next priority was finding our host. We didn't have to go far as he was on the main concourse chatting it up with 2 burly men wearing Matt Nuzzo jerseys. We waited patiently for them to finish and Jesse came right over and introduced himself to my friend. He informed us that the guys he was talking to were Matt's uncles who made the trip in from Boston for the game. Jesse took us up a flight of stairs, past a security guard to a air conditioned private lounge. The whole way everyone wanted a piece of Jesse. Season ticket holders needed a quick handshake, players girlfriends said hello and even the bartenders inquired about his shirt and tie combo. He came back with "It's playoffs. Time to step up your game." A ten minute conversation ensued which covered a wide range of topics. Everything from the challenges that face a Minor League team with respect to getting fans out, right down to specific questions about the top prospects on both teams. My idiot Reds fan friend wanted to know about uber speedster Billy Hamilton. I was all about CF stud Jake Marisnick.

Billy

 Jake

Jesse provided some great insight and even shared a story about current Blue Jay Yunel Escobar. The story goes that when he was in AA with the Braves, his entire team couldn't stand the guy. One game he was plunked and charged the mound. Normally everyone comes to your aid in this situation. Not this time. Yunel was pummeled while everyone intently watched from the dugout. Since Jesse was technically on the clock he had to bounce. With all the formalities out of the way, we headed back down to the concourse to find the refreshments.

Did I mention it was 2 dollar beer night?

The anthem was preformed by a very young girl who seemed unfazed by the several hundred people in the stands. Because the game was rescheduled from Thursday, where a full house was expected, to Friday there were plenty of good seats available. Check out the pipes on the kid no older than 6:


After a brief delay due to the ballpark lights being turned on, then off, then on again. It was now time to play ball. I must say I went a little nuts with the video taking to start off and by the sounds of it, I wanted to see some long hits or deep balls. First up lead off guy Jon Jones:



 

Next is the enemy Billy Hamilton. I think it's only fair to point out right now that this is how I roll with respect to heckling. No one is safe. And I can assure you, I was not playing it up for the camera. Probably the funniest part of this entire trip for me was when I sat down to upload and view all these videos.



Alright now it's time for Lugnuts starting LHP Justin Nicolino. Nice looking prospect. He hit 95MPH on the stadium gun and featured a sexy little change up and a breaking ball.






Here is Dragons starter Josh Smith. From what I was told, he was their ace. From what I saw, he needs a new challenge at the next level.




The game featured an eventful first full inning. The Dragons loaded the bases with nobody out and managed to bring across 2 runners for a quick lead. The Lugnuts stormed back in the bottom half with a run of their own. At the time the game had all the makings of a slugfest but in fact that was the only hit the home side would get until the bottom of the 9th. Both pitchers settled right into the groove until the rain started. At first it was light, then got progressively worse. My friend and I toughed it out as long as we could refusing to leave our seats for the cover of the concourse. In doing so we got a chance to know the head groundskeeper very well because he was standing right beside our seats in the tunnel leading to home plate. It took no time until we started referring to him as groundskeeper Willie. Just like everyone else involved with Minor League ball we met that night, he was a great guy. He shared his wisdom on numerous topics but the one thing he said that was especially comforting was that when the sides of the mound become dark brown from the rain he gets concerned. At that time the mound was still light brown. After every half inning, his crew headed out to the field to try to keep it suitable for play while the rain continued to fall. Here`s a shot of him and his tools of the trade:


After the 5th inning started I was completely soaked from head to toe. My camera and phone had been tucked away safely for quite some time now. No more videos. No more pics. Mercifully the sides of the mound turned to mud and a rain delay was finally called. We headed up to continue to enjoy the refreshments and dry off. I`m pretty sure this was my first rain delay because the Blue Jays play their games in a Dome. I guess it`s possible that I experienced one at the Ex but I don`t remember any specifically. None of my road trips to other MLB parks ever had one.



It must be said that the type of folks that show up to watch Minor League baseball are totally awesome.

One guy was decked out in Phillies gear from head to toe. I think he even had red shoelaces. As you could imagine we jumped all over this. Things like "I wonder what it's like being 50 games over .500?" and "you stole the best pitcher in baseball from us" were uttered in his presence. He took it like a champ and turned out to be a nice guy. He even threw a bit of a curveball at us when he said Ruben's best pick up may have been Polanco.

Another guy was wearing a Maple Leafs hockey jersey. This led to many, many jabs from us. At one point it seemed like he had enough and started making threatening motions. I quickly grabbed my buddy, jerseyed him and faked a couple upper cuts. Probably saved our lives.

There was also Mr. Rain Delay Guy as we referred to him. Before it was official while being pelted with water, I made the mistake of saying we had a rain delay. Buddy was sitting within earshot and corrected me by stating that in fact there was no rain delay as of yet. Once it was called I let him know how I felt about it. He eventually conceded that we were both right.

We did end up killing a couple beer in conversation with some guys who were actually close to our age. Nice fellows from nearby MSU who made a couple of suggestions on what to do after the game. Apparently East Lansing is the place to be because it was teeming with young, drunk college chicks. They got us up to speed and promptly left the park during the delay. Turned out to be a bad call boys.

I do have to mention our run in with team mascot Big Lug. I'm still not sure what exactly he is suppose to be. My guess is a dinosaur with some sort of skin disease and two lugnuts embedded in his nose. Looks painful.

Double fisting is the only way to go baby

This game turned out to be two half games really. Pre rain delay, where the pics and videos flowed and post rain delay, where it got just plain messy. Once we returned to our seats we were greeted with about 3 inches of water beneath our feet. Groundskeeper Willie was happy to see us come back and hooked up some game programs that had been signed by half the team. Rock solid.

In terms of the game, it became a battle of the bullpens. Some drama ensued in the 7th and 8th but the score stayed 2 - 1 Dayton. I did pull out the camera a few more times. First up OF Juan Duran:


Duran Duran Hungry Like The Wolf anybody? 

I know, I know WEAK effort. I think I totally redeemed myself on the next go around. I proudly present to you OF Jefry Sierra:


Might be some of my best work

In all seriousness, do you know what I can say about this baseball game? I can honestly say that it was the best game I have ever witnessed in person. The entire trip was a blast and I highly recommend it to all but I think it was the game itself that I will always remember. Two completely evenly matched teams going head to head with one of them having their entire season on the line. It's the kind of environment that breeds excellence. Fantastic at bats, stunning defensive plays. Every single thing was magnified and you could feel it in the air. If a player got on base the game grinded to a halt. Neither side willing to concede anything. Every single pitch mattered. It was playoff baseball in all it`s glory.

Here is how it ended up, with the tying run on 2nd base, two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning of a win or go home game:


I still don`t know why I pressed record on that particular pitch. I didn't film any other pitch in that at bat. It appears I didn't take any other videos in any of the 3 prior innings.

The next day on our way home I got a text from Jesse. The club wanted to dub his call of the game from the radio booth onto the video that I took. Here is how that conversation went down:

 
And now I give you the magic of good editing. Do let me know which version you prefer in the comments section below would you?

6 comments:

  1. $2 dollar beers AND a walk-off win - what more could you ask for? Seriously, great job on this ... sounds like it was a wicked game, and you could not have asked for a better ending to a minor league playoff game. Will have to make it down to MI one of these days for a Lugnuts game.

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  2. @Ian,

    Lansing is a must do trip sir. I'll let you know when we head back down next year. It's not an if but a when. I like the idea of waiting till MSU is in town for obvious reasons.

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  3. Oh, and I definitely prefer the original video (and your reactions to the HR). It doesn't get any better than that!

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  4. Perfect! Amazing content here, Dick.

    Jesse's call was great, while the raw video is tremendous as well. Both stand as worthy viewing.

    Congrats to 1BJW on always providing a unique experience for the baseball fan and delivering quality material.

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  5. Sigh, had the game not been rescheduled to Friday I too would have been there.

    Awesome job on breaking down the game and adding all of the content. I agree with Jay that both videos have their perks and are worth viewing!

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  6. @Jay,

    Is that your way of telling me I need to attend more Minor League games and write about them?

    @Jared,

    I sometimes wonder about The Butterfly Effect. If you had of been there or maybe if the guys we met during the rain delay had of stayed, would the ending of the game been different?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0289879/

    ReplyDelete

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