As Tim Kurkjian famously said, “Never miss the opportunity to go to a baseball game. You might see something you’ve never seen before.”
This week I’m in Asheville, NC. I’m very busy with my Securing Java Web Applications class while other issues keep coming up, but the bottom line is that the Asheville Tourists (the class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies) are nearby and are in town. I was debating whether to go or not when I spoke to my wife on the phone. As usual, she encouraged me to go. She’s claims I’m always in a better mood after I’ve attended a ball game, so who can blame her?
Even better, minor league baseball team names in North Carolina are great. I really liked the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs when I was in Allentown a couple weeks ago, but NC has great names in abundance. You’ve got the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Winston-Salem Warthogs, the Kannapolis Intimidators, the Carolina Mudcats, and even tonight’s opponent, the Hickory Crawdads. That doesn’t even mention the classic Durham Bulls. But honestly, how can you not go to a game between the Tourists (who have had that name since 1914!) and the Crawdads? It’s just not possible.
So I did my usual practice, which is to show up at the box office about a half hour before game time, told them I needed only one ticket and asked for the best available seat in the house. In Asheville, that turned out to be a special “Home Deck Suite” right behind the on-deck circle (probability of a foul ball: zero), which cost a fortune ($45, an insane amount for a minor league game) but included all you can eat on the menu, delivered for seven innings by a helpful staff person.
That’s right — all you can eat. The guy kept coming back asking if I wanted more, and I kept doing massive rationalizations justifying horrible overeating in order to consume enough to make the ticket worthwhile. Let’s say that I think I managed to do so (er, hot dogs, popcorn, cheese nachos, a giant pretzel, and an endless supply of sodas, but I showed some restraint — no crackerjacks, though I was tempted), which I’m already regretting and surely will regret more tomorrow. I even got lucky and sat next to a charming couple who were in town on business and had tons of minor league baseball stories to tell. The guy next to me also reminded me that the manager of the Tourists is good old Joe Mikulik, the immortal star of this classic YouTube video featuring a managerial meltdown that is topped only by this one by Phil Wellman, and I saw Earl Weaver in his prime.
As for the game, the Crawdads won 7 – 1, but I definitely saw some things I’d never seen before:
- Hickory’s Bobby Spain went 4 for 5 with a home run, but he was outdone by his teammate Andrew Walker, who went 4 for 5 with two home runs. They even went back-to-back in the top of the 2nd inning. Is it too obscure a reference to think their slogan should be Walker and Spain and Pray for Rain?
- Hickory’s Harrison Bishop and Tom Boleska combined to strike out six batters in a row from the bottom of the sixth to the bottom of the eighth. I was surprised when they took out Bishop after striking out four in a row, but then Boleska came in and struck out two more before the next guy grounded out weakly to second.
- The two teams combined for a total of seven (!) errors (Hickory made 4 and still won), which is more than I’ve seen in some Little League games.
- The catcher’s name on the Crawdads is Lars Davis. Yes, he’s the catcher. Don’t they therefore, by law, HAVE to call him Crash?
- The guy who sang the National Anthem was an excellent operatic singer. Every anthem singer in Connecticut thinks they have to sing with a country twang or like they have vocal diarrhea (see Aguilera, Christina, or lament the sad, pathetic American Idolization of singing), but here I am in North Carolina and I get a trained voice with a fine instrument. Go figure.
The weather was great, the crowd was small (2872) but enthusiastic. Asheville is the champion of the first half of the season of the Northern Division of the South Atlantic league (an odd but interesting achievement), so on the way out they were giving away general admission tickets to any future game.
That means I have a free ticket to the game tomorrow, even if it’s not for a very good seat and I still have work to do. Still, you should never miss going to a ballgame…