Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fifty Miles Per Hour

Charlie Brown would have loved this. A dollar to get into the ballpark. A dollar for a hotdog with a baseball game in front of it.

At one o'clock on Memorial Day I was at the G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium in Prince William County (VA) with a friend, watching the Potomac Nationals, a single A entry in the Carolina League, club the Lynchburg Hillcats 12-4. Driving the 40 miles to the game at $4 a gallon was a lot more expensive than getting in and dining there. It was a beautiful sunny day and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Most refreshing was the lack of prohibition at the stadium on bringing food or water in.

Like many minor league stadiums, the seating is restricted to a ring of bleachers rimming the home plate area and extending out to just beyond the third and first base areas. The Man was guarding the entry points to the $14 seats behind home plate and the double row of club seats right alongside third base and first base, but the $1 seats (normally $8-$13) were any other seat that was currently unoccupied. We alternated between sitting over by first base with most of the fans, and third base with the fans from Lynchburg. The sight lines were excellent, and we could sit a mere dozen feet off the field down low, or further back by surmounting the bleachers.

The stadium itself has nothing to distinguish it. Set off the road in a copse of trees, there is no view from it of anything except the trees beyond the outfield fences. My friend kept commenting on how young the players looked and how much she just loves "little boys." I think she meant they were cute. Since I'm a guy, their young, studly appearances didn't interest me much, although I marvelled at how often they all practiced their crotch-grabs.

Their baseball skills were mostly unhoned (this is Single A after all) but the game was an exciting offensive display, with several home runs. There was one bizarre play where the batter hit a line drive back at the pitcher, who turned his back in defense. The ball careened off him and flew over to the third baseman who made a leaping grab of the re-directed line drive for an out. The pitcher came out of the game after being hit. It was time anyway because he couldn't get anyone out.

The bullpens, which were merely a row of chairs for the players set along the warning tracks beyond the bases, saw plenty of action. The home team bullpen had a rubber at least, the visiting team bullpen did not. Whenever anyone warmed up, a spare fielder would have to stand behind him looking towards home plate to guard his back from any errant line drives.

Gangs of teenagers roamed the corridors behind the home plate stands looking for private places. The only diversion I saw at the stadium, besides various silly races on the field between innings, was a baseball toss with a radar gun. I know better than to do one of those things, because men are always surprised at how wimpy their throws are. My friend insisted though, and paid the dollar for three balls for me. My first toss was an embarrassing 31 MPH. I wound up on the second pitch and hummed in a strike. 33 MPH. Daunted, I did a windmill windup and, in effect, uncorked a wild pitch straight into the dirt. Bingo, 50 MPH. Relieved to have hit the half-century mark, I went off to buy another dollar hot dog.

Going to see a Minor League baseball game is always economical and a lot of fun. It was a perfect way to end a nice long weekend.


Danielle in Iowa said...

I always like the concept of going to baseball games, but they always seem to last too long once I get there :-)

David said...

I wish I'd been with you. I love minor league ball.

Don said...

Somehow minor-league baseball, college baseball, and especially high-school baseball seem more genuine than major-league ball. We have a minor-league team here and don't go often enough. Sounds like you had a great time.

Sunshine said...

Interesting entertaining enjoyable evening! Loved the part about the pitcher deflecting the hit for an out.
For a couple of years, Sweet Pea's employer has had the summer party for employees and families at a St. Paul Saints game.

CewTwo said...

Baseball is one of those many things I don't do. Don't know why. My family didn't follow it. I only have a couple of friends that do. Maybe I am just of a comfortable age, where the HD TV, the air conditioning and the comfort of the home sofa is just too great to leave for the thrill of the sport and the crowd!

Throw a faster ball? I doubt I could hit the 30 mph mark.

But you know what? I loved the stroy and that you shared it with us! Thanks!

Rainmaker said...

Yikes...not to self - don't try to outrun Spinster on a bike if he has a baseball. I'd lose!

Jade Lady said...

What a great day! I've never gone to a minor league game. 50 mph! I thought you'd be saying 97 mph! Still..I'm impressed - I'm glad you're friend got u to step up!

This post reminds me of the movie I just saw (again) - the Rookie - love that movie.