… And Now, Here Are Our Somerset Patriots

Since the first time I clipped a microphone to my lapel, I would tell anyone who’d listen that calling horse races was the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on.

Last night, that same level of fun was mirrored when announcing the lineups for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and my Somerset Patriots.

Screenshot_20170806-084210Taking full advantage of their MyRewards program on the Somerset Patriots app I have collected over 2,300 points and have made great use of them.  Last night, I “spent” about 1,500 of those points.

The first 750 were on the opportunity to announce the line-ups.  I arrived at 6:30 p.m. as instructed and at about 10 minutes or so before 7:00 p.m. I was brought into the Press Box.  PA Announcer Paul Spychala introduced himself to me and I’m not gonna lie, I am pretty sure he had no idea he was about to have company.  

That, however, didn’t phase him in the slightest as he was more gracious and helpful than I could have asked for.  In a short period of time he assisted on many fronts.

  • He ensured I was comfortable with the pronunciation of each player and coach.
  • He had the wisdom to shut the mic off after I finished one team and went to the next.
  • After I caught my breath his prompt of “ … and now” was more appreciated than he may have realized and
  • Whether he meant it or was just being extraordinarily polite and gracious he seemed somewhat impressed with my performance.  After listening to this fella for years in my hometown stadium, that was a kind and thoughtful endorsement…and very much appreciated.

Here is the audio of my time in the booth.

Then the evening got even better.

If you know me by now you know I love mascot humor.  Sparkee and Slider bring absolute joy to my life every game I go to.

Remember around the holidays when you would see a kid notice Santa in a store for the first time and they really really think OMG THAT’S THE REAL SANTA?!?!?!?!?!  Remember how big their eyes got?

Yeah, well, that’s kinda sorta maybe how I am when I am with Sparkee and Slider.  I can’t help it.  They’re freaking adorable and their performers are just so darn good at their work.  They’re always a great deal of fun.

Well, after Sparkee made all our hearts melt by making the cutest little girl in the stadium happy, he waved his paw at me to come follow him.  Smartly, he encouraged me to leave my beer with Stacy and Chris.  

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This little girl sat in the row behind myself, Stacy and Chris.  We don’t know her but we all agreed she may, quite possibly, be the cutest little thing ever to see a baseball game.

Moving four rows to the front, beside the Patriot dugout Sparkee motioned to me that he was going to count me down.  Fortunately for me I speak mascot and asked “do you want me to holler SOMERSET, encouraging others to yell PATRIOTS?”  His magnificently massive head nodded in such a way as to assure me that was precisely what my six foot canine friend wanted me to do.

I could not let him down.   By golly, I would not let him down.

He counts me to three and I scream, at the very top of my lungs “SOMERSET!” and section 115 screams “PATRIOTS.”

The puppy seemed pleased.  We did it again.  It got louder.  Then we did it a third time, the response grew louder.  

We had something strong going here, this pup and I. 

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For those unsure, I am the one on the left.

Even though his eyes may have been sewn onto his head, I think I saw them get bigger.  He runs up the stairs and goes to the second tier of seats, jumps up onto the railing, looks at me and counts me down AGAIN!

I bellow as loud as I can “SOMERSET” and a well received “PATRIOTS” followed.

Sparkee is pleased.  Slider comes over and joins in the encouragement.  Oh yeah, this is a good night.  Sparkee then bounces over a couple of more sections and has me yelling again and again.

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Flanked by greatness, I stand between My Favorite and Slider

I think Slider may have seen or heard something in my voice give because after about seven or more screams of SOMERSET, they gave the thumbs up.  My work here was through.

Then, Sparkee meets me at the top of the stairs of section 115 and hugs the stuffin’ out of me.

Seven or eight innings later our boys lost 5-0 to Southern Maryland but all in all, it was the perfect night.

I announced the lineups and did it well.  I was part of Sparkee and Sliders rallying cry for our Patriots, and I got to sit next to Stacy along with our dear friend Chris for nine innings.  The people who introduced Stacy and I to each other – Brett and Michelle – came out to support me and as luck would have it, Brett caught a foul ball of his own.

As someone who believes what comes around goes around, and since so many things that evening were going so well, I’d be a fool if I wasted any time in paying it forward.  I went to Customer Service and used my remaining 750 reward points to get three official Atlantic League baseballs (all game used foul balls) and gave them to three kids sitting near me.

Granted, I didn’t know the kids but that was part of the fun.  I figure since the Patriots and my friends gave me the best evening in baseball I have ever had, why not try to assist in other kids like me (albeit 40-plus years my junior) have a great night, too?

I’ll tell you this: the Patriots may not have won, but I feel like I hit for the cycle.  What a night.

Thank you Somerset, for both the opportunity and more fun than $15 should ever provide.

Farmhands Shifted To Different Pastures 

Sigh. This is why you don’t let yourself get attached.

After seeing seven games this season of the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees AA affiliate, I got to see some of the young talent baseball pundits across the country have been talking about since the 2016 trade deadline.

Here we are, one year later and we let go of some of that talent, but in return the Yankees are stronger than they have been all season. With two months to go and leading the AL East, Yankee fans like me are very excited.

But truth be told, I started getting used to seeing some of these kids play and I found myself looking forward to seeing them again each time I buy a ticket.

But here is the thing: farm teams are not designed to win championships. Yes, it is great if they do. But the focus is on the development and education of the professional ballplayer.

In other words, don’t get too attached.

Now, that being said, the Thunder have won an average of better than two of every three games they’ve played, were the 2016 Eastern League Champs, and look to repeat in 2017.

But that’s with a whole new set of guys than last year. These arent the same lineups from last year. THAT is pretty darn strong.

And even though they had to let go of a handful of talented kids, the depth of Yankee farm teams are so solid, I am not 100% certain the Yankees are losing out.

Don’t read that the wrong way, though. That is NOT to discount the talent of those traded. We would not have gotten the seriously solid ballplayers we did by trading second rate men. These guys are going to be big leaguers for sure. I’d bet money on it.

But it IS a testament to how many good players we have waiting in the wings.

However, I AM going to miss some of these kids.

Zack Littell

First, Zack Littell was sent to the Twins. This was a bummer to me. He always looked to be having a great time, and was professional on the bump. But when I tell you this kids hammer is special, believe me

Dear Lord this guy’s curveball is FFFFFFFILTHY! I have seen him several times and each time I went and he pitched he got the win. I am not saying it was me….but baseball has been known to foster an environment where superstitious myths have their place …. I’m just wondering if I need to root for Chattanooga now 😆

Side note: 20 years ago the first minor league hat I ever bought? Chattanooga Lookouts.

Yefrey Ramirez

Next I hear Yefrey Ramirez was sent to Baltimore for some bonus something or other. Rats!!! That was a bummer because I liked watching this kid pitch too.

The day I saw him pitch I texted a couple of pics to friends saying remember this face….remember this name. They remembered when I told them he is now part of the Orioles organization.

Jorge Mateo’s first At Bat in AA

And of course, Jorge Mateo gets shipped to the A’ s farm team. I was at Trenton for his first game. Watched him get his first hit. Watched him get picked at second on his first SB attempt in AA and watched him use that glove like a magician at shortstop. Oh this kid is going to be good.

This April the Yankees entered the season with arguably the best or second best farm club in MLB. Today, they may be third.

Third, in my opinion, doesn’t suck, baseball fans. Not. At. All.

I see #28 closer than I have in years….but I will be rooting for Littell, Ramirez and Mateo along the way.

9 Innings of Therapy

For those who’d rather listen to the blog post than read, press play.

 

bark1So after a crap week of rainouts, and an almost rainout I took to believe would be a rainout, I go to work Tuesday to find out my company is moving to Florida.

I guess Karma heard what I said to Mother Nature about drilling me. Except, she went to put one inside my ear and knocked me flat on my ass in the process.

We were all given two choices. Move with them and they will give us our jobs, same salary, reasonable moving expenses, a couple of months rent and such. In all honesty, they’re wonderfulyl generous to their employees. Option two – stay and find new work.

I am not moving. I will stay and have to find new work.

So if ever I needed therapy, NOW is the time.

that same day, of course, I don’t go to a game. I go straight home and talk with Stacy. Get her up to speed. We breathe in through our noeses, out through our mouths and know everything will be OK. We have gone through worse. This is upsetting, and it is trying and it is distracting but it is not the end of the world.

Go to hell, Karma. Suck an egg, Mother Nature.

This is not to say I am not still fucked up over it. Believe me. I am. But I’ll still get up without dusting myself off.

the weather was clear the next day – a rarity if you read my prior blog post. I looked at Stace. Stace looked at me. “I want to go,” I tell her. “Go!” she tells me, with a smile. “Get these dishes done first though,” she continues.

Not sure if she is joking or not about the dishes I get them done straight quick, get a kiss and an amazing hug from her and I head to another Somerset Patriots game.

When I tell you nine innings of baseball on a beautiful evening can be therapeutic, you can believe me. Granted it is not for everyone. But you already know as you read this if it is for you.

It is for me. You’ve likely gathered that already. Besides, the way I see it, at most its $14 a seat for two plus hours of therapy.

Show me one therapist worth their salt that gives you that rate?

Sure. Maybe it DOESN’T change the circumstances, but it does provide a fine distraction.

Selfishly speaking, however, I would rather they not be on the road for the next week. I just hate it when my therapists are out of town.

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She Should of Drilled Me, Instead

I didn’t expect her to start me off with the hammer.  But when it came I swear I saw it so well it was the size of a cantaloupe.  I’m gonna drive that ball 400’ and I can’t miss.

Yet, I do.  Fell right off the damned table and fooled me.

Stiiiiiiiiiiiirike one.

Trying again, I thought she’d throw another deuce.  I was right.  But this one looked like it was going to hang.   My eyes, and the ball, got big.  I was ready for it to break on me late but not that much.  Fooled again.  Swing and a miss.

Stiiiiiiiiiiiirike twooooooo.

Now I’m in the hole, 0 and 2.  Another deuce?  Maybe heat?  She’s fooled me twice, she wouldn’t a third time, would she?  I bear down and shorten up on the bat.

She winds, kicks, and delivers.  She is deliberate and disciplined, methodical in her approach and has inexplicable volumes of experience.  She fires a vapor-ball toward the plate.  Coming in chest high, I pull the trigger.  Yes!  Heat!  THIS I can hit, I think.  I got this.  Say goodbye to Mr. Rawlings.

Man, I swung and missed so hard I made the Mighty Casey look like Tinkerbell tiptoeing through the tulips.

She didn’t come with the heat.  It was a slider. The bleeping thing broke on me and I left a three-foot hole in the batters box.

Stiiiiiiiiiiiirike three!

Boys and girls, lemme tell you, when Mother Nature is on the bump, she’s got some filthy stuff.

Or, in other words …

I had tickets to last Thursday and Saturday’s Somerset Patriot baseball games.  I also had a ticket for Monday’s Thunder game in Trenton.  For weeks, I was elated at the prospect of my three-games-in-five-days schedule.  Iowa ain’t got nuthin’ on Bridgewater and Trenton.  THIS is Heaven.

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Thursday – July 20, 2017 TD Bank Ballpark

Well, by the fourth inning of Thursday’s Patriots game, rain gave reason to pull the tarp.  I waited 45 minutes then went home.  I thought they would call it off.  “I have tickets to two more games,” I told myself.  “Not a worry.”

Wrong.Mother Nature threw me a curve and put a stop to the rain.  Shortly after settling in at home I received an alert on my phone tells me the tarp is coming off.  Patriots and Bees will resume play at 9:25 p.m.  Kyle Roller proceeds to hit not one, but two home runs, driving in four and the Patriots win 5-1.

Strike one on me.

Saturday comes and my Stacy joins me.  The rains move in an hour before they holler Play Ball!   Tonight could go either way.   I told Stace “let’s not bother.  You will have a lousy time in the rain.  I’m the baseball nerd here.  I live for this stuff.  Not you,” I say.

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Me & My Favorite

She won’t hear of it.  “C’mon, Patrick.  Let’s go,” she says.  “Let’s give it a shot.”

I love this woman more every day.  You’ve no idea.

We go to TD Bank Ballpark and with a delayed start get there by the first pitch.  It starts to look good.

We get to our seats, watch an inning or two in and it starts to mist.  We can handle it.  Then it drizzles.  We are toughing it out.  Then it rains and it is time for funnel cake.  1,600 calories a bite, we waddle back to our seat and the rain lets up.

Rats.  I spoke to soon.  Here it comes again.

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Saturday – July 22, 2017 TD Bank Ballpark

We admit to ourselves and each other it’s time to go.  It wasn’t going to let up.  On our drive home Patriots announcer Marc Schwartz told his listeners they’re reaching for the tarp.  About an hour later, it was called.

Strike two.

Monday’s forecast did not look too bad.  Not overly promising, but not bad.  I felt good about my chances.  Hell, I even bought a Trenton Thunder umbrella with clear panels to see through just in case it is just a passing shower.  As a matter of fact, as she reads this very post, Stacy is also learning for the first time that I bought a Trenton Thunder umbrella – for $25.00 – even though I had another umbrella in the car at the time .  🙂

The evening started with beautiful weather.  Mild, slight breeze and zero humidity and – dare I say it – sunshine.

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Monday July 24, 2017 Arm & Hammer Park

Then, of course, BECAUSE I WAS AT THE FLIPPING GAME, Mother Nature had different plans.

In the middle of the fourth, the sky behind the stadium grew black.  The Umps called time and said get the tarp.  Within seconds it poured.  There was thunder, lightning, and water teaming from the heavens.  A deluge of rain fell on the Thunder faithful racing toward the concourse.  As time went on and the umpires decided what to do, I grabbed a beer and kept my eyes open for an Ark.

The battery on my cell was dead so I could not look at the radar.  I resorted to prayer, pleading it will pass through.  I kept the faith.  Damn it, I’m getting at least one game in this week!

Nope.

It didn’t stop.  The umpires gave it an hour and threw up their hands.  Game postponed.

Strike three.

I suppose if you were to look at the bright side of this story it would be (a) I got to go to the ballpark three times  (b) If you add up all the innings I did see, it’s almost like a full game (c) I had funnel cake and (d) I can use the tickets from the rainouts for another game.  It’s like getting free baseball!

But, that might be you.  I don’t.

Far as I’m concerned, I would have rather Mother Nature drill me in the ribs than miss three baseball games.