This one was bush league but just as good

Yesterday I decided to keep my tour of professional baseball parks going with a jaunt to Waldorf, Maryland, to see the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs host the Long Island Ducks. I’d been there before, and I knew this wasn’t exactly AAA, but it’s still nine men, nine innings, and an enjoyable day at the ballpark. This is the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball—you know, the one where you can “steal” first base on a wild pitch? (Actually I’m not sure whether you can still do that. Despite my suggestions from the stands the catchers never let one by.)

The “independent” Atlantic League has some kind of arrangement with Major League Baseball to act as a laboratory for potential rule changes. Stealing first base is only one. There’s also electronic balls and strike calls, 18-inch bases (as opposed to 15), and, among others, the “double hook,” where a team loses its DH when the starting pitcher is removed.

Most notable yesterday? Sixty-one feet six inches. Sixty-one feet six inches. Yup, as of two days ago the mound is now one foot back.

Does it make a difference?

Well, the first pitch of the game was a home run.

And the Ducks scored six before a Crab touched a bat.

But let me elaborate. That first pitch of the game was actually mine to catch, as I was the only fan sitting in right field. The ball happened to find concrete and bounded over my head and into the parking lot. Luckily there was another home run a few batters later and I picked up the ball off the grass. Thirty-nine years of watching games it was home run ball I ever caught. Well, “caught.” Ordinarily as an adult you give up a ball to a nearby kid, but the closest kid to me was about 100 yards away, sitting with a thousand other campers and teenage counselors. This was one of those 11 a.m. “Camp Day” start times. I was not about to make 999 young enemies, so I kept the ball. (For a further description, check out today’s offering at Math and Musings.)

The Ducks ended up winning the game 13-6, anecdotal evidence of a game tilted too far in favor of the hitter. Maybe 61 feet flat would be a good compromise.

Still though… nine men, nine innings, and an enjoyable day at the ballpark.

The journey home was the most fun part

Everyone has to have a hometown–Binghamton’s mine, once quipped Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. Ditto for yours truly. Now safely back in my adopted surroundings of Northern Virginia I can report that during my entire stay in New York I was not even once approached by the governor in any unwelcome manner.

(Pause for uncomfortable chuckle.)

The most enjoyable part of my journey, of course, was going home, not just because it brought me home but because I did make a stop along the way. For several years now I’ve wanted to visit PNC Field, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees. Christened “Lackawanna County Stadium” when it opened in 1989, it was rebuilt, remodeled, and totally overhauled in 2013 with “Yankee money.” Yeah, the big club has money to spend and it has done so lavishly in Scranton (actually in nearby Moosic, PA), making the field the most famous tourist stop in Scranton this side of the Dunder-Mifflin branch office.

I’ve been to probably a thousand bush league baseball games in my life. This one wasn’t no bush. No question this was the nicest minor league stadium (it’s a stadium, not a park) I’d ever been to, though that’s a little like saying out of all the ’60s bands that came from Liverpool The Beatles are my favorite. It’s an impressive act, though I’ll be honest I did miss the little homespun nuances found in other minor league parks. This one’s pretty corporate. Home run seats (there are seats around the entire outfield which is unusual for minor leagues) and a grassy berm on which one can view the game are a nice touch, but overall it’s a little devoid of color. One minor league touch I did appreciate: my general admission ticket was two dollars. Coupled with free parking my total investment on the evening ended up pretty reasonable, more signs the Yankees are obviously subsidizing this place. And speaking of the big club, as an unexpected bonus I did get to see 2020 home run champ Luke Voit at first base making a rehab start. [Given the big club’s recent addition, however, of Anthony Rizzo (the new Sultan of Swat thus far) one wonders whether Voit’s “rehab” start was not exactly temporary.]

For what it’s worth the Railriders fell to the Worcester Red Sox 7-2. I was on the road long before the end of the game, but it did mark the second time in my life I’d seen a Yankees-Red Sox clash. Actually I’ve never seen a real Yankees-Red Sox game, but I’ve done the AAA equivalent twice, having seen the then-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees play the now-defunct Pawtucket Red Sox in 2008. That was at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, before the PawSox moved to Worcester, Mass.

I used to call it the best minor league park I’d ever been to.

Used to.

Old home nothin’ to write home about

I mentioned on last Friday’s podcast that I was traveling to the old country this weekend.

Yup, did that.

I said I would report from the road upon my experiences.

Nah, nothin’ to report.

It’s the same old silliness that made me want to leave in the first place.

Just need to come back every few years and confirm that.

Sacrilecious?

Reese’s new “ultimate peanut butter lovers” variety of peanut butter cup is not for the allergy inflicted.

Picture a traditional Reese’s cup, but instead of chocolate and peanut butter it’s peanut butter and peanut butter. Yeah, PB on the outside too.

Is this an insult to chocolate?

Or just brilliant?

I say it’s… delicious.

And like most of their “improvements,”… almost as good as a regular Reese’s cup.

Some things are better left unsaid

I’ve enjoyed watching the Olympics, of course, the past few days (which again is kind of like saying you enjoy breathing or are a fan of food and shelter). Less good has been watching the annoying interviews after each event.

So, Olympic athlete, you spent your entire life preparing for an event and then you lost by a tenth of a second… how does that feel?

The restraint shown by the competitors in this moment is of Olympic proportions.

Take Two

Yeah, it looks like you’re getting two posts today because for some reason Friday’s never actually posted. (I’d blame my staff and editors but they’re on summer break.)

I’ve greatly enjoyed telling everyone I’ve seen the past week about all the great “television” offerings available these days (see last few posts). Of course everyone has already seen these things and just nods in agreement. Saying you like Ted Lasso, for example, is like saying you like breathing, or are a big fan of food and shelter.

It’s kind of like rooting for General Motors, or USA Basketball.

Oh, wait.

Two more worth your time

Two musical offerings now available on Hulu, totally worth your investment of a few hours. First, no surprise, McCartney 3, 2, 1. Had my eye on this one for a while and knew it would be at least okay because, well, anything Sir Paul McCartney does is at least okay and most are brilliant. What I like best about this series, which is basically a My Dinner with Andre conversation between Sir Paul and legendary producer Rick Rubin, is that it assumes the viewer already knows the usual Beatles stories. This is not an introduction to the Fab Four, as most Beatles documentaries are, recycling the same stories even casual Beatles fans have heard a thousand times. This one really focuses on the music. (When George Martin gets mentioned more often than Ed Sullivan… that’s a good documentary.)

Second and more unexpected is Summer of Soul. Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the film showcases the Harlem Cultural Festival held during the summer of 1969. Yup, same summer as Woodstock and the moon landing, but this one you haven’t heard of. Until now.

Much has been made about the racial and political angle of the festival and its aftermath, and why it didn’t receive the attention it deserved half a century ago. Forget all of that. (Or fret about it if you want to–doesn’t bother me.) Listen… to… the… music. Wow. Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone. It’s basically the non-boxing version of When We Were Kings. Which, yeah, that’s one of my favorite documentaries of all time.

Questlove has done us a favor unearthing this one. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

Loud.

Several things this week worth your time. First…

The original Space Jam, to me, was a movie that certainly did not need to be remade. Still, though, when I heard it was being remade with LeBron James I was intrigued. Knowing I could see it, basically for free, from the comfort of my own home? Even better.

Space Jam: A New Legacy has been panned by a number of critics but won’t be here. It’s not Citizen Kane, but then again, it’s a silly kids’ movie. Nobody’s trying that hard and the plot I think actually has more meat than that of the original. (This one has themes of being yourself and not living out your own fantasies through your kids; the original has… bush-league baseball.)

I’m not prepared to say that LeBron James is a better player than Michael Jordan. (I grew up in the ’90s so I just can’t.) I couldn’t say he’s a better actor either, but you know, for a guy who’s actually an athlete (an amazing one at that), he’s not a bad actor. (Tough to share the screen with legends like Bugs Bunny and other folks who’ve been at it for decades.)

Space Jam: A New Legacy? It’s worth your investment. Even if through some bizarre circumstance you have to pay for it.

There is nothing more American than this

Yesterday at school my regular classroom was undergoing a scheduled deep-cleaning, so I was stationed temporarily in an alternate room. It had four walls and a floor and everything so I didn’t really mind the switch, but I found myself somewhat thrown off during the morning announcements. When we began to recite the Pledge of Allegiance I realized the classroom had no American flag.

Some quick thinking led me to Google, where I could easily find an electronic image of a flag to display.

First thing that came up when I googled “American flag”?

An advertisement to buy one.

There is nothing more American than that.