Friday, July 31, 2009

St. Paul Saints 4, Sioux Falls Canaries 1 -- Thursday, July 30, 2009

Somewhere out in Midway Stadium there was a baseball game on Thursday, but that almost seemed besides the point. The canonized beat the little yellow birds by the score of four-to-one. Other than that, about all I can think of mentioning is Kerry Ligtenberg--who pitched 390.2 innings in relief from 1997 to 2005 for Atlanta, Baltimore, Toronto, and Arizona--closed for the Saints. Ligtenberg, who had a lifetime 3.82 earned run average, was born in South Dakota and went to school next door in Minnesota, where he now resides. Some players resurrect their careers in the independent leagues, but this 38-year-old right-hander is now playing for the love of the game.

Minor league baseball often bills itself as family entertainment, and I don't think I have ever seen a crowd enjoy itself more at a game then the one Melvin and I saw in St. Paul. What can you expect from a team that is partially owned by comedian Bill Murray? Mel and I saw a clown when we watched the rodeo in Steamboat Springs. There were also clowns at the Saints game, which is a first for me. The "ushertainers," as they are called by the team, included The Lumberjack, The Nerd, "a real Japanese guy," and Super Fan. That was just the starting line-up. There was also a cast of supporting actors, including someone whose job it was to bring a pig out between innings in different outfits, an exercise that wasn't even mentioned by the announcer; it just happens at every game.

Mostly, our section saw Super Fan. Among his performances, he revised a standard cheer so it ended with us shouting, "Change!," instead of "Charge!" He also led the crowd through a pantomime of collectively riding a roller coaster. In a way, it's like doing the wave but also fresh and new and fun. When Jason Cooper, who was released earlier this year by the Mets after playing seven years in various minor league organizations, came to bat, Super Fan had one section shout, "Coop'!" and another chant, "there it is!" And he could do things with his pectoral muscles that usually only burlesque dancers train themselves to do. Pepsi Party Patrol, eat your hearts out.

When the fans weren't participating in fun and games, and perhaps glancing occasionally at the action on the field, it was eating and drinking. There was a wide variety of beers to satisfy every palate. Besides the usual ballpark food , there was also lamb gyro, turkey legs, and cheese curds, which are like mozzarella sticks but each the size of a gnocchi dumpling (which are not on the menu). Cheese curds are so very tasty when they come right out of the fryer in all their chewy, cheesy, fatty, salty goodness. All that food and drink had a good portion of the crowd on its feet at any one time, but why not? This was family fun, and plenty of it.

As alluded to in an earlier post, trains run past the outfield wall at Midway Stadium. Only one passed on Thursday, just before the game. The announcer dead-panned, "train." The engineer blew the horn.

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