Sunday, August 9, 2009

Big Time (Iowa Cubs 5, Las Vegas 51s 4)

Before I get into the second annual "Road to Wrigley" game at, um, Wrigley.... wait, why isn't the Road to Wrigley game played in Des Moines? Or Peoria? Or, heck, somewhere out on Addison Street? This is going to keep me needlessly awake. Where was I? Oh, yes, before talking about the game, let me just say that if you want to experience full-throttled condescension about minor-league baseball, check out this weirdly smug report that ran on NPR this morning. It's everything that makes me mental about public radio: the inexplicably plummy tones, the overenunciated cheeriness, and the bafflement--bafflement!--that not only do places called "Pawtucket" and "Scranton" exist, but they have baseball teams there! Just like they do at Fenway Park! And it's pretty fun! Why, America, full of so many kooky li'l wonders! What'll they think of next out there! Back to you, Terry Bleepin' Gross!

Maybe this is why--despite being raised in New Hampshire and usually feeling like a New Yorker--I basically like living in the Midwest. One thing that has been weird this year out here, though, is the lack of summer. It's been basically early March since, well, early March. So when some miserably stifling weather rolled in just in time for this Sunday's game, I said bang a gong, get it on. Which is really only the latest, not the greatest, in the pantheon of Things Melvin Regrets Having Said.

Last year, the Cubs organization initiated this terrific idea of having one of the affiliates play a game at Wrigley while the Cubs were out of town (obviously). Double-A Peoria, managed by Ryne Sandburg, got the nod then and played the Kane County (Ill.) Cougars. The tickets were cheap and the vibe very family-friendly. They drew the largest crowd in MiLB history. So this year, they raised the level by bringing in triple-A Iowa to play Toronto's AAA affiliate, the Las Vegas 51s.

(Yes, the 51s are named after Area 51, in the Nevada desert. No, they don't have funny little aliens on their uniforms any more like they did when they were in the Dodgers system. But they should.)

But this time Wrigley was at least half empty, maybe more. It was still the largest crowd in Iowa Cubs history, but it wasn't the riotous wonder of last year. Some of this was the heat, which would have kept any sane walk-up at home. But for the rest I'm thinking that few locals made the trip from Des Moines (which is about twice as far away as Peoria is) and none at all came from Nevada. Just a guess. Plus, no Ryne Sandburg. Nothing personal, Bobby Dickerson.

Anyway, we had great seats--about 20 rows back from home plate--for just $17 each. Las Vegas had a klutz playing third and an Easter Island statue in left. Unfortunately, that statue also whanged a couple out over the ivy. Nevertheless, the Iowayans prevailed, no one died of heat stroke, so I assume that next year we'll be seeing that guaranteed crowd-pleasing affiliate, the Boise Hawks.

Box score

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