Saturday, September 1, 2012

Home Away from Home

Although there was a scheduled autograph session after the
game, Spinners second baseman Mookie Betts signed everything
put in front of him before heading to the showers.  A classy kid.

The central feature of my August trip was home teams playing somewhere other than their home field.  On August 16 I watched the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees play at McCoy Stadium, their sixth "home" field of a season played entirely on the road while PNC Field is reconstructed.

Two days later I attended the seventh annual "Futures at Fenway," a double-header of Red Sox affiliates.  This year the Lowell Spinners and the Pawtucket Red Sox took the stage at the parent club's historic stadium.  By the fourth day of the road trip, I realized I was more at home away from home.

The first game, between the Spinners and the Hudson Valley Renegades, got off to a horrific start when the lead-off batter lined the second pitch back into the face of pitcher Brian Johnson. Johnson suffered multiple orbital fractures to the left side of his face but escaped a concussion.  According to the Lowell Sun, the pitcher was well enough to visit LaLacheur Park the next day.

The Renegades scored three in the second inning and added one run in each of the third, fourth and sixth innings.  Having scored just one run in the second, the "home" team mounted a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth that was very exciting, but a run shy of a tie.
Box Score

Buffalo Bisons at Pawtucket Red Sox (foreground), Fenway Park.
Both games began with all the ceremony of a play-off game.

The visiting team for the second contest was the Buffalo Bisons, the Triple-A affiliate of my New York Mets.  People have characterized the 2012 Mets as a Triple-A team.  Slightly less cynical, I have said several players on the roster should not be playing on the major league team.  Seeing outfielder Lucas Duda, catcher Mike Nickeas and designated hitter Josh Satin in the Bisons line up kind of proved the point.

Collin McHugh started for the Bisons and would pitch well enough to make his major league debut in Flushing five days later.  At Fenway he threw seven innings without allowing a run, striking out four while giving up five hits.  His teammates would score twice, in the second and the sixth, on the way to a 2-0 shut-out.
Box Score

(McHugh would also pitch seven scoreless innings in his big league debut, striking out nine before Bobby Parnell served up a triple that would become the winning run.  Coincidentally, I would later learn, McHugh was also the winning pitcher the previous year at Fenway when the Binghamton Mets played the Portland Seadogs.)

In keeping with the Futures at Fenway name, there were numerous Star Wars tie-ins all day.  The first 1,000 young fans received lightsabers and later, Darth Vader and Wally the Green Monster battled to a draw.  My favorite moment was when Chewbacca announced for half an inning the players coming to bat, managing to be even more incomprehensible than the little kids usually given the assignment.

It was a treat to sit in the fourth row of Fenway for 20 bucks.  Melvin has attended the "Road to Wrigley" twice, in 2009 and 2010.  Why don't more organizations, especially those with nearby affiliates, have similar promotions?  (Alliteration appears to be key but shouldn't be an insurmountable barrier.)

It sprinkled rain from time to time but never hard enough to matter.  Spending seven hours together, many of the fans developed a degree of intimacy with each other and seating arrangements were somewhat flexible.  About half-way through the second game I realized I hadn't been as relaxed since the late-June, early-July trip.  In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I was that relaxed, and I regretted having to drive home later.

"Main St. and 2nd Ave., Valley City, South Dakota 7/12/1973"

Five years ago, Melvin and I saw a retrospective of the work of photographer Stephen Shore at the International Center of Photography.  I expressed the desire to travel the country as Shore did but unlike him, never return.  That is how I felt two weeks ago.  I have to get a new life.

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