A turnaround season ends too soon

I didn’t get to a Chiefs playoff game.

After all these years of no postseason baseball play here in Syracuse, we got one-and-done.

I had to catch the score on my iPad. A 7-6 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox in the third game of the International League’s first round was the final note of a season that turned around the fortunes of this franchise. The Chiefs had the best regular-season record in the league.

The Syracuse Chiefs celebrate Destin Hood's walk-off home run the next-to-last regular season game.

The Syracuse Chiefs celebrate Destin Hood’s walk-off home run the next-to-last regular season game.

Equally important, first-year general manager Jason Smorol made sure NBT Bank Stadium was a friendly place to hang out. Smorol is a native of Central New York and a veteran in the front office of several minor-league franchises. He considered this a homecoming.

When I interviewed him before the season for a free-lance cover story for Central New York The Good Life magazine, he laid out his plan to prove to the community that the Chiefs were an important part of its fabric.

Our Chiefs game tailgate, with George III, Susan, Elisabeth, George Jr. and Karen.

Our Chiefs game tailgate, with George III, Elisabeth, Susan, George Jr. and Karen.

He tagged every day of the week with some sort of special deal.

I think the strategy worked. I attended seven games, including tailgate parties with a huge group of friends on opening day and with my dear wife Karen, my daughter Elisabeth and boyfriend George and his parents George and Susan on the next-to-last day of the regular season.

Sometimes the stands were still a bit too empty, and sometimes the team still looked a bit lost, but, hey, the buzz built, the connection strengthened, and things improved every time I went.

Fireworks on the last Sunday.

Fireworks on the last Sunday.

But I picked the Syracuse Irish Festival for my post-work visit last night. I’m going to write about that big party for my Wednesday community blog on Syracuse Public Media site waer.org. I was thinking — hoping, really — that the Chiefs would win and extend the series to today.


I can point a finger at the parent Washington Nationals, who called up a half-dozen important Chiefs when the roster went from 25 to 40, because they could. But I won’t. The major leagues is a reward for Triple-A seasons well done, and the stars deserve the cup of coffee, as the jargon goes. And if they can help the Nats in the late innings of a game by resting arms or pinch-hitting, that’s the way this baseball organization works.

No, I prefer to blame the International League’s playoff format.

In a best-of-five first round, the lesser squad gets the first two games. I know it’s to save money on travel, putting the last three games in theory in the park of the squad with the better record. But how many times is that going to work out in real life? No, on the field, the team that played a whole season and achieved less success is going to get more home playoff games in front of its fans than the better team.

Bad formula, baseball honchos. Boooooooo.

But I digress.

A season to cheer for the Chiefs.

A beautiful season to cheer for the Chiefs.

Great season, Syracuse Chiefs.

Well done, men. You played so very well. You defeated the Toledo Mud Hens for me in my bonanza baseball bloggers wager that didn’t mean a thing to you.

And you represented the city emblazoned on your chest with pride. My good friend Jim McKeever wrote a touching story about how you visited pediatric patients at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.


Has an important event happened recently in your town that you missed, and made you say, ouch? What was it, and what did do instead? Have you seen sports players turn up at unexpected places in the community, and if so, where?

14 thoughts on “A turnaround season ends too soon

  1. A photo in our paper showed Magic Johnson recently splashing around in the ocean by Cocoa Beach. I wasn’t there, but I saw the photo. Does that count?

    Mark … I miss The Chiefs. The ballpark was not too far from our home in Liverpool and a must visit every seasons. We would have loved to have joined you in your family tailgate party. Party on! 😉


  2. When my sister used to live in Carlisle, PA and worked at an ice cream store, the Washington Redskins (whose training camp was there) used to come into her store all the time. As for me, I got nothing. 🙂 I love your family photo though. 🙂


  3. I was at the regular-season closer on Labor Day.

    After the game, Smorol stood outside the front steps, thanked everyone, shook hands with folks and chatted with some of them.

    I’ve been to one or two previous season closers, and I don’t recall any of the Simones doing that.

    I’m sure he has done the team at least some much-needed good

    Liked by 1 person

  4. congrats to a great year for your chiefs, sometimes it just plays out like that, when the seasons don’t overlap as much as you’d like. love the tailgate photo. this coming monday, we have monday night lions football downtown across the street from a big tigers game ))


  5. I mentioned on one of my earlier ‘catch up’ posts, I wish I could have found someone to go see the band, Night Rangers playing at the Marion Popcorn Festival last night! I am also glad but sad, that my oldest daughter was able to talk her significant parent of one of my grandsons, into going to the Boy Scout camping trip today. I am sad it is going to possibly rain, but glad that Micah’s dad will be there for 5 year old ‘sibling’ and then, Skyler, who will be 10 in November, will have his ‘stepdad’ there. Cool! I am heading shortly to meet my youngest daughter at Powell, Ohio at a restaurant (natural foods) called, “Local Roots.” I am also going to go to a local pub tonight to watch the Buckeyes! Smiles!


  6. It’s hard to see a cherished team fail when you know they are the better contender. It sounds like your GM Jason tried his best to involve the community – I think that is critical. So often the teams are seen by both the public and themselves, as being separate, sort of on a pedastal. Our local NHL team the Ottawa Senators, do get very involved in the community. They do a lot of work with children in the community and are quite approachable Years ago Alfredsson’s son was in the same hockey league as my son and I used to see him regularly at games. He was just one of the parents to all the kids. I liked that.

    This is just the first season for our football team, so there’s no way to know how they will get involved. Here’s hoping.

    Great post Mark and I love the pic of Karen and the family doing the tail-gate party.You have to wonder how many fans buy vehicles based on their adaptability to tail-gate parties. Ha! My condolences on your team’s loss – there will be another year for them to benefit from their errors. 😀


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