As Saturday’s morning sun kissed us in the living room of our Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood, dancing through the two big windows to warm our weekend spirits, I offered the suggestion.
Our first Syracuse Chiefs baseball game of the 2015 season, perhaps, my dear wife Karen?
Great mind, yes, she’d been thinking the same.
Off we drove the two miles or so to NBT Bank Stadium, stepping up to the box office to purchase a pair of field box seats four rows up, just past the Chiefs’ dugout on the third-base side.
Down the ramp, we spotted a commotion, right in front of our home for the next several hours.
A Triple-A player, a man one step removed from playing in the leagues with the parent Washington Nationals, was signing a baseball in front of us. This caused quite a stir of motion on our side of the rail.
We wondered who might be continuing such a long hardball tradition as he walked toward the outfield, engaging fans and accepting a scorecard.
Yes, he signed it for the kid. Later, I figured out that No. 18, the man in the old school baggy uniform, was Tony Gwynn Jr. Now this outfielder truly is continuing a legacy. His father is a Hall-of-Famer. I spent a good portion of my life watching Tony Gwynn hit line drives in the gap to frustrate my New York Mets on the way to hitting .300 again for the San Diego Padres. Karen, too, appreciated Tony Sr. Although she grew up a Dodgers fan, Los Angeles native that she is, her family moved to San Diego when she was in high school, and his 20-year career there allowed her glimpses when she returned home to visit. (Tony Sr. passed away last summer at the age of 54, after a long fight with salivary gland cancer, a cautionary tale to young ball players who might still want to dip tobacco products, by the way.)
The Chiefs had another son of a major-leaguer in the starting lineup, too. Second Cutter Dykstra’s dad is Lenny Dykstra, who played center field for the World Series-winning 1986 squad of my New York Mets, before leaving for the Philadelphia Phillies. Lenny Dykstra, a solid player for , left a different post-career legacy, going through a public bankruptcy, and then being convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for financial fraud, grand theft auto and other crimes.
The two sons of big names helped create a nice buzz around this year’s squad, which has a big act to follow. Last year’s Chiefs had the best regular season record in the International League and made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. First-year general manager Jason Smorol devised an off-field strategy to regain trust and confidence and renew enthusiasm. They woke up the ballpark.
But rosters change quickly in Triple A, and that squad is gone.
This crowd was happy, loud enough, is somewhat less than robust in total number: 3,596 fans were in attendance, standing under the sun, temperature at 65º F at 1:10 p.m.
The game did not go the Syracuse squad’s way.
The final score was 6-0 in favor of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Nevertheless, a good time was had by most.
Smorol and his staff still know how to amp up the entertainment value with mascots and between-inning promotions.
Click on a photo for a description. Click on the bottom right photo to engage an enlarged slide show.
One of the between-innings promotions is a bobble head competition for kids. I caught it on video.
What’s the last sporting event you’ve attended, and how did it turn out? What’s your favorite sport to watch live, and why? Which is your favorite photo, and why?