A great, beautiful, sad baseball game

I’ll call the 1 p.m. start the Syracuse Chiefs Triple-A baseball organization offered this past weekday a Business Person’s Special.

My buddies Dave, Steven T. and I snuck off on Monday to NBT Bank Stadium on the north side of Syracuse to catch some increasingly rare early afternoon American pastime.

Yes, call it a Throwback if you will.

Syracuse Chiefs, Pawtucket Red Sox and us.

Syracuse Chiefs, Pawtucket Red Sox and us.

I will officially call it sad.

Oh, we three saw an exciting game in the pretty park. It was well-played mostly, with our hometown Chiefs prevailing 3-2, overcoming a couple of early baserunning faux pas with timely hitting, good mound work and a couple of pop-ups lost in the afternoon high sun. The 8 1/2 innings unraveled majestically in less than three hours, too, thanks to the 20-second between-pitch clock the bigs are testing this season in the littles. With five games in this season, I can now officially say adopt it, powers-that-be. Call this rule up to the major leagues. Make the stars toe the mark, stay in the box, play the damn game at some sort of pace more palatable to watching than waiting to watch.

But lift your eyes above the green in the photo I took with my iPhone 6 above.

There’s hardly anybody there. The box score listed the crowd at 2,072. It seemed like less to we three, with our general admission tickets purchased for five bucks in hand, perched comfortably under the roof in the left-field upper deck.

Cracker-Jack fans.

Cracker-Jack fans during the seventh-inning stretch.

An empty seat spacing between us for comfort, it was still easy to talk baseball and other things during the game. Steven T., bass player for seriously great Syracuse band Los Blancos and a fellow lifelong Mets fan, did take his fantastic bride Jen to a game at the last season at Shea Stadium, but has not carved out that first trip to Citi Field yet. Dave, my every-year companion at the Syracuse Jazz Fest, was worrying that his current work schedule would keep him from two of the September Carrier Dome games for the football Syracuse Orange. Our season tickets are directly across the field from each other, and he still ribs me about my dear wife Karen and I leaving early four or five seasons ago and missing a dramatic fourth-quarter and last-second comeback against Wake Forest.

At one point, we riffed about the danger of the sideline bullpen mounds along the stands, envisioning foul line drives beaning pitchers warming up or the catchers with their backs turned toward the plate, foul pops causing fielder to trip over the mound. Steven T. said he heard this design was chosen before it opened in 1997 because the organization did not want behind-the-outfield-fence bullpens to mess with on-the-fence money-making opportunities.

Chiefs congratulate themselves.

Chiefs congratulate themselves.

The victory capped a three-game sweep of the Pawtucket Red Sox by the Chiefs, who still have the worst record in minor-league baseball. Nevertheless, native general manager Jason Smorol stood outside the main gate shaking hands of exiting fans.

Steven T. and I stood patiently waiting for Jason to finish a conversation because there was something he needed to share from our in-game talk.

“We miss the infield scoreboard,” Steven T. explained to the attentive GM, talking of a small between first-and-home plate digital board that would inform fans how many balls, strikes and outs there were. “It’s hard for us older fans to keep turning to the big board in the outfield.”

Ah, yes, Jason said, the count board. “That’s covered with my favorite word. Advertising.” He smiled, unapologetic, an executive trying to bring his hometown squad back to life in every way.

Have you ever been able to sneak away to an afternoon weekday baseball game, and if so, explain the circumstances. Do you think a team needs to win for you to go to a game, or is the love of the sport enough?
Revenue, player safety or fan convenience, which should drive the bus in your opinion?

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29 thoughts on “A great, beautiful, sad baseball game

  1. I saw what was sad before I even read the post. I never have an opportunity to sneak away for an afternoon ball game, but I’m hoping to take in an evening game of the Little Falls Diamond Dawgs before too long. I must consult with my partner in crime, Phyllis.

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  2. something about the afternoon games feels special, like skipping school, (even if i’m out), and makes it even a better experience. i’m happy to be there, even if my team doesn’t win, though a win certainly makes attending even more exciting as the crowd gets more into it. i’m all about the fans and player safety, though i certainly understand the ad angle, though i don’t like when things change or are driven by it.

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  3. It’s always a balancing game between revenue and safety and the fans. All three are necessary – like the legs on a milking stool. When any one gains too much importance , all are threatened. (Yes, there is such a thing as too much safety, believe it or not. There is no gain without some risk and nothing is perfectly safe.)

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      • As far as the balancing act is concerned Mark – I’ve had a looooot of practice. I was the Director of Safety for a tanker company and there is always a push and pull between operations and safety and drivers (same paradigm as the baseball example). It is possible to avoid all accidents by parking the fleet. That would be perfect (or as close as possible) safety – but then no one would have jobs, paychecks that provide food and clothing and houses and medical care and all the things it takes to live. So perfect safety is, by definition, “not living”. As an extreme example, how about that poor guy last year in Florida who was asleep in his own bed when a sink hole opened up under his house and killed him – asleep in his own bed. Life and perfect safety are mutually exclusive – if you are breathing there is risk. On the flip side of the coin -= doing business or operating for revenue only will inevitably result in accidents and mistakes that will cost lives and law suits, which will put the company out of business – as well as killing the employees. So no safety means no life and no business either.

        Most folks think of safety like an off/on switch – you’re either safe or not. It is actually a continuum – where both ends – perfect safety and no safety are uninhabitable. Then you add in drivers – sometimes their needs create unsafe and/or non-revenue situations – and you have the three legs. Balance them and you have a solid foundation to build on.

        I spent a lot of years arguing that Mark – and I often won , although I had a sharp boss who set me back on my heels a few times. Ha! He and I got into it one day when he objected to the quote we had for a meeting hall in a conference center for our bi-annual mandatory general safety meeting. He said it was too expensive – and I bristled and accused him of being cheap wrt safety. Ha! He shot back that the hall was only 1/4 of the price and the meal served was 3/4 of the price (they were built in and inseparable – that was how the center made their money). He told me he had no problem spending whatever was required on safety but he would be damned if he was paying 3/4 of his safety budget for sandwiches. Ha! So we rented a Veteran’s Hall and ordered in pizza – 1/2 the price. Ha! Everybody won – boss, safety, drivers and veteran’s. 😀

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  4. Well, since I work nights, I’m always available for a day game… but hate venturing into downtown in the middle of a weekday. The parking garages are already full of workers. Plus, I burn in the sun way too easily. As such, barring free tickets, I generally avoid them. I love sparse crowds (Which is an oxymoron) and remember the start of a couple doubleheaders I saw in KC where the crowd totaled about 100 or so at first pitch. I could easily hear the outfielders call for fly balls, which was weird. I do hope each bullpen was smart enough to employ the token guy to stand guard and watch for foul liners while pitchers were warming up. I remember that from the days when old Busch had the pens down the lines…

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    • This stadium was built on the same parcel of land, north side of city, as the old one, with a big parking lot, Bill. So no problem there. It’s only a five-spot to park, too. And if need be, you can troll the adjacent neighborhood for on-street parking on the proper side of the street, or even park in the free lot of huge mall across the boulevard and hike a mile.

      Yes, both teams station the line drive player in front of the battery warming up in the bullpen. That’s ignomonious duty if I ever saw it.

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  5. It is horrible not to have bus loads of kids and vacationing parents Mark! I will have to check out Coppers statistics but I have not ever heard of an under 3000 crowd. EVER! 😦 😦 I would treasure the win and game since it is who you are with, in my book, who is important! 🙂

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  6. Thank goodness for loyal fanatics of baseball like…you to keep the game going! What a guilty pleasure of yours, particularly during a weekday. You would have blended in so nicely with my Mr. B’s polish baseball loving family. 🙂

    That is funny about you leaving early before a dramatic comeback win. It reminds me of the day at Fenway when I kept pressing Mr. B to leave the game early to avoid traffic and having him look at me horrified for even suggesting leaving. That game happened to be Clay Buchholz’s NO HITTER!!! Yea, I did not realize what was really happening at the time. He still ribs me about it, with good reason. 🙂

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    • My dear wife Karen and I should never have left that football game early, Mrs. B, even though in early September the un-air conditioned Carrier Dome (yeah, how’s that for one of life’s unfortunate naming coincidences) can get us cooking at, say, 100 degrees.

      A no-hitter! Yeah, Mr. B must have looked darts into your forehead for that suggestion. Ha! Of course I would have fit right into that Polish family. Pierogi and kielbasa and baseball on TV. 😉

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