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.
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.
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.
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?