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Summertime and the Living is Easy
An ode to the joys of minor-league baseball.
Last night I went to Worcester, MA for two reasons: to reunite with some high-school friends, and to see a professional baseball game. I’ve seen this group of friends regularly since the start of the pandemic; we chat once a week while playing online poker. Reconnecting with old friends was an unanticipated benefit of the early stages of the pandemic, and it’s been nice to build on that social capital as time has passed.
As for the baseball, it was of the minor league variety. The Worcester Red Sox — a.k.a., the WooSox — are the Red Sox AAA affiliate, and since the major league team is imploding it seemed more fiscally responsible to spend considerably less money ($25 a seat right behind home plate) to attend a game at a cozier park.
I wound up attending the craziest baseball game I have ever seen.
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You can read Cooper Boardman’s game story here. The WooSox defeated Toronto’s AAA team, the Buffalo Bison, 10-9. The box score of 19 runs and 24 hits only hints at the insanity of this game. The WooSox opened up a 6-0 lead in the bottom half of the second. Buffalo responded an hour later, scoring 9 runs in the top half of the sixth. Buffalo did not get their hits cheaply, either — they pounded the cover off the ball.1 In the bottom half of the sixth, however, the WooSox struck back, tying the game with three runs. An inning later, Worcester pulled ahead by one on a pretty exciting play. Here’s Boardman’s write-up:
It was a 9-9 game entering the bottom of the eighth inning, and with one out, David Hamilton worked a walk. After a deep flyout, Enmanuel Valdez walked to put runners on first and second with two outs. Bobby Dalbec was next, and he grounded a ball up the middle-Dalbec beat out a weak throw to first, and on the toss, Hamilton rounded third and dove to the plate, just ahead of the tag. The slide put the WooSox on top and was ultimately the game's 19th and final run.
That’s a pretty exciting game! But if an AI wrote up the copy of the game story relying only on the box score, it would have missed an awful lot of important details, including the following:
See that photo of the rainbow? I took it just before the start of the game (it was quite visible for close to 20 minutes);
The eight-year old kid who sang the Star-Spangled Banner had a great voice and milked that song for all it was worth. His rendition might have lasted ten minutes. UPDATE: okay, it wasn’t 10 minutes. But go take a listen and you’ll see what I mean.
In the top of the second a Bison hit a perfectly innocent pop-up in the infield. Unusually, Worcester pitcher Rio Gomez decided to field it — for some reason pitchers are not expected to field pop-ups even if they’re the closest fielder. Gomez justified that tradition by dropping the ball.
In the fifth inning, A WooSox player stole second base. The Bisons catcher, in throwing to second, beaned his own pitcher. He threw the ball so hard that it ricocheted off the pitcher’s head into the WooSox dugout, allowing the runner to advance to third. After throwing one warm-up pitch to see if he was okay, the pitcher had to be removed.
WooSox shortstop David Hamilton managed a neat double play:
Like Fenway Park, Polar Park plays “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning. Because minor league games have shorter breaks, however, the crowd was still singing the second chorus as the game got under way. The WooSox batter hit a fly ball to left field, and just as the crowd was belting out, “So good! So good! So good!”, the Bison fielder dropped the ball. This prompted a lot of self-congratulation among the fans that we had somehow caused it. This would have been enough, but then the next batter popped up to the infield, and as the ball was coming down some of yelled “So good! So good! So good!” and the shortstop dropped the ball as well. Never underestimate Neil Diamond is all I’m saying here.
So, all in all, it was great to see friends, but it was also great to attend a baseball game that lives up to the dictum of, “Every time you go to the ballpark, you will see something you've never seen before.”
As summer days in August go, this was a good one. So if you’re close to a minor-league ballpark, maybe go to a game. You never know what you’re gonna see!
One of the best things about watching minor-league baseball is you can really hear the ball explode off the bat when it’s struck well.