Mo’ne and Monarchs dazzle during barnstorming tour stop

Jul 06

It shouldn’t be all about Mo’ne Davis.

Heck, I’m sure she’d even say that.

A group of 13-year-old (maybe a few are 14, too?) kids from the Philadelphia area are embarking on a 23-day, 21-city journey as a tribute to Jackie Robinson, the Negro Leagues, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Mo'ne Davis delivers a pitch at Damaschke Field.

Mo’ne Davis delivers a pitch at Damaschke Field.

They are doing so in the luxury of a 1947 Flxible Clipper touring bus — one with no AC and all that good, modern stuff (such as electronics). This “barnstorming” tour has taken these kids through the Deep South, the Midwest, and back to the East Coast. When all is said and done, they’ll have traveled more than 4,000 miles together.

The team — named the Anderson Monarchs — had the chance to see some of the most historical spots with the Civil Rights Movement. They met African-American players who played during that era. They played against local teams in the cities they visited. They threw out first pitches at games.

The Monarchs even got the tour of the White House!

With what these kids are learning along the way, this tour shouldn’t be about Mo’ne Davis.

Riding in style in a 1947 touring bus.

Riding in style in a 1947 touring bus.

But, in a way, it is.

The intrepid group of kids visited my area Sunday, July 5. That came after a stop in Binghamton on July 4. They were at Oneonta’s historic Damaschke Field on a warm and sunny summer day to play one of the local traveling teams.

Damaschke Field is an historic spot. The former home of the Oneonta Tigers (New York-Penn League), and before that the Oneonta Yankees, Damaschke has seen a lot of incredible players start their professional careers.

Originally built in 1906 (the grandstand was added in 1939), Damaschke is a throwback field. It’s not the prettiest place, but it’s baseball in the truest form. Barnstorming tours came through here many years ago, so having one in the modern era — with a throwback feel — seemed fitting. 

So it made sense for this group to stop here. To see some history. And it was a good spot to stop before they continued to Cooperstown the following day.

And Mo’ne was front and center.

Despite being in the spotlight for the better part of a year, Mo'ne Davis seemingly stays grounded.

Despite being in the spotlight for the better part of a year, Mo’ne Davis seemingly stays grounded.

For those who aren’t sure who Mo’ne Davis is, well, do a quick Google search and at the top of the page it will show you that there is almost 6,000,000 results. At the top of the search is her Wikipedia page. Yes, a 14-year-old teen girl has a Wikipedia page.

Last summer, she took the sports world by storm as she became the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout at the Little League World Series. According to her Wikipedia page, she’s the 18th overall girl to play at the LLWS, the sixth to get a hit and the first African-American girl to play in the LLWS.

How to top that? Well, she’s also the first Little League player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. All in a day’s work, right?

With everything that this tour is about, it shouldn’t be about Mo’ne Davis.

But those who come to these games make sure it is. 

Her star power draws people. Yes, she’s just 14 (she turned 14 in late June), but she’s been through more in the past year and change that most teens will see in a lifetime. She’s been under the spotlight and in the eye of the world.

Her smile is shy. She laughs with her teammates. On the field, she plays just like everybody else. She pitches like a fierce competitor. When not pitching Sunday, she played third base. There were times she seemed to let her eyes wander, almost to absorb the surroundings. From watching her, it seems like she would rather take photos with her teammates and with other kids, rather than adults and others who were enamored more by the name than who she is. 

The Monarchs -- not just Mo'ne Davis -- put on a fine baseball show, hitting, fielding and playing the game the right way during their stop in Oneonta.

The Monarchs — not just Mo’ne Davis — put on a fine baseball show, hitting, fielding and playing the game the right way during their stop in Oneonta.

Mo’ne walked a few times at the plate, too. Like many kids her age, she jogged down to first, almost upset with the free pass. Hey, she probably wanted to swing the bat and who can blame her?

She gave high fives to her teammates and was part of the team — an important concept to always keep.

To be fair, her teammates and others truly seemed to understand the magnitude of how big Mo’ne is. A year removed from the “spotlight” and she’s still going strong. People clamor to see her. But her teammates — from the average eye — treated her just like a teammate. A friend. Not a superstar who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. And good for them — it’s how it should be.

It shouldn’t be all about Mo’ne Davis.

This trip is special. It teaches these kids the history of the Civil Rights Movement. It teaches them the history of our country. It teaches them about such leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. Hopefully, it gives them an appreciation for what we have today, yet still reminds them that our country has a long way to go in many aspects. Visit the team’s website or the blog of the photographer following them on this tour, and you’ll see what these kids get to learn — an important aspect of this whole experience. 

Mo’ne Davis helps bring this tour and the team to the forefront. Every pitch she threw. Every time she batted. Every time she was in viewing — people took photos. They sought autographs. They wanted their photo taken with her.

Star power.

That night, she threw out the first pitch at an Oneonta Outlaws game. The Outlaws are a collegiate wood-bat league team. After her game, there were some from the teams looking to take a photo with her, too. They then had the chance to head over to one of the local baseball camps. 

And, I’m sure, if you spoke to Mo’ne, she could talk about this tour and what it means. What it’s like to spend this journey with her teammates, on this bus, and through all of these cities and all of those miles. I’m sure she could tell you stories of fun and learning and the experiences they’ve had together. In 20 years, I’m sure each of these kids will look back at this trip as something that helped shape them in life.

Maybe it shouldn’t be about Mo’ne Davis.

For her teammates, friends, and others associated with this tour, it probably isn’t, which is good. But for the places they visit and when the people come out to see this group — it is about her.

And for that, this tour becomes bigger and gets the word out there even more, which in the end is the most important aspect of it all. This trip isn’t just about baseball and getting more eyes to what these kids are doing and experiencing is important, no matter how it happens.

See a photo gallery of the images I shot on my Flickr page.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Lessons in scorekeeping: Runner hit by a batted ball

Apr 20

Baseball scoring is an interesting thing.

For those who have never kept a scorebook for baseball or softball, you should know that it can be extremely easy, or incredibly hard and confusing. Basically, it depends on the game.

The simple things are hits and outs or walks and things like that.

But when you start getting into wild pitches, passed balls, fielder’s choices, and all that – it can become quite the game of what did somebody see.

When you are at a professional game – either at the major league or minor league level – there are people paid to keep score. They are people who know the rules – or know where to find them quickly. I keep my own book at games, and though I might disagree with a ruling (home teams often get the benefit of friendly scoring when it comes to errors and hits), I go with the official scorer.

However, there are times when I am baffled and need to look up why something was scored as it was – such as what happened in a AA minor league game between the Binghamton Mets and Harrisburg Senators.

Let me give you the situation, and then we’ll work on the result and the scoring.

Harrisburg was batting in the top of the second. The first batter walked, and the second struck out, so there’s a man on first with one out.

Up steps catcher Pedro Severino, who smacked a 2-2 pitch to the right side. The runner – Matt Skole – was hit by the ball. That creates a dead ball as Skole is out and Severino reaches first.

Here are the two scorekeeping issues in this spot – who gets the putout and what is Severino credited with. My feeling was that the nearest fielder gets credit for the putout, and the runner reaches on a fielder’s choice.

The Binghamton Mets scorer, however, credited Severino with a hit. That was news to me. There were three of us in the section keeping a book and we were curious. One person looked it up and said, indeed, that Severino should get a hit. I had never heard this, though. The Mets also credited second baseman Jairo Perez, which was my initial thought.

So, how’s it ruled? I’m glad you asked. After some extensive research, here’s what we have – by breaking it down.

First, let’s look at the situation.

According to rule 5.09 (f) of the Major League Baseball rules, here’s the start:

The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out when – (f) a fair ball touches a runner or an umpire on fair territory before it touches an infielder including the pitcher, or touches an umpire before it has passed an infielder other than the pitcher.

Then let’s head to rule 7.08 (f), which notes the following:

Any runner is out when – (f) he is touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball has touched or passed an infielder. The ball is dead and no runner may score, nor runners advance, except runners forced to advance. EXCEPTION: If a runner is touching is base when touched by an infield fly, he is not out, although the batter is out.

There are the rules about the situation. There are comments on each rule that talk about things like if it passed an infielder first, or touches an infielder etc., but this situation was pretty cut-and-dry.

So, given the situation, we know the runner is out (correct) and the batter receives first base (correct).

Well, what about scoring it?

Let’s first cover the batter. According to the scorekeeper part of the rule book and rule 10.05, which states:

(a) The official scorer shall credit a batter with a base hit when: (5) a fair ball that has not been touched by a fielder touches a runner or an umpire, unless a runner is called out for having been touched by an infield fly, in which case the official scorer shall not score a hit.

Then let’s zoom ahead to rule 10.09, which covers putouts and says:

(C)The official scorer shall credit automatic putouts as follows (and shall credit no assists on these plays except as specified): (2) When a runner is called out for being touched by a fair ball (including an infield fly), the official scorer shall credit the putout to the fielder nearest the ball.

So there you have it – the breakdown as delivered by baseball’s rules. The Binghamton Mets scorer was dead-on in how he or she ruled it. The runner is out, the closest fielder gets credit for the putout and the batter gets a hit. Interesting stuff. 

And the best part of that situation is it gave those of us who enjoy keeping score a little something to discuss on a perfect day for baseball.

I’m going to start peeking at situations I may come across during the summer with baseball and do a few more of these if situations arise. Have you had any interesting scoring situations come up in games you’ve watched? If so, let me know below!

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Summer of Baseball: Going back in time in Burlington

Oct 02

Centennial Field

Centennial Field

As I’ve noted before, I love me an old-school baseball park. Even if, when I get there, the experience isn’t the greatest, there’s still something to be said about an older park.

Take, for example, Centennial Field, located on the campus of the University of Vermont. Originally built in 1906, the field got its current concrete and steel main grandstand in 1922, which replaced the wooden bleachers that burned some eight or nine years before.

That’s old.

The field is home to the Vermont Lake Monsters, the short-season Single-A team of the Oakland Athletics. UVM no longer has a baseball team.

This field is throwback central, though.

There are some obstructed views, but a cold micro brew helps that out.

There are some obstructed views, but a cold micro brew helps that out.

There are no bells and whistles. The souvenir store isn’t accessible by walking in, rather it’s under the grandstands with a couple of concession-style windows where people will come and look and decide if they want to buy or not. Customer relations is housed in a trailer. The concession areas were what you would expect to see at a ballpark like this. When I say old school, folks, I mean old school.

The food selection was normal and there was a decent beer selection, which is understandable (and somewhat expected) considering how well-known Vermont is for craft beer.

Turns out, too, the Lake Monsters draw crowds. For most of this summer and these baseball trips, I picked tickets online ahead of time. However, the system Vermont uses doesn’t allow you to pick seats, so we opted to get them at the door. We were just going to get some general admission seats … and were told there weren’t two seats together.

To which I replied, “In general admission?”

He said “yes.”

Maybe it’s the lingo, but I’ve always thought GA tickets were sit wherever you want – first come, first served – in the GA section. Apparently not here.

Ready for the game.

Ready for the game.

Either way, we ended up getting a pair of seats together in the grandstand.

The sight lines aren’t all great (we were near a large beam, which holds the grandstand roof up – obstructed view?), but it’s not a bad place to watch a baseball game. There’s not a lot of glitz and glamor here.

The field layout is a little more older, too, such as where the dugouts are located and all. But, overall, it’s a nice stadium for the level of baseball it houses. The crowds are pretty energetic, too, which makes the overall experience that much better, too

Some cons? Parking. There’s pretty much none at the park and you aren’t supposed to park on the neighboring streets. So what they do is have you park at a parking garage on campus (free) and bus you (also for free) on a shuttle. In the end, it wasn’t too bad, but for out-of-town people coming to watch a game, it’s a tad frustrating. That adds to the end of the game, too, as you wait to pack into the school buses, which double as shuttles, to get back to your car.

One other con, at least for me, was not being able to get my Minor League Passport stamped. Despite being listed as a place where it could be done, nobody there seemed to know about the program or the stamp. An assistant GM did come and chat with me during the game about it and said he was going to look into it, but unfortunately that doesn’t get me the stamp. Maybe in the future if I go again.

Something I noticed about all of this though is the people here are top-notch and friendly. They really make you feel like you mean something, which is nice to see. I have always loved the New York-Penn League (it helps that I covered the Oneonta Tigers for six seasons) and this gives me hope that professional baseball can survive in some smaller

In the end, what you get here is an old-school baseball experience. It’s a nice little spot and worth visiting. On top of that, the Burlington area is really nice and I guarantee you can find places to go, which is even better.

Park Notes:  

Centennial Field
Burlington, Vermont
Home of the Vermont Lake Monsters (Short-season A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics)
Visited on: Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014
Opponent: Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short-season A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians)

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 7/10
  • Concessions: 7/10
  • Parking: 3/10
  • Ambiance: 9/10
  • Friendliness: 8/10

I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Summer of Baseball: Manchester is about the game

Sep 22

Manchester, New Hampshire.

Manchester, New Hampshire.

Manchester, New Hampshire.

I can’t say I’ve ever been here before and, honestly, I wasn’t sure why this was an attractive place to go watch a game, outside the fact that it would make for a good weekend trip to see a couple of games.

Originally, this trip was scheduled for the Fourth of July Weekend, with one game here and one in Connecticut. Bad weather forced that trip to be changed (which worked out well as it landed this tour in State College that weekend and it was a fantastic fireworks show), but I had already purchased tickets for Manchester.

So when the game was rained out, I had the chance to get new tickets. On a weekend in early August, Manchester called again to see the New Hampshire Fisher Cats play Reading, the Double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Score.

Opened in 2005, Northeast Delta Dental Stadium is an interesting place to see a game. Being in the middle of the city, the parking is pretty crappy. In fact, we paid $10 to park in this one lot and we got squished into a silly spot. I think the tickets were $12 each, or something like that. So, basically, we paid an extra seat to park. Now, I realize there was street parking elsewhere for free. The issue was not knowing the area, so we went with a lot. Parking, though, is not a positive for this place.

The stadium from the outside is pretty interesting, especially how it’s tucked in to the area. It’s not a bad looking stadium by any means. In left field, there’s a hotel overlooking the field. The concourse wraps the backside of the field and there’s a little into left field. You don’t miss much if you get up and walk around a little. There’s an interesting bar in the left-field area. Though I didn’t go in, it’s pretty nice and roomy.

There are a couple of souvenir stores — one a bigger one that is downstairs, before you walk up to get into the field, and the other off the concourse. Prices were pretty decent and the main store offered a lot of items.

Keeping book.

Keeping book.

Concessions at the stadium was pretty decent. That being said, we had eaten before coming, so we didn’t really dabble in a lot. The normal ballpark fare was here, but what was nice was soft ice cream. For whatever reason, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find this at stadiums. This place had it. And I got it later in the evening (we were there for a double header) and had no lines. I did, of course, have a hot dog, too, and it was good. One thing to point out is that there is a solid selection of beers here. Concession prices were decent.

A side note for those who keep their own scorecard — the Fisher Cats, if you go to fan relations (on the concourse) offer pre-printed cards with the lineup free of charge. It’s very nice to have, especially when you bring your own book, like I do. It’s much easier to copy off that than standing in front of the lineup board to by taking a photo and reading it off a phone.

One thing, though, is the stadium didn’t stand out. The floors for the seats were metal, so it could get loud if people were walking around. The seats had plenty of space, which is nice. But it’s the same sort of stadium you can see in many places. Overall, it’s a solid stadium with good sight lines and a decent place to watch a game. You could find worse places to watch a game, that’s for sure. However, I’m not sure I would make a specific trip just to see this stadium, but if you can plan it with other reasons to be here, it’s worth catching a game.

Park Notes:  

Northeast Delta Dental Stadium
Manchester, New Hampshire
Home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays)
Visited on: Friday, August 1, 2014
Opponent: Reading Fightin Phils (AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies)

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 7.5/10
  • Concessions: 8/10
  • Parking: 5/10
  • Ambiance: 8/10
  • Friendliness: 8/10

I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Summer of Baseball: Tri-City a fine place to catch a game

Sep 16

A summer trip to “The Joe” is definitely worthwhile, especially if you are within short distance of New York’s Capital Region.

Joseph L. Bruno Stadium sits on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College. It’s not what you would think about when you think of a community college stadium or one where a short-season Single-A team plays, that’s for sure.

A night of ball at The Joe!

A night of ball at The Joe!

Opened in 2002, the stadium is open-style, with a concourse that goes around the bulk of the stadium. There was spots to watch the game from the outfield and the main seating is fold-down plastic seats. There’s really not a bad place to watch a game, that’s for sure.

My first viewing of this stadium came several years ago, when I was still covering pro baseball for a local newspaper. The season before, the team I covered has been quite successful, so I got to head up the interstate to cover the opener at Tri-City. It was one of only two times I ever got to travel to cover the team, so it was pretty cool.

More than that, though, was liking the stadium. I walked around some, I peeked at what there was to offer. The press area was nice and they took care of you. But, even more so, was the overall stadium. What a feel for a game. They draw good crowds. They have a good announcer. There’s something for everybody.

I had the chance to visit two times this year, once for the Summer of Baseball Tour, and a second time as my final game of the year when I went up for the final game of the New York-Penn League Championship. The atmosphere was similar each time, though the wind as taken out of the home team’s sails in the first inning of the championship when State College scored nine runs.

When you come into the stadium, the team store is on your right. The store has a lot of goodies and the prices are pretty good. Walking into the main area, you’re greeted by a customer service area (where, if it’s your first game, you can get a button). There’s lineups on the wall nearby and each  baseline has a plethora of concessions to offer. There’s the normal ballpark fare, then a pizza station and a taco stand, local beers and more. So there are some pretty good offers. I didn’t see soft ice cream, though, which always gets to me as I’d rather just have a soft serve cone than hard ice cream, especially at a game.

Everything I need at a game!

Everything I need at a game!

And like many newer parks, if you get up to visit a concession stand, you can see the field. The big scoreboard in right field is nice to keep track of things, too.

At the first game we attending, one friend caught a foul ball, so that was cool. The second game I went solo, so I just relaxed with my scorebook and watched the Spikes win the championship.

Parking, too, is plentiful — and free. This is also another stadium that gives programs away for free, which is always welcome. The atmosphere is nice and everybody I dealt with was extremely friendly and helpful when needed. If I lived in the Capital Region, I’d likely be a season ticket holder as it’s a great sport to watch baseball. If you are a baseball fan and are in the area, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Park Notes:  

Joseph L. Bruno Stadium — “The Joe”
Troy, New York
Home of the Tri-City Valley Cats (short-season Single-A affiliate of the Houston Astros)
Visited on: Friday, July 25 and Monday, September 8
Opponent: Staten Island Yankees (short-season Single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees) and the State College Spikes (short-season Single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals)

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Stadium: 8.5/10
  • Concessions: 7.5/10
  • Parking: 8.5/10
  • Ambiance: 9/10
  • Friendliness: 9/10

I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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