Thursday, July 14, 2011

All Star thoughts from Section 102

Where I just kind of ramble about the Eastern League All-Star Game and my experiences from Northeast Delta Dental Stadium some 24+ hours after the fact...

- Although it would have been nice to have been up in the press box watching the game from some of the best seats in the house, I was happy with my decision to take things in from the front row of Section 102. It showed that there are so many dynamic angles in which to watch the game unfold and sitting two feet from the visiting bullpen was certainly a different view of things.

- The Fisher Cats bat retrieving dog, and crowd fave Ollie, may not have been the most popular dog on the field last night. That honor went to the two Team Ghost Riders dogs that trampled across the field with monkey jockeys on their backs, herding goats into a pen. This troupe seems to be making their way across all Minor League parks in the country and it’s a MUST see…easily the biggest crowd pleaser of the evening.

- The rain threatened things early on, but as the player’s were being announced and the anthem sung, the rain stopped and a perfect rainbow (not a double) popped up off beyond the center field wall. A nice touch by the city of Manchester!

- Surprised, and psyched, to see George Bell throw out the first pitch…not so surprised by New Hampshire Governor John Lynch throwing out a first pitch. I swear he throws one out every single time I’m at NeDDS.

- The Hilton Garden Inn that overlooks the park had a few large Harrisburg Senators signs in the windows, on separate floors. It was nice to see that kind of enthusiasm and support for one of the other teams in the fray. Also saw a lot of Trenton Thunder, Portland Sea Dogs and Altoona Curve gear being worn around the park…nice to see all of the other fans in the mix.

- However it was a bit disappointing to see empty seats in the house, including pretty much all of Section 117 in right field. I assume the weather may have scared off some walk-ups around game time, but they still should have banged that place out. Can’t blame the Fisher Cats organization, they promoted the crap out of it and they put on a top notch show.

- It was impressive to watch some of the Western pitchers warm up, most especially Erie’s Jacob Turner. The one major surprise from the Western pen was when 5’11” pitcher Austin Adams of the Akron Zips, came into the game and consistently put the stadium scoreboard gun at readings of 98, 99, 00 and even 01! For those that don’t know, the 00 and 01 are actually speeds of 100 and 101 miles per hour, as the scoreboard readout only has two place markers on it. He didn't look that fast warming up.

- As many of the amazing scribes who were at the game have already reported…and as I have swooned about forever…Trenton Thunder pitcher Manny Banuelos is the real deal. He was VERY impressive last night. There is something about the speed in which he snaps his arm through his delivery that is special, especially given his smaller size.

- Speaking of size and Trenton pitchers, Dellin Betances is HUGE and he was introduced between what had to be two of his shorter teammates so that when they were standing along the first base line it looked almost like a little league team and how there is always that one kid who is just that much bigger than everyone else and needs to bring his birth certificate everywhere to prove he is really only twelve but just freakishly huge for his age…but we’ll get back to Betances in a second.

- It was great to see North Conway, New Hampshire native Jeff Locke get such a warm reception in his homecoming. However things got kind of weird when he was warming up. Some kid came down to the railing right next to where we were sitting and crouched down as Locke loosened up. Since other old friends were popping there head in, we assumed it was another crony from Locke’s past, until the dude started saying stuff towards Locke such as “Yah, ya still pitch like ya did in high school,” and “I see ya still throw the same junk.” Yet he was saying these things in a more under his breathe manner, than jokingly at him and we waited for the proverbial, “I could still hit ya,” from the clown, but it never came. We determined that he was a Jeff Locke stalker from his high school days. He departed without ever really trying to get Locke’s attention…very awkward all around.

- Caleb Joseph, the Western Division’s starting catcher from Bowie, seemed to truly "get it" when it came down to having fun with it all and enjoying the moment. He almost got thrown out by Moises Sierra on a single to right field earlier in the came and was good-natured about that, staring out at Sierra as if in shock the play was that close. When he returned to the bullpen to warm up the pitchers after he was removed from the action, he was snapping jokes with nearby fans and willingly signing everything for the kids that came up to him.

- After West closer Cory Burns (Akron) trotted from the pen in the middle of the 9th inning, we decided to hit the Sam Adams Bar and Grill, which couldn’t have been more perfect on the timing as the rains started to come down once again. The cooler part of this was that they had a reception of sorts for all involved with the game (front office types, stadium workers, the players and the one and only Kevin Gray from the Union Leader). A lot of the players took full advantage of their open bar (we were still forced to pay) and a few saddled right up next to us to slug down some Jack Daniels shots…they all had games tonight…I'm guessing it may have been a long ride home (or wayward destination), a long morning and a even longer night at the park tonight...but I won't go naming any names...

- ...With one exception...recalling one Dellin Betances, who joined in on the after-game festivities at the bar…that dude is HUGE…confirmed!

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