Day three, or Meh

August 29, 2014

This will be a fairly quick post as it’s almost 7:20am and we’ll be leaving in about 10 minutes.  Lest you think this is all rose gardens and wine tastings, it’s not for the faint of heart.  Many days, we’re up well before dawn, in a van driving down the road.  We aren’t getting any younger and every mile in the van gets harder on us.

Yesterday had that imminent threat of rain.  It rained in the morning before we left and the clouds just kept rolling in along with the humidity.  But, as I’ve said, the big guy upstairs must like us.  Again, there was no rain during the game.

The game itself was good.  The hometown Explorers won the game fairly easily, but there were many things that made it fun.  First, the umpiring was horseshit and that’s putting it mildly.  We saw quite possibly the worst call we’ve ever seen at 3rd base.  The Sioux City runner was safe by FEET and he was called out.  We were fairly certain that Sioux City’s manager would be tossed from the game at some point.  After the game, we were treated to a fireworks show that lasted a good 15 minutes.

The ballpark itself is outdated.  When it was built, it was the jewel of the league.  Now, all but St. Paul have outclassed it and they’re building a new one.

The food, however, was fantastic.  As it was the last game of the year, the beers were 2 for 1.  The brats.  OH.  MY.  GOD.  Best brat I’ve had a ballpark in a long time.

We now head to Lincoln for an 11:05 game before shooting back up to Omaha for a 7:05 game tonight.

Hopefully, tomorrow morning, I’ll be able to expound on this post and maybe post some pictures as well.

Of Majesty, Clapping and Playing Out the String

August 28, 2014

Day two dawned cool and partly cloudy. After a 12 lb breakfast, which consisted of Hashbrowns (with fresh jalapeno), eggs, sausage, toast and ice cold 2% milk, some breffast was had.

Breffast2
Gin and OJ

Point of order, at no time is the driver intoxicated. That’s a rule we have and a rule we follow. The driver is allowed a beer at the game, but until the van is parked for the night, he’s sober.

After sufficient time had passed, to allow all of that food to settle, I loaded everyone into the van and set off in search of adventure. What an adventure we found! First, we headed to Falls Park in downtown Sioux Falls so they could see the majesty and splendor of the Falls of the Big Sioux River. And majestic they are.

FallsPark2
photo taken from the tower at Falls Park

There were some harrowing moments for Ringo, Toad and Tever, as they cowered in fear from the rushing water.

FallsPark3

save me!

Seriously, if you’re ever in Sioux Falls, or you actually live here, take some time to visit Falls Park.  The city has done a tremendous job of making this a crown jewel and you’ll be amazed at just how much power there is in that water.  It truly is gorgeous.

From there, we headed back across town to the U.S.S. South Dakota Battleship Memorial.  Folks, I’ve lived here for 26 years and I’m ashamed to say that this was the first visit I’d ever made.  Go.  It’s fascinating and the stories and memorabilia paint a picture of something to truly be proud of.  Also, kudos and thanks should go to all of those who have/are/will serve in the military.  Our fathers all did and visiting here makes us more proud of them than we were before.

Then, we finally hit the meat and potatoes of the trip.  Real baseball was about to happen.  The forecast didn’t paint a pretty picture, but the big man upstairs must be a fan of the OBEM, because the 60-70-80% chance of rain continually went down as the day wore on.  By the time we left to head to the ballpark, the chance of rain was down to 5%.  We saw nary a drop.

The game itself was very good, with the hometown Canaries facing the Saltdogs of Lincoln.  Lincoln scored in the top of the first off Canaries starter Matt Wickswat.  Wickswat was in trouble all night long, but continually pitched out of trouble.  He struck out 7 in six innings (with the 7 Ks, everyone in attendance received a coupon for a free game of bowling at a local alley).  The Canaries tied it up in the 2nd and then went ahead 2-1 in the 4th on a homerun from Brandon Jones.  Jones’ homerun also gave every fan in attendance a coupon for $10 off $50 at Dick’s Sporting Goods.  The Saltdogs tied it in the 5th with another run off Wickswat that never should have happened.  With a runner on 1st, Luis Nunez of the Saltdogs, hit a sharp one hopper to 3rd.  Canary Carlos Mendez couldn’t backhand the ball and the ‘dogs had runners at the corner with nobody out.  I thought it should have been called an error (I think I’d have made the play).  Wickswat induced Lincoln’s next batter into hitting what should have been an easy double play.  Sam Lind, Canaries 2B, fielded the ball and flipped it to SS Stephen Branca.  Branca touched 2nd for the 1st out but bobbled the ball enough on the transfer to allow the batter to reach 1st safely and a run scored.  Wickswat then had the Saltdogs runner, Matt Forgatch picked off 1st, but Mendez couldn’t handle the throw from 1st and he was safe with a stolen base.  Wickwat then got the next two outs to stop any more bleeding.  Lincoln scored again in the top of the 7th before the Canaries tied it once again with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning.  It appeared we might be headed for free baseball in extra innings until the Saltdogs cleanup  hitter, Ian Gac, hit an absolute LASAR over the wall in RF.  The Canaries tried to mount a two out comeback in the 9th but fell just short and ended up on the losing end of a 4-3 game.

Now, for some notes.  The Canaries are obviously playing out the string.  Their record is a horrific 31-64.  There isn’t much fire on this team right now, and it seems there are some mental mistakes that are costing them.  I’ve been attending Canary/Pheasant games since their (2nd) inception in 1993 and I’ve never seen them play with so little enthusiasm.  The Saltdogs on the other hand, played with an almost desperation as they fight to make the American Association playoffs.  You could hear them encouraging each other in the dugout.

That’s my 2nd note.  Where the hell was everyone?  Attendance figures have not been release yet, but if there were 700 actual living people in the ballpark last night I’d be surprised.  I get it, they’re not very good, it was a school night and there was a threat of rain in the forecast.  But this is a cheap entertainment option.  While there might not be much to cheer for on the field, the product on the field is still good.  It’s still baseball.  There’s always the chance you might see something special or something you’ve never seen before.  They’ve never drawn that well, however.  When they won the championship, I was there.  So were maybe 2,499 other people. For a deciding championship game.  I was also at Game 7 in 1991 when the Twins beat the Braves for the World Series Championship and I can honestly say that I was just as, if not more, excited when the Canaries won.  This is our team, our little corner of the world and it’s something we should be proud of and support or they could be gone.  There isn’t a bad seat in the house, and you’re outside watching baseball.  As James Earl Jones so resoundingly said in Field of Dreams, “Baseball has marked the times.”  Get out to the Birdcage Sioux Fallsians.

CanariesvSaltdogs

our seats

Thirdly, Canaries, STOP playing noises after EVERY pitch.  It defeats the purpose.  There were some humorous things, but they were ruined by the complete and utter inanity of having noise after every pitch.  Some made less than zero sense.  For instance, why would an elephant trumpet before glass breaks on a pop foul into the stands?  Pick your spots, use something relevant and people will talk about it.  Annoy the ever-loving hell out of everyone, and people might leave thinking it’s amateurish.  I was also a bit surprised that when Saltdogs batter Brian Joynt came to the plate, a song was played related to smoking pot.  Mary Jane’s Last DanceRocky Mountain High…you get the idea.  I get it, his last name is Joynt, it’s pronounced joint.  But this is supposed to be a family friendly experience.  Do you really want to make that connection for the kids?  Granted, almost all of them will have the reference go right over their heads but let’s raise the level of humor shall we?  okay, I’m off my soapbox now

Lastly, there was a fan in our section who clapped.  Constantly.  Loudly.  This fan wasn’t loud and boisterous (like the four who showed up in the 8th inning – really?) but the clapping was incessant.  And loud.  We can’t fault them for supporting the team (see above), but with the small crowd, it really stood out.  Also, with the Canaries constantly playing noises, there were also many cues to continue with the clapping.  Always with the clapping.

All of that aside, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable night at the ballpark (Canaries loss notwithstanding).  Today, we head to Sioux City to see the Gary Southshore Railcats take on the Sioux City Explorers.  As of right now, it’s raining but using my many meteorological skills (I looked at the radar), I think we may have baseball tonight.  If not, Tever and I will attempt to thrash our elders in a game of pfeffer.

Have I ever mentioned how much we enjoy baseball?

Day One

August 27, 2014

It’s official, day one of the 29th Outdoor Baseball Extravaganza is in the books.

First, a correction. Teever is the incorrect spelling. It should actually be Tever. I’m sure my name will be written down and then struck through.

No game yesterday, because yesterday was the day of flarb. If you don’t know what flarb is or have never had flarb, I weep openly for you. Flarb is a delectable treat that can only be described by the sound that people make when eating it. “Nom nom nom” That’s typically the height of the conversation during the meal, possibly interspersed with a few grunts of approval. Now, I know what you’re wondering. Is he going to share with us exactly what flarb is? Today is your lucky day.

Flarb is simply a roast (last night was 5.3 lbs of arm roast), marinated for 48 hours (yes, that’s a four and an eight) in italian dressing. It is then grilled over direct heat on a CHARCOAL grill. If you deign to use a gas grill, your name will be written down and a line drawn through it. This is akin to microwaving chicken. It works, but it isn’t the same. Here’s a picture of a previous flarb (we didn’t take a picture last night…we were too busy eating it)

Flarb, it's what's for dinner

Grill some potatoes and onions however you like them, throw in a salad and a nice bottle of wine and you’ll be satiated until you go beddy-bye.

But first, there was an interminable wait for me. You see, we all don’t live in the same town. In fact, we’re not all even in the same state. Ringo, Toad and Tever all live in various cities in Minnesota (where I am originally from) and Doc, as previously noted, lives in Maine. Doc is not with us this year, at least in body. He’s with us in mind and heart though and he is missed.

So, Tever went to Ringo’s house and they got in his van. They then drove to Mankato to pick up Toad. They were 2 minutes late. Toad was waiting on the curb sitting on his luggage. They were, after all, two minutes late. Time is relative in this instance. It may have been more than two, but it was more than one second, and that’s not acceptable. Then, they headed west. Thak (that’s me) was expecting an arrival time of 1:30-2:00. Thak has made that drive innumerable times and knows that the drive time is approximately 2:14:41. They left shortly after 10:30. Even with stops for bathroom breaks and lunch, a three hour drive was conceivable. When 1:30 rolled around, I started to get anxious. At 2:00, after texting Ringo just about every 15 minutes, I found out they were just getting to Kanaranzi, MN. What. The. Hell. Pacing commenced. As did more drinking. And smoking of cigars. I expected them now to arrive around 2:30. Nothing. More drinking. At this rate, I’d be a puddle by 4:00. They finally rolled in around 3:00, hugs were given, profanities for their lateness were flung and promptly flung back and we settled in for our night of revelry, flarbing and began our yearly reminiscing.

The weather has cooperated thus far, nobody has fallen in the lake (long story for another time) and we’re looking forward to what is to come today and our first game tonight, Lincoln Saltdogs at Sioux Falls Canaries.

Outdoor Baseball Extravaganza (and Massacree)

August 22, 2014

It’s time. The 2014 OBEM (Outdoor Baseball Extravaganza and Massacree – reference to Arlo Guthrie) is here. Officially, we’ll attend our first game next Wednesday, August 27th. But first, a little insight.

What is the OBEM? While it can be hard to put a finger on just what it is, it’s baseball. A group of like-minded guys get together every year (most years), travel around the country and watch baseball. We have a few adult beverages, we regale each other with the same story that we’ve told and heard countless times before. But mostly, we simply enjoy each other’s company, listen to great music, marvel at the grandeur of a beautiful game and life itself.

Who are these guys? I’m glad you asked. The roster has changed over the years, but I like to think that it’s always had a high standard. Going from youngest to oldest, we have Teever (all names have been changed to protect the innocent). Teever has been my best friend since before best friends were invented. He’s 19 days younger than I am and I never let him forget that. He’s also quite possibly the best man I know. Then, there’s me, Thak (long story for another time). Next is Doc. Doc is Teever and Ringo’s brother-in-law and is an actual bona fide medical doctor. Then, there’s Ringo, Teever’s older brother. We’ve said for years that Ringo should be the commissioner of baseball. He’s also the charter member of the Ken Kaiser fan club. Ask him, he’ll tell you all about it. Finally, we have Toad. Toad is Ringo’s best friend from before there was electricity. Toad is 852 years old, or at least, he looks that old in the morning. We all have titles/jobs

Ringo – Travelling Secretary
Toad – Tobacco Procurement
Doc – Team Physician
Teever – Music Hostorian (yes, we know it says Hostorian) – Teever has also held the title of Van Procurement Specialist
Thak (that’s me!) – Director of Libations

Gang's all here
from l/r – Teever, Toad, Thak, Doc, Ringo

We’ve been all over the country as evidenced by this map

We’re fairly certain that it’s complete, but there could be parks that are not included. This year’s trip will add three new ballparks to that map. Here’s the itinerary

Wednesday – August 27th – Sioux Falls (first game for the OBEM in Sioux Falls)
Thursday – August 28th – Sioux City (new ballpark to add)
Friday – August 29th – Lincoln (new ballpark to add)
Friday – August 29th – Omaha (new ballpark – we’ve been to Rosenblatt, but not the new one)
Saturday – August 30th – Omaha

As you can see, it’s all minor league/independent ball this year. We typically attend mostly MLB games, and the trip is quite frequently centered around Wrigley Field so while this is a departure from the norm, we’re looking forward to it just as much. It’s still baseball after all.

Look, many people don’t “get it”, and even those who do don’t truly understand what this is all about. We’ve tried many times to put a finger on just what makes it all so spectacular. I think as I wrote this, I have finally come to the conclusion that it doesn’t need to be expounded on, explained and pigeonholed. It’s a pointless endeavor. The Outdoor Baseball Extravaganza is special because it IS. There are many people who do the same thing all over the world. They go to baseball games, football, soccer, hockey, basketball. I’m sure they’re all fun and wonderful. But this one. THIS is something altogether different. It’s magical, at least it is to me. And I think that’s because of who we are. We make this special. It doesn’t matter that Ringo, Toad and Doc are older than Teever and myself. That age gap is nothing because these are tremendous people. If nothing else, if it rained every day of the trip, they would still be something to look forward to.

Hopefully, I’ll update this blog after each day. If I don’t, it’s because we’re having too much damn fun.

Blogging

March 29, 2011

I read a lot about baseball.  As much as I can actually.  Books, magazines articles, newspaper articles (both online and dead tree editions) and I listen to people much wiser than I about baseball.  I know we can learn a lot about baseball and ourselves by doing this.  And let’s be honest, I love baseball.  I’m a Twins fan through and through, but first and foremost, I’m a baseball fan.  But there are times when I sit back and shake my head.  Today was one of those days.  Aaron Gleeman is a blogger I’ve been reading for quite a few years now.  He knows the game, he’s a good writer and he loves the Twins.  Here’s a link to his blog

Aaron Gleeman

Today, he wrote about the Twins trading away Billy Bullock so they could retain the rights to Rule 5 pick Scott Diamond. He questions the trade based on the fact that Bullock is universally regarded as a better prospect than Diamond. The Braves didn’t protect him on their 40 man roster, he slipped all the way to the Twins with the 27th pick, passed through waivers and isn’t the kind of power arm the Twins are supposedly now looking for. He wonders why they made this trade. He does admit that he’s probably a bigger Bullock fan than most, but I think the reason this stuck out to me so much is that bloggers like Aaron (I’m not singling him out. Really, I’m not), who are into sabermetric statistics seem to focus more on those stats than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a stathead as much as the next guy. Back in 1991, before I even owned a computer, a friend and I started our own fantasy baseball league. We wrote up our own rules and kept all of our stats by hand using USA Today. But there comes a time when I have to trust the powers that be who are running these baseball clubs. Sure, we can point our fingers at Ron Gardenhire and say he made the wrong move by bringing in a righty to face Mark Texeira when he should have turned him around to bat from the right side. We can wonder out loud why he seemed to be so in love with Nick Punto (and believe me when I say, I was trying to get to the front of that line). But at the end of the day, I’m inclined to think that Gardy, Bill Smith and anyone else involved in these decisions has more information at their disposal than we’ll ever have. While I don’t always agree with what they’re doing, I know that they’ve forgotten more about baseball than I’ll ever learn. And so while I liked Billy Bullock as much as the next guy (by the way, isn’t that a great baseball name?), I know in my heart that the Twins did the best thing they could do for the franchise in this situation.

Oh, and what I’ve written above certainly does not preclude me from complaining about this trade in the future.