We went to our first River Bandits game of the year, although the Midwest League season is a month old. Tonight's tilt was versus the upriver Lumber Kings from Clinton.
For a couple of weeks, Modern Woodmen Park was surrounded by floodwater from the nearby Mississippi. The ballpark is now 'watertight' (they built berms and walls to keep the water out), unlike the old days when the place would have been under four or five feet of Big Muddy. But the nearby parking lots were underwater, and now they have the delightful aroma of dehydrated river. Ah well-price you pay when you do business along the river.
The River Bandits, as usual, have done a great job with marketing and creating 'special nights' for this season. Tuesday nights are 'Economic Stimulus' Nights-2 tickets, any section, for the price of 1, and kids eat free (1 hot dog, chips, and drink). Really, that's a damn hard deal to beat if you wanted to take the family out for an evening. A mere $10 got TBH and I 2 box seats right behind home plate. The Bandits have front office people who realize that getting a slow nickel is better than a fast dime, and just getting people into the park is a win for the organization and the concessionaires. And we all know, kids, that if you must invest in a sports organization, concessions are where the money is.
It was a nice warm night, more like July than May. We got a couple of Bandit Dogs-a hot dog with chili, cheese, and bacon. Never had one before and to be honest will probably forgo that culinary delight in future for just a plain old dog that I can stack with kraut, mustard, and onions. Add a Great River Brewery Pale for a cold beverage and I'll tell you, one can produce a belch in the low kiloton range. I'll likely be paying for this tonight with heartburn.
We had to leave in the middle of the 5th-work night and all-with the Bandits up 3-1 due to erratic control by the Clinton pitcher walking the bases loaded and giving up a couple in the 2nd inning. I saw a couple of players on the Clinton nine not really hustling on the basepaths. Lack of hustle is a real good habit to lose in Class A ball. I've sat next to scouts from major league clubs, and things like that get noticed-and commented on, in rather blunt language. Far better to play hard and screw up the mechanics than dog it on the bases or in the field. The scouts will put in a blistering report either way, but work ethic is important for most teams in any sport.
Still, a fun (and cheap) night out this evening. Such small yet great things to experience, like kids playing goofy promotional games between innings for prizes; watching young men trying to get to the big show someday; old folks who you know have been going to the games forever because they know everyone in the ballpark; the singing of 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' in the 7th inning; a cold beer on a warm night; the smell of grilled onions; the bark of the umpires, the crack of the bat when a solid hit gets past the diving third baseman. Great times. Now I'm not saying that baseball is necessarily better than, say, cricket or rugby. I suspect a cricket match has a lot of the same 'feel' from a fan's standpoint as a baseball game. I bet it's still a good time.
Good to be getting into the 2011 Midwest League season. I'll definitely get up to Clinton for some LumberKings home games, and maybe over to Cedar Rapids for the Kernels games. Might even get over to Des Moines for an Iowa Cubs game. That's Class AAA ball-just one step from the Show. Usually at Triple A games you'll see someone who's got a few major league games under their belt, along with the team's hot prospects. We don't have a Class AA league in these parts but a lot of times the really good prospects start there instead of A ball.
Finally, if you weren't sure (and pay attention because there may be a quiz sometime), the hierarchy of professional baseball goes as follows: Rookie League, low A, high A, AA, AAA, Major League. In addition, college baseball can be a substitute for a year or so in the minors for a player so inclined. It's a lot of different leagues and levels-but baseball is the one sport here that has its own player development system and doesn't necessarily depend on colleges and universities, with their charade of 'amateur' and 'student' athletes, to develop their future talent. Perhaps more thoughts on that another time.
Anyway, first night out at the ballgame, and a good time was had by all.