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Day 66 “The Roost”

The Roost
The Roost

“Have you even thrown a baseball before?” the Dive Doctor inquired “deadpan” after I just two-hopped the ball to the right fielder. Other members of “The Roost” were chuckling and telling me stories of some of their errant throws. “The Right Fielder might cut you some slack this time and throw it back to you, but if you short hop him again he will short hop you the next time”  someone added.  I was at a Southern Miss baseball game and out in “The Right Field Roost”. Now, it’s just “The Roost”.  This tradition of throwing the warm-up ball to the Southern Miss right fielder started five or six years ago by Todd Maddux. His brother was on the team as well as some other friends and he wanted more fan interaction, so they came up with this.  The first year the coach didn’t even know it was happening until the end of the year when someone inquired about its origins. When the coach found out he went along with it but wanted to make sure that no one got hurt. So, Todd was the only one that threw it out the first year.  The tradition has evolved over the years and others have taken over the responsibilities. They were gracious enough to let me throw it out for a few innings.  As I was told, the right fielder did short hop me two times when I short hopped him. I pointed to him to acknowledge my error and he tipped his cap to let me know we had an understanding going forward.

I was floored by the “Southern” hospitality I was shown at Southern Miss. The stop was one I wanted to make. I knew Brett Favre (Southern Miss Alum) was a baseball fan and showed up at the games. Since I am I huge fan of his, I was hoping I would see him.  It was Easter and he wasn’t at this game. He had been there for the Friday and Saturday games.  My buddy, Roger Wilson, has been sending out information to all the Media outlets and teams where I will be stopping.  Southern Miss was the first team and school that asked me to come out  I was shown around the park, and they even gave me a Media pass and “rock star” parking.  As I was touring their facility, they pointed out “The Roost” and told me some stories about it.  I told them that is where I wanted to spend the game, I was not disappointed.

The Boot
The Boot

“The Roost” consists of 40 assigned areas behind and down the right field foul line.  These spots are very hard to get and there is a waiting list. Someone said, “Just like in Green Bay”.  Todd told me that it is an unwritten rule that you are suppose to have a pick-up truck or van but that is no longer enforced. In these areas everyone has barques they keep in their spots year round along with lockers which holds their tailgating equipment in.  Everyone told me I wasn’t at a great party day since it was Easter. That didn’t matter to me, I was having a great time. In addition to the throwing out the ball to the right fielder, another tradition that they do in “The Roost” is that of “The Boot”.  When the opposing team commits an error or “boots the ball”, two of “The Roost” members grab these large poles that have these sheet metal cowboy boots on them and wave them over the outfield wall.  This tradition has also evolved over time and has been around since the 1980’s. Originally they had a cowboy boot tied to a rope which they would fling it onto the field and drag it back. Unfortunately, they had to stop this practice when a Florida State pitcher who was warming up in the bull pen got hit with it.

Most of “The Roost” members have been coming to games for years. One member is Hall of Fame (Class of 2014) punter Ray Guy of the Oakland Raiders. I got to meet and talk with him. Besides punting for Southern Miss he played baseball for the university, too.  He was gracious enough to autograph my media guide. I asked him about Brett Favre, but unfortunately he didn’t know who he is, “Brett who?” he asked and laughed.  I was excited to meet Ray.  He is a player I remember from my childhood. To me some of my sports idols that I had as a kid I view as fictional characters. He no longer is. I loved those Raiders teams back in the day!  Ray was into the game, when the second baseman “booted” a ball I heard him yell, “you aren’t Robinson Cano, now.” I laughed at this, it was great to see. The second baseman was the coach’s kid for Louisiana Tech and that didn’t go unnoticed when that error happened. I also heard a “Hey coach got any more sons!”

Charles Burchell - The Dive Doctor
Charles Burchell – The Dive Doctor

Terry Bethea, one of the original “The Roost” members, explained that it is the atmosphere that brings the fans. With the tailgating while the game is going on, the food, the socializing, etc. “What could be better”, he said as he raised his arms and looked around. I agreed with him.  Charles “Dive Doctor” Burchell. He got the “name” because he started the scuba program at the school 40 years ago. Charles told me of a time when “The Roost” would supply hamburgers to the opposing teams bullpen. They would put one on the fence and then it would just disappear.  The opposing coaches put a stop to that when they found out!  “It is all about the comradery” Charles said, as he was crushing some cans. They collect all the aluminum cans throughout the season and donate the proceeds to the Dug Out Club, “all of this is a type of fan recruiting” Charles made sure to point out this out. He was preaching to the choir now, I already wanted to get my name on the waiting list!

"Diamond Darling" Calan McWilliams
“Diamond Darling” Calan McWilliams

Calan McWilliams came out to “The Roost” a couple of times during the game. She is a “Diamond Darling”. Her mother and her boyfriend’s parents were with the group I was talking with. Calan’s boyfriend plays on the team.  I inquired as to what a “Diamond Darling” did for the baseball team. She explained that they are responsible for getting the bats after a player hits, making sure the umpire has enough balls and water. They do the 7th inning stretch by singing “Take me out to the ball game”, take care of the t-shirt toss, etc.  Each “Diamond Darling” is assigned a player at the beginning of the year. They send their assigned player encouraging notes and gift baskets through out the season.  I asked Calan how much she gets paid to do all this. She said with a big smile, “I just love baseball.”  This is her fourth year and now Team Captain. She told me that it is a big commitment, but went on to say, “All the Diamond Darlings love it.” They have two squads so they all don’t have to show up at every game.

I wish I could share more because I feel I haven’t done this story justice.  I talked with so many of the fans out on “The Roost” and had so much fun. The game and the day went by too fast.  But, I’ll return one day. “The Roost” is one of the best ‘fan experiences’ I have been apart of so far on this journey. I thank all for their warm Southern welcome and letting me be apart of “The Roost”! Southern Miss baseball will now be on top of my “must” watch list!

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

 

 

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Day 86 “Mississippi College Baseball”

olemissI have been to three college baseball games in the state of Mississippi.  A game at Southern Miss, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss, I was impressed with all three venues.  I had a great time at “The Roost” and the “Left Field Lounge”. I didn’t venture out  to the outfield stands at the Ole Miss game but I was impressed with the turnout for a Saturday afternoon game, the day of graduation!  Many people showed up dressed to the “nines”.  I totally “geeked the game” with keeping book and listening to the game on the radio.  Dave Kellum, the Ole Miss radio announcer, I think is one of the best. He seems really relaxed and it flowed naturally, his style works well for me.

This will be a state I will be coming back to next year!  I was thinking, if I can work it out, I will hit all three schools within a three day weekend. I would have never have believed just how big college baseball was in the state of Mississippi had I not shown up and seen it for myself.  The crowds were awesome, the fans very knowledgeable, and the hospitality will be hard to top!

Well it is Mothers Day, I called my mom and talked to her. I hope everyone else who could call their mothers like I did! I am sitting at Starbucks in Little Rock, Arkansas after going to a game in Memphis, Tennessee earlier in the day.  I am feeling a little tired even though I slept well last night. Sitting in the hot and humid weather today will do that to you.  I am not complaining!  But, this is it for today!  I will explain what I did at the game today in tomorrows post!

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

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Day 122 “I love Mississippi!”

olemissI am sitting in a restaurant near Grand Rapids, Michigan and I am going to the Midwest League All Star game tonight. But, for the moment, I am watching the Ole Miss vs Texas Tech game that is on the TV.  Some Ole Miss fans are at a table next me. They are in town to go to the game, also, and just happens to be Kyle Farmer’s family.  Kyle is a catcher for the Great Lake Loons, which is the Class A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is currently batting .304.  His grandmother, dad, and mom are all Ole Miss alumni.  His sister is going into her junior year but she chose Georgia, where she grew up. Bryan Farmer, Kyle’s dad, pitched in the Atlanta Braves system in the 1980’s. He made it to the Triple A level and played with all the guys that defined the Braves of the 1990’s, Ron Gant, Mark Lemke, Dave Justice and Mark Wohlers.

I extend a very special thanks to the Farmer family for picking up my tab for my food and drink!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  That was a very nice surprise.  I have to say that I am one of the luckiest people around. I don’t know where I would be without the kindness of others.  Since I’m starting to recover from last week and being sleep deprived, my plan for today to write quick post and work on my schedule for the next month. My initial plan was going to go out west, but I have decided to change direction and go out east instead. I can see the Cape Cod League in the middle of summer. From what I hear, it is suppose to be gorgeous this time of year.  Kyle’s mom confirmed that it is beautiful. He played for the Bourne Braves a couple of years ago which is in that area.

I have written in previous blogs about my love of Mississippi College Baseball, especially Mississippi State and the Left Field Lounge. I have stated it is the best baseball fan experience in America, Southern Miss and “The Roost”. Now, I can say that Ole Miss has my favorite fans I have encountered away from Mississippi!  When this journey is all over I might just end up moving down there. Besides, Kyle’s grandmother was kinda flirting with me and said she would tour America with me.  All kidding aside, I will definitely be making a Mississippi college baseball tour next year!

I picked UC-Irvine to win the College World Series; but, now I am rooting for Ole Miss. Texas is my other team that I want since I had a great experience there. Tonight I will be watching the All Star game and rooting on Kyle. I will be paying attention to his career as it progresses and since he is in the Dodgers organization, all the better!  Time to wrap this up, I will get back on track with my writing, I want to get to the Terry Stake profile one of these days, he has such a good story, so please look for that in the next few days!

Ole Miss just scored on Texas Tech and is up 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh as I post this!  If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014″, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

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Day 182 “Saving Tradition!”

left fieldI have gained a very unique perspective during this trip, I have witnessed first hand what is happening at the ballpark all over the country.  What is working and what isn’t working.  I am understanding the business side of running a baseball stadium, why the majority of the minor leagues teams have a “baseball entertainment complex” in mind when they pursue and get a new ball park.  I know immediately which teams understand the word hospitality, which ones are working towards educating all of their team members and the ball clubs that have no idea what the word means.  Within five minutes of arriving I fully understand the entertainment I will be receiving.

I have not done a study and this is a total guess but I would say that 75% of the minor league teams have variations of the same “fan” experience, the stadium, the mascot, the routines between innings, the videos on the scoreboard.  A lot are incorporating the “bouncy” houses and basketball courts for the kids, throw in a water feature to run through, etc…  you get the idea.  I am not saying this is a bad idea, I actually like it, Martie Cordero from the Omaha Storm Chasers changed my opinion.  99.9% of baseball fans will never do what I am doing, they will just go to the local teams game and thus will think this is unique to their team.

With the minor league teams it has to be entertainment for the entire family in mind, the baseball game might be the center piece but most young kids will get bored after a half inning, they need additional entertainment so their parents can either watch the game or socialize with friends.  Ball parks have become part amusement park for all the different ages.  The more people you can draw the more money the team makes, it isn’t really about the baseball game, as one team President put it to me the other day, “Our fan isn’t going to remember how we did last July, like they do about the top club, bottom line is revenue generation”.  Get the fan hooked on the fun mascot and the great looking gear!

I won’t argue that it needs to happen in the minor league game, players I have talked to have stated that the winning feels different, you still root for your team but it is just different.  Most fans feel the same way, favorite players come and go during the season.  However, I feel there are venues that need to not cave to the pressures of the “baseball entertainment complex” mentality.  Places like Helena and Bakersfield, they need to continue to embrace what they have, improve where they can but not to forget about the traditional baseball experience.  There are many more beautiful minor league experiences that have perfected this, if you are ever in San Jose make sure to get to a Giants game, I loved the fact that they upgraded without killing the history, they utilized the old park.  Vancouver is upgrading but not tearing down what they have, they are trying different things before going the rout of a new place.

I have traveled around the country I have been able to see first hand that as a country we have gotten kind of homogenous in the majority of regions with all the Starbucks, Wal-Mart’s, Applebee’s, Olive Gardens, etc…  sometimes I look around and have to ask where I am because it could be Milwaukee or Seattle by the ubiquity of the stores.  I have talked about everything above for a reason; the best fan experience I have had at Mississippi State, the Left Field Lounge, is going to be changing.  It makes me sad, the Left Field Lounge (as goofy as this will sound) is breathtaking.  There has been nothing like it, Clemson and Southern Miss were similar.  The powers that be, probably lawyers and administrators, fearing a lawsuit and wanting more revenue have decided to present a plan that on its face is very nice, they came up with the “Left Field Lofts”.  As nice as this is, MSU will now become as sterile an experience as the rest of the teams that have created these clean and organized complexes.  Fans will still come and support their teams, LSU fans come to mind.  But what it does is take away from the tradition and independence of what these fans had.  Mississippi State fans love their baseball team and their allegiance won’t change, but it is hard for me to believe that their rabidity won’t diminish.

Clemson incorporated the “Cheap Seats” bus into their new field, it is a fun experience but it is not like it used to be, Southern Miss has the “The Roost”, to me they have the go to experience if things change at MSU.  The author John Grisham wrote about a time a player from another team stood in wonderment and was speechless besides mouthing “unbelievable” over and over when he first saw and was brought back to “The Left Field Lounge”, I had the same experience. Click here for Grisham’s story. I am an outsider, I am not an Alum, I understand the allure to something “new” but it will be the same experience with a slightly different twist of places all over the United States.  I would urge the “power” brokers to reconsider changing Dudy Noble.  Mississippi State has set all the attendance records in modern college baseball, I personally think that will change.  Fenway Park improved when upgraded, Wrigley Field needs upgrades, it can be done.  However, currently in my estimation there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way Dudy Noble is, we worry way to much about things that can happen, we then change them into sterile experiences…  The Left Field Lounge is one of the most authentic experiences I have ever been a part of, the MSU fans some of the most welcoming, I didn’t pay much attention to the game until the end, I made some friends that I still stay in contact with, I will come back to MSU no matter what happens.

I just want some tradition to be preserved, I was looking forward to bring some of my northern friends to MSU to witness one of the best spectacles in sports and to meet some of the most fun loving fans, it will be a harder sell without the Left Field Lounge…

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014″, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

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Day 73 “The Drive”

Yesterday, I went to the Greenville Drive versus the Lexington Legends game.  I decided to “keep book” since I was extremely tired.  I was up late with the Clemson fans, I slept in my car on the campus, my car alarm went off at 3:33 in the morning. I sprang up and hit my head on the ceiling, then struggled to fall back asleep which finally came at about 5 a.m.  When I final came to, it was about 9:30, I got up and said good bye to all the wonderful people I met the night before. They were up making breakfast (bacon and pancakes). I was still full from the 12:30 a.m. tacos. I was given a couple of “Cheap Sheets” t-shirts (I will wear them proudly, wearing one currently).  I drove around the campus and took some pictures of the football field. I wanted to see where they run down the hill, “called the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.” Running down “The Hill” began out of practicality: “The football team dressed at Fike Field House, ran from there to the gate and down the grassy hill onto the field at the start of each game.”  This is also where Howards’ Rock is located. The players rub it before heading down the hill.

fluorI went to a Starbucks in Greenville and spent 4 hours writing up the story on the “Cheap Seats”. The time I spent at Clemson was such a fun story I wanted to make sure I did a decent job with it.  I am not making excuses but it is tough to do semi-decent writing every day. I usually publish my first draft, edited daily by Beth Chapman with a touch here and there making it flow a little better. She does this everyday, you don’t know how much I appreciate this. She makes me look like a good writer! So when I finally finished, I didn’t have much time before the game started. I rushed over to Fluor Field and was quite surprised at how awesome the stadium was. This is the home of Boston’s Single-A team. I don’t expect a lot from Single-A stadiums (Bakersfield is what I think of). But, this was one of the best at this level (so much better than the Triple-A Huntsville site). The Stadium had an old look but, in fact, was relatively new.  It was constructed of brick that looked like it was recycled, with condos and restaurants located behind the outfield that matched the exterior of the stadium. There was a mini green monster, the playing surface was in the same category as the Clemson turf (Clemson’s was still better).  There was a lot of kids and teenagers at this game.  I chose to sit in the left field grassy area in front of the kids play area (which was entirely fenced in, top also, good move since the little ones wouldn’t be paying attention to foul balls).

I tried tuning in the radio station that broadcast the games but to no avail. I decided to listen to music and “keep book”, it was actually quite enjoyable until a football game broke out!  Greenville won the game 21-6, three times they batted around and almost a 4th time. It was hard to keep up!  I was wishing I had Eggo with me to ask him some questions. My scorecard had all kinds of notes and scribbles by the end of the game. Sitting in the outfield watching all the kids dressed in their baseball attire, trying to persuade the players to throw a ball their way – was a lot of fun, also. I was wishing Larry, another friend and a photographer was there. He would have gotten some great shots of the kids reaching for the balls that were thrown their way. I loved seeing the hundreds of arms going into the air. How all of them would swarm after a foul ball. To me that is one of the best things about these games, the interaction with the fans and players.

My blog has been gaining in popularity lately and fun for me to see the “following”. I am grateful to everyone that have been reading and to everyone that has just begun to read my blogs. I am having a great time on the road.  I need to say that college baseball have had some of the most interesting fans. Colorado Mesa’s “The Pit” has been big supporters of mine they really have spread the word! Clemson fans really jumped on “the bus” the last couple of days, Texas the college and Texas the state were huge supporters before my interview there. “The Roost” at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg has jumped on and have been vocal.  Of course all my friends in the Milwaukee area, but a huge “shout out” needs to go to my hometown of Ashland, Wisconsin!  They have been unbelievable with their support, I love that place. I am so happy to be an Oredocker!  I am heading to a high school game tonight in Columbia, South Carolina, then heading over to Charleston tomorrow.  I try to plan out the trip 7-10 days in advance. My “map”, click here. to see the games. I will continue to search out great stories while I’m learning a lot about baseball, people that follow baseball, and how much people are more alike than they are different.

NOTE:  I updated by biography since I hadn’t really touched it in three months. Click here if you would like to check it out: “biography“. That will get you where you want to “look”.  If you have read it before, just scroll down and look for the update from this past week.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

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Day 198, 199 and 200 “What I remember…”

bbpic

I am happy to report that I accomplished one of the goals I had when I began this journey.  I wanted to get to a game in each of the continental 48 States. I complied a list of the first game I saw in each state and what I remember about the experience.

Alabama-AL Game 73, played April 21 in Birmingham. A Double-A MiLB game between the Tennessee Lookouts and Birmingham Barons. The Lookouts beat the Barons, 10-5. It was a day game and I got a home run ball!

Arizona-AZ Game 45, played March 25 in Phoenix.  A Cactus League Spring Training game between the San Francisco Giants and the Milwaukee Brewers.  I met my buddy Jared and his family at the game.  The Giants beat the Brewers, 4-3.  The Brewers are my hometown team and of course my favorite.

Arkansas-AR Game 94, played May 12 in Little Rock. A Double-A MiLB game between the NW Arkansas Naturals and the Arkansas Travelers. The Naturals beat the Travelers in extra innings, 6-5.  The game finished about midnight and I had to drive about three hours and it started storming as I was running to my car.

California-CA Game 50, played March 30 in San Diego.  This was Opening Night of the MLB season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. Unfortunately the Padres beat the Dodgers, 3-1.  (I am a Dodgers fan…)  This was also my very first opening day anywhere.

April28th 379

Colorado-CO Game 63, played April 12 in Grand Junction. A NCAA D2 college game between Metro State (Denver) and Colorado Mesa. Colorado Mesa won, 10-3. This was the first game of a doubleheader and I met “The Pit”, one of my top experiences.

Connecticut-CT Game 210, played August 25 in Norwich. A Short Season Single-A MiLB game between the Lowell Spinners and the Connecticut Tigers.  The Spinners beat the Tigers, 7-3.

Delaware-DE Game 211, played August 26 in Wilmington. A Short Season Single-A MiLB game between the Potomac Nationals and the Wilmington Blue Rocks.  The Nationals beat the Blue Rocks, 3-1.

Florida-FL Game 1, played February 14 in Port Charlotte. A NCAA D1 college game between the University of Auburn and Indiana State. Auburn prevailed 4-0.  This game was the official start of the Baseball in America Tour 2014. It was also Valentines Day!

Georgia-GA Game 75, played April 23 in Suwanee. A high school game between Johns Creek HS and Lambert HS. Lambert prevailed, 9-3, and at the time they were the top ranked high school team in the nation. I was walking around acting like a scout and I remember being impressed with Johns Creek catcher.

Idaho-ID Game 185, played August 3 in Boise. A Short Season Single-A MiLB game between the Vancouver Canadians and the Boise Hawks.  The Hawks beat the Canadians, 3-2. This was a Sunday afternoon game where I got two foul balls.

Illinois-IL Game 132, played June 15 in Chicago. This was a MLB game between the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox. The Royals beat the White Sox, 6-3.  It was a Sunday afternoon game, I was tired from the day and night before in Milwaukee.

Indiana-IN Game 101, played May 19 in Evansville. A high school game between North HS and Mater Dei HS both of Evansville, a rivalry game.  Mater Dei beat North, 7-3.  This game was played at Bosse Field, one of my top stadium choices.

Iowa-IA Game 141, played June 23 in Des Moines. A MiLB game between the Albuquerque Isotopes and the Iowa Cubs.  The Cubs beat the Isotopes, 4-3.  I was tired and it was a day game. There was lots of kids in the stands from the local day care facilities.

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Kansas-KS Game 98, played May 16 in Manhattan. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Texas and Kansas State. Texas destroyed K-State, 12-0.  It was a no hitter, raining and I found a practice ball under the bleachers.

Kentucky-KY Game 102, played May 20 in Lexington. A MiLB Single-A game between the Hagerstown Suns and the Lexington Legends. The Suns soundly defeated the Legends, 11-3.  I was reading a book before the game near the bullpen and almost got hit by a warm up pitch that was overflown. The pitcher allowed me to keep the ball.

Louisiana-LA Game 42, played March 23 in Baton Rouge.  It was a college game between the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University.  LSU won, 2-1. I slept in Tiger Stadium parking lot and was amazed at the turn out for a college baseball game.

Maine-ME Game 154, played July 5 in Portland. A MiLB Double-A game between the New Britain Rock Cats and the Portland Sea Dogs.  The Sea Dogs shutout the Rock Cats, 4-0.  I changed my schedule for this one on the spur of the moment so I could I could get Maine checked off the list. It was the first game of a doubleheader.

Maryland-MD Game 219, played September 3 in Baltimore. A MLB game between Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles won, 6-0.  This completed the goal of getting to a game in all of the continental 48 states during the Baseball in America Tour 2014.

peter gammons
Peter Gammons

Massachusetts-MA Game 152, played July 3 in Hyannis.  This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. The Red Sox beat the Harbor Hawks, 8-2.  I was very excited to be at this game; however, traffic was a nightmare! Loved the atmosphere of the game and it is one of my top experiences.

Michigan-MI Game 133, played June 16 in Detroit. A MLB game between the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers. The Royals beat the Tigers, 11-8. I remember sitting in the last row behind home plate on a beautiful night for baseball. I had a great view of the city.

Minnesota-MN Game 117, played June 2 in Mankato.  This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Wilmar Stingers and the Mankato Moon Dogs.  The Moon Dogs won handily over the Stingers, 10-2. The night was cloudy and I enjoyed a fish fry at local bar even though it was Monday. And, a plus of the day, the waitress was very attractive.

Mississippi-MS Game 72, played April 20 in Hattiesburg. A NCAA D1 game between Louisiana Tech and the Southern Miss University. I was treated like a “Rock Star”, I was interviewed on the local TV station and I got to meet Hall of fame punter Ray Guy. I had a great time in “The Roost” on Easter Sunday.

Missouri-MO Game 99, played May 17 in Kansas City. A MLB game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals. The Royals won in a great pitchers dual, 1-0.  The pitcher for KC was perfect through 6 2/3 innings and I also got to meet the KC Super Fan.

Montana-MT Game 170, played July 20 in Billings. This was an American Legion game between Medicine Hat (Canada) and the Billings Scarlets.  Billings hung on to win the game, 9-7.  It was the first game of a double header and I was interviewed by the local newspaper.

Nebraska-NE Game 136, played June 19 in Omaha. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and Texas Christian University (TCU).  Ole Miss won over TCU, 6-4.  This was at the College World Series. I changed my schedule to come early to the CWS and I had a Press Pass for the next day.

Nevada-NV Game 56, played April 5 in Las Vegas. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Fresno Grizzlies and the Las Vegas 51’s.  The Grizzlies scored 7 runs, with two outs on the board, in the top of the ninth to win, 8-6. This was Opening Night for MiLB. The Wisconsin Badgers got beat by the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.

press box row
Press Box at CWS

New Hampshire-NH Game 212, played August 27 in Manchester. A MiLB Single-A game between Harrisburg Senators and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.  The Senators beat the Fisher Cats, 9-6.  I was interviewed during the fifth inning by the Fisher Cats play by play announcer.

New Jersey-NJ Game 205, played August 22 in Lakewood. A MiLB Single-A game between the Delmarva Shorebirds and the Lakewood Blue Claws. The Blue Claws had a shutout over the Shorebirds, 4-0. This day got switched around. I was suppose to go to Montclair, but changed it to Trenton since it was closer. When I arrived, I realized they were out of town, luckily Lakewood was close by and playing at home.

New Mexico-NM Game 66, played April 14 in Albuquerque. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Tacoma Rainiers and the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Rainiers were triumphant, 8-6, over the Isotopes.  I remember having my first funnel cake made by the great ladies on the third base side, along with being impressed with the guy making Banana Foster behind home plate.

New York-NY Game 151, played July 2 in Utica. This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Elmira Pioneers and the Utica Brewers. The Pioneers defeated the Brewers, 4-0, in a rain shortened affair. I was interviewed by the local news.

North Carolina-NC Game 106, played May 23 in Charlotte. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Indianapolis Indians and the Charlotte Knights. The Indians hammered the Knights, 15-6.  The stadium was new and beautiful. I was also interviewed by the local news.

North Dakota-ND Game 122, played June 7 in Fargo. This was an Independent Professional league game in the American Association between the Winnipeg Goldeyes and the Fargo Morehead RedHawks. The RedHawks outlasted the Goldeyes, 4-2.  I was surprised at the size of the crowd for the game and there were lines of fans because it was “Jersey” night.

Adam and Anthony
Adam and Anthony

Ohio-OH Game 108, played May 25 in Cincinnati. A MLB game between the St Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds.  The Cardinals defeated the Reds, 4-0, behind a great pitching performance by Adam Wainwright. Charlie Sheen was at the game and I was interviewed by ESPN in front of the stadium.

Oklahoma-OK Game 95, played May 23 in Oklahoma City. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Colorado Sky Sox and the Oklahoma City RedHawks. The RedHawks beat the Sky Sox, 1-0. It was a day game and I was interviewed by the play by play announcer for his pregame show. The stadium was packed with school children.

Oregon-OR Game 179, played July 28 in Salem. A MiLB Short Season Single-A game between the Eugene Gems and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The Volcanoes defeated the Gems, 5-3.  I sat on a picnic table near the bullpen on the third base side. I was impressed with the amount of merchandise in the team store.

Pennsylvania-PA Game 149, played June 30 in Erie. A MiLB Double-A game between the Akron Rubber Ducks and the Erie Sea Wolves. The Rubber Ducks destroyed the Sea Wolves, 9-1. I sat in the Press Box, “Geeked the Game” and parked directly across the street.

Rhode Island-RI Game 214, played August 29 in Pawtucket. A MiLB Triple A game between the Syracuse Chiefs and the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Red Sox beat the Chiefs in a close game, 2-1.  I gave blood before the game.

South Carolina-SC Game 78, played April 26 in Clemson. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Miami and Clemson University. Miami beat Clemson, 3-2.  I sat in the Cheap Seats and camped out on campus with a great group of people.  We had late night tacos. One of my top experiences.

South Dakota-SD Game 167, played July 17 in Sioux Falls. This was a Independent Professional league in the American Association between the Laredo Lemurs and the Sioux Falls Explorers. The Lemurs squeaked out the win over the Explorers, 1-0. I was interviewed by a local tv station and by the play by play announcer.

Tennessee-TN Game 76, played April 24 in Chattanooga. A MiLB Double-A league game between the Birmingham Barons and the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Lookouts outlasted the Barons, 5-4. The stadium was on top of a hill, with an outside escalator and there was pollen on everything!

Texas-TX Game 43, played March 23 in College Station. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Florida and Texas A&M. Texas A&M wins over Florida, 4-3. It was a chilly windy Sunday afternoon game and the students kept yelling something when the Florida catcher patted the pitchers ass. (“You need a cigarette?”)

models

Utah-UT Game 61, played April 10 in Salt Lake City. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Fresno Grizzlies and the Salt Lake Bees. The Grizzlies hammered the Bees, 11-4.  I remember that an outfielder slide head first into the wall and the ambulance had to come on the field.  Also, the walk back to the motel was a bit unnerving with meth heads and house everywhere.

Vermont-VT Game 217, played September 1 in Burlington. A MiLB Short Season Single-A game between the Tri City Valley Cats and the Vermont Lake Monsters. The Valley Cats beat the Lake Monsters, 3-2. I loved the old stadium and the downtown area.

Virginia-VA Game 203, played August 20 in Richmond. A MiLB Double-A game between the New Britain Rock Cats and the Richmond Flying Squirrels. It wasn’t much of a game the Rock Cats won, 7-0.  The stadium was built in the early 80’s. I sat in the Press Box and was treated exceptional well by Richmond.

Washington-WA   Game 174, played July 23rd in Yakima.  This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Bellingham Bells and Yakima Valley Pippins.  The Bells held on to defeat the Pippins 5-4.   I was interviewed by the play by play announcer.

West Virginia-WV Game 204, played August 21 in Princeton. A MiLB Rookie league game between the Greenville Astros and the Princeton Jays. The Jays held to get the shutout over the Astros, 1-0. This game started late because of rain and I was worried that it won’t be played. This was the only day I was scheduled in West Virginia. I helped take the tarp off the field.

Greg Brock
Meeting Greg Brock

Wisconsin-WI Game 110, played May 27 in Milwaukee. This was a MLB game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers beat the Orioles, 7-6.  It was the first time I was home during the trip, I went to the game by myself.

Wyoming-WY Game 169, played July 19 in Casper. This was a college summer wooden bat league game between Sterling and the Casper Cutthroats. The Cutthroats pulled out the win in extra innings, 6-5.  I was interviewed by the local TV station and watched a lot of the game with the owner of the Cutthroats.

That is my ‘collection synopsis’ of memories at each game I attended, what I saw or did, in each of our 48 States. It took me ten hours to compile this; so, if you read all the way down to here – I “thank you!”

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Day 85 “Left Field Lounge!”

left fieldI was asked if I had been to a game at Mississippi State by Todd Maddux of Southern Miss when I visited “The Roost” a few weeks ago. I told him I hadn’t and he suggested if I got the chance to go and check it out, this is all he told me. I didn’t think much of the comment.

I arrived on the campus of Mississippi State around noon yesterday, it was raining. I worried  it wouldn’t let up and the game would be cancelled. I knew nothing of Mississippi State baseball. I didn’t realize they played UCLA in the national championship series last year. I sat in the campus bookstore for about five hours writing and organizing. Around 5:30, I decide to find the field.  I drove all over the campus, I was impressed at its Southern formality. I pulled in and parked my car near the RV’s and campers. I smiled knowing I have a place to sleep, and Mississippi State is like the rest of the SEC and ACC schools I have been too, hard core!  I talked to one gentleman with a RV, he told me this night is a “little light” for fans but make sure to see the folks in the “Left Field Lounge”,  they will feed you.  Again, I thought nothing of the comment. As I walked to the stadium ticket window, I smelled the barbecue and I was hungry. As I walked in I purchase a barbecue pork sandwich, it was terrible. I wondered how something which smelled so good could taste so bad, I threw the half eaten sandwich in the trash.  I asked an usher where the General Admission seating was, she said, “Right around the corner to the left”.  I went around the corner and then to the left, quickly checked my Facebook page, looked up to find a seat and then had a “what in the hell” moment.

I asked the first person I see, what is “THAT” as I pointed out to left field.  He looked at me goofily and said, “What?”,  I looked at him goofily and said, “THAT” still pointing to the left field. In his best “you aren’t from around here” look he said “Its the Left Field Lounge”.  I asked if I could go back there, he looked at me kind of annoyed this time and said, “Just walk around the fence” as he pointed.

“The Left Field Lounge started out in the 1960s with just fans driving cars and trucks into the area to watch a game. In the late 1960s, fans started bringing grills, tables, and ice chests full of drinks for a full tailgate experience. At that time, fans would drive in before the game to set up their tailgates, and then take it all down after the game and drive back out. As the area became more popular, a line would form to get in before the game, the area would fill up, and some would be turned away. In the early 1970s one truck driven to the Left Field Lounge would not start and was unable to leave after the game was over, so the owners just left the truck there. For the next game, the truck was still there, creating an automatic reserved spot. Other fans took advantage of this and brought in trucks and grills intending to leave them there. Some trucks which were no longer drivable were towed into a spot. To allow more fans to share a space, home-built seats and bleachers were built onto the beds of the trucks. Later, motor homes and flat bed trailers were brought in with more elaborate and sturdy bleachers. Eventually the university established rules for the cherished spots in Left Field Lounge. Spaces are rented for the season, and after all of the spaces are filled, those not receiving a space are placed on a waiting list. The trucks/trailers/motor homes must be on wheels, brought in by a certain day before the season starts, and removed after the season ends.” (Information from Wikipedia.com)

Dennis Joy - Super Fan!
Dennis Joy – Super Fan!

As I walked into the Left Field lounge I was in awe of the spectacle. People were barbecuing, drinking, laughing and just enjoying the moment.  I saw some guys up on one of the hand made platforms which was built over the top of an old truck.  This platform had old bus seats, a stereo system with music blaring and a grill off the back end where they were fixing grilled brats and sausages.  I yelled up to them and asked  what was happening back here. Hays Stephens, who was grilling, yelled back, “First time in the Left Field Lounge?”  I said it was, he invited me up. I told him what I was doing, he started feeding me. He didn’t ask if I wanted anything, just said you have try this and handed me a beer, “From Wisconsin” he said with a smile.   Other guys came and talked to me, I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and the spectacle.  Hays grilled food the entire game, sausages, pork tenderloin, tamales, brats. It all smelled great and the ‘tasting’ was wonderful!

I was told numerous times I came on a bad weekend, since the students just got done with school, it was raining, etc.  I was still impressed with the turn out, 1/3 of the stands and about half “The Left Field Lounge”. Eric Entrekin a 2001 MSU grad said, “I would rather be out here than the sky boxes” as he pointed to the luxury boxes. He brings his son to all the games, saying “it is a three day tailgate!”   John Mattison stopped by with his Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix that is distributed all over the country to welcome me. He gave me some of the history of the “TLFL”.  John has been coming out to the games for over 25 years.  I went down and took a look at Justin Tates “Redneck Sky Box”, had a great discussion with him about all the opposing teams fans who come out and party with them. He also let me know  some of the opposing team’s players have been known to sneak back to eat after the games.  Hays told me everyone is welcome to come back and join in the festivities and they  welcomed me with open arms!

Mississippi State has all of the top 11 on-campus crowds in the history of college baseball. Overall, the stadium has held 15 crowds over 12,000 and 31 crowds over 10,000.  Two weeks ago they set the NCAA mark with 15,586 fans at the Saturday game against Ole Miss their arch enemy. Shane Sanford told me it was probably too crowded since it was very hard to get around.  Unfortunately, as far as the baseball game was concerned, the Bulldogs were beaten, 4-2, by Tennessee, it wasn’t for the lack of fans on the platform trying to will them to victory, with all the cow bells and rally caps. It was just not meant to be even when MSU loaded the bases with no outs in the 8th inning, the next three batters struck out. I heard a few “Welcome to State baseball”. And a, “Why did I choose to come to this school”, obviously said in frustration.

This is another one of those stories I am not doing justice to. No wonder Todd Maddox mentioned to me to stop by if I had the chance. “The Left Field Lounge” has been voted the best tailgating experience in all of sports. I have to say,  I have found no comparison and wholeheartedly agree with the statement! It goes to the top of my list of places I want to get back to again! I slept in my car in the stadium parking lot with the RV’s and campers, Shane Sanford and Eric Entrekin  graciously offered other alternatives.  I want to thank everyone I met last night, it was an awesome experience. One you have to witness to believe, MSU has an experience like no others! Also, I am trying to do some things with video so forgive me for my inexperience! Even though, I wanted to share so check it out ~ The “Left Field Lounge” video.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

 

 

 

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Day 84 “Asked & Answered!”

April28th 1075I was in New Orleans last night and watched the Zephyrs crush the Iowa Cubs, 9-1.  There are times I am finding that I have become very obsessed with the game that I want to concentrate on certain things.  I purchased a stop watch yesterday and I was timing the pitchers from the moment they step on the pitching rubber to the moment they released the ball, about 9 seconds for both when they didn’t have a base runner. Timing was all over the board when there was someone on base. I did this ‘timed set-up with release’ for two innings. I know it is weird and it serves no purpose but I was enjoying it. I also was referring back to the book “Watching Baseball Smarter” on different things.  Needless to say, I was self absorbed and didn’t really talk to anyone, so I thought I would put together a list of frequently asked questions.

I get asked a lot of questions, since I am picking up a lot more followers lately. I am going to create a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page on my website, but I figure I will utilize the blog to let everyone know about it!

  1. Are you independently wealthy, how can you afford to do this?  I am not independently wealthy. If that was the case I won’t be sleeping in my car as often as I do.  I am able to afford to do this trip since I don’t have a home or a rent payment, I packed all my stuff up and it is being stored at my sister Meg’s house and my ex-wife Jane’s storage locker.  In addition, I received large donations from Bruno Independent Living Aids, my brother Chad’s family and many small donations on my website.
  2. If you don’t have a house, where is your mail sent?  My ex-wife has been gracious enough to let me have my mail forwarded to her home.
  3. You AREN’T married are you?  I am not married nor am I dating at the moment. I like how it is assumed that I am not, that one always makes me laugh.
  4. Why are you doing this? This is a complex question and I don’t always know where to begin with my answer.  I suppose the main reason is that “life is short” and I am not getting any younger. I am blown away at how fast life has flown by since I graduated from high school. I think I’m like most wanting to make a mark in life, but I never really knew in what ‘occupation’, or how to accomplish my mark.  A lot of people just know and they go about living their plan. I was lost for a very long time. I am very much a “daydreamer”, but I let my fears and other peoples societal constraints dictate to me.  I wanted to fit in for a very long time, but I was always attracted to people that lived on the fringe.  When my Dad had his triple by pass it affected me. I didn’t like seeing my Dad that vulnerable. The thought of losing him never occurred to me because he always seemed young to me. I knew that one day, possibly I would possibly be ‘in his shoes’. Spending time together and our conversations about life, I knew it was time to start doing things that I “needed” to do.  That is the short answer. However, there is more depth to my reason(s).
  5. Are you a writer or journalist?  I am neither, but I do like to write. I thought it was painfully obvious, since my grammar is bad and I use to many commas. I have been told I have a very unique writing style, I know my sister Debbie really likes how I write.  My Mom said I was very good writer years ago.  I have always wanted to write a book (I think a lot of people do).  However, when I read what I write, I don’t like it most of the time or I don’t think it makes sense. I have learned that I will always be my own worst critic and I will never be perfect.  Writing is a process, I am trying to enjoy it as I go along. Some of my stuff will work and some won’t, it is what it is.  I have to say that I am blown away that people are actually reading what I have written.  I have to thank Beth Chapman for editing my posts, I usually post my first draft and she will go in later and clean them up a bit!
  6. What has been your favorite experience so far?  I have had so many great experiences, I can’t lump them together however.  My favorite story so far has been Day 43 “Who replaced Steve Garvey?”.  The most fascinating person I have met has been Day 76 “Mr. Willie”.  The most entertaining experiences have all been at college games with my boys at Colorado Mesa Day 58 “The Pit”, at Southern Miss Day 66 “The Roost” and Clemson Day 72 “The Cheap Seats”.  I have enjoyed speaking to everyone that I have met along the way.  I think in the beginning I was learning and getting comfortable.  I will probably classify the stories when this is over. (check back these may change, I am only a third of the way through)
  7. What kind of car do you drive?  2004 Lexus ES330.  How many miles are on it?  Currently 185,000. How many miles have you put on the car this trip?  17,000 (as of May 9th).
  8. Do you have any kids?  I have one beautiful daughter Sami.  She is finishing up her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She wrote a very touching paper about me and this trip. I shared it before the trip started, click “My Daughters Speech”, for a fantastic write-up.
  9. What do you plan on doing when you get done? I have not given it much thought. Obviously I would love to continue with something in baseball, but will be just fine if that is not in the cards. I truly have no expectations about this trip or how it will affect my life after.
  10. Can I come with you?  I don’t have very much space in my car and besides I don’t think your husband will be to happy about it.
  11. Do you get sick of baseball?  No, I am getting more obsessed with it.  Currently reading: “The Knucklebook” by Dave Clark, “Watching Baseball Smarter” by Zack Hample, “The Physics of Pitching”, and Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook.  I have been reading some historical stuff also, learning to keep the scorebook properly, and tuning into to the radio broadcasts.
  12. Do you get scared sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots? In the beginning it was a little nerve racking but like anything you get comfortable.  I have met some very interesting people, so I am grateful for those experiences.
  13. Do you get lonely?  Yes, it can get lonely, especially when I am driving late at night and I wish I had someone to talk too!  I do get texts from a fair number of friends and family so that helps.  But during the day I am actually quite busy.
  14. Are you a Buddhist?  No, however I did go to India where I attended a 10 day Introduction to Buddhism retreat.  Even though I like a lot of things about it, I use what I feel benefits me and leave the rest. I believe we can learn great things from all cultures.

A question that has never been asked…

  1. What is your favorite music to listen to on this trip?  70’s music! There are some songs that get to me and I will sing along. Think Tommy Boy when they are singing “Superstar” by the Carpenters, that is totally me when  “Everything I Own” by Bread comes on.  I love the soft pop songs of the 70’s the most, I am no longer ashamed of it!  Oh!! If Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive” comes on you can bet I am all over it!  (I no longer like Tiffany, Rob Dwyer.)

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!