Posts tagged minor league baseball

Celebrating Washington County Heritage With The Hagerstown Suns

This Saturday Night, June 20th, the Hagerstown Suns are holding “Washington County Baseball Heritage Night,” as part of the Suns’ 35th Anniversary celebration at Municipal Stadium.

Looking Forward To Heading Back to Hagerstown

Looking Forward to Heading Back to Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown, Maryland

I am honored to be participating in a book signing during the game, along with local authors Bob Savitt (The Blue Ridge League) and Austin Gisriel (Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser). In case you are wondering why I would be included as part of the Washington County Heritage Night, my book Deadball: A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, prominently features Municipal Stadium.

Former Washington County Big Leaguers or their families will be in attendance Saturday night as well. Included in the list of players who made it to the Majors is John Wilson (1913), Ike Powers (1927-1928), “Boots” Poffenberger (1937-1939), Vic Barnhart (1944-1946), Dave Cole (1950-1955), Leo Burke (1958-1965), Mike Draper (1993) and Nick Adenhart (2008-2009). The Suns also are honoring Mickey Billmeyer, a major league coach, and Clyde Barhnhart, a long-time county resident and father of Vic Barnhart.

And if that isn’t enough, the first 1,000 fans receive a free poster featuring Hagerstown Suns players from years past.

For more information about the event, click HERE.


For the Love of the Rain

Planning a week-long trip to minor league ballparks in the southeast United States during the first month of the season is a bit of a gamble given the penchant for April showers during that time of year in that area of the country. Still, one must play the hand dealt. With my youngest son’s high school spring break falling on the week of April 13th, the two of us gamefully set out on our long-planned, seven day tour of minor league ballparks in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, undaunted by bleak weather forecasts leading up to our departure date. During our stops in Kodak, Huntsville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Rome, Augusta, and Myrtle Beach, the rain mercifully held off at each locale, although the weather dipped into the 30’s and 40’s on a few nights. 

A Lone Stadium Usher Tries In Vain To keep The Rain Away at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina

A Lone Stadium Usher Tries In Vain To keep The Rain Away at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina

On the final full day of our trip, rain once again was in the forecast. Departing Myrtle Beach, we took a detour to Fort Mill, South Carolina, where the Charlotte’s Knights’ recently-abandoned ballpark stood in eerie silence, awaiting its fate as a future distribution center for Cato Corporation.  “There’s some sad things known to man, but ain’t too much sadder than” an abandoned ballpark awaiting demolition (with apologies to Smokey Robinson). It was dreary, to say the least, not the type of uplifting visit one needed on a day filled with the imminent threat rain. But because I’ve seldom met a ballpark I didn’t want to photograph, we stopped long enough for me to capture some images for posterity. 

The Now-Abandoned Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, South Carolina

The Now-Abandoned Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, South Carolina

Heading north on I-77 toward Charlotte, North Carolina, intermittent rain pelted the road and the dark skies suggested we might finally experience our first washout. We arrived long before the gates to BB&T Ballpark opened. My son and I walked around the outside of the city’s brand spanking new stadium, temporarily buoyed by the lack of rain and the tarpless infield. An hour later, as we waited for ushers to unlock the gates, we noticed stadium workers distributing and donning yellow rain ponchos. At exactly 5:30 pm, as the first few fans spun the turnstiles, the rain began and, after that, never really stopped.

Former Members of the Charlotte Orioles Gather in Rain For Pregame Ceremony

Former Members of the Charlotte Orioles  Tour the Charlotte Knight’s New Ballpark

The evening in Charlotte was to be extra special because the Knights had invited over 40 former members of the Charlotte Orioles to attend a pregame ceremony celebrating that team’s glory years and many championships. Long before the game officially was cancelled, however, my son and I departed Charlotte and, therefore, perhaps mercifully, were not in attendance when the Knights honored their former heroes during a soaked and rain shortened pregame “celebration.”

Former Charlotte Oriole and Baltimore Oriole Pitcher Sammy Stewart Signs Autographs In The Rain

Former Charlotte Oriole and Baltimore Oriole Pitcher Sammy Stewart Graciously Stops To Sign Autographs In The Rain During Tour of Ballpark

When it comes to minor league baseball in April, one must be pragmatic. Knowing ahead of time that inclement weather put the Charlotte game in jeopardy, my son and I devised an alternative plan that could put us around game time in another ballpark just 25 miles the north of Charlotte. With the northwesterly moving storm apparently not yet reaching Kannapolis, we headed up I-85 to CMC NorthEast Stadium in hopes of seeing the Kannapolis Intimidators take on the West Virginia Power.

Marquee At CNC NorthEast Stadium, Home of the Kinnapolis Intimidators

Marquee At CMC NorthEast Stadium, Home of the Kannapolis Intimidators

The rain followed us up the highway. Upon our arrival in Kannapolis, the stadium lights were dark, which is never a good sign when it comes night games that are supposed to be already underway. Although we were able to purchase tickets and walk around the wet concourse, we knew we were wasting our time if we were hoping to see an actual game that evening.

Tarp Covered Infield In Kinnapolis, North Carolina

Tarp Covered Infield In Kannapolis, North Carolina

Through the miracle of the internet, my son determined there were two minor league games already in progress in two different cities approximately one hour north of Kannapolis – Winston-Salem to the west and Greensboro to the east.  With Winston-Salem being a few miles closer, we rejoined I-85 on our way to yet another stadium named BB&T Ballpark in hopes of seeing the Winston-Salem Dash take on the Salem Red Sox.

Stadium Lights Illuminate BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Stadium Lights Illuminate BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

It was raining in Winston-Salem when we arrived, conjuring up notions of our setting our own personal minor league record – three rain outs in one day at three different ballparks.

Rain Doesn't Stop the Winston-Salem Dash From Battling The Salem Red Sox At BB&T Ballpark

Rain Doesn’t Stop the Winston-Salem Dash From Battling The Salem Red Sox At BB&T Ballpark

Alas, that record was to remain out of reach as it was already the bottom of the fourth inning when we arrived, meaning that game was about to become official. And it did.

The Red Sox Win

The Red Sox Win

Although the rain never stopped and increased as the game progressed, a complete game was played. After nine innings the Salem Red Sox had defeated the Winston-Salem Dash by a score of 8-1.

Post Game Fireworks Fill The Rain Soaked Night in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Youngest Son Watches As Post Game Fireworks Fill The Rain Soaked Sky in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston-Salem wasn’t about to let a little rain nix their First Friday Night Fireworks of the Season (after all, the team’s mascot, named “Bolt,” has lightening bolts protruding from both ears). The couple hundred fans who remained thrilled to the sight of fireworks launched and quickly extinguished by the soaking rain. My son and I stayed to the bitter end as well, a seemingly fitting grand finale to our minor league baseball trip that took us to ten different ballparks in the span of one week . . . with only two rain outs.

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy . . . Deadball, Deadball, Deadball

Last Saturday night (September 1st) I had the opportunity to meet a true cultural icon – Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. As the inspiration for the 1993 film Rudy, Mr. Ruettiger is someone who transcends the world of sports and entertainment. Mr. Ruettiger was at the Frederick Keys game signing autographs on the concourse. Turns out his nephew, John Ruettiger, plays outfield for the Frederick Keys, a minor league affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

Rudy Ruettiger Holding A Copy of Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel

I was there, too, selling and signing copies of my book Deadball.  It was pleasure talking with Rudy. I hope he enjoys the story of Byron Bennett. I can hear the chants now “Byron, Byron, Byron.”

And now for a word about great places to work. The Frederick Keys were kind enough to put me on the concourse along the first base side of the stadium, giving me a “Grade A” view of the field (that’s a pun, but I’ll spare you the explanation).

A Room With A View

Unfortunately, once the game was over I had to leave. If only I could have that view from my desk every day!

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