The oppressive heat has broken in the Northeast, and it was a beautiful weekend. I just got back from Oneonta. I took the bus home to Albany, and was sad to hear that the line is going to be discontinued after September 6 for lack of ridership. (Less transit=more individual cars=more gas consumption.)
Anyway, I went to two minor league baseball games in Oneonta on Friday, and one on Saturday in Cooperstown. In the first Friday game, Oneonta won 12-1, scoring 5 in the first, 2 in the 2nd, and they were never headed. But then Tri-City came back in the nightcap, 8-4. On Saturday, in historic Doubleday Field, Oneonta won 11-1. Both teams had 11 hits, but Tri-City had all singles and hit into 4 double plays.
All the games were free, thanks to sponsorships. The Cooperstown game was paid for by Coke and Key Bank, not particularly surprising. But the Friday games were sponsored by Rural Three for Tobacco Free Communities, a “coalition of individuals and agencies, representing Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties, dedicated to reducing the use of tobacco in our communities.” There were young people getting folks to sign petitions chastizing the movie industry for promoting cigarettes in film. I thought it was unusual for a not-for-profit to sponsor a game, but they did get a lot (2200 patrons) of visibility.
Going to see a minor league ballgame, one gets a sense of what music has passed over into the popular sports culture. At least in this town, It’s A Beautiful Day (U2) and Hey Ya (Outkast) have joined Glory Days (Springsteen), We Will Rock You (Queen) and Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones) in that musical pantheon.
In Oneonta, if a player has to go to the bathroom during the game, he has to go into the fan section in order to access the locker room. But in Cooperstown, it appears that he actually has to actually leave the stadium and use the same facilities as the patrons near the entranceway. I’m in favor of old-fashioned – Cooperstown doesn’t have lights, e.g. – but there are limits to my desire for nostalgia.
The bus from Oneonta to Cooperstown costs $1.30 for a 20-mile ride. It is far more economical than driving into Cooperstown and parking in the lots of churches, offices, even on people’s front lawns for $5 to $15, usually at the higher end of that range.
When they are playing at home, the Oneonta players get prizes for special accomplishments, such as making a great defensive play (bagel sandwich dinner) or winning a game. An extra base hit (double, triple, home run) gets a couple submarine sandwiches. A triple or home run also gets a couple pizzas. A triple gets a chicken dinner; this was a smart marketing ploy on the part of Brooks Barbecue, because triples are fairly rare, though one was hit in each of Friday’s games. In addition to the food, the home run hitter gets a $25 check from the team and a pair of silk boxer shorts from a local retailer. The mention of this never failed to engender many giggles, and lots of “oooh”s.
There is a player named Michael Hollimon who has five pair of silk boxer shorts. That means he has hit five home runs at home this season, including a grand slam late in the first Friday game. That might not seem a lot, but given the fact that the season began around Father’s Day, that they played some on the road, that Damaschke Field is not a park friendly to home run hitters, so that the SEASON record for an Oneonta player is 13 (he had 9 as of Saturday), it’s pretty impressive. I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes it to the big leagues by the end of the next year. Or not- it’s really difficult to judge whether single A talent will translate to major league success.