All in all, it really was a great night on City Island and the Senators’ organization put on one hell of a show for this year’s edition of the Eastern League All-Star Game. Here are some of my both good (the kudos) and bad (the rants) thoughts on the night showcasing the players, the ballpark, and the city.
Kudos: In a fantastic turnout by the Harrisburg fans, Metro Bank Park drew 8,078 fans for the game easily crushing their previous attendance record. Every team in the Eastern League was also well represented by their fans in an remarkable display of loyalty. It’s one thing to drive here from Reading or Altoona for the night, but to make the trek from Portland or Richmond was impressive.
Kudos: The Senators’ organization has been planning and committing resources to the All-Star Game for at least the last two months and they did a remarkable job. I’m sure the day was crazier and more unpredictable than it seemed, but from a fan’s perspective in the seats it was flawlessly organized.
Rants: Other than bringing in the Inflatamaniacs (for a number of interminable routines) to perform for the crowd, the in-game entertainment remained the same as if it was just another Wednesday night game. As much as I love the ketchup/mustard/hot dog race, it’s just another example of a “normal” contest instead of something special for the big day.
Kudos: The parking, concession, and merchandise prices weren’t raised even a nickel for the game. I fully expected a price gouging at every turn, and I was pleasantly surprised it was nowhere to be found.
Kudos: Geoff Morrow’s coverage for the Patriot-News and PennLive was excellent and thorough (as always). As an example, here’s his article on the honor the players have in being selected and their loved ones that made the trip to the midstate for the festivities.
Rants: The Senators’ mascot, Grrrounder, sat down next to me for an inning during the game. As a former catcher, no one is more sympathetic to the funk and stink you can get on your equipment (or costume) after a couple of days in suffocating heat than me. But knowing that today was the All-Star Game, I think I would have Febrezed that shit up more than he evidently did.
Kudos: After years of MLB and Chris Berman ruining the Home Run Derby, I forgot what an entertaining event it could be. Even though 5 of the 8 participants didn’t hit one out in the opening round (including DSB’s pick of Mike Rizzotti), there was plenty of drama and excitement. The hour it took to complete flew by and makes you realize that the nearly three hours of the MLB’s version solidifies it as the joke it is. Representing the hometown Senators, Chris Marrero ended up one homerun short of the title against Altoona catcher Hector Gimenez.
Rants: I realize when you pack over eight thousand spectators into a place that’s been averaging a little over half of that this season, there’s going to be a bit of a wait at the concession stands. I can easily accept that. But when the same waiting and quality issues exist during the regular season, the problems become multiplied twofold. So instead of waiting 10 minutes in a line of 4 people, you’ll now wait 20 and get the exact same subpar slice of pizza or tepid chicken sandwich.
Kudos: I’m not a NASCAR fan, but Kevin Harvick’s entrance into Metro Bank Park by tooling around the warning track in his #33 car was kind of neat. Harvick also proved he was a baseball guy when he avoided stepping on the lines as he entered the field of play before he fired a strike on the ceremonial first pitch.
Kudos: That’s the first I’ve seen Kyle Drabek throw since his time in Reading last year prior to his arm trouble at the end of the season and the eventual trade to Toronto for Roy Halladay. He didn’t disappoint as he had pop on his fastball and a good command in his limited inning of work. I’d be surprised to see him in Double-A much longer.
Rants: This isn’t a new complaint as I’ve heard this before, but the issue became magnified with so many fans making their first visit to the renovated Metro Bank Park. No one knows where anything is in the ballpark. Admittedly, wandering around is the only way to really find everything, but there should be a map available with the food & drink options and restroom locations (kind of like at an amusement park). I spoke with a patron who thought the only place you could get food was in the two concession stands behind the main grandstand. They were unaware of the choices behind the first base bleachers and the higher-quality fare at The Spot and MoMo BBQ down below. After we hit the lottery, maybe DSB can sponsor a map for next season.
Kudos: Harrisburg’s Randy Knorr and New Britain’s Jeff Smith both deserve huge praise for getting every player into the game. Between the lines both teams want to win, but I’m glad the men in charge realized it’s an exhibition to recognize the EL’s finest.
Kudos & Rants: MVP Chase d’Aurand’s 7th inning grand slam (above) into the Ollie’s Outlets cheap seats blew open what had been a pitcher’s duel between both squads. Pirate (and Altoona Curve) fans will latch onto this moment as a harbinger of things to come for their 2008 fourth-round draft pick and some say future shortstop. It will give the desperate Bucco backers more fuel for the fire in their need to unreasonably elevate every prospect to savior status. D’Aurand is a solid ballplayer, but he’s not Cal Ripken or even Jay Bell. The only real question is whether he’ll be one more name on the list of disappointments or traded as part of another rebuilding process.