Wooden's World of Baseball

Sunday, June 29, 2008

When Potomac Is On The Road...

Every year, as part of my obsessive-compulsive need to while away the weekends when there is no baseball, I take the weekends that the PNats are on the road and catalog the possibilities. Sadly, the options are few without having to go for long drive... Bowie, Frederick, and Hagerstown have been the mainstays in 2006 and 2007.

But this past offseason, a new team was added to the mix: The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Last night, the weather finally cooperated (though just barely) for me to check out the new club and the new park.

First off, Regency Furniture Stadium is gorgeous, state-of-the art, and has all the amenities one ought to expect from a AA-level stadium. The food is good, with plenty of options and is comparably priced to other venues. The team store was a little lacking, as it seemed like every shirt or item that I might have wanted to buy was sold out in my size. The rest was fairly generic, and there were none of the "Crustacean Nation" shirts in adult sizes.

My chief complaint is just how far out in the sticks this place is, at least 4-5 miles away from the main highway (301) with little traffic controls (read: 4-way stop signs) and few street lights, with a sea of orange-and-white cones lining the roads. It was a little unnerving driving home in the nearly pitch dark, with lightning on the horizon and fireworks shooting off in my rearview mirror.

I suspect this may be part of the reason why the team is not drawing as well as you'd expect for a brand-new team in a brand-new stadium. Last night, for example, the reported crowd was just 3,279 - respectable, but not for a Saturday with a fireworks promotion. Compare that to the Bowie Baysox's crowd, some 30 miles to the north, which was 8,173 folks and is less than a mile or two from the highway.

The other part, unfortunately, may be the ignorance of folks to the quality of the Atlantic League's brand of play. Brooks Robinson's face is everywhere, much the way Butch Hobson was made the face of the Nashua Pride as a branding vehicle. Hope I'm wrong about that, so let's put the blame on the O's-Nats game keeping some folks at home.

The game was a solid 7-0 win for Southern Maryland, with three HRs, good defense, and three pitchers combining for a five-hit shutout. For the few folks that may read this, I would argue that the park is one to consider for a trip, particularly if you plan on going to the area for vacation anyway.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The New Nationals Ballpark

My company got a bloc of tickets to the Washington Nationals game this past Friday, so now I can finally answer the question "Have you been to the new ballpark?" after 378 times (or so).

Now, bear in mind, I'm one of the very, very, very few Red Sox fans who will tell it to you straight: Fenway Park is a triumph of emotion over reason, save for the economic reality that the team owns the property outright and can squeeze far more money out by putting lipstick on the pig that it is. It's small, cramped, and has terrible sightlines beyond the box seats.

That written, the most and common and most specious comment I've heard from DC fans (oxymoron not withstanding) is that the new park isn't as nice as Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This is like saying your wife isn't as pretty as Miss America.

I was more than pleased with what I saw. Wide concourses. Plenty of concessions, both in number and variety of foods. Multiple team stores. Playground for the kids. A Playstation Arcade. An interactive baseball-themed arcade.

About the only thing anyone could reasonably complain about were the prices, but the savvy baseball fan already knows that's where the real profits are. And I didn't find them to be that far out of line with what you'd get charged in a major metropolitan ballpark.

So without further ado, some more pics...

View from CF.

View from 3B.

View from HP.

As advertised, the 4500 sq. ft. high-def scoreboard is amazing.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Anticlimax, or, um, Potomac Wins The First Half!

As the headline suggests, there's mixed emotions about Potomac finally making the playoffs. The second-half run in 2007 certainly suggested this would happen, but unlike then, the team that takes the field in early September will be undoubtedly different.

And that's what's so frustrating. Sure, you can point to the Frederick Keys, winners of the past two league championships by winning the first half and getting hot at just the right time. Of course, that may be very well why the Carolina League changed the first round from a best-of-three to a best-of-five.

Naturally, the folks more used to this have been clamoring for the Potomac starters to become the Harrisburg starters, and they've largely gotten their wish. Only Ross Detwiler and Jhonny Nuñez remain from the Opening-Week rotation, and even in the two weeks since my last post, the 6th pick of the 2007 draft remains no better than the throw-in from a late-August trade in 2006.

But there is some hope. Craig Stammen, who does have better stuff than the most recently promoted starter, Adrian Alaniz, remains and Justin Jones appears to be ready to rejoin the club. Edgardo Baez is starting to hit like Chris Marrero is supposed to be hitting and appears to be blocked by the likes former PNats Justin Maxwell, Mike Daniel and Roger Bernadina. Jeff Mandel hasn't appeared overmatched like Terence Engles and one can only hope that Joe Norrito is kept around for his veteran presence.

But for now, it's the anticlimax of playing out the first half and see what happens when the Lake Monsters roster is set and hoping that this team -- and Hagerstown -- is kept competitive.