Wooden's World of Baseball

Sunday, September 26, 2010

These Are The Days

The 2010 season is now over, having ended nine days ago with the second Potomac championship in three years.  But the headline refers to the 2010 season overall that saw my previous record of games attended (75) obliterated with 88 games in seven states and the District of Columbia.

When I moved here in 2006, I thought I would be seeing less baseball, but it turns out that the opposite has been true. The longer season (vs. the Can-Am League) and the more temperate weather is primarily what makes this possible. Three baseball roadtrips also helped. 

The first was to Winston-Salem, completing the Carolina League circuit (I've now seen every opposing team's stadium, a dream that I never could realize with the Can-Am, though I sure tried). The second was to Albany, NY and Burlington, VT, a detour en route to visiting my Mom in WMass, plus a chance to see the Nationals' northern-most affiliate.

But the big one was my trip to Tennessee, what I called my Appy League Adventure. It was inspired in no small part by my friend Shawn's trip in the summer of 2007. Two years ago, I had noticed while planning some baseball while we were vacationing in Western North Carolina, a cluster of teams in Northeast Tennessee.

"I'm gonna plan a trip to see all those teams someday in one trip," I told the Mrs. at the time. This year, the stars aligned.

Here's a peek at some of what I saw...

First stop was Bristol, Va., home to the Chicago White Sox's Advanced Rookie team. It's also the site of the greatest bar-bet question: "What's the record for the most strikeouts in a nine-inning game?"
Yep. That's 27, thrown in no-hitter in 1952 in the Appy League.

As a minor-league aficionado, this what made my jaw drop:
That night cost me $10... $6 for the ticket, $2 for a soda, $2 for a program.

The next stop was Greeneville, TN, and the best retro stadium I've seen in the minors:

Yes, I made it B&W for artistic purposes, but you can see the 1920s-style brick&steel architecture that they were going after. This was the outlier, though. Most of the Appy League facilities were like that of Johnson City:

Pretty basic (though the roof is a very nice touch) just like the souvenir stand:

I left my cameras in the car in Elizabethton, but a last-minute decision to skip going to a local BBQ stand after a long day at touristy Gatlinburg paid off big time as the local church was serving up this:

The price? Free. Just something they do on the last home game of the season. Talk about luck...

The last of the Appy-League stops was Kingsport, where this seat cost me $2 as they were giving away free admission to all comers (the $2 is the charge for the premium seats, a.k.a. the ones with a back):
Like the headline says, these are the days to be a baseball fan. Even if Potomac hadn't won it all again, it still would have been a great summer. In fact, this six-day adventure (the next night was in Salem with Potomac taking on the Red Sox) was a little bit of a break from the ordinary as it was purely for fun. I had no rooting interest in either team, thus no need to stress about the outcome. It was just a chance to sit back, watch some baseball, and keep a scorecard.