Monday, May 20, 2013

Down on the Farm

The excitement this weekend wasn’t just limited to 755 Hank Aaron Drive (Good name for a blog, BTW). Saturday night with Gwinnett Braves staged a comeback of their own, before falling to the Louisville Bats by a 6-5 score. Over 8,000 tickets were sold, though it appeared the threatening skies kept many fans at home. Maybe they heard Corky Miller was playing.

My youngest and I got an early start, and picked up Lang’s dad ahead of schedule. Traffic on 85 North slowed, but we still made it to Coolray Field thirty minutes before gates opened. Good thing: the lot was already over halfway full…mostly with Little League teams scampering around. There was a long line down at the main gate, fans waiting to get their hands on the coveted Freddie Freeman bobblehead doll. Fortunately there were just a handful of fans lined up at the nearby outfield gate, so we made our way over there.

Once inside we grabbed a table at Niekro’s, the sit-down restaurant/bar. The burger looked OK and the nachos looked hideous. My BBQ special was good, with cole slaw on top and cornbread on bottom. TV’s showed the Braves pregame, a live stadium feed, and other news. Made the hour until game time pass quickly.

Our seats were on the first base side of home plate, near the Bats’ dugout. One of the Bats looked familiar: chubby, with a long goatee. Former big-leaguer, now coaching? Checked my roster. Thirty-seven year old Corky Miller, who had recently faced the Braves on their swing through Cincinnati. I have his bobblehead. Corky had a typical game: 0-5 with two strikeouts and three groundouts. Playing first base, he performed his best Kent Hrbek imitation…slapping hard tags on baserunners’ hands and legs.

Louisville’s skinny leadoff hitter was at ease in the on-deck circle, initiating a fist-bump with his manager, former Nationals skipper Jim Riggleman. His name sounded familiar: Billy Hamilton. I looked him up…last year Hamilton’s 155 stolen bases broke Vince Coleman’s record (set playing in Macon). Hamilton set the record playing for Pensacola, meaning I could’ve gone to see him while vacationing last summer in Destin. He had be better game than Corky, reaching base four out five times, with two hits, a walk, stolen base, and two runs scored. Gwinnett did pick him off first one time. Hamilton also made a couple of nice, gliding catches in centerfield.

The game was delayed by a talkative, tiny Little Leaguer who chatted up the umpires during the meeting at home plate. The kid wasn’t satisfied with a wave from Riggleman, insisting instead for the same handshake he’d received from the three umpires and Braves manager Randy Ready. Then three Little Leaguers followed each G-Brave out onto the field for the national anthem. This took some time. Several dropped their baseball, and a couple even fell down. The anthem singer wasn’t ready to be called up to Turner Field, and she won’t be appearing on The Voice any time soon. Interestingly, the G-Braves formed a home plate to outfield line for the anthem. The first and third basemen stood with the pitcher behind the mound. The second-baseman and shortstop stood at second base, and the three outfielders stood together in centerfield.

Louisville scored two in the third, then Gwinnett tied it in the fourth. The Bats hit a sole home run in the fifth and tacked on three more in the seventh. The first five hitters in the Bats’ batting order collected twelve hits and scored all six runs.

The Braves scored two in the eighth, making it a two run game. Leadoff hitter Jose Constanza went 2-4 with a walk. Pastornicky hit the ball to right field four times. Terdoslavich has put together a fine year. He doubled and hit a deep sacrifice fly. Centerfielder Brandon Boggs collected a single, double, triple, walk, three RBI’s, and one run scored.

Braves’ first-baseman Ernesto Mejia looks like a right-handed Chris Chambliss, without the glove. Mejia’s range is quite limited. The Braves wouldn’t have given up six runs had Freddie Freeman been playing first. At the plate Ernesto went 0-4 with two strikeouts. Rob is right: Mejia probably won’t be a great big leaguer. Better to use him as trade bait.

Late in the game a cameraman appeared in front of us and focused on the fans across the aisle, just as the loudspeaker began to play the Village People’s YMCA. My mind raced to the commercial where the chubby insurance agent and his chubby client carry on their conversation while performing an elaborate dance in the seats of a sporting event. Sure enough, the camera soon switched to us. I did my best to make a fool of myself, and the fans responded favorably. I figured there weren’t many chances in life to do that, so I went for it. Wish I had smiled more, but I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing (I didn’t). Kept waiting for the “Y-M-C-A” refrain, to start, but they played two verses back to back. Sunday I watched the Wayne’s World YMCA scene on YouTube to see what I missed. Thought the camera added ten pounds to my frame. Having my shirt untucked didn’t help. Now that I think about it, after YMCA I should’ve gone over and found the usher where I sat at the last G-Braves game. She had gotten onto me for not dancing.

Down two in the bottom of the ninth, the G-Braves made it interesting. Joe Leonard and Constanza led off the inning with singles. Pastornicky struck out, but a balk advanced the runners to second and third. Terdoslavich sent a fly to deep center to bring in Leonard. Hamilton correctly threw to third, keeping the tying run at second with two out. Down 0-2, Mejia battled and worked the count full. As Constanza broke for third on the payoff pitch, Mejia grounded to short. Constanza rounded third and headed home, but the shortstop made the routine play…ending the game.

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