Monday, July 27, 2015


Friday evening, the El family ventured forth from the Fortress of Ineptitude to go take in a baseball game. The local community over which I have dominion (Shh! It's a secret) is fortunate enough to have a minor league team, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, which is likewise fortunate enough to play in a really nice stadium downtown. 

About 10 years ago, our local team played out of a facility known as War Memorial Stadium which was named to honor the new returned veterans of World War I. No, that's not a typo. By the time American got involved in World War II, that stadium was already 2 decades old. Just before the new stadium was built, even the veterans of Vietnam were having trouble navigating the aging stone steps of War Memorial. This was a badly aging facility; chunks of masonry were literally falling off of it.

And have mercy on anyone who wanted a hot dog. I would miss an entire inning of a game just to get something to eat. 

So naturally there was resistance to the team getting a new stadium. "Dagnabbit! War Memorial is perfectly fine! It just needs some spackle and a coat of fresh paint!" And the idea of putting a new stadium downtown? Man, that'll never work! 

To be fair, the history of cities getting stadiums for professional sports teams has produced mixed results at best. Lot of private organizations have received public funds to build sport complexes with the promise of bring economic benefits to the surrounding city. But the record of such economic windfalls has not been encouraging. In most cases, the biggest beneficiary of such deals has been the private organizations who weren't exactly poor to begin with. 

In the case of our local minor league baseball team, however, there have indeed been positive economic results from their stadium development in downtown. Even with the hit of the 2008-2009 economic crisis, downtown has seen more growth than decline since the Greensboro Grasshoppers moved in downtown.  

The funny thing is the team itself is not always that great. I think the 'Hoppers made the play offs once or twice over the last decade. But that hasn't stopped the team from meeting and beating attendance goals over those 10+ years. Friday night, the El family was part of 7,700 people in attendance.  (By the way, if 7,700 people had shown up to see a baseball game at War Memorial, at least half would've had to turn around and find something else to do.)  

The big draw on Friday and Saturday nights are the post game fireworks. The 'Hoppers put on an amazing show. It's short, maybe about 5 minutes but it's spectacular. There is an odd effect of expecting the fireworks show for these games. If the 'Hoppers are down going into the bottom of the ninth inning, you may find yourself actually rooting against the home team because if all they can do is get the score tied up, that means having to wait longer for the fireworks.  

Friday night, the Grasshoppers were in a final night of a home stand against the Kannapolis Intimidators; this team is named after the nickname of the late great NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt. (In case you forgot I'm in the southern United States.) Thursday night, the Intimidators and the Grasshoppers battled it out for 15 innings only to have Kannapolis pull out the win. I wasn't at that game but I should point out that the Greensboro Grasshoppers event for that day of the week is "Thirsty Thursday" which means really low prices on beverages including beer and wine. Which means a lot of people were too sloshed out of their minds to care that the game went to 15 innings. 

But Friday is a fireworks night and this game better be damn well over by the end of the ninth. Better yet, over by the bottom of the ninth if the 'Hoppers are on top. 

Things did not start off very good as the Intimidators put two runs on the board but the Grasshoppers answered back with four. So Greensboro was up by two. Then Kannapolis bounced back with two more and the score was tied, 4-4. 

At this point, I would like to point out that the El family includes a teenage daughter who is barely tolerating this family excursion. She doesn't understand baseball and the Wi-Fi sucks. I'm not taking this personally because anyone with a teenager in their family knows that the engagement of said teenager in a family excursion is a hit or miss affair.

Still, it could be worse: I could be the dad of the 5 year old behind me who began asking when the fireworks were going to start as of the 1st inning. When it was still daylight out.

Nonetheless, win or lose for the home team, I did not want this game to go one more inning than it had to.  

To be fair, even without a child in tow, I would feel the same way. Baseball is one of those things in life that I enjoy in very limited doses; it's something for which I don't want more than my money's worth. 

Part of the minor league baseball experience is the stuff that goes on between innings. With the Grasshoppers, spectators witness people dressed as hamburgers attempting to assemble themselves and as packages of sausages (regular, sage and extra spicy) racing around the bases. We also get others dressed in padded Sumo suits. Just before the start of the game, a local dairy and game sponsor brought out a cow to be milked for our entertainment. Talk about udder ridiculousness!

Rim shot! 

But Friday, the game itself was actually quite interesting. The 'Hoppers broke the tie with a 7 to 4 advantage over the Intimidators. And this was the status quo at the end of the 8th and I told my daughter, "As long as nobody screws up, we've got fireworks after this one more half-inning." 

So you know what happens next, right?

Kannapolis gets 2 players over home plate before getting a single out. The score is 7 to 6. Greensboro is still up but Kannapolis still has 3 outs to get out of the hole they're in and they still have a player on base. This does not look good.

At this point, the 'Hoppers make a pitching change which, in the end, pays off but only after three very suspenseful at-bats. Yeah, I wanted to get to the fireworks but I really wanted the Grasshoppers to pull this out.  

And the fireworks were amazing! Which they're always good but they seem even better when the 'Hoppers win. 

Before I go, here's a misguided effort at a selfie from the game. 

If you see these three people, do not approach
but contact your local authorities.

I'll be back for another post tomorrow. Until then, be good to one another. 

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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