Welcome to Happy Valley

So now I know why they call it Happy Valley.

Our trip to State College last week could not have been more fun. Hopefully you will check out the Around the Minors video from the big event.

For one thing, the cuteness factor at the ballpark was overwhelming, and not just because Jonathan and I were in town. It was "Bark in the Park" night, and along with a few thousand enthusiastic fans (two in particular, which I will get to in a bit), there were also more than 200 puppies and dogs there for the game (and even more remarkably, I only saw one pile of … well, you know).

At least one dog was even celebrating his/her birthday. At least, I hope he/she was, since when they listed birthday greetings on the scoreboard, there was one for Sputnik. And while I know unusual monikers are in on the celebrity front (Apple, Suri, Moxie Crimefighter), I REALLY hope this was someone’s dog.

SpikesThe State College Spikes, in their first year of New York-Penn League play (they moved from New Jersey this season), definitely are big on the between-inning promotions. And while I often find that personally to be a little distracting and sometimes grating, even annoying, they were creative enough that it was more amusing than anything.

I think my favorite contest was "What Did Bob Really Sing?" where they played a snippet of a Bob Dylan song and the fan had to actually figure out what the lyrics were.

For a midweek August night, I was really impressed by how much the crowd "got into" the whole game, from start to finish. Maybe part of it is because it’s a new team, and maybe part of it is because there is such a tradition of sports fanaticism among the Penn State fans that it’s easy for them to carry it over into Minor League baseball.

Standing at the rail a few rows behind where I sat for the game were two particularly vocal fans who managed to straddle that very fine line by being raucous and rowdy for nine (OK, eight and a half) innings without ever being obnoxious about it.

Mike and TJ are spring 2006 graduates of Penn State who have stayed in town, sharing an apartment, working at the local Ruby Tuesdays and going to as many Spikes games as they can with their work schedule.

They’ve created several individualized cheers for their new home team, and are understandably really proud of their team and their beautiful stadium (easily a gold standard for short-season ball).

On opening night they even tailgated in the parking lot for two hours before the gates opened.

The highlight of the night for me, needless to say, was watching my colleague and co-host Jonathan Mayo co-managing the Spikes to a come-from-behind 4-3 win against the Williamsport Crosscutters.

I don’t want to give too much away, preventing you from feeling the need to go to our multimedia link and watching the video (check out MiLB.com at around noon ET on Wednesday), but suffice to say that highlights included his shaving his goatee to stay in line with the organization rule against facial hair other than a mustache, getting a nice faceful of shaving cream at a time OTHER than while he was shaving and his much-anticipated trip to the mound to tell jokes to starter Matt Lane.

Now go watch it. Seriously. It’s totally worth it.

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