Minor League tour: Part V

Jonathan and Izzy Salant filed this report from their fifth stop ontheir nine-day tour of upstate New York Minor League ballparks, Damaschke Field in Oneonta.

What if they held a ballgame and nobody came? That was almost the
situation in Oneonta last night when rain before and during the game
between the Tigers and the Aberdeen Ironbirds held down the crowd to
just a handful of fans. Even the mascot was absent, and was not even
available in a stuffed version, to Izzy’s dismay.

The players and fans stood for the national anthem facing an empty
flagpole; the weather prevented the raising of the American flag. A
group of Ironbirds fans brought the Baltimore tradition of singing
“O’s” at the beginning of the last stanza, `Oh, say does that Star
Spangled Banner yet wave …”

The rain, which was on and off all day, canceled the event that was the
raison d’etre for the trip: The kids’ baseball clinic at Doubleday
Field in Cooperstown. Instead, the kids could ask questions of the
assembled ballplayers, including Steve Garvey and Jim “Mudcat” Grant,
but even that session was curtailed when wind pushed a driving rain
into even the covered stands. At least the Oneonta game wasn’t rained
out as well.

The game featured a 59-minute rain delay and some slippin’ and slidin’.
For example, Chris Carlson in the fourth inning hit a catchable line
drive to left field, only to wind up on second base with a double when
Joseph Nowicki, who had earlier made a terrific, over the shoulder,
running catch, tripped going after the ball. Not only did Carlson later
score, but he got two free sub sandwiches from local merchants for his

During the rain delay, some of the players walked over to the
concession stand for a drink. Izzy snagged an autograph from the
manager of the Ironbirds, former major league catcher Andy Etchebarren.
He was a member of the Orioles in that magical year (for Mets fans like
Izzy and me) of 1969.

After the game resumed, Oneonta scored six runs in the last of the
ninth inning to prevail, 10-9. That means in all of our five games so
far, the home team is undefeated and, except for the initial Buffalo
doubleheader, has prevailed in close games.

At Damaschke Field, two rows of field level box seats, off-limits to
all but the season ticket holders who bought them, puts the rest of the
stands and the fans that occupy them further from the field and the
dugouts than other stadiums. For a coach or player to give a ball to a
fan in the stands would require a decent throw rather than a soft toss,
and no balls were tossed to anyone. Nor was there an opportunity to
even sit near the dugout in the hope that a player would reward a young

There were no reserved seats — only general admission — and no beer, the first dry ballpark I have ever encountered.

As we pass the halfway point on our trip, one thing has struck me: The
lack of diversions for kids. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the ballparks in A
Frederick and AA Bowie, which feature merry-go-rounds, moon bounces,
and other activities.

If the rain holds off — and the forecast is for scattered showers and
thunderstorms the rest of the weekend — we’re going to see the
Binghamton Mets tonight and the Tri-City Valley Cats in Troy tomorrow
afternoon. Tonight is fireworks night, and for the first and only time
on this trip, I bought tickets in advance so we could get really good
seats. Everywhere else, we’ve just walked up to the ballpark shortly
before game time. Tomorrow, if we get to Troy early enough, we can have
a catch on the field before the game, and then kids can run the bases

Izzy’s report:
Once again, last night’s game was awesome. I didn’t
really like the part when we had a 59-minute rain delay but my favorite
part was when I got an autograph in the middle of the game. I didn’t
catch any foul balls, though. I still can’t believe the Oneonta Tigers
won 10-9 and scored six runs in the last inning. That’s the end of my

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