Minor League tour: Part VI

Jonathan and Izzy Salant filed this report from their sixth stop ontheir nine-day tour of upstate New York Minor League ballparks, NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton.

Ever since  Prince George’s Stadium opened in Bowie, Maryland, we have been frequent visitors to the Bowie Baysox home games. We go to several games a year, and even have a ticket package that admits us to a night with a free barbecue, on-field batting practice and a catch on the field. There are wonderful diversions for the kids, including a carousel and moon bounce, and the staff goes out of its way to find new ways to attract families.

Until the Washington Nationals camer into being, Bowie was also the site of my annual Mets fix; we have never missed a Baysox-Binghamton Mets series. Now, we see both the B-Mets and the major league Mets when they come to town; last year, it was even over the same weekend, so we saw Binghamton-Bowie on Friday and New York-Washington on Saturday. In recent years, we were introduced to players like David Wright, Lastings Milledge, and Henry Owens, who I am still sorry the Mets traded.

The only time we don’t root for the Baysox is when they play the B-Mets.

Yesterday, for the first time, we could root for the B-Mets against the Baysox surrounded by other Mets fans. This would be our first look at first baseman Mike Carp, who was so impressive during spring training. We saw outfielder Jamar Hill go 4-for-4 with a home run. I credit the schedule-makers who put both the Aberdeen Ironbirds and the Baysox as close as possible to Cooperstown on the weekend that Cal Ripken Jr. of the parent Baltimore Orioles was inducted into the Hall of Fame. (Izzy met Cal earlier this year, posed for a picture with him, and got an autograph, when the hall of famer
— as of today — spoke at the National Press Club.)

Izzy got both mascots — Buddy the Bee and Ballwinkle — to sign his glove, and got a stuffed Buddy for his collection.  One of the Baysox threw Izzy a ball and we spent one inning on the B-Mets’ version of a moon bounce, a giant inflatable Ballwinkle.

And we got to watch a game in beautiful NYSEG Stadium (corporate sponsor: New York State Electric and Gas, the local utility) with a year-old video scoreboard that provided terrific graphics, frequent replays and pitch speed. We had arrived late to find all of the parking lots filled, but few people in the stands. It looked like there were more cars than people; the reported attendance was under 3,000 fans but it looked a lot emptier, which is a shame because you’d think they could pack a beautiful stadium on a warm, sunny evening with a fireworks display after the game.

There was a comedian at the game, Myron Noodleman, who appears to be the successor to Max Patkin, the late crown prince of baseball. I mention Myron because he did one of the funniest bits I have ever seen at a ballgame. He led the grounds crew’s dragging of the infield to the Bee Gees’ song, "Stayin’ Alive.” At a couple of points, Myron and the crew dropped their equipment and engaged in disco poses. Then they picked up their rakes and continued around the infield dirt.

Anyway, we entered the ninth inning with the Mets up, 7-1. They left the bases loaded in the last of the eighth, but it seemed unimportant at the time. The home team had won the first five games we had seen.

The good news for all of those empty seats is they missed a monumental collapse. The first five Baysox batters reached base. Then closer Carlos Muniz came in to pitch. Luis Jimenez hit his first pitch for a double, Brandon Sing followed with another double, and the game was tied. Ryan Hubele, trying to sacrifice, bunted the ball toward third base. Vince Harrison fielded it, threw it past Carp at first, and Sing scored the go-ahead run. By the time the inning was over, shortstop Ryan Coultas contributed another error, Muniz threw a wild pitch, 16 Baysox came to the plate and 10 scored. Baysox reliever Jim Miller struck out the side in the last of the ninth. Final score: Bowie 11, Binghamton 7.

At least the fireworks were good. In fact, it was the best show at a minor league ballpark I have ever seen. There were some Star Wars characters at the park, raising money for charity by offering a chance to pose for a photo with them, so the fireworks were set to the music from Star Wars, the movie version as well as the disco version by Meco.

Today we’re heading to Troy and the Tri-City Valley Cats. The last time I saw a ball game in the Albany area, it was at Heritage Park for the AA Albany-Colonie Yankees. Now, it’s a short-season A team. Then we’re off to Syracuse and Auburn, where our trip will end Tuesday.

As for the B-Mets, we’ll see them again next month when they visit Bowie. It’s family campout night; after fireworks, Izzy, I, a couple of his friends and their fathers will all pitch tents in the outfield and spend the night.

Izzy’s report: Last night’s game was the best ever, until the last inning. I got a ball, I got a stuffed Buddy the Bee, and I got to be on the scoreboard with my friend Elan during Muscle Cam, where you show your muscles. The Mets were doing so well and then Bowie scored 10 runs in an inning and won. I wasn’t that upset because I really like Bowie also, because that’s close to where I live. That’s my report.

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