Tag Archives: State College Spikes

A Glorious Evening for Baseball

This afternoon I went to a farewell lunch/dinner for some friends at Faccia Luna. As I walked back to the lab I decided to wrap up my work for the day and stop by Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to see a baseball game in the evening.

I got to the ballpark early, like I normally do. It was evident this was not a normal night. The line at the ticket window was long. It took 35 minutes to get a ticket, and  I had very few options (I got the very last Field Box ticket available). I asked one of the ballpark staff why it was so busy. He told me he really did not know. It was a fireworks night, but there are many of those, so that doesn’t account for the big turnout. After some reflection I decided that it must have been caused by the great weather, the fireworks, and the youth tennis and baseball tournaments being played in University Park and State College this weekend.

So I walked into the park right as the game was getting underway. Within minutes the visiting Williamsport Crosscutters took the lead. The Cutters are an affiliate of the Phillies, so on this night I was not rooting for the home team.

I noticed right away that the Cutters were wearing high socks as a team. This means the Phillies are developing high socked players at the A and AA levels. I love it. I only wish the current Phillies starters had had this upbringing.

The Cutters' starter, Craig Fritsch.

In the bottom of the first inning I remarked to the person sitting beside me that the ballpark was fuller than I had ever seen it before. He responded with: “Oh, I’ve seen it fuller.” That was a conversation killer. Later that night the official attendance was given (5,807). It set the record for highest attendance in the history of Medlar Field (I didn’t even look at the guy sitting next to me, it was difficult to keep from smiling).

The game featured seven stolen bases, five of them by the Cutters. Both catchers seemed to have a rough night behind the plate. The Cutters catcher, Cameron Rupp, had a great night at the plate. He went 4 for 5 with a HR, 2B, 2 runs scored, and 2 RBIs. Behind the plate he had two passed balls, and numerous pitches that he failed to handle cleanly. The Cutters’ pitchers seemed a bit wild, however, there is a chance he was getting crossed up.

Cameron Rupp behind the plate.

I happened to be seated near a few vocal fans that did not understand the game, including one who thought he did. It was sad. He spoke loud enough for people in the entire section to hear him as he predicted pitches, chastised fielders, gave baserunning advice, and tried to use every bit of baseball slang known to man (It reminded me of parents trying to connect with teenagers by using slang terms they feel are current. There was a certain awkwardness in the phrasing and delivery.) And he managed to be wrong with astounding consistency. In my head I had a steady stream of Firejoemorgan.com style critique running.

One interesting note on the night. A kid about 13 years old sitting a few seats away from me got a pizza during a between innings promotion, then when the inning started he caught a foul ball. When he caught the ball his dad promptly turned to the people around him and said: “Anyone know of a local racetrack or casino?” It was priceless.

On the field the Cutters held the lead from inning 1 through 9. Late in the game the Spikes put together a couple of rallies, but the Cutters prevailed 7-6. As the post game fireworks lit up the sky I biked home.

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The 2009 NY-Penn League All-Star Game

When I saw the NY-Penn League All-Star Game was going to be in State College this year I thought it sounded like an event I wanted to be at. I made a mental note of the date.

Today I finally finished the first round of root plating (hurray!) around 6:00pm. With the initial plating finished I decided to head to the ballpark. I bought a bleacher ticket for $10, making it the first time I sat in the bleachers at Medlar Field.

Things had a festive feel at the park. The grounds crew had painted stars behind home plate, and before the game they used the star template to create stars with light-colored soil at each base.

A star is born.

A star is born.

Behind the centerfield fence a crew set up fireworks for the postgame show.

We all know coool guys don't look at explosions.

We all know cool guys don't look at explosions.

There were six umpires working the game (home, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, right, and left). I’ve never seen a game in person that had six umpires on the field. It made for a big meeting at home plate before the game.

The umpire posse at home.

The umpire posse at home.

This was hyped as the first “green” All-Star Game in the league’s history. Supposedly care was taken to be as environmentally conscious as possible. Well, one thing about the night seemed off to me. The tickets were oversized and had foil printing (they were very cool). As fans entered the stadium they were handed a program and a plastic bag containing a plastic ticket holder on a green necklace. If you put the ticket in the holder it made it look like a press pass. So every fan was given a nonessential (very temporary) plastic item that was wrapped in plastic. Hmmmmm. I found it interesting to see which people wore the tickets around their necks (I did not).

These guys rocked the ticket bling.

These guys rocked the ticket bling.

You can spot the green necklaces in this shot from across the park.

Survey the crowd for a necklace survey.

Survey the crowd for a necklace survey.

The teams were determined by MLB affiliation, with the NL and AL facing off. The first two players in the NL line up were from Williamsport, maybe Phillies of the future. Both of them reached base, I took the following picture while Jeremy Barnes was at the plate. Note the green bat. Also note the stellar handiwork of the grounds crew.

Jeremy Barnes works a walk.

Jeremy Barnes works a walk.

There was a mascot named Reggy working all night. Ike the Spike was there, and the Nookie Monster was in his Nook. Reggy tried to take the best acts of the San Diego Chicken and the Phillie Phanatic and use them himself. But he was at a short season Single A game for a reason. He was working on the field, during the game. During the game!

A travesty.

A travesty.

And it got worse. Reggy stuck his head directly against the posterior of the firstbase coach, then insinuated that he encountered methane. He fell over backwards as if unconscious, and he remained that way for several pitches. Of course this went over well with the crowd. But there is a problem. A large purple mascot is laying on the field of play. I was hoping for a foul line drive. Sadly it did not happen.

A travesty squared. Someone assault the mascot. Please.

A travesty squared. Someone assault the mascot. Please.

At times raindrops fell, but the game was not interrupted. It was a well-played game considering the level. The AL squad ended up winning by a 4-2 score.

One last note. The most recent Spikes game I attended two guys sitting in my row were contestants in the giant hamsterball race. I didn’t think much of it. But then tonight two guys sitting right in front of me were the hamsters. It would seem that I may be inadvertently turning people into hamsters. I’m just saying, if you find yourself in a giant hamsterball the next time you see me don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My bleacher neighbors.

My bleacher neighbor: Part I.

My bleacher neighbors.

My bleacher neighbor: Part II.

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Beginning August With Baseball

This afternoon I was on campus to check on my firs. I was hoping my ethanol and PCNB would be in the mailroom, which would allow me to start preparing plates for next week. The ethanol showed up, the PCNB did not. My hands are tied until I get it, for it is an important ingredient in the recipe of the first plate agar I need to use. Since I couldn’t prepare plates I decided to do some cleaning in the lab.

One of the advantages of being temporarily delayed was that i could head over to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to catch the Spikes game. The Spikes are having the best season in their (albeit short) history. Coming into the game tonight they had a 20-20 record.

Before getting a ticket I biked behind the ball park with a particular goal in mind. I wanted to see the Nook up close from the other side of the fence. In the picture below the Nook is the white box located at the bottom of the US flag pole.

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A view of the Nook from behind Lubrano Park.

I was surprised how close to the Nook I could get. I thought it might be shielded from view or have a large perimeter. The Nook shack has an open side, so you can see in it. There is a white folding chair and a cinder block in the shack.

The Nookie Monster's digs

The Nookie Monster's digs.

Having satiated my desire to see the Nook up close I obtained a ticket and entered the ballpark. I sat in section 303, which is above the visitor’s bullpen.

The Spikes played the Auburn Doubledays. Before the game the Doubledays went through pregame warm-ups directly in front of me. They were the happiest baseball team I have ever seen. Little games and competitions were constantly going on, including a good old fashioned game of pepper.

Bradley Glenn playing pepper before the game.

Bradley Glenn playing pepper before the game.

The Spikes were wearing special uniforms for the game. It was a soccer themed night, so the uniforms were designed accordingly. I was not a fan.

The Spikes soccer themed uniforms.

The Spikes soccer themed uniform.

In the bottom of the first inning the Spikes had a man on and no one out. A ball was chopped to third. The Doubledays third baseman decided to throw to second in an attempt to get the lead runner. It was a very close play, but a picture I took makes the call evident.

Brock Holt beats the throw to second.

Brock Holt beats the throw to second.

Justin Byler was the next hitter, and he launched a long home run to left. The Spikes had a three run lead before a batter was retired. The Nookie Monster danced (it was to be his first dance of many).

The Nookie Monster emerges from the Nook.

The Nookie Monster emerges from the Nook.

Dance, Nookie, dance!

Dance, Nookie, dance!

During the game a few fans sitting to my right were cheering and chanting for Willy Mendez, a relief pitcher for the Doubledays. They hung letters on the fence forming his name and cheered his every move in the bullpen. Willy seemed to appreciate this. The entire Doubledays bullpen was friendly. They talked to members of the crowd, tossed baseballs to fans, and one pitcher gave a kid a hotdog from the official bullpen food stash.

To the delight of the Willy Mendez fans, he got the call to pitch in the 5th inning. He closed the 5th and recorded two outs in 6th, but was charged with two earned runs.

At first I thought Willy was being mocked by the fans. But then I got the backstory. This group of fans attends many Spikes games. They sit above the visitor’s bullpen and normally spend the game heckling the relief pitchers. Earlier this season they had some humorous good-natured interactions with Willy. His response impressed them so much that they became his biggest fans. How big of fans? Well, his birthday is in August, so during the game they gave him a birthday card.

It was a spectacular evening for a game. After the sun set the moon was very visible above the field.

While the moon appears as a dot in this picture, it was very impressive in person.

While the moon appears as a dot in this picture, it was very impressive in person.

The Spikes scored runs in five different innings while cruising to an 8-5 win. After the game a few fireworks were shot off to celebrate the victory. Things did not go as planned. One of them almost hit the scoreboard and three detonated while still on the ground.

I saw two things that I do not believe I have ever witnessed in person before:
1. In the 1st the Doubledays had a fielder’s choice that did not result in an out or an error.
2. Three consecutive Doubledays batters hit doubles in the 6th.

It was a good night.

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Baseball Doubleheader: Game 1

A few days ago I noticed that the State College Spikes were playing an afternoon game today. I decided to begin working ahead to set my schedule up so I could attend the game. Then last night I saw that Reading was playing at Altoona in the evening and Kyle Drabek was starting. I decided that a baseball doubleheader was in order.

The Spikes played the Lowell Spinners at noon. I arrived shortly before the game and bought a ticket, or maybe I should say procured a ticket. Thanks to the PSU SPA summer Spikes ticket promotion I paid exactly $0.00 for my ticket.

Since this was the only weekday afternoon game for the Spikes this season a considerable number of kids from schools, daycares, and camps were in attendance. It made me sad to see how few of the kids watched the game. They were running around on the concourse, trying to bribe relief pitchers to throw them a ball, or playing games (playing games at a baseball game, how sad).

The Spikes played well the previous game I attended this season, but today they reverted back to the team I am familiar with. Erratic pitching, defensive errors, bad baserunning, weak hitting . . . Fear the Deer.

One thing that frustrates me is poor fundamentals in catching the ball. This applies to all levels of play. When an outfielder is tracking a routine fly ball he should line the ball up, catch it with his throwing hand directly by his glove, and assure his momentum is carrying him toward his intended target as he prepares to throw. It’s so simple. But many outfielders catch the ball to one side with their throwing hand down while standing flat footed, or even worse while drifting back. Thankfully I saw some good fundamentals on display, though they often were demonstrated by players wearing Lowell jerseys.

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Shannon Wilkerson makes a fundamentally sound catch in rightfield.

In the picture below Spikes first baseman Justin Byler prepares to catch an infield pop-up. I like this picture because three important things are happening: 1) Byler is moving to the spot where the ball will come down and will make a nice clean catch. 2) The pitcher (on the left) is running to cover first base. 3) The hitter is running the ball out. Two notes about the fans: 1) Notice the girl with her hands on her head on the right side of the picture. She must not have been paying attention. 2) The fan wearing the white shirt directly above Byler is covering his eyes, trying to recover from looking into the sun (I was able to deduce this by looking at the series of pictures I took).

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An infield pop-up supplies a few seconds of drama.

It is always nice to see the grounds crew restore the infield to its former glory. A freshly manicured field is a beautiful thing.

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The grounds crew removes cleat marks from the infield.

The Spikes hit into four double plays this afternoon. They did not turn any double plays of their own, though numerous perfect double play balls were hit with two outs. The picture below is one of those plays, with an easy force out being recorded at second.

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Summerlin catches the ball to end the inning while Vasquez looks on.

The Spinners grabbed the lead in the second inning and never relinquished it. They won the game by a 5-1 final. At the end of the game the Nookie Monster emerged from his nook and tossed a baseball into a group of kids. He nearly incited a riot.

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The Nookie Monster tosses a ball into the stands.

I then saw something I’ve never seen at a ballgame before. Immediately after the game ended someone started mowing the turf in the outfield.

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A postgame mowing in progress.

After the game I went straight to the greenhouse where my experiments are set up to monitor them, then to Tyson to get some work done. This served as the intermission between baseball games. . .

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A July Evening at the Ballpark

While walking around Arts Fest late Thursday afternoon I decided to attend a baseball game. The Spikes were playing the Batavia MuckDogs (St. Louis Cardinals affiliate). I biked to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and bought a ticket.

Before the game I read the fine print on the back of the ticket. Some of the disclaimers and policies seem quite vague. For instance, the policy on transmission of descriptions or images of the game is disturbingly broad (see photo).

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What happens in this ballpark stays in this ballpark.

Transmission can be defined as communication, or simply passing information along to someone else. If you follow this policy literally you cannot talk about the game or show any pictures you might have taken. Obviously this is not the intention, but that’s how it reads. I guess this blog post is illegal.

I enjoy watching the pregame activities at a ballpark. The grounds crew preparing the field, the managers exchanging line-ups, the players stretching, media personnel doing reports, fans finding their seats, everyone anticipating the start of the game.

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Pregame preparation at the ballpark.

The starter for the Spikes was a righthander named Victor Black. He pitched very well. His fastball hit 96 on the gun, and it looked like a legitimate 96 MPH.

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Victor Black warms up before an inning begins.

In the bottom of the first inning the Spikes plated two runs. The Batavia pitcher struggled with his command and needed a visit from the pitching coach. After the inning the pitcher, catcher, and coach talked for several minutes. My seat (one row off the field, beside the dugout) provided a direct look into the Batavia dugout, so I was able to observe this.

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Talking pitching in the dugout.

Whatever they discussed worked, because the Spikes would not score any more runs in the remainder of the game. During the game I saw several tirades in the dugout after players had poor at bats. One Gatorade cooler was assaulted, and one trashcan was soundly kicked.

In the middle of the game there was a foul ball that came to rest on the field right in front of me. The thirdbase coach picked it up and flipped it directly toward me. I could have reached up and caught it with my left hand, but I would have had to fully extend to do this. And I knew he was tossing it toward some younger fans seated right behind me. So I stayed sitting and let a girl in a row behind me catch it. That took some willpower. 

Baseball is a wonderful game. The king of all games, in fact. While some people find it slow and boring, to the true fan the game is full of action. Battles of strategy and skill are constantly being fought. If you fail to see any of this I’d be happy to teach you how to fully appreciate a baseball game, just ask me about it.

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Most people fail to realize how much is going on here.

One on the beautiful things about minor league baseball is that even the uncultured baseball fan can find entertainment. In between innings there are various promotions and competitions. Take human hamsterball bowling for instance. Two people are placed in giant hamsterballs and told to race toward large pins. The winner gets a prize.  

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Human hamsterball bowling.

At the end of the night the Spikes picked up a 2-1 victory. It was the first Spikes game I attended in which they played well.andy_vasquez_ed2

One closing note. Thirdbaseman Andy Vasquez (on the right is a thumbnail of a poster of Andy I designed last summer) had the song Ice, Ice, Baby played before his at bats. That’s awesome.

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