It’s rare, but sometimes, everything works in your favor.
First, schedules set up for us to potentially catch a AA Eastern League Yard Goats at Fisher Cats afternoon game on a Tuesday, travel one-hour south to see the Orioles play the Red Sox at Fenway that evening, stay in a hotel and then see a 12 noon Scranton/Wilkes Barre at Pawtucket Red Sox AAA International League Wednesday matinee game.
But we needed the weather to work out, and right up until game time Tuesday afternoon, it didn’t look good. The forecast called for off-and-on rain through Tuesday afternoon, and it rained almost the entire 2-hour drive to Manchester, NH. I wondered almost all of the drive up why we were bothering.
But the baseball gods were with us. A few minutes before we got to the Fisher Cat stadium, the rain stopped. We pulled into the parking lot as the game was supposed to be starting. The start ended up being delayed for about half-an-hour due to the rain, but it never rained again that day.
This game was supposed to have been a Yard Goats’ home game, but due to delays in building Hartford’s new stadium, the game was moved to New Hampshire. Between the fact that that the game was not part of the Fisher Cat season ticket package and that it was being played on a weekday afternoon with a poor weather forecast, the stadium was almost empty. The box score listed an attendance of 1,003, but I counted about 35.
There were three other kids at the game, I am pretty sure all sons of the Yard Goats’ radio announcer. Sean and those boys had plenty of room to ballhawk, and all came away with plenty of balls. Sean ended up with 14 altogether, including 11 gamers, one post-game toss-up and two balls we found outside the stadium that were in great condition except for being wet. The Fisher Cats weren’t due to play their official home opener until Thursday, but had hosted the Yard Goats the day before, so we’re pretty certain the two balls were from that game.
[Pic of Sean with 12 of the 14 balls]
After the game, a 4-0 Fisher Cat victory, I headed to the Yard Goats’ dugout, and Sean to the Fisher Cats’ dugout. I walked away with the Yard Goats’ lineup card. Getting a Yard Goat lineup card was one of our main goals this season, given the Yard Goats are essentially a new team after moving to Hartford from New Britain, and changing their name from the Rock Cats to the Yard Goats.
Sean got the Fisher Cats’ lineup card and his 14th and final ball, then joined me at the Yards Goats dugout where a bat boy gave him a broken bat from an unknown Yard Goat player.
It was then time to make the one-hour trip to Fenway. Unfortunately, due to the delayed start of the Fisher Cat game, we didn’t make it to Fenway until right after batting practice ended. We did make in time to get the David Ortiz commemorative 500 Home Run bling the Red Sox were giving away that night.
[Sean and his bling]
Ortiz fittingly hit his 506th home run, but the Orioles came from behind to beat the Red Sox, 9-5.
We’re not sure if either the Red Sox or Orioles would give away their respective dugout lineup cards, most Major League teams sell them at this point, and we could see an Orioles lineup card in their bullpen, so that was what we targeted. We spent the last couple of innings in Right Field Box Section 1, which is right next to the visitors’ bullpen. We were even able to get two seats right up against the bullpen wall. The field view isn’t great, but it’s cool to have a front row view of the goings-on in the bullpen.
Additionally, we knew that the Orioles’ bullpen lineup card was in the wall right next to where we were seated.
In the bottom of the ninth, a middle-aged woman and a few kids came into the seats right near us. She and the kids were pretty aggressively asking for a ball while the game was going on. Apparently, it was one of the boys’ birthday. Of course, the Orioles ignored her. When the game ended, it got a little hectic with so many people asking for baseballs. We were the only ones asking for the lineup card, but were ignored by the Orioles’ bullpen coach as he made a mad dash out of the bullpen. A Red Sox security guard then took the line-up card off the wall, and started to hand it to one of the boys with the woman, despite our asking for it. I made one last-ditch request to get the card, pointing at Sean, and luckily the security person changed direction and handed it to us.
The MLB bullpen lineup cards we have gotten so far are nowhere near as nice as the MLB dugout lineup cards, and this one followed suit. Of course, the teams typically sell the nice dugout cards for $100 or more, and this one was free. Additionally, there were 30,000-something people at the game, so to walk away with ANY lineup card was a huge victory. It was also our first Orioles’ lineup card and came from a game in which Big Papi hit his 50th homerun, so it is a pretty neat souvenir. I am not an Ortiz fan, but he’s a great hitter and it would seem a safe assumption that he will end up in the Hall of Fame.
After the game, we drove down to Rhode Island where we checked into our hotel for the night.
The final stop on our whirlwind tour was the noon Railrider-Pawsox game on Wednesday. The gates were to open at 10:30am, so we got there at 10:15am hoping that there would be batting practice.
There was no BP, so we immediately headed over to the Pawsox bullpen where a couple pitchers were wrapping up a throwing session. We were the only ones there, so it was easy for Sean to score Wesley Wright’s warm-up ball a few minutes later.
With no BP, and the area around the Railrider bullpen closed off, we killed time walking around the rest of McCoy Stadium, both inside and out.
One interesting thing about McCoy stadium is the way people get autographs there. Unlike most stadiums, the field and dugouts at McCoy Stadium are set about 10 feet below the lowest stadium seating. Because you can’t easily hand a player a ball and pen for an autograph, people hang things from one of the railings down in front of the dugout. So if you want a ball, baseball card or something like that signed, people put them in kids’ sand castle-type buckets, lower them down and leave them there hopefully for players to sign. It is interesting to see.
Around 11:20, players and coaches slowly started to re-appear. Unlike lower levels of Minor League Baseball, we noticed that the Railriders, the Yankees’ AAA team, had a bullpen coach (the Pawsox did not). I recognized him and as he headed out toward the bullpen, I asked him if we could get his bullpen lineup card after the game. He said that he kept them. At least we knew not to waste time trying to get it after the game.
Sean got a warm-up ball from Red Sox shortstop prospect Marco Dawson shortly before the game began.
Being a mid-day, mid-week tilt, there weren’t many fans at the game, especially after the school groups left by the middle innings. We were able to get a couple of game balls that flew out of the stadium. It was a relatively quick game, with the Railriders blanking the Pawsox, 1-0.
We had run into a couple kids we recognized from Rock Cat games in line to get into the stadium. One in particular also goes after lineup cards. They were by the Railrider dugout, so we went to the Pawsox dugout. We were the only ones asking for the lineup card, but got ignored. It’s hard to see into the dugouts, but eventually were able to see that the Pawsox had taken their lineup card with them.
I was keeping an eye on the Railrider dugout. The boys we knew were over there along with a few other people looking for autographs. I never saw the lineup card handed out, so after we knew we weren’t getting the Pawsox card, we headed to the Railrider dugout. We went to a spot where we could see a little bit into the dugout. I took a quick look, didn’t see the lineup card, and was ready to go.
But Sean went to a different spot with a slightly better view, and said the lineup card was still there. I thought he probably saw a roster or something like that on the wall, but went back and took a better look, and sure enough, he was right!
There was no one in the Railrider dugout at this point. After 2-3 minutes, we were able to get someone to pull it down for us.
I have seen pictures online of other International League dugout lineup cards that really look nice, similar to MLB dugout lineup cards with watermarks. This one was dull by comparison, but it was our first AAA/International League lineup card, and given that I had already given up, the fact that we walked away from this game with a lineup card was fantastic!
The Railriders have some top Yankee prospects, including outfielder Aaron Judge. Henry Owens, one of Boston’s best young arms, started the game for the PawSox.
On our way out of the stadium, a worker handed Sean his 5th ball of the day along with a mini-Pawsox football.
[Leaving McCoy Stadium]
So in less than 26 hours, we saw 27 innings of baseball, got 19 baseballs, four lineup cards, a bat, a mini-football and some bling. I’m not sure that our trip could’ve worked out any better!
Lineup Card Stats
2016: 10 lineup cards (8 dugout/bullpen; 2 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 73 lineup cards (55 dugout/bullpen; 16 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
Leagues: MLB: American League; National League. MiLB: International League; Eastern League; Carolina League; New York-Penn League. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association. Colleges: NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; Cape Cod League; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL)