I’d been looking forward to the 2017 New York Penn League (NYPL) All Star Game (ASG) since it was announced a year earlier. It was being played at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy, NY, just outside of Albany and home of the Tri-City Valley Cats, about 2:10 from where we live. I even made sure to schedule our vacation so as not to interfere with it.
We’ve been to three-of-the-last four NYPL ASGs, and scored at least one ASG ball at each. I was hoping to make it four-out-of-five.
I was all but certain that an ASG ball would be used because they were used the last four years. Still, I decided to tweet the Tri-City Valley Cats over the weekend to make sure. They never responded. I didn’t bother to tweet the NYPL because their Twitter account is horribly out of date.
I didn’t think much of not getting a response, partly because we had just gotten back from vacation and I had many other things going on, and partly because I just assumed they would use an ASG ball, and Troy isn’t that far away, relatively speaking.
At this point, you know where this is going. They didn’t use an ASG ball this year. I got the first foul ball to fly out of the stadium in the bottom of the 5th inning, and sadly, it was a regular NYPL ball.
If there was any doubt, I got another later on and it was the same. I gave both balls away to kids.
So, why didn’t they have an ASG ball? I ran into this a few years ago in New Britain, when the then Rock Cats (now, Yard Goats) hosted the Eastern League ASG, and didn’t have an ASG ball. I was told that the decision of whether or not to have an ASG ball is made by the host team. I assume it was the same story here, that it was Tri-City’s decision. I imagine it costs a few bucks to get however many ASG balls are needed. But 1) if college summer baseball leagues like the Cape Cod League and FCBL can afford such balls, why can’t a MiLB team do the same, and 2) you should be able to find a sponsor to defray or even cover the cost of the balls, especially when you can sell some of them in your souvenir shop (the Brooklyn Cyclones sold all theirs out two years ago).
But I am not letting the NYPL off the hook because having an ASG ball, when most if not all MiLB leagues that host ASGs that I am aware of have one, shouldn’t be a decision left up to the team. If a team can’t — or won’t — afford a few dozen ASG balls, they shouldn’t host the ASG. Heck, Triple A even had a Home Run Derby ball and a National Championship ball. It makes the NYPL look incredibly cheap.
I did get a “towel-toss,” for what that’s worth.
Given the ball situation, I watched most of the rest of the game from inside the stadium.
Despite the sketchy weather to start, it turned out to be a decent night for baseball, and the game drew just over 5,000, filling most of the stadium, although a fair number left before the end of the game.
Managers don’t always bother with lineup cards at ASGs like this, so I didn’t have much expectation-wise in that regard. I did not spot anything that looked like a lineup card in the North team’s dugout, but I was all but positive South manager Joe Kruzel had one posted in his dugout, directly behind where #17 is standing in the picture above.
I positioned myself close to the South dugout at the end of the game, and asked Kruzel for his lineup card, which he kindly game it to me.
The card is both bland and yet unique all-in-one. There’s no mention of “NYPL ASG”, a date, stadium, etc. However, the watermark on the left side of the card is from the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League. The connection is that Kruzel managed there the last three years.
Getting the lineup card took away some of the sting of there not being a NYPL ASG ball.
And I learned a valuable lesson that before I head out for a 2-plus-hour drive thinking that I have a chance to snag a special ball, I need to make sure that there is a special ball being used!
2017: 23 lineup cards (14 dugout/bullpen; 9 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 145 lineup cards (101 dugout/bullpen; 41 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)