By NEAL FARMER
When you think of minor league baseball, a lot of times you think of the movie Bull Durham. Or at least I do. It’s a great baseball movie with a lot of insiders’ insights. But the stadium is older than Oklahoma. And there are a lot of improvements that could be made in the stadium, including re-piping, re-painting and re-doing almost everything.
In Houston, minor league baseball means the Sugar Land Skeeters. And Constellation Field, their home stadium off of Highway 6, is state-of-the-art. The team is pretty good, too, as they are the defending Atlantic League champions. And never in the history of baseball team nicknames has a name truly represented the area in which the team resides. I went to a Skeeters game on Sunday and saw a lot I liked.
Like in Bull Durham, there are constant gimmicks to get the crowd involved. There was a three-foot by three-foot tic-tac-toe game, where one boy dived to get the “X” on the playing mat before the boy with the “O” could do so, and in so doing, win the 30-second contest. They crowd laughed and applauded.
And it didn’t stop there.
Left field through center field is roped off before the game, so that kids can play catch with their parents in the outfield. For the National Anthem, three Little League baseball teams skipped and jumped to second base and on the pitchers mound – with the Sugar Land players – where they stood at attention for the song. One of the teams was actually a pee-wee team, which took three players to equal the mass of one Skeeter minor leaguer. The National Anthem was sung by a teen-age girl, who belted every note out of the park. In keeping with baseball, the Little League boys touched first base on the way to the home dugout after the National Anthem. They start ‘em young in Sugar Land.
Bud Light sponsored the first six outs of the game, calling the frame the Thirst Inning.
There was a merry-go-round just beyond the left-field power alley for the youngsters who had their attention-deficit alert go off during the game. The apparatus caused the outfield fence to jut out into the field of play, giving the park a unique feel and not look like any cookie-cutter park anywhere else. (Personal note – I loved Tal’s Hill that used to be at Minute Maid Park.) Next to the merry-go-round was a picnic area for families.
An open grassy area was build behind the right-field wall, where kids could run around and run after home-run balls. And as it is with other minor-league parks, dozens of kids started a body roll at the top of the area, where the slope allowed them to twist over and over until they reached the bottom of the incline near the fence. That was heaven for me when I was growing up, and I remember twirling down inclines at stadiums in my hometown of Abilene.
The Skeeters were playing the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. The Crabs took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when South Maryland DH Mike Snyder hit a long fly to where the fence jutted out around the merry-go-round, and just cleared the fence. Yes, if the fence had been a regular, straight fence, I think that the ball would have been caught at the wall for a long out. But I still appreciate the way the fence was built.
Sugar Land’s leadoff hitter, Anthony Giansanti, hit the second pitch he saw in the first inning into left field and continued a 26-game hitting streak. He broke the previous club record of 20 games in a row last week.
Sugar Land tied the game in the fifth inning, but I don’t know how. The fifth inning is when free Blue Bell ice cream is served to those of us in the suites, and several frozen, milk-swollen strawberries were calling my name.
The Crabs’ Luis Allen in the top of the ninth inning was able to coax a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 pitch from Sugar Land pitcher Julio DePaula for the go-ahead run, and the Blue Crabs defeated the Skeeters, 2-1.
I don’t know when I had a better time at a pro baseball game. I felt like I was in heaven – or at least Iowa. There was no cursing. There were no drunks. There were kids at every turn, many of which I had to dodge when they took unexpected runs to the other side of the walkways. I took my 18-year-old son, and he had a good time, which says a lot since he is more into Instagram and other electronic items than baseball.
If you have a chance, go see a Skeeters game. They are a championship team, both in their play and in the way they run their ship. They have dollar hotdog Monday nights. But I hope I get invited back to a suite with Blue Bell ice cream privileges in the 5th.
WONDERING ABOUT WONDER WOMAN – I think it was a shame that it took approximately 75 years to make a film about Wonder Woman. The idea of Amazon women has been around for a long time, and I don’t understand why a movie wasn’t made until now. The previous TV series was good, but can’t compare to the special effects that are done today.
Yes, there is an interesting dichotomy for modern men – certainly with me –about wanting to empower women and their leadership qualities, and also enjoying their physical attributes.
Then I saw an article in the Washington Post that says there is a stir because the woman who played Wonder Woman is Jewish. Theaters in Lebanon banned the movie because the star of the picture, Gal Gadot, served in the Israeli army for two years. All Israeli youth serve in their country’s army. She joked to an Israeli news source that filming near the end of the project when she was five-months pregnant with her and her husband’s first child was harder than serving in the army.
Gadot, whose grandfather survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, was born in Israel and was named Miss Israel at age 18. Some Israeli media are saying she is the first woman of color to play Wonder Woman, because she is from the Middle East.
Most agree that this is a great movie, and that Gal Gadot played an excellent Wonder Woman. Yes, you can still talk about her looks, and I think that is OK. However, talking about her religion and using that to decide if a movie is good is inappropriate. Just judge a movie on its story-line, acting, special effects and other things that you would do for any other movie, and leave out the other baggage.
ASTROS RECORD – Despite losing on Sunday to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Houston set a club record with a home run in 19-straight games. George Springer had a homer on Sunday with a 2-run shot in the third to give him 17 for the year. If you remember, earlier in this space I requested 40 Springer Dingers this year. It appears that he is on pace for more than that, so perhaps I will have to set the bar higher. Because of course George listens to me.
10 MOST IMPORTANT BASEBALL PLAYERS EVER — Here is a blogger who attempts to name the top 10 baseball players ever. I think that facts/stats could dictate others to be on such lists. But he does make Babe Ruth No. 1, so there is that.
PLAY LIKE AN EGYPTIAN – The heads of state are used to listening to their national anthems during formal ceremonies when they visit other countries. However, the Egyptian national band leaves more than a few heads cocked. Especially Russia’s Putin.
MUSICAL NOTES OF THE DAY – Ahhh, Chopin. Frederic Chopin (pronounced SHOW-PAN) was a child prodigy who loved to play the piano. And his compositions have been well-received for almost 170 years. Try listening to Polonaise No. 6 in A flat. This is a piece that could get you into listening to piano solos, and yes, saying, “Ahhh, Chopin.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY — “A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.”
― Mae West
HOTTIE OF THE DAY
Wonder Woman wannabes.