It’s a toasty 91 degrees here at the Pfitz (or more grandly and gracefully: Northwest Federal Field at Pfitzner Stadium) for the 63rd home game when the first pitch kicks us off just after noon local time. Starting pitcher for the Nats is Joe Ross, on rehab assignment from the big club after Tommy John surgery. The Potomac Nats in their home whites jump to an early two run lead in the bottom of the first and knock the Myrtle Beach Pelicans starting pitcher out of the game before he could record three outs.
It’s another summer camp day game so there are a bunch of kids in the stands. I came prepared this time with a music player and earplugs if needed. Last week I was run out of here before the sixth inning by the screaming kids, a bleating chorus of vuvuzelas, and the bizarre chants of tiny but vocal Sponge-Bob Square-Pants cult members.
Bottom of the second and the Pelicans relief pitcher Leal is struggling. Seven balls in a row before he got one over. Jakson Reetz (“Puttin’ on the Reetz!”) is the Honey Baked Home Run Hitter of the game and everyone in Section H (for Ham!) is rooting for him to go deep but he draws a one out walk. Edwin Lora comes up with two on… I can only hope he doesn’t strike out as usual. Well, he does anyway… and a baserunning snafu ends the inning. Way to look like High-A ballplayers, guys.
To be fair, the P-Nats have played some good defense so far. David Masters is a lock down at third. Lora, despite his miscues at the plate, is a pretty solid shortstop. My music mix is so weird: on shuffle, it goes from Slayer to Jethro Tull and off into some weird Viking folk metal and then Bandmaid, my favorite Japanese band. It’s so hot I’m sweating down like a sad beast. The kids are doing the We Will Rock You footstomp-handclap thing and I fear the stadium, which is no longer up to the standards of the Carolina League, will collapse in a pile of dust and rust. The Pelicans steal second with two out but for my money he was out. It doesn’t matter as the next batter is easily retired.
It’s weiner toss time now, sponsored by Flying Dog Beer (Good People Drink Good Beer, Bad People Drink Bad Beer… Think About It. I hate that tagline). I don’t even bother to stand up. We got one one Tuesday and it was at best disappointing, even for free. But it’s not like we did eat it…
Bryan Meija leads off the bottom of the third, hitting .265 on the season but with a respectable 45 RBIs… and strikes out swinging. Sagdal reaches on an E-5 with two out and takes second on a past ball. The smell of sunscreen and little kid sweat permeates my world. Sags almost gets picked off second. White Zombie (“Black Sunshine”) comes on and it’s the perfect music for the moment… but Nick Banks spoils it with a long fly ball to the warning track that doesn’t have enough juice to get over. Next time, Banksy.
Brooke is our guest announcer for the entire fourth inning. The ushers are tossing water balloons at the kids in the stands, which is good solid fun and the kids are screaming to be soaked. Not a bad job if you can get it. I’d sign up just to be the Water Balloon Tossing Guy. Another good play at second by Meija. I hope he gets moved up soon, he’s languishing here in High-A and has the chops to play in Harrisburg or Syracuse.
Uriah Heep is in my ears and I can guarantee none of the players have ever heard “Rainbow Demon”. It’s all hip-hop, bro-country, or Latin trap for these boys. Another good play by Meija, diving to his left and throwing from his knees. The batboy looks like a chunky ice cream soda come to life. A quick mound visit from pitching coach Sam Narron and our pitcher is back to throwing strikes but is struggling here to get Galindo out. Galindo fights off pitch after pitch. Too many for Coach Keister, Joe Ross is done but had a solid rehab start. Coach K calls in the rangy A.J. Bogucki (3-2, 1.35 ERA in 20 innings) to finish off the top of the fourth and he induces an out to foul ground in right field on one pitch. Time for a beer… a Tropical IPA and a bottle of water. What I really need is a hog waller to, you know, waller in.
Bases loaded with one out. Base hit, error, and a walk. It’s the little things that will sink a team. One of the songs I played bass on comes up at random on my MP3 player and it is, as usual, weird to hear myself playing. 3-0 to “Strikeout” Lora and somehow I know he’ll still manage to KO with three balls to work with. That foul ball was closer than any this season! Just a few rows away. And Lora strikes out, as predicted. The Pelicans gather on the mound to discuss what to get Jimmie and Millie for their wedding present and sacrifice a live chicken. My feet are toast, I shouldn’t have worn sandals. Meija up with two outs… and grounds out. Runner on third with less than two outs? You have to score. Coach Keister is jawing with the umpire about something, and manages to avoid getting tossed… this time.
It’s one dollar cookies for the entire 5th inning, and for once there is no sponsor for it. I guess they ran out of businesses to soak for sponsorships. They keep playing Aretha Franklin on the PA, much respect for paying homage to the Queen of Soul who passed into the great cornfield at the edge of the outfield today. Bogucki gets his first strikeout (brought to you by Orion Home Improvement: Roofing, Siding, Windows, and Gutters). The Pelicans bullpen throws a ball into left just for lolz. Base hit to center, one on two out and the Pelicans light hitting short stop is up. The infield grass really looks like crap, I guess they’re waiting for the playoffs before they try to fix it.
Bree is trying her best to sell $1 cookies. But then again it’s the same spiel she’s used all season and we’re not enthused or responding, except for the summer camp kids, who will scream for damn near anything if asked.
Third pitcher for the Pelicans. Garcia leads us off in the bottom of the fifth as the DH. The Washington Nationals are a National League team, but the High-A team is in a majority American League farm system, so they utilize the DH. This annoys me on some fundamental level I can’t explain. Solid defense from the Pelicans this inning. It’s down to Nick “Banksy” Banks to do something with two outs… and he strikes out. Coach Keister has some words of wisdom for him as he walks past… “Don’t strike out next time,” probably.
Our favorite commercial… the Virginia Birth Father Registry.
Top six and Kyle Johnston takes the mound for the P-Nats. He gets a KO despite an ERA closer to 4 than 3. It must be hot out on the field, as I’m melting in my seat. Some of the kids are leaving… too hot. Two strikeouts! Johnston is dealing. Good scoop by Sagdal at first and it’s 1-2-3. Now it’s time for the Sweeto Burrito toss… not an actual burrito, which could be awesome and disgusting, but just a coupon, and once again I sit quietly. I’ve been eating those things all summer… enough to build a pyramid of burrito shit.
Bottom six and “Sunny” Jack Sundberg leads off hitting .280 but flies out to left. David Masters (“Master, master, where’s the hits that I’ve been after/master, master, promised all the RBIs”) comes up and knocks a double up the middle. Rhett Wiseman (“Do it for Scarlett and Tara!”) has 20 taters this year. I don’t expect to see him next season in High-A. Everybody clap your hands? Fuck you, I’m not your puppet, Mr. PA Announcer guy. Master pops out to short. It’s up to Jakson Reetz. The Pelicans pitcher digs into the mound like a bull in the ring and gets the third out.
Sports fans, I don’t know how much more of this I can take. The grounds crew is really hurting, they pulled a couple of servers out of the stands to help them drag the infield dirt. Three guys in front of me are getting smashed at 2 in the afternoon. Pelicans are at bat; Johnston gets a KO on an appealed check swing and the batter is bitter. A walk and then Cruz hits a right field line drive homer to tie the game… sigh. He got the silent treatment from the bench! Psych!
Seventh inning stretch and the derigeur “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, though I’d really like to hear “Shadows In The Deep”. Sue me, I’m an unrepentant metal head. More summer campers are bailing and I can’t blame them. Lora almost hit the batboy… that’s the most he’s hit the ball all day. Well, he didn’t strike out at least, just popped out to short. The guys in front of me are bragging about their softball glories. I swear I’ll never do that again now that I hear how dumb it sounds.
Top 8; I’ve made it this far. Extra innings though and I’m out of here. There’s probably 50 people left in the stands. Quick top of the inning and it’s time for the Prince William Recycle Roundup Race. And Andrew wins… the PA announcer sounds like he’s channeling his inner Brockmire when he thanks the young lady who runs the between inning games: “Thanks a LOT, Bree,” and you can hear the drool dribbling from his flaccid lips and he strokes the microphone.
Big hole on the left side for the left Ian “Sags” Sagdal but he goes to right for an easy out. Coach should make these guys take BP after the game. It’s more fun at this point watching the kids search for foul balls in the stands than the play on the diamond.
Top 9 and I’ve shed 18 ounces of water weight. Two quick outs and what’s this… a light breeze caresses the stands! It’s only minor relief but still welcome.
Luis Garcia, who delivered the game winning base hit. He got belted with a little bit of everything… Gatorade and water and chalk.
Bottom 9 and they’re playing the inspirational bullshit on the screen. It’s about heart. We’re gonna be winners. Don’t let anything come between us. Shut them down because we can. Well… that remains to be seen, doesn’t it? Masters leads off. Single to left… winning run on base. Wiseman sort of blunts the runner over… not really a bunt but not a full swing either. One out. Reetz comes up. No pressure. 2-1, hitters count. 2-2. Strike out. Two out. Pinch hitter is Aldrem Corredor, and we’ve seen him walk it off before. Intentional walk, 1st and 2nd with 2 out. Meija up and takes a swing for the fences and misses. 2-2. 3-2 with 2 outs… most exciting play in baseball. Foul ball sponsored by Metro Pawn. And a walk! Meija walks and the bases are juiced. Ducks on the pond sponsored by Duck Donuts! To the plate comes Luis Garcia hitting a very solid .307. He looks like he wants it, so let’s see what… oh! And just like that, base hit to the hole between third and short, walk off, game over! I did not see that coming. That’s how you end a ball game, boys. Good job.