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Ends of the Lines - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
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Ends of the Lines

I returned to a minor league stadium last night- its usual tenant back in residence, at least for now.

Officially, this was Work. A guy owes a good client about five grand, and has resisted all routine efforts to procure payment. In googling him, I discovered he has a card collectible business, and further found references to a collectors' group that has regular meetings in a Rochester suburb.  Except this month:

August 26, 2017 (OFF-SITE) – Another exciting show but this one is our annual OFF-SITE show at Frontier Field during the Rochester Red Wings game. Wrestling Hall of Famer IVAN “POLISH POWER” PUTSKI (a.k.a. The Polish Hammer) will be in the stadium from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. signing and throwing out the first pitch. Autographs will be only $20 which includes an 8 X 10 photo.

Okay, then. How could I resist? 

I didn't get on the road until 4:30 and by the time I bought a ticket and got in, first pitch had come and gone- but the tables were all still humming, with sights of many of my 60s/70s era baseball cards which my mother lost on me. Also, no sign of either The Guy or The Polish Hammer.  I spoke with the organizer, who told me, nah, Tony doesn't do these anymore.  So either he really doesn't or they're covering for him.  (I've met him before; he saw the Mets logo on my phone and tried schmoozing me because he's a fan, too.  Sorry, Tony, so was Bernie Madoff and I didn't like him any better, either:P)

So I just got to take in the sights and sounds of a late August minor league game. Most leagues below MLB wrap up on or around Labor Day weekend, so this was likely my last chance to see the Red Wings this summer (they are still alive for a playoff spot but those tend to be anticlimactic after the big teams call up all the good AAA players on September 1st).

This has apparently been there for years, but I somehow never saw it until last night: a sculpture from the city's longago Horses on Parade installation, made out of baseball gloves by whimsical local artist Bill Stewart:



Food was beef on weck. The seat was nowhere near the one named on the ticket, as I squatted in a field-level section right behind the visiting (Buffalo, as it happened) dugout.  For me, though, the highlight of the Red Wings' win was a nice move by a Bison player. A Rochester batter popped a foul right to the railing of our section, and Buffalo shortstop Gregorio Petit made a nice play to catch it. Right in front of him was a little girl with a pink mitt. Usually, players either return a caught ball to the team or, if feeling charitable, flip it into the stands.  Not with this little one in front of him; he bent down, asked if she wanted it, and then gently handed it to her.

Here she is a few pitches later, waiting to field the next one:



I was home by 9:30 and out with the dog at the usual hour today.  The Red Wings beat the Bisons again this afternoon, now leaving for the week before what will be their last homestand over Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, the way things are looking it could be the real last homestand:

Negotiations between the Rochester Red Wings and Monroe County regarding a new lease at Frontier Field haven’t just stalled on the base paths.

With the team's lease expiring, the protracted talks have put the sides — and the International League — in an “unfortunate time crunch’’ where options for the Red Wings to play in 2018 will have to be explored, according to league president Randy Mobley.

“It’s at a serious point, no question about that,’’ Mobley said Friday. “The conversation continues and there’s not a lot of time to get things worked out. That’s where we are. We’ll stay with it but time unfortunately is running out.’’''

The Wings have been in their downtown nest since 1994, and unlike most professional teams, they did not get much of a sweetheart deal.  The county gets cuts of everything from parking and ad revenue to concessions and even naming rights.  (In contrast, Da Bills, who last made the playoffs when Harry Truman may have still been alive, keep all of those goodies and even get money FROM the government as a bribe not to leave.)  Even so, the Monroe County mantra is "never raise taxes," so they're playing hardball with some very good people, both on the field and off.  There have been similar games of chicken in the past, and I expect they will all make nice in the end, but it's unfortunate that it comes to this even as a possibility.

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Meanwhile, the Bisons return home for the early part of this week (they traditionally play the last weekend on the road so their stadium can become the home of the Labor Day Weekend Wingfest downtown), but this year the focus of their home games isn't the meat but the celery:

At first glance, you might think all the fuss around the Bisons' WCC Race (that's Wing, Cheese and Celery) speaks to one of those classic goofy minor-league promotions. With the buildup to Celery's final race Wednesday night growing all season, the characters in Buffalo's nightly mascot race have taken over from Buster Bison – or any of the players – as the most popular figures at Coca-Cola Field....the Bisons have a #JustOneWin hashtag for Celery on social media and merchandise with the slogan for sale, including foam fingers.

Celery's final race is among the highlights for what figures to be a big sendoff to the home schedule. The Bisons could approach 50,000 tickets sold for the four-game series against Pawtucket, which will be capped by Fan Appreciation Night on Thursday.

Celery has never won; Darth Vader stopped a seeming victory one year on Star Wars night, and there is much anti(ci)pasto about whether the final run will be the best.  I might even check that one out if the weather's fine.

By then, I will have seen seven different minor league teams play this year in three different parks.  And for the first time in years, I will not have visited the Mets. Considering how THEIR 2017 has gone, this is an eminently good exercise of judgment on my part.



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