Last night was quite the ordeal! I’d been looking forward very much to a guy’s night at the ballpark with some old college buddies, and headed to Nashville to watch the hometown Sounds take on the Albuquerque Isotopes.
A few minutes before the scheduled start time, the P.A. announcer told the crowd that some showers were moving through the area and might cause some minor delays, but that they expected to get the game in. The “Japan Appreciation Night” festivities began with a ceremonial first pitch (a wicked hard slider that cut right across the corner of the plate and seemed to impress the Sounds’ player who caught it) and a speech from the Consul-General of Japan, Hiroshi Sato. He thanked us and all Americans for our support of Japan in their recovery from the March tsunami ($5 from every ticket purchased was donated by the Sounds to Japan’s disaster relief fun), which was cool. But then we got a monsoon of our own, which was not cool.
Instead of “minor delays”, the crowd sought shelter for close to two hours! I was certain the game would be postponed, but we didn’t want to leave until they made the announcement or else we wouldn’t get a rain check. I figured they’d wait until the concessions sales died down, then send everyone home, but when the rain finally stopped, they said they’d play on!
So at 9:18, the first pitch of our 7:00 game was thrown. Most of the crowd had given up, but we were determined. However, it ended up being about the longest game I can remember ever attending! Anything that can delay a ballgame seemed to happen.
One of the delays was pretty funny, though. The Albuquerue manager got ejected for arguing balls & strikes, and then threw the type of hissy fit that only a minor league coach can get away with (though, sadly, no grenades were involved). After getting his money’s worth for five minutes he made a big show about walking as slowly as possible across the outfield to exit the stadium. When he finally reached the outfield wall, he couldn’t find (or couldn’t open) the panel that swings open to get to the visitors’ clubhouse. After pouting around the outfield for a while, he was forced to walk back across the outfield and climb into the stands (where the fans gave him a rousing applause) to go around to the clubhouse. It was hilarious, but ended up taking up 15 minutes of an already late game.
By 11:00 it was only the top of the sixth inning, and the rain started again. Thankfully they played through it rather than stopping the game, but it made for some super sloppy baseball. The number of balls thrown in the dirt or over a fielder’s head made it look like one of our B-league church softball games. Runners kept getting picked off because they couldn’t get any footing to get back to the base. Three batters got hit by pitches; none intentionally. At one point the scorecard for an inning read: No runs, one hit, four errors.
Finally, ’round midnight, the Sounds were holding onto a 3-1 lead and brought in the closer… who promptly gave up exactly two runs and sent the game to extra innings. The players were obviously tired, leading to even more mental mistakes, lack of hustle, and terrible swings.
Mercifully, at 1:00 in the morning, as the 11th inning was coming to a close, it was announced that the Pacific Coast League has a “Curfew Rule“, which stipulates that no new inning can begin after 12:50 a.m. local time. The game was suspended, and will be concluded this afternoon. That didn’t prevent them shooting off their big “Friday Night Fireworks” show in the wee hours of Saturday morning for the dozens of diehards (or just hard-headed) fans who remained. We left the stadium a little after 1:15, and didn’t even get stuck in the usual post-game traffic!
None of us had eaten before the game, and the concession stands closed down about 9:00, so we were pretty hungry. The only thing open around us was a Waffle House, which sounded pretty fantastic about then. What was not fantastic was this particular WH’s recent health inspection, the score from which was prominently displayed: 73. Definitely the lowest I’ve seen!
After a while, our waitress informed us that our food had burned because the WH staff was handling “some drama” that had happened, which appeared to have been a totally pointless customer complaint that degenerated into an argument requiring the full attention of those who were supposed to be cooking the food for everyone else.
Eventually I got to eat my food that was swimming in grease (that probably hadn’t been changed in weeks), downed a few cups of coffee, and drove back home in the rain. Head finally met pillow a little after 3:30 this morning, which was about two hours before the kids started getting up. I’m so grateful to my wonderful wife for allowing me to go back to sleep and leaving her to do double-duty for the morning routine!
All in all, it was a great night. The best part? The Sounds organization handed out free passes to another game for those of us who stuck it out, so maybe I’ll have another baseball adventure before the summer ends!