Thursday, August 6, 2015

Auburn Doubledays 8 at West Virginia Black Bears 3 (New York-Penn League) - August 4, 2015

After my Toronto doubleheader on the holiday Monday, I drove back to Buffalo, crossing the border and renewing my visa allowing me to continue to work. To celebrate, I spent Tuesday afternoon taking a long, relaxing drive to Morgantown, WV, home of the New York-Penn League's newest team, the West Virginia Black Bears.

The owner of the franchise is Robert Rich, Jr. (who also own the Buffalo Bisons and Northwest Arkansas Naturals) and he moved the club from Jamestown, NY after last season. They took up residence in Monongalia County Ballpark, which is also where the West Virginia Mountaineers play. As such, the park has the protective netting in front of all the seats (as do all college parks since aluminum bats are used), artificial turf, and a few WVU touches such as the logo in center field.

The stadium is located at the end of a long winding row that passes by a series of chain restaurants and strip malls. Parking is $3, though you can try to leave your car at Walmart next door and walk the final 500 metres or so. The ticket windows are at Gate A (below) and a reserved seat will set you back $10. Standing room tickets are $8 but these might not be available unless the game is sold out.

As you walk in, you will notice that the Black Bears have added their footprint to the stadium, literally.

Because this is a college ballpark, the grass areas down the line are not to be used, something that is unheard of in minor league venues. The small sign below clearly instructs fans to "Please Keep Off Berm".

The ballpark is located in the hillside, so there is little to see in terms of an actual structure from the outside. Inside, you have your typical single seating bowl with suites above and the concourse open to the field.

The view beyond the fence is quite nice, though not apparent in the picture below.

If you want an unobstructed view of the action, you have to stand down the lines. Fortunately, tables are provided which are ideal for keeping score and having a beer. Unfortunately, you are still quite far from the action.

The popular food item is the $5 pepperoni roll, and so the mascot race features 3 types of this delicacy. I have no idea which is which, but the winner was pretty happy.

Overall, I don't particularly care for the college ballpark doubling as a minor league venue. This is even truer when the team has no history to speak of. This place has no real atmosphere yet. The protective netting, a necessity in college ball, is annoying in the minor leagues and the artificial turf led to several cheap singles, i.e. balls that would normally be outs were chopped into the turf and bounced over the infielders. It makes sense economically to use an otherwise empty ballpark during the summer, but it isn't a true minor league experience. That is not to say that you should not visit, but don't arrive with high expectations.

The Game

The Auburn Doubledays (Washington's affiliate) were visiting and Erick Fedde, their first pick in 2014 (18th overall, below) got the start. Fedde underwent Tommy John surgery last year, so this was his first pro season but he showed no ill effects from the operation as he kept the Black Bears guessing for the most part through his 5 innings.

West Virginia started Seth McGarry (Pittsburgh's 8th round pick this year) and Auburn scored four runs in the second inning on 3 singles, 2 walks and an RBI groundout. In the bottom of the third, Kevin Kramer (2nd round, 2015, below) doubled home two runs to halve the deficit.

Both teams added singletons in the 6th off relievers, with Auburn's coming on Ian Sagdal's (16th round, 2015) first home run. Auburn added three runs in the 8th to salt things away, with two of those coming on Randy Encarnacion's double.

Mariano Rivera III (4th, 2015) came on to close things out, which he did with a scoreless inning to lower his ERA to 6.30. Definitely not Rivera-like, but he is still young, though I think he was drafted so highly purely due to name recognition.

I love the minor leagues because you'll never see a line like this 8 runs on 6 hits with 2 errors. Black Bear hurlers issued 5 walks and 4 of them came around to score.


This was my 11th active NYPL venue, which leaves just three (Aberdeen, Lowell, and Connecticut). Upon completion, this will be my third minor league checked off (California and Florida State also done).

The schedule maker forgot a key component of the schedule: months!

Next Up

As mentioned above, I'm completing the New York-Penn League parks with trips to Aberdeen, Lowell, and Connecticut. As always, check back for the exciting recaps!



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