Friday, August 7, 2015

Charleston RiverDogs 7 at Hagerstown Suns 4 (South Atlantic League) - August 5, 2015

When I first planned this little trip to Canada to renew my work status, I thought I would return straight to New York on Tuesday after the CFL game in Hamilton. I had expected to have attended a game in Aberdeen by then, but my plans were destroyed by Megabus, who were unable to deliver me to Baltimore in time for a friend to drive us to Ripken Stadium back in mid-July. Fortunately, Aberdeen was home on this Wednesday evening so I extended my trip by a day to finally check them off the list. I only needed to find a game on Tuesday, and the West Virginia Black Bears fit that bill nicely.

I thought I would take a leisurely drive to Aberdeen (about 4 hours from Morgantown) on Wednesday, but as I perused the minor league baseball schedule, I noticed that the Hagerstown Suns had an afternoon game. And wouldn't you know it? Hagerstown is midway between Morgantown and Aberdeen! Thank you scheduling gods!

I had visited Municipal Stadium once before, back in 2005 for a couple of games, but it was early May and the weather was chilly and wet. No such concerns this time, a perfect afternoon for baseball with game time at 84 degrees.

Municipal Stadium was opened in 1930 and is the third oldest venue still in use in the minors, behind Asheville and Williamsport. Parking is free, and GA tickets are usually $8 (on this day they were only $5). No need to choose the good seats as they are only three uncovered rows (orange seats to the left below), and you'll want to be under the roof for most of the afternoon, even though these seats are behind the protective netting.

If you want to sit in the sun, there are benches down the lines that offer clear views. Note that the Suns are the worst drawing team in the South Atlantic League, averaging just over 1,000 fans per game, so finding a place to sit will not be a problem.

There are a few interesting tidbits here, with the most obvious being the plaques on the walls outside the seating area. This stadium has seen a lot of history (Willie Mays played his first game here) and it is commemorated properly.

There are a few numbers on the right field fence, known as the Wall of Fame. You'll recognize Mays' 24 and Jackie Robinson's 42. The 50 is for SAL President Emeritus John Henry Moss, who worked for the league for 50 years. The other two memorialize sad events: MRA is for Mitchell Ronald Akers, an employee who died while working at the stadium, and Adenhart is for Nick Adenhart, the Angels rookie pitcher from Washington County (where Hagerstown is located) who was killed by a speeding driver in 2009.

There is also a Suns Hall of Fame underneath the first base stands that includes Vernon Wells, who spent 1998 in Hagerstown when they were a Blue Jays affiliate.

That is really about it here. Food is pretty basic, and there are no promotions during the game. Minor league baseball is now concerned more with entertaining the fans rather than the game itself, but in Hagerstown, the opposite is true. Perhaps that is why attendance is so low, but I could not recommend this place more highly. Take a step back in time and think about how fans used to watch baseball for the players instead of the promotions.

The Game

The Charleston RiverDogs (NYY) were in town to take on Hagerstown, who are now Washington's affiliate. The visitors struck first when Austin Aune (2nd round, 2012, above) homered to deep right in the second inning, but Hagerstown replied with two singles in their half of the frame, and a wild pitch from Justin Kamplain (18th, 2014, below) allowed a run to score.

The RiverDogs added singletons in the 5th and and 6th, but Hagerstown again tied it up with RBI singles from Jose Marmolejos (below) and D.K. Carey (7th, 2014) in the 6th.

Hagerstown finally took the lead on an RBI single from Osvaldo Abreu (below) in the 7th but again the lead was short live as Aune led off the 8th with a single and scored on a sacrifice fly from Radley Haddad.

I began to worry about extra innings - it is only two hours from Hagerstown to Aberdeen but the game was dragging and I didn't want to leave early. Fortunately, Charleston salted things away in the 9th with back-to-back homers: a 2-run shot from Isaias Tejeda followed by Aune's second of the game. Alex Robinett (32nd, 2015, and already on his 3rd pro team) closed it out for the RiverDogs with a scoreless 9th and I was able to get on the road in plenty of time for Aberdeen.

The manually operated scoreboard is wonderful. You'll notice that Hagerstown committed 3 errors; each of their three pitchers had exactly one unearned run.


Aune should get my Player To Watch award, but as a second round pick from 3 years ago still in low A ball, he is clearly not living up to expectations. So I'll give it to Robinett, who has already passed through Pulaski and Staten Island on his way up the chain. The Yankees need bullpen help, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him with the big club in 2016.



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