Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Frederick Keys 5 at Wilmington Blue Rocks 2 (Carolina League) - May 31, 2018

The original plan on the final day of the trip from Florida was to drive back to NYC from Baltimore. But the night before, I noticed that the Wilmington Blue Rocks were at home for a Thursday night game. This is Wilmington, Delaware (not North Carolina), about a third of the way between Baltimore and home, so it didn't require us to go out of our way. I didn't have time to research hotels before we left, but on the way out of Baltimore, we stopped in at IKEA in White Marsh and while my wife wandered the aisles looking at sturdy furniture, I checked out hotel deals in Wilmington. After a bit of searching, I discovered that The Westin, right next to the ballpark, was surprisingly affordable for a last-minute booking. With nothing requiring us to make it to New York that day, we agreed to add another night to the trip and drove on to Wilmington.

The Blue Rocks play out of Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, located next to the Christina River and part of a larger Riverfront complex that includes several restaurants, a children's museum, and the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame. I last visited here in 2008, before this blog had started, but I wouldn't be able to do my usual photographic tour on this night because I volunteered to hold the baby. Yes, I'm a new father, which is why my roadtrips have taken a noticeable downturn in regularity. As has my sleep. This would be baby's first game of any kind, an important test for future roadtrips as well.

My wife agreed to join to provide some relief holding if needed, and I decided to make things as difficult as possible by scoring the game. We bought a couple of $8 GA tickets and walked up the long ramps to the main entrance. As we had our tickets scanned, the gentleman asked if this was baby's first game, and I said, "First game ever!" Without a moment's hesitation, he said, "Follow me" and led us to guest services, where baby was given a First Game Certificate that will hopefully be the first of hundreds. The certificate even had the opposition team logo on it, a nice touch, and will look good when laminated with the ticket stub.

Once inside, we moved toward the GA section, but the seats are metal benches, not conducive to a few hours with an extra 15 pounds on your frame (the baby, not my beer belly). As well, a large lineup was blocking the stairways (WWE star Booker T was signing autographs nearby), so we sat just below in the slightly more comfortable box seats. The view from there is shown above.

Turned out that my Philly buddy Andrew brought his family as well, so after a couple of innings we moved down to the first base side to join them. That is a much better place to watch the game, and Andrew's two kids were heckling the first basemen on both teams throughout. In the picture above, you can see the GA section standing alone above the seating bowl. Below is the seven of us, with Andrew's youngest and mine shyly avoiding the publicity.

I did manage to keep score for the most part, and we stayed until the end. The game was pretty good as well, with two top prospects starting. Wilmington sent Daniel Tillo (3rd round, 2017, Royals #18 prospect) against Frederick's Michael Baumann (also 3rd round in 2017, Orioles #13 prospect) and both pitched very well, though I felt that they were squeezed a bit by home plate umpire Reed Basner. Both yielded just a run in their stints, with Baumann lasting 6 frames while Tillo managed 5. Carter Hope (3rd, 2013) replaced him and after a quick 6th, fell apart in the 7th. A double, sacrifice, and wild pitch led to one run, and then two walks and an error by first baseman Xavier Fernandez (11th, 2013), possibly caused by Andrew's heckling hooligans, loaded the bases for Wilson Garcia, who cleared them with a double to make it 5-1. Wilmington added a run in the bottom of the 9th and had the tying run at the plate, but Nick Heath (16th, 2016) flew out to end things, thankfully, as baby was ready to head home.

The game lasted just 2:48 and with 307 pitches, came in with a very fast PPM of 1.83. A good way to introduce baby to the beauty of sports road trips.



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