The Atlantic Baseball League is divided into two sections, The Freedom division and the Liberty division. Then they divide the season into two halves. In each division, whoever wins the first half season plays against whoever wins the second half season for the division championship. Then the two division champions face off for the Atlantic League Championship.
You can do lousy in the first half, but win the second half, or vice versa, and be in the Division Championship. Most years this rule hurts the Lancaster Stormers, who have often had the best overall record but finished second in the Freedom Division in both halves. This year, however, the rule helps the Stormers, because they are doing lousy in the first half, but they can still salvage their season by winning the second half.
That’s one way that the Atlantic League differs from the Major Leagues. Another difference is money. The minimum salary for a Major League player is $480,000 a year, with many making far more than that. The Atlantic League players only get a few thousand dollars a month. When Major Leaguers go on road trips, they take chartered jets to their destination. When Minor Leaguers go on road trips, they, literally, hit the road by bus.
As I stated earlier, the Barnstormers are having a lousy first half this year. How lousy? They lost 4 straight home games to their archrivals, The York Revolution. Then they had to climb on a bus for a road trip to North Carolina, where they lost three straight games to The High Point Rockers. Then on June 21st, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, they had to take a 12-hour bus trip to Commack, NY to face the Long Island Ducks, in a doubleheader that night. That wasn’t just the longest day of the year, for many of the Barnstormers it turned out to be the longest day of their lives.
Historically, the Stormers do not do well playing in Commack. Their heavily left-handed batting order is tailored to hit the ball 300 feet to right field for a homerun. In Commack, a ball that travels 300 feet to right field is a fly out. So, they arrived in Commack, exhausted from the 7-game losing streak and the 12-hour bus ride, to play a double header in an unfavorable ballpark against the Ducks, the powerful, Liberty Division first place team.
They still had some fight left in them, though, and they clawed their way to victory in the first game. In the second game, the Ducks took and early lead, and it looked like the Stormers were out of gas. Then, they summoned all their strength for a big rally in the 6th inning that put them 5 runs ahead. Then, in the Duck half of the 6th inning, the Barnstormers hit the proverbial wall. They had nothing left, and the Ducks took advantage of it. They scored more runs in the bottom of the 6th than their scoreboard could display, since it was only designed for the one-digit numbers from 0 to 9. When the Barnstormers finally got up to bat they meekly went down in order. They had no more adrenalin, no more strength, no more fight. They just wanted to go home, but they still had two more games to play, one on Saturday night and the other on Sunday afternoon. The lost both.
In an homage to the movie, The Big Lebowski, my friend John later said, “Sometimes you eat the Ducks, and sometimes the Ducks eat you.”
So, on Sunday evening they took a bus back to Lancaster. Fortunately, they had a much-needed day off on Monday. Tonight, they play the Somerset Patriots, and I hope that they are able to shake off the events of this past week and get into a winning pattern before the second half begins in July.
They play six games here at Clipper Magazine Stadium before they have to climb back on the bus for another road trip. Maybe a little home cooking and sleeping in their own bed instead of a Motel 6 will do them a lot of good. Like Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.”
Also remember that the darkest hour is just before the dawn.
Go Stormers. Keep calm and storm on.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,