This season, The Lancaster Barnstormers offered a package to their “more mature” fans, The Silverstormers. I know I didn’t qualify as a mature fan, but I did meet the age requirement, so I bought it. In the package, you get one field-level ticket to every Tuesday night home game (the same exact seat for all 10 Tuesday home games), a “SilverStormer” T-Shirt, and morning fitness walks in the stadium if you want to take them (or even know what morning is…I don’t even get up until the crack of noon). All this costs only $35, just $3.50 per game. It’s a great deal, which is made even sweeter by the added fact that Tuesday at Clipper Magazine Stadium is Brewsday, featuring $2 beers.
As if that wasn’t enough to bring out the fans, they also had to make up a previously rained out game, so last Tuesday they were playing a doubleheader. The fans were getting two games for the price of one. Well, almost. Atlantic League doubleheaders go 7 innings each, instead of the usual 9 inning games. So, you get two quick games. Or so you would think.
And, of course, if you did think that on this occasion, you would be wrong. The first game began promptly at 6 p.m. The second game didn’t end until well after 1 in the morning. At first, you had to blame the High Point Rockers. They just wouldn’t stop hitting Lancaster pitching. They led 9-1 and it was only the 2nd inning. Then, the prayers of the Lancaster faithful were finally heard. It started to rain. Maybe this slaughter would become just another rainout. As the rain got heavier, the game was halted. People started leaving their seats to seek shelter from the storm during the rain delay.
The concourse of the stadium was now packed with both those seeking shelter and those seeking the $2 beers. I was in the latter group, and I was doing my absolute best to support as many local breweries as possible. I had gone to the game by myself, but after a half-dozen Tuesday nights of seeing the same people in the same seats, we “mature fans” had bonded as a group. So, while we waited for the game to resume, we were talking baseball, and I was getting loaded.
One guy told the story about how he witnessed a near collision in the outfield at some minor league game, because they had just acquired a Latin outfielder, who didn’t speak any English, and he kept charging for the ball even though the other guy was screaming, “I’ve got it.” The two English-speaking outfielders quickly learned that “Yo Tengo” was the Spanish equivalent, of “I’ve got it,” and they switched to yelling that on fly balls to the outfield.
Eventually the Latin player was traded for another English-speaking player. On his first day, however, he crashed into the other outfielder who was screaming, “Yo Tengo.” The new guy didn’t have any idea what that meant, and, of course, he was trying to show some hustle on his first day with his new team, so he never stopped going after the ball.
We all laughed at this and many more baseball stories for an hour and a half until the game resumed play. Then with every Lancaster fly ball, the people in our section began yelling out, “Yo Tengo.” The Rockers continued to pile up runs, but, at least, everyone in our area was now laughing and having a good time.
Finally, the lop-sided game was over. The second game would start in just a few minutes. It was very late on a Tuesday night, so almost nobody stayed for the second game. The dozen or so fans who stayed for the second game move down to the best seats in the first row. I moved to my favorite seat, right behind home plate.
It’s a good thing I did, because it turned out to be a pitcher’s duel, and the home-plate umpire in the second game needed a lot of my help. In his defense though, he didn’t have his beer goggles on, like I did, so he wasn’t seeing the ball as well as I was.
They’ve been installing a radar/GPS system in all Atlantic League ballfields that will call balls and strikes. The Homeplate umpire will wear an earpiece that will signal to him if the pitched ball is a ball or a strike. So, whenever I wanted a strike call, I would yell “BEEP.” Everybody in the area (10-people max.) knew I was drunk, and they all found it funny. Even the umpire got a laugh out of it eventually, when a ball that was fouled straight back, bounced off the 2nd level and then bounced off my head. As the ball hit me, I think I heard him laugh and say, “BEEP.”
It looked like the ball bounced smack off the top of my head, but it actually bounced behind me and then just glanced off my head before landing in the mitt of a young fan two sections to the left of me. So, I wasn’t hurt, but I milked everyone’s concern. “Yo, NO Tengo,” I laughed. “I don’t have it.” The few of us who were still there continued to joke and laugh with each other throughout the rest of the ballgame. We had a great time heckling everyone, even though The Barnstormers lost.
Then, at the end of the game, the boy (I didn’t get his name, but he had #22 on his jersey) who had caught the ball that bounced off my head, came over to give me the ball. From watching the Youtube replay the next day I was able to piece together that his parents might have encouraged him to give away his baseball treasure. (From watching the replays, I was also able to determine that the men on the grassy knoll were baseball players.)
So, thank you #22 for the game ball. I will keep it as a reminder of the fun we had on a rainy night at the ballpark. I’ll autograph it, “Yo Tengo.” I’ve got it. I guess I should also thank Charles Weeghman, the former owner of the Chicago Cubs, who on April 29, 1916 began letting fans keeps any baseballs that landed in the stands. Before that, you were supposed to throw them back on the field.
Here’s to you, #22.
Peace and Love, and all of the above,