Yo Tengo; Yo No Tengo; Yo Tengo

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.”

Game Ball - Yo Tengo.png
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.)

Game Ball - Parental Guidance

Game Ball - 01Game Ball - 02Game Ball - 03
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,

The Longest Day

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.”

Sliding into Home Plate

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,




Skeeter Beater

Barnstormers vs SkeetersLB Champs


Usually, the York Revolution plays the Somerset Patriots in the Championship Series for the Atlantic Baseball League. A funny thing happened in the division playoffs though. With both playoff divisions needing a 5th game to decide the best-of-five series, the underdogs won. So, the Revolution and the Patriots had to send their victory champagne back to the pantry. The Championship Series would be a best-of-five series between The Lancaster Barnstormers and The Sugar Land Skeeters.

It wasn’t easy in their Divisional series against the Somerset Patriots, who were up 2 games to 1 and leading the 4th game 3-0 with the Barnstormers just 6 outs away from elimination. A pinch hit grand slam by second-baseman Yasuke Kajimoto in the top of the 8th inning put the Barnstormers in the lead and the Patriots in shock. The Stormers held on to win that game and the next day they were still riding high. They were ahead 10-1 in the deciding game going into the bottom of the 9th inning. Then the Somerset Patriots showed them why they usually go to the Championship Series and scared the hell out of them. They scored 5 runs and had two men on base before Lancaster finally got the out that sent them into the Championship Series against the also unlikely Skeeters.

After that, the Barnstormers must have doused themselves in Deep Woods Off, because they easily repelled the Skeeters in Houston to win the first two games of the Series convincingly.  The pesky Skeeters did not go away easily in the 3rd game, though. It was back-and-forth as they played the game through a steady rain shower in Lancaster. Finally, in the bottom of the 13th inning, Gabe Jacobo hit one over the right-centerfield fence to decide the game 8-7 and the series 3-0.

It was a great season, and I was happy to be a part of it.  I threw out the first ball at one of their games back in May, and my brother and I went to a birthday party the team threw for their manager, Butch Hobson, back in August.  First Fridays are special around here and the Barnstormers won the Championship at home on the first Friday of October. Sounds like Destiny, doesn’t it.

I welcomed the hangover I had the next day, because I knew the team deserved my best celebratory effort.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,