M-m-m-m-my Corona…

Butch Hobson - 01Keith Castillo - 01Reegie Corona - 01

 

I received an invitation in the mail to attend a little birthday party for the Manager of the Lancaster Barnstormers, Butch Hobson. R.S.V.P.

Then my brother called. What were my plans for celebrating my birthday?’

“Right now I’m planning on going to a ball game and having ice cream with Butch Hobson on his birthday, which is on the 17th, just two days before mine. Close enough.”

Then I started singing, “They say it’s your birthday…It’s my birthday, too, yeah…

“You want me to go with you?”

“Sure.”

I called Maureen Wheeler at Clipper Magazine Stadium, explained my situation and asked if I could have my invitation “plus-oned.”

“Sure,” she said, “Bring your brother.”

The ballpark seats about 15,000, but the only time it is more than half-full are some Friday and Saturday night games when they have free fireworks. The rest of the week, they give out free T-Shirts, reduced-priced food, prizes, anything to try to attract customers. They’re very accommodating.

I was in Long Beach a few days later telling my friend Margaret about my plans.

“It sounds good,” Margaret said. “It would sound fabulous if you were only nine years old.”

I thought about that for a moment. “Margaret,” I finally replied. “I will be going there like a nine-year old. I’m going to the game with my little brother.”

BeelzeBro X (formerly Brother X) arrived on Saturday afternoon. We had a drink in The Social Butterfly Saloon (formerly my back yard). Then we went to The Alley Kat for Dinner. After a while there we just came back to my place to chill. We watched a few Harness Races on the computer, because I’m a big fan of Harness Racing, and we watched a little TV, because we’re both big fans of closed-captioning.

He got up first on Sunday. He had to go to mass.

Myself, I’ve been going to services at Saint Mattress for nearly 50 years. I stayed in bed.

When he came back two hours later, he was an expert on my neighborhood. He knew more about it than I did. I suggested we have breakfast at the Onion Café. He said that it was closed on Sunday, but that the Fractured Prune was open and they had great coffee. We went to The Fractured Prune, which was just a little past the Onion Café, which was closed.

He even knew how The Fractured Prune got its name. I’ll leave that story for him to tell someday.  It has nothing to do with fruit.

It was then time to go to the ball game. We used to go to baseball games together back when we were Cub Scout age. We even had Yankee uniforms. He wore #8 for Yogi Berra, and I wore #7 for Mickey Mantle. Magically, as soon as we handed our tickets to the usher at the Barnstormer gate we were both that age again. Only this time we could drink beer. Hey Margaret.  We could have even more fun than 9-year-olds.

The day was dedicated to helping homeless Veterans in Lancaster County. The players wore special patriotic caps during the game, which were auctioned off during the 4th inning. After the game, whoever bought a hat went onto the field to get their hat from the player.

I bought Reegie Corona’s hat. (Reegie, pronounced Ree-Gee, is how he spells his name).

I bought it for several reasons.

He’s #19, and my birthday is the 19th.

His last name is a beer, and that’s one of my favorite beverages.

He just joined the team from a Yankee farm team.  So, nobody knew him, and the bidding wasn’t very spirited.

I got his hat for $30. That’s more than I ever paid for a hat before (unless you count enlisting in the Navy). And it’s certainly more than I’ve ever paid for a Corona, but it was a steal. He scored the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning.

At the birthday party we all got presents. I got a game ball signed by Keith Castillo, a catcher who used to be a Long Island Duck. BeelzeBro X got a game ball signed by the birthday boy himself, Butch Hobson. He gave it to me as an extra birthday present. We had our ice cream and then he drove back to New York.

Suddenly, as he was driving away, I was no longer 9-years old, but, at least, I could still drink beer. I went to the Alley Kat and had a Corona.  M-m-m-m-m-my Corona….

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

50 Cent Vs a Buck Three-Eighty

Earl Walking off Mound - Labled037_37

The day finally arrived for me to throw out the first pitch at a Lancaster Barnstormers’ game. Brother X was in town for the big event, and my friends John and Jim also came in from NY to bear witness. Debbie was also there providing moral support.

Debbie was the first to arrive and we picked up John at the train station around noon. Shortly thereafter we were in my backyard hoisting the first of many beers. I didn’t want to embarrass myself when I threw out the first pitch at 7 p.m. so I alternated between beer and water all afternoon. Brother X and Jim arrived a little later and the party was underway. Then we saw the first flash of lightning and the rain started coming down. We retreated to the porch, while I tried to figure out the odds of it raining every time I invite people to Lancaster.

We sat watching the rain come down for a couple hours and then it cleared up. So, we headed for the ball field. The Barnstormer colors are red and black, but when we got to the game it looked like we were in a sea of green. It turned out that it was Donegal School night and the entire school was there with their parents all wearing green Donegal shirts.

I asked the ticket takers where I was supposed to go because I was throwing out the first ball and they directed me to Section 9, the section behind the Barnstormers dugout. We were seated in section 10, so it was a short walk. I checked in with the guy running things and he asked me my name. My name wasn’t on his list. I wasn’t sure if I was feeling disappointment or relief when he then said, “That’s okay. We’ll get you in.”

It turned out that the Donegal School had several students lined up to throw the first pitch. They introduced the first one, who was a pitcher on the high school team. The green crowd roared as he fired in a strike. Next there was a girl from the school’s girl team. She blazed a fast ball over the plate and the green crowd roared some more.

Next up was a young kid in a wheel chair from the primary school. They positioned him a few yards from the plate and he rolled a strike right over the plate. The green crowd, and everyone else in the stands rose to their feet and went crazy cheering for the young man.

Tough act to follow, but that’s what I had to do. I was next. The green crowd settled down and I could hear Brother X, Debbie, John, and Jim cheering for me. Maybe I should have put that word “cheering” in quotes, because chanting “Let’s go, rag arm,” might not necessarily qualify as a cheer, but I was loving it.

They led me to the mound and I asked if I could cheat a few yards since I was a senior citizen. They told me I could throw from anywhere I liked. I decided that since this might be the only time I would be able to stand on the rubber at a professional ball field, I would pitch from there. I didn’t care if I threw a strike.  I just didn’t want to bounce the ball, so I picked a target about two feet over the catcher’s head, gripped the ball for a fastball and let it fly. It bounced just slightly in front of the plate, just a little outside, and the catcher made a nice scoop to prevent a wild pitch. They gave me the ball as a souvenir, and I returned to my seat.

Brother X was still laughing. “You bounced it. HA HA.”

A while back he threw out the first pitch at a Long Island Ducks game and he practiced for a month beforehand. He threw a strike when he threw out the first pitch, so, he was in a position to gloat. I was just glad that I managed to get the ball to the catcher.

At least the Barnstormers crushed the Ducks in the ball game winning 11-4.

The next day Brother X called me up. “I’m calling to apologize,” he said. “I made fun of your pitching, but you’ve got to be way better than the rapper, Fifty Cent. You could probably be a buck or a buck three-eighty.” I hadn’t heard that expression in decades, a buck three-eighty. When we were kids and somebody asked us how much something cost, we would always say “a buck three-eighty” as a nonsense answer.

I didn’t know why I was being compared to a rapper, so he told me that he was watching the news and Fifty Cent threw out the first pitch at the Mets game last night and missed the plate by about 20 feet. He almost took out a cameraman in the process. My pitch was better by about 19 feet.

So, I’ve already decided to try it again next year, but next time I’m gonna aim 4 feet over the catcher’s head.

I’ll post more pictures when I get them, but until then, here’s the clip of Fifty Cent and his attempt to throw out the first pitch.

http://www.aol.com/article/2014/05/28/50-cent-not-on-the-money-with-first-pitch-at-citi-field/20893819/

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Swinging in the Rain

Cylo - More Cowbell015_15

Debbie and I went to see The Buddy Holly Story last week and the Lancaster Barnstormers home opener this week, and I now extend a formal apology to Maria for saying that she might be a weather jinx. It’s now obvious that I’m the one attracting rain. Maria was not even in the state of Pennsylvania on either occasion and it poured both times.

The first time, we just got wet. The second time, we danced.

A few hundred children were on the field singing the Star Spangled Banner when it suddenly started pouring. If the game was on, the umpires would have stopped the game, but nobody stops the National Anthem, so the kids kept singing. The crowd (and I use that term loosely) in the stands ran for cover. Debbie and I stayed there.   By the time the song was over we were drenched. It was still pouring but by now we couldn’t get any wetter, so we stayed there. The public address announcer played music to amuse the crowd while they waited for the rain to stop. We danced to the music. We both have bad hips and we probably looked more like a crab walking than a couple dancing, but that amused the crowd even more.

I know that I’m a little crazy, and I suspect that Debbie is even crazier, but the two of us together are Crazy Squared. Like my old friend Walter Geheogen use to say, “Three of a kind wouldn’t beat that pair.”

The sun came back out, but it kept raining for a few more minutes. Debbie and I continued to dance. Finally, the clouds went away and the announcer played, “Here Comes the Sun.” We danced the last dance.

An usher lady came running up to us with a towel and wiped down our seats. It was a kind gesture, but absolutely useless, as we were wetter than the chairs. I thanked her profusely anyhow, and we took our seats.

To put things in the right context, I only live 3 blocks from the ball field and we started drinking at my house long before the first pitch was tossed. We were probably hammered by the time our rain dance began. I think we would have done it even if we were sober, though.

We were the only ones at the game who remembered to bring cow bells, the official noisemaker of the Barnstormers. We were loud enough to make up for them, though.  Bruce Dickinson would have been proud.

http://vimeo.com/51038971

They might have been able to concentrate better when I wasn’t playing the cow bell, though.  They got back-to-back homeruns while I was in the men’s room. The “Stormers” won the game 4-2.  There were supposed to be fireworks after the show, but they were cancelled due to the weather, so, on the way out, they gave everyone a free ticket to another game. They gave Debbie and I six tickets. It may not have been Dancing with the Stars, but I think we impressed the judges.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Rhythm of the Rain

Rhythm in the Night - 01 - 2bmdRhythm in the Night - 02 - 2bmd

By now, I’m sure you’re all familiar with my friends Marianne, Geralyn, and Maria. We’ve partied together for years. Last year we all went to Las Vegas and it rained for three days straight. The locals were amazed. We were just  wet.

Then, Maria was one of my first friends to drive to Lancaster to visit me and she hit thunderstorms all the way down. All the First Friday street activity was rained out, too. After that white-knuckle driving experience, she decided to take Amtrak the next time she visited me. Well, Marianne’s daughter Jessie, who recently toured China with an Irish Step Dancing group, was now touring the U.S. with a different group, Rhythm in the Night, and they would be playing the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg, PA., about 35 miles from me. I got two tickets and Maria said she would meet me in Harrisburg.

Actually, since I knew what train she was on, I met her in Lancaster, and we rode to Harrisburg together. It rained all the way, and it was still raining hard when we got there. Fortunately, the theatre was only two blocks away, but they were two cold, wet blocks.

More fortunately, there was a bar near the theater where we could wet our whistles and dry our bones at the same time. It was a huge bar called The Gingerbread Man. It was actually two huge bars, divided by the kitchen they both shared. One bar for smokers and one for non-smokers. We were in the smoking bar, even though we don’t smoke, because that’s where all the people were. I peeked through a smoky window by the rest rooms and saw that there was only 1 guy in the non-smoking bar.  He wasn’t even drinking.  He was watching the TV.

We left the bar a few minutes before show time, and settled in for the show. When the curtain opened all I could see was a vast field of stars in the background. “Space. The Final Frontier,” I thought.   Apparently, I must have been thinking out loud, because I got a few hairy eyeballs from audience members.

The first character to appear continued the space theme for me. He sort of looked like Ming the Merciless from the old Flash Gordon show. With his well-muscled upper body, he also looked a lot like Ray Mysterio, the Masked Mexican wrestler.

Then the dancing began, and it was practically non-stop dancing from there to intermission. We were in the front row of the audience, so I figured I’d be able to spot Jessie right away. You see those characters in the picture, dressed in what looked like haz-mat costumes.  She was one of them. Good luck trying to pick her out. Later in the show, though, the costumes got skimpier and the masks were removed.  Then we recognized her, and from then on we probably followed her dancing more than we did the story.

After the show, the cast came out to meet the audience. After two hours of incredible Irish step dancing, they all looked like they had just gotten out of the pool. You could feel the heat radiating off their bodies.

They were supposed to have another show at 7:30, but because of a scheduling conflict at the center it got cancelled, and they all looked a bit relieved. When you consider that the top finishers in the marathon usually finish in two hours and change, this cast had just danced a marathon, while wearing robes, hoods, and masks most of the time. At least marathoners get to wear short shorts and tank tops.

So, while we’re talking with Jessie, in walks her father, Tres. Since the evening show was cancelled, he’s going to drive Jessie back to New York to spend a little time with family.

“When did you get here?” I asked.

“I’ve been here for hours,” he said. It turns out that he was the one guy who was sitting in the non-smoking section of The Gingerbread Man. He was watching a Nascar race before the show.

After the show, Maria and I went back to The Gingerbread Man. It wasn’t raining anymore. Now, it had turned to sleet.  It was still sleeting when it was time for us to catch our train back. Thanks to the beverages we had consumed, we braved the weather and even sang a little bit of “Singing in the Rain,” as we sloshed through the sleet on our way to the train station. Maria was headed back to New York, but I got off in Lancaster. When I got off the train, the weather was suddenly clear, with no sleet on the ground.

When I told my friends the story, they wondered if the local farmers would pay for Maria to come and visit, the next time there’s a drought.  I remembered that she said that she would come back for another visit on May 10th, when I throw out the first ball in a minor league baseball game between the Lancaster Barnstormers and the Long Island Ducks.  Now, I’m just hoping that game doesn’t get rained out.

She’s probably thinking, every time I go somewhere with Earl, it rains. So, she must think I’m the jinx.  Who knows?  Maybe I am.  We’ll find out on May 10th.

Go Barnstormers.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl