The Hoppers just completed a four-game series against the Delmarva Shorebirds last night. With last night’s win, they took the series 3-1. It was probably the coolest night of baseball for me so far this year. Besides getting to watch a great win for the home team, I got to sit with a group of folks from my church who all came out for family night at the ballpark and I got to throw out the first pitch!
Let’s look at that first pitch again:
So, how did that happen? It’s all because I enter lots of contests and drawings at the ballpark. For several weeks, they’ve been promoting a Fritos Friday Night contest. The prize was to throw out the first pitch and stand on the field through the National Anthem. At the game Tuesday night, I signed up for it. Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Laura at the ballpark telling me that I had won. I was absolutely thrilled! Since I was already planning on going to the game, I didn’t have to change my schedule. And since it was the night my church was sponsoring an outing, my wife was already planning to come. Laura told me to meet her at the fan information booth at 6:30 before the game and we’d head down to the field.
I got to the game as early as I usually do, which gave me enough time to copy the starting lineup for scorekeeping purposes and just wander around the concourse a little, signing up for various contests. When 6:30 rolled around and it was time to go to the field, I gathered with all of the people who were going down for pre-game festivities: the little league team who was being featured, some inductees in a sports hall of fame, the McDonald’s small fries, and the Sheetz “Play Ball” kid of the game. With all of the things that the Hoppers do before a game, it’s kinda like controlled chaos. It’s amazing that all of the pre-game activities come off as smoothly as they do — a real testament to the Hoppers staff. Once we were all gathered, we headed down to the field. Going down to the field was very cool — we got to go through an “off limits” area and come out through the tunnel under the left field concourse. Underneath the concourse is a batting cage. One of the Hoppers pitchers was hanging out down there. They had all the props for the between-inning promotions (sumo suits, wigs, etc.) lined up against one of the walls. The walls were covered with paintings of baseballs. It was really cool. I was just taking it all in and didn’t think to take any pictures. I figured I’d snap a few pictures on the way back up, but we went up by the dugout instead of back through the tunnel. Oh, well, maybe some other time I’ll have a chance to be back there again.
Once on the field, there was lots to see and do. Laura was busy directing activities:
I took some pictures of various on-field objects. Here’s the home team on deck circle and some bat weights, e.g.:
And the view of the player introductions from the field is just different enough than the view from the seats to make it seem like you’re *really* part of it (pictures include Jose Torres, Justin Bass, and Kyle Skipworth):
When I went to throw the first pitch, Laura gave me the ball to use. I was kinda surprised to see it was a souvenir Grasshoppers ball like they sell in the gift shop and not an official South Atlantic League ball like they play with. When it was my turn to throw the ball out, they described the Fritos contest I won that garnered me the first pitch, announced my name over the loudspeaker, and put it up on the scoreboard in big letters. It was very cool to see my name up on the scoreboard like that. Spaz accompanied me to the mound, further introducing me. Catcher Carlos Paulino headed to home plate to catch for me. I thought it was pretty cool to have a catcher behind the plate — often the catchers are busy warming up pitchers and they have another player catching. When I looked at Carlos, the distance between me and the plate didn’t appear to be as long as I practiced, so I was feeling better about that and more confident. When it was time to throw, I aimed right at Carlos and let the ball fly. It was a little low, but Carlos was able to easily grab it before it hit the ground. All in all, I’m happy with my performance — it wasn’t flat-out embarrassing! And I’d like to give a huge thank you to my wife, who was on the field with me and took a video of me throwing the first pitch.
A little bit later, they had a “second” first pitch by one of the officers at Syngenta (the company who sponsors the field conditions of the ballpark). His pitch fell a few feet short of the plate and bounced away. It helped make my first pitch look even better.
After all of the pre-game festivities were over, we all headed back up in the stands, where I joined all the folks from church. Some of them were pretty silly, asking me for autographs and whatnot. It was great fun.
The game started, and the Hoppers were off to a great start. They looked good the whole night, scoring three runs in the third inning, and a fourth run in the seventh. The Shorebirds only managed one run in the eighth inning, so we had a very tidy 4-1 win. There’s a new player with the Hoppers, Jose Duarte. Apparently, the Royals released him earlier this week (where he was on their AAA team), and the Marlins picked him up and assigned him to Greensboro. He debuted in Thursday’s game, and I was only slightly impressed with his performance. However, he improved as Thursday’s game went on, and he looked great last night, with a 2-RBI homer in the third. I wonder how long he’ll be in Greensboro before the Marlins start moving him up the ladder.
Sumo (between 1st and 2nd): won by Red Sumo
Sausage Race (between 4th and 5th): won by Hot Sausage, who was so smoking that he ran in for the win backwards, taunting the other sausages. Sage had an early lead, but squandered it by talking to the ump between 1st and 2nd, where she was apparently asking him out to dinner.
I used iScore to score the game. Here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):
All of my pictures from the game are on Facebook.