On the Road: Banging Heads and Headbanging in Lehigh Valley
Like nearly everyone who works in Minor League Baseball, I’ve reached the point where it’s nearly impossible to attend a game strictly as a fan. I certainly try to, but just being at the ballpark makes me feel as if I have to get at least a blog post out of it. Relaxation amidst the gentle rhythms of our National Pastime is pretty much out of the question.
That was the situation this past Friday, when I attended a Lehigh Valley IronPigs game with a conglomeration of friends representing overlapping areas of my Philly suburbs-to-Pittsburgh-to-New York City personal history. Some of these friends will soon offer guest blog posts of their own, and I plan an eventual “Return to the Road” post focusing on some of the many, many wonderful things that the Lehigh Valley has to offer. But, for now, here are my “fan mode” observations from an enjoyable Friday night spent with Minor League Baseball’s top-drawing entity.
The IronPigs play in Coca-Cola Park. As corporate ballpark names go that’s a pretty good one, although I find it frustrating that Coca-Cola does not offer the delicious white birch beer that is otherwise so prevalent in the Lehigh Valley region.
Storm clouds loomed over the area throughout the day, and were still creating a threatening backdrop as the 7 p.m. game time rolled around. But, mercifully, a deluge did not occur and the game was played without incident. Our seats were right behind plate, offering an excellent view of the playing field (as seats behind home plate are wont to do).
The chance of inclement weather undoubtedly kept some fans away from the ballpark, but there was nonetheless a fairly robust crowd as the game got underway. To the left:
To the right:
But, as is always the case, there was no time to relax. Utilizing the vast influence that comes as a result of authoring one of the internet’s top 400,000 blogs, I was able to place two of my friends in the nightly “Whack an Intern” on-field contest. We were ushered down to the third base dugout area by always-hospitable director of public relations Sarah Marten, where this was the view.
Steve and Beth eagerly awaiting their moment of on-field glory.
The interns, meanwhile, morosely prepared for their nightly half-inning of ritualized abuse.
“Whack an Intern” is pretty much what the name implies — a modified game of boardwalk classic “Whack-a-Mole,” in which the moles are replaced by real-live interns. The IronPigs don’t take the contest to the delirious extremes of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, but it still makes for some great visuals.
Here, director of promotions Lindsey Knupp helps Steve with his inflatable boxing glove (perfect for whacking interns, of course).
Each contestant gets 30 seconds to whack as many interns as possible. Beth went first, utilizing an approach that was heavy on finesse. Her style drew prodigious crowd support, despite Steve’s hapless attempts to quiet everyone down.
Steve’s strategy, meanwhile, was a flailing display of brute force.
The final tally was Beth 19, Steve 16. And to the victor goes the spoils.
Upon the conclusion of the contest, I proceeded to the East Gate to meet late-arriving friend Andrew J. Shal. He was wearing a Dio shirt, as he is wont to do, and immediately began pontificating on the IronPigs experience (stay tuned for a guest blog post).
We were in our seats long enough to take in the nightly pork race which, as you can see, ended in a photo finish.
Upon the conclusion of the fifth, I joined Andrew J. on the field for some more between-innings shenanigans. We were two of the four contestants in the nightly “Human Bobblehead,” in which a pedometer is affixed to each competitors forehead. He or she who bobbles the most over the course of 30 seconds, wins.
Awaiting our moment to shine:
Andrew J.’s stolid head-banging (no doubt that this was playing in his head) proved to be far more effective than my histrionic apoplections. Another victor, more spoils:
One should never eat prior to participating in a human bobblehead contest (this is something that I learned the hard way, earlier this season in Tulsa). But afterwards? Now we were good to go! First order of business was a celebratory Lime-a-Rita at the Tiki Terrace.
From the Tiki Terrace its a short walk to the glorious views of the center field berm.
An even more glorious view, courtesy of the “Aw Shucks” stand in right-center field.
From there we hit up the Blast Furnace Grill. Andrew J. got the pierogies.
I certainly could have inquired, but instead I took a leap of faith and just assumed that these Philly Fries would be gluten-free (as I have mentioned 36 times previously, I have celiac disease).
“Philly Fries” are topped with chopped steak, Cheese Whiz, peppers and onions. And, outside of potential “dedicated fryer” issues (I’m still a little lax on that front), they are indeed gluten free!
It’s worth mentioning that these fries cost $3, and the pierogies a mere $1.50, thanks to the IronPigs’ “Battlefield Challenge” promo. I had meant to pay more attention to this creative endeavor throughout the game, but here’s the scoop:
During Battlefield Challenge (occurring during every game from August 8 thru August 13), the actual playing field at Coca-Cola Park is divided into six battle zones which the IronPigs and their opponent try to gain control of in an effort to conquer the entire playing surface. Control is gained or lost through plays that occur on the field such as hits, RBIs and home runs. Fans can follow the action via Coca-Cola Park’s videoboard. When Lehigh Valley controls all six zones, all fans in attendance are rewarded with a 40 to 50 percent discount on all food and non-alcoholic beverages available at all concessions stands!
Control the zone!
We made it back to our seats in time for an up-close-and-personal visit from FeFe, who was practically sitting on my lap (my most successful interaction with a female this month!)
And, jeez, the game was pretty much over after that (a crisply-played 6-0 IronPigs win). But this being Minor League Baseball, there was still launch-a-ball…
and then a post-game drink at the Tiki Terrace while local scouts prepared for an on-field overnight.
As we were leaving, one of the campers spotted Steve on the concourse and asked for an autograph. Why? Because he had been enamored with Steve’s violent Whack An Intern stylings. Steve obliged, albeit grudgingly.
And with that run of sub-par photography, I’m going to call it a blog post. Thanks to the IronPigs for the hospitality, and look for more Lehigh Valley viewpoints in the near future. I command you.