On the Road: Seeing the Frogs, Live in Everett
The 2012 Minor League regular season may have reached its conclusion within that subjective sliver of reality known as “the present, ” but here on the Biz Blog it’s still going strong! This post documents the penultimate stop of my Pacific Northwest road trip, when I navigated my rental car into an objective sliver of reality outside of Everett Memorial Stadium in order to enjoy an evening with the AquaSox.
This facility, owned by the local school district, is one of the most unique that I have ever visited. It’s shoehorned in next to the school district’s fairly massive athletic arena, and idiosyncrasies abound. In some areas of their operation the team has very little room to maneuver, in others the reverse is true. You’ll see what I mean once I get to the pictures — that’s why you’re all here, right? To see pictures? Words are immaterial; my reason to exist is to indulge this mania for the image.
Here’s Everett Memorial from behind, close to where I parked my rented vehicle.
From there, one follows the curved pathway seen above into a rather charming stadium entrance way. (And given that the AquaSox have a frog for a logo, the sign seen below should read “Regulations pro’ribbit’ food or beverage from being transported into park.”)
As is almost always the case, my first order of business was to conduct some player interviews. To do this, I hooked a right and ascended a steep pathway to the players’ secluded clubhouse castle.
Once I made it to the top (no oxygen tank for me!), there were two competing vantage points. Actually, strike that, everything should be in harmony: there were two complementary vantage points. To the left, one can see Everett Memorial Stadium peeking out from beyond the track that encircles the high school athletic field.
To the right are the stands from which teenage gladiatorial combat can often be viewed. In the absence of such spectacle, AquaSox players use this as an area of respite. Perfect for private phone calls:
For several years the team has filmed an informative, loose, and always funny video series entitled “Meet the AquaSox.” They are very well done, and provide a template for other teams to follow. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised that the interviews I conducted were imbued with a similarly fun spirit. These guys know the drill. (More on these interviews, and links to all of them, can be viewed HERE.)
The standout interview was one that I conducted with Dominic “The Godfather” Leone and Blake “Flacco” Hauser. They are members of the “Nasty Boys” bullpen crew, and toward the end of the interview they were joined by several of their relief corps comrades. (Right before I took this shot, they had re-iterated amongst themselves that a strict “no smile” policy was in effect.)
But as soon as I took the shot, it was observed that fellow “Nasty Boy” Oliver “Boca” Garcia was in the immediate vicinity. His teammates yelled to him that his presence was desired, so he high-tailed it over from the stands.
Garcia (whose nickname of “Boca” means “mouth” as in “he has a big mouth, literally”) didn’t smile either.
Interviews complete, it was now time to enter the stadium proper. This view right here, this is more or less the inverse of the first photo in this post.
The promotion team’s base of operation is located down the third base line. There, one found the tools of the trade stacked up and ready to go.
Further promo props could be found in a stadium storage room, including three strollers that are sometimes used for a between-inning Baby Race. The AquaSox got the idea to do a Baby Race after seeing the Trenton Thunder’s version featured on this blog — I am very proud to be playing a role in the spread of Baby Races across the land!
I had remarked earlier that, in some ways, the AquaSox have a lot of room to move. The following array of pictures should illustrate what I mean — the team’s concourse area is adjacent to another high school athletic field, giving fans plenty of opportunity to spread out should they desire to do so.
I’ll revisit the concessions a bit later on in the narrative, but please let it be known that there are a wide variety of options.
Including, yes, a Chowder Bowl combo.
The AquaSox are limited in their alcohol distribution methods due to their school district overseers. This, right here, is the only place in which it can be found.
The doubly-alliterative “Coca-Cola Picnic Pavilion” doubles as the AquaSox batting cage, leading to the occasional day game conflict between early-arriving picnic-ers and players trying to get some extra work in.
The view from this multi-use pavilion is a vast expanse of greenery.
But there were no player-fan scheduling conflicts on the Wednesday evening in which I was in attendance. These two distinct ballpark species were intermingling as I made my way over to the outfield berm.
The young fans seen below weren’t interested in displaying suite emotions, so they walked this way to a bermanent vacation. (And, next time they go to a Mariners game, they’ll be back in Seattle again).
The G.H. placard is in honor of slain Mariners outfielder Greg Halman, who began his professional career in Everett. (My feature on Halman, written shortly after his death, includes quotes from AquaSox announcer Pat Dillon).
The view from the berm, shortly after the gates had opened.
Back on the concourse, I ran into Everett Memorial Stadium’s most famous denizen: Webbly! Truly, he is one of my favorite costumed characters, just a toadally cool dude.
At this point I had a choice between going on to the playing field or visiting the press box. I chose the ladder option, and boy was it steep!
This ladder leads to the roof, where a game-day employee dutifully records the game. It offers a very nice view.
In the off-chance that you ever view a game from this location, be aware that foul balls rocket up here with a startling velocity.
After taking in a few more vantage points, I began my descent…
first to the press box…
and — finally! — the field.
Copious signage around the ballpark is a fact of Minor League life, as it accounts for a sizable revenue stream. Sometimes said signage is a garish mish-mash of images, but in the case of the AquaSox it is an aesthetic triumph that enhances an already appealing ballpark environment.
On the field, good ol’ number eight was dutifully signing autographs.
But most uniformed personnel were socializing with individuals representing a local branch of the Special Olympics.
Representatives from the Special Olympics spent much of the evening engaged in an awareness campaign. Their mission was to “Spread the word to end the word.”
I joined the cause, and wore this bracelet around my weak-limbed blogger’s wrist.
The word that the Special Olympics are seeking to curb the use of is “retard,” which, as I’m sure you know, is freely tossed around as an insult. Being someone who, literally, obsesses over words, this is an issue I’ve often thought about. In many cases I’m against heavy-handed attempts to restrict the use of potentially offensive words because doing so paradoxically lends more power to the words in question, but I’m completely in agreement with the Special Olympics on this one. The pejorative use of “retard” is ignorant and careless, and those employing it in that context should be aware that it is both uninformed and disrespectful.
(But, again, I know that you’re not here for words of any type! I’ll do my best to limit their usage in the future.)
With the game about to begin, a spur of the moment request was made of yours truly: would I be interested in doing the pre-game introductions of the AquaSox starting nine?
Of course! I never say no to what is asked of me. And by doing so, regular on-field MC Schuyler (pronounced “Skyler”) Muller would have more time to luxuriate in his own resplendent glory.
Okay! Here we go! There wasn’t really time to get nervous while doing this, and a feeling of power emerged with the realization that, as soon as I said a player’s name, he popped from the dugout and ran to his position. It was like I was commanding them.
I allowed myself to go off-script just once, referring to second baseman Brock Hebert (pronounced “A Bear”) as “number one in your hearts.” But, beyond that, it was a simple case of reading words off of a piece of paper.
My moment of on-field tyranny was short-lived, fortunately, as it quickly gave way to the National Anthem (not that I was asked, but singing the National Anthem is one of the few things I refuse to do at a ballpark. A kazoo rendition? Maybe.)
And, with that, the game finally got underway. This shot shows “number one in your hearts” at the plate while good ol’ number eight looks on.
There’s still much more to come from Everett, but it took me 1500 words to get this far and, therefore, you know the drill: Stay tuned for part two!