On the Road: Two for the Price of One in Clinton

To see all of my posts from this May 2015 visit to the Clinton LumberKings (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Midwest, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

Greetings once again from Ashford University Field in Clinton, Iowa. A Memorial Day doubleheader between the LumberKings and fellow small-market Iowans the Burlington Bees had just begun.

042I spent a good portion of the first game of the doubleheader sitting on a picnic bench located down the left field line.

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From this vantage point, I documented the “Garbage Pail” exploits of that afternoon’s Designated Eater (this will be written about in a separate post). Next, I spoke with ballpark mainstay Ray Gimenez.

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Gimenez has a unique story, so much so that I’ve already written an article about him on MiLB.com. In a nutshell, he was born in Cuba, raised in the Bronx and first spent time in Clinton as a member of the 1973 Clinton Pilots (who were managed by Jim Leyland). Gimenez stayed in Clinton after his playing career ended, raising a family and attending theological school. He now runs a homeless shelter in the city, and also assists Hispanic players as they learn the English language and American culture in general.

“There’s a closeness and an interaction that I’ve always loved about the Clinton stadium,” said Gimenez. “I do a lot of preaching and a lot of traveling, but I’m so glad that God allows me time to be with the game I love. I love it, man. I just love it.”

Seven-inning games move by pretty quickly when you’re immersed in conversation and/or preoccupied with concession documentation. The LumberKings won the first game by a score of 5-1.

Time for a National Anthem redux, and then on to the nightcap.

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Via a subsequent lap around the concourse, I discovered that the LumberKings are (perhaps the) only team to have an on-site lending library. I can’t say I was too impressed by the current selection, which included Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul 2, Titanic Survivor and Cats (“16 full-color pages inside”).

044I soon decided that chicken soup for my soul would involve actually sitting down and watching baseball. I really like how this in-game snippet turned out.

But whenever I’m in Ben’s Biz-mode, I can’t settle in and watch baseball for long. I’m always distracting myself with tasks large and small, such as the need to come up with that day’s “Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke.”

Inspiration came in the form of this sign.

045Okay, not my best work, but whatever:

Back to watching baseball, then.

046But, you know, not for long. In the fifth inning, my vantage point changed once again.

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My destination was the press box, a most foreboding press box indeed. This sign, simplified, can be interpreted as: “Scram, fans”.

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But I was no mere fan. I was an esteemed member of the national media, there to do an inning on the radio.

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The LumberKings broadcast booth was an amusing environment. and I think the above photo sums it up. #2 broadcaster Greg Mroz was on the air, and throughout his play-by-play he would throw in random asides regarding United States towns that share the same name with notable foreign cities (i.e. Moscow, Idaho). Many of  these town names were texted to him by PA announcer Brad Seward, who resides in the booth next door.

When I went on the air the following half-inning, some sort of technical difficulty ensued and we quickly went off the air. That’s life in Minor League Baseball, particularly when working in a stadium built in 1937. You’ve gotta have a sense of humor, and these guys definitely did.

With the score tied 1-1, I returned to the grandstand to watch the seventh inning. In the bottom of the frame, Taylor Zeutenhorst drew a walk, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Chris Mariscal’s single to right field. The LumberKings had swept the doubleheader.

And thus ended my 14-inning afternoon at Ashford University Field. I’ll let Brad Seward send you all on home.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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