On the Road: Having Cake, Eating it Too in Norfolk

To see all of posts from my June 27, 2015 visit to the Norfolk Tides (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

So what does Norfolk’s Harbor Park look like on a Friday evening in late June? I’m not going to tell you, I’m going to show you. Telling you would take descriptive writing skills that, quite frankly, I don’t have.

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Then above photo depicts the Harbor Park scene on Friday, June 26th, sometime during the middle innings. Truthfully, I didn’t have much to do at this juncture of the evening. My interview with Dave Rosenfield had lasted until sometime in the second inning, at which point I hightailed it down to the “Hits at the Park” restaurant in order to document my designated eater attempt the “Pork Challenge.” This will be documented in the next post.

I feel uncomfortable when I don’t have much to write about, but here we are. Um…here’s an alternate view of the nighttime action. Pretty big stadium, huh? As mentioned in the last post, Harbor Park has a capacity of nearly 12,000. The announced crowd for this contest against the Mud Hens of Toledo was 5,069, slightly below the team’s 5200 average (weird, as, again, this was a Friday night. A bunch of people probably got stuck in Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel traffic and gave up on going to the game).
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During my unfocused wanderings, I ran into mascot Rip Tide. Mascots are strange, by default, but I posit that Rip Tide is strange even by mascot standards. I’ve heard of a bulbous nose, but I’d never before seen a basebulbous nose. It doesn’t make scents to me.

067As for what Rip Tide is, I don’t know. He’s vaguely aquatic. Perhaps his unfamiliarity with dry land is what led to this infamous 2012 blooper, an absolute classic by any standard.

Rip Tide wasn’t the only costumed character lurking about.

069That’s Reggy the Purple Party Dude, a touring entertainer who may or may not have a large order of fries emerging from his skull. This photo was taken shortly after Reggy delivered a cake to an usher who was celebrating his birthday. Thing is, Reggy tripped and ended up smashing the cake into this guy’s face instead.

IMG_1497Being the enterprising journalist I am, a modern-day Damon Runyon by any standard, I landed an exclusive interview with the dude who got smashed in the face with a cake.

Truth be told, because it’s not gonna tell itself: the dude who got caked is Christopher Bruce, who usually performs as Reggy. His recent leg injury, referenced in the below video, has relegated him to bit player status in his own act. But — hey! — the show must go on. Reggy stops for no dude.

As Reggy signed autographs for his fans, I decided that it would be a good time to actually pay attention to the ballgame. Or, at the very least, make a painfully obvious joke about it.

The game stayed tied through the ninth, so extra innings it would be. This picture, taken in the top of the 10th inning, is not of a very good quality. But it is notable, at least to me, in that Toledo’s Mike Hessman was up to bat.

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Hessman, 37, is the all-time International League home run leader and has hit 429 total while in the Minor Leagues. Trust me, I’m on top of such things: IMG_1607 By virtue of his longevity alone, Hessman is my favorite player in the Minor Leagues. Also, he’s one of a small handful of MiLB players who is older than I am. (When Hessman retires, I’m going to have to re-evaluate my own long-term career goals, because right now my overriding philosophy is “Mike Hessman’s still out there doing what he’s doing, so I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing.”)

Hessman popped out in this 10th-inning at-bat, but the Mud Hens had taken a 4-3 lead thanks to Jefry Marte’s home run to lead off the frame. The Tides did not go quietly in the bottom of the 10th, however. Rey Navarro singled to start the inning and then scored on Christian Walker’s double.

“They better [misspelled expletive deleted] win this,” I wrote in my notebook at this time. “Man on second, no out.”

After Derrik Gibson popped out on a bunt attempt, Steve Clevenger was walked intentionally. (Pantera’s “Walk” was his musical accompaniment as he made his way to first base.) Sean Halton then drew an unintentional walk to load the bases, bringing up Michael Almanzar with a chance to win the game. He did.

“Strange walk-off,” I wrote in my notebook. “Shortstop made a diving stop, but doesn’t throw home because he had no shot. Tides celebration was initially stilted and delayed, like ‘Wait, we won?'”

That was my recollection, at least. In the game log, it says that Almanzar grounded into a 6-5 force out as Walker came around to score the winning run. This makes no sense to me. One, I don’t remember seeing the shortstop throw to third base. Why throw to third in that situation? There was no shot at a double play, and a force out at third base was as good as a hit as far as the Tides were concerned. Something’s fishy here, which I guess is a common occurrence when your stadium is on the banks of a river.

Anyhow, the Tides won.

It was then time for Launch-A-Ball, everyone’s favorite skill-based post-game tennis ball-tossing endeavor.

073“Balls thrown from suites barely cleared the dugout,” I wrote in my notebook. “Some bounced on the dugout, some missed and then were recovered by fans in front rows.”

Wow, my notebook is a great source of information! I should look at it more often.

Kids then ran the bases as Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mama I’m Coming Home” played over the PA. Nice choice, guys.

074It was now 10:30 p.m. Do you know where your children are? Or, barring that, do you know where the nearest mermaid statue is?

This, entitled “Sandy Tide” (maybe she’s related to Rip Tide?) was designed by local artist Georgia Mason. It made its debut at the ballpark on April 18, 2015. It looks good at night.

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I guess I had enough to write about after all.

Fin.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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2 Comments

Regarding the final play: after fielding the ground ball and realizing that there was no chance to throw Walker out at home, Dixon Machado in disgust/desperation lobbed the ball to third baseman Jefry Marte who was standing on third base. The third-base umpire called the force out, which counted because (at least) batter Almanzar had not yet reached first base safely. The game wasn’t over until every runner had safely reached the base to which he was forced. The only measurable effect of the forceout was to lower earned run averages.

Thank you for the clarification. It’s funny, once I saw Machado couldn’t go home with it I must’ve turned my attention elsewhere on the field. I didn’t even see him throw to third.

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