On the Road: Comeback Scenes and Gossip Queens in Salem

To see all posts from my June 28, 2015 visit to the Salem Red Sox (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my June 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

As part one of this blog series concluded, a ballgame was ready to begin on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Salem, Virginia. Now, as we begin part two, the ballgame has just begun. These narrative stakes, they just keep escalating.

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The first batter of the ballgame was Lynchburg’s Luigi Rodriguez, who was greeted with the Super Mario Bros theme music. Rodriguez must have just ingested mushrooms, however, as he powered up and launched the first pitch of the game over the fence. And just like that, the Hillcats had the lead.

Rodriguez’s dinger just about fulfilled my baseball-watching quota for the day, so I commenced upon more ballpark wanderings. First up was a meeting with my designated eater. Following standard operating protocol, that will be documented in the following post. Stay tuned.

I then returned to the concourse, where I was able to immediately confirm that it was still a beautiful day for baseball in Salem. Both at Lewis-Gale Field…

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…and at the adjacent Mini-Fenway Wiffle ball field.

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It was also a beautiful day for collecting autographs from a canine mascot duo. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing. That’s Misty on the left, and Mugsy on the right.

044I was glad that I hadn’t missed Misty, but I had missed the previous evening’s “Mullet For Men’s Health Night” promotion. I appreciate the team’s effort to make me feel included on this front (don’t touch the back).

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Business up front, party in the rear

As for just exactly what I had missed the night before, there was little time to mullet over. For next up on the agenda was to visit broadcasters Kevin Burke and Brian Gardner, joining them for an inning on the air from this location high up in the air.

048While I was on the radio, Luigi Rodriguez again came up to bat for the Hillcats. I attempted to record a Vine video featuring his ever-changing suite of Super Mario walk-up music, which I shouldn’t have done since, you know, I was on the air.

At the conclusion of the inning, I had the honor of holding a fish net out from the broadcast booth and attempting to catch a t-shirt launched (via slingshot) from the concourse. I know video of this exists. In fact, I remember watching it. But I cannot find it. I’m sorry to all those who would like to see a video of me extending a net out from the broadcast booth, but it just was not meant to be. Anyhow, the t-shirt didn’t have enough distance. I did not catch it. The net was the target, but those doing the t-shirt shooting Misty mark.

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What did you think of that segue, Misty? Pretty “ruff,” huh?

050Misty had no time for my nonsense. There were fans to bother.

051And this wasn’t just any fan, it was a member of the “Litterbox.” The “Litterbox,” a group of Hillcats fans whom I had met the previous evening at Lynchburg’s Calvin Falwell Field, made the short trip to Salem so that they could root for their team in enemy territory.

054The legions of home team supporters in attendance on this Sunday afternoon were, generally, a quiet bunch. The denizens of the Litterbox, meanwhile, were exceedingly vocal. If the Salem pitcher looked toward a runner at first, they’d scream “Pitch the ball!” But if he was looking toward home plate, they’d scream “Check the runner.” It was all very amusing, at least for the short period of time in which I was sitting in their section. If I was witness to this over a period of several hours, I’d probably end up trying to strangle somebody, or more likely, myself.

Entering the top of the ninth inning, the Red Sox had a 6-4 lead over the Hillcats. The Litterbox, however, were undeterred.

And they were right. This game wasn’t over — not by a long shot. Or, perhaps, because a couple of long shots were still to come. Eric Haase, after being greeted by the song “Our House,” proved that he was indeed a very very very fine Haase by drawing a lead-off walk. Mike “I’m ambivalent when they call me big” Papi then homered to tie the game at 6-6. After this series of ignominious events, Misty made like Wreckx-n-Effect and let her rump do the talking.

But that was just the start. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for since-promoted Indians uber-prospect Bradley Zimmer, who, as befits an Uber prospect, gave the ball a ride. And, bam, just like that, the Hillcats had a 10-6 lead. It just didn’t seem fare.

And that’s how it ended, with Lynchburg enjoying a win at host Salem’s expense.

055I had been impressed with Salem’s audio choices throughout the evening, and this continued until the end. This is a good song to play after a loss. Take note:

Kids then ran the bases, giving me one last opportunity to gratuitously comment about what a beautiful day it was.

056After the game, reliever Mike Adams participated in an autograph session. The line for his John Hancock was robust.

058Earlier in the evening, a video was played on the scoreboard naming Adams’ as the team’s undisputed “Gossip Queen.”

Seeking Adams’ thoughts on the matter, I waited until the crowd had departed (including one woman with a confederate flag painted on her face), and landed an exclusive interview. Adams spoke to me extensively about his “Gossip Queen” status, as well as why he hates Mugsy the mascot. Read all about it HERE, because this is the kind of sports journalism that you just can’t get anywhere else.

You also can’t get jokes like these anywhere else.

And so this post, it has come to an end. Thanks for sticking with me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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