On the Road: Cruising Through a Tuesday Night in New Orleans

To see all posts from my July 28, 2015 visit to the New Orleans Zephyrs (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE! 

So, as I was saying in part one of this New Orleans blog saga, I happened to visit Zephyr Field on what was a low-key Tuesday night.

016While the Zephyrs play in a sizable market, they’re in a tough situation regarding their ability to consistently draw large crowds. There are endless year-round entertainment options in New Orleans, so professional baseball in a neighboring suburb is bound to get overlooked by locals and tourists alike. Plus, the area is one of the few in the country where college baseball — particularly Louisiana State University — is a major draw in its own right. The biggest crowd in Zephyr Field history was in 2001, and it wasn’t to see the Zephyrs. Rather it was to see LSU take on Tulane in the super regionals.

College football is massively popular in the greater New Orleans as well, and of course the National Football League Saints are a year-round concern. There’s also an National Basketball Association team — the Pelicans — whose name is, at least in part, an homage to the New Orleans Pelicans Minor League club that operated throughout the first half of the 20th century. In fact, Pelicans owner Tom Benson (who also owns the Saints) tried to relocate the (then) Double-A Charlotte Knights to New Orleans in 1993. If he had done so, he would have named them the “Pelicans.” This move never came to fruition, however, as the Denver Zephyrs relocated to New Orleans instead (more info on that move can be found in the previous post).

The Saints train in Metairie, and their preseason facility is visible from Zephyr Field. It’s that rectangular building in the distance, not-so-secretly containing an indoor football field.

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If one was to then move one’s head, and thus, eyes, to the left, then one would then see that Zephyr Field has a pool.

017There is also a small concourse arcade, for those who just can’t, under any circumstance, bring themselves to watch baseball. (For the record, I was once pretty good at “Cruisin’ USA,” a staple of boardwalk arcades during my teenage years.)

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But while cruisin’ is allowed, smokin’ is not. There was something about this signage that captured me; at first glance it appeared to be a cryptic communique from a lost civilization.

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Crusin’ back to the field of play, here’s how things looked from the third base side.

031And then it was up to the press box, where Z view was quite nice.

035You know you’re in New Orleans when the press box spread includes bags of Zapp’s. Roger that:

IMG_0020When in the press box, idle wandering wasn’t my primary concern. I ended up spending an enjoyable inning and a half on the air with the Zephyrs broadcast team of Tim Grubbs and Ron Swoboda (yes, the Ron Swoboda, of 1969 Miracle Mets fame).  Grubbs calls all 144 Zephyrs games each season and also coordinates team travel; Swoboda, a veteran TV sports journalist who has long called New Orleans home, joins him for every home game.

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During the course of our on-air conversation, we got to talking about my recent story on Norfolk Tides executive vice president Dave Rosenfield. I mentioned that Rosenfield was once name-checked on The Simpsons and Swoboda mentioned that he was as well.

Wow, I had forgotten about that! It’s in the season 22 episode Moneybart:

Marge: Lisa, can’t you let your brother back on the team? Fly balls and fungoes come and go, but family is forever. 

Homer: Sorry, Marge, I got to call bullcrap on that one. The ’69 Mets will live on forever, but do you think anyone cares about Ron Swoboda’s wife and kids? Not me, and I assume not Ron Swoboda. 

Swoboda laughed off this out-of-right-field swipe, with an attitude of “Hey, at least people are still talking about me.”

Anyhow, thanks to Grubbs and Swoboda for having me on. This photo of the three of us, taken in rushed circumstances during a commercial break, is not ideal. But it’s all I’ve got, and I’m happy to have it.

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Returning back to the concourse, I did my best to heed this sign. I like that the Zephyrs opted for the foreboding “Beware” as opposed to the more standard “Be Aware.”

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One “object” that was hard to miss on this evening were the shoes worn by (since released) outfielder Jordany Valdespin. The team did a better job at documenting this than I did.

Another “object” that I tried to be aware of was Boudreaux, the Zephyrs’ Nutria mascot. I failed to cross paths with him during the evening, which was frustrating because I’d always wanted to get my picture taken with a swamp rat. This is the best photo of him that I could manage, which is essentially the same as no photo. You can kinda sorta see him ducking back into the dugout:boodI have found myself increasingly interested in nutria after visiting New Orleans. Did you know that they were introduced to the area by hot sauce magnate E. A. McIlhenny, who wanted to raise them for their fur? Or that Sheriff Harry Lee, an anti-nutria crusader, once granted Boudreaux a stay of execution? I don’t have documentation regarding this latter assertion, but this is what Zephyrs director of media relations Dave Sachs told me and therefore it must be so.

While I failed at documenting Boudreaux on this evening, I did succeed at documenting a Metairie sunset. I messed around with the filters and settings on Instagram before posting this and therefore consider this it to be a dishonest photograph. But sometimes, dishonesty is beautiful.

IMG_0027Whether it was low-key or bustling, wildly successful or depressingly inept, there comes a point in every evening in which I am reduced to making a ballpark joke.

And with that, I concluded my evening in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie. I have since been accused of bringing bad luck upon the land, but what else is new?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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