On the Road: It All Begins in Greensboro

To see all my posts from my May 6 visit to the Greensboro Grasshoppers, click HERE. To see all of my posts from my May 2016 Carolinas Road Trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts on a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right). 

My 2016 “On the Road” season kicked off on May 5th, 2016. Would you like to hear about how the day went? It’s really interesting. I got up early and went to the gym, as this season it is my goal to become the most physically alluring single male 30-something Minor League Baseball writer of all time. (I’m not sure who I’m competing against). I then took a green cab to Penn Station and boarded a New Jersey transit train to the Newark airport. After an Airtrain ride spent silently mocking the automated conductor’s pronunciation of “United” (U-knitted? Really?), I proceeded through security, got mad at how expensive airport food is, got sad at the dystopian check-out kiosks that are slowly displacing the American retail worker and, finally, boarded a plane to Raleigh-Durham. In much the same way that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are located in Moosic, PA, the Raleigh-Durham airport is located in Morrisville. Representing two places in your name while being situated in a third — now that’s covering your bases!

Please have patience while this introduction builds to an exquisite crescendo. In Durham, where the weather was miserable, I rented a car (Volkswagen Passat, for those keeping score at home) and then drove to Greensboro while listening to the first disc in the four-volume “Complete Road Music” series. (Red Sovine almost made me cry. Again.) Greensboro, being in close proximity to Durham, was also experiencing miserable weather and, in fact, that evening’s Grasshoppers game was rained out. No matter. I wasn’t planning on attending a Grasshoppers game until the next evening, where surely everything would be fine.

And you know what? It was. Everything is always fine. This was my view of NewBridge Bank Park the next morning. There was nary a tarp in sight.

IMG_1088After an afternoon spent in silent observance of my 37 1/2 birthday (aka “Halfway to 75”) I traipsed — yes, traipsed! — to New Bridge Bank Ballpark for that evening’s scheduled doubleheader against the Columbia Fireflies. It was a doubleheader because the previous evening’s ballgame had been rained out. Everything is connected.

On Twitter I referred to the scene below as a “quintessential MiLB tableau” and I stand by that assessment. The inanimate canines to the right of inanimate mascot Guilford are, I believe, batdogs Master Yogi Berra and Miss Babe Ruth (retired). More on them later.

001In front of the giant inflatable jersey one finds a memorial to Flight 93 flight attendant Sandra W. Bradshaw, a “caring friend and companion….who sacrificed her life to save others.”

002 From the home plate side, NewBridge Bank Park is considerably more imposing.

004I was met at the entrance by Grasshoppers VP Katie Dannemiller, who led me through the team store and into the front offices. Miss Babe Ruth, a daily ballpark presence even in retirement, was there to greet me. Or, more accurately, she was there to dolefully stare at me as I traipsed past.

005From the front office it was on to the concourse, where I caught my first-ever glimpse of the brand-new South Atlantic League entity that are the Columbia Fireflies.

In the above photo, one can see a new ballpark addition (Sunbrella Shade Zone Picnic Area) as well as new ballpark view apartments that are being constructed beyond left field. Though built over a decade ago, the area around NewBridge Bank Park is still developing.

In its own way, the view from behind the ballpark is pretty nice as well.

007The early-arriving masses, beside themselves with anticipation for a pair of seven-inning Class A ballgames, could no longer be contained. A brave member of the Hoppin Fun Crew (who, like the Reading Fightin Phils, eschew apostrophe) was ready for them.

010The concourse, which spans 360 degrees but does not offer views of the field from all of those degrees, sprung to life.

008During my pregame strolling I saw one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen at a ballpark. From my notes:

“Young autograph-collecting dad, wearing flip-flops, parks his stroller on the concourse and totally wipes out while walking down the muddy berm. His feet went right out from under him and he landed on his back. Fireflies players warming up on field let out collective ‘Ohhhhh!’ He was covered in mud and elbows scraped. Went back up the hill without getting an autograph.”

I don’t mean to be mean-spirited in laughing at this, as Lord knows I’ve had my share of ballpark bloopers. One time I threw up in a clubhouse tunnel toilet in Tulsa after over-exerting myself in an on-field human bobblehead contest.

Oh, say can you see that a game was about to start? My notes indicate that the anthem fireworks were not quite in sync with the words “bomb bursting.” This observation is followed by “I love MiLB.”

013

I love MiLB and I love being on the road visiting the ballparks. Perhaps this is because “On great fields, something stays.” Take it away Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, whose timeless words of wisdom are displayed in this piece of signage immediately to the left of the main entrance.

012Chamberlain’s quote brings to mind the last paragraph of Jack London’s Star Rover, an influential text in my personal canon.

There is no death. Life is spirit, and spirit cannot die. Only the flesh dies and passes, ever a-crawl with the chemic ferment that informs it, ever plastic, ever crystallizing, only to melt into the flux and to crystallize into fresh and diverse forms that are ephemeral and that melt back into the flux. Spirit alone endures and continues to build upon itself through successive and endless incarnations as it works upward toward the light. What shall I be when I live again? I wonder. I wonder. . . .

Nothing is guaranteed, but before melting into the flux I plan on writing Part Two of this Greensboro Grasshoppers blog series. Stay tuned.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

1 Comment

Definitely one of the most underrated skylines in MiLB! Great write-up

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