On the Road: Raining Champs in Johnson City

To see all posts from my June 27 visit to the Johnson City Cardinals, click HERE. To see all my posts from my June/July 2016 Appalachian League Road Trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

My 2016 trip through the Appalachian League was greatly aided and abetted by the Johnson City Cardinals. General manager Tyler Parsons and exquisitely bearded assistant general manager Zac Clark had politely harassed me for years to come visit and when I finally committed to doing so they helped devise my league-wide itinerary. I spent the first five nights of the trip in Johnson City, which served as my home base as I visited the five teams in the Appy League’s West Division.

So, after all that, the lone rainout I experienced throughout the entirety of my 2016 travels occurred in Johnson City. Of course it did.

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Thwarted

That’s not to say I don’t have anything to write about. I always have something to write about, which is probably why I’m always writing. So let’s start at the beginning.

I spent the daytime portion of June 27 with Jenna Moore of the Johnson City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Our wanderings — documented HERE — included a brief daytime stop at the Cardinals’ TVA Credit Union Ballpark. The weather, at this mid-afternoon juncture, was beautiful.

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img_1616The ballpark, which underwent over $400,000 in renovations prior to the season, was looking pretty spiffy on this Monday afternoon. The below photo shows the view from the new party deck and beer garden.

img_1621But this is still the Appy League, after all, where less-than-luxe accommodations have long been the norm. This is the mascot dressing room, where Jay Cee unwinds between antics.

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By comparison, the recently-remodeled umpire dressing room looks like a five-star hotel.
img_1625Back outside, I was thrilled to see a large outfield billboard advertising Dr. Enuf (a regional “energy drink” I had been introduced to just several hours before.) I was also thrilled to see such a big cloud, which I named “Puff Daddy” in my mind before deciding that it’s really stupid to name clouds and that I should never do so again.

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By the time I returned to the ballpark several hours later, for my regularly scheduled visit, Puff Daddy had dissipated and the sky had turned a more foreboding gray hue. For those hoping to watch baseball on this Monday evening, it was not an azure-ing sight.

Nonetheless, a healthy crowd of optimistic early arrivers were on hand to partake in a variety of “Buck Monday” concession specials.

img_0120I, as always, was doing my best to ignore the foreboding sense of doom.

Mascot selfie time! What’s up, Jay Cee?! You should probably get that tongue laceration checked out when you get the chance.
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The foreboding sense of doom soon gave way to doom.

img_1646Most of the fans sought solace in the bleachers.

img_1649I, being a very important figure, sought solace in the press box. Exquisitely-bearded assistant general manager Zac Clark was there to welcome me.

At 6:40 the rains became truly torrential and cries of “Unplug everything!” were heard in the press box. The evening’s ballgame was not going to be played.

Though there would be no ballgame, I was in no rush to go anywhere because I didn’t have anywhere to go. While still in the press box, I interviewed 18-year-old Cardinals broadcaster Joey Liberatore. My story on Joey and his accelerated career path can be found HERE.

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By the time I was done talking to Joey, the rain had totally stopped and an idyllic calm had taken over the ballpark. The scene was serene.

img_0128But won’t somebody think of the pretzels?

img_1651The previous afternoon in Kingsport, I had failed to write and disseminate my Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day.

I was determined not to let this happen again, so it did not happen again. With an assist from exquisitely-bearded assistant general manager Zac Clark, a new comedy masterwork was soon created.

However disappointing it may have been at the time, the team recovered nicely from this Monday evening “Ben’s Biz in the ballpark” rainout. Buoyed by ballpark improvements, new ownership and a motivated front office staff, the Cardinals set an all-time attendance record in 2016 (51,855). Oh, and they won the Appalachian League championship.

Enuf’s enuf, guys!

img_1653Enuff Z’Nuff!

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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