On the Road: A Talking Rooster and Tossing Chickens in Princeton

To see all posts from my June 30 visit to the Princeton Rays, 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).

H.P. Hunnicutt Field, home of the Princeton Rays, was my first stop in the Appalachian League’s East Division. Princeton, population 6500, is located in southern West Virginia and borders the state of Virginia.

img_1738H.P. Hunnicutt Field is owned by the local school district, and the Rays share the facility with the the middle and high school baseball teams (a football field is located adjacent.). It opened in 1988 and has hosted an Appy League team throughout the entirety of its existence. The ongoing affiliation with Tampa Bay began in 1996.

Renovated in 1999, H.P. Hunnicutt Field lacks the timeless charm of other Appy League locales (Bristol, Elizabethton, Bluefield and Burlington spring immediately to mind). Most of the seating is comprised of uncovered metal bleachers, and the general architectural style is chain link chic.

img_0232 img_0235The press box can only accomodate one radio broadcast. Visiting game-callers need to improvise.

The entire seating area of H.P Hunnicutt Field is situated 10 feet above the ground, though un-elevated vantage points can be found in this humble picnic and party area.
img_0237The picnic area is bordered by the Roscoe’s Grill concession stand, which also has a window facing out onto the main concourse. There is no beer sold at Hunnicutt Field, as it is owned by the local board of education and the local board of education can not sanction such a thing on its premises.

img_0240The “Roscoe” in question is the Rays’ rooster mascot, who has his own t-shirt in the “Ray’s Cove” team store.

img_0242I met Roscoe out on the concourse, and, boy oh boy, was I in for a surprise.

img_1739Roscoe talks!

The above video was included in my MiLB.com article on Roscoe. In the story, you can also read more about Roscoe’s side gig as a local wrestler. The Cuban Assassin is no match for Roscoe!

princeton_roscoe_a_6rqfzy9k_8hlbaf3nAfter talking with Roscoe, I was not particularly surprised to find that a ballgame was ready to begin. The Rays were hosting the Greeneville Astros.

img_0247Play ball!

img_1743As ball was played, I continued my wanderings. At one point I briefly sat in front of two older gentleman, who were engaged in a small game discussion that had nothing to do with the action on the field.

“I used to split ’em, skin ’em and pull those guts out,” said one man of his rabbit dressing technique.

“I know a guy, he’d sneak into the city park and kill all them squirrels,” replied his companion.

I’m not sure how to segue from that conversational snippet.

Are these the best seats in the house?

img_1745

img_0249The Rays, owned as a corporation by the Princeton Baseball Association, are a small operation. Dedicated volunteers, such as the late Lefty Guard, have been crucial to the franchise’s continued existence.

img_0250“Lefty Guard helped set everything up, him and Junior Billings,” said Princeton general manager Nick Carey. “They were the go-to guys those first few years. Junior Billings still buys Lefty Guard’s tickets each year, and leaves the seat open.”

As for Nick Carey, I did not envy his position. 2016 was his first season as general manager; he is only 23 and the only full-time employee on staff. His predecessor, Jim Holland, had been with the team for longer than Nick and been alive.

Nick pretty much has to do it all. For example, he and Caitlyn, his lone intern, handled all the between-inning contests during the game. In this particular contest, beanbags were thrown at an eye.

img_0248

Here, Nick emcees a “Price is Right”-style contest. A bottle of barbecue sauce was the prize.

img_1748After awarding the young contestant the bottle of barbecue sauce, Roscoe told me that “I gave that kid Rooster suntan lotion.”

A few innings later, I was given the opportunity to participate in a rubber chicken tossing contest. I did not disappoint.

For my efforts I won a Bojangles gift pack, which I didn’t open until later that night.

I watched the final inning of the ballgame from the first base bleachers, appreciating the immensity of the Wendy’s sign all the while.

img_1753The Rays defeated Greeneville, 7-1, their fifth of what would be 38 victories in 2016.

Goodnight, Princeton, and good night Nick Carey. Congrats on making it through your first season.

img_1763I’ll let Roscoe have the last word.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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