So, as promised (or threatened), a few thoughts about the recent Carolina-California League All-Star Game played June 24 at Myrtle Beach.
First the good, of which there was a lot:
Well, for one thing, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more ideal place to spend a Minor League Baseball summer than at BB&T Coastal Field. I’d say it’s a fabulous stadium for a Class A ball club (the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are the Atlanta Braves’ Carolina League affiliate) but it doesn’t need that qualifier … it’s just a great stadium, period.
It manages to capture the old-time feeling of the fun aspects of Minor League baseball while being clean (but not sterile) and just a little bit quirky (such as the beach area with the lifeguard tower out in left field).
You can’t beat the location … just off the famous Strand, literally across the street from Broadway on the Beach (a complex with restaurants, movie theatres and all sorts of entertainment) and a short drive from the ocean. Oh and it’s right next door to a Courtyard by Marriott (sportswriters’ best friends) so we could actually walk to the park from our hotel.
Plus, their general manager, North Johnson, is one of the best in the game. The longtime GM at Kinston, he moved west to Rancho Cucamonga for a few years but clearly left his heart in the Carolinas and the Carolina League and came back to take the helm of the Pelicans a few years ago. There are few classier gentlemen that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in my 20 years covering the Minors.
It was a perfect place to have an All-Star Game, a setting the league could be proud of as it hosted 22 of the rival California League’s best and brightest. The night before the game, the league hosted what I am told was a great gala at the brand new Hard Rock Cafe amusement park.
And the players had a lot of fun at the game as well. One thing I always love watching is the players being sort of spectators as well as participants.
During the pre-game Home Run Derby, three of the California Leaguers — Bakersfield second baseman Jose Vallejo, Inland Empire catcher Carlos Santana, and Visalia pitcher Cesar Valdez — must have taken about 40 pictures of each other on their respective digital cameras.
In this shot on the left, Santana is getting Vallejo into focus (you can’t see him in the shot), while, as you’ll note, other Cal Leaguers are signing autographs for a young fan down the left field line. And in the shot on the right, Valdez gets a baseball card-worthy shot of Vallejo.
Things I didn’t like. Well, there wasn’t a whole lot that I didn’t like but I have to confess I could totally have done without the pre-game “entertainment” of a few hot chicks in bikinis dancing on the home dugout ostensibly leading the crowd in some contest or something. I know, I know, I am such a party pooper. And I know I was probably in the minority of folks on hand who didn’t enjoy it. But hell, I don’t need to be reminded that I will never look like that in a bikini (nor, for that matter, did I ever look like that in a bikini even in the old days when I tipped the scales at 100 lbs.).
Oh, and I didn’t really like the part of the night when, after interviewing the game’s heroes on the field, I made a run for the second-level pressbox to retrieve my computer and actually finish my work since, you know, that’s what I was there to do. Only to find that I could not GO to the pressbox because let’s just say there was a BIG FAMOUS PERSON (hint: his son was playing in the game) in one of the luxury boxes, and a few dozen fans waiting by the lone elevator for him to eventually come down and so they were not letting ANYONE onto that elevator to go upstairs. Didn’t matter if we happened to be working media who could care less about getting his autograph. We’d just have to wait.
So take the stairs, you say? That’s what we said too. Turns out the stairs were ALSO LOCKED and the guy with the key was on the field waiting for the fireworks display so he couldn’t come and unlock them for us.
FINALLY, I guess because I whined a lot, they managed to find the guy with the key and let us take the stairs so we could actually finish our work. Luckily I wasn’t under a heavy deadline or … well, my awesome editors would not have been happy with me. (Apparently our intrepid intern who WAS writing managed to sneak onto the elevator. Nice job.).
Moving off the subject of All-Stars for a little while (and with my upcoming New York-to-Louisville trip I am sure I’ll be back on it soon), I’ve really been enjoying getting to know two of my favorite baseball bloggers who just happen to be other amazing, witty and interesting women baseball fans (we gotta stick together, you know?).
Both are prominently featured in my widget (that’s the column over there on the right) and I can’t recommend highly enough that you be sure to read both “Girls Don’t Know Anything About Baseball” by “Marla Hooch” (yes, that’s her pen name, duh) and “The Sporkball Journals” by “Chiburibird” aka “BeesGal.” The two are diehard fans of, respectively, the Texas Rangers (and their Minor League affiliates) and the Angels of Anaheim (and their Minor League affiliates, most notably the Salt Lake Bees).
I had the pleasure of having lunch with “Marla” when she came through town on a mini-vacation (and to see her Rangers on the road) and while much of the conversation was about baseball, not all of it was … we have very similar tastes in music including mutual fanaticism for Steely Dan so in her most recent blog entry she listed her five favorite Dan songs … so here, in response are mine:
1. “Pearl of the Quarter” from “Countdown to Ecstasy.” Arguably the closest thing to a “ballad” the band has done (with the exception of a few unreleased bootleg songs I’ve heard such as “Sun Mountain”), I have never seen them do this in concert and I think I would faint from delight if I ever did. This was the B-side on the single to which the A side was …
2. “My Old School” … I think they’ve done this as their final encore every time I’ve seen them. I never get sick of this song and always have to play “air piano” when I hear it. I have never understood why, say, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” was a monster hit and this wasn’t.
3. “Bad Sneakers.” Another brilliant single that never was hit. What is wrong with people listening to AM radio in the 70s? This is also the song that really turned me onto the band. I knew them by the hit singles (“Rikki,” “Reeling in the Years,” “Do It Again”) but this made me run out and buy “Katy Lied.” My daughter is working on a great acoustic cover of this one for when she gigs and has to go beyond her originals.
4. “Pixeleen.” Though I wasn’t a big fan of “Everything Must Go,” I love this song and it reminds me of my daughter who was obsessed with it for several weeks. And she is my three-times perfect ultra teen too.
5. “Don’t Take Me Alive.” From “The Royal Scam,” I defy anyone to not hear this and simply HAVE to blast it on their car stereo and sing along at the top of their lungs. Even if it is about a guy who killed his dad. In Oregon. I think.
So which band’s Top 5 should I feature next week?