If I told you the Boston Red Sox high A affiliate was in Salem, would you guess that that would be in Salem Virginia? Not Salem Mass? Not me, but with an evening to kill in Roanoke last week ater a meeting, I figured I could do worse than spend the night watching some baseball.
I have been watching a fair amount of Albuquerque Isotopes games since I moved to New Mexico and really enjoying the quality and price and environment at the games. I had some low expectations for a single A game, as last time I went to one (Greensboro Bats, 2004, I was treated to atrocious fielding and bad beer.
I got to the stadium a bit early, scored an $11 ticket in the front row behind home plate. Bought me a cap $26, a good beer (new Belgium Somersault, suprisingly good, on tap) $6.25, and a pulled pork sammich with fries $7.25. Ate all that, then got some peanuts $3.50, and another beer (Local Roanoke brewpub something also good) $6.25, and then spending cash depleted to zero, I settled in for some baseball.
The national anthem was sung well by a young woman, no one as far as I could tell threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and the game was on.
Front row seating with the net is weird. I think I probably would not have died if the net was not there. It is a bit distracting to have the net in your field of view. I probably lost out on 3 or 4 foul balls. But I could relax and not have to be hyper aware all the time. The stadium was pretty empty, maybe 1/4 full. No one was sitting near me at all. The field was nice, with an odd 20 foot high wall around the entire outfield. They also had a mini fenway wiffleball field tucked around one of the corners of the stadium, there were a few kids in there tossing footballs.
Anyhow, it was an extremely pleasant night, warm, but not hot, full moon rising off the third base line. Reasonably well played game. No excessive errors, although slightly sloppy play in the field. Salem's starting pitcher, Keith Couch, was really good for 5 innings before he lost his stuff and gave up 5 runs in the 5th and 6th inning. The only other player of note was Salem's third basemen Michael Almanzar, seemed to be pretty slick fielding third (although he is listed as a first basemen) and hit pretty well, especially if he is a third basemen.
Amusements included bad umpire angles at fielded plays throughout the game as there were only two hard working umpires to call the game. One behind the plate, one in the infield. Players who complained about calls got tattled on by the umpire to the coach. New and unfortunate park traditions such as "cotton eyed joe" and "sweet carolina" were played out between innings. No condiment or ballpark treat race in the field. Lots of on the field contests between innings. Occasional t-shirt shooting. Game ended in a tie in the 9th, at least it did for me, as I was pooped and had an early flight the next morning. There was some walk off home run action in the 10th that I missed, but alas, I am human. Anyhow, minor league baseball gets the moscaline seal of approval.