If you’ve been reading my blog for a number of years, you’ll know the name Jeremy Nowak. But if you’re a new reader, here are a pair of links that tell the amazing story:
I’ve seen Jeremy play live in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and was excited to see him in action again in 2014 — in my final game of the season. After visiting Rochester, Pittsburgh and Jamestown earlier on this trip, I got up the morning of September 2 in Jamestown, NY and drove about 200 miles to Washington, PA. This city, located slightly southwest of Pittsburgh, is home to the Washington Wild Things, who play in the independent Frontier League.
You might remember that in 2013, I saw Jeremy play (and met his parents) at a road game in New Jersey, when Jeremy was a member of the Trois-Rivières Aigles of the independent Can-Am League. Well, after one season in that league, Jeremy signed with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League in April 2014. I wasn’t able to make it all the way to Evansville, IN, to see him play in 2014 — which is a shame, because the Otters play in the amazingly historic Bosse Field. Haven’t heard of it? It’s the third-oldest pro ballpark still in use in the U.S., behind only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Not bad company, right? Since a trip to Evansville wasn’t in the cards, I was pumped that Jeremy and the Otters would be heading east to play in Washington for their final series of the regular season.
I got to Washington around noon, killed some time at the nearby Tanger Outlets and made my way to Consol Energy Park. For the second day in a row, I was getting to see a doubleheader, which was doubly awesome because Jeremy’s parents, Kevin and Maria, would also be in attendance.
Game one was set to being at 6 p.m., and I got to the park at 4 p.m. so I could check out the surroundings before the gates opened. The Wild Things were great to me, giving me a media pass, so I was able to get inside early. First, though, my mission was to scour the vast parking lot beyond the outfield fence and see if I could find a Frontier League baseball. As you might know, I enjoy collecting balls from every league I visit, and since this was my first Frontier League game, I wanted to add a ball to my collection.
I was looking at an empty lot once I climbed out of my car, but the grass behind the fence promised to yield a ball or two. At least, that’s what I was hoping:
I couldn’t see any balls in the grass as I got closer …
… but within a few minutes of searching, I found this practice ball and this official Frontier League ball:
Although batting practice was still on, and I’d have likely had no trouble adding another few balls to my collection, I set out for the park’s ticket office, grabbed my media pass and snapped this shot of the gate:
As you can see, Consol Energy Park isn’t only the home of the Wild Things. It’s also shared by the Pennsylvania Rebellion, a National Pro Fastpitch team.
The inside of the park was picturesque, especially for an indy-league facility. Nice paved concourses, lots of plants and some great open areas:
I didn’t take long to stop and smell the flowers — I moved quickly through the concourse until I found a spot along the first-base side where I could watch BP.
Now, Jeremy’s family and I have a running joke that I’m a stalker. (Well, I think that they’re joking.) I mean, just because I see the guy every year and have a baseball card collection dedicated to him doesn’t make me a stalker, does it? If it does, I label myself a friendly stalker. In any case, when I got to field level, peered through my camera and zoomed in, I saw that Jeremy was currently in the cage. I snapped this photo …
… and several more, and thought, “Damn, if he looks up and sees me here, he’s really gonna think I’m a stalker.”
Fortunately, that didn’t happen. What did happen, however, was I
stalked moved into the stands closer to home plate to take photos like this one during his next stint in the cage:
I’m not sure if you noticed in these two pictures, but the playing field at Consol Energy Park is artificial turf. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen this type of turf below the MLB level. If you look carefully, you’ll see that even the baselines are turf. Even the mound is made of turf.
When Jeremy grabbed his glove and trotted to the outfield to begin shagging flies, I took the opportunity to explore the park. Out in the main concourse, I ran into an usher who had just grabbed an errant BP ball in the stands. The gates were still closed, so I was the only fan in the place, and he came up to me to chat. He was tossing the ball back and forth in his hands, and I figured he’d soon go back toward the field and toss the ball back or perhaps even give it to me. Nope on both accounts. As we stood on the concourse in front of this gate …
… he said, “Watch this,” assumed a bowling stance and attempted to “bowl” the baseball through the fence. It clanged off the iron on his first attempt, so he scrambled to grab it … and proceeded to toss it over the fence into the brush beyond the road. Don’t ask me why, but it seemed a little odd to just waste the ball.
After that bizarre spectacle, I climbed up to the top of the seating bowl behind home plate and took a series of photos to build this panorama. I think you’ll agree that Consol Energy Park is beautiful, and the hilly backdrop beyond the outfield fence is picturesque:
Next, I headed back toward the main gate to check out the starting lineups for game one. When I’d entered the park, the white board hasn’t yet been filled out, and it was still empty when I saw it again. After a few minutes of impatient toe tapping, a Wild Things staffer emerged and methodically added the names. I was glad to see Jeremy’s name added to the fifth spot on the visitors’ side, and saw that he’d be DHing for the first game:
About this time, the gates opened and I met up with Maria and Kevin — although I’m sorry to say we didn’t get a picture of the three of us together. A complete mind-blip on my behalf, and I regret it. I hope I’ll run into them next year, and we’ll take two photos for good measure! It was great to catch up with them; despite having met them just once, we get along really well and watching a doubleheader without barely a pause in good conversation is a testament to that. We all headed over to the visitors’ dugout to wait for Jeremy. Before he emerged from the clubhouse in the left field corner, I snapped this photo of some of the Otters’ bats — the fourth bat from the left is a Sam Bat, which is a Canadian company. I was lucky enough to get a personal tour of the Sam Bat factory from the company’s president back in 2012, so I’ve always got my eyes open for this Canuck lumber on my trips:
Before long, Jeremy came into view and he immediately came up into the stands to say hello and get this picture with me:
I didn’t want to detain him, but he spent several minutes talking baseball, which was awesome. Soon enough, he had to go get warmed up, so the Nowaks and I grabbed a trio of seats in the front row behind the dugout and waited for first pitch. The next million photos I took are — you guessed it — action shots of Jeremy. To avoid the stalker label, I’ll share just a few here:
I normally only sit still for a couple innings at a time during my ballpark visits, but this day was different. Other than when I’d move to the other side of the diamond to photograph Jeremy batting left, Maria, Kevin and I stayed in our seats for every inning of the doubleheader and had an absolute blast. After the second game, we waited outside the clubhouse and talked to Jeremy for a few minutes before the Nowaks went to their hotel and I went to mine. Jeremy signed a contract extension with the Otters a few weeks ago, and I’m already looking forward to seeing him in action again this season. I’ll be posting details as soon as I get that trip planned.