Before I share the details about a fun return visit to Consol Energy Park, I’m excited to announce that this post is my 200th post since starting this blog back in 2010.
I did some calculations and learned that I’ve written more than 220,000 words (that’s equivalent to about five novels, for the record) over the course of those 200 blog posts.
In that span, this blog has gone from getting a couple dozen hits per day to currently ranking third among all the fan blogs in MLBlogs, so I want to take a moment to say how much I appreciate everyone who’s stopped by to read. Thank you.
Here’s the deal with visiting Washington, PA to see the Wild Things host the Evansville Otters: When I got invited to see a Cleveland Indians game from the #TribeLive section, I booked my visit for the last week of August partially so I could see my buddy Jeremy Nowak in action again this year, as he and his Otters teammates were scheduled to be in Washington on August 28. (I actually saw Jeremy in Washington a year before, which you can read about here, if you’re interested.)
A week or so before the trip, Jeremy joined the Joliet Slammers, which meant he wouldn’t be in Washington while I was there. Although there were a few other parks I could’ve visited instead, I decided to stick with my original plan and catch some indy-league ball before moving on to Pittsburgh for a pair of games on the weekend. I left Cleveland late in the morning, got to Washington in the early afternoon and, after a bit of time relaxing in my hotel, it was soon time to pack up and head over to Consol Energy Park. I arrived about 30 minutes before the gates opened, grabbed my ticket and began my quest to get a batting practice ball behind the outfield fence. I could hear that batting practice was taking place and, as I headed toward the grass behind the fence, I noticed two members of the Otters warming up in the cage:
After a couple minutes of searching in the grass, I found this:
As you can see, the stitching is a combination of red and blue, which is the first ball with this stitch configuration in my collection. I’m not sure if the Frontier League used these balls for every game in 2015 or only special occasions, as is often the case with specially stitched balls. In any case, it was interesting to note that the league now uses Rawlings balls; it had used Wilson balls a year earlier during my visit.
I walked from foul pole to foul pole and only found this one ball, which makes sense because a member of the Otters was also out there with a bucket collecting home runs. BP wrapped up around this time and when I made it to left field, I saw that the gate was open, so I stood on the edge of the warning track for a moment and took this photo of the almost-empty field:
Continuing my walk, I arrived at the front of the park and took the shots to build this panorama:
Then, it was time to photograph my ticket …
… and enter the park:
Since nothing was happening on the field at the moment, I took the opportunity to check out the team shop, which had a bunch of Wild Things apparel and apparel for the Washington Rebellion, a pro fastpitch team that shares the park with the Wild Things. The coolest thing I saw in the team shop? Wild Things-branded chocolate!
There wasn’t much going on in the park’s seating bowl, as you can see here:
And the picnic deck and grass berm down the first base line were still quiet, too:
I didn’t have to wait long, fortunately, for some signs of life. Standing on the berm in the above photo, I watched as members of the Otters gradually made their way from the clubhouse toward the dugout. I have to admit that I was sad that Jeremy wasn’t among them. In fact, I caught myself a few times keeping a close eye on the clubhouse doors hoping to see him emerge!
After I’d seen most of the Otters walk past, I went over to roughly the same spot on the other side of the field to watch the Wild Things, including catcher Maxx Garrett, walk past to before getting warmed up:
When first pitch approached, I returned to the Evansville side of the field and sat roughly where I’d sat with Jeremy’s parents the year before — directly above the Otters dugout. In a case of deja vu, I recognized a couple parents of an Otters player that I’d briefly met a year earlier.
From this vantage spot, I had a great view of the action. Here’s Evansville infielder Rolando Gomez warming up:
And here’s Washington starter Ernesto Zaragoza showcasing a unique delivery:
Evansville’s Josh Allen crushed a three-run home run in the first inning and I saw the exact spot it passed over the fence from my seat. Although it was a long run, I decided to quickly head outside the ballpark and see if I could retrieve the ball so I could give it to him afterward. I exited the park at the home plate gate, quickly made my way around the perimeter and a moment later I was standing directly under the video board, as you can see here:
The funny thing was, there was no ball. I looked and looked and couldn’t see anything. Then, I noticed a Wild Things staffer walking away from the same area, so I assume she’d been dispatched to get the ball and had beaten me to it by a few seconds. Slightly discouraged, I was about to turn and retrace my steps back to the gate, when something caught my eye:
Could it be?
Well, I’m not sure. It was maybe 25 feet away from where I expected it to be, but I suppose it’s possible that it could have caromed off something after clearing the fence. While this ball is definitely in better shape than the BP one I’d grabbed earlier, it’s a little more worn than I expect a game ball would be. Then again, game balls in the minors and independent leagues get used longer than balls at the MLB level, so it’s possible this ball was indeed the home run ball. Although part of me wonders if this one is too banged-up to have been the home run ball, batting practice was over when I’d previously been in the area and I can’t imagine I would’ve missed this ball if it had been there all along.
All this means that I couldn’t be sure if it was the home run ball — I’m leaning toward suspecting that it isn’t — so I didn’t want to pull a dirty trick and give it back to Allen under false pretenses. I can’t imagine how I’ll ever definitively figure out the answer, so I guess this one goes into my collection as a mystery.
By the time I made it back to my seat, the Otters had kept up their hot offense and the scoreboard looked like this:
As for my view, it was perfect:
I spent the next couple innings in this spot before going over to the cross-aisle on the first base side to watch the action and snap this photo with the moon in the background:
This was my busy-body pattern for the duration of the game, which Evansville won 11-2: An inning here and an inning there, all while having a good time — although it wasn’t nearly as memorable as my previous visit, watching Jeremy and sitting with his folks.
A little later, I took the shots to build this panorama …
… and then with the arrival of the night and its challenges to decent photographs, I put my camera away, grabbed an open seat and spent the rest of the evening just enjoying the action.
The next day, I’d be back on the road and headed to Pittsburgh for a pair of games at beautiful PNC Park.