Monday, August 24, 2009

WIN BALL, HAT or BAT

No, I am not running a contest right now. I'm not even pimping a contest right now (but I should be). What I am talking about is the most unusual sight that I have ever seen at a professional baseball game. This occurred Saturday night at a Kansas City T-Bones game (independent, Northen League). Keep in mind that I have been to games in over sixty ballparks in three countries, over twenty states, and over ten leagues. But what I saw on Saturday night was deffinitely a first. Before I even try to explain it, check out the picture. Make sure you click on it so you can read it better.



In the T-Bones bullpen, the pitchers were hosting a game of chance. All you had to do was toss a quarter down onto the bullpen mound. If your quarter landed in a cup, you won whatever prize was sitting next to that cup. Sounds pretty simple right. The only drawback was that the bullpen was ten feet down (which really messed with ones aim).

I first saw this after the second inning when I was moving from the bleachers to the concourse behind home plate. When I saw this, I didn't know what to think. I think that most of the other people were thinking the same thing since there were not too many quarters on the ground. And the "5qtrs 4 $1" didn't make any sense to me either.

So I headed to the area behind home plate and...

Did I mention that Willie Wilson was the T-Bones starting centerfielder that night? He signed a one day contract with the team to help raise money for his charity. He played two innings in the field and batted leadoff. He ended up striking out swinging in his one plate appearance and didn't record any outs in center. It must be noted that he didn't get burned, either. He took his spot in center for the third inning and was replaced before the inning started. He got a loud, standing ovation and the PA announcer proclaimed that "Willie has officially retired from pro ball in a Kansas City uniform".

Here is the only halfway-decent shot I got of Willie in center. He was the only player on the team to have his pants up.



After Willie came out of the game, he took a little breather before heading to the team store to sign autographs. Before he got there, it was announced that he would be signing there for $10 per autograph. I had taken about five cards with me to try to get signed, but I wasn't about to spend any money to get them signed. I got three signed from him at the same ballpark last year after the Willie Wilson Classic for free. Plus, I'm pretty sure that he will be at Fanfest this year if I want any more. But, I did go by the store to check out how long the line was and was pretty surprised at its length. Here is a picture of Willie signing.



After that, I headed back out to the bleachers. Before I got there, I ran across the T-Bones bullpen pitcher's game of chance. By that time, the games were in full swing. It was hard to find a good spot to shoot from and both bats had already been won. Most of the balls had been won, too, and they were all replaced. The whole time I was there (the second time), they had a couple of pitchers picking up quarters and another one making change. Apparently, if you gave the 'pen a dollar bill, they would give you five quarters. That was what the "5qrts 4 $1" meant. It may sound pretty simple now, but when I was there the first time, there was no one out there making change. In this picture, you can see 15 making change with a fan.



I probably spent two dollars there trying for a hat. I wanted a ball, but the hat cup was closer to me. After the sixth inning was over, they called it quits because a pitcher had to warm up.

As for the game, I really didn't get to see a whole lot of it. I watched the first two innings before moving around to the chance game, beer garden, and team store. I was able to watch some ball from the open concourse, but the team store was kind of tucked away. By the time I got back to my seating area, I became very intrigued by the bullpen game. By the time that was over, there were only a few innings left in the game.

The second most interesting thing about the night was the crowd. When I got to the ballpark one hour before the game was slated to start, the parking lot was nearly full. There were all kinds of people out there tailgating. The announced attendance for the night was 9,613 fans. That is an incredible number for a minor league team, let alone for an independant team playing at home the same night as the local Major League team. That was the third highest attendance in their relatively short history. I don't know if it was Willie Wilson, the fact that it was the last Saturday home game, or the two dollar brews, but it was an awesome crowd (I know it wasn't the dollar dogs because they have those every game).

Here is one last photo for the night. This one shows the packed bleachers and the unusual infield setup. This is a grass field that looks like it should be turf based on the sliding pits. The field used to be a dirt infield until last year.



Because of the renovations to Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Wizards (MLS) needed a temporary home. The best that they could do was the T-Bones park, Community America Ballpark. To accomodate the Wizards, a tougher grass was put in and they tried to minimise the dirt (they also added the bleachers, I think). I think that the Wizards will be moving back to Arrowhead next year.

7 comments:

Brian said...

I wonder if they were just raising beer money by using team equipment as prizes. That is funny and weird!

zman40 said...

I don't know what they were doing, but they had to have made some decent money that night.

night owl said...

The Northern League sounds like a fantastic time. Great fun!

paulsrandomstuff said...

I heard stories about some Somerset Patriots pitchers doing a similar set-up a couple of years ago, but I don't know how true they were. I never saw any actual games in progress.

I agree that it was probably to earn beer money, but it was likely a better deal for the fans than the wheel of chance that most of the minor & indy league teams run. :)

James said...

So they were making a profit from team owned equipment? Hmmm...

I haven't seen that before. I wonder how much people spent trying to win.

Dave said...

I totally would have tried to win that stuff. Sounds like an awesome time.

Dave said...

I was sad to see Mahay released by KC today. Hopefully he does right by himself and signs on with an upstart like Texas or Colorado