Today I drove to Lancaster.

Single game tickets for the Lancaster Barnstormers, the team in the independent Atlantic League, went on sale today, only at the team’s box office. While I’ve seen Lancaster play in York, including the very first time I attended a York Revolution game, I have never gone to a game at Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium, despite Lancaster being half an hour away and receiving the Barnstormers’ email newsletter for years. But when I received an email last month that undated ticket vouchers were on sale for St. Patrick’s Day for seven dollars and change each, I went ahead and bought two, figuring that I’d work out the details later.

As I worked out the dates this week for my 10-ticket Harrisburg Senators plan, plus my 2020 tickets that rolled over — it looks like I can attend Opening Day this year, which will be a new thing for me — when the Barnstormers emailed this week to say that single game tickets could be bought and vouchers could be exchanged today in person it was all fresh in the mind and I worked out some potential dates. If it were a nice day for a drive, I thought, I’d pop across the Susquehanna and get it done.

Any date with York was right out; I don’t need to cross the Susquehanna to see the Revolution. There are three new teams in the Atlantic League this year, two of them due to Rob Manfred’s wholesale remaking of the minor leagues starting this year, so I wanted to prioritize those. Then I prioritized weeks when the Senators were out of town, as I wouldn’t be attending games in Harrisburg those weeks. In short order, I had a half-dozen possible dates, some weekends, some midweek, and then I matched those against the work production schedules and eliminated more.

It was a nice spring day for a drive, so after Weekend Edition Saturday I made my final decisions, took a look at a seat map to get a rough idea of where I’d like to sit, and wrote down the order information for the two vouchers I’d bought for St. Patrick’s Day.

Entrance to Lancaster's Clipper Magazine Stadium
Clipper Magazine Stadium

I’ve driven past Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium, but, as I said up top, I’ve never been there. Getting there was a little bit of a chore — just because I’ve driven past it going to downtown Lancaster doesn’t mean I remembered how to get there — and the navigation from Google Maps was maddening. It also doesn’t help that Lancaster, especially on Route 30 in the vicinities of Harrisburg Pike, Oregon Pike, Fruitville Pike, and Lititz Pike, is not the easiest of places to navigate. I thought it was bad enough twenty years ago when I lived in Chester County and went to Lancaster routinely. It has not gotten better.

Cylo, the mascot of the Lancaster Barnstormers.
Cylo, the Barnstormers’ mascot

On June 26th, I’m going to see Lancaster take on the (Charleston) West Virginia Power. On August 24th, I’ll see Lancaster play the Lexington (Kentucky) Legends. Formerly of the now-defunct (read: murdered by Rob Manfred) South Atlantic League, the Power and the Legends reorganized as independent teams and joined the Atlantic League this season, which stretches from North Carolina to Long Island.

Things I just learned, Paul Menhart, former pitching coach for the Washington Nationals (and the Harrisburg Senators), is the pitching coach for the West Virginia Power. Best of luck to Menhart; he’s too good — he won a World Series ring with Washington — to stay in the indy leagues for too long.

Once everything was done and my two real tickets were in the envelope, the clerk behind the counter handed me a basket of Easter Eggs and told me to take one–“There’s a prize in each.” I didn’t think too hard. I took the royal blue egg in the middle, and shoved it in the pocket of my hoodie.

The Barnstormers were having an on-field Easter Egg hunt for kids and, since the concourse was open, I took a look at the field. I’ve seen pictures, and I always thought it looked like York’s ballpark, Peoples Bank Stadium. And while it does, it’s also larger, classier, and seems to have more in the way of character. York is nice, but it’s also super bland.

Kids hunting eggs on the infield of Lancaster's Clipper Magazine Stadium
The Easter Egg hunt at Clipper Magazine Stadium

Everything was 50% off in the team store, so I bought a hat, a car magnet, and a novelty baseball commemorating Lancaster’s 15th season in 2019.

Later I looked inside my prize egg. I’d won a ceremonial first pitch! I’m going to do that Tuesday, August 24th, and I’ll email them on Monday to arrange it. Since I’m working from home most of the time now, I can go to a midweek game far more easily than I could from work, and even though Lancaster “feels” far in my head, it’s actually not; it’s closer to me than Diamond’s offices in Hunt Valley. Twenty years ago I thought nothing of going to the Barnes & Noble on Fruitville Pike in Lancaster, and I’m no further from it now than I was then.

So, I’ve got fifteen games scheduled, with four more vouchers at Harrisburg to figure out, but that’s not urgent. I’ve not decided on when, or if, I’m going to any games in York; I have their schedule sitting here on my desk, and I figure that’s less pressing. And with limited seating and distancing in effect, I don’t know if it’s feasible to go to Aberdeen for a game or two. (As I discovered two years ago, Ripken Stadium is practically a straight shot down 74.)

I have four months to practice my pitching motion. I’ll need to get some baseballs and a bucket and make use of my apartment complex’s derelict (and unused) tennis courts. Note to self: reread Scott Simon’s My Cubs, because he talks out this very thing in that book, practicing in advance so as not to embarrass — also hurt, but mainly embarrass — myself.

Definitely a nice day for an outing.

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