On St. Patrick’s Day, the Lancaster Barnstormers ran a sale on tickets for their opening night, April 29th, for seven dollars a ticket. Seven dollars! Opening night! How could I resist? I checked the schedule, saw that the 29th didn’t conflict with anything at work, and placed my order.
Despite living close to Lancaster — it’s just forty minutes, give or take — for the past nine years, I never made the trip across the Susquehanna to see a baseball game in Lancaster until last year. York, obviously, is much closer to me. Harrisburg, where I have a ticket plan, is a little further away (about two miles) than Lancaster. But last year I bought a couple of tickets, I attended a couple of games, and I had a nice time. I could see why the Barnstormers have won the Best Ballpark in Independent Baseball award a few times. It’s a nice ballpark, it’s a nice environment, it’s a nice presentation, it’s a nice crowd. Harrisburg will always be first in my heart for local baseball — they affiliated, and they’re affiliated with the Nationals — but Lancaster would be a solid number two.
Lancaster, for their home opener, was playing their arch- and local-rival, the York Revolution. Neither team has started the season strong out of the gate; York was 2-4 going into last night’s game, Lancaster 1-6.
There really wasn’t any question for me about a hat. Yes, I was coming from York County. Yes, I have two (or is it three?) York Revolution hats. But I opted for my Lancaster Barnstormers hat. Ironically, in finding it, I also found my favorite Harrisburg Senators hat, which I’d been unable to find for months, and which I’d bought a replacement for two weeks ago. The Senators hat was essentially “smashed” inside the Barnstormers hat, so I’d overlooked it when I was searching.
It was a gorgeous afternoon, so I took the shorter, more scenic route to get to Route 30, the back road between Red Lion and Hallam. If my parents were visiting and they wants to go to Lancaster I would tell them, under no circumstances, do they take this route. It’s lovely! There’s two cemeteries I keep meaning to look at! (Maybe today.) But it also has three funky intersections where there’s a solid chance of death. (The fourth weird intersection at least had a four-way stop.) Pennsylvania has weird intersections.
I arrived in Lancaster about 5. I could have gotten into the short line at the centerfield gate — maybe twenty, twenty-five people — but I wanted to go in the main gate, and there was already a decent sized crowd in line. There was a mix of ages, kids to elderly, which is always nice to see.
There was also a band playing eighties hits; the night’s them was 80s Night, and there was a Back to the Future-themed “Back to the Ballpark” t-shirt giveaway. You can’t see the band in the picture above, but they were around the corner, past the end of the line.
One reason for so many kids is that local Little League teams were being recognized pre-game. The kids had a pre-game catch on the outfield, and they they ringed the edge of the infield dirt for the pre-game festivities.
When the grounds crew was hosing down the infield dirt, the kids got sprayed. 🙂
The Barnstormers were brought out in a parade of vintage cars around the field, coming in from the right field corner, around the stadium, and then dropping them off at the first base dugout. This circle went on two or three times. They even had a DeLorean — though it wasn’t tricked out like Doc Brown’s DeLorean to fit the night’s theme.
Player introductions were made, first of the Revolution, then of the Barnstormers.
You’ll notice that the colors in some of my photos are weird. I was shooting my photos into the sun — the early innings were rough — and my phone’s camera tried its best. I had some truly unusable photos — they’ve since been deleted — and I’ve tried to choose the photos that look better.
At first, I thought this might be a low-scoring affair. York sent four men to the plate in the first, including Nellie Rodriguez, whom I’d seen play for Lynchburg and Akron a few years ago when he was in the Cleveland Guardians’ system. But in the bottom of the first, the game immediately got out of hand. York’s Austin Nicely couldn’t find an out, Lancaster put 9 runs up on the board and sent 12 men to the plate.
Lancaster put up 3 more runs in the third. A game like this doesn’t move quickly; I described it on Twitter as “interminable.” The third inning didn’t finish until 8 o’clock, and people began to leave. My whole row, for instance, cleared out, and from where I sat I could see the stream of people exiting the center field game under the video board.
It became too dark to continue my scorebook after the top of fourth. Lancaster piled on four more runs in the bottom half of that inning.
I had a cynical observation about another scuffling team, who ironically would go on to have an offensive outburst last night themselves…
I left myself after the 6th. It was past nine o’clock — and 16 to 2.
Once I was across the Susquehanna I was able to pick up WOYK, York’s sports radio station and the Revolution’s broadcast outlet, on the radio, so I was able to listen to part of the 8th inning. It was a wild one. When it ended, the Barnstormers were up 23-2.
I missed the post-game fireworks and the kids running around the bases. It’s just as well I left when I did; I discovered one of my headlight bulbs was out. I hadn’t driven at night in two weeks, so I had no idea I was down a light.
Baseball’s a funny game. Some days, you just get beat. Teams scuffle. The bats fall silent. The balls fall in. The strike zone gets squeezed. No one’s really as a good as they look when they’re winning. Nor are they truly as bad as they look when they’re losing. After last night’s explosion of bats, they might fall silent for the Barnstormers tonight. Or, this might be the spark they needed to get their season going. Just as easily, this might be a wake-up call York needs to get themselves in gear. You can insert whatever baseball platitude you want. It’s one game.
It was a nice evening, not quite warm enough to go without a jacket or a hoodie early on, definitely too chilly to go without once the sun went down. The park was crowded. In many ways, it felt normal, like the last two years hadn’t happened. It was a nice outing, and even though I didn’t stay until the end, it was entirely worth it.
I’m actually back there tonight. I bought an all-you-can-eat barbeque ticket when the team put those on sale. My baseball weekend continues.
And maybe, after I pop in the new headlight bulb, I’ll take a look at those cemeteries.