Opening Day! The happiest day of the year for a baseball fan! The day when everything is new! The day when everything feels possible!
The Harrisburg Senators, AA team of the Washington Nationals, began their season last week on the road in Somerset, losing two of the three games in New Jersey, and today was their home opener against the Richmond Flying Squirrels, AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
When the 2023 schedule was released, I made a quick check of the production calendar at work, saw that the home opener did not fall during my week of publishing deadlines, and planned accordingly. Thus, today I worked from home, made every effort at industriousness, wrapped up my projects by about 3 o’clock, and made my way to Harrisburg to be there before the ticket plan gate opened with time to spare.
It was a lovely day and very warm. I work shorts and a polo shirt, but brought a hoodie for after the sun went down, knowing that City Island can become rather cold after sunset.
Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro threw out the first pitch. It was, as Bob Uecker would say, “Just a bit outside…”
Alex Troop started for the Senators. He wasn’t super consistent hitting the plate. In the second, he walked the bases loaded… then somehow managed to get out of that jam.
In the fourth, Troop gave up three runs, two of them on a homer to left, then left the game with two men on base, who were then allowed to score by the relief pitcher.
The two runs on the home run by Carter Aldrete in the fourth were all Richmond needed, really. The Senators’ offense was non-existent. A lead-off triple in the third by Trey Harris, for instance, was squandered.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Senators finally plated a run at home, but it was too little, too late. Richmond 5, Harrisburg 1.
I’m back on City Island on Saturday.
Every new baseball season brings changes to the ballpark, and this year was no different.
One obvious one, though I don’t know how many people would care, other than myself, is the new banners for the Senators’ two retired numbers — Jackie Robinson’s 42 and Vladimir Guerrero’s 27.
Last year the numbers were in the same location but much smaller. These are much more noticeable.
The Senators program book is a little different. In years past, the Senators did a new program book for each series, and this year they’re doing program books that cover multiple series. (This first program of 2023 runs through the Bowie Baysox series ending May 14.) Then there’s an insert with game notes and stats. One page of the six page insert is a scouting report on Alex Troop. The game notes include facts like this: “Today in Senators History: 2019: Starter Erick Fedde combines with relievers Jordan Mills and Aaron Barrett to no-hit the Bowie Baysox in the Senators’ 2-0 road victory.”
After the sun went down, there’s another possible change in Harrisburg: the lights. They seemed brighter, much brighter than I remembered.
Driving home, when I crossed the Susquehanna on 83 heading back to York, I was definitely of the impression that the lights are brighter than they’ve ever been. New LEDs, maybe? I know that MLB wanted improved lighting for minor league ballparks, and I’ve been curious what the Senators need to do to bring FNB Field up to MLB’s new standards.
There’s one other thing, and this one is harder to quantify or explain: there seemed to be more of a guest-friendly approach by the staff. Some of the interactions I witnessed and overheard twigged the long-dormant retail store manager in me. “They’re doing something different,” I thought. “I like it. It’s good.”
I’m curious to see if the next few games I attend bear that out. New approach, or Opening Day? We shall see.
Some other photos of Opening Day.