Let’s just say I could have used an extra bullpen session. Or at least a quick game of catch.
We’ll get to my minor league debut in a minute, but first I’ll tell you about the other aspects of yesterday’s “Old-School Baseball Night” promotion in Camden, New Jersey.
I arrived at Campbell’s Field at about 5:30 and was quickly ushered into the clubhouse, where the Riversharks players were puzzling over the stirrups I’d arranged for them to wear. Pretty nice, right? But as you can see here, most of the players didn’t have proper sanitaries. Other problems: Everyone had really long pants (I had to show several of them how to cuff the pant legs properly, so they wouldn’t be all bunched up like this), and several players had removed the elastic from their cuffs, which made the high-cuffed look a bit more of a challenge.
I don’t know if my pants are baggy enough. … Does the smaller opening go in the front or the back? … You look like SpongeBob. … Dude, you’ve got, like, the biggest calves I’ve ever seen. Never noticed that before. … My pants are too fucking long. … Does the smaller opening go in the front or the back? … It don’t help that my legs are so stubby. … I look like fuckin’ Babe Ruth. … Can I borrow your low-tops? I can’t wear high-tops with these. … Last time I wore these was in Little League. … If we lose, we’ll have a fucking bonfire with these out in the parking lot. … Does the smaller opening go in the front or the back?
And so on. I kept waiting for the players — several of whom said they’d literally never worn stirrups before in their lives — to tell me, “Thank you, kind sir, for letting us look like real live baseball players for once!” Oddly, no such expressions of gratitude were forthcoming, but I guess the fellas were too busy putting on their game faces. Still, I think it’s fair to say that this was clearly the best-looking clubhouse in southern New Jersey, if not all of independent A-level baseball (further evidence here, here, here, and here), and I don’t mind saying I was just a little bit proud.
This being the Atlantic League, the team economized by not ordering stirrups for starting pitchers who weren’t slated to appear in the game. Most of those pitchers just wore their pants long, but one of them seemed genuinely distraught over the prospect of being left out. “Fuck this,” he said, heading over to an equipment locker, “I’ll make my own motherfucking stirrups.” In a display of ingenuity that brought a tear to my eye (or it would have, if I hadn’t been busy scarfing a cookie from the food spread), he pulled on some navy socks, whipped out some light blue tape, and proceeded to create a semi-reasonable facsimile of what his teammates were wearing. He was so pleased with the results that he then got some white tape and created some makeshift sanitaries. It was at this point that the clubbie somehow produced a real pair of stirrups for him to wear.
From there it was on to the field, where the Sharks looked sharp, especially compared to the visiting York Revolution. True, a few players had a bit of trouble with their sannies (additional disturbing pics here and here), but on the whole I’d say the experiment was a success. The Sharks even won, so presumably no bonfire was necessary.
In a move that will not go down as one of my better decisions in life, I agreed to participate in a chicken wing eating contest after the 6th inning. It was sort of a culinary version of “Name That Tune”: The idea was to taste four batches of “wings” (actually boneless gutbomb thingies that I’m fairly certain were devoid of chicken and am completely certain had zero wing content) and match them to the flavors listed on a little ballot sheet. I won, but the prize was 35 free wings, which is sort of like winning an all-expenses-paid trip to Darfur, so I passed.
Now then: the first pitch. I was actually one of two first pitchers — the other one was a small planetoid who I believe plays for Philadelphia’s arena football team, although I was too busy trying to avoid his gravitational field to catch all the details. Anyway, as you can see, they gave me a cap and a jersey, which was nice (I’d actually offered to wear a full uniform, including the stirrups, but they didn’t have pants in my size and didn’t want to order a special set). It was hard not to be inspired by the moment, what with the Ben Franklin Bridge in back of me and this stirring tableau in front of me.
So I wound up and … Well, let’s just say that if there’d been a left-handed batter up there, I would’ve plunked him pretty good. In the head. Next time I’ll be sure to warm up with at least a couple of practice tosses.
Incidentally: While I was in the clubhouse, I chatted with former Mets catcher Jason Phillips (whose name is misspelled on his locker nameplate — another one of those minor league indignities). Two uni-related things I learned about him: (1) He no longer wears goggles, because he got lasik surgery last winter, although he keeps a pair of goggles with him, “because everyone always asks me about them.” (2) I asked him why he wears his catcher’s helmet with the brim facing forward, and he said he started doing it when he played in Pittsfield, where it was often rainy. The rain would splatter against the goggles, so he turned his helmet around to shield his lenses. Even though he no longer wears the goggles, he still wears the helmet this way.
Über-duper thanks to Morris Levin, who was the prime mover behind this whole thing, and who took most of the photos you just clicked through; to reader Erik Shmukler, who attended the game and took the other photos; to Riversharks marketing assistant JC Williams, who coordinated things with the team (and also got in the spirit of the occasion); to jersey historian Bill Henderson, who I finally got to meet (and who wore his awesome Phillies road prototype jersey, complete with ultra-generic NOB); and to any and all who attended. Sorry I didn’t get to meet all of you.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Check out this awesome shot of the New York Original Celtics. Further details here (with thanks to Claude Johnson). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Big Brown jockey Kent Desormeaux will be wearing the Hooters logo (along with the UPS logo, which he’s already worn during the Kentucky Derby and Preakness) when he saddles up for tomorrow’s Belmont Stakes. … Small write-up here of my recent butchery chart reading. … “This screen shot from the upcoming Madden 09 concerns me,” writes Marhsall Offutt. “Is that Larry Fitzgerald? If so, what ‘throwback’ uniforms do the Cardinals have? It more resembles the 49ers from the ’50s. Do you know something about this?” Nope, but I bet someone else does. Anyone..? … If you really love Chris Osgood, you’ll want to bid on this (with thanks to John Muir). … Giants equipment guru Joe Skiba will be featured on tonight’s installment of the History Channel’s Modern Marvels, which will focus on football technology. … Interesting trademark dust-up here. “Just so happens to coincide with the NBA Finals,” says Black Fives prexy Claude Johnson. “But we would have never known had the Lakers not been in the playoffs. [Kareem] and his people are well aware of Black Fives’ trademark rights, because they’ve corresponded repeatedly with me requesting a potential business relationship.” … Hate to pick on the Rays, esp. when they’ve been playing so well, but couldn’t they have given their top draft pick a current cap? … “I just got this e-mailed to me,” writes Brad Denny. “I think GCU now has the worst mascot of all time.” Hard to disagree. … Yet another ball found its way between a set of buttons, as Mike Jacobs prepared to field a Mark Teixeira grounder and had it momentarily end up inside his jersey. By the time he fished it out, the ump had ruled the play dead and Teixeira was awarded a single (with thanks to Austin Cohoon). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: The Hurricanes plan to reitre Glen Wesley’s number. … Check out the extra bell-bottom panel sewn into James Shields’s pant leg.