How’s the beginning of summer treating you, Rochester? Things are pretty darn skippy on this end. I attended Thursdays on First & 3rd last week, which made me realize that it’s now been a full year since you and I started getting to know this fair city together. Crazy, right? Time flies when you’re having fun, and as long as Rochester doesn’t start pressuring me for a ring, the time will keep flying!
The Rochester Honkers are a member of the Northwoods League, which is “the country’s premier summer collegiate baseball league” and “offers the highest level of competition and playing facilities to the best of North America’s collegiate baseball players.” The league also has an impressive list of players who have gone on to play in the major leagues.
From a promotional standpoint, the Northwoods League has made a concerted effort to model themselves after minor league baseball, where there are promotions every night, as well as in-game promotions between every half-inning. In an extremely charming way, there’s also a sponsor for nearly every aspect of the game, and hearing them announced as the game unfolds will bring a smile to your face. I’d also recommend buying a program, as between every half-inning they’ll have you flip to a certain page to check for a player’s signature on an ad. If it’s on there, you’ve won a prize from that sponsor!
The Honkers are one of the five original teams in the Northwoods League and play at historic Mayo Field, which was built in 1951 and holds about 2500 fans. Side note: while Mayo Field is used primarily for baseball, it has also twice hosted Bob Dylan concerts. Once in 2004 and once in 2006.
The unpaid intern (read: wife) was once again out of town for this adventure, so I had to go to the bullpen for two new summer interns (read: friends). We arrived to the stadium and pulled into one of the closest spots to the entrance. How did I get so lucky, you ask? Well, if you’re like me and have a gently used (read: beater) car, you’re pretty much guaranteed rock-star parking because the stadium’s closest parking spots sit in prime foul ball territory. Sure, if one went through my back windshield it would probably (read: definitely) total my car, but the more likely scenario is just a nice sized dent, which would blend in perfectly amongst the other nice sized dents on my car.
After taking a moment to admire my parking spot, I walked up to the box office and plunked down for a ticket on the Sports Deck, which is a utopia along the left field line where you can enjoy unlimited burgers, brats, hot dogs, pulled chicken, pulled pork, baked beans, potato chips and pop corn. But that’s not all! There’s also unlimited pop and BEER (drink responsibly)!
It also happened to be Thunderstix Night! Which meant the fans would be making noise and I’d be able to see little kids (not on the sports deck) hitting one another with them.
On this gorgeous evening, the Willmar Stingers had come to town, and the pitching matchup featured Willmar’s Jerad McCrummen (Texas Tech) vs. the Honkers’ Drew Merlo (Fresno City Community College). Things were looking up in the first inning when the Honkers put up a 2-spot. Unfortunately, Willmar knotted things up in the top of the second, and then tacked on five more in the top of the fourth.
The early hole didn’t dampen our enthusiasm, though. We stayed the course, which meant regular trips to the concession stand (iced-tea for the responsible driver) and lots of paging through my program looking for Matt Kent’s signature. I was also fortunate enough to get my picture taken with the Honkers’ mascot Slider, who is the unquestioned celebrity of Mayo field.
In yet another highlight, I received a shout-out from the PA announcer! Sure, it was in the form of “There’s a Red Jetta in the parking lot with its headlights on”, but still, he was talking to me! That’s the first time I’ve ever been the recipient of one of those announcements, and I immediately thought of two things: 1) I can’t believe I forgot to turn off my lights. 2) It’s a good thing I’m parked so close!
Unfortunately, the Honkers wouldn’t be able to mount the comeback. However, there’s always tomorrow’s game!
Coming up in my next post: Bill Plantan, owner of River Ridge Custom Canoes, will be taking me out on the water for a day of fishing, paddling, and sight seeing. Having a master guide like Bill ensures I’ll see the best that the area has to offer, so it should be a pretty fantastic day. I look forwarding to relaying it to all of you! Until then…