Last night, I received the last part of my Father’s Day present as Mrs. Ball, Jen and I went to Pawtucket to see the Pawtucket Red Sox beat the Richmond Braves 7-6 in 10 innings at McCoy Stadium.
Now I love minor league baseball and a favorite family outing for us is going to visit the Rox in Brockton, Mass., and enjoy the confines of Campanelli Stadium and watch an independent CanAm League game. If I were the marketing folks in Pawtucket (full disclosure, I am one of the marketing folks for Brockton), I would head to Brockton at the first opportunity because it was dead in Pawtucket last night.
McCoy has a pretty field, with lots of foul territory, which is one of its chief liabilities—the fans are too far from the action. Then again, the PawSox do nothing to take advantage of that space to make it a fun, family friendly experience.
Other than the mascot once, power shooting soft baseballs into the stands, there were absolutely no between innings experiences. No kids on the field racing or wearing costumes or involved in guessing games. Nothing, nada, zilch
Perhaps that’s why it was morgue-like for most of the game. I am not a yeller at ballgames. I prefer to watch, keep score, eat my peanuts and talk to the people around me.
But last night, Jen and I were out there loud trying to encourage the Sox. I was trying to create nicknames, I tried “Let’s go PawSox” chants, but the 4,600 fans simply could not be bothered. They were too busy living up to a Quohogian stereotype
Even when the music was played to rouse the crowd, it was done in a half-hearted way. It seemed that the music would stop too soon; as if the ownership had to pay more if they played it another 10 seconds
As for the game itself, it was exciting enough to be enjoyed by the three of us. The Red Sox grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first on a two run single by catcher George Kottaras.
The Braves tied the game in the second off starting pitcher Charlie Zink with the damaging blow being an error by second baseman Joe Thurman who had a horrible night. He looks closer to being headed to Portland than to Boston.
In the third, the very impressive Jeff Bailey doubled a run home and the skilled Jed Lowrie knocked one in with a single to give Pawtucket a 4-2 lead. Richmond again tied the game in the sixth on back-to-back home runs by Scott Thorman and Jason Perry.
Thorman is a major threat at the plate and I mean “major” as in “Major League.” In the bottom of the inning the Red Sox tied it on another RBI double by Bailey.
Richmond rallied for a third time in the seventh to tie the game at five on a Thorman sacrifice fly. Following the very first chant in the park, Thorman smashed his second home run of the game to give the Braves their first lead, 6-5 in the tenth (maybe that’s why they don’t yell).
Then came the bottom of the tenth with Pawtucket trailing by a run and Richmond brought in a pitcher that brought a smile to my face. If I were a betting man, I would have placed money on the Sox at that point—Does the name Jorge Julio strike a familiar note
I have now seen this guy (referred to by a Braves blogger as Jorge "Gasoline Soaked Matchbook" Julio) blow saves in the American, National, and International Leagues. The Braves signed Julio about 10 days ago as backup for Rafael Soriano.
Julio, 29, had a 5.60 ERA in 15 appearances for Cleveland before he was released at the end of May. He has a 13-33 career record and a 4.40 ERA with 99 saves in 131 opportunities (.755 save fulfillment percentage), including 83 saves in a three-season span with Baltimore in 2002-04.
If the Braves call him to the majors, they would be his sixth major-league team in the past three seasons
Leading off, DH Chris Carter (0-5 with two strikeouts) smashed a shot to second, deftly fielded by Derrick Arnold. Now with one out, third baseman Keith Ginter (1-4, double and a walk) lined out very deep to center.
Two outs, no one on base—that’s Julio time. George Kottaras looped a single to left and left fielder Bryan Pritz dropped another to center. The next batter, pinch-hitter Dusty Brown, was hit by a pitch to load the bases
After a coaching visit to the mound (Oh, Jorge, you make me laugh) Jonathan Van Every grounded a ball up the middle that Arnold fielded then dropped and the game was tied. Then all I had to do was yell to Jeff Bailey to be patient and on a 3-2 count Julio walked Bailey to bring in the winning run on a walkoff walk
Charlie Zink struck out a career-high 10 batters, working eight-and-a-third for Pawtucket. The win went to Jon Switzer (3-0). The PawSox are 48-31 and a perfect 6-0 in extra inning games in 2008
We had a very good evening and for us there were many laughs, in spite of the moribund atmosphere. Baseball is enjoyable at every level and this summer you should make it a priority to go to a minor league game. Our next one will be in Brockton and I hope to see you there.
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs—Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller, published by ACTA Sports, and available worldwide