Monday, March 31, 2008

IronPigs & Politics: It Doesn't Get Better Than This!

(Governor Rendell, #26, has a few pointers before the game.)

10,188.

That's the official attendance for Sunday's first game ever at Coca Cola Park, an exhibition match in which defending NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies beat the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 5 to 3. Leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins gave us an exciting start, proving his skills as an aggressive base runner. He singled and then quickly stole second. Following a pop up to center field, Rollins rounded the bases and slid into home. In a clowd of dust, IronPigs catcher Jason Jaramillo emerged with the ball in his mit.

Out!

Things got even better in the second inning. Geoff Jenkins, a recent $13 million acquisition from Milwaukee Brewers, took one mighty swing and scored the first home run ever hit at Coca Cola Park, a deep two-run homer hit over the right center field wall. That ball landed somewhere in Easton.

The Lehigh Valley has AAA baseball.

When the IronPigs scored their first run, fireworks exploded out of a giant coke bottle on the scoreboard. Little pink piglets danced in the field with Ferrous between innings. T-shirts were tossed into the crowd. But what made this uniquely Lehigh Valley was the resounding rendition of the national anthem by the Bethlehem Bach Choir, perhaps the best I've ever heard.

I tried out different seats during the game, but spent the first five innings in the Dugout Suites, located right behind home plate, where you can feel the breeze from every pitch. My brother and I were sitting in great seats, but our lives were in danger. You see, at least half of the Lehigh Valley's elected officials were sitting there, which is probably a violation of some law. A blogger had to be there to keep an eye on them.

"Someone with a grenade could take us all out," warned Northampton County Exec. John Stoffa, who was there with his wife, Barbara. Damned if he wasn't right.

All these elected officials were jammed into one spot, the Dugout Suites, lured by free tickets and the aroma of fried chicken, hot dogs, ribs, baked beans, assorted cheeses and fancy little pastries. It was an interesting combination of Dems and Republicans, friends for a day. But where was Ron Angle? That had me a little worried because he occasionally talks about launching a coup and naming himself King of the Lehigh Valley.

But I was the only one worried. Everyone else was having a blast.

Funniest? That's a tossup between Joe Brennan and Percy Dougherty, both of whom should consider a second career in stand up.

Nicest? That would have to be Bill Leiner, who instinctively blocked foul balls from Pat Browne's mom, even though she's a Republican. True, the net protected her anyway, but he was taking no chances. That dude should be in the Secret Service.

Most interesting conversationalists? In a world of pols, it's hard to call that one. But Rich Grucela and his lovely wife, who teaches in Nazareth, are always good for some great stories.

Best dad? Doug Reichley. A quiet and unassuming man, I saw him gently put his hands on his daughter's shoulders a few times. He obviously loves her very much.

Most charismatic? Why, Governor Don Cunningham, of course. He mesmorized my brother with a story about his earlier years, when he once picked up author Kurt Vonnegut from a local airport and brought him to my mom's house.

Biggest baseball fan? Stoffa, hands down. He looked like he was glued to his seat, soaking in every swing and pitch, as intently as my 8 year old grandson. When the game was over, I realized John actually had been glued to his seat. Apparently, Charles Dertinger had dropped by earlier that day. John still looked ten years younger and he was going for autographs last time I saw him.

Best dressed? That would have to be Tony Phillips. Even his sunglasses matched his elegant suit, complete with an American flag pin. I don't know how he got a ticket, but I'll bet it didn't come from Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. Amazingly, Tony's dad, who must have ESP, called to tell him to quit talking to people and watch the game. "Too late," Tony said.

Most civil guy? Mike Donovan. He kept telling everyone to be "civil and constructive." Rendell eventually decked him, and then he and Ferrous began kicking poor Michael.

Biggest slob? That would be me. Not only did I spill baked beans all over my jacket, I also ate about six helpings. After five innings, the trumpets began. I walked back to find a bathroom but unfortunately, my trombone sounded off right as I was walking by Mayor Pawlowski, who was stuffing his pockets with hot dogs and pastries, instead of watching the damn game. I pointed at him and held my nose.

Most popular guy? Without a doubt, Lehigh County's Frank Kane. He found the beer. Unfortunately, everyone behaved except my brother.

Least popular guy? That would be Joe Long. He had no ticket, but apparently set up a tent out in the parking lot somewhere, trying to sell autographed pictures of Dan Onorato.

Fortunately, my worries about a Ron Angle coup were misplaced. As it happens, he was planning to skydive into the stadium during the Bach Choir's rendition of the national anthem, but he missed and landed in the Lehigh River.

22 comments:

Blue Coyote said...

The sun was shining brightly on a beautiful opening day. As I sat down in my seat, I marveled at the different people that took in the sights of that new baseball field. Several generations were enthralled at the chance to cheer or razz their favorite player.

The new mascot, "Ferrous", did some great between-inning entertainment for the youth. Then, all of a sudden, a Hispanic man to my left with three children, stood up and yelled, "Hey, Pork Chop!!!"

Astonished, I looked over at him, with what must have been a quizzical face. He turned back around and said that he wanted to yell as loud as he could, because he knew that a young girl innocously named the mascot, was attending the game and the name was OK by him.

Then, I realized. It's about the kids. No matter about political gamesmanship, race relations, tax burdens, or economic downturns. At least, on one shining Sunday afternoon, children had a chance to eat a chili dog, be with their parents and hope to catch a foul ball on the Lehigh Valley's field of dreams. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Anonymous said...

While the parking mess was not all that great, I have to say everything else was perfect. The whole environment reminded me of the book by WP Kinsella (who wrote Shoeless Joe the book Field of Dreams is based on) called the Iowa Baseball Confederacy.

The story is about the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-Stars taking on the 1908 Chicago Cubs in a 4th of July game. Now the game in the book lasted 2,000 + innings and the story is a bit far fetched, but while that 1908 Cubs team had the Tinker/Evers/Chance double play combo and Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown throwing the heat our game had the reigning NL East Champs, Last two National League MVPs, and the 2006 Home Run King.

The book has a great quote that I think fit the whole day:
"Why not baseball?" my father would say. "Name me a more perfect game! Name me a game with more possibilities for magic, voodoo, hoodoo, enchantment, obsession, possession. There's always time for daydreaming, time to create your own illusions at the ballpark. I bet there isn't a magician anywhere who doesn't love baseball. No mere mortal could have dreamed up the dimensions of a baseball field. No man could be that perfect… There's no limit to how far a man might possibly hit a ball, and there's no limit to how far a fleet outfielder might run to retrieve it. The foul lines run on forever, forever diverging. There's no place in America that's not part of a major-league ballfield."
Yesterday the Lehigh Valley was more than ever a major-league ballfield.

Anonymous said...

I saw ALL those politicians down below. I was thinking water balloons. Next time.

Jimmy Rollins said...

Bernie, you big sissy. I thought I saw you trying to get out of the way of a foul ball and hiding behind some disabled lady in a wheelchair so she'd get hit and not you.Man up next time and go for the ball and knock her out of the way like a "real" man would do.

Bernie O'Hare said...

OK, Jimmy. You're my hero.

Anonymous said...

Give them bread and circuses, and they'll never revolt.

As 10,000+ can attest, subsidized stadiums for the benefit of already really rich guys are a big hit with the great unwashed!

Stadiums for everyone! Let's all feel good!

Ferrous said...

Thats funny because I saw something similar.I saw him push some cute little kid out of the way trying to get some autographs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:39,

Like you, I oppose public subsidies for private enterprise, excepting the arts and sports. Those enhance our quality of life. They bring us together instead of dividing us. Perhaps for the first time, the Lehigh Valley was actually the lehigh Valley and not Bethlehem or Allentown or Easton.

I understand your opposition, but that battle is now over. Why not enjoy what's there? In Reading, the stadium is made available from time to time for special games involving kids. Don't you think your son or daughter would love playing there?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I saw him push some cute little kid out of the way trying to get some autographs.

That little brat was in my way, so I kicked her ass.

Anonymous said...

Notice how in Reading, the team is not called the "Berks County Phillies." Why? Because it would be stupid.

Michael Donovan said...

Bernie,

I chuckled at your remarks. No bruises from Ferrous' attack! And the Governor was pleasant to me!

You should have said hello. I did not notice that you were there. Was I rude and walked right by you? There were many people that I did not know.

Yes, it was great to see 10,000 people coming together in a civil fashion for a constructive purpose under bright sun, and as a newly elected official, there were also thoughts in my head about how this was a fascinating and egotistic event my life -- to have the opportunity to have a unique part in an opening day, simply because I knocked on 3,000 doors and close to 6,000 voters felt I should be a councilman. It is amazing to find yourself a part of that system. Thought-provoking. How does one make sure such invitations do not go his or her head?

Finally, I also noted to myself something that I see when watching many professional sporting events, the demographic difference between those who are playing and those who are watching. Did you notice?

We all need to acknowledge those differences.

Best regards,

Michael Donovan

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael,

Perhaps you don't remember, but we did speak yesterday. I did say hello and you were very congenial.

Yesterday, I paid practically no attention to our differences. I instead noticed our similarities. There is unity in diversity.

Michael Donovan said...

You know, now I remember! It was so busy and so many faces. As my mother says, a Senior moment!

Michael

Ken Matthews said...

Maybe it was the weather, the crowd, the shiny new ball park-soon to be a Lehigh Valley Landmark- I thought the combination was magical.
The merchandising is clever & some of it is actually affordabe...great selection of stuff.

There's not a bad seat in the place.

The Governor's Security team is always over dressed.

Bernie- I hope you don't mind me plugging www.ValleySocialTV.com

my Iron Pigs opening day coverage should be up in a few days

Anonymous said...

"Iowa Baseball Confederacy."


one of THE greatest books ever written. rabks right up with "The Dixie Association"

Anonymous said...

Great Stadium. Watched on TV cable looked really nice. It was shaneful that the Citizen Paid for stadium had a special section for the 'Select elected Swine' pigging out on booze and ribs and such. The TV camera showed all the muckidity mucks behind Home Plate. They were drinking and toasting each other so much it looked like no one was watching the game.
I'm glad that my taxes helped you and the 'pay to play' crowd enjoy your exclusive digs.
I saw some not all, I am glad you went down the list so I know who not to vote for.
Shameful display by elected officials who think they are Roman Senators.
You could see the look of disgust on some of the working, paying seat holders faces.

Bernie O'Hare said...

As someone who sat in the midst of these muckety-mucks, I saw no one abuse alcohol or toast each other, with the possible exception of my brother and the people we began to sneak down during the 7th inning. I doubt there's a word of truth to what you just wrote. If there is, get a copy of the tape and post it on youtube.

Anonymous said...

The cable Company had the camera pointed right at home plate and it showed the entire scene. You ignore the publically funded excess since you benefited. All the moaning about pay to play is alright if you and Stoffa can share drinks, along with the other publically funded freeloaders.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bullshit, baby. Like I said, get the frickin' tape bc it's not what I saw and I was there. In addition, every one of those people knew that he and she were in the public spotlight. I want to see the tape showing people in the crowd giving disgusted looks to the Dugout Suites. This is just a bald-faced lie.

Michael Donovan said...

Hello,

I am one of the individuals who was back there. Yes, people were talking, eating, and drinking. I stayed until the last out. No one seemed king or queen-like. However, I did spend some time in conversation and did not see every pitch. Most people were watching the game quite closely.

In another city that I once lived, I was the president of a local little league that had to maintain its own fields and raise its own money. At the same time, a double-AA park was built with city financing, and it always bothered me. We were helping 500 children, and the city was building a stadium that would make money for the investors.

Later, though, the team made an excellent effort to make community contributions of many kinds that paid off handsomely to everyone, most notably children. To this day, it has made the city a better place because the owners understood their responsibility. Some of that responsibility was encouraged through close cooperation among all parties.

I will expect that the largess supplied by the state and the county to build the stadium will also pay off with time, again for the children of Allentown and the region. I will expect that many who were behind home plate will also play a role encouraging ownership to look for creative ways to be an important asset that produces widespread benefits. I know that I will be encouraging that effort.

That will not ever justify greed, unethical behavior, or just downright selfishness in politicians. But I did not see that yesterday. I saw happiness that the Valley has a wonderful new venue.

At the same time, the people who were behind home plate never showed any of the antics displayed at some major league ball parks when drinking gets excessive or team loyalty gets crazy. They were simply enjoying opening day. They were there by invitation.

As I noted in an earlier post, I did think about how special the event was for me and acknowledged to myself that it was simply because I got elected. Others, I am sure had those thoughts, just as Mr. O'Hare talked about his.

I will most likely never get another invitation. I certainly cannot afford to rent the box.

The opportunity for us now is to think of the various ways the Iron Pigs will make the Valley and Allentown a better place. I'm ready to play a part.

Sincerely,

Michael Donovan

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michael,
I appreciate your reply. I can get quite steamed when I see public officials taking advantagee of taxpayer funded facilities, while the commoners cheer from the stands. I should probably just take it in stride.
The problem BO has is if he doesn't like what he hears it is automatically wrong or he demands chads be counted. The 'fricken' tape is held by both cable companies if you want to look at it you get it. In the meantime stew in your blissful ignorance. It is amazing how a greased palm holds no facts.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You're entitleed to get steamed ny the presence of pubnlic officials in the Dugout Suites. You're not entitled to lie abnout what you saw. You are a liar.