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.
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.