SABR 48 – The Closer

Let’s start our SABR 48 Saturday with a 1979 Pirates players’ panel featuring pitchers John Candelaria and Grant Jackson. Nothing like a cup of coffee and two former major leaguers telling stories out of school. Both personalities contribute to a fun session with tales from the field, the clubhouse and even from the streets of Montreal.

SABR48-Candy-Grant

Three different committee meetings follow, including BioProject, Nineteenth Century (which I attended) and Statistical Analysis. [If you’re not a baseball fan, you’re probably thinking — if you hadn’t already throughout this series of posts — “What’s wrong with this guy?”]

Now it’s time to learn how to perform baseball research with SABR’s Cecilia Tan. Very interesting discussion with a variety of authors of research articles. I’m impressed with how these folks are willing to dive into an extensive baseball research project and submit their results for SABR publication. I learn quite a bit from this session.

At noon I take time to soak in poster presentations. SABR offers this medium to present your research project without having to speak to a roomful of other researchers.

Friends from Virginia, a husband and wife whom I met through baseball [Imagine that!], display their poster on Pirates’ season openers. Great work, Lisa and Gordon!

SABR48-Poster-Lisa-Gordon

I attend Branch Rickey’s Pirate years, the Baseball and the Arts research committee meeting, Negro Leagues = Major Leagues presentation, and wrap up the day with Ford Frick’s 61* ruling by Dave Bohmer. There’s one more round of sessions; however, it’s a beautiful Saturday and there’s a new ballpark to visit.

We say our goodbyes, tip our caps to SABR 48, and then we’re on our way to West Virginia. A straight shot down I-79 gets us to Monongalia County Ballpark as the Pirates’ Class A short-season affiliate West Virginia Black Bears host the State College Spikes (St. Louis farm team) in a New York-Penn League tilt.

The artificial turf reminds me of Washington, PA, where the independent Wild Things play alongside I-70. The ballpark proves cozy featuring a few suites, standing room in right field (near the craft beer stand) and a beautiful mountaintop view.

Monongalia-County-Ballpark

The concession stands feature a variety of selections. While in line I notice a fan walking away with a fine-looking cheese steak and seasoned fries. I immediately call an audible and order one to accompany my WV-brewed IPA.

Black-Bears-Food

We enjoy our standing room tickets from beyond 1st base. The Pirates recent 2018 #1 amateur draft selection, Travis Swaggerty, collects three hits from the three hole and gets good jumps in centerfield.

As a bonus, the home team rallies from a 5-0 deficit to score 9 unanswered runs. We join the Black Bears and the crowd in celebrating the home victory with a post-game fireworks display.

Our final SABR 48 destination is one of Mitch’s go-to diners for Sunday brunch. Eggs-R-Us serves omelettes and the largest breakfast burritos I’ve ever seen.

Before I head back east on the turnpike we tentatively arrange our bottling at Copper Kettle Brewing. That’s when the curtain will officially fall on our SABR 48 experience (and where we’ll pick up next time). Thanks for reading!

Head East – All I-70 All the Time

Saturday, June 8 – UBT Day Eight

You know what they say about Ohio. It’s high in the middle and wide on both ends.

I have family in the Dayton area so I’m familiar with just how wide. Plus, a couple of our UBTs have covered nearly every professional team in Ohio. (I’ve only missed the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and possibly a new team that’s sprung up since our Ohio tours.)

Although none of this week’s driving has dragged, I brought along a laptop in order to share something with Mitch. Of course it’s baseball-related.

I’d been fanatical about baseball since Little League. Even considering our brief season, pickup games, whiffle ball, The Sporting News and the Game of the Week, I craved more. So I finally responded to the APBA ad (in The Sporting News) to receive a free Johnny Bench card. What better way to spend some birthday cash?

I still have that set and every season since. I’m still active in a fun face-to-face Master Game league called OOTL with about a dozen other local baseball enthusiasts.

I also embraced technology and play in some leagues using their computer version, BBW or Baseball for Windows. That brings me to my point.

The BBW version features Ernie Harwell doing radio play-by-play of your games! What better complement to a UBT stretch of driving than to play a few league games through Mitch’s truck radio?

I boot my laptop and arrange my starting lineup. Soon we hear Ernie paint the diamond picture with the Riegle Speakers hosting. Ohio’s girth never seemed so narrow!

Before we know it, we cross into West Virginia for a familiar grocery store stop. (If you’re unfamiliar with Pennsylvania’s laws regarding beer sales, think Dark Ages.)

Over the PA border lies Washington County. When traveling I-70, you can literally glance directly into the ball yard home of the Washington Wild Things.

Our hotel also hugs the Interstate as we’re perhaps 150 yards from the home plate entrance. This is where UBT 2013 will conclude.

Due to Washington’s proximity to Pittsburgh, two friends in Mitch’s face-to-face All Star Baseball winter league join us on the hotel patio for pre-game pizza and beverages. Chris was with us for UBT 2010 featuring both Chicago MLB teams and Milwaukee with bookend games in South Bend and Gary, Indiana. That had been our most aggressive trip prior to this marathon. We’re glad he and Jeff can share in our final night of UBT 2013.

The four of us stroll toward the entrance of Consul Energy Park. Our perfect evening of independent Frontier League ball is enhanced by the “Turnpike Classic.” The Lake Erie Crushers represent the Cleveland Browns while the home team assumes the role of the Steelers.

Consul Energy Park Pregame - Washington, PA

The outdoor stadium features artificial turf and dirt. Although bouncers do kick up some sort of cloud.

Bleacher seating is flanked by a picnic area down the left field line and a party deck in far right. The kids really enjoy the mascot as many families attend.

Steeler-themed giveaways highlight between-inning moments. The Crushers live up to their name during those innings, scoring early and often, coasting to a 9-1 victory.

Mitch's Popcorn Snack - Consul Energy Park - Washington, PA

The Wild Things load the sacks in the bottom of the 9th, but come up empty. No one homers, but Russell Moldenhauer strokes an RBI triple in the 4th.

We enjoy post-game beverages and baseball highlights back at the hotel before Chris and Jeff travel back to Pittsburgh. All that remains for Mitch and me is a good night’s rest and a leisurely Sunday drive to Harrisburg.

UBT 2013 gives us a lot to talk (and write) about. Our custom T-shirts, binders, photos and conversations keep these UBT memories alive. Thank you for taking this journey with us.
Brian Williams
From Deep Short