A new stop for this year's Road Trip, Sheboygan. One of my kids has a job there so we had a place to crash for free. And Sheboygan has a long established semi-pro team, The Sheboygan A's.
I was looking forward to comparing the quality of play and the general ambiance here versus the actual "official" baseball at the single A level of the professional ranks. Some random pictures and thoughts.
Wildwood Park is a nice little field. The plume of smoke you can see in the second picture is where they grill the bratwursts. Brats are more or less a sacrament here. The stands don't look very full in this picture but we got there early enough to watch warmups. A nice crowd was on hand for the game.
Before the game began the announcer - who had a marvelous, sonorous voice - reminded the fans that any foul balls hit into the stands had to be returned....and you got a dollar at the concessions stand for doing so. Oh, and he also said that nobody should direct abusive language at the umpires. I have never heard such an announcement made at a ball game.
The ticket taker was a nice lady named Phyllis. She was in a wheelchair and had a pot of flowers next to her.
At our game in Appleton the flag was brought out onto the field by a bunch of bikers on Harleys. Here a troop of Cub Scouts did the honors. The National Anthem was a recording. I think I was the only one singing the words.
It was a blazing hot day and we had eaten pizza not long before, so I can't report on the food served at the park beyond saying it was a varied menu and smelled great. As to beer, well it was a promo night for "Bud Lite". Blessed indeed is the beer drinker who does not know what this pallid swill tastes like. I ordered a pitcher of the alternative, a local brew called Spotted Cow. All three of us independently came to the conclusion that we had instead been served "Lite".
The quality of play started out well. Both teams fielded crisply and the pitchers had good "stuff". But we noticed that the visiting team from Manitowoc had only showed up with nine players. There were no reserves. So as the game went on and their pitcher faltered there appeared to be nobody available to relieve him. Tired arms lose control and the walks, hit batters and pitches just plain left right out over the plate started to accumulate. Bad baseball karma becomes contagious and the Manitowoc infielders, who had been excellent in the early going, made several embarrassing errors. Most atypically for our road trips we left before the game was officially over. It was 10-1 and getting ugly.
I was surprised to find that the "A's" had a mascot. He wore a team uniform with the number 1 on it and the announcer did call him "A-1" on one occasion. But he was more of a walking advertisement than a true mascot. He occasionally engaged with the fans but I saw a lot of this sort of non activity:
In the lower photo the observant will note that all the fans have hats off and hands over their hearts for the National Anthem. Now I know that A-1's hat is sewn on but I regard a mascot that does not recognize the Star Spangled Banner in any fashion as being sub-par.
Well he seems to be a skinny kid, perhaps high school age. That would explain why the only times he came over to our section was to chat up a bunch of young gals sitting five rows back from us.
Overall a pleasant evening. Sheboygan and its ball team go way back and it was good to see this degree of community support for them. In some important ways it was a return to the roots of baseball, which is always at its best on warm summer evenings in places that lack fancy video scoreboards and other modern distractions.
Keep up the good work Sheboygan. But lets do a little better on the beer next time.