Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Labor Day weekend was a good one. The weather was great, and we had some fun times.

Saturday, of course, was the Pittsfield Hillies game out at Wahconah Park. The Hillies took on the Hartford Senators in the rubber match of a three game Vintage Baseball series. Hartford had won the first game on July 3 (Check out my July 11 and 15 blogs) at Wahconah and the Hillies took the second game down in Hartford.

The game was played on a hot, sunny day at Wahconah. The whole family drove out there for the day. After a stop for lunch, we arrived at the ballpark just before the first pitch. The first game in July was more of a Big Media Event, with ESPN Classic televising the game and an overflow crowd of around 5,000 in attendance. Saturday’s game was more of a nice day at the ballpark. There were about 2,000 people in attendance and the whole atmosphere just seemed more relaxed. We picked up the (free) programs and some paper Hillies megaphones for the kids and took our seats.

The game itself was much better played than the 4 1/2 hour, 14-12 affair we saw in July. I think the quality of play in the first game was hurt a bit by many of the Hillies unfamiliarity with the vintage game and equipment, plus I think everyone was nervous about being on TV. This game was much more crisply played with fewer errors and more of a natural baseball rhythm. We saw lots of good defense, aggressive base running, and even a home run. The Hillies won the game 12-4.

We all had a good time, despite the heat. The kids and A. were fortified by these all-natural popsicles they had on sale, and I beat the heat with a Hillies Ale. I was quoted in the game program from something I had said in an email after the first game. The kids were very impressed and thought I was famous. I also had the opportunity to sit for a few minutes with the principals in Wahconah Park, Inc., Jim Bouton and Chip Elitzer. Most of my contact to date with them has been through email, although I spent a good amount of time with Chip at the first game and was able to meet Jim briefly. I also met Mayor Roberto of PIttsfield, with Chip introducing me as “one of our investors”.

Of course, if you read “Foul Ball”, you know it couldn’t be all good news. The Carpenters Union in Pittsfield filed a bid protest with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office saying that the contract to refurbish Wahconah Park should be subject to the competitive bidding rules set up for public projects. Even though the company leases Wahconah Park from the City of Pittsfield, no taxpayer funds are being used to do the work. The Attorney General came back, essentially saying that there was some merit to the Carpenters Union’s argument and that the City needed to look at this again.

So there are apparently two options. Either there is an expensive and time consuming competitive bidding process, which would probably mean that the construction would not be complete in time for the 2005 season, or the City has to rewrite the agreement so that it addresses the AG’s objections. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

After we got back home, I took off again to head into Boston for something of a family reunion. The Hynes Convention Center was hosting the annual World Science Fiction Convention. Although I didn’t have any intentions of going to the con, I was invited to a party being thrown by old members of the Boston Star Trek Association. The BSTA was the Star Trek fan club I was active in mostly during my college years, prior to our founding of the USS Christa McAuliffe. The folks in the BSTA were really my extended family during that time, and I was curious to see who would show up and how they were doing, since I hadn’t had any direct contact with many of them in years.

The party exceeded my wildest expectations. A big group of my old friends was there, and it was great to see everyone and catch up. A group from the McAuliffe made an appearance as well, which really made the evening complete. I suggested to the Webmaster of the BSTA’s site that there should be a BSTA Yahoogroups mailing list, similar to the one we’ve had for the McAuliffe for the past six years. Knowing that BSTA tradition is for the person who makes a suggestion ends up doing the work, I even offered to moderate it. We’ll see what kind of feedback I get, but I think it would be a great way to keep in touch.

How could this entry be complete without mentioning the white-hot Sox? After a loss to the Rangers over the weekend, the Sox have won three more in a row, beating the A’s twice in Oakland. The A’s had the best home record in Baseball going into the weekend, and the Sox have outscored them 15-4 in the first two games. I had said before this nine game stretch with the AL West contenders started that I would be happy if the Sox could take six games. They’ve already won seven, and Pedro goes tonight against Tim Hudson. Then they go off to take on the last place Seattle Mariners for four games. It’s hard to believe that the M’s were the Sox closest pursuer for the Wild Card just last season.

One of the biggest things about this streak (3 in a row, 13 out of 14 and 19 out of 21) has to be the reemergence of Derek Lowe. Lowe looks more like the Cy Young contender of 2002 over the last couple of months. I have got to believe that the improved defense has something to do with it. Lowe doesn’t have to pitch wondering if his ground balls are going to be fielded cleanly, and with the vastly increased range in the infield, a lot fewer of those balls are getting through the infield.

Oh, and you’ve got to love Kevin Brown of the Empire smashing his hand into a wall and breaking it. What a dope.

Finally, just as impressive as the Sox run has been the winning streak run off by the Houston Astros. They’ve won 11 in a row, vaulting themselves back into competition for the NL Wild Card. After having a team that had underachieved all season, and suffering injuries during the season to starters Andy Pettitte, Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt, they’ve made a huge turnaround in the post-Jimy Williams era. Could that have been another example of addition by subtraction?


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