Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vintage Base Ball Press Conference - Part 2:

After finding the entrance to Matthew's Salad House I stepped inside the warehouse. No one seemed to be around, so I waited a minute and one of the workers came along. I asked if he could tell me where I could find my contact, Dave Matthews (no, really). He said "Upstairs." I walked up three flights of stairs to what appeared to be a bunch of deserted offices. I walked down the hall and heard some voices and found two men sitting in a conference room. One said, "Can I help you?" I said that I was a friend of Jim Bouton's and I was looking for Dave Matthews (not the famous one). He said that they were in the middle of a meeting and if I could wait downstairs for 10 minutes, someone would be down to help me.

At this point I was beginning to think it would have been easier to go to Stop & Shop and buy the hot dogs myself. However, just about 10 minutes later one of the two guys from the conference room (not Dave Matthews) came down and took me to his office. He was very nice, called the Hebrew National sales rep for authorization, and took me through the warehouse to where the hot dogs were kept. A few minutes later I was on my way with 20 pounds of Hebrew National's finest.

By the way, do you know that 20 pounds of hot dogs get pretty heavy if you carry them for three blocks (the distance from my parking space to my office)?

Fast forward to Wednesday morning. It started out a beautiful sunny day and after a quick stop at Starbucks I hopped on the Mass Pike for the drive to Westfield. I get there a bit after 11, about an hour before the press conference is to begin. I see Jim and Chip Elitzer, put on a "vintage" cap and suspenders and meet up with some vintage ballplayers from the Westfield Wheelmen, Hartford Senators and Whatley Pioneers.

The press conference itself went very well. Jim talked about the upcoming games and the 19th century ballpark that he is propsing. It appeared that there was a good chance we had a developer lined up to build the ballpark, but it turned out the FAA owned part of the land and was required to get market value for it (about four times the original estimate of what it would take to acquire). There are a couple of other potential sites in Westfield for the ballpark, and Hartford and Stamford, CT are interested as well.

I think Westfield would be a great place for this, personally. Because the ballpark would be built in a 19th century style, it would cost about half of what a comparable "modern" minor league ballpark would cost (about $12-15 million vs. $25-30 million). It would even have poles, just like ballparks would have had back then. The ballpark would be home to a professional minor league team, vintage games when the pro team is on the road, and would be the permanent home of our World Championship. With the combination of this new ballpark and the Basketball Hall of Fame in nearby Springfield, the area could become a real sports vacation destination.

The press conference wrapped up and the attendees had eaten only half the hot dogs (60 out of 120). Since I had the cooler, I got to bring them home. Most of them are still sitting in my freezer, but I'm sure they'll disappear as the summer progresses.

All in all, it was a good time and I got a couple of memorable stories out of the experience. What else can you ask for?


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