Box Score: http://www.milb.com/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2015_08_27_prtaax_nbraax_1&mode=gameday
This was the fourth game of The Final 7 and it began the final series with the Portland Sea Dogs, which is also the final home series for the Rock Cats ever. If you couldn't feel it earlier in the week then you can feel it now: this is all coming to an end soon. The crowd was decent too as it was probably the most fans I'd seen at New Britain Stadium thus far this week. It makes sense since the Portland Sea Dogs are the Double A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox though, as it brings in a lot of Red Sox fans hoping to see those Red Sox stars of the future. The Sea Dogs, however, are in last place by a large stretch and so it doesn't look good for their team to create any real stars right now. This is good news for Rock Cats fans though, as it gives the Rock Cats the chance to win some games and go out on a high note rather than losing. It's just such a drastic change going from the Baysox to the Sea Dogs because everything the Baysox did right to help them win the Sea Dogs did wrong and helped them lose. They're just such opposites of teams and it works in the Rock Cats favor.
Right away, as we were going to the front, a woman offered us some free tickets. I had tickets set for this game and the next two and then we have two tickets waiting for us for Sunday's game- the final game- but Gina was with Quentin and I tonight and she didn't have a ticket for tonight or either or the next two nights because when she was going was not certain up until this point where she decided she wanted to go to the Thursday night game. So this woman actually ended up giving us three free tickets good for any game which was nice because now Gina will be joining us on both Friday and Saturday as well and we didn't have to buy an additional tickets. (On a side note I came to the conclusion tonight that ticket sales probably account for only 10% of the actual revenue something like this would generate when you factor in sponsors, parking, food, merchandise, etc. I mean, you can get free tickets but still pay $5 to park, $20 on food and $20 on merchandise and so the game isn't really "free" but without that ticket- which is probably why the Rock Cats give away so many for free- you're never getting into the ballpark to buy those other things)
Stop and Shop was outside New Britain Stadium with Pea Pod and as such they were giving away a roll of paper towels and a three pack of tissues, which was nice but I still think the free tissues should have been saved for Sunday. I had to take them to the car because our bag was overflowing and, oh yeah, as an unannounced give away, the Rock Cats were giving out free Rock Cats jerseys to the kids as they were sized Youth XL. They had a kids jersey give away earlier this season so I feel like these might have just been left overs they found somewhere and realized they had to get rid of, but yeah, this wasn't really promoted at all beforehand so it caught me off guard but was a pleasant surprise. Oddly enough, the cups we got some games ago from the CT DOT are now being sold in the Third Base Shop only instead of being clear they are white. Still, for about a buck each I'm considering buying some more because why not, we always seem to need cups and Quentin wants them. This is just one of those things though where since it is the end of the last season you never really can know what to expect and even if no actual "give aways" are advertised you might still get something when you show up. You just never know so you have to go.
Along with all of this, Rogers Orchards was there giving away free apples and, yeah, Quentin missed it all because he was sleeping up until about the time of the National Anthem being played. Since Gina was going to this game and the Friday game with us I wasn't too concerned with autographs at this point. I kind of want to go to the Sea Dogs side and see if they'll sign my player sheet because, yes, I did print one out, but at the same time I kind of just don't care and just want to not have to spend time worrying about it. Still, if I try to go for the autographs it's going to be Saturday since we can get there earlier as gates are 90 minutes before the start time as opposed to only 60. [Editor's Note: The gates actually open 90 minutes before on Thursday and Friday as well, it's just a matter of Gina getting out of work at 6pm] I might also try for some autographs Sunday morning but we shall see. The only Rock Cats autograph I still want is for Jeff Hoffman to sign his card but that might happen as early as tonight after the game because I'm hoping to duck down and catch the players leaving while Gina and Quentin are watching the fireworks and since he's not pitching until tomorrow I hope he'd be out early. In any event, this was the second game in a row for us where it felt like "Welcome to the Rock Cats game, here's a bunch of stuff" and we filled our bag, but hey, I'm not complaining.
So let's talk about what the Rock Cats did tonight on the field. For one thing, they scored runs. Tyler Massey has not had a hit since coming back home Monday (I'm not sure what he did in his return on the road) but he did score after being walked and later on had a sacrifice fly as well, so at least he contributed in a positive way despite remaining hitless at home this week. The Rock Cats just somehow put the offense together and the Sea Dogs just kept making mistakes. With runners on first and second at one point, they advanced on what was ruled a wild pitch but the Sea Dogs manager had to argue it because he thought it was foul tipped. I wasn't sure exactly either, but that's why I'm not an umpire. It was just a good night all around hitting for the Rock Cats who in this night had more runs than their past three games combined. It just feels like when the Rock Cats offense is on then it's on and shining bright, but when it's off then it's off and you get nothing. There is no inbetween for them, which is good when they're on but not so much when they're off. They also do seem to be missing their hit catalyst in David Dahl but tonight you wouldn't know it. Joey Wong went 2/2 with a walk and Noel Cuevas stepped up and went 2/4, both of whom I would consider to be the Player of the Game.
I also need to mention the pitching of Harrison Musgrave who struck out seven over six innings and a lot of them came in the same inning. The idea of someone grounding out and then the next two batters being struck out to end the inning seemed to be the Harrison Musgrave formula and I have to admit when I first read about him losing his first game on the road and then giving up all of those runs in Binghamton I wasn't so sure about him. But this game and the one before it he has just been spectacular and I feel now as if he's going to be something big one day. Though, on the whole, the Rock Cats just have stellar pitching anyway and there is no reason why they are not in first place because it's just such a great all around team. Tonight was a display of that and I only hope that with these next three games the Rock Cats can continue to demonstrate that and leave New Britain Stadium looking like the superstars that I know they are.
For other random notes on the game: Quentin and I went to the gift shop and noticed a new bobblehead- a Paint Your Own Rocky bobblehead, which I believe I've either seen on eBay or through Google searching images of Rocky and so it was another pleasant surprise to be able to purchase one of these at a set price and the $12.95 sticker was reasonable for the fun Quentin will have with it as he loves to paint things himself. The only dark cloud on this game was that since it was rather crowded a group of people formed around us and were talking rather loudly through the first few innings while I was trying to watch the game. No, I don't care about where you live or how you live around the corner from someone that this guy knows. If I wanted to hear chatter like that I'd go to Starbucks but I'm at a baseball game so if you're not going to talk baseball then please be quiet. Oh, and it's probably not a good idea either to mention that you're the social media person for ESPN and you're sitting with people from Hartford City Mission because now I have to go and call you out. Seriously, who goes and talks about their love of God one inning and then the next inning is cracking jokes about how they like Joey Wong's Chinese restaurant? Perhaps you should have stayed home and read your Bible some more or at least, you know, the part where it says not to be a racist jerk.
After being swept by the Baysox- which already feels like a distant memory now- the Rock Cats have the potential to sweep the Sea Dogs, especially after the way both teams were playing tonight, and that would be a great note to go out on. These last few games are going to be special and I may not have the time to write and post about them after they happen (Especially with the Saturday night game and Sunday afternoon game) but the blogs will come eventually next week and the last two will most likely come with a certain amount of reflection as well. I still remember being a kid and the New Britain team changing from the stadium where the high school now plays to this one and so it's going to be the beginning of a new chapter, yes, but also hopefully the beginning of a happy chapter as Quentin will grow up with that sort of blank slate of the Hartford Yard Goats beginning next season.