Box Score: http://www.milb.com/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2015_08_28_prtaax_nbraax_1&mode=gameday
With something like ten minutes before we were leaving for this game I read on Twitter that Colorado Rockies player Justin Morneau would be returning to New Britain Stadium for a rehab assignment. If you don't know about the career of Justin Morneau or the history of the Rock Cats let me just tell you- you couldn't have written a better story. Morneau spent time on the Rock Cats when they were the Double A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins (which they had been up until this season) but somewhere along the way got traded to the Colorado Rockies, which is the Major League affiliate of the Rock Cats now. I've thought about this quite a bit but there were two factors that had to line up for this to happen (Along with Morneau getting injured and doing his rehab time for the very last weekend of course) For one thing, Morneau needed to make sure he was traded from the Twins once they were no longer the Double A affiliate of the Rock Cats. Had Morneau still been on the Twins then none of this would have happened. Morneau also needed to be traded to the team which was the current Major League affiliate of the Rock Cats because if he was traded to any other team or simply not traded at all then none of this would have mattered. I wouldn't be typing any of this right now.
Gina got out of work and decided she wanted to go to this game as well- since it was Friday night fireworks and there was no work for her on Saturday. The only problem with this is that we didn't leave until a little bit after 6pm and got stuck in some traffic trying to get off of Route 9 to 71. When we got off the exit, we were actually able to get off of Route 9 at least, but as we sat in traffic the line behind us built up to the point where they were likely still hanging out on Route 9. This is something which is highly unsafe and so it is one of those problems we can look forward to being fixed when the Rock Cats move to Hartford and become the Yard Goats. We sat in traffic for a full half an hour- maybe more- and the only real entertainment we had was the cars creeping up on our left, trying to cut in the line and no one letting a single one of them in. One of them went up to the lights and went left instead, but a lot of them just turned around on 71 which seemed even less safe. They parked us way over on the other side of the high school stadium and so when we walked by to get into the game we went by their game which was not nearly as crazy as the Rock Cats games.
I've been to a lot of Rock Cats games in my life. I've been to a lot of games at New Britain Stadium for that matter. But this game was by far the craziest one I had ever been to simply because of the number of people there. They broke a franchise attendance record which many people said was for Justin Morneau but I just think it was about the fireworks and for a lot of people- especially families- this was most likely their last game ever. Things were so crazy at this game that we didn't see Rocky all night. (Whoa, that's real crazy) By the time we got into New Britain Stadium it was after 7pm and we had figured that the game had already started but there were still a lot of people in the concourse. I was then informed- after expressing my thoughts on waiting in traffic for so long- that the game was actually delayed. What? It's not raining! Apparently they were honoring emergency personnel- firefighters, EMTs, police officers, etc.- and a firetruck made a wrong turn on the field (or maybe it was an ambulance) and kind of scuffed up the grass leaving a little divit which was causing them to not start the game because they thought it might be unsafe for the players.
While Gina and Quentin went around to get food I was looking for seats for the three of us in general admission and came up empty. Finally, we found a place to sit on the far left field side which I guess was okay because it was that next experience of sitting somewhere different. But the crowd was packed. If they decided to call this game and have a double header on Saturday there would have been a riot. There was no way all of these people were being told to leave at the same time, as the traffic of people trying to get out on foot would have only been made worse by the fact that then all of the cars would have to go as well. After much delay and seeing the Mets vs. Red Sox game on the big screen we were informed that first pitch would now be at 8:25, almost an hour and a half after it was originally scheduled. This was our last time seeing Matt Flemer pitch this season- who we have seen pitch quite often- and he held the Sea Dogs to only one run through his five innings but the fact here was just that the Rock Cats came up with no offense. They only had a total of three hits for the entire game and when three more runs were given up by Rock Cats reliever Tyler Ybarra you kind of knew that the game was over. How did a team that was doing so badly as Portland keep the Rock Cats in check so well? I say their pitching was a big part of it but I'm not even sure.
As the game came to its end, Zach Osborne thought he saw the fourth ball go by not once but twice and both were called strikes by the umpire. Osborne said something to the umpire while walking towards the dug out and was promptly ejected from the game. My cries of "Empty the dug outs!!" went unanswered as we saw no huge brawl, but that was okay. The Rock Cats manager eventually came over and argued with the home plate umpire until he was tossed as well and that's the only thing you can do in that situation. Both men received a standing ovation.
What was interesting about this game as well is that people weren't really here to stay until the end, as some people left around the 9pm mark, as if that was their plan all along, and so by the fifth inning or earlier even we were able to move back to our normal seats over the tunnel on the visiting side we just weren't able to get a lot of food because most of it had been selling out. I don't even think we bought anything in the Third Base Shop but that's okay. It was a fun game because the Rock Cats never really laid down to die and just kept trying to fight even though they couldn't put enough hits together to score a single run. After the game, my wife and son stayed for the fireworks while I went down to see the players come out because the only card I had left that I wanted signed was of Jeff Hoffman. When I got down there, I found out that Justin Morneau had already left (Too bad, so sad) and so we wouldn't be seeing him that night but I was here for the Rock Cats who I watched all season not some major leaguer. Though don't get me wrong, I did have a Morneau Topps 2015 card I pulled from a pack so if I could get him to sign it I would.
While the fireworks went off, the players slowly came out. Zach Osborne stopped to sign and seemed like he was in an all right mood despite being thrown out of the game. There were a few people there looking to get general items signed- one guy had a hat, one guy had a ball- and so I was kind of talking with them and helping them through getting their stuff signed as well. I got my Hoffman card signed, which I really appreciated him taking the time to do because the kid is going to be a star, and then I was just chatting with the other guys because the fireworks were still going. At one point, Jordan Patterson came out and as he approached he signed for the guy next to me and then as he was signing for someone else he had his back turned to us. The guy next to me- who Patterson had just signed for- said something about how great of a player Patterson was and I agreed and said he was also a great person as well. I'm pretty sure he did hear us and I hope he did.
I'm writing this on a Tuesday after the game and so I know the full extent of what happened the rest of the weekend already. It was strange that this was the only game that the Rock Cats lost in this series because Matt Flemer pitched well and I just felt like it shouldn't have gone the way that it did. Again, if the offense could have opened up and tied the game or taken the lead before the three additional runs came in for the Sea Dogs then we might have been looking at another Rock Cats win. The Rock Cats have a great team all around- pitching and hitting- and they just need to sync up. When the pitching is at this level- the level which Matt Flemer brought tonight- the offense needs to respond accordingly as well, so that games like these can be won. Still, I'm not too upset over the loss because it was still a fun experience overall for me, with some aspects of the game I've never quite experienced before.