Box Score: http://www.milb.com/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2015_08_29_prtaax_nbraax_1&mode=gameday
Coming off the game the night before and the addition of Justin Morneau to the roster I think a lot of people expected this to be another near sell out, attendence record breaking type of game. But it was not. This was the least attended of the three games between Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I still feel as if it was because of the fans coming Friday night for the fireworks and then having that be their last game of the season. The attendence wasn't bad, but we had an easy enough time finding seats and it wasn't really crazy like the night before to where you could tell it was not only one of the last games of the season but one of the last games ever. We showed up early because we could and so we didn't have any trouble parking or anything like that, but there were still a decent amount of people inside. The only thing this game boasted was a magnet schedule give away for the Yard Goats next season and the funny thing about that is I saw some of them stuck to objects made of metal during the game and after everyone had entered there were still some on the table where you came in so anyone could go and pick up as many as they wanted. Needless to say, we have more than a few now, haha.
My first move once inside was to go to the Rock Cats dug out but I knew it would be a while until they came out and then I was only looking for an autograph from Justin Morneau possibly so I cut my losses early on and moved to the other side, hoping to get some Sea Dogs to sign. Of the twelve players I had on my player sheet I knew at least one of them- Henry Ramos- was on the injured list and so I wouldn't be seeing him tonight. Still, I shot for eleven and ended up with nine which was pretty good I'd say. The only people I didn't get because they ignored us were Sam Travis and Carlos Asuaje. There were a number of kids around me and despite them even calling for both of these players, neither one came over to us much less really seemed to give us the time of day.
The best part though was (I believe it was) Aneury Tavarez told us he wouldn't sign until after the game, to which we all kind of looked at each other and confirmed that was what we had heard him say, and then he came over and signed for us. Strange. My favorite Sea Dogs player though was undoubtedly Jordan Weems. He is usually their catcher but on this night was not playing (He would start as catcher for the other three games though) and so I thought it might be hard to get him to sign since he might not come into the dug out until it was too late. As soon as I saw him come up- as I could easily recognize him with his long blonde hair- I called to him and he seemed kind of shocked but was just so nice and even took pictures with the kids. I had a Red Sox ball I was going to bring to potentially get signed and looking back I should have brought it and had him sign it. He's going to be money one day soon for the Red Sox.
For this game, Justin Morneau was the DH instead of playing first base and so since everyone had expected him to leave after the sixth inning he stayed for the entire game. There was already a pretty decent crowd forming by the sixth or seventh inning near where the players come out and Morneau was still in the dug out. The game itself went off like magic. The Sea Dogs and Rock Cats were tied at 1-1 early on and then Justin Morneau came up, hit a deep shot and gave the Rock Cats the lead and eventual win with a home run. He was- in many ways- the hero of this game. That is, at least offensively since Jeff Hoffman could have been the real MVP, striking out two batters an inning and at one point even striking out the whole side. Yes, when I got Jeff Hoffman to sign his card the night before and thought to myself how lucky I was because he was bound to be a star this game just showed me why. If Jeff Hoffman is back next season in Double A I feel like he will either be called up to Triple A quickly or even straight to the majors-- he is that good. The Rock Cats didn't have a pitcher in the "Top Prospects" card set this year but next year I really think they should have Hoffman in there.
During this game it was also mentioned that the Deal of the Day was buy one get one free on all souvenir baseballs and so for $3 each I went to the Third Base Shop and got another team logo ball as well as a pink one since those were the only two styles left other than the one with all of the teams on it, which we already have. (We have a pink one that was a give away but not an official pink one, the difference being the logo of the sponser on the back of the ball) I decided then we should create a team ball for autographs since there were many balls we had randomly signed by one or more players but we didn't really have a ball signed by the whole team or even close to it. So while we waited for the close of the game and Justin Morneau to potentially come out, I also decided to ask the other players to sign the team ball, which really became more of my mission than getting Morneau to sign.
After waiting a little while for someone to come out- and I believe only Harrison Musgrave had left thus far- two guys got into an argument about something or other and a good old fashioned fist fight broke out. Later on, one of the two men would tell me that the other guy insulted his son and then pushed him (The son confirmed this) and so that was how it escalated and, yeah, you probably shouldn't insult someone else's kid in front of them and pushing them just leads to self defense. Either way it was this incident which lead to the Rock Cats security bringing out some dividers- like black seatbelts they use at concessions- and having the police show up. Jeff Hoffman was the first one out after this and was quickly pushed past everyone by a Rock Cats usher (Thanks, Deb!) Zach Osborne was out second and thank goodness for this guy as he seemed to break some of the tension. When I asked him if he would sign, he said yes and stopped, which seemed to be going against the wishes of the Rock Cats security but you can't stop the players from being the nice guys that they so clearly are. The next players to come out would also stop and sign- seemingly unaware of what was going on or had gone on out here- and most of them such as Austin House and Carlos Estevez were asked if they needed an escort to their cars to which they simply said no and kind of laughed. It wasn't until Will Swanner came out that I asked him to sign and he said, "I can't!!" to which I replied, "I understand!".
The next day Will Swanner would tell me that he was told by security that they weren't allowed to sign and that was why he didn't stop. So because of this incident, things were trying to be ruined on the second to last Rock Cats game of the season. And you know what? I don't even blame the two guys who were throwing punches at each other. I blame only one person for all of this and that person is Justin Morneau. All of this hype is coming around him because he is a major league player and all of this tension and chaos wouldn't exist if so many people weren't waiting around for *his* autograph while it was the team that didn't have him on it which we enjoyed seeing play all season. I didn't want Justin Morneau to sign my team ball because to me he wasn't a part of this team. So he hit the game winning home run. Who cares? I much rather would have taken a Rock Cats loss and have the players come out as they normally did so we could have them all sign one last time before they became the Yard Goats. It was eventually announced that Justin Morneau would be spending the night at New Britain Stadium and not coming out to sign autographs. Most of the other players had been out up to this point (Except for Noel Cuevas) and so we decided to leave because apparently no one else was coming out either.
We were lucky enough to get twelve players to sign our team ball- about half the team- but this is something that could have turned into a much bigger mess because of Justin Morneau. Forget about the fact that he was there. This was the second to last Rock Cats game ever. People were there getting autographs (Not just us) from players who were not Morneau and the fact that his status interfered with that makes me sad. On one hand, yes, everything about him and his story was nice and all, but in some ways, after this game, I wished he had never come back to New Britain.