Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Baseball Blog ::: Yale 3, Harvard 2 [4.16.16]

Official Yale Box Score here.

This weekend- the weekend of April 16th- became not only our "opening day" of sorts, as it was the first time we went to live baseball since last season with the franchise-ending New Britain Rock Cats but it was also a weekend of firsts for our family.    My dad has been going to Yale football games for longer than you can count on both hands and he also attends Yale basketball here and there.  Since we've moved back to Connecticut we've been going to the Yale football games or a good way to remember it is we've seen as many seasons as Quentin is old.

Then I read a book called "Odd Man Out" which made reference to Yale baseball and I thought about it for the first time in the four years that we had been attending Yale football games.   Why don't we go to Yale baseball?  What is Yale baseball like?  I asked my dad and he had never been to a Yale baseball game before but started looking into it for us.   They run a short schedule so it's kind of like a scenario where you have to see them when you can or you miss them because it all just happens so fast.   As the MLB season started this year I looked up a schedule and found out we had already missed most of the March games by that time.

So here's what you need to know about Yale baseball prior to going to the game.   My dad couldn't find anything online about buying tickets and this is because I can confirm to you that Yale baseball is indeed free.   There is a lot right near the field as well and you can even park there for free.    Free admission and free parking are two ways to start this off great, but it gets better.    What happens at Yale baseball is basically... There are no rules.   I mean, there are people there who will stop you from running onto the field and such, but the security is low otherwise.

To give you an idea of what it's like I'll tell you about when we first got there.   Gina was parking the car, so Quentin and I went to go inside and find my dad/his grandpa.   We ended up following this guy carrying an electrical box of some sort and as he turned to go inside the stadium I looked in and saw a path straight onto the field.   I thought, "That can't be right.  That's not for us" and we went to look for another entrance, which we did end up finding.   But just to illustrate a point, yes, we could have very easily gone onto the field and then apologized and said we didn't know better after taking photos and running the bases.

Also, there are no "ticket takers", no "ushers" or whatever you want to call them.  This is to say that if you come in with your own food and drinks there is no one there to really stop you.   I'd still avoid glass and alcohol because there is a security presence there even if it isn't that strong, but if you bring in your own bottle of soda or water I doubt they're going to hassle you about it.   I'd say mostly the same for food, but it also would depend upon what it is.

Once inside you'll find a stand with food and drinks but very little else in terms of employees.    There aren't that many seats but the stadium has this old fashioned, just all around great look to it.   It just gives off that vibe that whoever built it did so with the idea of watching baseball in mind.   I love it.   It's one of the best places I've ever seen baseball because it's not as small feeling as a high school but yet not as big and almost wasteful as a minor league stadium.     It just seems to be the perfect size.

Unfortunately, for reasons I will never understand, the stadium was only maybe a quarter full at most.   The majority of people seemed to be players families with a few actual fans in attendance, but why?  You have this great chance to sit back, relax and watch some baseball for free... Why not take it?   I realize we're finally coming out to a game a little late in the season here, but next season I feel like we're going to plan it out like the football schedule and try to go to every game.

That's another thing about the games.    When Yale plays at home, they usually play doubleheaders and they usually play the same team on Saturday and Sunday.   This was the case with Harvard this weekend, so we caught the first of their four games.   Compared to football it's nice to be able to have the Saturday or Sunday option to see a team and having two games on the same day means you can stay for as long as you want really.  (My dad had other things to do after the first game though and Quentin was getting tired, but next time we can plan a little bit better to maybe stay for both or most of the second game at least)

I almost feel like Yale baseball is some kind of secret club we're not supposed to know about, but the walls are lined with alumni from Jeff Bagwell to Coco Crisp so obviously Yale has produced some major league talent.   When we went into this game, Yale was on a pretty big winning streak and they played like a team built to win.    There's this story about Yale athletics and how the athletes don't always try to focus on sports because it's Yale so if you can go there for free on a baseball scholarship but then get a degree from Yale, you know, you do it.   But the baseball team we saw this day was actually really well put together.   They seemed like winners to me.

When we first got there, we also ended up sitting right behind the Yale dugout until the sun became too much and we moved to the Harvard side so as to be in the shade.    There is a bench which exists right next to the dugout for players to sit on and we were a few rows back from that, but it was still just crazy how close we could get to the game.   If you were in the front row (and we were still maybe four rows or so back) you could pat the players on the back.   It definitely offered a unique experience.

The only thing about the game I didn't really understand was the ball situation.   There were a few employees who seemingly went to chase down foul balls and get them before fans could, though the first foul ball of the day was hit onto the grass over near track and field and we watched as a man picked it up, examined it, put it in his pocket and rode away on his bicycle.   But even at one point when the baseball bounced behind home plate and into the stands a fan caught it and was quick to throw it back to a Yale player.   Are baseballs really this tight at Yale?   Can someone get them a Rawlings sponsorship or something?

I know that in the majors (and even in the minors) that have that theory that every pitch should be made with a perfectly clean, crisp, brand new baseball because that little bit of dirt on it could be the reason why it pulls foul instead of being a home run, so this does feel less wasteful in that aspect of it-- but if I caught a foul ball why couldn't I keep it?   (Also, the idea of how close there were people running the track to where they could get hit by foul balls is somewhat scary)

My biggest suggestion for Yale baseball though is merchandising.   There was nothing for sale there that said "Yale" on it, but without even thinking so far as to want, say, a team set of baseball cards (They might not play enough games to justify it, but I'd still buy it) a simple baseball with the "Y" for Yale on it would please me to no end.

It's funny because every time I mentioned Yale baseball- since I read about it and since I started talking about it- I've mentioned Coach Stuper.    So of course, once we get to the game, I say that before we leave we should try and get a picture with Coach Stuper and Gina has to ask "Wait, what are we doing? Why?"  Yeah, I only talked about this, like, a hundred times.

In between the doubleheader on Saturday I caught Coach Stuper walking to the dugout and asked if he'd take a picture with us ("us" being Quentin and I).   He gave this answer along the lines of "I have to do this thing right now, but after that I will", where it was like he was trying so hard not to say "no", just proving he's every bit as nice and kind as every person says he is.    When he came back from the dugout and doing his thing he had to do, he fixed his hair quickly with his hand, stood next to us and we took our picture.   It was maybe five minutes at most out of his time but something I will remember forever and Quentin will now carry with him always as well-- his first Yale baseball game and meeting the legendary Coach Stuper.   

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