All posts by Brian

Voice-over pro. Former broadcaster. Current president of Harrisburg Senators Fan Club. My passion is "baseball" - the strategic nine-player game (without a DH) where each player must run, hit and field.

Day Four – Game 1

As you walk in to Werner Park, you notice a wide open concourse behind the stands. It curves behind home plate and up both base lines. Nothing unusual about that, except it’s really wide, which is convenient. Plus, there’s nothing overhead, so you see signs everywhere alerting you to beware of foul balls. With no warning, two boys near a concession stand almost got nailed by a foul pop behind the plate.

Since today’s promotion was half-price burgers, Mitch and I follow the local crowd to the burger stand at the back of the concourse at third base. The lines are long, but that’s to be expected for half-price burgers.

Plus, waiting in line presents opportunities for conversation. A friendly woman behind us notices our UBT schedule and chats with us. We talk about our trip, about Rosenblatt Stadium, about her granddaughter, (one of the school children who sang an energetic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner).

Weekday day games at every park draw busloads of school-age and pre-school children. This was no exception.

We take our burgers and fries (and craft draughts) to our bleacher seats beyond the left field fence, where we sit among various school groups. Apparently, part of their ticket package includes hot dogs, because their daycare teachers were handing out loads of warm wrapped dogs from large cardboard boxes.

By the time Xavier Nady homers to give the Storm Chasers an early 1-0 lead, the sun shines brightly, reflecting off the bleachers. Memphis Redbird, Jamie Romak, ties it in the 4th with his own long ball. I’m a little sorry that Oscar Tavares is still hurt, but the level of talent and Major League experience on both teams impress.

Werner Park Action - Omaha, NE

The Family Fun Zone, which seems to accompany all Major and Minor League parks these days, remains active to our right, beyond several picnic tables. There’s also berm seating in both left and right fields past our “Fun Porch” bleachers.

Ryan Jackson doubles to greet reliever Donnie Joseph to lead off the visitors’ 6th. Brock Peterson singles him home with the final run. The 2-1 final represents UBT 2013’s first home team defeat.

A crisply played, sun-filled Game One of today’s doubleheader allows for a more leisurely drive to Game Two.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Day-Night Twinbill – In Jeopardy?

Tuesday, June 3, 2013 – UBT Day Four

Before we reach the southern border of South Dakota, the dark clouds begin to lift. The threat of rain continues, but small holes of blue sky appear.

Finally, we cross the Missouri River into Iowa and continue south through construction zones and more farms. But definitely more civilization, too; a different feel from the serenity offered by the vast prairies of North and South Dakota.

We cross the bridge at Council Bluffs into Nebraska. When you fly to Omaha, you actually fly into Council Bluffs, which I’ve done many times on business.

Omaha is famous, of course, for hosting the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium. I’ve been by the old girl (born in 1947), but never had an opportunity to catch a game there.

Now it’s been replaced. Twice.

The College World Series has a new home. I’ve also been by it during construction. Rosenblatt (and its rich history), unfortunately, is to become an extended parking lot for the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Such is progress.

And the Omaha Storm Chasers (formerly the Royals) moved into a new stadium near Papillion. As the sky brightens a bit, Mitch and I pull into the parking lot for today’s 1 PM start.

Wener Park Parking Lot - Omaha, Nebraska

From the lot at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo to here covers 430-some miles or about 6.5 hours of driving time. But after this game, we need to be back on the road to catch today’s second game at 7, in another city in yet another state.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Day-Night Twinbill Starts … Here

Monday, June 3, 2013 – Night Three

We drive out of Fargo. And we drive. Speed limit 75 MPH.

And it’s pitch black on both sides of the Interstate. Nothing else.

The only light comes from occasional lightning in the distance to our right, and then behind us as we drive some more. The lightning really illuminates the dense clouds on such a dark night.

And we drive. No visible trees, homes, outdoor lights. Just darkness.

We stop for fuel at an exit that features Dakota Magic Casino and a fuel stop. And nothing more. One tractor trailer is also fueling.

And we drive.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 – Day Four

Well after the clock strikes twelve Central Time, we pull in to our destination: Brookings, South Dakota. Christian checks us into our hotel.

After a short snooze, we awaken to a rainy Tuesday morning. We need to get back on the road to keep heading south, hugging the Dakota-Minnesota line.

In the gray daylight, large farm fields and occasional cattle dot both sides of the Interstate. The forecast is not very promising. Brief downpours accompany the dense cloud cover. Could I-29 lead to our first ever UBT rainout?

And we drive.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

More Fargo Treasures

As much as we enjoy baseball on UBT, we relish the opportunity to talk with folks along the way. Dawn Morton, a Redhawks usherette for 17 of the team’s 18 years in Fargo-Moorhead, asks us about our trip along the third base concourse.

Dawn Morton with Trippers - Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

Dawn traveled east to witness Punxsutawney Phil’s millennium prediction, but didn’t get to see a baseball game in Pittsburgh. (I think even I’d have to hesitate if the Buccos wanted to play in early February.)

The buttons attached to Dawn’s lanyard represent her name tags over the years. You’ll also find one button with a completely different name. That’s the name you’re to use if you have a complaint!

On the first base side, guarding the entrance to the suite deck, we strike up a conversation with Ed Fitzgerald. Ed also has been associated with the team for 17 years.

Ed FItzgerald with Trippers - Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

Soon after returning from the service, Ed won a golf tournament where he was teamed with members of the local television station. 30-some years later, Ed retired from that station. I concur from personal experience that your handicap can be a tremendous asset when seeking a position in broadcasting.

Ed casually mentions that he met Roger Maris and his family when Roger lived here. He also casually mentions that there’s a Maury Wills Museum under the ballpark. As rookies at Newman Outdoor Field, we would have never known.

Apparently, Maury visits each summer to assist on radio broadcasts and do a couple of appearances. Mitch and I miss an inning or so to head to the lower level where we see Maury Wills memorabilia and a televised looping interview featuring Maury stories.

Maury Wills Locker - Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

After the game, we say a fond farewell to Fargo, North Dakota. It’s time to begin the trek south to prepare for our Tuesday day-night doubleheader in two different cities.

The game cities alone span a 3.5 hour drive, but that’s merely the half of it. Literally.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks

Monday evening, June 3, 2013 – UBT Day Three Continues

Following a reflective and educational day in Fargo, we’re ready for baseball in another new park featuring another new UBT league: the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. On the campus of North Dakota State University, we pull into the parking lot across the street from Newman Outdoor Field.

Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

The clean, brick façade looks professional and inviting. Some tailgating with a taste from Mitch’s growler of North Country Brewing’s Firehouse Red ensue. Then, we cross the street and climb the stairs to the ticket window.

We walk onto an open concourse from behind home plate where a program vendor shouts from behind his stand. Newman offers a variety of food, but Mitch and I decide to help them boost their Dollar Dog Night promotion. Craft beer draughts are only $4.50 for 20+ ounces.

Newman Outdoor Field Action - Fargo, ND

The level of baseball impresses, too. Crisp defense and solid at bats.

Pitchers dominate tonight as the Lincoln Saltdogs dent the plate just once in the Redhawks 3-1 win. Jake Laber (2-1) picks up the win, pitching up to 89 mph into the 7th. Reliever Nathan Kilcrease whiffs four of the five Saltdogs he faces before two more penners salt away the win.

As impressed as we are with the on-field and concession products, Newman Outdoor Field offers more. Much more.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short