Warming the Baseball Soul On a Cold April Day

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a start of baseball season as cold as this season. Opening games postponed due to snow. Teams playing in frigid temperatures. Fans in parkas, three layers of clothing, gloves…. dressed more for the Iditarod than for MLB!

The opening of the MiLB season, though, brought me hope. I had preplanned my trip weeks, nay, a couple months ahead of time. I purchased a ticket online to see the Greensboro Grasshoppers host the Hickory Crawdads on Saturday, and the Carolina Mudcats were gracious enough to give me a free ticket Sunday as they hosted the Winston-Salem Dash. Everything was set. Hotel was prepaid (what a bargain!).

Late in the week I saw the forecast. Didn’t look good. I headed down Saturday, hit some snow near Charlottesville, VA, then rain and snow mix all the way to Greensboro. Along the way, I received an email from the Grasshoppers, stating that Saturday’s game was postponed (more on that in a bit). Oh well, made the best of it, spent the night in Greensboro, and headed to Zebulon, NC for Sunday’s game. Which was now a double header as their Saturday night contest was also rained out!

A New Hope

During the week prior to the game, I was on Twitter, and saw a post about a young fan, Vincent, who isn’t your ordinary fan. Sure, he loves going to the games, but he’s actually a fan of the umpires!
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Turns out Vincent is pretty well known! In fact, last year at Ump Appreciation Night, hosted by the Charleston RiverDogs, he was recruited by Nate Curant, Director of Promotions, to make an appearance!
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Vincent is the real deal! In fact, he already has one ejection under his belt!

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Credit: Carolina Mudcats

I made arrangements to catch up with Vincent during the game. What an extraordinary, and polite, young man. As always, he came to the game in his gear, and even brought his mask. Hey, you never know when you will be called into action! I asked Vincent why he follows the umpires and not so much the players. His very unassuming answer: “I just like it!” Vincent, age 10, has been an umpire fan for about three years now, and when I asked him if he had a favorite ballpark, he said it doesn’t matter, as long as there are umpires there! I didn’t want to distract him too much during the game, so I thanked his family and Vincent for his time, but did ask if I could get a couple of pictures:
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While the game time temperature was 46 at the start, my short visit with Vincent truly warmed my heart. To meet a young man who is passionate about the game, whether he’s following the players or the umpires, really gives me hope that this game will continue for many years to come! Thank you, Vincent!

The Mudcats and Five County Stadium

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The Mudcats are the Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. In fact, in October, the Brewers purchased the team, and based on an interview I heard between games, they are excited with the deal and think it was a great opportunity. The history of the Mudcats dates back to 1974 when they were the Kinston Expos. While their affiliations (Expos, Blue Jays, Indians, Braves, and now Brewers), and stadium, have changed, they have been a staple in Carolina League play for a while.

It’s actually a great place to watch a game! Most of the seating is in the upper deck, which gives you great views of the field. And I loved how everything from the ticket booth to concessions, to the team store stays with the fishing theme.
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They also had quite a few local brews available, but considering the temperature, there wasn’t a lot of action at any of them.

Near the end of the first game, I ventured up to the Cattails Restaurant. What a great place to eat and watch the game. This year, they switched over to buffet style, which was fine with me. It was warm (both the food and the temperature), and with the large glass windows, I didn’t miss any of the action. For an additional charge, you can sit in some very nice leather seats just in front of the windows to catch the game!
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It’s a shame that the weather was so cold. I would love to visit this place when they are packed to the rafters! All the fans were very friendly, no shouting from the stands harassing the other team, etc. I really enjoyed my time in Zebulon, and I hope to make it back later in the season!

Game Photos

As I mentioned before, the stadium has great views of the field, so I got to enjoy the game and snapped a few decent photos. The weather helped as well, since there wasn’t a cloud in the sky!

The Dash started the scoring with a solo shot in the third. Here’s Mitch Roman rounding third with his first High-A homerun:
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The lead held up til the fifth, when Carolina sent 11 men to the plate and put up a 5 spot on the board. One of the big plays was Ryan Aguilar’s safety squeeze bunt, and the Dash’s catcher wasn’t able to hold onto the throw to the plate:
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Later in the frame, a sac fly to right scored another run. Dash right fielder Alex Call made a great catch before crashing into the wall:
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Here are a couple other good shots:
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OK, that’s an interesting way to hit a ball…. (actually, he was turning on an inside pitch but I lucked out and got the photo of the ball just as it was in front of the bat):
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Muddy can even dab!
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A reflection of the stadium:
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Fans bundled up during the game:
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I got your back! Here’s your gear: gear.png

Greensboro Grasshoppers

When I headed to North Carolina Saturday, I had a sinking feeling that my visit to North Carolina to see the Greensboro Grasshoppers Saturday then the Carolina Mudcats Sunday might be in jeopardy. Sure enough, halfway through my drive, the Grasshoppers game was postponed due to weather. Somewhere in southern Virginia, I received the following email:

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No worries, though. I had prepaid my hotel room, and looking at the forecast, I figured the second game of my roadtrip to NC, and seeing the Carolina Mudcats, was safe. too late to turn around, and I am SO glad I didn’t!

Even with the postponement, I made my way to First National Bank Field in Greensboro. What a really nice ballpark, at least from the outside! Parking lots were deserted, so that was a non issue. I was able to make a new friend, but given the weather (raining and temps in the 40s), I thought he needed a jacket!
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The ballpark looks like a great place to visit, and I hope to make it back to Greensboro for a game!

Nice looking stadium, and I love this quote!
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I salvaged the evening by seeing “Black Panther” (finally) and it’s a great movie if you haven’t seen it!! Although driving home from the movie, I was met with snow flurries. this IS baseball season, right?!?

The Grasshoppers are still on my list to see this season, and maybe will combine it with a trip to see the Dash in Winston-Salem. And although my heart was warmed with my visit with Vincent, I think I will wait until the heat of summer arrives!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sorry you missed out on the game in Greensboro, it is a great place to watch a game with great baseball fans. I enjoyed our game at the Mudcats a few years ago, but they were an Indians affiliate back then. I just love the Mudcats logo! The story on the young umpire is amazing. My youngest is 10 and it’s fun to see how kids minds work at that age.
    -Mike

    Liked by 1 person

    1. gregprescott says:

      Thanks Mike. I will make it down to Greensboro again at some point, try to combine it with a trip to Winston-Salem on the same weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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