Finally, The Rock has returned to Wilmington. It’s been a long, awful 15 months since our last stadium visit and 21 since our last baseball game (an August 2019 tilt at the now retired McCoy Stadium for the now moved Pawtucket RedSox of the now also defunct International League).
My partner, Amanda the Librarian, and I were finally able to road trip out of state. So we went back to Philadelphia to visit my mom Pam and meet my mom’s new partner, Pete. The plan was to head down to Pam’s apartment and have hoagies and cheesesteaks (though, contrary to Mare of Eastwood we didn’t get them from Cocos Pizza. Their pizza is fine, but for us it’s Double Decker Pizza for cheesesteaks & hoagies).
Pam got us all tickets to the Wilmington Blue Rocks at Frawley Stadium. She and I have been going to see the Rocks since the team debuted as a Carolina League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals in the early 90’s. I’ve had the chance to see some great players come through Wilmington including; Johnny Damon (who, apparently, is a gross human being), Mike Sweeney, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
The Blue Rocks were one of the least affected teams coming out of the 2020/21 Minor League Baseball shake-up. While the Carolina League has been retired, the Blue Rocks are still at the same developmental level, but now instead of Kansas City, they are the Washington Nationals High-A affiliate in the prestigious (LOL) High-A East League.
Friday night’s game was a rain-out, which rolled over into a single admission pair of 7-inning double headers starting at 4pm. Our plan to be at the ballpark for a 6pm first pitch remained unchanged. Because it was a family visit – Okay, I might as well tell you all – the main reason for the visit was to celebrate. Amanda the Librarian and I eloped on May 14th. We were visiting my mom so that we could celebrate our wedding. Getting to the ball game was a bonus.
Amanda and I drove separately down to Wilmington (we were planning on meeting a friend of mine from The First State after the game for a quick drink). If you’re unfamiliar with Frawley Stadium (and judging by the lightly attended double header, you are probably not familiar with the building), it’s sort of isolated, sitting out on the perimeter of the city, sitting under an elevated section of I-95. The stadium is a sandstone construction with a simple concourse above bowl design. In recent years they’ve added a Chickies & Pete’s above a right field picnic area.
Since my last visit to Frawley (for a Carolina vs California League All-Star Game several years ago), the team has improved their 2 video screens in the outfield, and have redone their bullpen, opening up the left field wall with chicken wire so that the relievers don’t have to sit precariously on high-top bar chairs balanced on the backs of a bench to see the game.
The Blue Rocks have built their name on the backs of their two non-sequitorial mascots, Rocky (Rock E.?) Bluewinkle and Mr. Celery. The latter being literally an anthropomorphic stalk of celery. Pam and I have been pumping up the Mr. Celery experience to our respective partners. In years past, when the home team scored, Mr. Celery would burst forth from the first base side tunnel to Blur’s “Song 2”, acting like a spastic child after a bump of speed. Now, however, Mr. Celery has been banished to the wastelands of the left field line where he barely makes it past the last seating section on the third base side before retreating to, I assume, a retirement home for spoiled veg.
The game itself, well, it was 94 degrees with a high sky, no shade and I am Irish. I was both melting and burning into the color & consistency of a Flamin’ Hot Dorito. Amanda and I got to the park a bit early for game 2 to realize that game 1 was just going into the 4th inning.
To bore you no further with the mundacities, the games were both entertaining, and at least once we showed up, moved along at a pretty good pace.
The Rocks were hosting the Hudson Valley Renegades, a New York-Penn League refugee that’s now affiliated with the Yankees. For the first time in my life, I didn’t really pay attention to the game on the field. But I did enjoy the day, and the Rocks have always done a great job of presenting a game day in a way that keeps the kids interested without overwhelming the rest of us who aren’t interested in being publicly peer pressured into participating in group activities.