As Suzi and I stood by the rail, the fireworks went off behind the fence in right-center field.
The display had the usual excitement of the initial colorful explosions, followed by a series of small and medium bursts leading up to a finale that always looks like a last, desperate attempt to shoot everything off before someone comes to stop them.
Fireworks are among my favorite things, but I hadn’t seen them live in more than two years. Some things have happened in those two years — the obvious stuff everyone knows about, but other things closer to home.
When Suzi and I go to a game, especially when it’s not one where we have a passionate rooting interest, it can often turn into a rolling conversation about whatever topics or observations amuse us.
Such as a second baseman for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats named LJ Talley.
He’s 24 years old, went to the University of Georgia before being drafted in the seventh round in 2019, bats left, throws right. His given name is Jason Michael, which makes LJ a weird choice for initials, but his father is also named Jason, so maybe it’s for “Little Jason”?
But the amusing part was that between fonts, spacing and the lack of periods between his initials, it looked on the scoreboard of his home ballpark that his first name is U, in the style of the University of Miami logo.
Which brought the conversation to U Thant, because of course it did.
For the uninitiated (or the only slightly initiated pre-Google search), U Thant was a Burmese official and United Nations ambassador who served as Secretary-General from 1961 to 1971. His many honorary degrees include one from Suzi’s alma mater, Mount Holyoke College.
In all the conversations at all the baseball games in all the baseball parks, I’m guessing ours was probably the only one involving U Thant.
Meanwhile, LJ Talley is hitting .247 in AA.
At this point, it’s looking like advantage, Thant, but there’s still time for Talley. Maybe he’ll unlock the secret to baseball success, or perhaps he’ll do great things with his education in management from Georgia. He was a four-year member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
If baseball isn’t working out, maybe he’ll follow the example of a player he would have faced from the Portland Sea Dogs, Tanner Nishioka, had Nishioka not recently retired to attend medical school.
In his last game, Nishioka hit two home runs.
Brock Lundquist started the game in left field for New Hampshire.
He’s listed at 5-feet, 11-inches and 190 pounds, but looked bigger from where we were sitting, and his long hair and mustache gave me a Gorman Thomas vibe.
Any time Suzi and I talk about someone we haven’t heard about in a while, the first question that comes up is “Alive or dead?”
I’m happy to report that Thomas is very much alive. The former Milwaukee Brewers outfielder — who, by the way, was listed as 6-feet, 2-inches and 210 pounds in his playing days — has his own line of barbecue sauce and was the namesake of a grill outside the team’s former ballpark.
“So he’s the Milwaukee Brewers’ version of Boog Powell?”
Yes, in that Powell has an eponymous barbecue joint outside his former team’s home stadium, no in that I didn’t try to “kill” Gorman Thomas.
It was an honest mistake. We were standing in line outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and when I overheard someone asking if Boog would be showing up at his barbecue stand that day, I told Suzi I doubted it because I was pretty sure he had died.
Nope, he was still with us then and still is now. Sure, it was embarrassing, but every time Suzi teases me about it, I remind her that she “killed” Pele, who’s a slightly bigger name than Boog Powell.
Hey, there aren’t a lot of things I have the upper hand on her about — it comes with having a brilliant spouse — so I have to get what I can.
There’s a chance that someone mentioned Gorman Thomas during a conversation at a ballpark, most likely during the Brewers game.
But I’m going to guess that the Venn diagram of people who discussed both U Thant and Gorman Thomas during the same game resided in Section 102, Row E, Seats 5 and 6 or Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, New Hampshire.
If you’re contemplating a knee or hip replacement, Stryker is “The Official SmartRobotics™ Joint Replacement Partner of Minor League Baseball,” for whatever that’s worth to you.
“Is there an official horse dewormer?”
Not that I’m aware of — yet — but the space above the urinals in the men’s room was sponsored by a local plumbing company, which may be the most on-brand thing in the history of ever.
Sorry, no pictures. You’ll have to take my word for it this time. I assume that pulling out a camera to take a picture near the urinals in a bathroom full of dudes would hit very different.
Down the right-field line was a bouncy house, and I don’t know what was going on in there, but it was seriously shaking.
“If the bouncy house is rockin’ …” you actually should probably come knocking, because children could be getting hurt.
Suzi wanted a snack that wasn’t ice cream, so she was very excited to see the kids on our row return with fried dough.
As far as I’m concerned, the universe where ice cream isn’t superior to fried dough in every way does not exist, but to each their own.
However, when we went to get snacks mid-game, the lines were too long everywhere, so we did without. Later on, we saw kids with ice cream and heard them say vanilla was the only flavor left, and there were no toppings.
By the way, about kids at the ballpark … I’ve found them annoying a time or two, but it’s mostly just excitement, and while I try to avoid telling people how to raise their kids because I don’t have any, expecting them to sit quietly and calmly for an entire game is … crap, what’s the word I’m looking for?
Oh yes, there it is … stupid.
I’m not sayin’, but I’m sayin’.
“Are they playing sea shanties?”
The music playing briefly over the PA system did seem kind of weird, but was replaced a few moments later by “Timber,” which seemed a bit more ballpark-like.
The “name that tune” challenge on the scoreboard wasn’t all that difficult — “Barracuda,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” — with Suzi saying that after all these years, she still knew the lyrics to Billy Joel’s high-speed romp through the post-World War II years.
She soon admitted she did not.
“That much was obvious.”
But she kept at it, and got a nice little run going.
Unfortunately, her quest to get Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” played at the ballpark — which, in what I think is going to become part of an inside joke, we’ll probably start calling “Rhinestone Cowboy or GTFO” — remained unsuccessful.
As usual, I dominated the game where you had to guess which hat the ball was under when they all stopped spinning. The U.S. women’s basketball team wishes they could dominate their game the same way, and they’ve won seven straight Olympic gold medals.
“Broccoli is always up to no good. Do not trust broccoli ever,” after the broccoli and the carrot had a racin’ deal while rounding the bases. “You cannot have vegetable-on-vegetable violence.”
As far as I’m concerned, roughage rubbin’ is racin’, and vegetables taking each other out is perfectly fine, but I imagine violence is frowned upon during the mascot race for a local steakhouse.
As opposed to the joust, where the competitors traded knocking each other’s heads off, and the sumo wrestling, where the guy in the red costume absolutely trucked his blue-clad opponent.
If you ever got me in one of those contests, there would be no holding back. It would be all gas, no brakes.
Someone grounded a foul ball into the Sea Dogs’ bullpen.
As I know from my own experience, this is a prime opportunity for fans in the first few rows to score a souvenir, but the ball sat untouched near the mound until a Portland reliever grabbed it … and tossed it to a teammate.
After what I’m sure was some banter with the kids in the front row, he eventually handed it over the fence.
Oh yes, there was a baseball game.
During the fireworks, Suzi noted that the two Fisher Cats games we’ve attended this year — both against Portland, coincidentally — proved to be bookends for the summer we’re having and the one we were supposed to have.
Back in May, we had both gotten our second shots, but were a few days short of being fully vaccinated, so we wore masks as we walked around the ballpark and took them off at our seats.
It was just before most of the remaining restrictions were lifted, so there were still rows of seats between groups fans.
This time, though, the only spaces between fans were because people didn’t buy those seats. The signs asking people to socially distance and the hand sanitizers were still there, but for the most part, they were like reminders of a previous time that no one has bothered to remove yet.
It looked a lot like what we anticipated in May.
Except for the part where it’s not.
So it looks like we’ll be OK, and given that we’ve both been fully vaccinated for months, that was probably always the case.
Which was one of the main reasons to get vaccinated in the first place.
But instead of being completely carefree, going to games or other public events still requires either not caring about what may happen or having faith that the adults all around you have also been responsible.
Here in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island … I’m willing to have that faith. Other places? Let’s just say I may not.
(In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m extremely aware that I’m tempting fate by writing that.)
The good thing about fireworks — other than I just like watching them — is that I can lose myself in them and just enjoy the show.
Reality comes back soon enough.