It was a beautiful night for baseball.
It’s a fair statement to say that the Biscuits haven’t been too good this year (4-6 coming into last night’s game), but it’s also a fair statement to say that we didn’t care. On Opening Night (even when the team has already had two weeks of games on the road), you throw out the record books. Opening Night is full of promise, and we’d expected the Biscuits talent level to be a bit depleted after having packed the AAA and Major League rosters with talent over the past year.
The best thing about going back to Biscuits Stadium after a long off-season is seeing what they’ve done with the place. If you’re a baseball traditionalist, most of the time the answer to that question is, “Hopefully nothing.” People like it when stadiums stay the same. It gives them comfort. But we did know from newspaper
reporting press release reprinting that the team had splurged on some kind of new Jumbotron-style video board.
Let’s break down, in no particular order, some things that will be different when you go to a Biscuits game this season:
Things that are better:
Hak-Ju’s walkup music – We’ve made it clear that Hak-Ju Lee is one of our favorite players. He was hitting leadoff last night and still looks like a very promising prospect for the Rays. But the music that would play when he walked up to bat last year was pretty terrible (some sort of electro-pop dance thing). We were glad to see that he has picked out something better (it contains the booming of some kind of death knell bell).
The “Club Car” bar – Now open to the public! It was bizarre to us that the bar (on the concourse in rightfield) was only open to some kind of card-holding members of some weird club. What? We can’t buy beer in your stupid bar? Well, that’s ok with us because your stupid TVs in the bar aren’t even showing the Biscuits game that we paid to come to see. Well, that’s all changed. We can now walk into the bar and order a drink from the (seemingly overmatched) bartender and see the actual Biscuits game on the TVs in there. Thanks, Biscuits management, for the “privilege” of letting us unwashed masses buy beer in your bar.
Billy Gardner – Now in his 6th year as the Biscuits manager, Gardner is awesome. He’s old school – from the way he pulls his socks up, to the way he waves the runners around from his spot in the third base coaching box. He’s grizzled and savvy and seems like a patient, but firm teacher. Two examples from last night that show Gardner at his best: 1) He avoided showing up an umpire on a clearly blown call at third, knowing that it’s the start of a long series. But he (quietly) made it clear to the umpire that he knew that it was a missed call without riling up the crowd with some sort of over-the-top histrionics. 2) During an injury to one of the opposing team’s players, it seemed like the opposing team’s trainers were taking an exceptionally long time in letting the player sit on the field to recover (more on this in a moment). Gardner could have prodded the umps to prod the opposing team to cart the guy off, but instead pulled the umps aside to ask them a question about the play causing the injury. He engaged the umps, preventing them from speeding the process along, which seemed to be a genuine professional courtesy to the other team — and one that likely went unnoticed by the fans shifting uncomfortably as the lengthy injury was sorted out. Billy Gardner, son of a great baseball player (and coach), is a great leader and a greatly-appreciated class act.
New beers – Kudos to the concessions folks that made the decision to sell local beer at Biscuits Stadium. Back 40 beer is awesome and we’re glad to have that at the game. And additional kudos for keeping the veggie burgers on the menu, even though it’s clear that they don’t sell a ton of them. In fact, they’ve somehow figured out a way to speed up the process of selling them. Last year, you’d have to go up and order your veggie burger and then come back to the concession stand 20 minutes later to pick up your order. This year, they handed us a veggie burger with cheese within seconds of our order. Good job concession folks!
Frank De Los Santos – He didn’t pitch, but we saw him running what seemed like basically a pitching clinic for a gaggle of enraptured young boys down by the bullpen. The hard core Stone Crabs fans we met when we were down at spring training game in Port Charlotte said that he is very cool. We look forward to seeing him pitch.
The end of that awful “Bring on the Biscuits” song – We can’t verify this, fans, but we think that just maybe they’ve gotten rid of that stupid country song they used to play before games. They still say dumb stuff like “Biscuits are better in bunches,” even though that’s obviously false, and you’d be worried about anyone eating, say, more than two. But if the song is gone, this is a big improvement.
Things that are worse:
No more Mickey! – Remember from previous games that guy that would spring out with the Biscuits flag before the game, while Carmina Burana blared? And he was the in-game MC for all of the stupid between-innings advertisements? And he’d do the Cupid Shuffle on the top of the dugout? And once in a while he’d sing the national anthem? And he had the hilarious custom Biscuits jersey that told us that his name was Mickey? And he was the boss of the interchangeable “Biscuits Bunch?” Yeah, that guy. He’s gone!
We saw an ad saying the team was looking for a new in-game master of ceremonies, and had tryouts or something, but we never knew what happened to Mickey, who had been there as long as we could remember. An usher told us that he left the Biscuits for, wait for it, “clown school in Italy.” Was this a joke? Did Micky sprint around with the Biscuits flag as “O Fortuna” played so many times that he got really into classical music and stumbled across Pagliaccio and got totally obsessed? Did he try to take Big Mo with him? Did Big Mo get rejected from Italian clown school, leading to an emotional farewell at the Montgomery airport? Was the super-Christian clown school that the Montgomery Advertiser is so obsessed with not good enough for our Mickey? We need to know these things!!
There is only one answer to the question, “Who will replace Mickey?” because that answer is “nobody.” Nobody will ever replace Mickey.
The cups – Look, it’s a fairly minor quibble, but we loved taking home our plastic Biscuits “souvenir” cups and using them year-round. They were the perfect size and if we needed to send someone home with a “to go” cup, they were a perfect thing to rep our city and our team. The cups were pretty cool. This year, they come with a gigantic and stupid and permanent advertisement on them, totally obscuring the fact that it’s even a Biscuits cup. We don’t advertise for health care companies, so this year’s cups will come home with us and go into the recycle pile. Seriously. Was money so tight that the Biscuits really needed to sell sponsorship of the freaking plastic cups? If so, it’s a pathetic cry of desperation that ruins an otherwise-nice take-home reminder of the game.
The scoreboard – While on the subject of advertising glut, let’s just go ahead and put the new scoreboard on blast. It’s not good. They clearly pored over every inch of the stadium and looked for advertising opportunities during the off-season and tried to monetize every square inch of the stadium. We get it: Stadium ads have a long tradition in baseball (check out the cool retro ads at Rickwood Field sometime). But this feels like overkill in every possible way. We understand that you have to sponsor the in-game, between innings promotional things (the things that entertain the children and rubes that didn’t come to see an actual baseball game). But the worst sin of the new Alabama Power “ribbon board” (which sits right next to the regular new Jumbotron) is that it includes no useful information that isn’t already on the scoreboard.
The geniuses in charge of the scoreboard have taken down the speed gun scoreboard from last year that told you how hard the pitchers were throwing. Now, that information flashes (sometimes) interchangeably with the “time of day” clock on the big scoreboard. Frustrating. Worse, there’s no in-game pitch count. Pitch count has only been a closely-monitored part of baseball since the 1990s, so maybe they’re still struggling to find a way to communicate this simple bit of information to fans who’d like to, say, see how long the organization is going to leave their precious pitching arms out there on the mound.
And the redundancy of the two boards (the scoreboard and the ribbon board) is especially stupid given that they are right next to each other. Look, he’s hitting .280! And over there, on the adjacent scoreboard! He’s also hitting .280! Thanks scoreboards!
The music – Look, we realize that the players probably get to pick their walkup music. This isn’t about that (Really, Mike Sheridan, Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass?” Really? That’s your walkup music?) And it’s not even a complaint about the infantile “text which of these three songs you want to hear us play” promotions, where fans are asked to use their phones to democratically select which of the bad songs they prefer. No, this is about the moment in the game when a Biscuits runner going from first to second collided with a Bay Bears second-baseman trying to field the ball. Both players went down. For a long time. And it was painful to watch. And they both lay there. And the crowd was in that hushed silence that happens when bad-not-sure-how-bad injuries happen at sporting events.
So the PA music person decides to blast Lenny Kravitz’s moronic 13-year-old re-make of the Guess Who’s “American Woman.” You know, the one where he replaces the brilliant political sentiment with hyper-sexualization. Because evidently the Biscuits front office thinks it’s proper for their shortstop to limp off the field with a (possible) broken arm while Lenny Kravitz sings, “I don’t want to see your face no more.” And then as the player from the opposing team heroically limps off, perhaps wondering if this will be the injury that ends his dream of playing professional baseball, it’s unclear whether the song is taking a misogynistic tone, saying that he is a weak and injured woman, or is just mockingly telling him “bye, bye, bye.” Great choice up there in the press box.
OK, so what about the game? Well, the Biscuits got shelled. We love the team, but the loss was fine with us because we happened to have seats in front of the 80-year-old guy who brings the cowbell to the game and rings it … a LOT … every time the Biscuits do something good. Bay Bears make the first out of an inning on a foul ball to first base? EXTENDED COWBELL RIGHT IN OUR EARS. Biscuits player draws a walk? EXTENDED COWBELL RIGHT IN OUR EARS. I mean, we didn’t complain because ringing cowbells seems like the thing that Rays fans are doing. They do it at Rays games and they did it at spring training in the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs stadium that we attended. Fine. But this guy didn’t lift the bell up over his head, because that would have been too much work. So he swung it around in his lap (30 and 45 seconds per burst), which was right in the ears of the people in front of him (which was us). Thanks for the headache, super fan. We’re glad our regular season tickets are not in front of that deaf geezer.
Why did starter Shane Dyer only last one inning? He looked terrible. Was he injured? He gave up a monster home run to noted roid juicer Alfredo Marte. He also lucked out when the umps blew a call on an obvious home run that (probably) dented the back fence along the left field walkway. That ball was called a “ground rule double,” even though it cleared the walkway that fans were walking on. Does a ball have to leave the stadium to be a homer? I don’t think so. That guy for the Bay Bears got robbed, plain and simple. And Dyer looked horrible.
So, he got pulled for Jim Patterson, who was in his first appearance at AA ball, and who pitched pretty well. But after Patterson, it was a run through the bullpen (Schenk was especially terrible), leading to a corner infielder, Greg Sexton, coming in to pitch. Gardner had to have been disgusted with the pitching.
Yet, someone in the front office thought it would be a good idea to make an “Opening Day highlight video” full of incomprehensible fast cuts of blurry low rez footage. Remember that Opening Day, when we got shelled 11-3? And put our record at 4-7? And the pitching staff was so bad that we had to put a non-pitcher in the game to finish the game? I smell a montage to a crappy song!
Anyway, that’s over 2,200 words on your 2012 Biscuits Opening Day. You know you were asking for it. See you at the ballpark!