Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hanging 'Em Up

Our Memorial Day vacation in Southern Maryland began with a detour to Regency Furniture Stadium for our first independent league baseball game. The sidetrip was a bit of a lark as we were running by the stadium on our way to Lexington Park. I figured we would drop by the game, maybe grab a hot dog, see what the Atlantic League had to offer and get back on the road.

We ended up staying much longer than I had anticipated and for the first time in her young life, our daughter made it all the way through a baseball game.

Although we entered the stadium in the first inning, we did not get to our seats until the eighth. Regency isn't so much a baseball stadium as it is an amusement park for little kids. Nationals Park has a playground and Prince George's Stadium (home of the Baysox) has a carousel and an inflatable bounce house. Regency, however, has a playground, a bounce house, a massive inflatable slide, a climbing wall, sand boxes with crane shovels, and bumper boats. Bumper boats.

The setup is not conducive to watching a baseball game and has unfortunately warped our daughter's expectations of sporting events. Following Saturday's game, she's asked to go to a baseball game every other day and declined to join me for the Real Maryland match tonight as Richard Montgomery High School cannot compete.

When I did get to watch the game, what was on the field was almost as surprising to me as how much our daughter was enjoying the amenities off the field.

The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs were facing the Camden Riversharks and on the mound for the Riversharks was the familiar visage of Jason Johnson:

Johnson, as a Baltimore Oriole between 1999 and 2003, was a regular on my fantasy baseball teams (that obviously finished near the bottom every year). And he wasn't the only familiar face, as Camden's starting lineup also featured former Astro Mike Lamb (2004-2007), former D-Ray Toby Hall (2000-2005), and World Series ring owner Pedro Feliz -- each of whom made a cameo appearance on my fantasy bball teams at one time or another.

Watching Johnson get shelled and Lamb and Hall struggle at the plate against former Cub Jason Waddell wasn't terribly enjoyable. And although the turnout (of over 4,000) meant that these former big leaguers were not toiling in total anonymity, there is something fundamentally wrong with seeing an athlete that has achieved as much as Pedro Feliz being mercilessly heckled by drunken never-have-beens while living out of a hotel in Camden and earning $2,500 a month.

Feliz has chosen his path, so presumably he knew what he was getting into. Nevertheless, I was surprised by how much the spectacle of deterioration detracted from my enjoyment of the actual game. This is not a tribute to achievement; Feliz is not celebrating his career. Instead, he's holding out a gossamer thread of hope at renewal and he's hitting .233 against Atlantic League pitching.

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