Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Arrested Deterioration

Nearly six years ago, I set foot in The Valley for the first time and ignited an interest in Charlton Athletic that hasn't waned. As much as I've benefited from following the club, my interest in the team has corresponded with its cascading decline to the third division of English football.

No more.

For the last twenty minutes of Saturday's match against Carlisle United, I excused myself from an open house at a college outside of Philadelphia and followed the nerve-wracking conclusion through updates on Charlton Life.

Congratulations to "Sir" Chris Powell, the squad, the club, ownership, and all of Charlton's supporters around the globe.

It has been an unequivocal pleasure to root for SCP's men this season and whatever else may come, there are three more opportunities to revel in promotion before the hard work of preparing for a return to the Championship begins in earnest.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fan Appeal

There is a baseball sitting in my daughter's room, her first signed baseball obtained shortly after she turned two at a game between the Bowie Baysox and Harrisburg Senators. The ball is signed by Baltimore's Chorye Spoon (now with the Pawtucket Red Sox) and UMBC's Zach Clark. It is a reminder of a pleasant day at Prince George's Stadium, but one that we've not been able to repeat as she's shown little interest in baseball.

A Louie's Kid Club Easter egg hunt before Saturday's game (against, once again, the Harrisburg Senators) was enough to convince her to give baseball another shot.

We've been going to Baysox games on and off for over a decade and this was the most talent we've seen on display at the park. Baysox reliever Pedro Viola got torched and the game ended up being a blowout. Setting the score to one side, fantastic baseball and enjoyed watching it. Manny Machado's got a terrific arm and looks the part of a superstar shortstop prospect.

I wouldn't have been disappointed if the game had been a snoozefest. We arrived at the park at a little after 11:30 am with another family and left after 5:30 pm. The kids ran the bases after the game -- waiting out the ridiculous delay caused by Hector Nelo throwing at Edgardo Baez's head with two outs in the ninth and the Senators up ten runs -- and bounced out to the parking lot nearly six hours after walking in. Six hours.

Virtually everything the Baysox's management did for the game was pitch perfect. Our concerns about little kids getting trampled by bigger kids grabbing every plastic egg in sight were eliminated by the introduction of a limited number of "special" eggs that drew the most competitive children away from everyone else and a reasonable limit of eight eggs for all participants. Making the kids park free up until an hour before the game was a very nice touch. And the hula hoops laid out for kids to entertain themselves (something the club's done for awhile) ate up at least 45 minutes of game time.

I'd brought baseballs for all the kids with us as another tactic to kill time before the first pitch. Our seats were down on the field, on the first base line near the dugout. And, if you've got young kids and an interest in baseball, this is the place to be pregame. The Baysox players were terrific; particularly with kids who had never asked for autographs before. Sean Gleason spent a few minutes chatting with them about their plans for Easter. Just talking. One of the kids with us got eight autographs on a baseball and had short conversations with half of those players -- making her far more interested in rooting for the players when the game started.

My daughter's Orioles Dugout Club magazine had arrived in the mail on Friday, with a short feature on the Baysox's (and St. John's College High alum) L.J. Hoes. L.J., despite being one of the most heralded prospects in the Orioles' system, came by and spent time with the kids after warming up. Even Machado -- considered to be Baltimore's best prospect -- stopped by. And while he doesn't seem to have any particular affinity for kids, being stand-offish seems completely reasonable when adult men are chasing you down so they can put up more memorabilia to sell on eBay.

We had a great day at the ballpark. And there are now two baseballs in my daughter's room. Thank you Bowie Baysox.