One of my trips for 2016 was off to a great start and as I got off work early to be driven by Kendall Morris and accompanied by Derreck Chupak to Bowling Green Kentucky for a visit to the Bowling Green Hot Rods,the Low A (Midwest League) affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kendall likes to drive fast and stop seldom,but I must add a story to our only stop for gas in West Virginia.
I'm not sure of the exact name of our stop,but the sign following it was "Big Otter" WV and the stop was a treat.
As I pumped the gas,Derreck and Kendall went inside and reported that the cashier ran to the back of the store like the old 1980's WWF wrestler the Repo Man!
As I came in,Derreck was loudly crowing about his "new hick friend" who had touted "just down the road is the geological center of West Virginia"!
Being that I imagine that the rock that was the "geological" center,doesn't really exist by itself-I guess that he meant "Geographical",which was funny enough on its own merits,but to add "my new hick friend" cracked me up.
Cracked me up to the point of being unable to look the cashier in the eye as I checked out with Derreck and Kendall already out the door and because I couldn't look him in the eye,I got a view of this guy's name tag "Denzl" as in Denzel Washington,but missing the second "E".
I just couldn't stop laughing as I left the store and entered the car.
We discussed Denzl a good bit over the course of this trip!!
We drove through most of Kentucky,including a really neat drive through Lexington that enabled me (an old horse racing fan) to ride by Keeneland Race Course and the famous Calumet Farm.
For me,that was a really big deal just to see as we drove by..
When we finally arrived at Bowling Green (very hungry),we were greeted by the ballpark not opening until 30 minutes before the game instead of the standard 60 minutes.
That would then mean a severe cut in the amount of time spent graphing,time that would come back to haunt us later.
We did manage to get some players from the Hot Rods,which was the more important of the two teams rather than the visiting Lake County Captains,who we can see when they jump a level to High A in the Carolina League.
The best prospects were Jake Cronenworth (hitting .377 as of this writing),and former Maryland Terrapin Brandon Lowe.
We were able to meet Lowe's parents at the game as well as they were visiting from Virginia.
The most intriguing prospect was one that we didn't have a card for-left reliever Jose Alvarado.
Alvarado hit 98 on the radar gun and consistently was in the 95-96 range,but struggled with control.
A lefty arm like that will get plenty of chances with Tampa Bay and beyond.
The food at BG was memorable as in being Suns-worthy in being bad.
My hot dogs were decided upon after dreadful ratings for the burger and fries by both Kendall and Derreck.
They were average at best,but beat the reports on the pizza that Derreck and Kendall gave.
Between the crummy food and two dollars for a program that wasn't as good as the one that the Frederick Keys give away for free,the Hot Rods concessions left much to be desired.
But there were two positives to the Hot Rods.
One was sitting next to Kim,a superfan that was super into the game and knowledgable to boot.
I didn't introduce myself,but I really enjoyed sitting near her and watching her enthusiasm.
The other was Jennifer Johnson (I looked on her nametag).
Jennifer walked the concourse and seemed interested in interacting with fans,answering questions and actually listened-which is a refreshing change from the Suns.
Ms.Johnson is exactly the type of person the Suns need and if I owned the Suns,I'd be calling her tomorrow for the GM job,but in her current position,she was quite impressive-the Hot Rods need to keep her around.
I was using the "book" of a friend to try for the trip and frankly,I didn't care for it.
It was mostly me being uncomfortable with it and getting flustered,but it just wasn't smooth for me.
Every grapher has their own ways of doing things and what works for one grapher can be clunky and
difficult to handle.
In the end,it has to be what works for you in getting to what you need quickly and easily and for me,that just isn't the book.
In between games,Derreck and I discovered the outfield at Bowling Green and that gives the best access of all.
The players walk from their clubhouses to the field through a walkway in left-center field and through a set of steps,you can get players from both teams,which we managed to get a lot of players to sign between games.
We figured we would be able to finish up in that area after the game,but alas it was a fireworks night and we weren't allowed in the area.
In the end,I just didn't feel the "it factor" in Bowling Green from the fans and from a ballpark that opened seven years ago and felt like it was twice that age,
Ok,but nothing spectacular other than stretching that stadium chart a little further west...
Back tomorrow or later with day two in Nashville....