Our latest road trip saw my friends Fred and Michael Landucci travel with me to Charleston,West Virginia for a visit to the Appalachian Power Park and the homestanding West Virginia Power.
I have never been to the park,but I had been near it twice in the last two months,first on my trip to Bowling Green with Derreck Chupak and Kendall Morris and then last month with Ryan on the way to Louisville.
This was a two day,one night trip because the Landucci's were kind enough to wait to leave until nine AM when I got off work and then I had to work again the following evening,so the time away was going to be short.
The best part of the trip down was some of the places that you see on the way through West Virginia.
I wrote about some of these on the other trips,but just seeing names such as Flatwoods,Big Chimney,Jane Lew,Mink Shoals,my future daughter in law's native Weston and the always first in our hearts-Big Otter made myself and the Landucci's laugh at some of these towns.
I mean,it doesn't take a lot of imagination to consider how these towns came to have their names a century or more ago....
We pulled into Flatwoods for gas and where we came up with a new "friend".
Those of you that read about the trip with Derreck and Kendall might remember the interaction with "Denzl" on the same exit at a Sunoco and despite the different gas station,we would find another unique character that I'll refer to for a long time to come.
As Fred pumped,Michael and I entered the store and as Michael paid,I asked "How far we were to Big Otter"?
This would become a running gag,but this time this was a legitimate question as I knew we had not seen it yet and I was wondering when it would pop up.
The cashier turned to a person named Les and asked him how far Big Otter was away.
Les then responded with "Big Otter? and then about 90 seconds of not a damn thing that Michael or myself could understand.
This had to be heard to believed (or mildly understood) and unless you saw it or heard Les,it simply is not being done justice.
Suffice it to say that Michael and I will be talking about Les for years!
We cruised down to the Charleston Capital hotel to check in.
It was being renovated,so lots of paint and spackle around,so a trip here in a year would feel totally different.
I took a nap of a little under two hours in order to get some rest to be ready for the game.
I was tired after not going to bed from work,so just that little bit was enough to get me through the evening.
We then traveled to the Bluegrass Kitchen,which had been recommended to us by Rusty,who works for the same company as Ryan and lives in the area.
The kitchen is located in a building that dates back to the 20's and has artwork all around the place by local artists.
Bluegrass touts itself as one of those "local ingredients,locally grown" type places and we were one of the few there at the time (a little after 4) to order.
Just we sat down,the sky opened and began to pour rain in a heavy thunderstorm.
Michael's cellphone showed a heavy storm cell going through,but clear otherwise,so if the field at APP could survive that onslaught,we'd likely be in good shape.
Because of the outside conditions and the older building (think large older windows) the lighting radically changed and took a dark,dank look that I thought complimented the place.
The one thing that I didn't like was the menu selection as because we were there at four,we had very few choices because of their conversion from lunch to dinner.
The waitress gave what was listed as their "Betwixt" menu,which wasn't filled with choices,Fred and I chose the meat loaf sandwich that came with mashed potatoes on the sandwich,while Michael went with the chicken sandwich and the more important sampling of various beers.
The meat loaf was good as it didn't have an abundance of tomato sauce as some meat loaf does and the mashed potatoes on top (no gravy) gave it an interesting texture.
We finally made to the park-there is a parking garage across the street from one entrance and a three lot located in with a Family Dollar that was even closer to a entrance-we took the latter and got our tickets.
The ticket person asked me where I would like to be seated as a courtesy.
We asked for (and received) tickets near the Toastman,the Power's superfan,so that Fred and Michael could get the Toastman experience,if they were annoyed,we could always move.
It never ceases to amaze me how I am treated like royalty at most places that I go to and using the same pass at my own homepark,I get consistently treated like something Posey dragged in...
The autographing is pretty easy at APP as both teams come out of the clubhouse under the concourse in right field,so they have to walk right by you and in the event of rain,they have a covered area to sign in.
I was able to get most of the Augusta Greenjackets (Giants) finished and Ke'Bryan Hayes of the Power signed all three cards (Including his top 100).
I had so much for Augusta that since I was not familiar with the setup in Charleston and the Power hitting Hagerstown in a few weeks,I left West Virginia cards other than Hayes at home.
If I ever go there again,I'll bring cards for both teams...
The concessions are very reasonable with a pre-game,buy one get one free for beer being a Michael staple.
I enjoyed the frozen lemonades and Michael was thrilled to find out that the Power do not stop selling beer until the game ends.
Most places end their beer sales in the seventh inning-not so in Charleston.Michael exclaimed as he ran to the stand "I LOVE THIS PLACE"!!
Sitting with the Toastman was quite fun with all the things that Rod Blackstone does.
I found his stuff much more entertaining on this trip than I did when he made his visit to Hagerstown a few years back.
This time I found him hilarious-he is organized,comes with mounds of stats (I even helped him with a few) and manages to get into the heads of the opposition,which is why he does it!
The game itself was a record setter for me.
West Virginia's first batter tripled,scored on the next batter's sacrifice fly and would only have one more hit for the remainder of the game against Augusta's Michael Connolly.
Connolly would go without offensive support from the Greenjackets and lost 1-0 with a complete game.
Connolly's performance was an 86 on Bill James' game score for starting pitchers and erased the name of Darren Byrd after nine years from the R.S.record book from SAL games I have scored.
That means the name of Michael Connolly will travel around in the book until broken.
We waited outside for the few Greenjackets that we missed,especially Connolly and we were the only people there.
Connolly was on his cell and I pointed to the cards and asked silently,if it was OK.
Connolly told his caller that he would call them back shortly,signed my cards and talked about the game "That's baseball" for a few minutes.
I'm not sure how far Michael Connolly is going to go,(at 24,he's older for the league) but he's earned a fan in me.
The game was played in a blazing 1;47,which is good in any league,but especially in the South Atlantic League.
Neither team made an error and neither team walked a batter-it is amazing how fast the game can be played when that happens!!!
If you want to graph or just watch a game,I recommend seeing the Power very highly!
Back at the hotel and Miguelito was feeling no pain!
As we waited for an average tasting pizza,Miguelito complained to the front desk guy and most memorably decided to do his best Hulk Hogan impersonation as Fred implored him not to tear his shirt off!!
After pizza,it was time for bed and I really liked my room.
King size bed,nice size room and decent TV as I watched boxing on FS1 as I wound down from a hectic day.
Up at 7 because we wanted to get home because I had to work,we attempted to have breakfast from another Ryan suggestion,but parking was difficult,so we planned on rolling further down the road for breakfast,but we decided to suck it up and do lunch in Morgantown-home of the Mountaineers.
The planned stop was a place called the Dirty Bird,but that was closed for the summer.
We asked a local for a suggestion on the downtown strip and Jameson's got the nod,until we discovered that they weren't opening for another half-hour,so we tried Gibbie's next door.
We were the only people in the place and the boneless wings were good,but not especially hot.
Not bad,but I wouldn't go out of my way for them.
The other trip home highlight?
A return to Flatwoods for you guessed it-Denzl and sure enough he was in!!
Of course,I had to ask how far from Big Otter we were and he gave the exact dialect that I would expect in an explanation that went way too far for a place straight down the road.
The Landucci's got quite the laugh out of Denzl!
I returned home and pretty much went straight to bed to rest for work,but I had a great time with Fred and Michael and we just might make another trip before the season ends.
Thanks for having me and I'm looking forward to more memories.
I still have the Buddy Ryan tribute to do and a Tim Duncan post with the retirement of my favorite player to work on!