Thursday, September 1, 2016

Road Trip:Pulaski

 The Appalachian League road trip continued as we left Princeton and drove roughly an hour to Pulaski Virginia to see the Greeneville Astros take on the Pulaski Yankees.

It had been NINE years since I last saw Calfee Park and as I wrote about the Williamsport trip,much had changed in the interim.
My running buddies were different,but so was Calfee as well.
Calfee had been a well maintained,but still aging facility when we last visited,but the park that was waiting for us this time was quite a treat.

When I last visited the Toronto Blue Jays had just left Pulaski,leaving the town without a team.
The Seattle Mariners came in for some seasons,but decided to leave at the end of 2014.
Since teams in the Appy league are owned by their big league affiliates and the markets being so small,every time that a team leaves,there is great concern about the team continuing to survive.
Fortunately,the biggest dog in the yard would come to the league and Pulaski's rescue as the New York Yankees took over the franchise and began to not only run the team,but pour money into not just Calfee Park,but the city as well...
The Yankees helped install a new scoreboard complete with new video board,expanded and improved seating and backed seats in the general admission areas to go with work on the field.
Plus the Yankees are renovating a hotel so that their players can have an on campus feel for players getting their feet wet in organized baseball.
The Yankees are modernizing an older park and yet maintaining the cozy feel of an older facility.
Tip your hat to the Yankees because they have done a tremendous job!

When you drive to Calfee,you drive through what appears to be a forest for miles and as I told Michael (driving),you'll be tempted to think you are nowhere near a park before suddenly,it will appear and hit you in the face without expecting it.
Arriving at Calfee showed more improvements as the behind the plate seating as also improved and even though the Yankees do not have a formal team shop,they do have several NASCAR like trailers to sell team items and it's a pretty impressive amount of stuff.
I didn't do the Pulaski team set there,even though I bought one for the 2017 season,but I decided to work on the visiting Astros with their bright orange jerseys and hats.
The main target was former Astro star Cesar Cedeno,who had been reported to be a grumpy signer.
I asked Cedeno to sign a few cards and he motioned me nearer to the dugout,where I had to put each card perfectly through the screen to get them to fit.
I talked to him briefly about Doug Hopkins and the RC Cola can with the slurpee cups that I had in the car and got this response "I got all that stuff already".
I told him I'd see him after the game with the can and cups and that he could have a cup.
"I think you'll have a hard time finding me".

I was able to get a few other Astros most notably Jonathan Arauz on a Elite,but my favorite was coach Wladimir Sutil.
Sutil made me think of how long I have been doing this as when I was starting this hobby,Wladimir Sutil was a hot prospect with the Astros organization as a shortstop,but his bat didn't carry with him at higher levels.
I talked to Wladimir about his days in Hagerstown and he talked about how long it was ago and we laughed.
Even longer to an old man like me!
And then there was right fielder Luis Payano,who signed one card,but before that offered his hand to Fred and I to shake and thanked for us for asking!
Only in the lower leagues does stuff like that happen!!!

The game itself was neat as we were given excellent seats by the Yankees and enjoyed the game from the front row!
After the Astros win,I went to the Pulaski side in an attempt to get Yankee first rounder Blake Rutherford.
Michael and Fred had got him before the game,but I just missed him.
Rutherford had been taken out of the game with a hamstring pull and was already in the clubhouse to treat the pull that would keep him out of the lineup for two weeks,so I didn't get him then.
Meanwhile,Michael and Fred were with Mr.Cedeno with a few more cards for me and more importantly-Doug's can and cups.
Cedeno first told Fred "I already signed for you",but Fred corrected him that it was actually me and got the cards knocked out.
Michael was next and Cedeno said "you want me to sign all those" and the reply of yes,brought a reply of "Can i have one of these?".
Michael said "of course" and the followup has already caught as a soundbite for us "I'm going to take this home and drink my cocktails out of it tonight."

Pulaski allows graphers to stay in the park near the front exit and we waited for Blake Rutherford,who finally arrived and talked with us for about five minutes.
Nice guy and Blake signed everything we had along with the only other grapher that we saw...

After a great day of graphing,we were off for a two hour ride to our hotel in Johnson City,Tennessee to end one day and prepare for another!

The next stop in this series will be the afternoon in Johnson City!!!

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