Tuesday, September 6th, 2005
10:43 pm - Nothing Is Ever As Good As It Used to Be...  
I've been to McCoy Stadium quite a few times over the years, and it's a great place to watch a ballgame. And of all the locations in the park, the very best place to watch from was the old picnic area down the leftfield line, just behind third base. You were at field level, and close enough to spit on the third baseman if you'd a mind to. My company's bank used to throw a BBQ there once a summer, usually on Armed Forces Day, and they would distribute tickets among their corporate clients. They'd also invite some former BoSox players to mingle with the crowd. They had Johnny Pesky, Dick Radatz, Bill Lee, Dewey Evans, Bob Stanley, Rico, Tudor, and a host of others over the years. Free food, autographs, and the best seats in the house for a ballgame. What could be better? I spent one of those events just leaning against the fence next to former Sox manager Joe Morgan (who'd managed at Pawtucket before taking over the Sox) just talking about baseball. It was a helluva good night.

Sadly, the leftfield picnic area no longer exists, sacrificed to the demands of baseball's powers that be, who decided to raise the minimum number of seats a AAA park must have to keep its team to 10,000. Cozy little 6000 seat McCoy had to expand, and the only place where there was enough room to build the addition was on top of the old picnic area. Bother. Initially, they tried to replace it with a picnic area out beyond the rightfield wall, but it just wasn't the same. This year I noticed they added another picnic area behind first base, in roughly the mirror image location of the old one. I figured this might be an even better spot to watch a game than even the old area had been, and I started bugging our administrative assistant to see if our bank was still holding their annual BBQ. Alas, they weren't, or at least we weren't getting any tickets. However, early in August I got an e-mail from the team saying that the Providence Journal was holding a charity BBQ, and would I like some tickets for a good cause and free food. Veejane and I decided it sounded like a great idea, and she ordered tickets.

We got there when it opened to make sure we got our fair share of food, which turned out to be pretty good. Then we plopped down in the bleacher seats nearest first base (the two closest in the entire area) and talked baseball while baking in the sun waiting for the game to get under way. Which brings up the first of my two biggest disappointments with the new area, and requires a little bit of geographical orientation. Here is a satellite photo of McCoy (thank you, Google Earth). McCoy Stadium The picnic area surrounds the red & white striped tent to the right of the picture. The bleachers where we sat are just below and to the left of the tent. Notice the compass star in the lower left corner of the image. The game started at 6 p.m., and we were facing due west, directly into the setting sun, and it was bright. Any ball hit into the air was completely invisible until just before it reached the outfielder. The sun didn't go behind the horizon until about the fourth inning or so, so we squinted a lot. The setting sun is often a problem in the first base stands, as well, but the angles are such that you don't completely lose sight of the ball. The old picnic area was where the unroofed part of the grandstand now sits, along with the new red-roofed main gate. The sun was at your back, so the problem didn't exist.

The other thing the old area had going for it is that there were no bleachers in the corner closest to the field, as there are now. You'd stand there leaning against the fence, with almost the same view as a player in the dugout, with no worries about blocking the view of anyone seated immediately behind you. For those that wanted to sit, there were bleachers further down the line, and they also allowed people with picnic tickets to go up into the grandstand, so nobody suffered. The new area has a set of bleachers in the near corner, so no standing at the fence unless you hunker down to watch through the chain link, or are a clueless kid. Sigh. It's not like the bleachers are in any way comfortable. Standing would be a blessing.

There were also a hella lot of kids there. The bank BBQ was usually on a school night, so even when there was a large crowd, it would clear out pretty well by the fifth inning or so. There was one little girl there, maybe five years old, who had her glove with her, and she would stand at the fence, and she'd reach up with her glove in anticipation of a foul ball. The fence is about 4' high, and she could reach just high enough such that only the glove actually cleared the fence. It was the most adorable thing ever. We did get some foul balls in the area, including one that landed not to far from us which ricocheted around until it was rolling right past the little girl's feet. Unfortunately, she wasn't quick enough, and one of the zillion 10 year-old boys there snagged it. I was half expecting her to cry, but she seemed terribly excited that it came so close.

It's too bad. I understand that the only place they could've built the new grandstand is where they put it, but I still mourn for what was lost.

Pawtucket and Abe Alvarez lost to Scranton 5-3, despite Shawn Wooten going 4-4.

---
Doug Mientkiewicz And to settle a discussion Vee and I had whilst we were baking in the sun, Doug Mientkiewicz says, "I know something you do not. I am not left-handed."

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Veejaneveejane on September 6th, 2005 - 07:53 pm
Aw, shaddap. He really is left-handed, and hits and signs his name that way.

ANd, I'm sure, is enough of a businessman to know how tough it is to sell yourself as a LH-throwing 1B (much less a LH C, which he was in high school). So he taught himself to switch, and the switch became permanent.
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DXMachinadxmachina on September 6th, 2005 - 08:04 pm
Actually, left-handed first baseman are preferred, so he'd have had a better shot that way. Left-handed catchers are almost unheard of. Are you serious about the change of hand? I know it's possible, because my friend Tom taught himself how to throw right-handed so he could play shortstop.

It really doesn't matter, though, because when we were talking about this I was talking about the hand he threw with. :)
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Veejaneveejane on September 7th, 2005 - 07:09 am
Well, I remember reading an interview with him last fall, where he mentioned that the reason he moved to 1B was an arm injury, i.e. that he could no longer throw any distance, and that before that, he was a C. I suspect the switch happened when he was pretty young, and he couldn't/didn't unlearn it when his right arm went south on him.

(He has mentioned that he couldn't bear the boredom of the outfield, which would be the natural place for a lefty thrower, so probably he stuck with righty throwing to at least stay in/near the action.)
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