Asheville, NC – Tonight the Asheville Tourists will begin a scheduled seven-game home stand…make that eight-game homestand because we will play a doubleheader tonight to make up a rained-out game from an earlier road trip.
Yes, that’s minor league baseball at its best. We host the West Virginia Power for the second time this season (with one more series scheduled at home) and we will make up one of their scheduled home games here at Historic McCormick Field. We are doing this because the Tourists will not be returning to Charleston this season.
Only the South Atlantic League (SALLY) officials can tell you why a team based in Charleston, WVA has to travel three times down to Asheville, while we do not play a single game against another North Carolina-based team, Kannapolis. Charleston is 294 miles or roughly 4 hours and 47 minutes (according to MapQuest) from Asheville. Kannapolis, 125 miles or about 2 hours and 15 minutes away.
To me, this makes no sense, but, when you work in minor league baseball, a lot of what happens makes no sense. So, you better have a good group of people to work with…and a good sense of humor.
Working, as I do, in the press box during minor league games can be tedious…or a lot of fun. It depends on who you are working with, and I got lucky. For three hours (sometimes more) a night, four of us cut-up, crack wise and generally have more fun than you should at work. All while doing four jobs professionally!
The Asheville Tourists are the low Single-A minor league affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, and this is my third season working up in the press box. I run the scoreboard, so, yeah, it is an important job. At times I try to keep the Tourists in the game by not putting an opponent’s run on the board, but within seconds, someone reminds me that we just can’t do that, so the real score goes up.
But seriously, knowing that the third base coach (usually the manager) relies on the scoreboard being accurate – especially the balls and strikes count – inherently brings a little more pressure on the scoreboard operator. It is easy to get distracted and miss a pitch or two. Most of the time the home plate umpire will actually catch it and signal to the pitcher – and really to us – the correct count. When I see that, it is immediately put up on the board. The count is very important to the manager because he is basing his decisions on what he sees on the board. He generally does not look at the home plate umpire to check the count because the scoreboard is a lot easier to see.
So, when I get distracted by the actions of fans in the stands, or an attractive woman, or get caught up in conversation with my fellow press box workers, that’s NOT a good thing. But rarely does one pitch go by before the scoreboard is updated.
I get to work with two radio personalities up in the box. Our public address announcer is the programming director and an on-air personality for a local rock station and has been working for the Tourists for 13 seasons. The video board is run by a local sports show co-host and board operator who has been working for the team for several seasons. And next to me sits the official scorer, usually a former sportswriter, and a very knowledgeable baseball (and sports) personality. Further down the box is our radio play-by-play man who is in his third season, like me, and he relies on the official scorer to keep him aware of the right calls – hit or error, wild pitch or passed ball – on the plays.
We all work in concert to make sure the fans are entertained and have the right information, especially if they are keeping score in the stands. And, while we definitely take our jobs seriously and do perform them professionally, if you were to just sit in the box for a few innings you’d probably wonder how we can do this night after night. It’s easy…because we are all good friends and we can talk about just about any subject.
Television and movies come up early and often every night. Without discussing it beforehand, a couple of weeks ago Dish Network introduced their new whole-home DVR box called, “The Hopper”. You’ve seen the commercial where four guys are talking about, “The Hoppah”, as they say in their Boston accents. Each guy says, “Hoppah” and within seconds the wife, in another room says, “Hoppah”, as does a kid in another room. Finally grandpa in his room tells everyone to “Shut Up!”…and one of the guys watching the game with his buddies gets the last word in…”Hoppah!” Of course, it goes without saying that the first one-hopper back to the pitcher on Opening Night brought out the best in us. Our PA announcer started simply by saying “Hoppah!” and we all followed. This has become a nightly occurrence, leading to more Bostonian-accented phrases. “Two hoppah”, “choppah”, and even an opposing pitcher, Bruce Harper became, yes…Bruce Hoppah. Not to mention the newest member of the Washington Nationals, Bryce Hoppah.
More times than I can remember, lines from various television shows and movies are introduced…and repeated until a full-on discussion of said show or movie ensues. “Family Guy” is a favorite because, not only do we all know just about every line ever written by Seth MacFarlane and friends, we can pick up lines depending on what is happening around us. Family Guy’s resident Lothario, Glenn Quagmire’s lines are repeated all game. A cute girl walks past the press box and one of us will, in Quagmire’s voice, say, “Aw right!”. You have to be there to appreciate it.
We all take our jobs seriously, and have a lot of fun doing it. We know there are thousands of fans out there depending on us to give them the correct information during the game…especially when to cheer and get loud!
Going into tonight’s home stand, the Tourists are just a half game back of Charleston (SC) in the South Division. The first half of the season ends in mid-June…another fun thing about the minor leagues…two halves of the season which usually gives you two different champions who meet in the playoffs. Hopefully the T’s can continue to hit the ball and play exciting baseball for the fans…especially the ones up in the press box.
I will continue with some updates later on in the month!
Marty Nicholson is the author of “Justice For All! The History of the Justice Center“. You can buy it here: http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000003996429.