(I really want to say that I ended up writing much more about the actual game than I intended but I'm going to assume that if you keep coming here you've pretty much realized that long-winded and meandering is the name of the game. Right?)
Mark and I were reminiscing today and one of our first official dates way back in... uh... let's see... 1997, I believe, was a Bisons game. When we moved back to Buffalo we went to the July 3rd game every year for quite a while but somewhere along the way we got out of the habit. We decided it's been a couple of years since we went to a Bisons game which is pretty sad on our part. We love baseball! Well, I love baseball. Mark deals with it once in a while.
We just bought our tickets a few days ago so we were quite a bit down the right field line but it wasn't a bad view of the field at all. Mark complained here and there that he couldn't see the batter very well but honestly, I think it was usually me leaning forward and blocking him.
We missed the top half of the first because we were running late from dinner but we got there just in time to see Todd Linden - who we called Trevor, originally by accident and then on purpose, all night - tie up the game with a solo HR.
The Bisons have probably been wearing the current uniform for five years without me noticing but I'm in love with the primary logo, the standing buffalo over the baseball. It's very simple but I like that about it. For some reason I also had a lot of affection for the buffalo on the fence where the distance markings are. He's pretty cute.
Morgan Ensberg! Holy smokes, what happened to that guy? After I gave up on the Pirates I had an intense two or three year affair with the Houston Astros. They had a nice mix of veterans I already loved - especially Jeff Bagwell (don't even tell me Baggy isn't a first ballot Hall of Famer because I have a prepared speech and I will not hesitate to give it to you) - and younger guys who I also really loved. Lance Berkman (favorite current Major Leaguer) and Roy Oswalt were at the top of the list but Morgan Ensberg was in there too. It really seemed like the team was going to become his and Berkman's after Baggy and Craig Biggio retired. Man. I couldn't get a good picture because my camera didn't like the score board but in his roster photo Morgan even has a "How did I get here?" look about him.
Between innings we got all kinds of little games and races. I didn't get a picture of it but my favorite was probably the dance contest that paired up various mascots with fans just because the Key Bank mascot's costume is designed so that all he can really do is flap his lower arms around. In this game the fan got one lottery ticket for every ball he got in the target in 60 seconds. First of all, lottery tickets? Lamest prize ever. I'm demanding a free hot dog at the very least. Second of all, they stopped him at ten. Come on, that's even more lame. You can't give away twelve tickets instead?
At the top of the fifth we all decided we really needed some ice-cream and then spent TWO INNINGS in line. Geez louise. I don't know if the lines are always like that at Dunn Tire or if it was just because of the crowd - the poor guy in front of us must've spent a fortune just trying to keep his small children from getting too restless before the fireworks started - but it was painfully slow moving.
While we were waiting, Jennie Finch cut through the line right in front of me. Jennie Finch! (For those of you not in the know, Jennie is one of the best women's fastpitch pitchers of all-time. I'd take Lisa Fernandez in her prime first, maybe Cat Osterman second, but Jennie would probably be third.) Her husband plays for Rochester which I didn't even realize. (I knew he pitched but didn't know where.) I might have gone after her and asked her for a picture but she seemed to be by herself and she had her son with her. I hated to ask, "Could you please put down your small child and take a picture with me, a perfect stranger?" (Her kid's name is Ace. And it's not a nickname. I get that mom and dad are both pitchers but come on. Cheesy.) We missed a great diving catch in left field but I did manage to catch it on the TVs over the ice-cream stand.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Katebits sighting! I just happened to look over where the BPO was setting up and there she was! Look at her just surveying her people! I'm pretty sure that Kate went and got the HR ball that Matt Macri hit to put Rochester up, 5-2. Careful, Kate! Someone is always watching :P
We got a big kick out of these people who we noticed late in the game. Hey, why buy a ticket when you can sit on the side of the highway for free? By the time the fireworks actually started there was quite a little group of people over there.
In the 8th inning, things were not looking good for our Buffalo Bisons. One runner got held at third when I think he probably could've scored. Another batter fouls out to the left fielder who then throws out the runner on third who tagged on the play. The rally, it is killed. In the top of the ninth, catcher Chris Gimenez makes a bad throw and Rochester takes a 6-2 lead.
(Side note: Earlier in the game when Mark noted that Gimenez had a horrible batting average but hadn't had too many at-bats yet I gave him a brief lecture on Gimenez and how he'd just been called up from the Eastern League because he was hitting so well whereas the Bisons catcher, who was sent down to AA, wasn't and how since the switch was made the former Bisons catcher has been hitting really well and Gimenez has been a train wreck. He looked at me, slightly stunned and said, "... I had no idea you actually followed these guys." I don't, I just read and retain well. Thanks, Mike Harrington for making me look super smart!)
Anyway, things got interesting in the bottom of the ninth when the Bisons managed to load the bases with no outs. Their offense had not been inspiring tonight - or most of the season judging by some of the stats on the big board - but maybe it's a night of miracles. (Mark said, "I see this game ending in true Buffalo fashion - a triple play." Cynic!) At this point there were suddenly beach balls all over the stands and therefore all over the field. I can only assume they came from the Bisons since there were so many of them but dude, what the heck? It's the bottom of the ninth and the bases are loaded. I'm trying to watch a game here!
Lots of stuff happens - look, I didn't take notes, okay? - and the Bisons tie up the game. Mark and I both think they should have won but the third base coach holds up a runner we thought probably would've scored. I guess I can see why he did that. I think there was still only one out at the time so it wasn't necessary to take the chance. (I still clearly remember Bobby Bonilla making the first out of a big inning in the playoffs at third base and I was pretty grumpy about that because instead of a runner on second with no outs, we had no runners on and one out. From second, he would've scored on the next hit and instead we got no runs that inning. I really think the Pirates tried to kill me on more than one occasion. They were good practice for the Sabres.)
The crowd that was just pumped up and into the game began to get restless as we realized this might take a while. Innings ten, eleven, and twelve pass and everyone kept looking at the clock. One of the girls in the very loud obnoxious group behind us threatened to leave at 11 no matter what and I said a small prayer that she would. These girls were mildly amusing at first - when one of the pitchers was called on a balk, one of them said, "Like a chicken?" and they had a half inning discussion on whether we were sitting in right field or left field. When I learned that one of them has a pink and white Sabres jersey and one of them has a Derek Roy jersey I became more concerned. These are not my people. (I love Derek Roy but he does not seem to attract the brightest fans in the world.) By the time the fireworks started I was pretty close to punching them all in the nose and I'm not a confrontational person. Trying to rush the BPO through a Jungle Book medley and loudly complaining about how long everything is taking and how late it is is one thing but trying to rush them through the Armed Forces tribute is sad. Shut your yap and let the rest of us enjoy the show or you know, leave. I don't think the Bisons locked the doors behind us. Ugh. Hated those girls so much. The small children in front of us were better behaved.
Mark and I were really into the game for the most part but even we were getting a little winded.
Some Rochester guy hit a homerun in the top of the 13th and I admit it, there were quite a few cheers around me. Bring on the BPO and the fireworks!
Before the show started we got a little video recap of some of the past year's events and a tribute to Jimmy Griffith and Tim Russert. The BPO also played O Danny Boy for them. My favorite part of the video was the crowd booing the image of the New England Patriots with 18-0 and then immediately cheering at the next image: the New England Patriots with 18-1. The Stanley Cup hoisting Red Wings got some hearty boos as well while the Ice Bowl and Ryan Miller got a big cheer.
We got a couple of medleys from the BPO including a Star Wars medley. That's what I'm talking about. There were characters on the field and it's kind of cheesy and not very easy to see with the dimmed lights but dude... Star Wars! Even when it's cheesy it's awesome.
After a couple of medleys, we got to my favorite part of the show. I love the Armed Forces tribute where they play all the branches' theme songs and have people in the crowd who served in those branches stand. I always get choked up seeing the older gentlemen stand as straight and proud as they can when their songs start. As each song played, a few soldiers from that branch marched across the field toward a large American flag near the pitcher's mound.
The guy next to me got his hand in my way but since he was standing up as an Air Force vet, I think we can let it slide.
And then Stars and Stripes and the fireworks. The fireworks were lovely as always, far lovelier than the picture below suggests. My batteries were dying by this point so I only got a couple of shots. This, sadly, is the best one.
Just before midnight, the show finally ends. Fittingly, Lady Liberty guides us back to our car (sadly, those pictures were terrible too), another night in Buffalo (finally) over.
Happy Fourth of July!