Take Me Out to The Dunk

Over the weekend we travelled to Hartford to hang out with our daughter who is attending her first year of law school. On Saturday night we caught a minor league baseball game at Dunkin Donuts Park, known to all as The Dunk. It’s a new ballpark, very well designed and maintained. Minor league baseball is a trip. This was fireworks night so we could only get standing room tickets. Not a problem at $10 a pop.

The AA game pitted the hometown Hartford Yard Goats, the AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, against the Somerset Patriots, the oddly named New York Yankee farm club. The teams were competitive. The play was competent. What was more interesting was the endless and creative marketing that went on during the game. After every strike out for example, the announcer said words to the effect “That’s another strike out for addiction” referring to some local program related to drug addition recovery. What a weird promo!

In between every inning there was a contest pitting kids against each other. One contest featured to two two teams of two. One player, with his back to his teammate, would toss a chicken wing up in the air and his partner had to catch it in a bucket he held on his head. No lie.

Another contest was a race between two kids who raced to put on fire department pants, jackets and helmets. Then run to the finish line.

The best was the Baby Goat Race. A bunch of cute little kids dressed up in what looked like pajamas raced around the infield on the outfield grass. They had little goat heads attached to their PJs. Total sports excitement.

The post-game fireworks were quite minor league in keeping with the scope of things. They were still entertaining though. Ooh. Ahh.

The whole night had a joyous, small town, middle class, feel to it. The crowd was whiter than Ivory soap which was a bit of a shock considering the city of Hartford’s ethnic diversity. The stands below our SRO perch were filled with grade school kids. They had a ton of energy. Not one of them watched the game.

The game featured a pitch clock. Once the pitcher got the ball, he had 12 second to throw it. Otherwise the late pitch would be called a ball. When a runner was on base, 18 seconds were allowed. In between innings the clock was set to 2 minutes. Relievers had two minutes to throw their first pitch. The game lasted a bit over 3 hours but the pace was noticeably brisker than a major league game. It would have been shorter but for numerous pitching changes. If you ever see a major league game played in the 60s or 70s you’ll notice the pitchers and batters don’t mess around. Batters stay in the batters box. Pitchers don’t go for long contemplative trips around the mound. This minor league game was like that.

As for the refreshments, The Dunk has pretty much everything. It has a very popular barbeque vendor in left field. We stood near it and there was a long line throughout the game. There were local craft beers on sale as well as the usual baseball munchies, hot dogs, popcorn and such. And, of course, coffee and donuts because Dunks.

Oh, did I mention the highest point in the ballpark has a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup on it.

For those of you unfamiliar with southern New England Dunks are everywhere. It’s insane. Of course, we managed to eat breakfast at one in West Hartford. When in Rome…