|Pisgah Covered Bridge in the Uwharrarie National Forest.|
As we departed for the game in Greensboro, we turned away from covered bridge road and toward the zoo before turning north for a straight shot north up Interstates 73 and 74. While I watched the highway signs as we approached the city and several Interstate intersections, I kept wondering how an East-West, even numbered Interstate highway would overlap a North-South odd-numbered freeway for more than twenty miles, especially since the numbers seemed to be in flux and the highway under reconstruction. Could we travel in multiple directions at once? Even so, the brief trip from Arby to the ballpark proved easy, perhaps presaging our friendly encounters in Greensboro.
|Fountains also greet our arrival at the Newbridge Bank Ballpark|
|Guilford, the Grasshopper|
Outside the ballpark, interactive sculptures invited kids—and grown-ups, too—to sit beside the likenesses of team mascot Guilford, an obese caricature of a grasshopper, and Babe Ruff, the black lab retriever who serves the team as bat-dog. Guilford and Babe vividly set a celebrative tone.
Between the bench and the ballpark fence stood a bronze memorial
to Sandra Bradshaw, a Greensboro resident and flight attendant aboard United’s
#93 on September 11. The tribute
expressed the city’s pride and baseball’s ties to patriotism. Nearby, kid-tall baseballs encouraged young
fans to climb atop while adjacent fountains burbled fresh hope for the hometown
Hoppers. Even the security gates at the
main entry featured the image of a baseball cap.
|Sculptures of Guilford and Babe invite me to join them on the bench.|
|A team-size ball invites kids to climb up|
When the Grasshoppers came to bat in the bottom half of the inning, fireworks exploded—literally. One of the features of the ballpark is shooting off fireworks when a Hopper hits a homerun. With one out and a runner on first, Christian Yelich launched a towering drive over the left field fence, and the spray of sparks erupted to the delight of the Hoppers and their fans.
While the explosion of fireworks provided a contrast to the ballpark’s non-violent, Quakerly atmosphere, other in-game entertainment manifested Greensboro’s friendly character. As one of the promotions or distractions provided by the home team, Babe Ruff, a trained Labrador retriever and a representative of “man’s best friend,” directed to the home plate area in the bottom half of the third inning to retrieve the bats dropped by the Grasshoppers hitters.
Compounding this friendly dog theme, one of the concession stands was named the “Dog Pound” since it offered classic “dogs” from Major League ballparks: Dodger Dogs, Milwaukee Brats, Cincinnati Chili Cheese Coneys, and Chicago Dogs.
|Babe fetches a bat|
|...then wants to catch fly balls to deep center field|
Yet somehow, there seemed to be a disconnect: There was no distinct dog representing Greensboro’s parent team in Miami. Then again, what kind of dog might adequately embody the relation between grasshoppers and marlins? However friendly it might be, it would surely be a feature at the ballpark and at Zooland!