Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bowie Louie: Game 54 in Bowie

Richmond's Nutsy
Mascots at minor league ballparks appeal particularly to young fans who frequently hug or slap high-fives with the silly creatures while posing for photographs taken by their moms and dads.  Occasionally, the gargantuan critters appear as though the team’s icon has ingested bowls full of steroids instead of acorns, like Nutsy of the Richmond Flying Squirrels.   Yet frequently, the playful beasts bear no relation to the team’s name or an identifiable breed, like the one for Montgomery's Biscuits.  There the mascot isn't a buttered blob of dough but the mutt of multiple stuffed animals.  

Bowie Louie

Throughout games, mascots entertain the crowd, dancing atop the dugout, bazookaing T-shirts toward the press box, racing children around the bases between innings, and tossing buckets of confetti on box-seat fans.  Several ballparks feature an autograph inning when the mascot, always beating with the heart of a clown, sits at a table in a designated area.  So it shouldn’t be surprising that one of the game promotions for the Bowie Baysox featured the birthday bash for their mascot Bowie Louie.  Like other mascots, the name of Bowie’s creature relates to the identity of the team or the character of the region.  In this case,   Bowie Louie’s “handle” reveals his comic spirit by playing with the title of the rock hit “Louie Louie” that became a homerun in the 1960s after The Kingsmen recorded the Richard Berry tune. 

Like the twist of the song’s title to name the Baysox' mascot, the shape, color, and size of Bowie Louie also appear to be a mongrel of various kid-luring creatures: the fuzziness of Cookie Monster, the color of Oscar the Grouch, the dorky eyes of Snuffleupagus, the feet with sneakers too large for Shaq—all with an added pink, cranial tuft that must have come from DNA shared with My Pretty Pony.
Louie with his birthday partyers
Whatever the name, appearance, and character of Bowie Louie might have been, I was fortunate to sing on the night of his birthday party, which meant that several mascots from teams, universities, and corporations attended his party: “Sherman the Shorebird” from the Baysox’ Eastern League rival in Delmarva; the iconic and ironic buffoons from Bowie State (the Bulldog) and Towson State (the Tiger) universities; and among several corporate mascots, “Peeps,” the chick from the maker of the namesake marshmallow candy, and “Wally Goose,” from Wawa stores, a convenience store featuring several fresh foods. 

Also invited to the park that night were clowns, to lead the singing of “Happy Birthday” following the third inning, and several different animals, including an impressive iguana, whose exhibition required clearance by the county’s animal control officers.  Yet the animal agents weren’t the least bit concerned about the unusual breed of Louie, nor the animal versions of the clowns. 
The iguana and clowns prepare to serenade Louie.
When I inquired about Louie’s birth certificate and its accuracy (we were, of course, within a homerun call from the White House, where birth certification was still a topic for some who continued to challenge Obama’s presidential eligibility), I was assured that June 24 might as well be his birthday as any.  I then paused before asking whose progeny Louie might be.
As congenial a mascot as Louie was and as festive as the evening became with other mascots, clowns, and animals providing entertainment, I most appreciated the welcome to Prince George County Stadium (where parking was free for all!) by the sculpture of a man sharing baseball with a young girl: they modeled the transfer of baseball love and lore from parent and player to child, an inter-gender, inter-generation image.  Sporting his uniform, stepping with cleats, and squeezing a ball for a split-fingered pitch, the father leads her by her throwing hand.  Twisting her head slightly toward her father, the girl wears a smile almost bigger than the glove on her left hand, tilted expectantly.  Standing tall, they peer together toward possibilities of baseball.  They move together, together through baseball.
Father and daughter welcome fans to the ballpark.
Perhaps inspired the statue, a father teaches his daughter to hit.

While the entry to Bowie’s ballpark was distinct, its pregame activities and ceremonies corresponded to those at many other ballparks.  Music blared over the sound system during the teams’ warm-ups and the fans’ arrival, and children thronged to the field to perform particular exercises.  This evening, a group of Tae Kwan Do junior Olympian contestants practiced their martial arts behind home plate, and they were followed by dozens of Boy Scout troops who paraded through the outfield.  Amid such noisy clamor, I frequently found it challenging to maintain focus for the start of the anthem. 
The parade pauses to pose in the "scoutfield."
Another common challenge that I encountered when I would start the anthem was a delay, often significant, in the echo of the speakers from centerfield.  Few of the teams required or allowed rehearsal of the anthem on their audio system.  As common as the problems with the sound system were, I never grew accustomed to the delay.   Here, as sometimes happened, my descending triad at the start of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was muddled by the ongoing echo.  Nonetheless, I adjusted quickly to the detraction and finished strong at Bowie, the ballpark nearest Baltimore’s Ft. McHenry, whose defense inspired Frances Scott Key to pen the four stanzas of his poem almost two centuries ago.

Tonight proved no different regarding commotions and distractions, but it did provide a new accent in another respect.  While my name or image typically would appear on the scoreboard during my introduction, here for the first time game program included my name as the national anthem performer. 

Even as the game program presented this simple highlight, the game itself featured a once-in-a-career feat for the Binghamton Mets’ third baseman Josh Satin:  He hit for the cycle.  With two outs as he batted in the first inning, Satin fouled off several two-strike pitches before connecting with a curve ball for his ninth homerun of the season.  Two innings later when he came to the plate with a runner on first, he hit a one-hop shot wide of third.  Although the shortstop was able to make a diving stop of the ball deep in the hole, his throw to second was too late; and Satin was credited with an infield single.   In Satin’s next plate appearance in the fifth, he doubled to centerfield.
Not known for his speed, Satin is often teased by teammates about shrinking triples into doubles. 

So in the seventh inning he stepped into the batter’s box, he stood a triple shy of the cycle, an unlikely achievement since he is slow footed. Of his thirty extra-base hits in this season before this at-bat, only one had been a triple.  Although on several occasions in previous seasons he had encountered a similar situation of needing only a triple to complete a cycle, he had not been in this position in a ballpark where the ball often careens off the outfield fence at an oblique angle.   He lined a ball to the left-field corner and as the ball hit the wall, it caromed oddly past the Baysox fielder.   Immediately, Satin shifted into overdrive and legged the hit into a triple.  His cycle was complete, but not his night: In the ninth, Satin added to his perfect effort by coaxing a walk.  Altogether, his support propelled Binghamton to a 5-3 win.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great evening. Makes me wish I was there.

    Glad you were able to pick this up. Enjoy the summer.