As previously promised, my wife and I ventured a few miles down the road again on Friday to watch the Rox of Brockton square off against the Pride of Nashua in an official Canadian-American League regular season contest. We probably wouldn’t have bothered if not for a couple my wife used to babysit for in high school – they’ve been a host family for several years, which means they get tickets to every home game, but weren’t able to go last night and offered us the tickets instead. Free tickets? Heck yeah.
We were joined in our endeavor by our friend Allison, who had the unfortunate luck of standing at the cash register waiting to pay for her food while the longest national anthem rendition in sports history was being sung. I’m as patriotic as anyone, but I think I missed my son’s first birthday waiting for “the home of the brave.” We also had to wait for the cashier to get quarters (one of the best things I saw on either of the past two nights? Workers at the concession stands digging into their own pockets and yelling out, “I’ve got four quarters!” Folks, THAT is minor league baseball, and it is awesome).
The fourth and final ticket went to my friend Chris, who arrived in the second inning and immediately asked, “So where’s Barack Obama?” The senator wasn’t on hand, unfortunately, so Chris ended up turning his attention in another direction: a charity auction to benefit a local girl who has leukemia. For several innings, he kept a close eye on a great picture of Bobby Orr, Larry Bird and Ted Williams. It appeared to be autographed and had a high bid of about $125. Midway through the game, Chris got into a conversation with the guy running the auction, who broke the sad news that the “autographs” were laser engraved, not real. The whole thing was priceless: the guy gave Chris the whole, “You didn’t think those autographs were real, did you? Oh, you did? That’s so sweet and naive of you,” spiel, at which point Chris decided that he was not interested in submitting any further bids. I texted my wife and Allison: “I just saw hope die.”
With slightly better weather than the previous night, there was a bigger crowd on hand (announced at just over 2,000 after the game, with more actual bodies than Thursday). They had a good reason to be there: prior to the game, the Pride had a ceremony to retire the number of former manager Butch Hobson, who led the team to the Can-Am League championship in 2007 before moving back to the Atlantic League with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Butch was given a framed “Number 17” jersey and his number was hung below the press box along with his name and years of service.
After the ceremony, Butch signed autographs on the concourse. I wasn’t sure how much of a line would greet him, given the fact that everyone in southern New Hampshire who wanted a Butch Hobson autograph probably already has at least five (I don’t know that Butch ever, EVER refused an autograph request in eight years), but there was an impressive number for most of the first inning. I waited until the end, when I could walk right up, and caught Butch’s eye.
I was uncertain that he would remember me. He meets so many people in his travels, has probably dealt with hundreds of front office staffers in his career, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t know my name when I worked for the team, but that wouldn’t stop Butch Hobson. As I approached the table, he greeted me with a spark of recognition in his eyes, a firm handshake, and a hearty, “Hey man, how you doin’?” Did he actually remember me, or was it the practiced response of a man who is supposed to know everyone? Who cares? He autographed a ticket stub for Joey – his first autograph – and years from now I’ll be able to tell Joey about the time I talked with Butch Hobson and got him to sign something for my boy.
(Keep an eye out in the next couple years for K.C. Hobson, Butch’s oldest son, who is a pretty fair baseball player. Word is that he throws in the low 90s, hits well, and may be drafted next year.)
As for the game…what game? I was busy socializing. The Pride fell behind early, then built up a decent lead, then gave up eight runs in the sixth inning (I think) and ended up losing 12-8. Krazy George was on hand again (they announced at one point that he was part of the group responsible for the first Wave in sports history) and we saw the mascot Stitches a few times; once, he gave Allison a high five, which pretty much made her night (he refused to give her a “high two” – don’t ask). Joey got a little stuffed Stitches from the frightened kid who was selling merchandise in the stands (I don’t remember what led up to it, but I do recall saying, “Run now, James. Run while you still can,” as he backed away with a nervous smile on his face). Chris took one look at it and wondered why Mr. Met was wearing a Pride hat. Well put, sir.
We were supposed to be treated to a fireworks show after the game, but a Nashua city ordinance prevents such displays after 11:00 PM. Since the Pride staged a minor ninth inning rally and the game ended at about 11:01…no fireworks, a very disappointing turn of events. I know they always say that promotional schedules are subject to change, but it’s always extra sad when they actually do.