Welcome back to the blog, Curve fans! It’s been a while, but hey…great to see you again. The offseason has arrived across Minor League Baseball, and ballparks across the country have quieted down for the fall and winter. With the departure of fans go, too, the smells of the season. Last week in Curve, Pa, the aroma of hot dogs and Curve burgers gave way to something different in the front offices of the Curve.
Thanks to Curve pitcher Mike Colla and his family’s Fresno, California landmark, Batter Up Pancakes, staff members in Altoona recently devoured dozens of pancakes slathered in butter and doused in maple syrup to get the experience of breakfast brilliance from 2,500 miles away.
Mike shipped us mix for his family’s world famous old fashioned buttermilk classics as well as their whole grain blue cornmeal variety, and a trio of Curve staffers whipped them up in the ballpark kitchen for a special office lunch. Curve Manager of Concessions Glenn McComas, Director of Community Relations Elsie Gibney, and Director of Merchandising Claire Hoover toiled away tirelessly in the morning, and at noon, the lunch bell rang.
(By lunch bell, of course, I mean the voice of administrative assistant Carol Schmittle over the office-wide phone system.)
Inside the front office conference room, we pancake aficionados were treated to an indescribable wealth of flavors. Not only were the pancakes truly magnificent, but Glenn and the gang helped us cap them off with eggs, bacon, and sausage. Batter Up’s original buttermilk formula produced pancakes as good as you will find absolutely anywhere, and the cornmeal version may have been even better, though way different. A marginally heavier flavor than the buttermilk, and not quite as sweet, the blue corn-styled ’cakes provided an outstanding contrast with the sweetness of the syrup.
(Side note: It is my firm belief in this, a crucial election year, that we must decide as a nation whether we can afford to go any longer without recognizing the hilarity of the terms “flapjacks” and “hotcakes.” I am prepared to advocate for the reinclusion of those terms in our collective vernacular. Vote Flapjack/Hotcake in 2012.)
Big thanks to Mike and his family at Batter’s Up for getting us the goods for an outstanding staff lunch. If you’re ever in the Fresno area, so I hope I will be soon sheer for the awesome pancakeitude of it all, hit up the restaurant. You can check them out on their official website as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages. And, of course, you can follow Mike on Twitter, as well.
OTHER STUFF!: Just because the season is over doesn’t mean things have entirely quieted down around the confines of ol’ Peoples Natural Gas Field. Later on this week, we’ll have an entry on a voyage to Pittsburgh. Curve Director of Media Relations Mike Passanisi and Director of Community Relations Elsie Gibney will tell you about their jaunt to PNC Park to be there as the Pirates honored pitcher Tim Alderson with an award recognizing his work in the community.
BASEBALL STUFF!: As the calendar nears October and playoff races reach their zeniths, I can’t help but feel a little turned off by Major League Baseball’s new postseason format. (For those unaware, 2012 marks the first year that each league will award two Wild Card spots. Those teams will face off in a one-game playoff for the right to move onto the full-fledged postseason versus their league’s top seed.) I would imagine that, yes, in time this will feel like it’s been the format all the while and, yes, it could very well prove to be an exciting addition to the postseason slate in the bigs. This year, though, it just doesn’t feel that way in the National League. In the 1990s, the idea of the Wild Card was blasphemy to “baseball purists” who value things like guys who are “scrappy” and “play the game the right way” and the like. To an extent, that faction still exists, vocal in their opposition to an “undeserving” postseason team which, as the numbers bear out, often has a lot of success in the postseason. For example, a Wild Card team made the world series in every year from 2002-07, a fact that many naysayers attributed to the contrived notion that a Wild Card team has an advantage in the postseason because they’ve been playing for their collective baseball lives for weeks just to make the playoffs. To that I say, if division-winning teams have been coasting and aren’t ready for postseason play, that’s their fault, not the Wild Card club’s.
While I’m not in that camp, though, I am starting to feel that a play-in game is diluting the strongest (because it’s smallest) postseason format in sports. Like I said, maybe it’s just a one-year problem (unfortunate that it’s hitting in the first go-round), but this season, it just all seems a little lame in the Senior Circuit. If the season ended today, the Atlanta Braves, with their 84-63 record, would be forced to play the St. Louis Cardinals (at 77-70) for the right to face off with Washington in the National League Division Series. Let me state that again. The Braves, at 21 games over-.500, would have to play a relatively middle-of-the-road Cardinals team in a one-game virtual coin flip to go to the postseason. Haven’t the Braves already earned that right by being, you know, 21 games clear of the .500 mark? Why should they have to risk a full season’s worth of games on one night at Turner Field?
On the other side, this argument is rendered mostly moot (as I so often am) by two compelling stories out of the figurative left field. The 84-62 Oakland A’s (you read that right) and their obsession with the Bernie Lean would square off against the 82-64 Baltimore Orioles (you read that right, too) and all their Fightin’ Showalterin’. Oh, not to mention the O’s are just a game out of the American League East lead. And the A’s are right on the heels of the West lead, as well, at just three games back. The Red Sox? Buried in an avalanche of fried chicken, beer, pink hats, and Bobby Valentine threatening to punch radio hosts, all the way in last place at 66-81 (much to the hilarious approval of the rest of the baseball world). The Angels? Still in the mix somewhat at 80-67 but certainly not the juggernaut all corners of the game predicted upon their acquisitions of, you know, everyone prior to 2012. The A’s. And the Orioles. With a postseason berth on the line.
Moral of the story: this is going to be a fun couple of weeks to be a fan of the DH and baseball without all that pesky strategy. Not so much in the NL. Just be happy you’re not a Braves fan.