Major league baseball has been back for a while and it’s fun to sit down and watch the occasional Atlanta Braves game on TV, but the real spirit and joy of the game is found at the ballpark for our local minor league team.
The Greensboro Grasshoppers are a High-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Players in High-A are still three big jumps from the major leagues, and sadly, most of them will never make it there.
Some do, though. In our many years of going to ‘Hoppers baseball games (and their predecessors, the Greensboro Hornets and the Greensboro Bats), we’ve seen eventual All-Stars like Derek Jeter, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and J.T. Realmuto at the starts of their careers. Two players currently on the Pirates roster played in Greensboro for a while (Rodolfo Castro and Ji Hwan Bae).
You can frequently pick out the ones who have the talent. Giancarlo Stanton still holds the record for the longest home run hit in our ballpark. And that was only one of the 30+ blasts he hit in his single year playing here. The only downside to seeing top-flight talent is that you know they won’t be around long. Often they don’t stay for the full season before being moved up to the next level.
The game play isn’t always the crispest, cleanest, or most elegant since the talent level is so uneven, but the games are exciting and (usually) competitive. Our fairly new downtown stadium, which holds about 9,000 people, is nice. There are almost no bad sight-lines. You can sit within a few feet of either dugout or right next to the field. Nets prevent most foul balls from leaving the field, though the occasional souvenir makes its way into the stands.
Team ownership tries hard to make the games fun for all the customers. A variety of foods, beverages, and snacks are available. (Aside: Why do the hot dogs always taste better at the ballpark?) Between-innings entertainment includes games, contests, dancing on the dugout roofs, and the antics of the mascot, Guilford the Grasshopper.
Another aside: The Grasshoppers aren’t actually named after the insect. Greensboro was the site of a Revolutionary war battle that helped turn the tide in the Colonies’ favor. One of the primary weapons was a small cannon known as a Grasshopper https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grasshopper_cannon
Other interesting features of attending a game include the appearance of the current “Bat Dog” Miss Willie Mays. She follows in the footsteps of the late Miss Babe Ruth, Master Yogi Berra, and Miss LouLou Gehrig, who have all sadly passed on. It’s always fun to see the black lab race onto the field to retrieve a bat left behind by one of the players and bring it back to the dugout. And weekend games are capped off with an awesome fireworks display.
For those who wonder: I really like the new rules. The games are quicker but there’s more action!