Saturday, June 1, 2013

Talkin' Baseball

On Friday, March 1, Guam's highest baseball league, the Budweiser Baseball League, held Opening Day (well, Night) at Paseo Stadium in Hagatna.  We attended because how often do you get to go to Opening Day anyway, let alone on March 1st. Tickets were $2, $1 for children and senior citizens (man'amko) and free for babies, of whom there were many.  Quite the bargain!

As mentioned, the league is now sponsored by Budweiser.  It was previously Guam Major League Baseball.  There are 8 teams:

Moylan's ODC Braves
Crown Bakery Phillies
76 Cardinals
Saipan Cyclones
Bank of Guam Athletics
Venue Smokies
Guam Paradise Fitness Jr. Nationals
Agana Heights Docomo Cougars

We root for the Braves (because we have the T-shirt from our time in Atlanta) and the Phillies (because we patronize the bakery).  We also are members of Paradise Fitness, but don't feel any particular need to root for them.

Paseo Stadium is located in Hagatna, just behind the Chamorro Village and right near the ocean.  We are not sure when it was originally built, but the present version of the stadium comes from the late 70's/early 80's, when the old stadium was renovated.

These two wooden posts, all that remain of the original baseball stadium, mark the main spectator entrance.  The original stadium had a steel framed wooden bleacher structure.
Wikipedia tells us:

"The old ballpark was falling into disrepair. The once proud facility, tarnished through time featured rusted steel girders and rock-hard wood planked bleachers, seated 1,100 fans for baseball. The new Paseo Stadium construction was a special project spearheaded by Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority (GHURA) chairman Mr. Robert J. Torres [this may be the father of the present Guam Supreme Court Justice]. With 1.2 million dollars in funding from GHURA and the Government of Guam Department of Commerce along with full support from Governor Paul Calvo, the new stadium was constructed in 1981. The new baseball facility featured locker and shower rooms, concession booths, offices, walk-in dugouts and an elevated press box."

The stadium appears to be largely made of cinder blocks.  There are grandstands extending down either baseline until just behind first and third base.  The seats come with foldable seat backs, but no arm rests or drink holders.  Outside the third base area there was a lounge area, consisting of a wooden bench and a couple of seats taken from a van or SUV.

Nick in the "VIP" lounge.
There is one concession stand, which has a surprising variety of foods, including pickled mangoes (very spicy), tuna melts, and grilled cheese.   There were no peanuts for sale anywhere, however, it is possible crackerjacks were available, but this is hotly debated.  If you order popcorn (your choice of butter flavored or kettlecorn), they simply microwave a bag of it for you.  The markup was minimal; no $5 hot dogs and $8 beers here.  

Speaking of beer, as the PA announcer told us every half inning, Guam's open container laws were now being enforced, meaning that one could not drink just anywhere in the stadium, as apparently had been the case in the past.  Instead, there was a "drinking section" located right behind home plate (because drunks deserve the best seats), which was roped off using a decorative Budweiser pennant garland (very official).  The new enforcement of the law was for the protection of the children. Naturally, numerous people brought their children into the drinking section instead, which we guess was not explicitly forbidden.  The beer vendor, set up behind the drinking section, had a container filled with ice and beer cans, which was periodically restocked by a shopping cart with a couple of cases of beer and bags of ice. 

We laughed at first, but it was honestly a pretty efficient means of moving beer and ice up the huge ramp outside the stadium and to the consumer.
They started by handing out awards for last season, including MVP, best batting average, and so on.  We later saw some of the winners mingling in the stands.  One of the Guam Senators, Tina Muna Barnes, threw out the first pitch.

As you can tell from the blur, the pitch was not quite on target.  But it was (apparently) fast.  You can tell baseball runs in the family.
Her family is very connected in the baseball community.  We know her son Jathan Muna Barnes plays for the Braves, one of the teams playing that night.  After that, they played the Star Spangled Banner and the Guam Hymn and away we went.

You can only partially tell from the photo, but the Braves (on the left) had about twice as many players as the A's. (on the right).  They have twice as many as most teams.  Being a four-time defending champion encourages participation.
The game itself was between the Moylan's ODC Braves, four-time defending champions, and the Bank of Guam Athletics.  The A's surprised everyone by jumping out to a 2-0 lead, thanks in part to some errors.  There were many errors on the night, roughly a dozen, with at least two multi-error plays.  Hey, it's the first game of the season. 

There was much excitement in the stands, too.  We watched three kids playing tag for awhile.  Apparently "no tag backs" was not a thing, resulting in one kid getting extremely pissed off when he kept getting re-tagged.  He would periodically cross his arms, sit down, and pout.  This lasted for about 30 seconds, then he would get back up and join in like nothing happened.  We also saw the same kids trying to play baseball, where one kid stood a few rows up and threw a plastic ball down to another kid at the bottom of the stairs, who did a pretty good job of hitting it back up.

This photo is from before the game.  They filled out quite nicely as the night progressed.  Baseball really is a family affair on Guam.  Amanda's supervisor's brother-in-law plays for the Braves.  The family often goes to cheer him on.
The DJ/organ player is a hoot, too.  They play something between every pitch: a bugle call, a clip from a popular song, a short organ ditty, sound effects, anything to break the silence.  There is a good deal of silence, too: when they played the "CHARGE!" thing (da da da da da, CHARGE!) that they play at every sporting event ever (even if charging isn't a good thing in that particular sport), Amanda was only the one who yelled "Charge!"

The Braves eventually took over, as four-time-defending champions will do, winning 10-6.  We stayed until the 7th inning (they play 9).  We enjoyed it so much that we went back a month later with my parents.  The highlight of that game was a guy in the stands with a ukulele.  He sat down, jammed for a bit, then moved and did it again.  He sat behind us and took requests.  We got him to play "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash.  This is the sort of experience you just can't replicate in the big leagues back home. 

As of this post, the Braves remain unbeaten and a clear favorite to win their fifth straight title.

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