GREENSBORO, NC – First, I’ll tackle the brief account of how I got down here. Then I’ll fill you in on last night’s Warthogs-Hillcats game. If you’re not interested in the travelogue, I won’t be offended if you just skip several paragraphs. In fact, I won’t even know!
On Sunday, I left Lancaster, PA and drove south on US 30, which is also known as the Lincoln Highway. It was America’s first cross-country route, but like many of the two-lane highways, fell into a state of disuse and disrepair with the rise of the big interstates. US 50 (“The Loneliest Road in America”), Route 66 (“The Mother Road” or “Main Street USA”), US 20 (originally the Oregon Trail), US 83 (“The Road to Nowhere”), US 61 (the Blues Highway)—all have been variously subsumed by strip malls or neglected, depending on which section of road you’re on and the disposable income of the local population.
I followed the road through the pretty little town of New Oxford, with its tidy brick town square straight out of the 19th century, and right into a monsoon. The steering wheel jerked back at me as my tires splashed through the pavement’s well-worn ruts. After about 20 minutes, we were through the worst of it.
I stopped briefly at the Gettysburg battlefield park to use the restrooms. On my way out, I accidentally bought a sleek new coffee thermos in the gift shop when the number on the price tag was nearly half what I expected to be. I didn’t, however, stop to see anything historic, since I had left Lancaster later than I meant to and since the place was packed. I did feel a little guilty—after all, I come from a family in which stopping at every museum, monument, and historical marker is viewed with a religious sense of duty. But I stayed firm: the Civil War battlefield road trip would just have to wait. An old friend was waiting for me in Greensboro, NC, that evening’s destination, and I had to make good time.
I left 30 with some regret and made my way through a pretty stretch of the West Virginia panhandle looking for I-81. I wasn’t on the interstate for too long before I got off again, this time looking for 29 south, another two-lane highway that passes through Lynchburg and Danville, VA on its way to Greensboro. I hopped onto Route 6, which was supposed to take me to 29, but must have missed a turn. I drove down a series of steeply banked switchbacks, through farmland and woodland, with thick kudzu smothering the trees and rendering their shapes fantastic. The road straightened out again, soaring up, then coasting down, over the small, steep hills of the Shenandoah Valley. After about 20 minutes of cruising past churches, farms, and vineyards, I realized I was not on the road I thought I was on—but where was I? The tiny county roads weren’t on my atlas. I passed (yet another) church, this one with a sign on the front that read, “IF YOU ARE ALMOST SAVED, YOU ARE COMPLETELY LOST.” Yes, I thought, completely lost. That about sums it up.
Finally, a sign informed me that I was on 151 south, a road that was on my atlas—and fortunately, it ran parallel to 29, and would hook up with it in another 20 minutes or so. I continued on, left the valley behind me, and finally got onto the right road. “JERRY FALWELL PARKWAY,” read a sign. From the Lincoln Highway to the Jerry Falwell Parkway, I thought, okay.
I arrived in Greensboro a little late to catch a ballgame that night, though in time to watch a bit of the rain-delayed Red Sox-Yankee game on ESPN. Happy that Lester pitched well and that my boys were able to score 9 runs against New York to stave off a sweep, I called it a night.
Monday night, my friend and I headed over to Winston-Salem to watch a Warthogs game. The ‘Hogs play at Ernie Shore Field, a stripped-down, just-the-basics affair right next to Wake Forest University. The flagrant fielding errors of the Atlantic League were gone, replaced by baserunning blunders instead, with the youngsters frequently getting caught between second and third on shallow fly balls, or caught between third and home on hard-hit singles.
The Warthogs, a Chicago White Sox affiliate, were playing the Lynchburg Hillcats, the Single-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Warthogs took an early, 1-0 lead, coughed it up in the 5th, but took it back again in the bottom of the frame and then piled on with a two-run homer in the TKth.
We saw some good young prospects, including Warthogs second baseman Dale Mollenhauer, who had just arrived a week or so earlier from low-A Kannapolis—but who turned several slick defensive plays on the night, including three double plays, and had a multi-hit game. But the real star of the show was switch-hitting catcher Felix Hernandez, who not only through out a couple of basestealers, but powered the offense by going three-for-three with a double and a home run.
Though the field wasn’t as shiny and new as that of the Lancaster Barnstormers, the between-innings entertainment was arguably better (though I could honestly live a very happy life if I never experience another “Pizza Scream”). There was the dad who was called down onto the field to hit a Velcro ball at his tiny son—who was wearing a giant Velcro sack and helmet. Another kid raced the mascot, Wally the Warthog, around the bases, and then two small boys raced each other to don oversized foam rubber cowboy hats, black vests, and gallop back on a pair of toy ponies. But I think my hands-down favorite had to be the eyeball race, in which three bloodshot eyeballs race each other across the outfield. (It’s sponsored by a local optometry (ophthalmologist?) practice, naturally.)
I saw a Durham Bulls game last night, details of which I will post later, as well as pictures of the eyeball race (and other goings-on in Winston Salem). For now, I’m off to—well, I’m not sure where. I can either drive east and see the Mudcats in Zebulon, or head back north and catch a game in West Virginia or Maryland. I’ll let you know!