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The last stop on my minor league road trip was Harrisburg, PA. Somewhere between Harrisburg and my apartment in Somerville, I lost all the notes I’d taken during the game. Well, there goes that, I figured. But earlier today, I was cleaning out my car when I came upon a crumpled scrap of paper lodged under the passenger seat. Behold! It is the very scrap of paper upon which I transcribed my thoughts as the Harrisburg Senators, the Double-A affiliate of the Nationals, handily beat the Reading Phillies. Although, I have to admit that my mind, apparently, was not quite occupied with the action on the field:

I rode 220 from Greensboro to Roanoke, where I picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway for a few miles. Hopped onto 81 and it stopped being scenic not long thereafter. Discovered marvelous, nectar-of-the-gods type eatery called Biscuitville. [Ed. note: according to Biscuitville.com, this delightful portal into otherwordly realms of gastric delight only exists in North Carolina and Virginia. Bosh!]

Before we begin, I just have to say that if it hadn’t been for the Yuengling on tap and the Reading Phillies’ bloodred-and-powder blue unis, there would have been no redeeming value to watching this game.

However, powder blue uniforms are always a welcome sight, especially when paired with deep crimson socks and caps and red and white racing stripes. And for reasons known only to the Philadelphia-based brewery, you can’t get Yeungling in New England, so a tall cold one is a treat to be savored.

So I’d like to give a big shoutout to Philly. Because Harrisburg really, really sucks.

First, there are no signs directing motorists to the ballpark – a first, as far as yours truly is concerned. So after spending eight hours driving to H-burg, I spent another hour just driving around the city looking for the stadium. When I got off the highway to ask directions, I promptly found myself in the ghetto [Ed. note: this probably describes 95% of Harrisburg].

I finally gave up and called the boyfriend, who used Google Maps, which I consider a form of road-trip cheating. Anyway, finally I found Commerce Bank Park. (What kind of name is that anyway? Commerce Bank? That’s like Drinks Bar or Food Restaurant.) It’s located on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna. The island is called City Island and it has a park on it called….City Island Park. [Ed note: At this point, I just gave up.]

I was pretty sure I had found the right place because there was a long line of cars waiting to park, and I was in it. But I still wasn’t sure, see, because I still hadn’t seen a sign for the ballpark. When I got to the front of the line, the elderly gentleman greeted me with these words of warm hospitality:

“Two dollars.”

I asked if this was the right place for the Harrisburg Senators game.

“Yeah. Two dollars.”

Unfortunately, I was in dire need of an ATM before I could grant his request. I smiled, and prepared to ask him where I might find such a thing. “Well, I don’t have two dollars unfor–” He cut me off.

“Just turn around and leave.”

I needed no further invitation. On  my way out, I passed another attendent and asked him my problem. He passed me down to a third who directed me, finally, to a fourth.

“Those three guys back there,” I gestured, “All told me you could tell me where the ATM was.”

Finally, a break. The guy took one look at my by-now slightly unhinged expression and replied, “Don’t worry about it, just park.” It may have been my imagination, but as I drove past him, I think there was something apprehensive–possibly even fearful–in his gaze.

Free from my car at long last, I purchased a ticket for the cheap seats. Harrisburg’s tickets were a mite pricier than those I’d seen elsewhere, and I’d also discovered that shelling out the big bucks (say, 10 smackers) for a box seat was a big waste of time. It was much more fun to roam around the ballpark than stay in one’s seat, and no one seemed to care where you ended up sitting anyway.

I turned to the left of the ticket booth and made to enter the park. An usher held out his arm. “Can’t come in this way, ma’am.” He turned back to watch the game, which had started, without another word. I looked around. I could see people entering at another gate about 25 feet away and I joined the throng.

Once inside, I purchased my Yuengling and my hot dog and looked towards the seats. Naturally, ushers were guarding each and every aisle. Disgusted, I trooped up the aluminium risers until I found an empty spot. [Ed. note: despite having the worst customer service this side of the Cuyahoga, the Senators are apparently very popular, probably because there's nothing else to do in Crappisburg.]

Alas, I soon realized why this particular stretch of hard metal bench was empty. I was sitting right in front of a shirtless old coot wearing cutoffs, tube socks, and a baseball cap so old and dirty I couldn’t make out what team it was for. And, at incredibly regular and frequent intervals, he was honking the loudest bicycle horn I have ever heard.

Needless to say, by this point I was rooting feverishly for the Reading Phillies.

So, in sum, I would not recommend ever going to a Harrisburg Senators game. Really. They even charged for the programs (two bucks) unlike every other minor league team I’ve ever been to. Except for the thin and heavily-guarded strip of box seats, all the seating was backless benches. The between-innings entertainment was the worst of the trip, too–no eyeball races here–and consisted mostly of Penn State students halfheartedly lobbing a few tees into the stands every now and then.

There were, however, three things that didn’t suck about this game:

1) Though Commerce Bank Park is, itself, a rather bleak place, its island location is admittedly sort of cool. You can watch the sun set over the river while also keeping an eye on the game.

2) I got to see Brad Harman, the Phillies’ shortstop, make a great off-balance throw from deep in the hole. Harman was ranked 20th in Philadelphia’s farm system at the beginning of the season by Baseball America. Harman has seen more time at second base than short this year and despite the nifty defensive play I saw, his offensive numbers have not been good. He had a great 2005, a bad 2006, and a better 2007, but he’s barely clearing .200 this year, his first in Double-A. He appeared in six games with the big-league club earlier this season, collecting one hit, a double, and one walk. Nonetheless, great play, Brad! It was the highlight of the game for this baseball fan.

3) Yuengling. Lots and lots of Yuengling.

One Response to “Minor League Road Trip: Long-Lost Harrisburg Senators Game Notes”

  1. Yay for Yuengling. I’ve heard that the brewery doesn’t want to expand outside their core market and spread themselves too thin. Anyway, New England is already established Sam Adams country, so they’d have a pretty solid competitor up here. Still, it would be nice to get outside the occasional trip home to NJ. Also, Commerce Bank? (I assume you’re talking about the one with the big red “C” logo.) Best bank in the Philly area. Very customer oriented bank open much more hours than the other guys. Recently bought by TD North, so all good things will come to an end.

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