Monday, June 18–Weeks of anticipation gave way to reality tonight as the New York-Penn League opened its 2012 season, with the Hudson Valley Renegades welcoming the Aberdeen IronBirds to Dutchess Stadium. It was a rough welcome for the Maryland visitors as the Renegades won 7-3 behind a 12-hit onslaught. Please click here to read the game story on the Gades’ Web site.
As in past years, I was not completely ready for the return of Renegades baseball to The Dutch, given the time-devouring demands of family, home, church, two historical societies, www.peekskill.patch.com, monitoring several news outlets (you don’t just take the pension after 42 years of newspaper work and ignore current events) and occasionally mowing the lawn. Still, I was looking forward to tonight with perhaps even more anticipation than in past seasons. Dutchess Stadium is an oasis in a chaotic life, a place where I can scream, yell and carry on like a mad fool in support of my favorite team in the company of friends and fellow fans – a great catharsis.
I arrived at the stadium in excellent spirits around 5:30 p.m., a little more than an hour before the 6:35 first pitch. (The game started a half-hour earlier than usual because it was a school night.) I spent a few moments relishing the fact that I was back for a new season, took a few generic photos to accompany my new Renegades blog for Patch (it’s always great to turn something you love into news content) and, reciting a mantra of “Baseball is back!” set off to find some friends before heading inside.
I didn’t have to go far. Bob Hand, veteran Fun Team member and stalwart fan, was outside the main gate, selling tennis balls for a post-game benefit for Pitch for Kids, the charitable arm of the Renegades operation. Bob was temporarily slowed by “catcher’s knee,” which he blamed on umpiring too many games in the community in too little time, and was battling a cold, but otherwise was in great spirits. We were soon joined by Bev and Bob, veteran player host parents, and Hal and his son, Grant, long-time fans from North Salem. Hal, a multi-sport enthusiast, mentioned that he had seen my son Dave at a Devils ice hockey playoff game in New Jersey, and we bemoaned the Devils’ recent defeat by the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals.
Bev was puzzled by the name “Canning” on the back of my new customized Renegades jersey, not recognizing the ballplayer. Actually, it was the name of two obscure first basemen – my father, John, who played sandlot ball in North Tarrytown while growing up in the 1920s and 30s, and myself, who played Dads Club ball in Tarrytown in the 1950s and early 60s and later for Army and company softball teams. I explained that it was my real family name, at which point we both realized that for years she had known me only as “Prospector.” We had a good laugh at that!
I finally headed over to the red carpet at the gate for season ticket holders, collected giveaways including a schedule magnet and 3-D glasses and purchased a 2012 yearbook before following Fred, another longtime friend and fan, to the Corona Cove area by right field to meet June, his new girlfriend, a likeable woman who was looking forward to her first Renegades experience. I welcomed her to the Dutchess Stadium family while Fred and I reminisced about baseball we had shared in several different New York-Penn League parks.
Next stops were the boards with the lineups for tonight’s game, where I filled in my scorebook, and the customer service booth, where I dropped off my membership in the Renegades Fan Club for the new season. Dave the Beer Man, who was selling a variety of brews, proudly let everyone within earshot know that at the moment the Renegades were tied for first place in the McNamara Division (along with Aberdeen, Brooklyn and Staten Island, since every team’s record was 0-0 at the start of the season; it was still a nice thought).
It was well after 6 by the time I finally made it to Seat 7, Row A, Section 107, after a quick stop at the P.A. booth to shake hands with announcer Rick “Zolz” Zolzer, an opening-night tradition. Alex and Susanne, whose seats are in the row behind me, were back, as were the Fleischmanns to my left. The “Canning” sticker had fallen off the back of my seat in the off-season but Alex noticed it in a cup holder and retrieved it for me.
New Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro welcomed the crowd of 4,879 from the pitcher’s mound, following the tradition of his long-serving predecessor, Bill Steinhaus, during whose 20-year tenure the stadium was built. Despite sound system problems, a group of green-shirted youngsters from Garden Street School in Brewster offered an enthusiastic rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.
Jeff Ames, the Renegades’ starting pitcher, got the new season off to a fine start, striking out the first two batters he faced and giving up only two runs and five hits in five innings of work, for which he earned the victory. Shortstop Leonardo Reginatto, the lone name I recognized from the 2011 roster, had four singles in as many at-bats.
Jared Sandberg, back for his third season as Renegades manager, gave me a big smile in the first inning when, in another tradition, I called out, “Go get ‘em, Skipper! as he headed to the third-base coaching box. I also received a friendly shout-out from Zolz in the fourth as I rang my cowbell to celebrate a Renegades run.
Later in the game I was joined for a few innings by veteran photographer and friend Bill Richmond, whose photos of 2011 Renegades Jeff Malm and Matt Rice grace the covers of the 2012 yearbook and pocket schedule, respectively. Bill was breaking in a new camera and happily shared glimpses of the photos he was taking tonight, including several showing the ball on the tips of the pitchers’ fingers. Bill is one of those folks with whom you can always have a good baseball conversation.
The game was followed by a fine eight-minute display of fireworks, the viewing of which was enhanced by the 3-D glasses handed out at the gate. It was like watching the fireworks through a series of prisms inside a crystal palace – most enjoyable!
The fireworks were followed by a bit of socializing in the parking lot, where Bob, Hal, Grant and I were joined by Paul from Newburgh, whom I had not seen earlier. Leftover chicken nuggets, combined with some stale pretzels from my car, provided nourishment while we chatted.
It was surprisingly windy and chilly when we said our good-byes a little after 11. Despite delays because of repaving on Route 9 in Philipstown I was home before midnight.
Yes, Renegades baseball is back at The Dutch. Hallelujah!
Next home game: Tuesday, June 19, 6:35 p.m., vs. Aberdeen.