Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas opened its brand new independent Atlantic League baseball season as the Home of the Skeeters yesterday, April 26, 2012. Other than the fact the team lost its first game, 3-2, to the defending twice champion York (PA) Revolution, most of everything else went well.
Good friend and local SABR Chapter Leader Bob "The Prez" Dorrill stops to snap a shot of the beautiful venue that rests in front of fans as they cross the footbridge from the parking lot to the new ball yard down the road.
Fans were greeted at the Opening Day Gate by a living bronze statue of an ancient ballplayer. The performance was great. The guy sometimes changed his frozen-still positions, but he never smiled, sneezed, nor spoke with any of us onlookers. I think I heard one young lady whispering, "if he only had a heart!"
Constellation Field takes your breath away with its old school charm and reminder of the times that baseball truly was our American national pastime. The outfield is deep and green. All of the outfield distances were not posted, but the sign down the right field line says 348. (It's 327 down the RF line at Minute Maid Park.) - and the Sugar Land Field is laid out facing the SE - meaning the same strong Gulf winds come rolling over that right field wall as they once did at the same forces they once were at work in both Colt and Buff Stadiums.
The eight-stories high message board in deep left center field is a beauty, but do hope the Skeeters have a way of laying it down in advance of a direct hit hurricane.
Luv Dem Skeeters!
I don't think Oyster Creek flows its way to the Atlantic Ocean, but a freak of nature on that level wasn't necessary. The City of Sugar Land still found their way into the Atlantic League. Good thing we now have planes. It's a long bus ride from here to places like York, PA.
Deacon Jones' little brother John Jones came down from New York with wife and family for the Skeeters opening. For a man who says he prefers football to baseball, you ought to hear this man talk the details of baseball strategy. For a man who doesn't care much, he sure knows a lot. When I brought this fact to John's attention, he said, "that comes from having Deacon for a big brother. I had to learn baseball in self-defense. That man, my brother, loves the game. He had me playing catch in the snow on Christmas Day when we were kids, he loved the game so much. He's still that way today. - and I love him for it. - How are you not going to love a brother who loves something in life as much as Deacon loves the game of baseball?"
Opening Day was even celebrated in crystal.
There was also a merry-go-round beyond the left field wall - and somewhere, back there, a swimming pool. I didn't travel far enough to see the pool.
... an Ice House for fans who prefer to imbibe their baseball in the steady flowing company of a few cool ones up through the 7th inning. ....
.... and, finally, over in right field, there's a grass knoll beyond the wall for families and kids who want to picnic and slide in to their feelings for the game.
Skeeters President Matt O'Brien receives the Key to the City of Sugar Land from His Honor, Sugar Land Mayor James Thompson.
Club manager Gary Gaetti leads the 2012 Sugar Land Skeeters onto the field for the first time in their history, April 26, 2012.
The Skeeters are introduced to a sellout home crowd through a fiery gate of hope and, as we baseball fans always carry with us near our hearts, our great expectation about winning.
On the wings of "God Bless America," a majestic American Eagle named Challenger flew from center field to the pitcher's mound to the silence of our collective awes for both his handsome self and our united love of all he represents to our American commitment to freedom.
Three of the Four antique fighter planes that flew over the park during "Our National Anthem" got us started in both style and the right spirit.
Skeeters President Matt O'Brien and Special Advisor Tal Smith confer as they patrol the team dugout area prior to the first pitch of the first season. It was a grand day for one and all.
Skeeters starter Matt Wright prepares to deliver one of the first pitches in Skeeters history. Unfortunately for history, neither the actual first pitch in the first nor the first Skeeters hit in the third were pulled as baseballs to be kept for any future display. In each case, the game simply continued with these rare balls still in play until both were lost in the bag of sameness that falls upon all baseballs that have no special meaning. This is one detail I wish the Skeeters had taken into account prior to the first game - a plan for saving first special balls. There's also a first Skeeters home run ball floating around out there. Maybe the Skeeters got after getting that one. If not, it is my hope that the fan who caught it will work out some reasonable return of this special ball to the club.
Deacon Jones, Reverend Craig Taylor, and Challenger the Eagle with his female trainer were among the many suite guests who had their pictures made together when the great avian king came to call.
John Jones and his special Mrs. Jones also had their picture taken with Challenger & Company.
Challenger was irresistible to me too. Deacon Jones joined me (Bill McCurdy) for our own photo with the great bird and his male trainer. I'll never forget looking into Challenger's left eye at one point and thinking, "Thank God you think of us as friends and allies, Challenger! You do think of us as friends and allies, do you not?"
"Rest assured, my friend. - Rest assured."
The Skeeters may have lost their first game to York, 3-2, but they are off to a great start as the new place to be for Houston areas baseball fans. With ticket prices set at $8 and $12, plus free admission for kids under 3 and those in youth league uniforms, Constellation Field is a great place to go for nearby family entertainment for folks in the broader Sugar Land area, especially. People who want big league ball will still go downtown, but the Skeeters are a great taste of how baseball used to be when families could afford the game on a frequent basis. The parking is free to. - Take in a Skeeters game sometime soon and find out for yourself, but keep going to see the Astros too. The big club also needs our support, but we are big enough to support more than one professional baseball operation in thus area.
God Bless Baseball.
God Bless the Astros.
God Bless the Skeeters.
God Bless Our Greater Houston Area.
And, Of Course, God Bless America.
Postscript to the Houston Chronicle –
You gave the Sugar Land Skeeters a nice long two-column piece by Steve Campbell on Page 10 of todays 5/27/12 Sports Section and I thought that the article was well done and the placement just about right in view of the fact Houston is first of all a major league baseball and other sports town and the big fact Opening Day also happened on the first day of the NFL draft. There was more than a little local first page interest in those outcomes among the many football fans in our area.
The three things I didn’t like were each items I hope you will be able to correct, or at least, improve upon in the near future. There was no box score. No results cap stories from other league games. And no Atlantic League standings. You left out the main items that are vital to all serious baseball fans who follow the game on a daily basis.
Look. We understand that the Skeeters are an independent level professional operation, but they deserve some help cultivating fans beyond the superficial casual ones. To do that, people need to see the box scores to get involved with knowing the players and charting progress. Even if you cannot justify the standings everyday, or the other game results any day, at least, give us the daily box scores and the standings weekly. That would help those of who want to follow the Skeeters closely a big help.