Monday, May 26, 2008

Allard: Nottle makes a lot of Sens-e, says Edna

Edna Babblecock gives her impressions of the Rapidz' first home weekend, as channeled through your humble agent, Jean-Pierre Allard.

Hi Edna here. Just back from spending a few days at The Zip, aka Lynx/Jetform/ Ottawa/Rapidz Stadium to see our new team that is playing in this pro league called Can-Am which Darquise tells me, stands for Canadian-American League.

Call us old gals lucky, but we got to see the Rapidz beat out their opponents, the New Jersey Jackals, 9-4 on Friday night, their first win, in a game that had everything that we’ve grown to love about baseball and that was attended by 2,561 fans. Which is a pretty darn good encore after the opening night crowd of 4,246 the night before, especially since it was such a frisky night that we was all under our crocheted blankets by the 5th inning.

Alas, we saw an altogether different team on Sunday, on a gorgeous sunny afternoon that was perfect for our old aching bones but not so good it seems for the local boys, who ended up on the wrong end of a 15-6 drubbing at the hands of the Jackals. (Someone made a smart remark on the ride home, "Does Can-Am stand for Can Anyone Catch The Ball?" That was a bit nasty.)

Rapidz manager Ed Nottle declared after the Sunday game that his starting pitcher, Greg Bunn, "has had a fine spring and threw nothing but strikes….and all of a sudden he gets in front of 3,400 and looks like a friggin' high school player." Singin' Ed went on to say that Bunn "needs to show me more that that if he wants to be a starter on my club."


When news of this was read this morning by crochety old Apork, we all took turns saying that if it doesn't work out for Mr. Nottle with the Rapidz, he should be hired by Bryan Murray to coach the Ottawa Senators.

Consider what Nottle had to say just the day before, after losing 6-1 on Saturday night, while we were still up watching the Penguins suddenly play like the Senators did last year against the Ducks.

Nottle, who's known as Singin' Ed for his having recorded an album in 1983 called To Baseball With Love, was already in mid-season form when he told the media "We'll be in the playoffs ... you can quote me, and the other managers can stick it on the wall or stick it up their (butts). I guarantee we'll be in the playoffs and we're going to lead this league in attendance. I'll stake 48 years of minor-league towns on it. This is no minor-league town. It's a major-league town and facility.

"If we're not in the playoffs, they can fire me. You can write that, too."

He would be perfect as coach of the Ottawa Senators. I mean, isn’t it their owner Eugene Melnyk who chimes in annually with promises of a championship? But more importantly, Ed would be the right guy to whip the Sens into shape. How many practices would Ray Emery would have been late to before his coach/manager would have sang him the riot act?

As we were saying on Sunday, who cares if they win or lose, or, for that matter, how many errors they make on the field or how many outs they make at the plate. There continues to be pro baseball played at this beautiful ballpark so that our childrens' children can come and enjoy what we've enjoyed for the last 15 years, and for some of us, for four years back in the '50s, secure in the knowledge that they will be able to bring their own kids to the park one day soon to keep the rich tradition alive.

Judging from the many, many different faces we saw in the stands on the opening weekend, and based the new owners' awareness that their future market is kids, we here at the Lodge think that the Rapidz won’t be rolling down the river as soon as some fair-weather and Oh Henry-obsessed fans seem to think.

We’re also thinking that the strategic placement of a Starbucks just two minutes east from the ballpark will eventually boost the walk-up attendance. A sizable portion of the tens of thousands caffeine aficionados that frequent the joint daily is bound to take notice that a game is being played next door.

Especially when the latte hippie sippers find out that the food at Rapidz Park includes such eclectic fare as hummus with vegetables, ribs on a bun, Cajun fries, Quasi Quesadillas and genuine Montreal Forum hot dogs and that the beer prices have been lowered, though not by that much to justify one patron’s decision on Friday night to dump his full cup on an unsuspecting Jackal player. Why, the concessions manager even recognized Mortimer in the line-up the second day and told him he hadn’t forgotten his request for non-alcoholic Becks’ beer and that it would be available the very next home stand.

That’s we call here at the Lodge attention to detail. Lord knows how much we appreciate this type of responsive service, after having to ask repeatedly for our pillows to be lifted, not to mention our spirits, on those nights when the Senators played.

Incidentally, memo to new owners Rick Anderson and Rob Hall: why not take this golden opportunity and, paraphrasing a suggestion Earl McRae once made, rename the park Darwin’s Jewel in honour of local entrepreneur Howard Darwin, the man who brought back Triple-A ball to Ottawa? That would be yet another positive step in recognizing Ottawa's rich history, to go along with the new murals that adorn the concourse walls depicting images of early pro ball being played at Lansdowne Park.

I would be totally remiss if I forgot to mention Hortense’s crazy idea. Not exactly svelte herself, after too many years of feasting on McDonald’s breakfasts, she wrote to the Rapidz last week and suggested that they run a contest for each home game in which they pick an woman of size to sing Frank Sinatra's New York, New York after the game. The reasoning being that the game is over only when the fat lady sings and only after she draws a ticket stub that will net a thousand dollars to the lucky fan. Less fans leave before the end, more concession revenue, more fans comeback to get a chance to win.

I know, this may sound a bit too "carny" for some CBC Radio types or NAC patrons, or even readers of the National Post but last time we checked, we didn’t seem to see too many of these types sitting in with us plebes.

So there -- know your market and rapidly rebuild it. And they might just come back.

(UPDATE, 12:28 a.m.: Tough one down on the Jersey shore -- the Rapidz lose, 7-6, to the Atlantic City Surf, with Eddie Kim hitting a go-ahead, two-run single in the eighth inning. The fielding was problematic -- back-to-back errors gave Atlantic City its first two runs. The positives for the Rapidz included Fraser Robinson chucking four-hit, no-walk ball for six innings and leaving in position to win, while Jereme Milons was 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBI. It's an all-lefty matchup Tuesday, with Mike Kusiewicz facing Brian Rodaway.)


THE Captain said...

Hey Neate,

Great piece!

Just wondering how the quality of the ball is? Would you say its a big drop off from some of the recent Lynx teams?

Sounds like the crowds are decent- mostly kids? or a good share of the cranky old "regulars"?

sager said...

Jean-Pierre gets full credit for the article; I just tacked on the game details rather than write our third Rapidz post of the night.

Indie ball gets scouted; there's more than 100 players who have played indie ball now in affiliated baseball, although a fair number are "organizational soldiers."

I can't comment on the demographics of the crowds, since family and work commitments kept me from getting to the stadium on the first weekend. J.P. and maybe others who were there, please, don't be shy.

Anonymous said...

Is J.P. still around?

I'm dying to hear his take on the situation in Sennie-land...I miss his out of this world writing :)