By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
The red LED lighting of the thermometer beyond the right field said 34 degrees.
Across the way, the flags behind the left field wall whipped steadily inward, the 12 mph breeze putting an exclamation point on Thursday night’s teeth-chattering chill.
Baseball? Did someone say baseball?
On an evening that would have been perfect for a Rochester Americans’ Frozen Frontier II, the Rochester Red Wings instead played their home opener.
Buy me some peanuts and hand-war-mers … that is how the song goes, isn’t it?
Ah, but baseball was back. Happy New Year, ball fans.
“It’s been a long winter and it’s nice to have baseball back in town,” Wings manager Joel Skinner said.
As always, the Red Wings organization did it right, too. The first 1,500 fans entering the ball park, which means probably more than half of them, received a reversible knit hat. Talk about the appropriate giveaway on this home opener.
Pete DuPre, a 95-year-old veteran of World War II, performed the national anthem behind home plate on his harmonica. “Harmonica Pete” hit a home run.
Moments later, Spencerport HIgh School sophomore Alayna Berry, the inspiration behind the first female ever to appear on a Big League Chew wrapper, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Catching it — and showing his glove is still big-league worthy — was her grandfather, Wings Hall of Famer Bobby Bonner.
And then it was time play ball.
Any chance we can we hear the anthem again instead?
Yeah, it wasn’t a good night on ball diamond for the Wings. They were battered 13-6 by their recent nemesis, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Four Rochester pitchers gave up 16 hits — six for extra bases, including three triples — and eight walks. And the IronPigs’ hit parade began in the top of the first, when four hits and a walk produced three runs off Lewis Thorpe (0-2, 15.58 ERA).
Then again, was anyone surprised? This Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A team has put a hurting on the Wings for what now is a fourth season. Since the start of the 2016 season, the Wings are a ghastly 22-41 against Lehigh Valley, including 1-4 in this young campaign. The bad news: this is a four-game series. The good news, this is only a four-game series.
But, hey, it’s baseball, right? A rite of spring. The teasing of the mind that warmer weather is just a flip of calendar away. Hot summer nights, fireworks, a cold one, and, come every other Thursday home game from now until August, a celebration of a the Nick Tahou’s Garbage Plate.
Let’s just hope the product on the field improves. The Wings are already four games under .500. Pitching, the strength of the club last year, hasn’t been good.
Still, the Wings are back for the season. To paraphrase that Progressive commercial with the motorcyclists, a bad day of baseball is better than a day with no baseball.