Welcome back Adam Perry, detailing his recent trip to the UK’s Official Minor League Affiliate, Erie SeaWolves…
It was that time of (every other) year again, I was able to wave the family and work farewell to travel solo across the pond to do the thing I love best…watch baseball.
I am no Baseball Brit but my pilgrimage this year incorporated 9 games in 9 days. The main objective was to host a UK Red Sox event at Fenway and meet US fans who are coming over for the London Series. This was a great success and 3 games at Fenway were followed by 3 games in Toronto (to see the Red Sox) and 2 Minor League games in Rochester and Erie, followed by a final soiree in Cleveland.
In truth it was the penultimate game of my adventure that I was most looking forward to. For those of you unaware, Bat Flips & Nerds ran a competition last year to appoint an unofficial Minor League affiliate to the UK. Proposals were sent in by numerous teams across the farm system, stating why they should be considered for this accolade. Votes were cast and eventually the Erie SeaWolves were awarded the gong. I believe one of the decisive factors in the decision was the SeaWolves GM, Greg Coleman (more on Greg later) partaking in a prostate test live on the field prior to a game, to raise awareness of prostate cancer. I think I voted for another team, but (sorry) Erie won fair and square, that’s democracy, and so they became my team.
Erie is actually the AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, despite being located in Northern Pennsylvania, firmly in Pirates and Indians territory. The team is 25 years old and are based in the Eastern League. The Seawolves also include the 2 top prospects of the Detroit Tigers, both pitchers (Casey Mize and Matt Manning).
I rolled into town on the Greyhound Bus on a beautifully sunny day and fell in love with Erie straight away. This was helped somewhat by my relief to leave the rainy and not wholly beautiful city of Rochester (NY). Erie, as it names suggests is based on the picturesque Lake Erie. My hotel was right on the waterfront, the best view I had enjoyed during my whole trip. Wandering downtown, I soon discovered that thanks to my namesake Oliver Hazard Perry, mostly everything in the city was named after him and me (Perry Street, Perry Park, Perry Memorial etc). Perry was a very important character in the War of Independence against the British. The irony was not lost on me that this Perry was marching into town with an Erie Union Jack flag to claim back a little bit of Britain!
After visiting my 6th Perry statue, I moved further downtown towards the bars and the restaurants. There are no ‘chains’ in Erie, which adds to its charm. UPMC Park is bang in the middle of the downtown area. Before the game, I visited the Voodoo Brewery across the road to the ballpark. As well as attending games, I also visited local breweries in most of my destinations. This was my favourite but with the weakest beer being 7.5%, it is to blame for my slightly hazy memory of the rest of the day.
There was a large queue to enter the ballpark. This was down to a giveaway for the first 1000 fans. The free gift was a retro SeaWolves football (soccer) style shirt. It always amazes me the quality of these type of giveaways at all levels of baseball. This would have easily retailed at £40/50 in your local sports store in the UK. The ballpark itself has curious dimensions due to it being ‘squashed’ downtown and adjacent to the ice hockey arena. The majority of the 6000 seats were taken. There are also existing plans to extend the ballpark further.
Armed with my GB SeaWolves flag, I started the game on the beer terrace where I was greeted by some extremely friendly fans (shout out to Rob) who were curious to understand the flag and my presence. We were soon joined by the absolutely charming GM Greg and local enthusiast and friend Eric. Greg gave me a guided tour of the ballpark and took me up to the broadcast booth where I was welcomed by announcers Evan Giddings and Greg Gania, who let me loose live on air. This was my first ever time being interviewed live in any situation. Speaking about UK fans, The London Series, Bat Flips & Nerds and all things UK baseball, I hope I did everyone justice. If not, please send your complaint letters to The Voodoo Brewery, Erie.
GM Greg, Eric, flag and me.
Greg, Evan and myself in the broadcast box
I was having so much fun, the score itself was inconsequential, but for the record, Erie went down 3-2 in a close one against the Bowie (sadly pronounced Bewie) BaySox. My ‘Heroes’ would live to fight another day. One highlight of the game was the ‘running of the bases’ in-between the 5th inning by local kids. It looked like a lot of fun but I managed to restrain myself just long enough to stop from me joining them.
I can safely say that the night will remain one of my fondest memories of my baseball spectating career. Armed with a bag of free goodies (that can now be found in the possession of the Bat Flips & Nerds Softball team), I trudged back to the hotel (via the brewery for a final nightcap).
At the time off writing, Erie sit midtable, one game off 500. I still tune in regularly to listen the dulcet tones of Evan and Greg on MilB TV, albeit this time in bed rather than face to face in the broadcast booth. The Seawolves flag will also be flying high at The London Stadium on June 29th and 30th. Look out for it.
Thanks once more to Greg and his team for making me feel so welcome. I know I will be back one day. I hope I am just the start of another British invasion in Erie. I cannot recommend the Seawolves experience enough. It is, after all, your duty as Bat Flips & Nerds subjects to attend!
Bat Flips & Nerds SeaWolves Appreciation Society