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An unexpected night with the Sea Unicorns

When Charlie’s Cub Scout troop announced an evening at the Norwich Sea Unicorn’s game at Dodd Stadium, I was not excited. I hoped that Charlie had not heard the announcement or did not care to attend.

We live about ten minutes from Dunkin Donuts Stadium, home of the Hartford Yard Goats. The stadium is brand new and beautiful. Earlier this year, Charlie and his Little League team practiced on the field prior to a game. We’ve had the pleasure of sitting in one of the luxury boxes rented by a magazine for whom I write. Parking is close, cheap, and easy to get in and out.

It’s an ideal way to see a minor league baseball game.

Dodd Stadium is about an hour away. Why drive an hour to see a minor league team when we have one just minutes away?

Nevertheless, Charlie heard the announcement and wanted to go. So two h0urs after he had lost his championship Little League game, we were on the road to Dodd Stadium for a Sea Unicorns game.

A lot of unexpected things happened that night.

First, the tickets that were supposed to be left at Will Call were not there, requiring me to purchase new tickers for the game. Granted, the tickets were only $8 each, but it did not bode well.

Second, as far as we could tell, Charlie was the only member of his Cub Scout pack in attendance. Admittedly, his fellow Scouts may have been sitting somewhere else in the park, lost in the crowd, except there was no crowd.

The stadium that seats 6,000 was empty.

Less than 200 people in attendance.

Charlie’s Little League championship game earlier that day was better attended.

It turns out that the Sea Unicorns aren’t even a minor league baseball team. In 2020, they lost their minor league affiliation with the Detroit Tigers and are now one of eight teams in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, comprised of college baseball players occupying their summer by playing against other college students throughout New England.

Needless to say the whole situation annoyed me. An empty stadium an hour away from home. Not a Cub Scout to be found. Unpaid college baseball players playing in a league without playoffs or a championship.

Not exactly baseball at its finest.

Charlie and I took our seats in a section of about 200 seats that we had all to ourselves and settled in for a long, painful, lonely evening of baseball.

Boy was I wrong.

Thanks to the absence of any fans, Charlie managed to collect two foul balls hit into our section before the third inning. Granted these were foul balls hit by unpaid college students, but in Charlie’s mind, these were just as precious as foul balls hit by a member of the New York Yankees.

He was thrilled.

When Charlie and I cheered for the Sea Unicorns or shouted to the first basemen, everyone in the stadium, including the players on the field, could hear us clearly, making our cheers and taunts public performances.

When the outfielders would back up for specific hitters, Charlie would shout, “That’s right! Back it up! Heavy hitter! Heavy hitter!”

I watched the right fielder crack up at Charlie’s taunts.

When a runner on first would attempt a steal, we’d both shout, “He’s going!”

I even taught Charlie the “We want a pitcher. Not a belly-itcher” chant.

We cracked ourselves up.

Because we could move around the stadium to watch the game and see every inch of the field, I was able to teach Charlie elements of the game that were much harder to explain in a packed stadium filled with distractions. We talked about scoring a game, balks, the infield fly rule, delayed steals, and more.

The sky overheard eventually became spectacular as the sun set behind right field and the moon rose. For a full half inning, we ignored the game and just stared at the sky overhead.

We also ate lots of junk food, purchased Sea Unicorns hats, and laughed a lot.

I have been to many minor league baseball games with Charlie. None will ever be as memorable as our bizarre, hilarious, fantastic night at the Sea Unicorns game.

Sometimes the beauty and joy in something can be found in its exceptional imperfection.