What should Travelers fans expect in order to fully enjoy the next five months of baseball at Dickey-Stephens? Here are five demands suggestions for a successful season.
1) Play to win
If I wanted to watch extended spring training, I would find video on the Internet or go visit Aunt Grace in Arizona. The Travelers should be playing a hard nine every night, not a hard three followed by a soft six to evaluate some new relief pitchers. The manager should not be sending base runners to second and third when it is a certain out just because the guy in Los Angeles said to.
Sorry, but the fans are paying to watch a team try to win, not to have a glorified practice. If the Angels' version of Minor League Baseball wants to be something else, tell us now and we will go watch games at Junior Deputy or Burns Park instead where winning actually matters (sometimes too much thanks to overzealous adults) the entire season.
2) Compete the entire season
The Travelers don't have to finish first every half of the season, but the team should at least be competitive in both halves. And what they should not ever do is finish last in a four-team division. As a bonus, it would be nice if the Travelers could consistently finish ahead of the upstart Naturals so that the arrogant jokers in northwest Arkansas would not have one more thing to brag about. If you want to shut up the contingent that longs for the days of yore with the St. Louis Cardinals as the parent team, beating up on Springfield is also a good idea.
In order to compete, that means a commitment from the Angels to supply the team with enough talent to do the job and leave them there long enough to complete it. Although we'd love to have him stay, it's understandable when someone like Mike Trout gets moved up on the fast track. What is not appreciated is when the average player helping the team win is shifted just to fill a bench spot in Salt Lake City.
3) Green grass
Not knocking the grounds crew at Dickey-Stephens Park because it is a tough job to make the magic that grows grass, but why is it that all these other baseball stadiums can have great-looking green grass yet it is frequently a problem in North Little Rock? Did something leak out of the tugboat and poison the soil?
In the winter, we're told the brown patches are caused because the grass hasn't come in yet, and then later in the summer it's because the heat is stifling the growth. Why do I get the feeling the problem stems back from Bill Valentine doing something on the cheap when the grass was installed by the Major League guy?
4) Weather warnings
The night of the devastating tornado outbreak in Central Arkansas in 2008, there was absolutely no announcement from the Travelers public address system. Many fans were puzzled as they walked to their cars with the tornado sirens blaring and then proceeded to drive into the storm.
Since that day, the Travs front office has done better, sometimes flashing up the weather radar on the video screen (albeit briefly so as not to interrupt the ads), but this can never happen again. Sure, many people have iPhones and can watch the weather radar on their own. Those same people may be numskulls oblivious to the weather who are trying to hook up on Facebook instead.
When bad weather approaches, the public must be alerted sooner than when the umpire twirls his finger in the air.
This is the most important and easiest to fill. All you need: baseball, field, summer nights, lemonade, hot dogs, scorecards, organ music, peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jacks, Damgoode Pies, Hookslide's Corner, home runs landing on the berm, kids playing catch in the suite-level concourse, promotions, downtown skyline with Peabody ducks, wild kids in playground, fireworks, "Feelin' Good Again," scoreboard show crackling on KARN on the drive home, Shelly, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with the finish only Phil Elson can put on it, kids teams in uniform, unusual items on the way out (a loaf of bread?), bobbleheads, Travs stuff in the souvenir shop (the only place to buy the Cardinals team set), the Star Wars Cantina AKA Ump's, Cold Beer Johnny, familiar faces of ushers (although a travesty one in particular was slandered and not hired) and autograph hounds, those early moments when no one has shown up yet, screams of SpongeBob SquarePants on "businessman's special" games, and, of course, Bill Valentine complaining about the relievers.
Do your thing, Travs. Play ball.
-- Travelerocity reporter