Hot Corner: Thoughts on Booyah season opener
By Rich Palzewic
ASHWAUBENON – What a difference a year makes for the Green Bay Booyah.
Last season, the Booyah were one of the few area teams to play its schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the team played fewer games than its normal Northwoods League slate, it proved it could be done safely and effectively.
John Fanta, vice president and general manager of the club, told me after last season, “Not one case of COVID-19 was traced back to Capital Credit Union Park (in Ashwaubenon).”
The team admitted only 25% of its normal fans and required masks, but this year is different.
Fanta told me there are no restrictions on the number of fans allowed or mask requirements.
Come to think about it, I didn’t see one person wearing a mask at the Booyah’s home opener Tuesday, June 1, against Fond du Lac.
You can’t drink beer or soda with a mask covering your face, and I saw lots of people drinking both – mostly beer.
A believer in masks or not, that’s one thing I’ve missed since the pandemic began a year ago in March: Seeing smiling faces.
“I came to several games last season, and it wasn’t the same,” Green Bay resident Adam Mercer said. “Though I appreciated what the organization did in allowing the team to play and letting some fans in, this year will be much better and more fun.”
Mercer said he plans to attend “as many games as possible this season.”
Walking around the stadium taking photos, I saw much of the same: Fans drinking beer, eating hot dogs and pretzels and having a good time laughing with friends.
“This is our first Booyah game, but I’ll be back,” Sharon Revert said. “I know the team let some fans in last season, but I wasn’t as comfortable coming with COVID-19. This year, that’s all in the past.”
Revert drove from Bellevue with her two kids and husband.
If one game is any indication, I’m looking forward to sitting in press row in front of The Press Times Press Box and taking in some Booyah baseball action this summer.
If you see me sitting by my lonely self, take a minute to stop by and say “hello.”
Walking it off
In all my years of covering baseball, I don’t recall ever seeing a game end in walk-off style on a home run.
In the past month, I’ve seen two games end this way.
On May 13, I attended the De Pere/Pulaski baseball game.
With the Redbirds down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs and a runner on, Derek Weber cranked the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence to send his team home victorious.
I was too busy admiring the moon ball hit by Weber before realizing my camera was in my bag not put together.
Yeah, I’m sorry De Pere fans – I thought the game was over.
I managed to quickly put my Nikon together, but by this time, Weber was rounding third and his teammates were ready to mob him at home plate.
I started snapping and got about 30 photos.
Most I had to delete, but I managed to get one of my best photos ever.
Two weeks later, I traveled to Pulaski for the rematch and saw Weber before his first at-bat.
I fist-bumped him through the netting and said, “Are you going to hit another one today?”
He laughed, and the Redbirds promptly got shellacked by the Red Raiders, 9-0.
A week after Weber’s dinger, I was at West De Pere for a softball game against Bay Port.
Trailing most of the game, the Phantoms mounted a comeback in the bottom of the seventh.
Behind 4-2 with two runners on, West De Pere sophomore Leah Kocken drilled a walk-off, three-run homer for a 5-4 win.
I was more prepared this time and got another good picture.
I’ve learned my lesson – never think a game is over and put your camera away.
As always, thanks for reading.