Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Pastime on the Fringe

At the home of the Butler BlueSox, fans turn up for the experience — but the players are hungry and hopeful.




photos by john altdorfer

 

They’ll probably go through about five dozen baseballs. Maybe six dozen. Butler BlueSox Assistant Coach Josh Forbes picks up each one, rubs it with Mississippi mud — the good stuff, he says — to dull the shine, give them a better grip. 

Then he drops each of them into a white, 5-gallon bucket next to his desk.

Thump.

Thump. Thump. Thump.
 


 

By 4:09 p.m., the team is in the dugout or sprawled out in plastic chairs or on the ground. Bonding. Talking about — well, stuff. Oh man, you remember that girl? Yeah, that one ...
They love the game, playing in front of the crowd, signing autographs. Hate the traveling. Hate rolling home at 4 a.m. after playing the Kokomo Jackrabbits in Indiana.  

Tonight’s home game starts in three hours. We’ll start putting our uniforms on around 7:04, they laugh. They’ll play for grandmas in team T-shirts, tweens in cowboy boots, dads wearing backwards baseball hats, mothers with infant carriers, a priest from St. Andrew’s church. Tonight, 1,297 fans turn up at Kelly Automotive Park and pay seven bucks (10 if they want reserved seating behind home plate) to watch the Butler BlueSox take on their rivals, the West Virginia Miners.
 


 

They’ll have walked by the white sandwich board at the front gate, where GM Patrick Reddick updated the standings for the Eastern and Western divisions with a red dry-erase marker. 

They’ll make a pit stop at the concession stand for a chicken basket and a Miller Lite, grab the kids a bottle of Barq’s root beer and a 25-cent Tootsie Pop. Settle into bleachers, seats or one of six air-conditioned suites. A few wander up to the party decks, one of which is sponsored by Mr. Spiket (Home of the 5 Year Warranty) with the DuBrook Cement factory in plain view, on top of which a Butler BlueSox flag flies next to that of the United States.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Woodsmen’s Life First Responder’s Fireworks Night at Kelly Automotive Park!
 


 

Announcer Jay Miranda’s voice booms. He transitions seamlessly into copy from the sponsor.

We have several insurance options you can buy to protect you and your family ... steady and strong for more than 125 years to prepare you for your future ...

Those who are able are asked to rise to their feet. Men remove their hats, parents nudge their kids to place a hand over their hearts. It takes 50 people to hold onto an American flag that covers a quarter of the infield. When the players are announced, they’re escorted into position by kids with beaming grins, waving back to mom and dad, getting a fist bump from their hero on the field.
 


 

By the fourth inning, the Miners are getting stomped.    

CRACK! An RBI double deep into left field, just shy of banners that blanket the outfield wall: Zippy’s Painting & Repair, UAW Local 3303, Butler Ambulance Service. The field itself is the only thing that remains from the old Pullman Field. In the 1930s and ’40s, this was home to the Butler Yankees, a farm team of New York’s infamous pinstripes. The stadium is gone (although the street signs outside, which still read “Pullman Field,” remain). But everyone says they still feel it. That something.

This inning break is brought to you by Nesbitt’s Landscaping, your stop for your next home improvement project. Nesbitt’s is known throughout the community for its fast turnaround time, not to mention competitive prices ...
 

Click Here for More Photos
 

“Most people come for the experience,” Reddick says as Manny the Molar brushes off the bases in between innings. “Not necessarily for the baseball.”

Six local business partners control the purse strings. The BlueSox are one of 10 teams in the Prospect League, a developmental summer league that hands wooden bats to collegiate players from across North America. Most players are local: Aliquippa, Butler, Wexford, Pittsburgh. The out of towners, like the Floridians and Californians, spend the season shacked up with host families who welcome them in, treat them like sons and wave teary goodbyes when the regular season ends in August.

Ladies and gentlemen, don’t forget: all weekend, it’s the Wild, Wild Weekend Sale at the Team Souvenir Store. Buy one item at regular price and get the second for half off!
 


 

The team made their first trip to the Prospect League Champion Series last season. Got so close. But the Lafayette Aviators cinched it in Game Three. The BlueSox have never won a championship since their inception in 2006. If and when they do, everyone gets a ring and a really big trophy, or so they’ve been told. They aren’t playing for the money, because there is none. As per collegiate rules, no one gets paid for any of the 30 home games or the 30 on the road in places like Chillicothe, Ohio and Lafayette, Ind., during a regular season that will stretch from May 31 to Aug. 3.

“I’ve wanted to play here for years,” says centerfielder and leadoff hitter Stefan Mrkonja, a senior at Point Park University. “When I first got to college, you start to hear about collegiate summer leagues that players go to. This is a top league and a well-known one in the area. The BlueSox are close to home and just an ideal team for me to play on and try to get looked at.” 
 


 

Because yeah, they love the game, the fans, the autographs. But they’re also playing because there’s that chance that their careers won’t end when they graduate. That someone will notice. Like when shortstop Jacke Healey got drafted by the Houston Astros following the 2009 season, or when the Chicago White Sox scooped up catcher/first baseman Kevan Smith in 2011, a year after he graced the BlueSox bench. You never know when a scout could be in the stands.

You just never know.   
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Electric Scooter Rideshare Launching in Pittsburgh

Scoobi will offer an eco-friendly alternative to cars and a speedier alternative to bikes beginning in June

Is Kennywood's Phantom’s Revenge Best Coaster in USA?

The fastest amusement park ride in Pennsylvania is currently in the running for best roller coaster — and it’s gained plenty of speed.

Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

The director of the forthcoming Mr. Rogers documentary sits down with the longtime Mr. McFeely and Pittsburgh Magazine.

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Chess enthusiast Ashley Lynn Priore hopes to enrich the Steel City’s involvement in one of the most classic and challenging of board games.

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in June

We're obsessed with Greekfreez vegan frozen treats, taking a first look at the new menu at Independent Brewing Company and traveling to The Tavern on the Square. Plus, we talk to Poulet Bleu pastry chef James D. Wroblewski II.

Working in a Steel Mill Turns Fantastical in 'The Glass Lung'

Pittsburgher Anjali Sachdeva’s first book blends the normal with fantasy in nine short stories.

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.

Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in June

PM Nightlife Editor Sean Collier explores the popularity of Coughlin's Law on Mt. Washington and the future of Jump Cut Theater.

Pittsburgh's Can't Miss Concerts in June

The Pittsburgh music calendar is packed this month. Check out some of our suggestions for the best ways to spend those steamy summer nights.

June: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Undercover: What We're Reading in June

Reviews of Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance by Mark Whitaker and Abandoned Pittsburgh: Steel and Shadows by Chuck Beard

Perspectives: How Cold Is Too Cold for Spiders to Live?

A former Marine and Pittsburgh firefighter comes face-to-face with his biggest fear.

Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Faces Centennial Challenges

This year marks a milestone anniversary — and questions regarding the emerging digital economy — for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

CMU Launches America’s First Degree in Artificial Intelligence

Starting this fall, undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon will have the option to earn a degree in one of the world’s fastest growing fields.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Electric Scooter Rideshare Launching in Pittsburgh

Electric Scooter Rideshare Launching in Pittsburgh

Scoobi will offer an eco-friendly alternative to cars and a speedier alternative to bikes beginning in June

Comments

Is Kennywood's Phantom’s Revenge Best Coaster in USA?

Is Kennywood's Phantom’s Revenge Best Coaster in USA?

The fastest amusement park ride in Pennsylvania is currently in the running for best roller coaster — and it’s gained plenty of speed.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Lorelei Will Open in the Former Livermore/Pines Space

Lorelei Will Open in the Former Livermore/Pines Space

The owners of Independent Brewing Company and Hidden Harbor plan to bring a beer hall and cafe to East Liberty.

Comments

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

Comments

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

Looking to switch up your physical activity now that it finally feels like spring? We found four sports you can play locally that you may never have considered.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

Comments

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Here We Go? Steelers Have More Than a New England Issue This Time

Here We Go? Steelers Have More Than a New England Issue This Time

At this time last year the Steelers perceived themselves, and rightfully so, as a team that was a mere win over the Patriots away from returning to the Super Bowl. This year, the focus is elsewhere.

Comments

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The Star Wars series experiments with telling an origin story, with mixed results.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As a film, there are issues.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Palate Partners School of Wine & Spirits offers a chance for brides- and grooms-to-be to explore libations before (or instead of) a night on the town.

Comments

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

It was always Ashley Watkins’ dream to have her grandfather perform her wedding ceremony — but a serious illness almost got in the way.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

Local interior designer Lauren Levant traveled to Italy for the influential Salon del Mobile show featuring the latest innovations in the furniture and design industry. With an emphasis on quality over quantity, these are the kitchen concepts she says will be making their way stateside.

Comments

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Thinking about starting a creative business but don't know where to start? From photography to interior design, Gamechangers, the new podcast from local textile designer Savannah Hayes, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the design industry from the female perspective.

Comments