MOOSIC — It was still over an hour until first pitch and fans were working their way through the front gates of PNC Field, but Randy Mobley was happy with what he was seeing.
After months of planning, stressing and hard work, the Triple-A National Championship Game was finally here.
“This is going to sound all flowers and bouquets here — and sunshine — just fabulous,” the International League president said of his initial thoughts on the event. “So, so happy for the ownership and front office staff because they’ve been working so hard for months on this event. As I said to them at the end of last week, I’m anxious for it to get started so they can start to see the fruits of their labors, and now they can look back at those long hours and tough sales calls and everything else.”
Mobley has said from the beginning that the difference he’s seen in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ efforts in hosting the national championship game compared to other franchises in the past has been their relationship with Stand Up To Cancer. This is the first time he’s seen a “cause” tied to the event. The different celebrities like Allen Iverson and Reggie Jackson making appearances “provides a fun mix” as well.
While Mobley said he was a little worried about the show rate for Tuesday’s game after the RailRiders’ heart-breaking loss to the Durham Bulls on Friday, he was pleased when he saw the announced crowd on hand.
“You’re all hyped up that your team’s a couple of wins away from participating and now you’ve already got your tickets but are you going to show up even that you do? It looks like the answer to that is a very strong yes,” Mobley said. “Hopefully this serves to continue to re-energize what this organization’s try to do.”
When asked if the RailRiders had done enough to boost their resume toward bringing the Triple-A All-Star Game to Moosic in the near future, Mobley smiled.
“This will not hurt their chances,” he said with a chuckle. “They have enhanced their chances.”
Clapp back in PA
Stubby Clapp hasn’t faced an International League team since 2004, when he was a member of the Syracuse SkyChiefs, but he’s more than familiar with the state of Pennsylvania during his baseball career.
Managing the New York-Penn League’s Tri-City ValleyCats and spending time as the hitting coach for the Eastern League’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Clapp’s spent his fair share of time in Pennsylvania, facing the State College Spikes and Reading Fightin Phils, respectively.
“Driving up and down the highways, it’s been beautiful,” the Memphis Redbirds manager said. “I played in the IL, but I don’t remember this diamond, but I wish I got to play in it because it’s beautiful.”
The RailRiders’ partnership with Stand Up To Cancer and their spotlight on the fight against cancer hit home for Clapp. His father is a prostate cancer survivor.
“That’s important to me and my family and my wife’s family has been effected through (cancer), so I think it’s going to be kind of cool to hold that (Stand Up To Cancer placard) up,” Clapp said. “When it comes down to the game of baseball and we can do things on this stage to raise money for any kind of charity, especially for cancer, I think it’s a great idea and I think it’s a great time to do it.”
Iverson on hand
Hall of Famer and Philadelphia 76ers great Allen Iverson was in attendance on Tuesday.
He signed autographs and took pictures with fans during the pregame fan fest. Iverson even posed with a few of the Redbirds for a photo before he threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches.
Other celebrities in attendance included New York Yankees greats Reggie Jackson and Bucky Dent, Philadelphia 76ers great World B. Free, former New Jersey Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko, New York City FC midfielder Jack Harrison and former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons Andy Ashby and Jason Grimsley.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle