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Thursday, August 28, 2008


More than 5,000 fans of the The Hudson Valley Renegades, an affiliate team of the Tampa Rays, agree that minor league baseball is great. That’s the attendance at the game we saw, and that’s the kind of attendance the Renegades draw to Dutchess Stadium right across the Newburgh Beacon Bridge in Wappinger Falls, New York, just five minutes off Rt. 84.

Dutchess Stadium, built in just 71 days in 1994, is a good facility, intimate and friendly. There’s not a bad seat in the house, and between these guys playing their hearts out to make it to the next level and the enthusiastic crowds, this is a field of dreams.

My Red Hat friends and I get to at least one game a year. Last year a bunch of us went to “Bill Murray Bobble-head Doll Night”, and Bill was there (part owner of the team) signing bobble-head doll boxes and being a great guy to his fans. This is one friendly atmosphere!

This year, five friends and I took advantage of the “Leo Dinner.” Each night one table is set and six people are served an Italian dinner by Leo’s Italian Restaurant—actually located diagonally across the street from the stadium. Let me tell you about it.

We arrived about half an hour before the game. We found our “Leo” section with the boxes. The table was set for six, and our server, Matt, was there to greet us and explain how things work. We had a full Italian dinner served family style including salad, pasta, entrée, and dessert. There was a cooler full of drinks—water, soda, beer, wine coolers, etc. for us. We each received a Renegades cap, and Matt served us throughout the game.

After Matt served us drinks, we placed our order. We chose linguini with broccoli and oil as our pasta dish, and chicken marsala as our entrée.

Our salad course came first, a huge bowl of fresh, crisp, mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and tons of purple onions. Dressing on the side.
Fresh Italian bread. We heaped our plates, but there was enough for seconds. We took our time, and stopped to watch the Renegades score, participate in the hand waving at an inning’s success, and jabber, jabber, jabber, as we tend to do whenever we get together!

When we all finished our salads and Matt cleared the table, we relaxed as the pasta was delivered, hot and tempting. Once again, it arrived in a huge bowl, the linguini shimmering in the oil, and the chunks of garlic warning us that once this course ended, we better keep our distance. Ha Ha ☺

The game continued. We got our Renegades caps and a visit from Rascal Raccoon the Renegade Mascot. Nice photo op! We began to wonder where there would be room for the food yet to come. We walked around, continued the constant jabber, and Matt called for the Chicken Marsala which arrived hot and plentiful, a platter filled with filets smothered in mushrooms and the rich marsala sauce. Amazingly, each of us DID find room for this tasty entrée.

It must have been a “James Bond” night, for there was Rascal dancing with 007.

Finally, after 9 PM and around the needed 7th inning stretch and “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” dessert arrived. Canolis with the subtlest hint of cinnamon. Honestly—most of us sampled, but few finished. Not because they weren’t great but because our two-hour + dinner left us all quite full.

We said goodbye to Matt and his helper who left us with more to drink and returned to the restaurant. But our evening wasn’t over!

For charity, we bought five tennis balls for a contest after the game. AND on Friday nights there are fireworks after the game! How great is that!

The fireworks were wonderful. It was a long display with a lot of variety. As far as the tennis ball toss, I threw them out but did not get one to finish in one of the hoops scattered on the infield. But it was fun anyway.

We all had a great evening, and Eileen said we should book this again next year. Works for me!

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