Tens of thousands cheered Hawaii’s 3-0 victory over Korea in the Little League Baseball World Series final while several thousand were on hand for the Drum Corps Associates World Championship competition at Williamsport High School as the community hosted two late summer prestigious events.
On Labor Day afternoon 1,756 Williamsport Crosscutter’s fans showed up to venerable Bowman Field to close the curtain on a long-cherished community treasure as one of the nation’s smallest minor league markets ended a season-long celebration of their 20th year under the Crosscutter’s banner. On the field, it was a season of many disappointments as the locals finished last in the Pinckney Division and only the Connecticut Tigers lost more games in the NY-Penn League.
But despite the team’s 32-44 win/loss record, as it has done for decades, Bowman Field, the second-oldest operating ballpark in the country, provided a summer of fun-filled experiences for the 68,000+ fans that turned out this year. In 2017 the team averaged 1,797 fans per game. This year attendance was up approximately 6% with a per-game attendance of nearly 1,900 fans.
“Our win-loss record left a bit to be desired, but we had some great players this year,” said Gabe Sinicropi, Crosscutters vice president of marketing. “We had Alec Bohm, the Philadelphia Phillies 2018 1st round pick, and six players that were picked to play in the NYPL All-Star Game.
“We thank our fans for their great support, but at the end of the day, what we really hope is that we helped create positive memories for kids, parents, and grandparents who came to the park with their family. That is and always will be our number one goal.
“We were happy with the 2018 campaign from a business standpoint. We appreciate all of our loyal sponsor partners who really provide us with the opportunity to do everything we do. We are hopeful that, with the help of the City of Williamsport, we will be able to announce an upgrade or two for the 2019 season.”
The daily ballpark sights included Allen the ‘Beer Man’ Hopkins, often clad in a red cape and hawking his wares from one end of the Bowman Field grandstand to the other. Allen provided a fun-filled staple during the Crosscutters season. So much so, that the Crosscutters honored him as their ‘Employee of the Year’ during pre-game ceremonies at their Labor Day concluding game.
“This is the first year I have worked concessions,” Hopkins said. “The beginning was pretty simple. I saw the ad and filled out an application, and here I am. At the time I applied I didn’t know what I would be doing.”
When asked about his unique selling style, the ‘Beer Man’s’ answer was simply understated. “Some of what I do I came up with on my own, but I got a lot of it from watching vendors at other ballparks around the country.”
Although he doesn’t know how many bottles of beer and water he sells on a typical game night, he estimated his biggest beer sale evening was about 50, along with numerous bottles of water a night. However, sales totals were not the highlight for Hopkins.
“As the season was drawing to a close, a young child came up to me and gave me a picture that she had colored for me. I have that hanging up on a wall at home right now. That was pretty special for me.”
Seated on the last row of the grandstand, in the Family Section, Flemington’s Terry & Donna Shank have been enjoying Cutters’ games for over 15 years. “These are the best seats in the park. I wouldn’t want to sit anyplace else,” Terry stressed.
“I am the president of the Crosscutters Booster Club, and even though we have been coming to every Cutters game for years, this is only our second year as season ticket holders. When they changed the ticket policy last year, we wanted to make sure we would be sitting in these seats.
“Over the years, we made so many great memories. This group we have sitting around us has been the same folks for many years. We’ve become ballpark friends and enjoy each other’s company. One of the things I remember best is when they still had the bleachers down in right field our son liked to go watch the game from there. At that time if you got a foul ball, you could turn it in for tickets to Knoebels Grove. He had a ball doing that.
“Our youngest daughter, Melissa, didn’t really care for baseball a whole lot but she would come to the games and draw. Today, she is an artist and interior designer. So baseball at Bowman Field has been a very big part of our family’s lives.”
As he signed off from his public address duties, Montoursville’s Rob Thomas looked out upon an emptying ballpark and reflected, “It’s been nineteen years since I began to do this. My wife worked at WRAK and saw an ad posting at the radio station. She told me about it, and I came up and talked to Gabe and the rest, as they say, is history.”
In addition to his PA duties, Thomas has also housed Crosscutters players for the past two seasons.
“I began doing that last summer and housed two players that played at Lakewood this summer. This year at various times I housed six players including Alec Bohm. It’s been fun, and they have all seemed to enjoy the Williamsport area, although for most of them it is a smaller town than what they are used to.”
With the Crosscutters providing a variety of promotions every night, one, in particular, seemed to bring out a strong rooting interest. The team partnered with Jersey Mike’s Subs to provide fans with a six-inch sandwich every time the Cutters achieved eight hits in a game.
“We appreciated being a part of the Crosscutters culture this season and met a lot of fine people we didn’t know before,” said Paul Schwarzer, operating partner of the Williamsport Jersey Mike’s store. “We started the promotion planning early in the spring, and it took off like wildfire from the very first time the Cutters got the eight hits. We had lines out the door every time it happened.”
The magic eight hits occurred a dozen times during the season, and Schwarzer estimates the store gave away an average of 300 sandwiches each time. “That number is an insane amount compared to what we were averaging prior. Our whole mission was to get our name out into the public, and I’d surely say that mission was accomplished.”
Being a baseball fan, Schwarzer was in attendance at Bowman Field a few times the Cutters approached the eight-hit plateau. “I saw the chaos. I heard the chaos. I heard the fans chant each time the eight hits were being approached. It got pretty wild. We were happy to be a part of the Bowman Field experience.”
As the old saying goes, ‘You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.’ Talk to most fans who attended Cutters game this summer, and you can begin to understand that a good time can’t simply be defined by a win/loss record!