Noah Finz: The night the New Haven Ravens pied me in the face

I’ve been thinking about about when the New Haven Ravens won the Eastern League championship in 2000.

It’s either a product of me getting old, or just that I popped an unlabeled tape into a VCR (remember those) and was taken back to that September evening. It was a report worth saving.

For those of you who don’t remember, the Ravens were a double A farm team, then of the Seattle Mariners. Before that they were the Colorado Rockies affiliate. In 2004 they left the state to become the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Minor league teams complained about the amenities of historic Yale Field. Which I always found off considering that from a fan’s perspective, it’s about the coolest park around.

Anyway, the night was rather nerve-racking for me. Not because I was that concerned about whether the Ravens would beat the Reading Phillies for the championship, but because I had just returned from the diamond district in New York with an engagement ring in my pocket and the next day I was taking my then girlfriend to California to propose.

The game was a good one, but my mind was elsewhere. Although at the end of the game, I was forced to think about what the New Haven team accomplished, like it or not. In fact, what happened left me speechless, literally.

That Ravens team had some good players, a couple guys who went on to have nice major league careers. The pitcher that night, Brian Fuentes went to play 11 years in the majors including a season with 48 saves for the Angels, although most of his years were with Seattle.

Pitcher Joel Pineiro played the better part of 13 years in the bigs. He followed a 14 win season with Seattle with a 16 win season. And then in 2009 had 15 wins for the Cardinals. Infielder Ramon Vazquez played 10-plus years in the majors including his best season with my team, the San Diego Padres.

Anyway, the Ravens end up winning the game, and into the locker room, they uncork the champagne. I and photographer Tim Wright shoot the celebration, and then have about 10 minutes to write and edit a story for the 11pm newscast. The plan is to present the story live from Yale Field.

When Ann Nyberg tosses to us for the report, I get about 4 seconds into it when I get a pie tin full of shaving cream in the face.

That’s followed by whatever champagne and beer the players had left poured over my head. The combination of shaving cream burning my eyes flowing with warm beer into my mouth left me unable to talk.

Once I tossed to our edited story, the shaving cream and beer kept coming. All I could think of was, “is the ring safe?” Not sure why getting a shaving cream and beer bath would pose any danger to an engagement ring in my pocket, but I guess with everything going on, I was not of right mind.

The ring ended up safe and made the trip unharmed to California, and it looks great on my wife’s finger. I’ll always remember that night, but as you can imagine, not necessarily for the great baseball.

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