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Audio Postcard: Young Fans, Racing Hot Dogs & Summer Skies At Lake Monsters' Centennial Field

A photo of a batter at the plate in a ready stance prepared to swing as the pitcher winds up. The field is green and the sky is blue.
Marlon Hyde
/
VPR
A batter prepares to swing at the Lake Monsters' home game in late July.

It's about much more than baseball when the Vermont Lake Monsters take their home field in Burlington. At Centennial Field, some of the loudest fans are also the youngest: The kids are the true stars of the show.

On a warm Wednesday evening, the crowd is filtering into the ballpark. Smiling patrons scan their tickets and walk around the concourse before the game begins.

Grace Conallen is standing at a help desk with her walkie-talkie. As an intern at Centennial Field, she says she gets to experience a little of everything baseball has to offer.

“It’s baseball, but we have so much more going on,” Conallen says. “If you watch the game, like in between the innings, we do so much fun stuff.”

But her favorite part of the night is interacting with young fans.

“We get to walk around and find kids who want to do fun stuff," she says. "And they're always so excited, because you're asking them to do crazy games in the field, win monster money and stuff like that."

A photo of two kids in tiny cars on a green field with adults surrounding them.
Marlon Hyde
/
VPR
Two kids take part in mini-racing in between innings at the July 28 Lake Monsters home game in Burlington.

As parents head to their seats, beaming kids flood the concourse. The electric feeling of excitement courses through the stands. While the players are warming up, the air is filled with the scent of grilled hot dogs and freshly poured beers.

“I work out in right field sometimes, instead of on the concourse here," Mike Egan says. "And the kids are playing catch. They're chasing foul balls. They dress to the nines in all the regalia. They're buzzing, it's cool!”

Egan pours beer at the concession stand opposite the team store. He says a big part of the game has very little to do with baseball. Like the beloved Hot Dog Race.

Three stadium workers dressed in wacky full-body ketchup, mustard, and hot dog outfits sprint around the field playfully whacking each other.

“Let's hear it for Maniacal Mustard, Krazy Ketchup, with a bat, and, of course, the beloved McKenzie Hot Dog," says Jamie, on the field. "You guys ready? One, two, three, go!”

Tonight, the McKenzie Hot Dog emerges victorious!

“Let's hear it for Maniacal Mustard, Krazy Ketchup, with a bat, and, of course, the beloved McKenzie Hot Dog. You guys ready? One, two, three, go!”
Jamie, on the field

Lake Monsters player Will Hesslink grew up in Shelburne and came to games at Centennial Field. Now, he looks out at the crowd from the pitcher's mound.

“I was one of these kids," Hesslink says. "I was going to games when I was growing up, and you know, asking for autographs, so to see it come full circle is really special."

Family is such a big part of these games. Lake Monsters pitcher Ian Parent was smiling from ear to ear when his grandparents arrived to see him pitch in tonight’s game for the first time.

“They were the ones taking me to the games back when I was a kid, and my cousins and my family,” Parent says. “So, it's crazy full circle that he's now coming to one of the games that I'm in.”

As the sky darkens, temperatures fall, and parents hoist their sleeping children over their shoulders. It’s time for the game to come to an end. The crowd sings along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

“Outstanding, nice job," the stadium announcer says. "Hope you guys are having a great time on this beautiful Wednesday night here at the ballpark.”

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Marlon Hyde @HydeMarlon.

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