Saturday, May 14, 2011

5/14/11 Buffalo Bisons 3, Louisville Bats 8

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 2 of 4

The CASUAL FAN (Tug Haines) meets THE BASEBALL ENTHUSIAST (yours truly)

I’ve been following Tug Haines on Twitter for a few weeks now; I can’t remember who originally tweeted “you need to follow this guy” but I do remember reading “he’s going to X games in Y months” and he was already my hero.

Who is Tug Haines? Keep reading…

As the weeks have progressed, Tug has been tweeting conservatively about his travels, which park he’s at today, the odometer reading and location, etc. We’ve exchanged a few “@ replies” but have never met. I’ve also hit his blog (The Casual Fan, a very nice title) a few times a week, to catch his “photo game recaps” and his ever-popular “walking tour” pictorials of parks he’s been to so far. Tug’s updates are always looked forward to on a semi-daily basis.

I was away from Twitter for a few days last week, dealing with business at work and being just plain miserable due to the weather here, and also sick from an allergies + head cold = sinus infection that really had me knocked around a bit. Saturday morning, I happened to check Twitter whilst working in the yard and noticed that Tug’s odometer was in Bowling Green and he was making his way to Louisville to see Dontrelle Willis start against the Buffalo Bisons. I thought “wow, it would be GREAT to meet Tug Haines,” so we exchanged tweets…I had ten bucks in my wallet (today wasn’t my day for the season ticket schedule) and I thought ‘hey, there’s a chance this could work out…’

You have to stop right here, for just a moment, and consider the odds before I go any further. Two times this season I’ve had an opportunity to see Dontrelle Willis (who has done very, very well so far) and two times rain has fouled up those opportunities. In fact, the rain has fouled up quite a bit of opportunities this season, not just for the Bats, or for Minor League Baseball, or for Major League Baseball. Not great odds, all the way around.

Anyway, looking at the weather and the radar, I had to let Tug know I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out or not, but I would do my best. My window for yard work closed about 20 minutes after it started to rain again, but having wrapped up the yard work I pressed on with my plans to see the Bats with Tug Haines. By 4:45 my mind was made up, the clouds cleared up a bunch, and I was on my way to Slugger Field for a 6:05 first pitch and $2 craft beers!!

There was a 12-minute delay in getting the tarp rolled back, nevertheless I met Tug in section 110, on the first base side, right underneath my season ticket seats…we enjoyed a tasty adult beverage, some quick baseball trip discussion, and at last, Dontrelle Willis on the mound!!

The rain did hold off for the most part, so maybe the Dontrelle/Rain curse really did continue its reign of terror, even if not so terrible. There was some very very very light sprinkles during the early innings that seemed to pass quickly and did not impact my scoresheets nor my countenance. Towards the end of the game, as darkness fell, the air turned a great deal cooler and a light wall of mist moved continuously across the field, but stayed away from Section 110.

Dontrelle Willis on the mound. Never mind some of his struggles over the past couple of years, he is a very good pitcher.

These pictures are from the top of the 2nd inning, Dontrelle’s only tough inning. That’s Buffalo Bisons RF Valentino Pascucci on third, about ready to cross the plate on a peculiar infield single by 3B Jonathan Malo…

This was really kool, I think that Pascucci has (for now) my favorite Italian baseball name. You really get the full effect when the PA announcer called his name at bat, “the right fiiielder, Valentiiiiinoo PascOOOOOOOOchee…” However, Tug and I both thought Jonathan Malo had the coolest name of the game. Tug said “there’s a guy who could drop his first name, and just go by ‘MALO’…” Yes, that would be awesome!!

Of course, none of my posts about the Bats would be complete without a photo of good ol’ Todd Frazier (playing LF today, as Juan Francisco –on 2B in this shot- is in town on a rehab stint at 3B)…Todd is on first after reaching on a single to left-center field. He was 1-for-4 with two sky-high fly balls and a strike out; he scored a run on an up-against-the-wall double by Danny Dorn 3 batters later…

Nick Evans plays a deep 1B with Jeremy Hermida at bat, Todd on 1st but no threat to steal, Francisco at 2B

Chris Valaika (2-for-4) reaches first in the bottom of the 6th after being hit by Bisons reliever RHP John Lujan

The Bats did very well, with a big inning in the 5th that saw starter Brian Sweeney get the hook in favor of (WOW) Bobby Parnell, who struggled a bit but not like Sweeney did to start the inning. Devin Mesoraco had a great night (as usual), and so did Danny Dorn. Willis was impressive, I’m glad I finally got to see it…5.1IP, 9H, 3R, 2ER, BB, 2K, 25BF, 92 pitches, 60 strikes.

It was a great game to watch, and even better (and more like an honor, if you will) that I got to enjoy it with Tug Haines. You should know more about Tug’s Casual Fan project…that being said, visit his BLOG right now, read more about the project, and see what he’s up to. Follow Tug on Twitter, he’s @TugHaines…as a parting shot here’s Tug and I after the game:

You can check out Tug’s game-related post here and see some of his fantastic photos from the game here, as well as his own personal “Dontrelle connection”…

I have to share this photo; Dontrelle got on base with a nice single, moved up to 2B by Zack Cozart, and was really acting more like a baserunner and less like a ‘pitcher on the basepaths’…Chris Valaika hits a screaming line drive to left-center field, and Dontrelle is sent home on the play. The relay throw is on the mark and on time, and this amazing shot of Dontrelle as he’s caught at the plate is one of the best baseball pics ever


Thanks again for letting me hang out with you on this very small trip, Tug! I really feel like I made a great new friend tonight, maybe in a year or so, when/if Mark and I head to the east coast for our own BIL Tour, you can meet up with us for a few games on that trip…and hopefully next time you’re in town this season, we can do this again!! Until then keep those updates coming! “If you don’t post something every day, people stop coming!”

Official Scorecard and Bat Chat

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