Tuesday, July 31, 2012

6/30/12 Indianapolis Indians 10, Louisville Bats 3

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 1 of 4

First things first, most important notation on today's scorecard: 105 degrees game time temperature.  YES, that is HOT.
The visiting Indianapolis Indians were also hot, as the Bats continue to lose ball games through June.  They start this 4-game set with the Indians a whopping 20 games behind...who else?  The Indians, who reign not only the IL West, but the International League itself with a (50-31) record.  While several Indians had their way with Chad Reineke and the nearly hapless Bats, chief Indian Jeff Clement continued his 2012 tear to lead them on.

Clement is .295/.369/.429 with the Indians so far this season (241 AB), the 1st round pick (3rd overall) of the Seattle Mariners in the 2005 draft has career numbers in this range during his 7 AAA seasons (4 of them with the Indians), but he's been unable to replicate this at the Major League level (in 54 games/144 AB with the Pirates in 2010, he was .201/.237/.368 by comparison).  At 28, he's currently blocked by a somewhat waffling Casey McGehee, as well as his own teammate Matt Hague, who at 26 can also play 1B and is on the Pirates' 40-man roster (Clement is not).  Hague was also deadly this evening, with one more hit than Clement, yet on base shy of Clement's total bases.

Daniel Cabrera was tight and wildly effective on the mound for the Indians, 7H, ER, 5K, BB ...and 2 Wild Pitches plus a hit batter.  His opponent, Chad Reineke...well, we seem to be old friends this season, as I feel like I've seen Reineke more in 2012 than I've seen any other starter in the last 3 years or so.  I felt like this would be a good outing, Win or Lose, for Reineke if he could pitch 6 innings and give up no more than 3 runs.  Reineke blew this projection out with 4ER in 6IP, all of those runs came on Home Runs (Clement, 0 on 1 out; Hague, 2 on 1 out)...so it should be no surprise that he also struck out 8 ( 3 of them swinging) and walked only 1.  Location isn't Reineke's problem; it's his locating the wrong pitch at the wrong time.  His velocity is still sitting in the low 90s, but at age 30 and a Minor League career spanning 9 years, his only chance for MLB action this year is if someone in the Reds' rotation goes Koyie Hill with a table saw and they need help they can't get anywhere else.  

Reineke, like Clement, is also not on the parent club's 40-man roster.  These guys aren't trade chips for prospects and/or free agent deals, they are placeholders for future talent and development.  The Reds may have had plans for the likes of Jeff Francis, and the Pirates certainly have plans for Matt Hague, Chase d'Arnaud, Jeff Locke, and Starling Marte...Chad Reineke and Jeff Clement are those complementary positions for opposing Minor League teams by which assets on both rosters can get the experience they need to build trade value and maybe even get a phone call later in the season.  Clement is in the lineup to bring in baserunners and wear out pitchers; Reineke is on the mound to wear out batters and give his defense some work to do.

It's true, you never know what could happen...these guys are still a bit on the young side to call them "Minor League Veterans" at this point, but for the time being you have to wonder if MLB is really in the cards for them...or not.

It's only a 4-1 game when Reineke leaves, and the combined Bats bullpen of Josh Judy, Carlos Fisher, and Donnie "Mister Socks" Joseph allow 7 more hits and 7 more runs (5 of them earned).  Their roles are a little different than Reineke's, he set up the game for them and they couldn't keep a lid on the psycho-sluggin' Indians.

My guest tonight was my friend Ranny; $2 craft beer night is gone forever, replaced by $3 Landshark and $3 Cheeseburgers...the cheeseburgers were great, even though it was just about as bloody hot as I could stand it.  In the Mystery Rookie Card game, Ranny picked this pretty kool 2007 Fleer Justin Hampson RC. 
After 7 seasons in the Colorado Rockies system, 2007 was his first year with the Padres...who released him in early 2009.  Since February 2011 he's been with the Mets and at 32, is doing well with the Buffalo Bisons...in a similar role as Chad Reineke has here, I'm sure.

I had my biggest hit in the Mystery Rookie Card game ever!  I found 2 cards inside the opaque orange construction paper when I opened it.  First was this 1991 Topps Stadium Club Joe Caruso.  Joe was the 3rd round pick in the 1991 Draft of the Boston Red Sox, but after 5 seasons in the Minors he never got called up and faded away.

Oh, but that wasn't my big hit...this one was... 
Yes, that is a 1999 Fleer Mystique Cal Ripken, Jr., limited edition...number 1213 of 2500 copies made.  Slugger Monkey had a $20 tag on this one (remember, you only pay $1 for Mystery Rookie Card packs!), and I've seen them on CheckOutMyCards.com for $10, and around $11 on eBay from time to time.  Still the best 'book value' haul I've ever made playing the game.

Official Program, with Neftali Soto on the cover

Official Scorecard (with Danny Dorn) and Bat Chat

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Conversation with a Security Officer posing as a Baseball Fan

This is somewhat out-of-character from my typical entries here, and I am still obscenely busy at work, which is adding a hitch to my blogging gitalong, but I couldn't resist taking a break from my daily fire extinguisher work to share this moment of light hilarity with my friends and readers.

Disclaimer: This is in no way, shape, or form a general knock against Security Officers in general...where I work, there are several of these guys are gals who are extraordinary people and serve as some of the best workplace conversation and camaraderie you can imagine.  This is a specific knock against one fellow, who shall remain nameless.  The photo below is a reasonable Google Image representation of this particular chap...not an actual photo of him (photos in the warehouse are verboten).  Please show inordinate amounts of love and respect to your local Security Officer, even if they turn out to be this guy.
Fortunately, Kirk the Security Officer is not a regular in the warehouse in which I work on a daily basis. He's a "floater," rotating to different posts for breaks or when a "regular" is out for the day.  I've seen Kirk in here for years, talked to him several times, and I've found that he is one of the biggest baseball idiots I've ever encountered.  Some of our chats have been better than the one we had today, and some of them haven't been as good.  I typically don't engage in baseball talk with 'typical' baseball fans, as my point of view is my own and my frame of reference is also different...some folks (including "regular" Security Officers here) that isn't the case, I know what their frame of reference is, and I keep our light discussion on that level. Kirk is an exception, he's so clueless I sometimes lead him into discussions where I'm sure he will 'stun' me with his baffling baseball intelligence, today was a good day for this.

That being said, I need relief from current events of my job right away, and I'm presenting this chat with Kirk (not his real name) in its entirety, writing as it just occurred a few minutes ago, as intact as I can muster. Prepare to be blown away, profoundly.

Kirk (as I pass through checkpoint with my Cubs lanyard): Hey, hey there he is...the Cubby guy!  How are your Cubs doing now?
Me: Pretty much near the bottom, as expected!

Kirk: Ha ha! That's where they always are!
Me: C'mon, not really...the past few years, for sure, but that's just not the case.

Kirk: Bullshit! (uttered emphatically) They have been a sucko team for a long time!
Me: Really? Where do you come up with this?

Kirk: Well, they haven't won a World Series in almost a hundred years!
Me: Actually, it's been over a hundred years...

Kirk: There you go!
Me: ...But, that doesn't mean they've sucked for as long, does it?

Kirk: Of course it does!
Me: The Texas Rangers didn't win a World Series last year, or the year before, but that certainly doesn't mean they are a "sucko team," right?

Kirk: The Cardinals are much better!>
Me: Ah, OK...so you are a Cardinals fan?

Kirk: No (shakes head emphatically)
Me: So who is your favorite team?

Kirk: I like the Cardinals.
Me: You just said you weren't a Cardinals fan!

Kirk: That's right, but I like the Cardinals. And the Braves.
Me: Ah ha! The BRAAHVOES!! So, when was the last time they won a World Series?

Kirk: (pausing) Just a few years ago!
Me: No, it was 1995, Kirk...17 years ago.

Kirk: No, they won in 2005!
Me: Dude, that was the White Sox...the Braves were in the World Series in 1999 but lost to the Yankees, I believe that was the last time they made it that far.

Kirk: Well, they have that going for them.
Me: So, does that mean they suck also?

Kirk: (squirming) Yeah, well...I see those offseason moves for the Cubs are really paying off!
Me: I think those were done not to win ballgames, but to secure players who would have trade value at the deadline.

Kirk: Ha ha, don't give me that.  You Cubs fans are all the same! You know what their problem is? They don't draft good players.
Me: Well, if you look at it from a high level, they have the same luck or dumb luck as any other team...the Braves included.

Kirk: Baseball teams who draft outfielders, that's the key to success.
Me: What was that?

Kirk: Teams don't draft enough outfielders...if they draft and trade for outfielders, they are always better.
Me: Really?

I'm not making this up.

Kirk: Most organizations have it all wrong. What they need to do is draft outfielders one year, then draft infielders the next year.  Then in two years, they have a great lineup.

Me: Oh, come on, Kirk.  You're telling me that the Nationals drafted an outfielder last year, and by drafting a pitcher in the first round the year before, they made a mistake?

Kirk: Who was that?
Me: Stephen Strasburg.

Kirk: He's great.
Me: Yeah, but what do you think?

Kirk: Did they draft infielders this year?
Me: If they did, they won't be playing for a few years...come on, I'm curious...I need to know how this works, in your mind.  I could pass the tip on to the Cubs and they can win a World Series!

Kirk: Man, that'll never happen. They will always suck.
Me: Well, you never know.  So who's going to win the World Series this year?

Kirk: The Nationals.
Me: What if they didn't draft any infielders this year? Do they need to trade for infielders at the deadline?

Kirk: (pauses, shakes his head) Oh boy, the Cubs suck.
Me: OK, Kirk...you're the man!

knowe whut this gai neds? tylonol

Saturday, July 14, 2012

6/22/12 - Coors Field Tour

Coors Field, Denver, CO

Some pictures and notes from my visit to Coors Field during my trip to Colorado.  The Rockies were out of town during our visit, but I was fortunate enough to catch a Colorado Springs Sky Sox game a few days earlier.

We had a beer at Falling Rock prior to the tour, there are quite possibly hundreds of thousands of beer bottles adorning every wall of this legendary LoDo establishment, only a couple of blocks from the ballpark. Here, my brother Shannon and I are pointing at two of our favorites, which just happened to be side-by-side on the wall adjacent to the table we were sitting at.

Hello, Coors Field!  A very gorgeous ballpark, I regret not being able to see a game here while I was in town, but the tour was a fantastic, if not comparable, experience.


Some Panoramic shots; in case you didn't know, the row of purple seats all the way around the upper deck represent the "mile high" elevation point the "Mile High City" is known for (5,280 ft above sea level).

Relics in trophy cases: this is the original expansion draft board from November 17, 1992.  Note where Dante Bichette appears.

There were several Minor League relics representing Denver's professional baseball history prior to the 1993 Rockies franchise.  Here are some Denver Bears jerseys, and a game program from 1984.

The Press Box at Coors Field has several large cantilever glass windows that weigh about 200 pounds each.  On gameday, the windows are opened and foul balls often sail violently through the open windows...media beware!  I was sitting in the second row in the press box, and turned around to find this mark made by Ramon Hernandez on 4/30/12.  I encourage you to open the photo and examine the detail closely, this ball hit the wall so hard the seams made a distinct impression.

The home locker room is always "off limits" to tourists, but the visitor's locker room is open for inspection.  Here are your 2012 MLB Umpires, know them well - no robots are pictured, yet.

I've posted "Rule 21" pictures before, so I won't repeat that for this post...I did, however, get a great shot of this "Non-Exclusive List of Potentially Contaminated Nutritional Supplements," it's probably more important to memorize this list rather than the umpires...depending upon what your inclinations may or may not be...

View from the field; we originally weren't scheduled to get on the field due to a wedding rehearsal that was taking place...fortunately, the rehearsal broke up in time for us to get access.  FYI, you, too, can have your wedding at Coors Field for the paltry sum of $3000; throw in another $1200 and you can have your reception dinner at the Coors Field executive banquet room (I believe catering may be included for a maximum number of guests).

Some great dugout shots, this is the sign that drives Ron Washington and Jim Leyland absolutely NUTS.

Dial "2" for Bullpen - "Bring Up MOTTE" ha ha

Guidelines pertaining to "Dugouts, Bench and Field" as well as the "Universal Ground Rules" - it should be no surprise that 'The dugouts, bench and field are off-limits except to appropriate club and MLB personnel and media bearing appropriate credentials pre and post-game.'  The "Universal Ground Rules" apply to 'balls in play' rules applicable to all Major League Baseball parks; the sign below are 'Field Rules' applicable exclusively to Coors Field...

Tour admission ticket

More pocket schedules, two different versions!!

A parting gift from the tour, a magnetic season schedule

6/19/12 Salt Lake Bees 2, Colorado Springs Sky Sox 8

Security Service Field, Colorado Springs, CO
Game 1 of 4

There are a number of ways that this was a most memorable game for me, more so than just about any other game, Major League or Minor League, that I might find myself attending this year. There are even more words that I could use to describe the events that led up to this game, and my family's visit to Colorado in its entirety. This is a baseball blog, baseball and life have a way of intertwining metaphorically. Most of the details are, indeed, a story for another time (and another place) but I'm writing this because I was there, and I have a scoresheet to attach...and this is going to be my best attempt to avoid a novel-length post.

I'm not well known for my timing, especially on family vacations, when it comes to visiting or passing through a city when the "home team" is at home...as it usually turns out, they are away when I'm there.  The Colorado Rockies were on the road, of course, when we arrived in Colorado, but the day after we did so the Colorado Springs Sky Sox returned from a road trip.  That was pretty good news, but there's more: it's $2 Tuesday ($2 admission, $2 parking) and LHP Drew Pomeranz is starting tonight!

Pomeranz began the 2012 season with a "rocky" start at the Denver MLB club (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun), with a 2-3 W-L record and 4.70 ERA in 5 games during April and early May.  Since returning to the AAA Sky Sox, he's done a little better, a sullen yet misleading 2-4 record belies a decent 3.06 ERA and an even more formidable 9.1 SO/9.  However, he's coming back from what is probably the most dismal start of his professional career, 10 hits and 6 ER in 5.1 IP against the Reno Aces on June 13.  What's worse, Drew is making tonight's start while battling flu-like symptoms.   Nobody knows for sure, but perhaps fighting back the vomit is just the edge Drew needed to lift himself and the team against the visiting Salt Lake Bees.

Pomeranz was alarmingly effective tonight, going 6 full innings, walking 3, striking out 8, and allowing no hits and no runs.  In the 7th inning, Drew is replaced by RHP Mike Ekstrom, who retires the side in order on 3 groundouts.  In the 8th inning, RHP Zach Putnam gets the ball, and retires the side in order as well.  By the time Putnam returns to start the 9th inning, it's more than apparent that the Sky Sox have got a combined no-hitter in the works.

There have been 8 no-hitters in Minor League baseball this season, all of them have been combined no-hitters in 9 innings.  The most recent occurred only 3 days earlier, on 6/16/12, when Daniel Corcino and Wilkin De La Rosa did it for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos against the visiting Mobile Bay Bears, striking out 9 and walking 4 to beat the Bay Bears 6-0.  The last time a Minor League pitcher threw a no-hitter by himself in 7 innings was Alex Wimmers for the Fort Myers Miracle on 9/3/11.  The last time a Minor League pitcher threw a no-hitter by himself in 9 innings was Joe Wieland for the Frisco RoughRiders on 7/29/11.

Putnam faces the top of the order in the 9th, lead-off batter CF Kole Calhoun reaches on an error by Sky Sox CF Tim Wheeler and SS Ed Lucas strikes out swinging.  Putnam walks Adam Heether (pinch-hitting for LF Ryan Langerhans, who went 0-for-3 with 2 K on rehab assignment with the Bees).  A double-play ball will end the inning and finish the no-hitter, but instead of this 3B Luis Jimenez connects with a line drive base hit RBI to shallow right-center field, scoring Calhoun and breaking up the no-hitter and the shutout at the same time.  Hank Conger follows with another line drive base hit RBI to right-center field, scoring Heether.  Putnam is lifted for RHP Dustin Molleken, and after two pitches does, indeed, end the game with a double-play grounder by 1B Efren Navarro.

Offensively, the Sky Sox peeled off a whopping 17 hits (5 of them extra base hits) against the Bees, but none of them leave the park.  Sky Sox 1B Matt McBride is the only player in the lineup who doesn't get a hit.  While it's true that they were spraying hits and scoring runs at a deliberate pace tonight, with 24 total bases and hitting 7-for-19 (.368) with RISP, the Sky Sox lineup leaves 22 on base (Team LOB = 11); 6 hitters leave RISP with 2 outs. 

RHP Drew Pomeranz on the mound

Pomeranz faces Bees RF Doug Deeds (yes, that Doug Deeds)

Side-arm RHP Jeremy Berg pitching for the Bees, I did my best to capture his gorgeous delivery, but he works a lot faster than my shutter does

UPDATE: 3 days later, on 6/22/12, Aaron Northcraft of the Lynchburg Hillcats became the first Minor League pitcher of the 2012 season to throw a no-hitter by himself in 7 innings, striking out 12 to defeat the visiting Salem Red Sox 3-0.  On July 1, Drew Pomeranz returns to the Colorado Rockies, and in 2 starts for the MLB club he's got a 1-1 record, pitched 12.1 innings, has only allowed  3 hits and 1 unearned run, and is sporting an .075 opponent AVG.  On 7/11/12, Jordan Shipers of the Clinton Lumberkings became the first Minor League pitcher of the 2012 season to throw a no-hitter by himself in 9 innings, striking out only 2 batters to defeat the visiting West Michigan Whitecaps 10-0.

If you want more information on Minor League no-hitters throughout history, you really should check out this exhaustive Google Doc spreadsheet posted by cmcgill on the Baseball Fever forum.  Chuck's combined his research along with information from the 3rd edition of the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball and SABR sources.  He keeps it up, and it's a great resource with additional stats that you will adore if you are inclined to do so.

Security Service Field (formerly known as "Sky Sox Stadium") is a nice facility, the concourse doesn't wrap all the way around the field, so there are no outfield bleachers or seating of any kind.  There is a left field berm area, and a picnic terrace in right field.  All of the field box level seating is stadium-chair style, while the next level up (200 level) is actually on the same plane as the field (100 level), but are bleacher benches instead.  There is no upper deck.  The stadium advertises capacity seating of 8,500 and at 6,531 feet above sea level is the highest professional ballpark in the USA (Coors Field, by comparison, is about 1,000 feet lower).

The Colorado Springs Sky Sox are celebrating their 25th season this year.  The franchise was originally founded in 1903 as the Sacramento (CA) Solons (1903-1960), then relocated to Honolulu, HI as the Islanders (1961-1987) before arriving in Colorado Springs.  The name "Sky Sox" is homage to the former Colorado Springs Western League Sky Sox, a class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox from 1950-1958.  The Colorado Springs Sky Sox were initially an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians (1988-1992) until 1993 when Denver's Major League franchise opened and the club became the Rockies' AAA affiliate.  As the parent club did in 2002, the Sky Sox this season have installed a humidor, the very first Minor League franchise to do so.

Seeing Pomeranz, a near combined no-hitter, and an exciting game of baseball in beautiful Colorado Springs with my family made tonight memorable enough, but this experience went beyond all of that as there were other special family members also in attendance.

From right to left, I'm with my brother Shannon and his partner Emilie.  Only a couple of hours before first pitch, I met Shannon for the very first time.

This is my father and I, yesterday I was reunited with him and my stepmom after 33 years.

Indeed, it's a story for another time, but it's hard to find the words to really express how wonderful this experience and this trip has been for me.  It's never too late to reach out to someone you love but have not been in contact with, no matter what the circumstance and no matter how long it has been since you've done so.  Life is too short and time gets away from us too quickly; the past is profoundly important but the present is where it's at.  Fortunately for all of us, this story isn't really over, it's just beginning.

Official Program/Gameday magazine "The Inside Pitch" - there were no other scorecards available at the game, other than the middle leaf of this small publication

"The First Pitch" - gameday stats and information

Pocket Schedule!

Game ticket, parking pass, and "Rally Towel Club" raffle ticket

...and of course, the "Rally Towel"

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