Thursday, April 4, 2013

4/4/2013 Toledo Mud Hens 3, Louisville Bats 4

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 1 of 4
MiLB Opening Day

I covered many of the details of this memorable occasion in an article published in the April 30th edition of Big Leagues Magazine, albeit in a different voice (but the same flavor) than that with which I tend to use here.  If you like what I do, and missed this because you weren't a subscriber, I highly recommend that you check it out now.

This is my fourth consecutive Opening Day game in Louisville, my Dad was in town to share the experience with me.  It was also "Joey Votto Commemorative Beer Stein" night; we both scored one.
Dad kept his, I gave mine to my good friend Shawn, a Reds fan, who couldn't make it because he was recovering from brain surgery.  I figured he would love it a hundred more times than I ever could!

Tony Cingrani is making his AAA debut with the Bats against 11-year veteran Shawn Hill.  Reds prospect phenom Billy Hamilton is making his AAA debut for the Bats tonight as well.  With these two guys on board, plus new manager Jim Riggleman (who is not so new to some of us), one would hope that the Bats could make a go at 2013 better than the flat they made in 2012.
Well, if tonight is any indication...the odds are good.  Cingrani flawlessly handcuffs the Mud Hens for 6 innings, allowing no hits, only one walk, and striking out 14 (10 of them swinging).  

Hamilton doesn't steal a bag or really impress with the bat, but he does turn a routine lead-off single to shallow right field into a double on his speed alone.  Here he is in his first AAA plate appearance.  Posterity.

But, Mike Hessman is now a Louisville Bat!!  Mike is an 18-year Minor League veteran who has appeared in 109 Major League games and has served time with the Braves, Tigers, Mets, part of 2011 with the Japanese Orix Buffaloes, and 2012 with the Astros.  
Mike turned 35 a month prior to tonight's game, and his visage upon the jumbotron shows a face that is comprised of worn leather and a skull made out of the finest British steel.  His frame at this age is that of a toned and exultant Greek God, one who wears his pants "stockings up" and for a 8-year stretch in the International League, was a thorn in the side of many pitchers and opposing clubs, including many of the faithful in Louisville who are glad he's finally on "our side" of the dugout.  During that stretch he hit a total of 193 home runs.  For 5 of those 8 seasons, he was a fixture in Toledo, the very same club he faces tonight.

Truly, revenge is a sweet thing.  He pops out unceremoniously to second base in his first plate appearance (an 8-pitch at bat), but launches #WeirdMEAT over the left-center lawn in his second and third plate appearances, cruising along the path towards his 400th professional HR.  He is responsible for two of the Bats' 3 runs off of Shawn Hill, and into the top of the 9th inning the Bats are 3 outs away from a W for Cingrani, a shut out of the Mud Hens, and an opening day WIN for the Bats.

But, this is Baseball, and the Gods are not so anxious to let this one go so easily.  Kevin Whelan gets the ball to close this out, but 3 unearned runs (started off by a Jason Donald error) under his watch bring the Mud Hens and Bats to a tie in the bottom of the home 9th.  Toledo assigns Luis Marte to retire the Bats and force extra innings, but an 0-1 pitch to lead-off batter Felix Perez is lined viciously to the porch in right field and the Bats win it in walk-off fashion...with Whelan earning the W.  SMDH.  #KillTheWin

Another reminder: please take a moment to read the pdf version of "MiLB Opening Day Diary: Anatomy of a Nearly Perfect Inning" for an alternate recap of this game, and more importantly, the events that transpired that evening!

The inaugural mystery rookie card pull of the 2013 season was kind of interesting.  My Dad pulled this 2008 Upper Deck Timeline Justin Masterson...he's off to a great start so far this season for the Indians, so I advised Dad to hang onto this one.  Masterson displays some excellent face in this photo, also I was unaware that he was born in Jamaica, mon.

My pull was a little more exciting in a different way, aside from the $12 price tag (valued so because it's numbered 25 of 75).  Sure, it's an authentic game-worn jersey card; at the time he was a Phillie but later played right here in Louisville as a Red in 2004, 2005 and 2007.  Machado appeared in only 24 MLB games from 2003-2005 (17 of those with the Reds in 2004); after a 2-year stint in the Milwaukee Brewers system from 2010-2011, Machado played in 29 games for the Parma Cariparma of the Italian Baseball League in 2012 and hasn't been heard from since.

My scoresheets, first live IWT game using my new pitch-counting method! Read about it HERE, download the scoresheets for free HERE!

Official Program (featuring new Bats manager Jim Riggleman) and Scorecard

Louisville is finally adding some #sparkle to their season tickets, with several players (and a mascot) featured on different dates...I believe I have one of each this season, so here's tonight's ticket with Corky Miller (and NO, that's not the mascot I was speaking of)

Bat Chat and Gameday Stats (rosters only, OPENING DAY y'know)

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