Back to the Land of Klinger

Today I am off once more to Toledo to see a game at Fifth Third Field. I had a great time earlier this season, and I knew that I would be back soon. I never thought that it would be within a month though. The Charlotte Knights are in town though so I thought I would go see my favorite teams Triple A club. I knew some of the players from prior teams, but there was nobody in particular to watch. Then they promoted the savior to Triple A. Gordon Beckham is now a Knight. That sealed the deal, and the car leaves here in about five hours for the game. Jeremy Bonderman is pitching for the Mud Hens so we will see real quick what Beckham can do against Major League pitching. As of this morning he is hitting .364 since being called up. Not too shabby. One game though can make or break that average. Since I first went to Toledo in April the view from the The Roost has been my banner for this site. This is a beautiful park that I am happy to see again. See you in Toledo!

When It Rains, It Pours

I don’t hate the Cubs. Let me just say that right off the bat. They are having a tough time right now, and I think that their struggles should put some things into perspective for Sox fans. On paper they might be an even better team than the Sox, and they have just lost eight straight. I was thinking that things couldn’t get much worse for them last night when Mr. T stepped up to the mic to sing the seventh inning stretch. He butchered that song so bad that the Cubs fate was sealed then. The Sox saw the Pirates bats come alive in the 8th inning of Sunday’s game, and they kept going last night. This could be a long season on both sides of town.
The Sox bats finally came alive last night. They scored 17 runs to win 17-3. I just hope that they saved some runs for the rest of the month. Maybe this is the turnaround point. As if to answer my challenge from earlier in the day Jim Thome hit his 549th home run to pass Mike Schmidt for sole possession of 13th place all-time. The downside is that Carlos has injured his foot again. We really need him healthy and swinging the bat to do any damage this year.

Shipwrecked By The Pirates

When I left the house yesterday I was excited about seeing the Sox play. It would be the 72nd Major League game that I have been to. I was going to go Friday or Saturday, but something came up. I was excited to go because I just received my new Fisk jersey that I purchased on e-bay. Everything was lining for a perfect day. Brian Anderson was responsible for all three of the Sox runs on the day. He hit a two run home run, and scored the third run. The home run by Anderson was the first of the season for a player that has played in center field. The Sox have yet to have a player who is actually playing center field hit a home run. Pods may be trying though with his beer league softball shuffle while batting. Mark Buehrle pitched great, and was in line for another win. Octavio Dotel gave up a home run, but we had Bobby coming in to pitch the ninth. He looked good getting the first two outs, and I was standing by the exit waiting for the last out. As the ball went in the air I started thinking about Hawk saying when this ball comes down…then I realized it was going to come down in the stands. Uh-oh. Then in typical optimist fashion I decided that the perfect day would include extra innings. Nyjer Morgan then hit a double. All game long in the bleachers the fans were getting on him. The favorite refrain that I was hearing was a different way to say his name that sounds like a word that rhymes with trigger. When he crossed home plate with what would be the winning run he had to have a huge smile on his face. Revenge would taste sweet. I had already left the bleachers, but I bet the exchange when he came back out for the bottom of the ninth was great. In the bottom of the ninth the Sox sent three batters to the plate against Matt Capps, and all three struck out. One out away from a huge sweep, and they let it get away. Our ship was damaged, and probably going down anyway. It did not take a very good group of Pirates to finish it off. I already hear talk about next season. It is way too early for that. We do have to find some answers quick though. This team is way too talented to be playing like this. Swing the bat Jim Thome!

The day was not a total loss though. I had a blast in the bleachers. Most of the people around me were excited to be there, and watching the game. Very unlike a couple of weeks ago at Wrigley. Between innings though we were getting Blackhawk updates on our phones. They had a rough day too, but that is another story. I was glad to be part of the patriotic day the Sox had planned, but I did have one question. Where were those ugly camo jerseys that Buehrle wanted so bad? That must have been a one time deal. Well camo jerseys or not, the Sox offense is in hiding. This was also my first chance to see Scott Podsednik back in a Sox uniform. It was nice from a nostalgia point of view, but he is not the answer in center. He got some bad jumps on a couple of balls, but one baserunning gaff by the Pirates helped bail him out. His throw to third did not have a lot of heat on it, but he gets an assist anyway. I hope that I will see him next weekend in Toledo when I see the Knights play there.

Too many negatives. The Sox had some positives on Sunday. Mark Buehrle pitched out of a lot of trouble to be in position to win. He gave up 12 hits, but only gave up the one run in the first. Alexei Ramirez made a couple very nice plays in the field. He made a nice stop and throw to second to start a double play in the 5th. He also made a nice cut off throw to first to catch Moss in the sixth. He went 1-3 on the day with a SAC bunt. Hopefully he is coming around. Chris Getz had another rough day at the plate, but made a nice catch on a line drive, then threw to second to get a double play to end the 3rd. I have already mentioned Anderson’s big day. Josh Fields also drove in a run, going 1-3. The best thing that I can take from the game is that Carlos Quentin was playing again. He hit a double and scored. He is the key to this team. He is the young cog that could keep the power going for many years to come. We want him in left as much as possible.

Peavy Spurns the Sox

Today the Sox completed a trade with the Padres to bring Jake Peavy to the South Side. The only problem with the deal was the fact that Peavy vetoed the trade. His reasoning was that San Diego was the place for his family right now. That seems odd coming from a man who was singing “Go Cubs Go” this offseason. I think that the real reason that he decided to stay put for now in San Diego was the fact that he watched the 20-1 drubbing that the Twins put on the Sox today.

Dodging Raindrops With The Cubs

Last night I got an email asking if I wanted to go to the Cubs game. Free tickets close to the action next to first base. I had to say yes. We all know that the Cubs are not my favorite team, but watching a game at Wrigley Field is always fun. More Cubs fans should try it. We got a late start out of town, and would not have seen the first pitch, but a carefully planned rain delay helped us see everything. The last time I saw Chris Young and Derrek Lee on the same field was in 2007 when they went toe to toe. They swung an awful lot, and almost connected on a few. One of the first things that I noticed was the fact that the wind was just howling straight out of the park. It reminded me of the Mother’s Day game in 2003 that allowed us to see 9 home runs in 4 1/2 innings before the game was called. In fact that was on 5/11, and of course yesterday was 5/13 so the dates were close. During the initial rain delay some bright one in the Cubs organization decided to send all the vendors home for the night. The only ones to stay were the cotton candy boys. I don’t drink so this really did not bother me. In fact it was kind of nice not having a beer man sit in front of you for half an inning while waiting for someone get a loan to buy $7 beers. A lot of people were not happy about the vendor situation though. In fact my uncle spent an entire inning in line for a beer. Not the way that you want to spend the ball game. Every time that he left his seat though, the Cubs would hit a dinger. Maybe he is the anti-Bartman. I would guess that the person who made that call to send the money makers home probably heard about the call a few times today. If the game had been called it would have made great business sense though.

In the first inning Adrian Gonzalez got things going by hitting a two run homer to put the Padres up. Before the game I was talking about this guy, and how he is just on fire. He kept his hot streak going last night hitting two dingers. A hit by him instead of a groundout in the 7th would have changed the game completely. He takes a big cut at the ball, and when he makes contact, it really goes. Off the bat I started thinking how this game could be special. Home runs could be plenty tonight. After the first inning though Ted Lilly really seemed to settle down. He only gave up three runs while striking out 7.

The Cubs got things going for themselves in a hurry. Alfonso Soriano hit Chris Young’s first pitch of the game onto Waveland Avenue. It was his 53rd career leadoff home run. That moved him into second place all time along with Craig Biggio. Rickey Henderson is in first with 81 all time lead off home runs. Just ask Joe Morgan how he is responsible for that. Ryan Theriot then came up and hit Young’s second pitch of the game out of the park. Theriot would also add another home run in the 4th inning of the game. The Cubs hit four home runs, but they also got some timely hits. Milton Bradley took a huge cut on the first pitch that he saw in the 3rd inning, then laid down a great bunt on the second pitch. I heard people asking why a slugger would do that, but when Geovanny Soto hit his first home run of the season a couple batters later the question was answered. Get on base and let your teammates drive you in. The White Sox could learn from this example.

We really lucked out on our seat location. We were protected by the upper deck and the wind from getting wet until we had to leave the ballpark. As you can see in the picture to the right it really was coming down at times. In the top of the 6th they started to put the tarp on the field, but it let up as soon as they started. The game would have been back on quicker, but they did not roll the tarp up right, and had to do it again. These are the hangups that you get going to Minor League games though. The game was called in the 8th inning, but I had a blast. The weather the first couple of innings was absolutely georgeous. It made me really want summer to come so that I can enjoy some night baseball without freezing. Everything looks so much better under the lights.

This makes the 6th professional stadium that I have been to so far this year. The second Major League stadium. Where will the next one be?

Tincaps for the Nightcap

Today I was in Lake Winona for a cycling event, and decided to make the short trip to Fort Wayne to see Parkview Field. This is a brand new beautiful stadium that puts other single A stadiums to shame. This looks more like a triple A stadium than a single A one. We will get into that more in another post though.

The Tincaps are the former Fort Wayne Wizards. They changed their name when they moved across town. They won 6-1 today to improve to 16-6 on the season. Dayton on the other hand fell to 6-16 on the season. The Dragons only managed five hits on the day, and were shut down once reliever Matt Latos entered the game in the fourth. Adam Zorn did not have the best average coming into the game, but he went 2-4 with a walk, scored twice, and hit a home run. Every Tincaps player got on base at least once today. They belted out 14 hits, walked 8 times, and had one hit by pitch. That was very ugly. Tincaps first basemen Allan Dykstra took a pitch to the wrist and appeared to be in a lot of pain. As he was standing on first I watched it turn a deep purple very quickly. He toughed it out, and stayed in the entire game. If you zoom in on the picture below I suppose that you could read Midwest League Commissioner George Spelious’ name on his wrist.
I have heard rumors that this team was good. They are supposedly the future of the Padres organization. If the way that they are playing against the competition is any sign, then the future is bright. Once again I was very impressed with a new ballpark, and will probably end up back here someday. I could not find a bad seat in the house, and the home team seems to be pretty good. It will be interesting to see what happens to these players as time goes on.
This game featured a matchup of managers with past pro experience. Todd Benzinger manages the Dragons, and Doug Dascenzo manages the Tincaps. Benzinger was a former Red so managing their farm club makes some sense. He just ran into a buzzsaw today.
May is starting out just like April ended. In April I went to 12 baseball games including two new stadiums. I have been to a game on every level of baseball except double A so far this year. That may have to wait a while though. We really don’t have any close double A stadiums around here. Who knows where my next game will be?

Stadium Guide: Fifth Third Field

I started these with a good idea, but then turned it into a project so big that it was taking way too long to finish. I will just take a simple look at stadiums that I have been to, and give my opinion on some of the key factors that would make it worth going to. I think the best one to re-launch this feature on would be Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio.

This field is the home of the Mud Hens of the International league. This is what a minor league park should look like. If you wanted to you could watch the entire game from the street outside the park beyond the outfield. This is very similar to the Mud Hen’s parent club the Detroit Tigers. This stadium has enough to get you to go inside though. The picture above shows the view from the third base line. You can see the right field scoreboard along with ‘the Roost’ out in right. ‘The Roost’ is sometimes reserved for parties, but Sunday I was able to go right up and sit down. You can rent this out to watch a game. The seating that is shown if for your party, and they have rooms inside that you can also use. Below ‘the Roost’ is the main gift shop which is huge for a minor league club. Part of the charm of this park is the fact that they incorporated the older buildings into the park. I have included a panoramic picture taken from ‘the Roost’ above this section. In this paragraph are the views from the 1st base side as well as from behind the plate. In both of these views you get a good look at some of downtown Toledo. This park was very well designed to give you the maximum view no matter where you are sitting. Fifth Third Field is very visually appealing.
The park even allows you to walk around the outfield while the game is going on and still see the game. This concourse includes picnic areas as well as a kid’s zone that is located behind the batter’s eye with plenty of activities for kids too young to be entertained by the game. Fans can be seen throughout the game waiting out on the outfield concourse for a home run ball to take home as a souvenir. A few fans even went home happy. On the left field concourse they have the statue to the right of a group of children going after a fly ball. It is called “I Got It”, and shows exactly what going to a game should be about. In the background you can see the fence that separates the stadium from the street outside. Not a large barrier to stop you from seeing the game. During the game I noticed lots of people lingering outside catching a couple of innings. They were also in a lot of the windows and cat walks around the stadium taking the game in.
Fifth Third Field also has a great variety of food for a minor league stadium. They of course have hot dogs and other ball park food, but you can get burgers, fries, cotton candy, and just about anything else that is fried. On both the first and third base sides you can also get an hot fudge sundae in a Mud Hens batting helmet. This helmet will go proudly with all of the other helmets that I collected as a kid. Looking at all the Major League teams I start to understand why I had to wear ‘Husky’ pants as a child.
Getting to 5/3 Field is not hard at all, and the parking seems to be very easy to come by. Most fans seem to try and find parking on the streets, but I paid $5 and parked less than half a block from the field. In a new city that seems like the best route to go. The park is located a short drive from I-75 which makes getting in and out easy.
No guide would be complete without talking about the scoreboard. Here in Toledo they have two of them. For the most part both boards show similar items when their is no action on the field. When a player is at bat though the left field board shows his picture and name. The board in right does the same, but the far right is the current lineup for the team at bat. They both have very new looking video screens that have a great picture. The picture on the right is of the board that is located in left field, and the picture on the left if of the right field board. Could I have made that any more confusing? The frames of the scoreboards are very similar in style, and they compliment the park nicely. The boards entertain, and they also give you all the information you need to watch the game. Travelling around to different stadiums I have noticed that at times it can be very hard to keep score. They don’t really help you out with substitutions on their boards. If you don’t catch the name over the P.A. system you are done. Here in Toledo you constantly have the lineup of the team at bat. This is a very fan friendly park.
Most of my minor league games have occured in Independant league stadiums, or for single A ball so this stadium really impressed me The people who work their are very nice, and were very willing to let me move around as the game went on. I sat just about everywhere that you could to take in this beautiful stadium from every angle. Most stadiums I visit once to say that I was there, and then never really think of going back. This stadium is located just under three hours from my house, and I am already planning another trip back. During a three hour game I fell in love with the park.
Fifth Third By the Numbers:
Date of Groundbreaking: 2001
Date of first game: April 9, 2002
8,100 cubic feet of concrete in stadium
21 Restrooms
Left Field:32o feet
Center Field: 412 feet
Right Field: 315 feet to 375 feet
Seating in Stadium: 8,943
Seats in the Roost: 282
Dates of Visit(s): 4/26/2009 and 5/31/2009