My Top Ten Pictures of the First Five Years of the Junkie

A couple of days ago I posted about this site being five years old. I am sort of proud of the fact that I made it this long. I don’t consider myself a sportswriter, and I am far away from being a sports photographer. For some reason (a fact that boggles me) people come to this site to read what I have to say and to look at my pictures. If you take enough pictures over a five year span you are bound to accidentally take a few good ones. Here are the ten pictures that came to mind when I thought of the ten best in that span. I may have left a few out so if you have a favorite that I missed let me know.

Drey Mingo leaves the court with the WNIT trophy just before her illness

10. This may not be the best picture that I have ever taken, but it is one of my favorites nonetheless. The Purdue Women’s Basketball team was on a high note last season when they beat Depaul at home to win the WNIT preseason tournament. The team was on cloud nine thinking about how good things could be, and also the great trip ahead of them over the holiday weekend. That all came crashing down when Drey Mingo was diagnosed with meningitis. I had a seat right by the tunnel in Mackey so I got to see the players as they left the court. Drey was hugging the trophy as she left, and I thought it would be a great picture. When her condition was unknown a couple of days later I kept looking at this picture pondering how quickly things can change. For that reason it makes it onto this list. Continue reading

Jose Contreras is the AL Player of the Week

I have been putting off this post about the players that I met at Toledo a couple of weeks ago. I was going to post a little bit about how easy it really is to get autographs. One of those players that made it easy was Jose Contreras. Before the game I went through the long lines, and got a ball signed by the entire Toledo Mud Hens team. It took a little while to do it, but the ball looks great. When those guys make it to the Tigers roster it will start looking better and better.
After going through the lines I went over near the Sox dugout to get a couple autographs. One of the first players to come down the line was Daryle Ward. He was great, and signed for everyone. Later that day I got his father to sign the same ball making a nice addition to my collection. I got some of the other players on the team to sign including former Twin Michael Restovich. I was snubbed by Gordon Beckham and Brett Lillibridge. In a way I can see Beckham. Everyone wanted a piece of him at that time. Lillibridge though better just enjoy the thought that someone wants his autograph. The way that he is playing in Triple A, he may have some Double A fans wanting it in a few days. I was really looking forward to getting Rich Dotsons autograph. I met him at my first Sox game, and really wanted a ball from him to go on my wall. I did get to meet him, and even though he asked where I wanted him to sign he still signed the side of the ball. That would not have been so bad, but I am not even sure that he signed his name. It is almost unreadable. That ball is now hidden in the back of the collection. Only the good ones can be up front with the limited space. The highlight of the pre game though was Jose Contreras. I was not even looking his way, and he tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I wanted something signed. I never even saw him coming. I dug into my bag to get a ball, and he put his name right on it. He was very gracious, and really upped his stock in my book that day.
That made it much easier to root for him when he came back up to pitch last week against the Tigers. He went 8 innings allowing no runs and one hit. He only gave up two hits this weekend against the Brewers once again allowing nobody to score. In all he pitched 16 scoreless innings in his two outings. That apparently was good enough for the powers that be to name him the AL Player of the Week. He has looked great since he came back up. Let’s hope that he can keep it up. Go Jose. You have a new fan rooting for you.

Obligitory Gordon Beckham Post

It seems that if you are a Sox fan you have to have an opinion on Gordon Beckham. I was withholding mine until I was able to see him play. In fact I waited an extra day so that I could see him play against Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman is a pretty good MLB pitcher for the Detroit Tigers making a rehab start in Toledo. What I saw made me optimistic about the young man’s talent. He went 3-4, with his one out being a line drive that was caught while crashing into the outfield fence. The runner at the time tagged up and went to third, but did not score. His three hits were against a pitcher that held the Knights to six hits as a team. He was the teams offense. One game does not make a player, but Beckham has been playing well since he came to Charlotte. In fact right now he has gotten hits in over half of his at bats. He has pretty much had sucess at every level since I first heard about him after he was drafted last year. This kid could be the real deal.

In the field he looked pretty solid. He was charged with one error on the day, but his throw to first made one hop into Daryle Ward’s mitt before it fell out. Ward has a slap style of catching the ball similar to Ivan Calderon of the eighties. It was this sweeping motion of the catch and lack of squeeze at the proper time that led to the error. A decent first baseman catches that ball. This one did not. The ball was on the ground though so he does get an error. He was playing shortstop on the day, but had been playing third most of the series versus Toledo. Josh Field’s bat has come alive for the big club, or we might see Beckham sooner rather than later.

I have included some other pics taken on the day of Beckham because I could not decide on which ones to include in the article. The top picture shows him at second base after just stealing it. He got in pretty easily so maybe he can actually be threat on the bases for the Sox. The second and third pictures show him getting two of his hits on the day. He has a pretty nice swing that seems to be working for him. He hardest hit ball of the day was the one that was caught. You can’t get a hit everytime though. The next picture was hard to figure at first. I could not figure out what he was doing in the on deck circle. Then I figured it out. He had gone 3-3 at that point. He was playing well enough that maybe he was getting a whiff of the big leagues. Yes kid, the big time is close. The final pic is of Gordon holding Marcus Thames on second. Notice the tissue stuffed in his left nostril. Some people apparently are not ready when they get their first big whiff of the big time. I never saw anything that could have caused that nose bleed. He was just standing at second after a double that he did not even cover second on. Cole Armstrong had a malfunction with his glove that stopped play. After Armstrong got a new glove play was just about to begin when Beckham called time. When he trotted back out everyone thought it had something to do with the sun. Getting glasses or anything else. With the naked eye we could not see the tissue. It was only after I was home that I realized that he had a bloody nose. I had what I thought were the best pictures that I have ever taken after the game. I had some great action shots of Gordon Beckham actually walking on water. He is the savior. When I got home to check them out though they were all overexposed to the point that you could not tell what was going on. I guess I will have to wait for another miracle from him. Fishes and loaves night coming to a ball park near you.

Bonderman Fends Off The Knights Easily

Last night I was in Toledo to see the Charlotte Knights play the Toledo Mud Hens. A lot went on yesterday so I will save it for a few posts since this is a rain day. No sense making one huge monstrosity. The two teams were worlds apart it seemed like. The Mud Hens had Jeremy Bonderman and Marcus Thames on their squad, but they were rehabbing injuries. The Sox had Contreras and Lillibridge going, but they were just trying to work things out. Lillibridge looked like the guy that we remember from the parent club. He was hitting everything into the air. He went 0-4 on the day leading off for the Knights. Not that 0-4 was uncommon. Only five players got hits yesterday. Of the seven hits the Knights managed, one certain player got three of those. He will be talked about at length in another post. If this team is the future of the Sox I am scared. Except for a few players it is filled with washed up players. I would say has beens, but that would mean that they have done something. I guess most of our young kids are in Birmingham right now. Maybe in August when the Knights come to Indy some of these young kids will be on the big club.

As far as the game goes at first it looked as if it would be a duel between Carlos Torres and Bonderman. That is until the bottom of the fourth. Torres ran out of gas it looked like and gave up four runs in the fourth, and one in the fifth. He only pitched 4 1/3 innings. For three of those he looked fairly decent. He did seem to have control problems. I wonder if Jose has been helping him out on the side. Bonderman on the other hand was great. He pitched eight innings only giving up six hits, no walks, and striking out five. He looks as if he will be with the big club soon. He had most of the Knights flailing for the majority of the game. Thames had a good day as well. He went 2-3 with a home run, a walk, and two runs scored. Mike Hessman hit a two run dinger (his only real good at bat of the game), and Ryan Roberson drove in two as well. The Mud Hens improved to 20-30 on the season. This is not a great team, but they made it looked easy against the Knights.

As far as the Knights go, only one player really had a good day at the plate. The swing by Restovich to the right was typical on the day. The ball is in the dirt with the player flailing at it wildly. Cole Armstrong was so fooled on one pitch that he lost his bat into the Knights dugout. The next inning he had some issues with his mitt, and had to go into the dugout to get a new one. As soon as he came back onto the field Beckham ran into the dugout. He came back out with something stuffed up into his left nostril. When things are going bad for your team, they are really going bad. As I said before, except for Beckham not one player really stood out here. This was just one game though. It was nice to see Josh Kroeger play again. Josh played for the Silverhawks a few years back. He had a decent spring, but the Sox really are deep in corner outfielders right now. He would need some miracles to make it to the big club. The same could be said for a few players on this team. Even with that being said I will try and see these guys again in a couple of weeks when they are playing in Louisville.

One interesting fact about the game is the fact that once again I was able to see Daryle Ward play. I have only seen him play four times, but he has been on a different team each time. He is the first player that I have seen play for four different teams. If he gets up to the Sox it could easily be five. I was able to meet both Daryle and his father prior to the game. I had a great day getting autographs. I will tackle that in another post though. I may also have another post about the phenom Gordon Beckham.

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!

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