A Wild Night in Indy

The victory bell is rung by a member of the Indiana National Guard after the Indians walk off win

Last night I made the short trip from West Lafayette to Indy to see the Pawtucket Red Sox take on the Indianapolis Indians. I love going to Victory Field, but I just don’t get there as much as I would like to. It is a beautiful field, and they do a great job of giving you the most for your money. I started my night off by having a seat in the Captain Morgan Cove. This little area in left fieldĀ  is a great hangout. I had been reading about how Sun King was premiering their new beers out here all season on the Indians Twitter feed. So I walked out there to try whatever they had on tap. What happened when I got out there surprised me. They gave me free samples! Yes that is right. I went to a professional baseball game and received some free beer. I tried a Popcorn Pilsner that actually has two pounds of popcorn in each keg. I also tried the Sunlight Cream Ale. I took the Cream Ale to my seat to watch the start of the game. Continue reading

Charlotte at Indy Recap (Part 2)

Let me just start this off by saying that nobody was seriously hurt during the game on Saturday night. That is not saying that the players did not try though. In the opening at bat on the night Alejandro De Aza hit two balls over the first base dugout striking fans that must not have expected a ball to come at them. De Aza is a lefty, and to pull a ball by that much takes a perfect scenario.

This game was scoreless until the third inning when newly re-aquired first baseman Jeremy Reed led off the inning with a double. Jeremy was once tabbed as the centerfielder of the future, but was traded due to the depth on the team. We all know how that turned out. After being moved over by a sacrifice bunt he scored on a single by De Aza. De Aza is shown above watching his single go into the outfield grass. Things stayed calm until the fifth when De Aza had his second RBI single of the night. This one scored second baseman Rob Hudson. Continue reading

Charlotte at Indy Recap (Part One)

Last night I was in Indy to see the Charlotte Knights play. I have had fun the last couple of years getting an early look at some of the future White Sox players. A lot happened in a short period of time so I will break the game down into two parts. The first of those parts here will cover the events that happened before the game even started. Continue reading

Knights Slay the Bats

Yesterday I spent the day in Louisville, Kentucky with the express purpose of soaking up some baseball. The first part of the day was spent at the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum. I may go into that a little more in depth later in the week. It was a great time though. The second part of my trip was to see the Charlotte Knights visit the Louisville Bats at Louisville Slugger Field. First off let me say that the field really is great. I have been to some great stadiums this year, and this one ranks right up there. I have gone to three Triple A stadiums this year, and the Bats have been a part of every one. At this pace I will be a closet Reds fan in no time. Before the game started I was able to meet a few of the Knights. Most of them were really nice. Josh Fields was also on the field signing so I went up to him. He was very cool talking with everyone, but as the fans walked away they were greeted with a surprise. He really was not trying in the autograph department. I gave him a perfectly good ball to sign, and he signed it on the stitching so small you could not see anything. Sometimes a player can do more harm by signing than by not signing. Jack Egbert on the other hand gave me a great auto right on the sweet spot. I wish much success to Jack, and I also hope that Josh gets his wish to be traded. After Fields ruining the ball I was done trying to get autographs. I watched former Sox player Rich Dotson sign card after card for three grown men, and then snub a kid. These guys had the setup, and obviously were just getting them to get rid of. The kid just wanted Dot’s signature. Well the card shop men won. Way to go Rich. It was a beautiful night for a ball game so I sat down with my Parmesan Garlic Fries (a local specialty), and settled in for some baseball. This would be my second matchup between the Reds and the White Sox this season. The first was at the Great American Ballpark for the Civil Rights Game in June, and this one involved their top farm clubs.

Carlos Torres was on the mound for the Knights against Matt Maloney for the Bats. Both of these guys have had a cup of coffee in the bigs this season. Right away I knew that I was in for a great matchup. Torres went six innings giving up two runs on five hits, and striking out six. At times he looked overwhelming. Then he would miss badly, and the ball would get crushed. In the first innings he gave up a hard double to Louis Bolivar, but pitched out of the trouble. In the fourth he made Kevin Barker look terrible on one pitch, then left the next one over the plate. Barker sent the ball the other way 446 feet. It was a monster shot. Maloney was not too shabby himself. He went 6 2/3 giving up three runs on seven hits. He also struck out five while only walking one. He gave up a couple of home runs, but for the most part was very solid. This was not the pitching exhibition that you normally get at a minor league game. I have only been to two Charlotte games in my life, but Carlos Torres has pitched them both. On the flipside I have been to three Louisville games, and Maloney has pitched in two of those. If I remember right he was pitching with the big club in Cincinatti the other time I saw the bats. They both appear to have good stuff. I guess you don’t make it this far without it. The small improvements from here will determine where they go from here. Derek Rodriguez and Ehren Wasserman also pitched well for the Knights. Rodriguez pitched two scoreless innings, and Wasserman pitched a scoreless ninth to get the save.

Last week the Sox picked up Mark Kotsay for Brian Anderson. The team needed to make a roster move to make room for Kotsay. The odd man out in the situation was Josh Fields. With Beckham playing well at third, and Kotsay being able to play first the club really didn’t need Fields at the time. He was sent down to Triple A Charlotte for the time being. In all reality this may be the best thing for him. He can play everyday and work on his swing. He does not see it this way, and requested a trade much like Brian Anderson did when he was sent down the week before. Before the game Fields was talking to some of the fans on the railing about how his wife is very pregnant. Maybe the child on the way is part of the reason Fields wants some kind of job security. He was an exciting player to watch a couple of years ago, and has the tools to be a good player in the league. Last night he went 1-3 at the plate, and also got plunked once. His only hit was a solo home run in the second that put the Knights up 1-0. In the fourth he hit a blast to center that was caught on the wall by Drew Stubbs. Off the bat I thought that he had hit two dingers. Especially since Michael Restovich had just taken Maloney deep. He also made some nice picks in the field. And thanks to my Louisville Slugger factory tour earlier in the day I can tell you that he is using the Slugger maple bat.

On a club that has a few players who may have seen their best days already it was refreshing to see a young face. When I went to see the Knights in Toledo I was able to see Gordan Beckham. This time I was looking forward to seeing Tyler Flowers. Flowers was aquired along with Brent Lillibridge in the Javier Vasquez deal. Last winter he apparently really opened Kenny Williams eyes. I have only seen him hit four times after yesterday. What I can say about hiim is that he does not get cheated. He struck out swinging hard in his first at bat, but after the first base coach prodded him on he took first on a wild pitch. He hit a solo home run in his second at bat leading off the fifth, but a great play by center fielder Drew Stubbs brought the ball back into play. He ended up settling for a double, and scoring the deciding run when Norris Hopper hit into a double play. In his other two at bats he hit into a double play and singled. This kid takes a cut. Did I already mention that? He has the classic sluggers swing. Behind the plate is where the concern is on Tyler. Everything that I have read says that he will not be a big league catcher. He did not look too bad. He had one opportunity to gun down a runner, and the throw was on line, but late. The runner got a great jump though so I don’t think that you can pin that on Flowers. He did look a little awkward setting up behind the plate during the game. At least twice he almost went over backwards. He has nothing but time to improve though. I look forward to seeing that bat at the Cell.

Another interesting part of the game was watching the exchanges between former White Sox player Corky Miller and some of Knights as they came to bat. He was on the bench with Josh Fields so you know that they would have something to say to each other. In the second just before Fields hit the home run they had quite an exchange. Fields gave him a bad look right off the bat. Miller must have commented on him being in the minors or something. From then on it was all smiles though. It was also cool to see Miller and Norris Hopper talking to each other. They were both traded for each other a month or so ago. The Reds got a backup catcher, and we got a center fielder. I don’t know who won this trade yet. So far neither team has really gotten much out of it.

Many Reds fans were at the game last night. It is not too far of a drive from Cincy to get to the park, and it is a great chance to see the young talent coming up. The Reds have positioned their minor league clubs close to them here in the Midwest. The Dayton Dragons are just a stones throw from the big league park. I wish the White Sox would grab on to this mentallity. We had the South Bend Sox for a few years, but they moved away to become the Winston Salem Warthogs. I think the attendance would be up when you know that some of the guys on the field will someday be playing for your club. It seems like the Reds have everything figured out. Maybe the Sox do too. We trade away so many of our prospects that we would need to go to other clubs farm teams to watch the players that will be on our club someday. This was my first sporting event in Kentucky. As you can see at the bottom of the page the state is now shaded in. I don’t care if it was barely over the Indiana border, it still counts. In some of my pictures the Indiana shoreline can be seen.
As a side note Myron Noodleman was at the game tonight. When I planned this trip I looked to see the promotion for it. I was dissapointed in no giveaway, but intrigued by this Myron Noodleman. When I do my weekly promotions posts (coming tomorrow by the way) I always come across his name. I was very curious to see what exactly he did. Well to me he seemed like a Jerry Lewis impersonator at a ball game. He was very good though, and made the nights of many of the fans. If he is coming to your local park go out to the game. His schtick is a little hokey, but so is the game after all. He is the kind of humor that we need a little more of.

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

Movie Review: A Player to Be Named Later

Movie reviews on a sports site? Damn right if that movie is about sports. Today was a rain day so I had some spare time. That should be obvious with the post activity. With a little luck Netflix stopped by the house and brought me “A Player to be Named Later.” This is a great movie that follows the 2001 Indianapolis Indians through their season. More to the point it follows five players. Those players are Marco Scutaro, Kyle Peterson, Micah Franklin, Brad Tyler, and Allan Levrault. The movie starts off at the Brewers minor league camp. You hear from all the players as well as the men in charge of the minors for Milwaukee. That is where I learned the fun stat that only 6% of the players in minor league camp ever make it to the bigs. I would like to know what percentage of players even make minor league camp. From minor league camp the movie shifts to Indy where the players meet Wavin’ Wendell Kim who will be their manager for the year. They are told to play their best, and to interact with the fans. They are told that they are here to get better to move up, but they are also there to entertain the fans. The movie then settles in to show how each of the players handles the season. I don’t want to ruin that ride so I will not go into specifics. Some interesting things I learned from the movie though. A typical Triple A player makes less than $40,000 a year. The typical MLB player makes $75,000 a week. What a difference. They get that kind of money to play 144 games in 150 days taking buses to away games. It can’t be the best life, but when you move concrete for a living it doesn’t sound too bad. If you are a baseball fan, then this movie is for you. Having just been at Victory Field for the first time it was cool to see a movie based there so quickly after being there. Watch the movie, and feel just a little bit worse when you boo your local player for doing something that you think is bad. The movie is worth renting just to see the young girl talking to the pitcher along the railing about how he usually doesn’t get people out. His reaction is priceless.
One thing to look for when you watch the movie is in the bonus features. Apparently Deion Sanders did not want to give an interview one day while playing for the Louisville Bats so they interviewed Kyle Peterson instead. The interviewer just asked Kyle the same questions that he was going to ask Neon Deion, and Kyle’s answers are great. It is a short segment, but well worth it.

Where are they now?
Scutaro: Playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. I actually was able to see him in person in 2006 when he was playing for the Oakland A’s. He went 1-3 playing second base in Frank Thomas’ return to Chicago. Now that I have seen this movie I will follow him a little closer.
Peterson: 2001 was Kyle’s last season in professional ball. He had surgery following the season, and never played again. He is now an announcer for ESPN. His humor is what makes him fun to listen to, and some of that can be seen during the movie.
Franklin: Played until 2004. Signed with the Diamondbacks in 2002, but was released after the playing the season in Tuscon. Signed with the White Sox in 2004 and played with Birmingham until they released him during the season. Finished the year with Tuscon before hanging up his cleats. His last Major League game was in 1997.
Tyler: Played all three outfield positions as well as 1st base for Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League. Ended a long career after that season.
Levrault: He is another pitcher that I have seen in person. I saw him the year before the movie was made. He is the pitcher who pitched the 15th inning in the marathon that I was able to see in County Stadium. He gave up a double to Sammy Sosa that gave the Cubs the win. He appeared in 19 games for the Marlins in 2003 before bouncing around the minors until 2007.

All player data obtained from baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.com

Homer = Strikeout

What does that mean exactly? Today I was at the Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) game against the Louisville Bats (Reds). Homer Bailey was on the mound for Louisville, and boy did he look good. He struck out 15 batters in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out the side in three innings, and just made the Toledo hitters look bad. I heard his name in the off season thrown around as possibly coming to the White Sox, and after seeing him pitch I wish that he would have done just that. The final score was a laugher at 10-3 with Kevin Barker accounting for four of those runs for the Bats. Apparently I am becoming a Bats groupie. Their stadium is just over the border in Louisville so who knows? The way I have been visiting Minor League Stadiums lately it is a possibility.
Fifth Third Field is absolutely amazing. So amazing in fact that I don’t want to get into it this late at night. I will talk a little more about the park in a future write up.