Three is a Pretty Lucky Number for Paulo Orlando

pauloOn April 9, 29-year-old MLB rookie Paulo Orlando started in left field and hit in the eight spot for the Kansas City Royals.  In the bottom of the third inning, facing Chicago southpaw John Danks, Orlando walked in his first-ever MLB plate appearance. One inning later, the right-handed hitter achieved his first-ever MLB at bat and lashed a triple to deep center.  It was his only hit in a one-for-three day (remember that number … three.) His triple, however, was a sign of things to come.

Orlando’s next start came on April 12, in Los Angeles against the Angels and starting pitcher (another lefty) C.J. Wilson.   The 6’ 2”, 210-pound rookie was once again manning left field and hitting eighth. This time he collected two hits in five at bats (and scored three runs). His first hit of the day came leading off the top of the sixth.  Like his very-first (and until then only) MLB hit, it was a triple to deep center.  Sensing a pattern here?  Orlando picked up his second hit of the game in the eighth (off reliever Fernando Salas, a righty this time) and Orlando switched things up a bit, lacing the ball to left field for – you may have guessed it – a triple.   So, after two games in the major leagues, Orlando had three hits – all triples. He was the first player ever to log triples for his first three MLB hits.  Bet we won’t be seeing that again.  But there is more to come.

On April 16, Orlando and the Royals found themselves in Minnesota, where Twins’ pitchers held the rookie (playing left field and batting seventh) to a mundane infield single in four trips to the plate. The string of triples was over, but Orlando’s penchant for three-baggers was not. The next day (yesterday), back in Kansas City facing the Oakland A’s, Orlando was in right field, batting eighth. He collected one hit (one run and one RBI) in  four at bats – a triple to deep right center in the eighth off right-handed reliever Dan Otero. So, Orlando – after playing in four major league games – had five hits (.313 average), and four of them were triples.

Of course, the speedster’s penchant for baseball’s rarest hit – the triple – should not come as a surprise. In nine minor league seasons, Orlando hit a total of 63 three-baggers – topping ten triples three times, with a high of 14 in 2008. Over 1,017 minor league games, Orlando hit .275, rapped 63 home runs (the identical total as his triples) and stole 200 bases. Last season, at AAA Omaha, Orlando hit .301 with nine triples, six homers and 34 steals in 136 games.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

April 17th – A Good Day for a Debut

The Ford Mustang debuted 51 years to the day before Kris Bryant's first MLB game.

The Ford Mustang debuted 51 years to the day before Kris Bryant’s first MLB game.

The Ford Mustang, like the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, made its debut on April 17.  The Mustang was launched on April 17, 1964 at the World’s Fair in Flushing, New York. The new “pony car” got off to a better start that Bryant – who fanned in his first three at bats and went zero-for-four on the day.

Still, there is plenty of evidence that the Cubs’ 23-year-old top prospect – who started his first day in the major leagues playing third base and batting cleanup – will have a long and successful career; like many of those who debuted on that day before him.  In addition to the Ford Mustang (still going strong), April 17th also saw the debut of some pretty good ballplayers – Mickey Mantle (MLB debut April 17, 1951); Roberto Clemente (MLB-debut April 17, 1955); and Frank Robinson (MLB-debut, April 17, 1956).\ among them.

Hang on to these cards!

Hang on to these cards!

First-game jitters aside, let’s look at the evidence.  Kris Bryant has proven himself at every level he ever played at.  He hit over .400 as a high school player (four varsity seasons for Bonanza High School in Las Vegas).  As a high school senior, he hit .429, with 22 home runs and 51 RBI – being named a Baseball America and USA Today High School All American.

Bryant went on to play – and excel – for the University of San Diego.  As a college player, Bryant was a Freshman All American (2011); Baseball America All American (2012); and a Louisville Slugger First Team All American (2013).  In 2013, Bryant led all collegiate players with 31 home runs and won the 2013 Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy (both recognizing the top collegiate baseball player in the nation) and the College Baseball News National Player of the Year award.  In three years with San Diego University, he played in 172 games, collected 225 hits (.353 average), hit 54 home runs and drove in 155 runs. He might have done even more damage, if it wasn’t for the 138 walks. Selected in the 18th round of the 2010 MLBH draft by the Blue Jays, Bryant’s college accomplishments moved him up to the first round (second overall) of the 2013 draft.

Bryant did not skip a beat in moving from the college ranks to the Cubs’ minor league system.  In his first season, he went from rookie ball to High A (three stops), hitting a combined .336, with nine home runs and 32 RBI.  Last season, he made a two-stage jump – Double A and Triple A – hitting a combined .325, with 43 home runs, 110 RBI and 15 steals.  Then, in 2015 Spring Training, he really opened up some eyes, hitting .425 with nine home runs (leading all players this spring) in just 40 at bats. He started the 2015 season at Triple A Iowa, where he hit .321 with three home runs and ten RBI in seven games before his call up.  All the evidence says this young man is here to stay.

Now, here’s a brief look at three players April 17th has delivered to big league fans in the past.

Mickey Mantle – April 17, 1951

MantleA promising young (19-years-old) outfielder debuted in right field for the New York Yankees on April 17, 1951.   Mickey Mantle, batting third that day (Joe DiMaggio was playing center and batting cleanup), had a single, with a run scored and a run driven in, in four at bats – as the Yankees topped the rival Red Sox 5-0.   His first MLB at bat resulted in a ground out, second to first.

Mantle’s credentials as a prospect were undeniable.  Signed right out of high school (as a shortstop) he hit .313 with seven home runs for the 1949 Independence (KS) Yankees at D Level and then, as an 18-year-old, he hit .383 with 26 home runs and 136 RBI in 137 games for the 1950 Joplin Miners (C Level).  Notably, Mantle slumped early in his rookie MLB season and was sent down to the Yankees’ Triple A farm club (Kansas City Blues), where he earned his way back to the major leagues by hitting .361, with 11 home runs and 50 RBI in 40 games.  Brought back up, Mantle finished his rookie MLB season hitting .267, with 11 home runs and 65 RBI in 96 games.  And the rest is history. In an 18-season MLB career, Mantle was an All Star in 16 seasons, a three-time AL MVP and a Triple Crown winner. He retired with a .298 career average, 536 home runs, 1,509 RBI, 1,676 runs scored and 153 steals. He played his entire career with the Yankees.

April 17, 1955 – Roberto Clemente

clementeApril 17, 1955 saw the MLB debut of 20-year-old Roberto Clemente. Clemente led off and played center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates that day – hitting a double and a single, and scoring a run, in four at bats.  His very first MLB at bat was a ground out third to first.  The previous season, Clemente hit .257, with two home runs and 12 RBI in 87 games with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Triple A affiliate Montreal (Royals). He had also played two seasons with the Santurce Cangrejeros in Puerto Rico before signing with the Dodgers. In the November 1954 rookie draft, he was picked up by the Pirates. He finished his first season with Pittsburgh hitting .255, with five home runs and 47 RBI in 124 games.

Clemente would go on to an 18-year MLH career – cut short by a tragic (December 31, 1972) plane crash while on a humanitarian mission to his native  Puerto Rico.  He was an All Star in 12 of those seasons, a four-time batting champion, a 12-time Gold Glover.  He ended his career with a .317 batting average, 3,000 hits, 240 home runs, 1,305 RBI and 1,416 runs scored. He played his entire MLB career with the Pirates.

April 17, 1956 – Frank Robinson

RobinsonApril 17, 1956 marked the MLB debut of Frank Robinson – with the twenty-year-old starting in left field and batting seventh for the Cincinnati Reds. In four plate appearances, Robinson collected a double, a single and an intentional walk. His first MLB at bat produced a ground rule double.

Robinson had shown his potential in the minors, hitting .348 with 17 home runs (as a 17-year-old) in 72 games for the Class C Ogden Reds in 1953; a .332 average with 25 home runs at A and Double A in 1954; and .263 with 12 homers in 80 games at single A in 1955. In his rookie season with the Reds, Robinson hit .290, with 38 home runs, 83 RBI and a league-leading 122 runs scored.   He went on to a 21-year MLB career, in which he was an All Star in 12 seasons; NL Rookie of the Year; MVP in both the NL and AL; a Triple Crown Winner; a World Series MVP; and All Star Game MVP.  Robinson finished his career with a.294 average, 586 home runs, 1,812 RBI, 1,829 runs scored, and 204 steals.

Perhaps someday, we’ll see reports on a new April 17th MLB debut and Kris Bryant will be listed among the premier players that launched their MLB careers that day. Note:  They weren’t all hitters, Hall of Fame hurler Don Drysdale took to the MLB mound for the first time on April 17, 1956.

Note:  Mantle, Clemente and Robinson picked up the nicknames: The Commerce Comet, The Great One and The Judge.   Any suggestions for Mr. Bryant?

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Twins Opening Day – From Festive to Restive

As the game time approaches, the sun seems a little brighter, the sky a little bluer, the grass a shade greener.  Once the game begins, the ball hops off the bat with an especially sharp crack, the pitches seem to have more zip and whir-r-r than ever and the fielders move with a unique combination of grace and energy.  In the stands, the beer is crisp and cold and the hot dogs steam in the cool of early spring.  The fans cheer on their old and new heroes and follow this opening contest with pennant race intensity – the most intense among them logging each play in the new season’s first scorecard.   Baseball Is Back!

                                                      Baseball Roundtable … March 26, 2013

 

OD scoreboard

April 13 was the Minnesota Twins 2015 (Home) Opening Day and, as usual, the Twins did it up right – to a point.  

 

BBRT note: The Twins came into their home opener six games into the season and already five games out of first place, so the level of optimism may not have been quite as prevalent as at some earlier Minnesota home openers – but the excitement surrounding the thought that Baseball Is Back still ran high.  

As is tradition, the day started with free breakfast on the Twins Plaza – and what says spring and baseball more than hot dogs, chips and ice cream in the morning, especially when accompanied by blue skies, plenty of sunshine and Twins’ mascot TC the Bear.  Breakfast was served from 6-9 a.m., with additional festivities (music and concessions) planned on the Plaza and at the Target Field (light rail) Station beginning at noon  The Plaza started to fill up before noon (the gates opened at 1 p.m.) – with nearby eating and drinking establishments, as well as parking lots, drawing big crowds even earlier.  (A word of advice from BBRT, when the Twins have a sell out – and this game was sold out – on a work day, get downtown early if you don’t want to spend some time looking for parking.)

The mood was festive, with most of the crowd outfitted in Twins-identified gear, concessions stands on the Plaza doing a brisk business and DJ Madigan spinning plenty of upbeat tunes from the balcony above the crowd.  (The mood would later go from festive to restive, but we’ll get to that.  Let’s enjoy the moment for now.) Photos with the various statues of Twins’ heroes or sitting in the “big glove” seemed the order of the day.

The Twins hoodies proved a popular Opening Day giveaway - for all 40,000+ fans.

The Twins hoodies proved a popular Opening Day giveaway – for all 40,000+ fans.

By one p.m., the Plaza was full of happy fans waiting for another Target Field Opening Day tradition, the opening of the gates by Twins’ legends.  What better way to enter the ballpark then through a gate opened that day by the likes of Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek or Tom Kelly?  To top it off, once you got past the metal detectors, you were handed a free Twins hooded sweatshirt – a true Minnesota-focused promotion.  For a look at BBRT’s post on 2015 Twins’ promotions (and some unique items other teams are giving away), click here.  Day one of the 81-game home season was off to a great start.

Once inside the ballpark, fans rushed not to find their seats, but rather to secure a seat or place in line at one of Target Field’s many food and beverage locations. From Hrbek’s to Barrio to the Town Ball Tavern and from Red Cow to Kramarczuk’s to Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen, they were all kept busy – and for good reason, the food and drink options at Target Field remain exceptional.  (For BBRT’s recent post on 2015’s new Target Field food and beverage offerings click here.)

Shrimp corn Dogs - new ballpark food.

Shrimp corn Dogs – new ballpark food.

I made my way to Hrbek’s, where the new College Daze Bloody Mary – garnished with everything from cheese to pepperoncini to a slice of pepperoni pizza – was proving quite popular.  It seemed mandatory to have your picture taken with the new drink before consuming it.  I’m sure social media, like the tip of the pizza slice, was saturated.  My pre-game choice was the Shrimp Corn Dogs – jumbo shrimp (served on skewers) fried in jalapeno corn batter with a Chili Lime Aioli for dipping ($15).  Great shrimp flavor, just enough “zing” and a complementary tart sauce; and light enough to leave room for the obligatory Opening Day (old school) hot dog later in the day.

Then, with my freshly purchased scorecard in hand, I went in search of my seat – Section 213, Row 1, Seat 14 – and was pleasantly surprised.  I was just to the right of home plate, second deck, first row; and the view of the field was great.  It was also, particularly for Minnesota, a perfect day for an Opener.  Game time temps above 60 degrees, sunny, clear blue sky with just enough clouds to give it some depth.  And, as always seems to be the case on Opening Day, the grass was crisp green, the batting practice balls stark white and all the colors in the stadium (logos, bunting, base lines, etc.) especially vibrant.

As we all waited for game time, we enjoyed: a brief performance by recording artist Shawn Mendes; the introduction of both teams (players, coaches, videographers, trainers, etc.); the National Anthem (actress and singer Greta Oglesby), with two American Bald Eagles from the Minnesota Raptor Center present and a follow-up flyover by a pair of Minnesota Air National Guard F-16 fighters.

Meeting the team is an Opening Day tradition. The loudest and longest ovations went to Torii Hunter, Joe Maue and  Brian Dozier.

Meeting the team is an Opening Day tradition. The loudest and longest ovations went to Torii Hunter, Joe Maue and Brian Dozier.

BBRT would note here that the largest ovation during the introductions went to Torii Hunter (starting in right field), returning to the Twins after seven years (Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers). The 39-year-old Hunter previously starred in center field for Minnesota (six-time Gold Glove winner and two-time All Star while with the Twins) and the team won four division titles during his tenure.  The fans clearly loved his style and his smile – and the applause intensified when this quote from the returning Twin appeared on the scoreboard: “This is where I need to be.  This is home to me.”

BBRT: Hunter’s popularity was also evidenced by the large number of new and old “Hunter – 48” jerseys in the crowd.  Sitting next to me were a father and son (about 2 ½ years old) in matching new (no pin stripes, the little extra gold trim) Hunter home jerseys.  Although, I must say, the youngster cheered loudest for his personal hero – Brian Dozier.

Notably, another returnee to the Twin Cities joined Hunter in throwing out the first pitch, as the crowd welcomed back the newest Timberwolves’ player Kevin Garnett – a member of the T-Wolves during their most successful seasons and now back with Minnesota after playing with the Boston Celtics (2007-13) and Brooklyn Nets (2013-15). Note: Garnett was a member of the Timberwolves from 1995-2007); and a ten-time All Star and NBA MVP (2004) during that time. Minnesotan Tyus Jones, who recently helped lead Duke to the NCAA National Basketball Championship, delivered the baseball to Garnett on the mound, and Garnett threw the ceremonial first pitch to Hunter.  All three hometown heroes received rousing ovations – and the pre-game excitement continued to ratchet up.

We saw a few too many "meetings on the mound" on Opening Day.

We saw a few too many “meetings on the mound” on Opening Day.

I won’t go into much detail about the game – a 12-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals – it’s been well dissected in the traditional and social media. Let’s just say it started out pretty well for the home team, with the Twins scoring first (Kenny Vargas singling home the doubling Brian Dozier with two outs in the bottom of the first); was fairly crisply played over the first five frames (Twins trailing 2-1 after five); got a little shaky in the sixth, with starting pitcher Trevor May giving up a single and two doubles to the first three hitters and Hunter making a throwing error (still, after seven innings the Twins were down by only 5-3); came completely unraveled in the eighth inning, when Minnesota used four pitchers and Kansas City scored six runs on two hits, three walks, two hit batsmen, an error and a passed ball.  Ouch!  It was at this time that the fans – many heading for the exits – finished the move from festive to restive.  Needless to say, it was pretty quiet – and a bit lonely – in the bottom of the ninth.

Fortunately, in baseball you don’t have a lot of time to dwell on today’s loss (or celebrate a win).  Unfortunately, the Twins have an off day today (Tuesday), but tomorrow they’ll be back at it and working to right the ship.  And, we’ll all have to keep in mind, it’s early and there is always something to see (and, these days, eat and drink) at the ballpark. For example, yesterday Twins’ third baseman Trevor Plouffe started a nifty 5-4-3 double play to end the fourth inning and homered to lead off the bottom of the seventh.  The simple fact is “Baseball Is Back” and we should all enjoy it!

Now, just so I don’t leave my Twins fan readers sharing only the frustration of a 12-3 loss.  Here are a trio of events from the first week of the season that caught BBRT’s attention:

  • On April 7, Oakland 3B Brett Lawrie had a tough night. Lawrie came to the plate four times in the A’s 3-1 loss to the Rangers and struck out four times – on a total of just twelve pitches. Lawrie faced three different pitchers, had a nice balance of six called strikes and six swinging strikes and whiffed on a combination of one fastball (the first pitch he faced), three curves and eight sliders. His final swinging strike also marked the final out of the contest.
  • TheYankees-Red Sox game of April 10 really aged New York first baseman Mark Teixeira. The 19-inning game started at 7:05 p.m. on Friday (April 10) and ended at 2:13 a.m. on Saturday (April 11). Teixeira (born on April 11, 1980) started the game as a 34-year-old, and finished it at age 35.
  • On Saturday April 11, Arizona Diamonbacks’ rookie pitcher Archie Bradley – in his first-ever MLB appearance – drew the unenviable task of facing reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. Bradley pitched six shutout innings for the victory (one hit, four walks, six strikeouts). You might think a rookie beating the reigning Cy Young Award winner in his first start is what attracted BBRT’s attention, but that would be wrong. Bradley was the fifth rookie pitcher to make his first MLB start against a reigning CYA winner and the fourth to earn a victory. What got BBRT’s attention was Bradley’s single off Kershaw in bottom of the second inning. Since Bradley didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning, the young pitcher actually collected his first major league before he gave up his first major league hit.  I like that kind of stuff.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Big Day for Big Klu – Anniversary of Angels’ First-Game Hero

On this date (April 11) in 1961, the expansion Los Angeles Angels played their first official American League game and one of my boyhood heroes – Ted Kluszewski - started them off with a “bang” and a victory. As this boyhood hero of BBRT had done for much of his career, Big Klu made powerful contact with the baseball.

In the top of the first inning, Big Klu – batting clean-up – came to the plate with two outs and little Albie Pearson on first (after a walk). Kluszewski was 6’ 2” and pushing 240 pounds, while his roommate Albie Pearson was  5’5”, 140 pounds.  Kluszewski, facing Orioles’ right-hander Milt Pappas (a 15-game winner the previous season), collected the Angels’ first-ever hit, first-ever home run and first-ever RBI – blasting a home run to deep right field.  The very next inning, the 36-year-old Kluszewski (starting his final big league season) came up against Orioles’ rookie reliever John Papa with Angels’ right-fielder Pearson and second baseman Ken Aspromonte on base. Big Klu  hit his second home run of the day – bringing his RBI total to five, as the Angels won their premier game by a 7-2 score.

To no one’s surprise, Kluszewski put the ball in play in every at bat that day. The big slugger was known for both his power and his bat control. In fact, no one in MLB logged has more seasons of 40 or more home runs, coupled with fewer strikeouts than round trippers.

 

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Ted “Big Klu” Kluszewski (below) cut the sleeves from his jersey to enable a freer swing of his powerful arms – and, just perhaps, to intimidate opposing hurlers.

Kluszewski’s was one of my favorite players long before that Opening Day performance, thanks to the fact that he was Polish, powerful and patient.  In fact, from 1953 to 1956, he was one of the most feared hitters in baseball.  During that span, Kluszewski was an All Star every year.  Over those four-seasons, he hit .315, with 171 home runs, 464 RBI – and only 140 strikeouts (versus 248 walks). How impressive is that?  Only ten times in MLB history has a player hit 40 or more homers, while striking out fewer times than he hit round trippers. Three of those seasons (more than any other player) belong to Kluszewski – and they came in succession (1953, 1954, 1955). The string was broken in 1956, when Big Klu hit only 35 home runs,  but he also struck out only 31 times (against 49 walks).  Kluszewski, by the way, was also agile in the field for a big man – leading NL first baseman in fielding percentage every year from 1951 through 1955.

A few side notes:

  • Of the six players who have accomplished a season of 40 or more home runs with fewer strikeouts than round trippers, Kluszewski is the only one who wasn’t a Yankee or a Giant.
  • Only once has a player hit fifty or more homers and struck out less than 50 times – Johnny Mize in 1947.
  • The fewest strikeouts ever by a league home run leader is nine – by the Boston Braves’ Tommy Holmes, when he led the NL with 28 home runs in 1945.

Here’s the list of MLB seasons of at least 40 homers and fewer strikeouts than round trippers, with home runs, strikeouts, walks and batting averages for each season.  Hall of Famers are in red, league leadership in blue.

1929 … Mel Ott (NY Giants),  42 HR, 38 K, 113 BB, .328

1934 … Lou Gehrig (Yankees), 49 HR, 31 K, 109 BB, .363

1936 … Lou Gehrig (Yankees), 49 HR, 46 K, 130 BB, .354

1937 … Joe DiMaggio (Yankees), 46 HR, 37 K, 64 BB, .346

1947 … Johnny Mize (NY Giants), 51 HR, 42 K, 74 BB, .302

1948 … Johnny Mize (NY Giants), 40 HR, 37 K, 94 BB, .289

1953 … Ted Kluszewski (Reds), 40 HR, 34 K, 55 BB, .316

1954 … Ted Kluszewski (Reds), 49 HR, 35 K, 78 BB, .326

1955 …   Ted Kluszewski (Reds), 47 HR, 40 K, 66 BB, .314

2004 … Barry Bonds (SF Giants), 45 HR, 41 K, 232 BB, .362

A final thought on Ted Kluszewski, he carried his combination of power and patience (and fielding consistency) to the post season.  Late in the 1959, Kluszewski – then with the Pirates – was traded to the Chicago White Sox, who were looking for some additional power as they worked to clinch the AL pennant.  The White Sox made it to the World Series and, despite the Sox loss to the Dodgers (in six games), Kluszewski  (in his only post season) led all hitters in home runs (three), RBI (ten), and batting average (.391, tied with the Dodgers’ Gil Hodges) – without a single strikeout.  He also led all fielders in chances (62) and put outs (59) – without an error.

A 1956 back injury took its toll on Kluszewski, robbing him of much of his power and shortening his career (he averaged only 90 games a year and hit a total of only 34 home runs over his last five seasons). In his final season, with the 1961 expansion Angels, Kluszewski hit .243, with 15 home runs and 39 RBI in 107 games.  He retired with a .298 career average, 279 home runs, 1,028 RBI – and just 365 strikeouts in 6,469 at bats (492 walks).

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT.

When It Comes to Concessions – Target Field Outpaces the “Good Old Days”

As those who follow BBRT know, when it comes to the national pastime, I can be a bit “old school.”  I fondly reminisce about two-hour ball games, regularly scheduled double headers, high stirrups, complete games and the bunt as an often-used offensive weapon. Heck, I’m even old enough to remember watching “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” – before the trio of New York center fielders was immortalized in “Talkin’ Baseball.” (Note: To listen to Talkin’ Baseball, see the clip at the end of this post.)

College Daze Bloody Mary - made a big splash at Target Field Food and Beverage Preview.

College Daze Bloody Mary – made a big splash at Target Field Food and Beverage Preview.

There is, however, one thing I do not memorialize as part of the “good old days” – ballpark food. This Tuesday (April 7), BBRT was fortunate enough to be invited to Target Field for one of the newer rites of spring – the Twins’ sixth annual Food and Beverage Preview. The experience provided ample proof that, at least when it comes to concessions, the good old days fall short of today’s ball park experience.

When I first started attending MLB games, standard fare consisted of hot dogs (not always hot), beer and soda (not always cold), peanuts, cotton candy, Cracker Jack® and, if you were lucky, maybe ice cream or licorice. The culinary tour that was part of the Target Field Food and Beverage Preview (concentrating primarily on new items for 2015) made it clear we’ve come a long way from the days of hot dogs and beer.  (And, while this post is primarily aimed at the Twins fans who follow BBRT, the raising of the bar – pun intended – in terms of concessions is MLB-wide.) New Target Field offerings for this season range from Hot Indian Foods’ Chicken Tikka to Hrbek’s Shrimp Corn Dog  – and beverages to be launched include such “soon-to-be favorites” as the College Daze Bloody Mary (garnished with, among other things, a slice of pepperoni pizza) and Barrio’s Trinity Margarita.

I have neither the space, nor the time, to touch on all the food and beverage items that were presented on Tuesday, but I would like to share a comment or two on some of most  interesting – and some of my personal favorites. For the Twins’ concessions guide, listing many items, with locations and prices, click here.   I would add that it’s a family tradition to complete all our concession stand purchases prior to the first pitch – a necessity if you are going to keep an accurate scorecard. After the Food and Beverage Preview, it’s clear I have to move up my arrival time.  I will still also partake of the “old school” vendor-delivered hot dog and beer, however.

So, let’s look at some 2015 Target Field concessions.

College Daze Bloody Mary

Perhaps the biggest splash (pun intended) among the new offerings was made by the College Daze Bloody Mary (available at Hrbek’s, near section 114).  It’s a new take on the “Bloody Mary as a meal” (fans of Hrbek’s Bigger Better Burger Bloody Mary need not worry, that meal-in-a-glass is still available). The new Bloody Mary is topped with a cold slice of Pepperoni Pizza, a beef stick, pickle spear, celery stalk, Pepper Jack and Cheddar cheese cubes, pepperoncini and, of course, an olive.  As you can see from the placement of the pizza in the photo near the top of this post, this Bloody Mary is truly “over the top.”  It certainly attracted the most photographers (and plenty of tasters) at the Food and Beverage Preview.

A Dog Eat Dog World – Shrimp Corn Dogs and BratDogs

Shrimp Corn Dogs at Hrbek's - among BBRT's favorites.

Shrimp Corn Dogs at Hrbek’s – among BBRT’s favorites.

Hrbek’s also has a few new food items that are worth a try.  My favorite was the Shrimp Corn Dog – four jumbo shrimp (on a skewer) fried in jalapeno corn batter with a chili lime aioli for dipping (and a side of fries).  They have great shrimp flavor, just enough “zing,” and are a little lighter than some of the other fare.

Closer to traditional baseball food was the BratDog – an all-beef hot dog, stuffed into a bratwurst, wrapped in bacon, topped with sauerkraut, caramelized onions and peppers and served on a pretzel roll.  This one will stay with you throughout the game.

Hot Indian Foods – International Fare for the American Game

Hot Indian Foods' Chicken Tikka - a new taste at Target Field.

Hot Indian Foods’ Chicken Tikka – a new taste at Target Field.

For those looking for international fare, Hot Indian Foods, which has both a food truck and a location at the Midtown Global Market, is new to Target Field.  Hot Indian Foods is serving up Chicken Tikka – yogurt-marinated chicken simmered in a creamy tomato curry and served with garlic and coconut toasted rice, crispy poppadum (Indian bread) and hot Indian slaw. They also have a vegan curry dish (Aloo Gobi), similar to the Chicken Tikka only with potatoes, cauliflower and squash replacing the chicken. Look for the Hot Indian Food cart near Section 120.  BBRT tried the Chicken Tikka and would recommend it for those seeking a unique taste at the ball park. My personal preference might have been for a bit more “heat,” but this is Minnesota.

Burgers Beyond the Basics

Red Cow, noted for its burgers, is also new to Target Field (food cart near section 126). They will be offering three gourmet burgers.  BBRT would recommend making the leap to the Blues Burger (with apricot jam and locally produced blue cheese). If you’re a bacon lover, you might prefer  the 60/40 Bacon Burger  (a patty of 60 percent certified Angus beef and 40 percent ground bacon – topped with cheddar cheese, Summit beer mustard and candied bacon). More conventional taste? Go for the Ultimate Red Cow Burger (lettuce, tomato, onion and Red Cow sauce).

This One’s Out of the Park

Watch for this sandwich!@

Watch for this sandwich!@

When Sous Chef Keith Andres leaned from the window of the Taste of Target Field Food Truck and handed me the fried pickle, beer-braised bacon, peanut butter (on a pretzel bun) sandwich, I had to look to see if Elvis was in line behind me.  The King would have loved this sandwich – multi-textured with the tangy crunch of pickles, the smoky flavor of the bacon, the creamy sweetness of the peanut butter and the fresh pretzel bun. It was my first sample from the 2015 Twins Food and Beverage Preview and it set a positive tone for the afternoon.

First watch for this truck!

First watch for this truck!

As guests and media arrived for the Target Field Food and Beverage Preview, we were greeted – appropriately – by the Taste of Target Field food truck, which focuses on its mission of “Bringing the taste of the ballpark to you.”  The food truck carries a host of Target Field favorites that bring the ball park to the community. Depending on the day, you will find offerings like Kramarczuk’s sausages,  cheese curds, Tony O’s Cuban, malt cups, fries and more.  Ironically, and unfortunately, the new Fried Pickle Sandwich is not available inside Target Field.  If you spot the food truck, BBRT highly recommends you run right over and order this treat.  You can track the truck on twitter @TastyTwinsTruck. A game day hint, try looking near Fulton Brewery.

Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen – On the Move at Target Field

KoreanAndrew Zimmern’s Canteen is not new to the ballpark, but is moving to a new, larger location – from a concourse cart to a concession stand near Hrbek’s (section 114). The Canteen will be offering a trio of signature sandwiches: the Bacon Sandwich, Smoked Meat Sandwich and BBRT’s favorite – the Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich, with grilled pineapple, chili lime slaw and spicy dressing. It offers just the right blend of “hot” and “sweet.”   I highly recommend this one.

 

 

Schwan’s – Focused on Building a new Legend

Schwan's Caprese Burger - beef, balsamic and basil a great combination.

Schwan’s Caprese Burger – beef, balsamic and basil a great combination.

If you have seats in the popular Legend’s Club, you’ll probably want to visit the new Schwan’s stand (near Section R). Among the offerings are a pair of flatbread sandwiches – Buffalo Chicken Flatbread (chicken, celery and mozzarella cheese, topped with hot sauce) and the Italian Fire-Baked Flatbread (salami, ham, pepperoni, Italian cheese, lettuce and tomato, topped with vinaigrette).  Two new burgers will also be available at the Schwan’s stand – the BBQ Bacon Burger and the Caprese Burger (beef patties, fresh mozzarella cheese, balsamic-marinated tomato and basil). BBRT recommends the Caprese Burger – balsamic and basil make this one unique.

 

 

 

The Left Field Corner – A New Hot Spot

Barrio - a new hot spot in the left field corner.

Barrio – a new hot spot in the left field corner.

Well-known Latin restaurant Barrio is also a new presence at Target Field.  The new Barrio – in the left field corner – was one of the more popular stops on our Food and Beverage Preview tour – perhaps the complementary Trinity Margaritas had something to do with that.  We were also impressed with the upscale decor, the standing tables, multiple big screen TVs, and great view of the field.

The Barrio will feature Pork Carnitas Tacos, Guacamole and chips and, of course, top-flight Margaritas and craft beers.

For the Salad Lovers

Garden Goodies cart, with its fresh salads, has two new offerings – a Mardi Garden Salad  and a Wild Rice and Turtle Bean Salad.

The Spirit of the Northland

Dui NordThere are also some new locally crafted spirits at Target Field.  Near Section 111, you’ll find a stand featuring two local distilleries: Du Nord (Minneapolis) and Panther Distillery (Osakis). Du Nord’s menu includes a Moscow Mule, Gin and Tonic, Gin Daiquiri and Spiked Hot Chocolate (It can be cool in April on Minnesota). Panther Distillery’s line-up includes an Apple Fizz, Manhattan, Whiskey Sour and Whiskey Coke. (BBRT tried the Moscow Mule – and it’s a winner.)

A Taste of the Islands

Goose Island Pub, adjacent to section 229, will carry a selection of Goose Island craft beers.

 

Of course, lots of past favorites remain.  Just to mention a few that are close to BBRT’s heart: Tony O’s Cuban Sandwich; Garlic Helmet Fries; Mac’s Walleye and Chips; Kramarczuk’s sausages; Izzy’s Hand Scooped Ice Cream; and the Bigger, Better Bloody Mary Cart.

My advice,  Get to Target Field early – and hungry.

Oh yes, I did promise “Talkin’ Baseball.”

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Thirty MLB Players to Watch – From Opening Day Forward

Opening Day is the most hopeful and optimistic day of each year.  At least for this one day, every team is a contender, every rookie a potential “phenom,”  every fading veteran a potential “Comeback Player of the Year,” and every new face in the lineup or on the bench a welcome addition.

Baseball Roundtable – March 26, 2013

Opening Day is upon us and – to celebrate – BBRT would like to focus this post on thirty players (one from each team), I’ll be watching with special interest this year – as well as a few “honorable mentions” that have caught my eye.  You may also find some of them interesting – and worth keeping track of during the season.

Also, for those who may have missed my pre-season predictions (and are interested), you’ll find them by clicking here –  AL   NL   Prospect Watch

Now, some players worth a look or two (or more) in 2015.  Spring Training numbers mean little, but I’ve included them to update you on how things have been going for the players on this watch list.

Arizona Diamondbacks

1B Paul Goldschmidt – Is this THE year?

Dodger-Killer, Paul GoldschmidtDiamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt is a top flight run-producer who does not get the credit he deserves – and, at 27, he may be ready for a breakout season. In 2013, he led the NL in home runs (36), RBI (125) and total bases (332), while hitting .302 and stealing 15 bases. Last season, limited to 109 games after suffering a fractured hand from a hit by pitch, he went .300-19-69, with nine steals.  BBRT is looking for a career year out of the Diamondbacks’ first-sacker, who is also a plus defender. Ultimately, Goldschmidt may be headed for Jeff Bagwell-like numbers. Goldschmidt hit .293, with three home runs, in 22 Spring Training (ST) games.

Atlanta Braves

SS Andrelton Simmons – How many base hits will he steal?

If you want to watch defense, no one does it better than Braves’ shortstop Andrelton Simmons. In his first two full seasons, Simmons has captured two Gold Gloves, two Fielding Bible Awards and two Wilson Defensive Player of the Year recognitions. In the field, Simmons is well worth watching. At the plate, he’s still a bit of mystery (again worth watching). In 2013, his first full season, he hit .248, but popped 17 home runs.  Last season, the average was about the same (.244), but the power dropped off (seven home runs). BBRT will be watching that defensive range, and looking to see what Simmons’ potential is at the plate (his minor league stats indicate he may end up closer to the seven home runs than the 17). Simmons hit .340, with two homers and 13 RBI, in 18 ST games

Baltimore Orioles

1B Chris Davis – Will the real Chris Davis please step into the batter’s box?

Heading into 2014, the Orioles’ Chris Davis was on an upward swing – .270, with 33 home runs and 85 RBI  in 2012; .286-53-138 in 2013.  Then in 2014, Davis suffered through an Adderall-use related suspension and a .196 season (173 strikeouts in 127 games).  He still showed power, with 26 home runs and 72 RBI and – having now been given a therapeutic exemption for Adderall use – should get back to 30+ home run/100+ RBI performance in 2015. Hit .250-3-12 in ST.

Honorable mention: OF-1B Steve Pearce is a late bloomer who seemed to find his stroke last season (at age 31), hitting .293 with 21 homers in 102 games. His previous MLB career stats were 290 games (seven seasons), .238 average, 17 home runs. Will he continue his 2014 surge? He looked good this spring. Hit .302, with five home runs, in 17 ST games.

Boston Red Sox

Fenway Park 2012 Clay Buchholz - closeupRHP Clay Buchholz – Can he be the Red Sox’ top of the rotation “ace?”

The Red Sox re-armed for 2015, both in the batter’s box and on the mound (via the additions of Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, and Rick Porcello). The trade of Jon Lester last July, however, left them without a true number-one starter.  That role now falls to Clay Buchholz, who has shown flashes of brilliance (17-7, 2.33 ERA in 2010 and 12-1, 1.74 in 2013), but also proven fragile (Buchholz has spent time on the Disabled List in each of the past five seasons). The Red Sox need Buchholz, coming off an 8-11, 5.34 campaign in 2014) to step up his game. Buchholz put up a 2.84 Spring Training ERA, with 22 strikeouts in 19 innings.

 

 

Chicago Cubs

RF Jorge Soler – How good is this Cuban import?

In 24 games for the Cubs, Jorge Soler – who signed a nine-year deal in June of 2012 – hit .292, with five home runs (14 extra base hits) and 20 RBI.  In 2012, at the Rookie level, Soler hit .299, with five home runs, 25 RBI, 12 steals and 12 walks – in just 34 games.  In 2013, he put up a .281-8-35 stat line in 55 games at the High A level. Last season, Soler played at the Rookie League, AA and AAA levels before making his late-season MLB debut with the Cubs. In his three 2014 minor league stops, Soler hit .340-15-57. Soler should be fun to watch in “The Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field.  Continued to rake in ST , posting a line of  .345-4-15 in 19 games.

Honorable mention:  3B Kris Bryant hit .325 with 43 home runs and 110 RBI in two  minor league stops (AA and AAA) last season – not to mention 15 steals.  Then he hit .425 with nine home runs in just 40 at bats in 2015 Spring Training.  He’ll start the season at AAA (some controversy there), but will be in Chicago soon. When he gets there, he’ll be well worth keeping an eye on.

Chicago White Sox

RHP Jeff Samardzija – How good will he be with the new White Sox offense to support him?

Jeff Samardzija (got to love that name on the back of a uniform), acquired in a trade with the Athletics, was a lot better in 2014 than his 7-13 record (Cubs and A’s) would indicate.  He put up a nifty 2.99 ERA and struck out 202 hitters in 219 2/3 innings. Samardzija is slotted in at the number-two spot in the White Sox rotation (assuming Chris Sale returns from injury in mid-April as expected) – and he looks ready to put up a solid season.  Samardzija had a rough spring giving up 20 runs (including 9 home runs) in 21 1/3 innings.

Honorable mention:  LHP Carlos Rodon, drafted (first round) out of NC State last year, looks ready for the major leagues at age 22.  In his first pro season, he moved from the Rookie League to High A to Triple A – posting a 2.96 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings. This spring, Rodon tossed 17 2/3 innings, going 3.06 with 12 whiffs and only five walks.  Rodon will start the season at Triple A, but BBRT will be watching for his call up.

Cincinnati Reds

Aroldis ChapmanCloser Aroldis Chapman – Just how hard can this guy throw?

The Reds may not be going anywhere this year, but LHP Aroldis Chapman’s fastball is going to be flying past hitters once again. Acknowledged as the hardest thrower in MLB, Chapman’s fastball routinely tops 100 mph. In 2014, Chapman saved 36 games (in 38 opportunities) – and struck out 106 batters in just 54 innings. If you watch Chapman, you may not see that fastball, but you’ll probably be able to hear it. Struck out 16 in 12 ½ innings in ST.

 

Cleveland Indians

2B Jason Kipnis – Can he come back from injury-interrupted 2014?

Second baseman Jason Kipnis, a 2013 All Star (.284-17-84, with 30 steals), missed most of May last season (oblique strain) and fell to .240-6-41, with 22 steals.  A return to health (and power plus speed) would give the Cleveland offense a boost.  Hit .229 with one home run in 13 ST games.

Colorado Rockies

SS Troy Tulowitzki – Will he play 150 games?

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is a key cog in the Rockies’ lineup, but in the eight seasons since his first full MLB season, he’s only reached 150 games played twice (2007 and 2009). The Rockies need their Gold Glove/power hitting shortstop to stay on the field. He’s coming off hip surgery, so it’s worth watching his progress closely. Tulo did look sound in Spring Training and, if healthy, he’s a potential .300-25-100 guy.  In 16 ST games, hit .381, with five home runs and 12 RBI.

Detroit Tigers

RHP Justin Verlander – Can he rebound?

With Rick Porcello (trade) and Max Scherzer (free agency) gone, there is pressure on Justin Verlander (who will start the season on the DL – his first ever DL stint) to recapture his old form. (Verlander – triceps soreness – is expected back by mid-April.)  Verlander has seen his ERA increase in each of the past four seasons (from 2.40 in 2011 to 4.54 in 2014) and his strikeouts per nine-innings drop from 9.0 to 6.9 in the same time span.  The Tigers need a return to form from the 2011 Cy Young winner if they are to retain the Central Division’s top spot. You can bet Tiger fans will be watching with interest. Had a 5.63 ERA, with 10 whiffs in 16 innings this ST.

Honorable mention:  1B Miguel Cabrera – Who wouldn’t like watching Cabrera do what he does best\?  Crush baseballs. The 2012 Triple Crown winner and two-time MVP hit .345, with three home runs in 11 ST games.

Houston Astros

2B  Jose Altuve – Is the 5’ 5” spark plug for real?

Jose Altuve digs in against Pirates P Jeff LockeJose Altuve, currently MLB’s shortest player, is fun to watch.  He puts the bat on the ball – often.  In 2014, the 24-year-old led the AL in hits (225), batting average (.341) and stolen bases (56). If that’s not a show worth watching, what is? Hit .333 in 16 ST games.

 

 

 

Kansas City Royals

RF Alex Rios – Can he put some pop back in his swing?

Free-agent signee Alex Rios was acquired to help offset the departures of Nori Aoki and Billy Butler. Rios brings a steady bat (.280 last season, .278 career) and speed (17 steals in 2014, 244 in eleven MLB seasons).  Notably, that combination was part of the Royals’ formula for success in 2014 – the team finished second in the AL in batting average and first in all of MLB in stolen bases (153, the only team to steal 150 bases.) They did, however, lack power, hitting only 95 home runs – the major’s lowest total.  Rios hit only four round trippers a year ago, but hit between 15 and 25 home runs every season from 2006 to 2013.  BBRT will be watching to see if Rios can recapture his power stroke. Hit .308, with three homers, in 20 ST games.

Honorable mention: With James Shields gone (free agency) RHP Yordano Ventura – 14-10, 3.20 in his first full season (2014)  – will be expected to step into the number-one slot in the rotation.  With his high 90s fastball, the 23-year-old looks ready to step up. Ventura produced a 4.50 ERA, with 16 whiffs in 18 ST innings.

Los Angeles Angels

CF Mike Trout – Another MVP?

Of course, BBRT will be watching Angels’ CF Mike Trout.  What baseball fan wouldn’t? Just 23-years-old, with three full MLB seasons on the books, Trout has one AL MVP Award (two second-place finishes), a Rookie of the Year Award, and has led the AL in runs three times and RBI and stolen bases once each.  He also has a .305 career average, with 98 homers.  Just have to watch to see what’s next from the future HOFer. Hit .441, with five homers, in 22 ST games.

Los Angeles Dodgers

LHP Clayton Kershaw – What’s the record for most Cy Young Awards again?

Who wouldn’t want to watch Clayton Kershaw deal from the mound?  Over the past four seasons, he’s 72-26, with a 2.33 ERA – leading the league in ERA four times, wins twice and strikeouts twice, while also earning three Cy Young Awards and one MVP Award. Hey, when Kershaw pitches, tune in. This ST, put up a 1.61 ERA, with 22 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings.

Honorable mention:  OF Joc Pederson was the Pacific Coast League’s 2014 Most Valuable player – hitting .303 with 33 home runs, 106 runs, 78 RBI, 30 steals and, importantly, 100 walks (in 121 games). Despite the fact that Pederson hit .143, with 11 whiffs in 28 at bats for the Dodgers last September, BBRT thinks he’ll have a season worth watching as a Dodgers’ rookie in 2015.  Hit .338-6-13 in 26 ST games.

Miami Marlins

Giancarlo "Mike" Stanton (FLA) and Gerald LairdRF Giancarlo Stanton – Does anyone hit the ball farther – more consistently – than Stanton?

Giancarlo Stanton led the NL with 37 home runs last season, while hitting .288 with 105 RBI.  According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, his home runs averaged 415.3 feet, second in MLB only to Matt Holliday (418.3 feet), who hit 17 fewer homers. Stanton also hit three of the eight longest 2014 home runs – and, of the fifty 2014 MLB home runs of at least 450 feet, Stanton had seven. (No one else had more than two.)  Want to see long home runs, watch Giancarlo Stanton whenever you get the chance. Hit .313-4-14 in 19 ST games.

Milwaukee Brewers

RF Ryan Braun – Did thumb surgery do the trick?

No doubt the Brewers’ RF Ryan Braun has had problems in a career that started with a Rookie of the Year Award (2007), followed by five straight All Star selections – and the NL MVP Award in 20ll. Then there was a suspension in 2013 and injury issues in 2014.

When healthy, Braun has shown the ability to deliver speed and power (in 2012, he hit .319, with 41 home runs, 112 RBI and 30 steals).  He appears healthy again and BBRT is anxious to see if he comes back strong.  Looked good with a  .395 average and three home runs in 16 ST games.

Minnesota Twins

1B Joe Mauer – More batting titles in the future?

Twins’ 1B Joe Mauer, a three-time AL batting champion with a .319 career (11 seasons) batting average, hit only .277 in 2014. The 2009 AL MVP spent time on the disabled list in three of the past four seasons.  The Twins need a healthy and hitting Mauer and BBRT expects to see Mauer at or near his career average in 2015.  Hit .273 this ST.

New York Mets

RHP Matt Harvey – Is he ready fully recovered from Tommy John surgery?

Nearly 18 months after Tommy John surgery, Met’s starter Matt Harvey looks ready to step up and be the Mets’ ace. Remember, in 2013, Harvey went 9-5, 2.27 with 191 strikeouts (just 31 walks) in 178 1/3 innings. If he’s back, he’ll be fun to watch –unless you’re in the batter’s box. This ST, Harvey logged a 1.19 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings pitched.

New York Yankees

Closer Dellin Betances – Can he replace, not Mariano Rivera, but David Robertson?

In 2014, David Robertson was charged with replacing retired Yankee Mariano Rivera as closer and did so admirably, saving 39 games, with a 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.  Robertson is now gone (free agency) and 26-year-old Dellin Betances moves into the NY closer’s role. Last season, Betances threw 90 innings (70 appearances), with a 1.40 ERA and 135 strikeouts (versus just 24 walks).  He looks ready. Struck out nine in 8 1/3 ST innings, with a 5.40 ERA.

Oakland Athletics

3B Brett Lawrie – Would YOU like to replace Josh Donaldson?

3B Brett Lawrie (acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays) is being asked to replace arguably the A’s best player for the past two seasons – Josh Donaldson (traded to the Blue Jays).   Donaldson – 53 homers, 191 RBI in 2013/2014 – will be a tough act to follow. Lawrie, who spent time on the Disabled List last year, did hit 12 home runs and drive in 38 in just 70 games. Hit .245-4-11 in 19 ST games.

Philadelphia Phillies

1B Ryan Howard – What does the former Rookie of the Year and NL MVP have left in the tank?

Ryan Howard won the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year Award, hitting .288, with 22 home runs and 63 RBI in just 88 games.  He followed up with a .313-58-149 season and an MVP Award in 2006 – and kept right on hitting.  From 2006 through 2011, Howard averaged just over 44 home runs and 113 RBI per season. However, time and injuries (knee and Achilles tendon) appear to have caught up with the Phillies’ slugger.  In 2012 and 2013, he played a total of 151 games and last season, his stat line (in 153 games) was .223-23-95.  Phillies’ fans will be watching to see if the 35-year-old can turn this around. Hit .176-3-10 in 26 games this ST.

Pittsburgh Pirates

CF Andrew McCutchen – Can he help drive the Pirates to the post season AGAIN?

Andrew McCutchenPirates CF Andrew McCutchen is well worth watching.  He’s a true five-tool player – a Gold Glove winner and the 2013 NL MVP (he’s finished in the top three in the NL MVP voting each of the past three years). Last season “Cutch” went .314-25-83, with 18 steals. He’s likely to do even better in 2015.  Hit .375 in 11 ST games.

 

 

Saint Louis Cardinals

RF Jason Heyward – More highlight reels in his future?

Although a lot of what happens in Saint Louis depends on the three “Matts” – Adams, Carpenter and Holliday – BBRT has special interest in the Redbirds’ new right fielder Jason Heyward (acquired in a trade with the Braves). We’re likely to see the two-time Gold Glover in plenty of defensive highlight videos and – at just 25-years-old – there is plenty of time to see his offensive skills develop further. (Heyward went .271-11-56, with 20 steals a year ago, but has shown 20-homer/20-steal potential.)  Hit .300, with one home run, in 17 ST games.

San Diego Padres

The entire outfield – Has San Diego finally found its offense?

Rather than watch just one Padres’ player, BBRT is interested in San Diego’s entirely new – and much more offensively potent – outfield:  Justin Upton (trade  with Braves); Will Myers (trade with Rays); and Matt Kemp (trade with Dodgers). If these three live up to their potential at the plate, the San Diego offense could be vastly improved. Consider that Upton went .279-29-103 last season; Kemp put up a .287-25-89 line and has a .324-39-126 season under his belt (2011); and 2013 Rookie of the Year Myers is still considered to have considerable upside at age 24.  This outfield may change San Diego’s approach to the game. This ST, Myers hit .259 with three homers; Kemp hit .370 with four round trippers; and Upton hit .314 with three long balls.

San Francisco Giants

LHP Madison Bumgarner – What does he do for an encore?

The post-season heroics of Madison Bumgarner should be no surprise, he also went 18-10, 2.98 with 219 strikeouts in 217 1/3 innings pitched during the 2014 regular season.  The question is, did the 2014 workload (he also threw 50+ posts season inning) take anything out of him. Watch for the answer.  He’s only 25, so BBRT anticipates, he’ll do just fine – and be among the top five in 2015 Cy Young voting.  Had a 4.91 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings this ST.

Seattle Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez – Is it time for another Cy Young Award?

How good is Felix Hernandez?  The five-time All Star won the 2010 Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record. Now that’s respect. (He did have a league-low 2.27 ERA). The Mariners have worked to improve their offense (adding Nelson Cruz and his 40 home runs, for example) and that should mean even more victories for King Felix (15-6, 2.14, with 248 strikeouts in 236 innings pitched in 2014).  This Spring Training, Hernandez had a 10.2 ERA, with eight strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.

Honorable mention: RHP Taijuan Walker, a 2010 first-round draft pick, has been the talk of Spring Training for the Mariners – and may soon be the “talk of the town” in Seattle.    Struck out 26 in 27 ST innings, with a sparkling 0.67 ERA.

Tampa Bay Rays

OF Steven Souza – Is he ready?

Acquired from the Washington Nationals, Steven Souza was the International League (AAA) Rookie of the Year and MVP in 2014 – hitting .350, with 18 home runs, 75 RBI and 26 steals in 96 games with Syracuse. Souza was a 2007 third-round draft pick as an 18-year-old.  It took the 6’ 4”, 225-pound right-handed hitter a few seasons to adjust (he hit just .227 over his first five minor league seasons). In 2012, Souza began to turn it on – hitting.297-23-85, with 14 steals in 97 games at A and High A.  In 2013, he proved 2012 was no fluke, going .297-15-46 with 22 steals at two levels (Rookie and AA).  Last season, Souza hit .345-18-99 with 28 steals, while working has way from A to AA to AAA.  Souza hit only .130 in a couple of major league call-ups (21 games), but he looks like another player well worth watching (at the major league level) this season.  Hit  .130 in 19 ST games.

Texas Rangers

1B Prince Fielder – Is he healthy, is he back?

The Rangers expected 1B/DH Prince Fielder to lead their offense when they acquired him before the 2014 season. After all, the big guy had averaged 36 home runs and 108 RBI over the previous seven seasons.  A neck injury limited Fielder to 42 games (three homers, 16 RBI) in 2014.  BBRT (and the Lone Star State) will be watching to see how Fielder rebounds from neck surgery.  Hit .341-1-7 in 17 ST games.

Toronto Blue Jays

LHP Daniel Norris – Was he really living in a van down by the Wal-Mart?

How can you not want to watch a guy with eye-popping stuff and a two-million-dollar signing bonus, who chooses to live (during Spring Training) in a Volkswagen van behind a Wal-Mart.  Norris will be in the Jay’s starting rotation. Look out!  Logged a 2.93 ST ERA, with 30 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings.

Washington Nationals

The entire starting rotation – How good (great) can they be?

Kind of a cop out, but you really have to watch that entire starting rotation – anyone in it could be a Cy Young winner.  Here they are with their 2014 stats:  Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15); Stephen Strasburg 14-11, 3.14); Jordan Zimmerman (14-5, 2.66); Doug Fister (16-6, 2.41); Gio Gonzalez (10-10, 3.57).  Their ST ERAs were: Scherzer (1.35); Gonzalez (2.79); Zimmerman (3.80); Strasburg (4.20); Fister (5.96).

Honorable mention: People keep waiting for Bryce Harper to become the NL’s Mike Trout. Well, keep an eye on him.  Remember, he’s only 22-years-old.  This could be the year.  Hit .267-3-8 in 19 ST games.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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Opening Day – A Gift About to be Unwrapped

 

“You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.”

                                                            Joe DiMaggio

Opening Day ... A Gift Waiting to be Opened!

Opening Day … A Gift Waiting to be Opened!

For players and fans alike, Opening Day is indeed like a birthday present.  However, history shows us that unwrapping that present can be exhilarating or exasperating for players and fans alike.

It can be as exhilarating as Bob Feller’s 1940 Opening Day no-hitter – still the only Opening Day no-hitter in MLB history.  Or it can be as exasperating as Ron Karkovice’s five strikeouts in five trips to the plate on Opening Day 1996 – still the MLB record for Opening Day whiffs.   As we move closer to Opening Day 2015, BBRT would like to look at some of the most exhilarating and exasperating Opening Day record-setting performances – leading off with Feller and Karkovice’s memorable Opening Day “achievements.”

Opening Day No-Hitter – 1-0 and One of a Kind

On April 16, 1940, fire-balling Bob Feller opened the season against the White Sox at Comiskey Park.  After nine innings of work, Feller and his Cleveland Indians had a 1-0 win – and the 21-year-old Feller (coming off a 24-win season in 1939) had his first no-hitter (walking five and striking out out eight).  Feller’s Opening Day performance was a pretty good indicator of what was to come.  In 1940, he would go on to lead the AL in wins (27), ERA (2.61), strikeouts (261), games pitched (43), games started (37), complete games (31), innings pitched (320 1/3) and shutouts (4).

Five Strikeouts – A Victim of Circumstances

Circumstances were clearly working against Ron Karkovice on March 31, 1996, when he set an MLB Opening Day record by striking out five times.

First, future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson (who retired with the second most strikeouts in MLB history) started on the mound for the Mariners – and he was on his game, whiffing 14 batters in seven innings (including Karkovice in the second, fourth and seventh).

Second, the White Sox could muster only two runs on four hits over the first nine innings – taking a slim 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth (at that point in the game, Karkovice had only a mundane three strikeouts to his credit – or debit – for the day).

Third, the Mariners tied the contest in the ninth, and the game went to 12 innings before the Mariners prevailed 3-2.  In those three extra innings, Karkovice struck out against Norm Charlton (tenth inning) and Edwin Hurtado (twelfth inning) to set the Opening Day record.

Of note – at least to BBRT – is the fact that, despite five strikeouts in five plate appearances, Karkovice did not leave a single runner on base.

Seven RBI – Bringing the Boys Home

Being a Twins’ fan, one of my favorite Opening Day records is seven RBI in game one of the season – shared by the Twins’ Brant Alyea and the Cubs Corey Patterson.

On April 7, 1970, as the Twins downed the White Sox 12-0 in Chicago, LF Brant Alyea drove in an Opening Day record seven runs – going four-for-four, with two home runs. It was Alyea’s first game as a Twin and the start of the hottest month in his career.  In 17 April games, he hit .415, with seven runs, 23 RBI, four doubles and five home runs. For the season, Alyea appeared in 94 games, hitting career highs in batting average (.291), home runs (16) and RBI (61).

On Opening Day 2003 (March 31), the Cubs CF Corey Patterson tied Alyea’s record – driving in seven runs, going four-for-six with two home runs, as the Cubs topped the Mets 15-2 in New York. Patterson, a career .252 hitter (12 seasons), seemed to always be ready for Opening Day. In seven Opening Day appearances, Patterson hit .440, with seven runs, 12 RBI and three home runs. The season he tied Alyea’s Opening Day RBI mark, Patterson played in 83 games, hitting .298, with 13 home runs and 55 RBI.

Three Can Be a Lucky Number – Most Home Runs in an Opening Day Game

On April 4, 1988, Blue Jays DH George Bell became the first major leaguer to hit three home runs in an Opening Day game. (The number of three-home run Opening Days is now up to three.)  Bell’s power outburst was no surprise. He was coming off a 1987 season in which he hit 47 homers, drove in 134 runs and was the AL MVP. (Bell would go on to hit 24 home runs in 1988.)  Bell hit all three of his home runs off Royals’ starter Brett Saberhagen (the game was in Kansas City), and drove in four runs as the Blue Jays prevailed 5-3.  Bell hit 265 home runs in a 12-season MLB career.

Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes was the second player to hit three home runs in an Opening Day game.  On a windy April 4, 1994, Rhodes (leading off and playing CF for the Cubs in Chicago) hit three solo shots off Mets starter Dwight Gooden (in the first, third and fifth innings), as the Cubs lost to the visiting Mets 12-8. Rhodes, who had five plate appearances, also had a single and a walk.  At the time, Rhodes had played a total of 107 MLB games in four seasons – hitting a total of five home runs. His MLB career consisted of 225 games in six seasons, with a .224 average and just 13 round trippers (with a high of eight in 1994). Rhodes did go on to hit 474 home runs in eleven seasons in Japan.

On April 4, 2005 the Tigers Dmitri Young joined Bell and Rhodes on the short list of batters with three home runs in an Opening Day game – as the Tigers topped the Royals 11-2 in Detroit. Young started at DH and went four-for-four with four runs and five RBI.  Young hit a total of 21 home runs in 2005 – and 171 in 13 MLB seasons.

BBRT finds it interesting that two of the three three-homer Opening Days belong to DHs.

Fifteen Strikeouts on Opening Day

Who holds the record for pitcher’s strikeouts in an Opening Day game?  Walter Johnson? Bob Feller? Christy Mathewson? Sandy Koufax? Nolan Ryan? Bob Gibson? Randy Johnson? Tom Seaver? None of the above.

On April 18, 1960, Camilo Pascual (known for his sweeping curve ball, but also possessing a fastball “with movement”) took the mound at Griffith Stadium for the Washington Senators (against the Boston Red Sox). In 1959, the Senators had finished in last place in the AL, but Pascual had gone 17-10, 2.64, and led the league with 17 complete games and six shutouts. As the Senators’ Opening Day starter in 1960, Pascual picked up right where he left off – tossing a complete game three-hitter, walking three and striking out a (still) Opening Day record 15 batters.  Behind this sterling effort, the Senators beat the Red Sox 10-1.

In an 18-year MLB career, Pascual went 174-170, 3.63 (often pitching for second division clubs), was an All Star five times, a twenty-game winner twice and the league leader in complete games, shutouts and strikeouts three times each.

Two “Kings” of Opening Day

Perhaps no one looked forward to Opening Day more than Ted Williams – the king of the Opening Day batter’s box.  A career .344 hitter, the “Splendid Splinter” was even better on Opening Day.  Williams played in fourteen openers and was never held hitless.  He compiled a .449 Opening Day average (22 hits in 49 at bats), with three home runs, eight doubles, one triple, nine runs scored, 14 RBI and eleven walks.  His Opening Day on-base percentage was .550 and his season-opener slugging percentage was .837.

The Washington Senators’ Walter Johnson can be crowned king of the Opening Day mound.  On his first-ever Opening Day start (April 14, 1910), the 22-year-old Johnson tossed a 3-0 one-hit shutout against the Philadelphia Athletics.  Sixteen years (and 13 Opening Day starts) later, a 38-year-old Johnson fulfilled his last Opening Day assignment with a 15-inning, complete-game, 1-0 win (6 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts) over the A’s.  Johnson holds the record for Opening Day pitching victories with nine (against five losses) and also threw a record seven Opening Day shutouts.

Jimmy – The Key to Opening Day Victories

While Walter Johnson holds the record for Opening Day wins at nine, it did take him 14 Game One starts (and five losses) to get there.  Jimmy Key (pitching for the Blue Jays, Yankees and Orioles) holds the record for most Opening Days wins without an Opening Day loss – at seven. Key had seven Opening Day wins in seven Opening Day starts.  In those seven victories, he threw 44 1/3 innings, had a 3.05 ERA, gave up 38 hits and just five walks, while striking out 23.

Opening Day Can Be Painful

On April 9, 1990, Astros first baseman and clean-up hitter Glenn Davis (a 1989 All Star) opened the season in a bruising manner – tying an Opening Day (and MLB regular season) record for getting hit by a pitch in a game (three times). Davis came to the plate six times and never put the ball in play – but still made only one out.  For the game, Davis was hit by a pitch three times, walked twice (once intentionally) and struck out once. The Astros lost to the Reds 8-4 on Davis’ historic and painful day. The Opening Day action did help Davis lead the league in one category in 1990 (Hit By Pitch – eight).

Of note to BBRT, Davis finished Opening Day with a batting average of .000, but an on-base percentage of .833.

Whoa! Get Control of Yourself – 11 Walks on Opening Day

Cleveland southpaw Herb Score set the Opening Day record for pitchers walks on April 16, 1957 – when he took the mound at home against the visiting White Sox. Score walked 11 that day – but his performance was not as bad as that figure would indicate.  While the Indians lost 3-2 in 11 innings, Score went the distance (pitchers used to finish what they started – back in the day), giving up just seven hits and two earned runs.  In addition to his eleven walks, Score struck out ten. Score earned the Opening Day call with a 20-9, 2.53 1956 season in which he led the AL in strikeouts. (Score led the AL in whiffs in each of his first two seasons 1955-56.)

Eight Opening Day Homers – The Career Record

Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Adam Dunn share the career record for Opening Day home runs at eight.  While Griffey, Jr., Robinson and Dunn share the overall record, the American League-only record belongs to Griffey, Jr., who hit all his Opening Day shots for the Mariners.  Robinson hit Opening Day homers for the most teams: the Orioles, Angels and Indians in the AL and the Reds in the NL.  The National League-only record (seven Opening Day Shots) is shared by a couple of Hall of Famers:  Willie Mays (all for the Giants – in New York and San Francisco) and Eddie Mathews (all for the Braves in Milwaukee.)

Let’s Get This Party Started

Tom Seaver was the starting pitcher for his team on Opening Day a record sixteen times (Mets, Reds, White Sox) – going 7-2 with 7 no-decisions.

Now, let’s get ready to open another MLB season!

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

photo by: Sonnett

For Twins Fans – Some Powerful Records

Harmon Killibrew hit more home runs in the 1960s than any other player - powering the Twins to some big innings.

Harmon Killibrew hit more home runs in the 1960s than any other player – powering the Twins to some big innings.

The Minnesota Twins gave their fans a special Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17) present this year.  Not only did they defeat the Orioles 10-9 to bring Minnesota’s 2015 Spring Training record to a Grapefruit League-best seven wins and three losses, they also hit for the “Home Run Cycle” – hitting solo, two-run, three-run and Grand Slam homers during the contest – and in that order no less.  Third baseman Trevor Plouffe delivered a solo shot in the second inning; DH Eduardo Nunez hit a two-run homer in the fourth; first baseman Kennys Vargas rapped a three-run round tripper in the fifth; and shortstop Eduardo Escobar capped it off with a Grand Slam in the sixth.

All of this power may have taken senior Twins fans (like me) back to the 1960s, when the Twins’ punishing lineup often simply “overpowered” the opposition.  I’d like to dedicate this post to those powerful teams – and to all the Twins fans who remember them.  Here’s just a few examples of those ‘60s Twins exploits (or newer fans who would like to know more about them).

  • On July 18, 1962 … The Twins tied an MLB record and became the first AL team (and the first MLB team since 1890) to hit two grand slams in one inning. (It’s been done a total of seven times to date.) The Twins remain the only team to pull off the feat in the first-inning of a game. It was a Twins’ home game (versus the Cleveland Indians). The Twins scored eleven times in the bottom of the first, with the key blows being Grand Slam HRs by right fielder Bob Allison and, fittingly, left fielder Harmon Killebrew.
  • May 2, 1964 – The Twins tied an MLB record for the most consecutive home runs in an inning – four.  They were (and remain) the only team to accomplish the feat in an “extra” inning. The game, against the Athletics in Kansas City, was tied 3-3 as the Twins came to bat in the top of the eleventh. Right fielder Tony Oliva hit a go-ahead home run to open the inning. This was followed, in succession, by roundtrippers from first baseman Bob Allison, center fielder Jimmie Hall and (again fittingly) left fielder Harmon Killebrew.
  • June 6, 1966 – The Twins tied another MLB record by hitting five home runs in one inning. (The Twins are still the only AL team to accomplish this feat. It’s been done four times in the NL.) The Twins outburst came in the bottom of the seventh inning in a game against the Kansas City Athletics. The home runs were hit by pinch hitter Rich Rollins, shortstop Zoilo Versalles, right fielder Tony Oliva, first baseman Don Mincher and, of course, third baseman Harmon Killebrew.  For the full story on five-homer innings, click here.

One final thought related to the Twins’ Spring Training “team” Home Run Cycle.  Only once in professional baseball history has an individual player hit a solo, two-run, three-run and Grand Slam homer all in the same game.  His name was Tyrone Horne, the day was July 27, 1998 and you can read the story by clicking here.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

A Few Potential MLB Milestones for 2015

Alex Rodriguez could "hit" some statistical milestones in 2015.

Alex Rodriguez could “hit” some statistical milestones in 2015.

In this post, BBRT would like to take a look at some statistical milestones that may be reached during the 2015 season.  As we do that, it’s no surprise that the player most likely to make a “mark” or two in 2015 is the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez – who has a shot at some significant milestones in base hits, total bases, RBI, runs scored and home runs.  You’ll also find names on the potential milestone markers list like C.C. Sabathia, Joe Nathan, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Buehrle.

Base hits

The Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez is just 61 hits shy of becoming the 29th player in MLB history to collect 3,000 safeties.  He should reach that mark by mid-season and has a chance (if he can collect 140 hits in 2015) to move into 20th place all-time.  (Cap Anson is now at number 20 with 3,081 hits.)

Runs Batted In

Alex Rodriguez needs just 31 RBI to become only the third player in MLB history to reach 2,000 runs batted in.  The others are Hank Aaron (2,297) and Babe Ruth (2,218). This is another milestone that A-Rod, if he stays healthy (he does turn 40 in July), should reach before the All Star break.

The Angels’ Albert Pujols – beginning the season with 1,603 RBI – has a chance to become just the 24th player to reach 1,700 runs driven in. (Reggie Jackson is currently number 24, with 1,702, two behind Frank Thomas for number 23.)

Runs Scored

Alex Rodriguez needs 81 runs to become the eighth major leaguer to cross the plate 2,000 times.  That may be a stretch for Rodriguez, but there are some milestones in between his current 1,919 runs scored (10th all time) and 2,000. A-Rod needs just four runs to tie Derek Jeter for ninth on the list, and 30 runs will pull him into a tie for eighth with Stan Musial.

Home Runs

Albert Pujols should move up the HR and RBI lists in 2015.

Albert Pujols should move up the HR and RBI lists in 2015.

Alex Rodriguez is also on the home run milestone list – not for a new round number, but for his place on the list. Rodriguez is currently fifth among all-time home run hitters at 654 roundtrippers.  He needs just seven homers to pass Willie Mays for the number-four spot.  Beyond Mays, there are the out-of-reach Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762).

The Red Sox’ David Ortiz is 34 home runs shy of becoming the 27th member of the 500 home run club.  While Ortiz did hit 35 dingers last season, it was the first time he reached at least 34 home runs since 2007. If he makes 500 this season, it will be late in the year. He’ll probably need to suit up for at least one more season to reach the half-century mark.

Albert Pujols starts 2015 with 520 home runs, good for 21st all-time.  He should vault up several spots this season (Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams, for example, all sit at 521). If Pujols matches his 29 home runs of 2014, he will move into a tie for 15th place with Mike Schmidt.  (Pujols needs only 16 HRs to tie Mickey Mantle for 16th place all time.)

Total Bases

Alex Rodriguez is just 20 total bases shy of becoming the ninth player to reach 5,500 total bases – and 59 shy of tying Carl Yastrzemski for number-eight all-time. (Number seven is a ways off – Pete Rose at 5,752). Only three players have reached 6,000 total bases in their careers: Hank Aaron (6,856), Stan Musial (6,134) and Willie Mays (6,066).

Stolen Bases

Another Yankee, Ichiro Suzuki, needs just 13 stolen bases to become the 24th player to reach the 500 mark. He is, however, 41-years-old, so 14 steals is not a given. Still, he’s never stolen less than 14 in a season (15 steals in 2014), so he has a chance to reach the 500 mark late in 2015.

The Dodgers’ Carl Crawford is also closing in on 500 steals – with 470 going into the season. Crawford, however, hasn’t reached the 30-steal mark since 2010 (23 last season).  With the Dodgers still facing log jam in the outfield, Crawford (like Suzuki) is a long-shot to hit this milestone in 2014 . (If I had to pick either Ichiro or Crawford to reach 500 this year, I’d go with Suzuki.)

Strikeouts

The Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia needs just 63 strikeouts to become the 31st hurler to reach the 2,500 mark for his career. If he comes back from last season’s knee surgery, the 34-year-old southpaw should easily reach that mark. Sabathia currently stands at number 38 on the all-time K list (2,437) – between him and number 31 are Jamie Moyer (2,441), Andy Pettitte (2,448), San McDowell (2,453), Jim Kaat (2,461), Mark Langston (2,464), Jack Morris (2,478) and Don Drysdale (2,486). If Sabathia can notch 65 whiffs in 2015, he can move into a tie with Christy Mathewson for 30th all time (2,502).

Victories

Mark Buehrle’s first win for the Blue Jays in 2015 will be his 200th career win,

Games Pitched

The Rockies’ LaTroy Hawkins (who appeared in his 1,000th game last season), now stands at number 16 for pitching appearances all-time.  The 42-year-old Hawkins,  who made 57 appearances last season, needs to take the mound in 35 games to tie Trevor Hoffman for tenth all-time. BBRT is betting that Hawkins – who has announced he will retire after the 2015 season (his 21st MLB season) – will make that top ten mark.

Saves

Joe Nathan could take a high five for his 400th saves  this coming season.

Joe Nathan could take a high five for his 400th saves this coming season.

The Tigers’ Joe Nathan – coming off a disappointing 2014 – needs just 24 saves to become just the sixth pitcher to reach the 400 mark. Even with his 4.81 ERA of 2014, Nathan notched 35 saves. If the 39-year-old has enough left in the tank to hold onto the closer’s position, he should make it.  The chances, from here, look to be 50-50

photos by: & ,

BallPark Tours 2015 Schedule

Ballpark Tours 2015 Summer Lineup

A Few Seats Left – Sign up now!

 

Leaving from Saint Paul, Minnesota.

For more information and signup instructions click here.

 

Minor League Meander … June 26 – 27 – 28

Omaha – Sioux Falls – Des Moines

Omaha Storm Chasers / Round Rock Express

Sioux City Explorers / Amarillo Sox

Iowa Cubs / New Orleans Zephyrs

A three-day jaunt to Iowa  and Nebraska with a lot of Pacific Coast League action,

plus you’ll get your first look at time clocks!!!

$475  (per person/double occupancy)

 

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Bleacher Bums XXXIII … August 5 – August 11

 Rock & Roll Adventure

Schaumburg – Chicago – Cleveland – Detroit – Chicago

Miners/Boomers – Giants/Cubs – Twins/Indians – Bosox/Tigers – Angels/Chisox

6 nights – 6 games – Free time in Chicago & Cleveland – Microbrewery Escapade(s).

Great downtown hotels, time to take in the sites and a chance to see the Twins on the road.

$1275 (per person/double occupancy)

Rates for each trek are per person (double occupancy) & include travel by air-conditioned coach bus, rooms, tickets, commemorative tour shirt and BPT Hoopla!!!

To read about blog posts from past trips, click here: