Ballpark Tours 2016 – Day Ten – Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa.

Principal Park - Des Moines - home of the Iowa Cubs.

Principal Park – Des Moines – home of the Iowa Cubs.

Ten days of care-free baseball travel are coming to an end.   For the past week-and-a-half, our band of 32 has gotten up each morning facing only three important questions:  1) Do I have a bus to catch?  2) Who is playing today?  3) What t-shirt and/or hat should I wear?

On the final day of our trip, we left Kansas City at 8:30 a.m. – after enjoying the Country Club Plaza’s breakfast buffet – headed for Des Moines and the 1:08 p.m. Iowa Cubs/Memphis Redbirds tilt.

BLEACHER BUMS XXXIV – What we did, as a group and on our own.

 – Our trip took approximately 230 hours and covered 2,500 miles.

– We saw nine baseball games (one rainout) in seven cities in four states in ten days.

– We tok in Independent-ball, A, AA, AAA and major league

– We visited barbeque joints, breweries, Irish pubs, blues bars and honky tonks.

– We enjoyed the Negro Leagues Museum, Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum and more.

– In addition to our Sugar Loaf coach, members of our group traveled via horse-drawn carriage, hotel shuttles, Uber and taxi.

– We ate, drank, shopped and celebrated on/in Beale Street, Printers Alley, Westport, 18th & Vine and the Honky Tonk Highway.

– In the ball parks, we enjoyed fireworks, Elvis Night and zombies – and even a spirited game of Jenga.

– Our ball park food ranged from hot dogs and brats to Fried Moon Pies and “The Bacon Explosion.”

– We set up on-board Bloody Mary and Mimosa stations.

– While traveling our “baseball highway,” we shared Chex Mix, Chicago Mix, cookies, candy, chips, cheese and crackers – and lots of baseball stories.

– “In port,” we ate everything from Crawfish Etouffee to barbeque to oven-fired pizza.

– Meals in our on-the-road lunch stops covered everything from meatball sandwiches to Maid Rites (and more, even Chinese at one stop).

– We guessed how many runs would be scored, answered a baseball trivia quiz and played the cup game.

– We purchased nearly every souvenir imaginable … lapel pins, jerseys, hats, bats.  You name it, we bought it, and now we have to store it.

– We even took part in a baseball book exchange.

– We renewed old friendships and forged new ones.

– We had FUN, FUN, FUN!

10 maid

The stop at Maid Rite proved popular for several membes of our touring group.

Our Sunday morning bus ride included a rest stop at an Amish store that included a Maid Rite restaurant.  For those of you unfamiliar with Maid Rites (called by some loose-meat sandwiches), they are basically seasoned, crumbled hamburger on a bun –  delicious and increasingly difficult to find.  (Unless you are on a Ballpark Tours bus.)  Even though I had enjoyed a multi-plated breakfast buffet, I couldn’t resist a junior Maid Rite.

We arrived at Principal Park in Des Moines about 45 minutes prior to game time.  The park is located at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers – and you get a great view of downtown and the gold-domed state capitol building beyond the outfield fences.

 

 

Just your average Bloody Mary.

Just your average Bloody Mary.

On entering the park, I was pleased to find a bar serving Bloody Mary’s right near the gates.  Check one item off the BBRT list.  The Bloody Mary was $8.00 – and just average.  A good, pre-made Bloody Mary mix, but no added condiments or spices.

We had great seats – between home plate and third base.  All the seats in the park – which holds 11,500 – appear to be close to the action. The weather, by the way, was as good as the seats – mid-70’s, sunny with a light breeze, perfect for the last game of our tour.

The scorecard ($1) was one of the best on the trip.  It included a handout that provided: team rosters and numbers; the day’s starting lineups; full stats on each player; current PCL standings; the upcoming schedule; and “News and Notes.”  Kudos to the Iowa Cubs.

The "Out of Towners" were taking on the "Local Boys."

The “Out of Towners” were taking on the “Local Boys.”

A bit more about the ball park before I get into the game itself.   The scoreboard is a unique blend of old and new.  It has a large, clear video screen that provides plenty of information on each hitter (including their Twitter addresses), as well as replays of key plays.  Beneath that is a set of center field bleachers and an old-school, inning-by-inning line score (you know, the kind where you post the runs, hits and errors by hand) that labels the two teams ”OUT OF TOWNERS” and “LOCAL BOYS.”

Principles on Display at Principle Park

Some of our group thought the park should be named Principle Park, since the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is proudly displayed as you enter the ballpark.  The sign, I learned, was the idea of the team’s majority owner Michael Gartner – a former journalist.  

A brader park sandiwch the size of a catcher's mitt.

A breader pork tenderloin  sandiwch the size of a catcher’s mitt, served on a bed of fries for $11.

The concessions earned approval from our group as a whole – in particular the juicy Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, the massive Pork Tenderloin Basket and the Bacon Explosion (summer sausage stuffed AND wrapped with bacon).  The walk-in beer cooler – fans can walk into the cooler and select their cold brew – is thought to be the only one of its kind at a ball park.

So, how about the game?

It was a close contest (2-1 after seven innings), eventually won by the Memphis Redbirds 4-1.  The Redbirds got to Cubs’ starter Jake Buchanan early, scoring twice on a single and two doubles in the first inning. He then settled down and held Memphis scoreless until giving up an unearned run in the seventh.

Mike Mayers, who started for the Redbirds, went a solid five innings – giving up just six hits and one earned run, while walking one and fanning eight. (In his last three starts, Mayers has walked just one and fanned 21 in 17 innings). Overall, the game featured 18 strikeouts – eleven by four Redbirds’ pitchers and seven by three Cubs’ hurlers.

If I had to name offensive stars for the game – offense was pretty light – they would be the Redbirds’ SS/leadoff hitter Breyvic Valera and Cubs’ 3B/cleanup hitter Jeimer Candelario.  Valera had three hits (all singles) and an RBI. It was his seventh three-hit game of the season and he ended the contest hitting .363.  Candelario had two of the Cubs’ seven hits (all the Cubs’ hits were singles), giving him a nine-game hitting streak and a streak of 28 consecutive games reaching base.

We did see a nifty 6-4-3 double play, a couple of running catches in the outfield, a leaping catch at the  centerfield wall, a nifty bunt single and a single on a lazy fly lost in the sun (We all thought it should have been scored an error).

Let the Pitchers Hit

As regular BBRT readers know, I am not a fan of the Designated Hitter.  Well, in the Iowa/Memphis game, the pitchers came to the plate.  The rules dictate that if either team is affiliated with an American League team, the DH is used.  However, if neither team is affiliated with an AL squad, the pitchers hit.  Memphis and Iowa are Cardinals’ and Cubs’ affiliates, so we got to see the pitchers take a few swings. Overall, the hurlers went two-for-five and – as you will read in the Cup Game aside – that worked out pretty well for me.

All in all, a well-played game – although fielders did have trouble with the high sky and there were some adventurous plays on fly balls and pop-ups.

The Cup Game and an Unlikely Win

Every so often, our touring group likes to add a little excitement to the contest with “The Cup Game.”  It goes like this – a cup is passed, in a specific order, among the participants (we had nine this time) – changing hands with each new batter.  If the hitter at the plate does not get a hit or a walk, you put in a quarter and pass the cup to the next participant. If your batter walks, you pass the cup, but put in no money.  If your batter gets a hit, you get the contents of the cup, and then pass it on.  If your batter hits a home run, you get the contents of the cup and an extra quarter from each participant.  Finally, whoever has the cup when the last out is made, gets its contents.  

For most of the game, I found myself receiving an empty cup and passing on one with my quarter in it. Then in the ninth inning, the cup came into my hands with about $3.50 in it.  Unfortunately, Memphis pitcher Dean Kiekhefer was at the plate. Of course, it would be a pitcher. Well, Kiekhefer hit a slow roller down the third base line (How hard do pitchers usually run on these plays?) – and he hustled down the line to beat it out for an infield hit (and a pocketful of quarters for me). I say again, let the pitchers hit.

I should add that the Iowa Cubs are not long on promotions between innings.  They do fire a lot of t-shirts into the crowd, and there was a costumed hamburger race (featuring youngsters from the crowd who were really competing). Most of the remaining between-inning activities consisted of fans (youngsters) answering questions about agricultural products and production. (This is Iowa after all.) It was actually refreshing not to be bombarded with one between-inning contest after another.

So, there is our trip.  For the reports on Day One, click here. Day Two, here; Day Three, here; Day Four, here;  Day Five, here; Day Six, here; Day Seven, here; Day Eight, here; Day Nine, here.

Alas, when I got up this morning, there was no ball game to get to (but a blog post to write).  Life is so routine.  I think I’ll take in a Saint Paul Saints Game tomorrow.

By the way, Ballpark Tours still has a September Chicago/Milwaukee trip and a December Cuba adventure planned.  Click here to get to their site.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance. 

Ballpark Tours 2016 – Day Eight – Called Up to the Show

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it still make a noise?

Why I ask, you ask!  Because Day Eight of Ball Park Tours Bleacher Bums XXXIV was defined as much (or more) by what we didn’t see, than by what we saw.

Let’s start by talking a little baseball – Twins baseball, because we are now in Kansas City, taking in a pair of Royals/Twins tilts. Yes. after just six minor league games, we’ve been called up to “The Show.”

Kauffman Stadium before the monsoon.

Kauffman Stadium before the monsoon.

We arrived, by bus, at Kauffman Stadium under ominous skies and even more ominous weather reports.  Predictions were that a major storm front would roll in about 9:00 p.m. (7:15 game time) with significant rainfall, high winds and plenty of lightening.  We were well-armed for the confrontation, with umbrellas, Ballpark Tours 30th Anniversary windbreakers and ponchos (many bought at the Chattanooga Lookouts game).

The game started on time, with the Twins’ Jose Berrios (2-3, 9.32) facing off against the Royals’ Edison Volquez (9-10, 4.95).   We didn’t expect a pitchers’ duel – and we didn’t get one.

The Royals struck first, in an ugly second inning. Berrios started the frame by fanning Royals’ DH Kendrys Morales.  From that point on, things fell apart. C Salvador Perez singled; LF Alex Gordon walked; SS Alicides Escobar singled in a run; 2B Raul Mondesi walked, loading the bases.  Then Berrios walked CF Jarrod Dyson AND 3b Cheslor Cutberth – forcing in two runs (no more exciting play in baseball than the bases-loaded walk) – before getting RF Lorenzo Cain to end the inning on a 6-4-3 double play. Three runs on two hits and four walks – not a good sign.

The Twins came back on a long home run by 2B Brian Dozier (his 28th) leading off the third.  But, the Royals countered in the fourth, producing a run on a walk (of course) and two singles.

Then in the top of the fifth, with storms threatening (and eventually arriving), the Twins rallied with: a double by CF Eddie Rosario; a run scoring double by C Juan Centeno; a strikeout by LF Danny Santana; a single by Dozier (who then stole second); and a two-run single by SS Jorge Polanco – tying the game at 4-4.  It was at precisely that time, with Joe Mauer coming up, that the skies began to open up, the tarps came out and game went into a rain delay.

That’s what we saw.  Here’s what we didn’t see.

Rainfall fallout in the lobby.

Rainfall fallout in the lobby.

First, having studied, the weather reports, we didn’t wait too long before heading back to the hotel on the bus.  (Our early departure was the rule, rather than the exception, among fans at the game.) From there, some of our  folks headed out on the town, while others watched on smart phones to see if the game would resume – the stakes were high, there had been some friendly wagering on whether we would see any more rainouts (after the Day One washout) on this trip.  The speculation was accompanied by adult beverages in the lobby, where discussions touched on such topics as that night’s game and suspended versus cancelled game rules, Pete Reiser, Kaufmann Stadium concession prices, Mike Trout and the Twins’ pitching staff.

Shortly before midnight, when the lobby was pretty much empty (bar closed at 11:30) – and after a three-hour-plus rain delay – play resumed.  Twins’ 1B Mauer walked to put runners on first and second (remember the Polanco double that tied the game); 3B Plouffe popped up; and RF Max Kepler was called out on strikes to end the fifth inning.  The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the 11th inning, when Kansas City pushed across a run to win it by a 5-4 score – AT APPROXXIMATELY 2:15 a.m.  Yes, we missed an exciting game.  Yes, some of us might (and that’s a big MIGHT) have stayed.  But it takes a village to do a baseball tour – and there are times that community interests must prevail.  Plus, we still have baseball on the slate for Saturday and Sunday.

Now, a brief look at the day (I have to wrap this post up early, a group of us are headed to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum this morning).

Breakfast and a show.

Breakfast and a show.

On Day Eight, we had an early morning departure from the Marion (IL) Holiday Inn Express (8:30 a.m.), so the free buffet breakfast was pretty well attended.  Two highlights from breakfast (which included the usual items like scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, cinnamon rolls, toast, biscuits and gravy, etc.): 1) They had a pancake machine.  (You know, the ones that shoot out pancakes like a copier – or, as I like to say “Breakfast and a show.” 2) One of our tour group walked to a nearby Krispy Kreme and brought back warm donuts. Glazed donuts and coffee, great start to the day.

The trip to Kansas City was about six hours – including a lunch stop – and much of it was spent retelling tales from earlier in the trip (and discussing the scoring possibilities related to the extra inning “gift” runners in the Frontier League).  The lunch break was near a truck plaza, so we had our choices of fast food offerings.  I selected Arby’s and it proved a good decision.  Remember that meatball sandwich I couldn’t get in Marion?  The limited time special at Arby’s was – wait for it – a meatball sandwich.   The baseball gods apparently were smiling down on our maroon coach.

Oh, a little coach story here.  We are traveling on a Sugar Loaf (name of company) coach and some of our participants overhead local residents at one of our stops talking about the bus, speculating that “Sugar Loaf” was a touring country band.  I guess we are traveling in luxury – and we did stop in Nashville. Next gig, Kauffman Stadium.

ADDENDUM TO DAY SEVEN

8singAn additional bit of information on Day Seven – for the full day, click here.  I noted yesterday that the Frontier League has adopted rules that have each team starting any inning after the tenth inning with a runner on second – and wondered about the scoring. After a deeper look, I have found that the “gift” runner is designated on the scorecard as (ITB) – indicating a runner put on via international rules.  I also found that, while the pitcher who allows such a gift runner to score can still take the loss, the ITB runner’s tally is not considered an earned run.

Also, here is a photo of the Ballpark Tours group leading the seventh-inning rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  Given that the entire Southern Illinois Minors field is artificial turf (even the “dirt” portions), it might have been more appropriate if we had lip-synched the tune.  

We checked into the Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza in Kansas City at about 4:00 p.m., with the bus slated to head to the ball park at 6:00 for a 7:15 game.  You’ve already read about the game – which is also how we found out about most of it.  So, let’s look at the ballpark.

8 foundtainArriving at Kaufmann Stadium, you first notice the higher level of security (as opposed to all our minor league stops) … bag searches and metal detectors were the order of the day.  Once inside the stadium, which opened in 1973 and underwent significant renovation in the late 2000’s, you notice the steep upper deck, massive “Crown Vision” scoreboard/video board in center field and the right field fountain area.

Our group also noticed the concession prices – reporting paying $11 for a beer and $7 for a bottle of water.  Sticker shock quickly set in (of course, we had just come off the $1 beer, hot dogs and peanuts in Marion). I’ll try to have more on concessions at Kaufman Stadium in my Day Nine post. I didn’t have a lot of time for sampling after visiting the Royals Hall of Fame, picking up my Bloody Mary, acquiring ($1) and filling out the lineup on my scorecard, finding my seat and then joining the hoards fleeing the storm.

NOTE: Spoiler Alert – Given our Saturday/Sunday schedule, I may have to combine Days Nine and Ten into one final report. 

A talk on uniforms of the past was part of the Royals HOF experience.

A talk on uniforms of the past was part of the Royals HOF experience.

If you are visiting Kauffman, I would suggest that, before you take your seat, you visit the Royals Hall of Fame Museum (open until the top of the ninth inning). It’s located on the plaza  in the right field corner. You’ll find lots of great memorabilia, as well as plaques for the Royals (team) Hall of Fame members.  The biggest attraction seems to be the opportunity to have your picture taken with the 2015 World Series trophy – there was a long line of still giddy Royals’ fan waiting for that photo op. I was impressed with the big number five constructed out of 3,154 baseballs – one for every George Brett regular season hit.

Our seats were in the lower deck, down the right field line, good sight lines, but (as expected) further from the action than in the minor league parks we had visited. But then again, we had been called up to “The Show.”  There looked to be about 30,000 fans in the house (reported attendance was 28,463) and they were a loud and enthusiastic lot.  (Although it was hard to tell, since we were seated very near a set of speakers that blasted out the “Get Loud” music at almost painful decibel levels).

8 bloodyThe Bloody Mary – $10 at the Boulevard Pub – was adequate: good pour; spicy, but not over bearing (it could have used a touch more tabasco and a bit of celery salt); it included a lime wedge, but I do like more substance in a Bloody Mary (maybe a celery stick, olives or a pickle spear.) Still at $10, it was a better bargain than the $11 beer.  (One of our group reported paying $27 for two beers and a bag of peanuts.)

 

 

 

 

 

8 kabobOne popular concession item with our group was the “Berrie Kabob” – available for $7 at a nearby concession stand or from strolling vendors. They consisted of chocolate dipped strawberries, bananas and brownies (in various combinations) on a stick – and were delicious.  If you are looking for dessert, this one is a hit.

 

 

That’s it for Day Eight. For the reports on Day One, click here; Day Two, here; Day Three, here. Day Four, here; Day Five, here; Day Six, here; Day Seven , here.

The Day in MLB

A big day for home runs in MLB yesterday – a total of 49 round trippers in 15 games (only one in our game, but at least we were there for it). A few observations;

  • In Baltimore, the Orioles bashed four round trippers before they made their first out – in a losing cause. (They lost 15-8 to the Astros.)
  • The Cardinals tied an MLB record with their ninth consecutive multi-homer game, hitting a pair of long balls as they topped the Phillies 4-3 in 11 innings.
  • In Baltimore, both leadoff hitters started their team’s offense with first-inning home runs (George Springer, Astros/Adam Jones, Orioles). Not to be outdone, the leadoff hitters for the Cubs and Rockies (Dexter Fowler, Cubs/David Dahl, Rockies) matched the feat.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Members:  Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

 

 

Ballpark Tours 2016 – Day Six – Strikeouts and Moon Pies

We had a “chance-to-sleep-in” 10:30 a.m. departure from Nashville, which got us into Chattanooga a bit early for check-in.  Fortunately, our illustrious tour operator is always prepared – and we were booked into the Big River Grille and Brewing Works (just a few blocks from the hotel) for pre-check-in lunch and beverages.

A good time was had by all - but, then again , it was a brew pub (and 98 degress outgside).

A good time was had by all – but, then again , it was a brew pub (and 98 degress outside).

It was a welcome and satisfying stop.  Plenty of handcrafted brews, oven-fired pizzas and sandwiches and entrees made from scratch – plus a nice selection of wines and cocktails.  The oldest brew pub  in Chattanooga, Big River Grille and Brewing Works offered an extensive line of hand-crafted beers – from Southern Flyer Light Lager to Iron Horse Stout – as well as a nice selection of wines, and cocktails ranging from classic martinis to pomegranate peach punch.

 

 

 

They take beer flighnts seriously at Big River.

They take beer flights seriously at Big River.

In addition, the lunch menu covered everything from Lobster and Shrimp Enchiladas to a BBQ Brisket Stuffed Burger to a wide selection of oven-fired pizzas (on beer-infused, rustic-ale pizza dough.)  Needless to say, a good time was had by all – and, from comments I heard, everyone loved the food.

 

 

 

 

T6 roomhen it was on to check-in at the Read House Historic Inn – originally opened in 1872 and rebuilt in 1926.  It boasted beautiful (and historic) rooms, complemented by the most up-to-date amenities.  Sitting in the elegant, high-ceilinged, chandeliered lobby, you half expected Winston Churchill of Al Capone – both previous guests – to come strolling in.

After check-in and a little down time, it was off to AT&T Field (not to be confused with AT&T Park in San Francisco)  for the Montgomery Biscuits versus the Chattanooga Lookouts contest. Opened in 2000 (as BellSouth Park), AT&T Field’s placement at the top of “Hawk Hill” offers some nice views of surrounding hills.  It was about an eight-block walk from the hotel to the part – on a humid, 90+ degree evening – so we were pleased to see the outdoor escalator which carries fans the last, steep 100-feet or so.

6parkfull

AT&T Field … the rain was on the way.

This really is a “blue collar ball park.” The only bells and whistles are on the Chattanoogo Choo-Choo, which (we were told) emerges from behind the right field wall for every Lookouts’ home run.  There were no long balls in our game, so the train remained unseen.  I’d suggest they run it either at the start or end of each game, so fans are guaranteed at least one view per contest.  Concession offerings were limited, but our group agreed the prices were right and the serving generous.

Now, to the game.

Starting for the Lookouts was 22-year-old southpaw Stephen Gonsalves – considered (by MLB.com) the number-four prospect in the Twins’ system (behind only Jose Berrios, Tyler Jay and Nick Gordon). Gonsalves didn’t disappoint, but Lookouts’ manager Doug Mientkiewicz did.

The 6’ 5”, 213-pound Gonsalves threw six strong innings, walking two and fanning nine – giving up no runs and NO HITS.  He was a pleasure to watch; mixing a solid fastball and effective slider. (I couldn’t get a line on his speed, a malfunctioning stadium  system consistently logged his fastball at 44-to-55 miles per hour. Gonsalves, however, is said to have a mid-90s heater.)  Mientkiewicz pulled the youngster (after 105 pitches) and brought in reliever Alan Busenitz to open the seventh.  Busenitz hit the first batter he faced (1B Jake Bauers) and walked the second (3B Patrick Leonard), before getting RF Justin Williams on a fly out.  The next batter, CF Cade Gotta, singled in Bauer to put an end to the shutout and the no-hitter. Busenitz gave up one more hit and two more runs – and the top of the seventh ended with The Lookouts up 5-3. Needless to say, there was a range of opinions about the appropriateness of pulling the starter with a no-hitter still in progress.

6pat

One of our own took part in the usual minor league hoopla – winning at “What’s in the box?”

The Lookouts, by the way, got out of the gate fast – and never looked back. In the bottom of the first, after leadoff  hitter CF Zack Granite was retired on a great play on a grounder up the middle (by Montgomery 2B Juniel Querecuto), DH Ryan Walker doubled, 3B Niko Goodrum doubled Walker home, LF Travis Harrison singled home Goodrum, RF Edgar Corcino walked, and C Stuart Turner grounded into a double play.  First inning: two runs on three hits and a walk.

Chattanooga tacked on two more runs on four hits in the fourth; one run on two hits in the sixth; and one on two hits and a walk in the seventh. The final:  Chattanooga six runs on 11 hits and one error. Montgomery: three runs on two hits and no errors.

A few highlights:

  • Chattanooga pitchers were dominant – giving up just the two hits (and three runs) in the seventh and striking out 14 Montgomery hitters (versus four walks).
  • Lookouts’ lefty Mason Melotakis, who has had injury problems in the past (Tommy John surgery in 2014), came out to start the seventh, but threw only one pitch before being replaced by Zack Jones – as the game ended, we had not heard an update.
  • Zack Jones picked up his first save for the Lookouts, going two innings, giving up no hits, walking one and fanning four – and showing a glove-popping fastball.
  • The offensive star of the game was Lookouts’ 1B T.J. White, who went two-for-three, with a walk, a run scored and two RBI.
  • Gonsalves ran his record with Chattanooga to 6-1, with a 1.81 ERA in 10 starts. The lefty has fanned 72 hitters in 59.2 innings at AA.
  • There was a 44-minute rain delay in the top of the eighth – and when play resumed probably less than 100 of the announced attendance of 1,765 were still in the park.  The gift shop did a brisk business in $5 Lookouts ponchos.
  • After the hot walk to the ball park, we found the free shuttle on the late night trek back to the hotel.
  • There were no Bloody Mary’s

In the Majors

Yesterday (August 18), the Blue Jays’ A.J. Happ became the major league’s first 2016 17-game winner, as the Jays topped the Yankees 7-4 in New York. Happ went 7 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits, four runs, one walk and fanning nine.  His record now stands at 17-3, 3.05.  The 33-year-old Happ, in his tenth MLB season, came into 2016 with a 62-61 record and a career-high 12 wins in 2009

The Fried Moon Pie

6PieFor those not familiar with it, a Moon Pie is a confection – popular in the southern states – that is basically a portable “s’more.” The traditional Moon Pie consists of two round graham crackers, with marshmallow filling in-between, dipped in chocolate.  The dessert has been around since 1917 and, for reasons unknown, there is a southern tradition of washing them down with RC Cola.  In fact, at least two musical groups have had minor hits with songs based on the RC Cola/Moon Pie combination.  Moon Pies, by the way were born and are still produced by The Chattanooga Bakery.  They now come in Chocolate, Caramel, Banana, Vanilla and Strawberry.

Why are Moon Pies in this baseball blog? It’s because the Chattanooga Lookouts honor the community’s Moon Pie heritage with a Deep Fried (chocolate) Moon Pie – the popular dessert dipped in corn dog batter, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  This specialty concession item is a recommended bargain at just $3.00. Warm, sweet and gooey – I’d rate this offering a home run.  But be ready for the post-Moon Pie sugar rush.  

For more on Ballpark Tours 2016, click here for Day One; here for Day Two; here for Day Three; here for Day Four; here for day five.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Ballpark Tours 2016 – Day Five – I Saw Elvis at the Ball Park

Day Five of Ballpark Tours 2016 (and our time in Nashville) is now in the rear view mirror.  It’s on to Chattanooga for a Lookouts (Twins’ farm team) game.  But first, let’s reflect (another mirror analogy, even at this early hour) on Day Five of Bleacher Bums XXXIV. In the post on Day Two (click here to review), I introduced the journalistic rule – Don’t Bury the Lead – which falls only slightly behind Commit to Accuracy and Tell the Who, What, When, Where and Why.  So, let’s get right to the lead.

I saw Elvis at First Tennesse Park.

Large Elivis belts one out - and it was a big bvelt - at the Sound Game

Large Elivis belts one out – and it was a big bvelt – at the Sound Game

That’s right; it was Elvis Night at the Nashville Sounds Game. While it was generally agreed that most of the high-end “Elvi” must have been back in Memphis for Elvis Week, a pair of Elvis impersonators did entertain throughout the game, there were a smattering of Elvis “wannebe’s” in the crowd and “Booster,” the Sounds rooster mascot was appropriately attired.  And, as you would expect, the music was good.

Best line from The King? When the Sound Wave dance line came out, the larger of the two “Elvi” – dressed all in black (perhaps slated for a Johnny Cash tribute later) – commented something along the lines of “These girls area about six years older than Priscilla when I started dating her.”  Side note:  We did see a young man with a football in the crowd, so maybe the cheer leaders/dance line is starting to make some sense.

 Having dispensed with the lead, let’s look at Day Five of Ballpark Tours 2016 in a somewhat chronological order.

Music everywhere, as our tour group hit the honky tonks.

Music everywhere, as our tour group hit the honky tonks.

We had the day free in Nashville and, as usual, individuals and groups set out to explore and experience the host city. The most popular locations seemed to be the Honky Tonk Highway/Broadway Historic District and Printers Alley – both prime areas for music, food, beverage(s) and shopping (pretty much from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.) and both also an easy walk from the hotel.  Also high on the list were the Musicians Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

I opted for Honky Tonk Highway and Printers Alley, and found considerably more activity early in the day in the Honky Tonk Highway area.  There were literally dozens of opportunities to enjoy live music (no cover) and in the few spots I tried (yes, beginning before noon), the performers ranged from one guy with a guitar to a four-piece country rock band.  The music was a bit uneven, but overall pretty good – and there was no cover charge.

Grilled Bologna and Cheese. I took one for the team on this one.

Committed to doing the day in true Nashville fashion, I opted for a lunch of a grilled bologna and cheese sandwich (a Nashville specialty I am told), onion rings and beer, while listening to a two-player, harmonizing group at Honky Tonk Central (a bar restaurant “with three stories, three stages and three dance floors.”)  Now, where did I put my boots and hat?  BBRT recommendation – when it comes to grilled bologna and cheese, being a “specialty” doesn’t make something “special.”

Jenga - not really a contact sport.

Jenga – not really a contact sport.

Game time was 7:05 p.m. and by shortly after six p.m., most of the Ballpark Tours crew was “in the building.”  There was, of course, the mysterious “draw of the Elvi,” but many also heard The Band Box Bar, comfy lounge and “up at the lake” seating recreation area in right field calling.  Despite the availability of such energetic options as foosball, ping pong, bean bag games, shuffle board and mini-golf), the Ballpark Tour boys opted for cold beverages and a spirited game of Jenga – totally avoiding any likelihood of concussion syndrome.  I should add that the recreation area was pretty well packed and everyone seemed to be enjoying the opportunity for some pre-game competition of their own – of course, the adult beverage offerings of the well-appointed bar didn’t hurt (especially on another sweltering day.)

5 ballparkNow, to the game.  The Tacoma Raniers were in town – meaning we were seeing two first-place teams (Raniers 71-51, first in the Pacific Coast League Northern Division) and the Sounds 70-53, first in the Southern Division), playing for home field advantage in the upcoming playoffs.

The competition proved up to the stakes – with Nashville squeaking by Tacoma 2-1.  It was an enjoyable, pretty well played and competitive contest – although it didn’t start out that way.  After Nashville starting pitcher Jesse Hahn retired the Raniers in order in the top of the first (with two strikeouts), Nashville went to work in the bottom of the inning.  Raniers’ starter Forrest Snow walked leadoff  hitter/CF Arisdmedy Alcantara to open the inning, then gave up a single to RF Jaycob Brugman; struck out LF Renato Nunez; walked 1B Matt Olson; gave up a run-scoring single to C Matt McBride; struck out 2B Joey Wendle; hit DH Rangel Ravelo with a pitch forcing in a run; and, finally, got 3B Colin Walsh on a pop-up.   Eight batters to the plate, two hits, two walks, one hit batsmen and two runs.  It was looking like a long night.

The guitar-shaped scoreboard/video board and guitar-pick shaped signage honor "Music City."

The guitar-shaped scoreboard/video board and guitar-pick shaped signage honor “Music City.”

In the top of the second, the Raniers reinforced that assessment, scoring just once, but collecting two doubles and two walks.  A long night, indeed.

We were, however, wrong.  The pitchers settled down and not another crossed the plate all night. In fact, after the top of the second, we only saw three more base hits (and a total of 19 strikeouts) and only three runners got as far as second base.

Best of the "Elvi."

Best of the “Elvi.”

The final: Nashville – two runs on three hits and no errors; Tacoma – one run on four hits and no errors. Tight and meaningful game in a very nice ball park – a good way to end our stay in Nashville.  For those who track such things, we did have a 4-1 (second base to pitcher) play in the top of the fifth – as Sounds’ 1B Matt Olson and 2B Joey Wendle both went for a grounder off  bat of Tacoma 2B Mike Freeman, with pitcher Angel Castro covering first.

 

 

 

 

 

In the Majors

Segue time. Yesterday, I wrote about the solid season being had by Reno Ace’s left fielder Kyle Jensen, who drove in two runs to reach 105 on the season (in 116 games). Today, I’d like to note that, in Tuesday’s MLB action, Blue Jays’ 1B Edwin Encarnacion went two-for-five with a home runs (his 34th on the season) and three RBI – to become the first major leaguer to reach 100 RBI in 2016. The Jays, by the way, topped the Yankees, by a 12-6 score, in that game. Encarnacion’s line of the season is now .270-34-100. He leads MLB in RBI and is tied for first (with the Orioles’ Mark Trumbo) in home runs. The win, coupled with the Orioles’ loss in Boston, gave the Blue Jays a one-game lead in the AL East race.

Just a few other notes about our time in Nashville.

  • One of the best concession items proved to the “Hot Chicken” from the Hot or Not Chicken stand.  A generous portion of “puts-a-fire-in-your-mouth” chicken on a bed of waffle fries with ranch dressing ($10).
  • Rave reviews were given to the orange-vodka based “Field of Dreamcicle” and Whiskey and Coke Icees available at the right field Band Box Bar.
  • You can have cheesecake (Lavender Cheesecake, I am told) with your “cheesecake” during the burlesque show at Skulls Rainbow Room – very near our hotel. (Those who attended said the show is somewhat “rules-driven.”
  • 417 Union is a great place for breakfast downtown Nashville – and serves a Ballpark Tours-worthy Bloody Mary.  (I may head there right after I finish this post.  After that, it’s back on the bus for the run to Chattanooga.)

How Close to the Big Leagues – and other trivia

It’s totally unscientific, but looking at Monday’s Reno Aces/Nashville Sounds rosters – 17 of the 51 players listed (one of every three) already have spent some time in the big leagues (all or parts of 42 seasons and a total of 1,151 MLB games).  Note: I did not include Sean Doollittle, who is in Nashville on an MLB rehab assignment.  The level of major league experience ranges from three players with as few as three games to the eight MLB seasons and 444 games played (pitched) for former Pirate, National and Twin Matt Capps (MLB record 29-33, 3.52, 138 saves). Since the Twins declined a one-year option on Capps in October of 2012, Capps has not pitched in the major leagues.  He has been in the Indians’, Braves’ and Diamondback’s systems. This season, with the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks), the 32-tear-old reliever is 3-0, with a 5.18 ERA and three saves.

For those with an interest in these kinds of numbers, the oldest player on the Aces/Sounds rosters is 33-year-old Nashville pitcher Angel Castro – who got the win in our Tuesday night game.  Between 2006 and 2016, Castro played 366 games – minors and foreign.  He also appeared in five games for the Oakland A’s in 2015 (0-1, 2.25 ERA in four innings pitched). The youngest player on the rosters is 22-year-old corner infielder Renato Nunez of the Sounds (born April 4, 1994). The Venezuelan, signed as an international free agent in 2010 (at age 16) is in sixth season in the A’s system – and (as of August 15) was hitting .242, with 21 homers and 70 RBI for the Sounds.

For more on Ballpark Tours Bleacher Bums XXXIV: Day one, click here; Day Two, here; Day Three, here; Day Four, here.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT.

Member:  Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Relliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance. 

Ballpark Tours 2016 – Day Four – Craft Beers, Out Stealing, Mort Sahl, Nashville Sounds, Eddie Mathews and more.

It was a short (2-3 hour) bus ride from Memphis to Music City (aka Nashville).  We pulled out of Memphis at the very humane hour of 10:30 a.m., a well-rested and ready-to-go group.  Conversations on the bus focused on the previous day’s game, past Ballpark Tours Trips and – given that this was a fairly veteran (in terms of BPT tour participation) crew, just the past.  I won’t fill in the details, but mentioning just a few of the names and topics that came up can provide some indication of the direction (or lack thereof) that the on-board conversations took:  Soupy Sales; Liberace; Mort Sahl; Tony Kubek; Tony Oliva; The Lovin’ Spoonful (and the Lyrics to Nashville Cats); Country Charlie Pride; Frank Sinatra and Elvis (together); Topo Gigio and Ed Sulllivan; Yankees’ outfielder Bernie Williams, his two guitar albums and Grammy nomination; Mike Trout versus Brian Harper – you get the idea.

The line of the day: “Remember when Liberace was on “I’ve Got a Secret.”  (You need to be old enough to remember the TV show.)

Village Pub

Village Pub and Beer Garden, Nashville.

As noted earlier, we pulled out of Memphis about 10:30 a.m. and, since we would arrive in Nashville ahead of check-in time, our intrepid tour leader chose a stop at the Village Pub and Beer Garden (1308 McGovack Pike) rather than have us wait in the hotel lobby. Great move – great place. Known for its local and regional craft beers, stuffed pretzel sandwiches and locally produced meat and cheese platters, it was the perfect stop for our group.   I went for the  Sausage Sampler Platter (bratwurst and Italian sausages cooked in beer, served on a bed of sauerkraut with garlic paprika Monterey Jack cheese, pepperoncini’s, stone ground mustard, and Silke’s dark bread), the perfect accompaniment for a cold IPA.  Also popular with our group were the Blackened Chicken Stuffed Pretzel and the Southern Meat and Cheese Tray – not to mention the many beer offerings and the fact that it was Moscow Mule Monday. 

4 inpu b As the beverages flowed, the smiles on our group expanded (and the volume of the conversation was amplified) – at least until the food began to arrive. Overall, it was a tasty and refreshing stop on our way into Nashville.

 

 

 

THOUGHTS FROM BBRT’S SURVEY OF TRIP MATES

What I like most about Ballpark Tours trips.

“Being able to have almost anyone keep my scorebook while I explore the ball park!”  (NM, Woodbury, MN)

“The people. Seeing everyone again is like ‘Getting the band back together.’ Lots of laugh and memories.”  (TF, Saint Paul, MN)

Finally, maybe too soon, it was on to the Hotel Indigo – an upscale, downtown Nashville hotel with well-appointed rooms, a nice bar/restaurant, fast and reliable internet and (this will set the tone) an armoire instead of a closet, slippers for each guest, a Keurig coffee maker and a full line of Aveda body and hair care products.  Enough said.  We’ll enjoy the stay.

I headed for the ball park about an hour before game time – just a 6-8 block walk.  I may take a different route next time, on this jaunt I passed mostly abandoned buildings (the area is being revitalized) and bail bonds businesses.

4 mascotFirst Tennessee Park –which  opened in 2015 – is home to the Nashville Sounds. The stadium, which holds 10,000, has very sleek design and, most notably, a unique guitar-shaped scoreboard/video board (a tribute to Nashville as Music City). It has a wide concourse that circles the entire field – offering great views from anywhere.  Out in right field, you will find another unique aspect of this ball park – The Band Box, with its full bar and host of free outdoor diversions, including shuffle board, foosball, bean bag games, ping pong and – for a five-dollar fee – miniature golf.  There is also ample seating (couches, lounge chairs, bar stools) and a very “I’m on vacation having a good time” vibe. BBRT recommendation:  If you get here, go there.

Nashville Sounds' Bloody Mary - a solid double, but not a home run.

Nashville Sounds’ Bloody Mary – a solid double, but not a home run.

It was at The Band Box that I grabbed my traditional Bloody Mary ($8.50).  It was a decent pour, nicely spiced (pepper, tabasco and just the proper amount of celery salt) and garnished with a lime.  In the Pacific Coast League, Nashville and Memphis are traditional rivals.  Nashville is ahead in the standings this year – and they also win the Tennessee BBRT Bloody Mary match-up. (Neither, however, is threatening the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ lead.)

 

 

 

 

JUNIOR GILLIAM WAY

4gilliamFirst Tennessee Park is located on Junior Gilliam Way. Gilliam – born in Nashville – was an infielder (2B/3B) with the Dodgers from 1953-66; 1953 NL Rookie of the year; a two-time All Star; and key member of seven NL pennant winners (four-time World Series Champions).  Before joining the Dodgers, he was a three-time Negro League All Star (Baltimore Elite Giants) and the 1952 International League Most Valuable Player (with Montreal).  Considered one of MLB’s true gentleman – and a gamer who gave his all for the team – Gilliam is not only honored by with Nashville’s Junior Gilliam Way, he also has a Los Angeles park named in his honor.

4bvallparkWe had good seats once again, down the third base line – and we saw a competitive contest, taken by the Reno Aces (over the Nashville Sounds) 3-2.  Shelby Miller – a 15-game winner for the Cardinals in 2013, but sent down after starting 2-9, 7.14 for the Diamondbacks this season – went 7 1/3 innings, giving up just two runs on ten hits.  He helped himself out with some key strikeouts (a total of nine K’s versus no walks). Miller, reaching the mid-90s, threw 72 of 100 pitches for strikes.  In addition, he got a hand (or arm) from Reno catcher Ronnie Freeman who shut down the Nashville running game, nailing all three Nashville attempted stealers (second, third and fourth innings). The Sounds were, apparently, testing the 25-year-old Freeman, in his first game at AAA since being promoted from AA Mobile.  He passed. There was one other attempted steal in the game.  This one, by Reno, was thwarted by Nashville catcher Matt McBride.   Not a good day on the base paths for either side.

4raceThere were mixed feelings about the Nashville Sound Wave (cheerleaders/dance line). Some of our group questioned whether baseball needs cheerleaders.  I’ll stay out of that one.  Everyone seemed to like the racing country stars – Johnny Cash, Reba and George Jones.

Reno scored one in the fifth on a long home run by DH Peter O’Brien (his 22nd of the season) and two in the sixth on a bases-loaded single by LF Kyle Jensen.  No surprise there, On the season, Jensen is hitting .287, with 26 home runs and 105 RBI in 116 games.  The offensive star for Nashville was leadoff hitter/CF Arismendy Alcantara (say that three times fast). Alcantara (who has played 86 games at the major league level over the past three seasons)  went two-for-four with a double, triple, RBI and run scored.  Overall, a close, well-played game and a nice, clean scorecard.  (Although, I might note that, while Reno starter Shelby Miller went 7 1/3 innings, the Aces used four pitchers to get the last five outs.)

I’ll have more on Nashville and Bleacher Bums XXXIV tomorrow.  We are staying in town and the Tacoma Raniers are coming to town – but I am now off to explore Nashville’s Honky Tonk Highway.  To read about Ballpark Tours 2016 Day 1, click here; Day Two, click here; Day 3, click here.  I will leave you with a final baseball commentary.

EDDIE MATHEWS – GOT YOU COVERED

4eddieOn this date (August 16) in 1954, the first issue of Sports Illustrated hit the newsstands.  One the cover was BBRT’s  favorite player of all time, Braves’ third baseman Eddie Mathews. The Braves’ third sacker – known as a basher (512 career home runs) and a brawler (he had some memorable conflicts with players like Don Drysdale and Frank Robinson) – was pictured hitting a home run.  He would appear on the cover again in June of 1958 and August of 1994 (40th Anniversary Issue).

A few quotes about Mathews tell his story:

Ty Cobb: “I’ve only known three or four perfect swings in my life, and this lad has one of them.”

Bud Selig:  “When you saw him play, you knew you were seeing greatness.”

_____

Braves shortstop Johnny Logan:  “I didn’t mind starting fights. Mathews was always there to finish them for me.”

Braves pitcher Tony Clonigner: “If you ever wanted to pitch inside, you didn’t have to worry about the batter making it to the mound with Eddie Mathews at third.”

Warren Spahn on Mathews’ fisticuffs with Frank Robinson: “He (Eddie) hit him with three punches that not even Muhammad Ali could have stopped.”

________

Eddie Mathews on competitiveness: “I’d take on the other third baseman. I wanted to beat him in every department: fielding, hitting, running the bases.  I played that game all my life, and it kept me going.”

Eddie Mathews at his Hall of Fame induction:  “I’m just a beat up old third baseman.  I’m just a small part of a game that is a tremendous part of America today.”

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

 

I

Bleacher Bums XXXIV – Ballpark Tours 2016 – Day Three

3entranceDay Three of Ballpark Tours XXXIV  sees us remaining in Memphis, with a second Tacoma Raniers/Memphis Redbirds game slated for 6:05 p.m.

As usual on BPT “free days,” the group split up to pursue local history, culture and/or cuisine – and, thank you Julian, much of the travel was accomplished via hotel shuttle.  The most popular destinations seemed to be Graceland (It is Elvis Week here, after all); The National Civil Rights Museum; and the Sun (Records) Studio Tour.

3bbBeing as major fan of the blues, I headed toward the Beale Street Entertainment District, where the barbeque is sweet and the  live music starts at 11 a.m. and runs straight through to 3 a.m.  It’s also where I saw quite a few of my fellow tour participants.  I stopped to take in a few tunes at a handful of clubs before heading for lunch at my previously selected destination – B.B. King’s Blues Club.  I could not miss visiting the original B.B. King’s location. I was not disappointed. The house band was great – back in Minnesota they’d be headliners – and so were the Memphis-style dry-rub ribs.  I hung out at B.B. King’s for a couple of hours (or a couple of brews, depending on how you measure) before heading over to Autozone Park for the evening’s ball game (6:05 p.m. start),

3 seatsIt was another heavy, humid day – with storms predicted –which may have contributed to the very small crowd (as might the Redbirds sub-.500 record). We did not, however, get rained on. The announced attendance was 3,517, but I’d be surprised if there were more than 2,500. – and they were a quiet bunch, despite Memphis’ 6-2 win. We tried to get something going, but often all you heard was the “sound of one fan clapping.”  Good seats again, by the way, third-base side this time.

It was a cleaner game than yesterday, eight hits apiece, only four walks, and just one error. Once again, however, the pitchers lacked “command.” We saw six hurlers and every one had either a wild pitch (four in the game) or hit batter (two). Redbirds’ starter Jeremy Hefner got off to a shaky starts (giving up a two-run homer in the first), but settled down and ended up giving up just the two runs over 6 2/3 innings – six hits, no walks, five strikeouts.)  Both cleanup hitters, as they are supposed to, did some damage. Tacoma catcher Rob Brantley poled a two-run home runs (his 13th of the season) in the first. (Brantly’s line on the season is .244-13-38). The Redbirds’ number-four hitter – CF David Washington – hit a three-run dinger (his 23rd of the season at Memphis and 28th overall) in the fifth. His 2016 line with Memphis (at the end of the game) stood at .245-23-52.,

The game’s outcome really turned on the Redbirds’ half of the fifth, when Raniers’ starter Zach Lee’s inning went:  3B Jacob Wilson, hit-by-pitch; SS Alex Mejia, strikeout; 2B Breyvic Valera, single (his third hit of the game); 1B Efren Navarro, run-scoring single; DH Jose Martinez, strikeout; LF David Washington, three-run homer;  C Mike Ohlman, flyout.

For those the like to know such things, Memphis is a home power – now having won 14 of their last 20 home games and boasting a 36-25 home record and a 22-37 mark on the road.

Once again, we received a free Redbirds hat, hot dog and beverage.  I decided to give my hat “to a kid” and, as luck would have it, shortly after I picked it up, a youngster (I’d say about 12-years-old) came up and asked me how much the hats cost.  He walked away with a free one – mission accomplished.

I’ve already commented on the ballpark and the Bloody Mary’s, so this report from the road will be short.  (For Day One, click here.  For Day Two, here).  Next stop, Nashville for a pair of Nashville Sounds versus Reno Aces games – and more libation, laughter and music.

A Streak Ends

Yesterday (August 14), Francisco Mejia (switch-hitting catcher in the Indian’s system) saw his 50-game hitting streak come to an end. He went zero-for-three with a walk for Lynchburg in his team’s 6-0 loss to Winston Salem.  It was this season’s longest streak in professional baseball, and the fourth-longest all-time. Joe Wilhoit holds the record at 69 games – you can read about that streak here.

Mejia’s streak was split between two teams – Lynchburg (High A) – 26 games and Lake County (A) – 24 games.  During the streak, he hit  .386, with eight homers and 42 RBI.  Considered one of the Indians’ top five prospects, Mejia is .345, with nine home runs and 73 RBI on the season – and is .290-24-186 over four minor league seasons.

Well that’s it for Day Three – more reports from the road to come.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Ballpark Tours: One Busy Day – From Baseball to Fireworks to a Carraige Ride

Autozone Park - home of the Memphis Redbirds.

Autozone Park – home of the Memphis Redbirds.

A long bus ride, the Twins’ 1987 World Series video, an impromptu stop at the Saint Louis Cardinals’ Team Store, a baseball game in Memphis (TN), free hats and hot dogs, a light/power malfunction game delay, a 6-4-3 double play (finally) in the top of the ninth, impressive fireworks, a carriage ride home, a lobby bar … Day Two of Ballpark Tours XXXIV had a little bit of everything.  They do say, however, don’t bury the lead – so here goes.

Last night’s winning pitcher was the Tacoma Raniers’ Pat Venditte.  Why is that the lead?  Venditte got the victory (the Raniers won over the Memphis Redbirds 6-5 in a less than cleanly played contest) by virtue of two innings pitched, giving up one hit and two walks, no runs and fanning two – and pitching to six batters right-handed and two left-handed.  That’s right, our Ballpark Tours’ group got to see MLB’s most recent ambidextrous pitcher. Venditte, who was traded from Toronto to Seattle August 6 (and assigned to Tacoma by the Mariners), has plied his left-right trade in the majors for the Blue Jays and A’s – MLB stat line: 2-2, 4.58 in 34 games.  More on Venditte later, but when it comes to the second day of our ten-day baseball trek, he’s the lead.

With that, let’s take a look at Day Two in a somewhat chronological order.

THE RIDE

The Ozzie Smith statue outside the Cardinals Team Store.

The Ozzie Smith statue outside the Cardinals Team Store.

We go off to an early start from Peoria (IL), still lamenting: 1) Last night’s rainout; 2) The heat and humidity; 3) A not-so-friendly weather forecast for Memphis (our next stop).  Things picked up on the six-hour bus ride, thanks in part to the video of Game Seven of the Twins’ 1987 World Series win over the Cardinals. Our intrepid tour leader, Julian Loscalzo distributed the tickers for the Saturday and Sunday games on the bus – and we also each received vouchers for a Memphis Redbirds hat, hot dog and beverage for each game.  Freebies – almost as popular as the Twins (repeat) Game Seven win.  The day also included an impromtu stop at the St. Louis Cardinals Team Store – where we had a chance to check out the statues of Cardinal heroes from Hornsby to Musial to Smith.

THE HOTEL

We pulled into the Crowne Plaza Downtown Memphis – and, as usual, Ballpark Tours selected well-located (about a ten-block walk to the ballpark), quality accommodations. (The hotel completed a significant remodeling in May.)  The lobby bar, shuttle service (some preferred to avoid the ten-block walk) and breakfast buffet proved especially popular.  (And, I was even provided office space in which to work on this blog.)

THE BALL PARK- from blues to Bloody Mary’s

The Memphis Winslows.

The Memphis Winslows.

We headed to Autozone Park for the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariner’ farm club) versus Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals’ farm team) tilt about an hour before the 6:35 p.m. game time. I was glad I did, pregame there was a pretty good blues-rock band (The Memphis Winslows) playing in the right field corner.  I also had plenty of time to take in a few tunes, pick up a scorecard (free), purchase my traditional Bloody Mary and collect my freebies (nice hat, good hot dog, Diet Coke).

 

The family sedan of Bloody Mary's.

The family sedan of Bloody Mary’s.

I always review the Bloody Mary.  Autozone’s Park’s offering, available for $8.75 at the Brewhouse, was adequate (good pour and I was asked how spicy I wanted it).  However, there were none of the garnishes or extra spices (like celery salt) that make a Bloody Mary pop, at least in BBRT’s eyes. It was pretty much the family sedan of Bloody Mary’s. Stick to cold beer.

It was a hot and steamy night (sounds like the start of a mystery novel) and the threat of rain delayed the start of the game about ten minutes – getting the tarp on and off the field. We had great seats, lower deck in the first few rows just beyond first base.  (We had a perfect view of a catcher-to-first base pick-off in the bottom of the fifth inning).  The park itself, which opened in 2000, is slotted nicely into downtown Memphis.  Like CHS Field (Saint Paul Saints), you really don’t notice the ball park until you are practically at the gate and, once inside, you get the always pleasing panorama of a baseball arena.  Memphis also has one of the largest – and to my eye, clearest – video screens in the minor leagues – which, as you will read later, came in handy during a mid-game delay.  Like most minor league parks, there was plenty of between innings entertainment: Baby Races; Pizza Box Races; Tricycle Races.

THE GAME

Taijuan Walker - as seen from BPT's seats.

Taijuan Walker – as seen from BPT’s seats.

The game started off pretty well, zero-zero after three – and we were pleased to have a chance to see Taijuan Walker take the mound for the Raniers. The 23-year-old Walker, long considered a top prospect for the Mariners, went 11-8, 4.56 for the Mariners in 2015 – and was 4-7, 4.10 in 17 starts before an early August demotion (after a stretch of five starts in which his ERA was a lofty 5.96).

Things went a little south in the fourth inning, as the Raniers sent 11 hitters to the plate, scoring six runs on five hits, a walk and a hit batsman. Walker looked to be on the way to a victory – having given up no hits and fanning four in the first three frames (the only blemish was a hit-by-pitch). He had a six-run lead and just needed to go five innings for a win.  That was not to be. In the fourth, Walker gave up two runs on three doubles. The fifth would be even worse for Walker, who  retired the leadoff batter and then gave up two singles and a pair of walks (walking in a run) before the ambidextrous Venditte came. While Venditte did walk in another run, he got out of the inning and – as noted earlier – picked up the win.

Pat Venditte, Jr.

Pat Venditte was drafted by the Yankees in the 20th round of the 2008 MLB draft – out of   Creighton University, where the ambidextrous pitcher was a 2007 first-team All Missouri Valley Conference  player, the 2007 Most Valuable Player in the conference tournament and a third-team All American.  Since signing, he has been in the Yankees, A’s, Blue Jays and now the Mariners’ systems. In nine minor league seasons, his record is 21-23, 2.52 ERA, with 52 saves in 295 games. He appeared in the major with the A’s in 2015 and the Blue Jays in 2016 – going a combined 2-2, 4.58 in 34 games.

Throwing righty, Venditte delivers a mid- to high-80s fastball, as well as a slider and curve. Left-handed, he relies on a low- to mid-80s fastball and a slider.

The “Pat Venditte Rule”

Venditte’s ambidextrous offerings led to the development of a new set of rules – generally referred to as the Pat Venditte Rule – for dealing with the actions of  switch-pitchers within an at bat. Basically, a pitcher must indicate visually to the umpire which hand he intends to use to pitch to each batter – and he may not switch hands until that batter is retired, reaches base, the inning ends (i.e. baserunner picked off), a pinch hitter takes the batter’s place or the pitcher injures his arm.

Ultimately, the Raniers prevailed six-to-five in a game which we saw four pitchers for each team – 19 hits, 11 walks, two hit batters,  three wild pitches and one error; as well as a brief weather delay at the start of a game and an 18-minute mid-game delay  due to a power loss to parts  of the lighting banks. Note:  They put the Olympic swimming event on the video board during the delay and the U.S. relay team;s win got the most enthusiastic response of the night.  I did get to see my 6-4-3 double play (but not until the top of the ninth); Memphis’ left fielder Jose Martinez made a great sliding catch in the top of the first; Tacoma 2B Mike Freeman made a nice play, ranging to his right and making a jump/spin-move throw to first in the bottom of the second; and Tacoma catcher Jesus Sucre picked a Redbirds’ runner of first to end the fifth.

POST GAME

The ride home - in style.

The ride home – in style.

Post game the Redbirds put on a one of the best fireworks display we have seen on the tour – and, as one would expect in Memphis – it was set to music and video of Elvis.

Then it was back to the hotel – on foot, via shuttle or, for one group in true style, a horse-drawn carriage.

So, there is Day Two, I’ll report again from Nashville (tonight, in Memphis, it’s Elvis Night at the ball park). Now I’m off to explore Memphis.

 

In The Majors – A First First

Yesterday (August 13), Yankee prospects Tyler Austin (1B) and Aaron Judge (RF) made their major league debuts – and launched back-to-back home runs in the second inning of the Yankees 8-4 win over the Rays. It was the first at bat for each of them.  Judge and Aaron are the first teamates to hit home runs in their first MLB at bats in the same game. 

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

The Name Game – Monikers I’d Like to See in the Big Leagues

WonderfulMajor League Baseball has seen some memorable names over time.  Recently, we’ve witnessed a hitter named Nick Swisher and a pitcher named Homer Bailey. In the past, we’ve also seen appropriately named hurlers like Bill Hands and Rollie Fingers; a catcher named Matt Batts; and a DH (recently, unfortunately, retired) named Prince Fielder. MLB lineups have also boasted the likes of Mike Colangelo (say it fast, an artful player); Carlos Santana (guitar optional); and Grant Balfour (not the count he is looking for). There are also names that are just unusual – Urban Shocker; William Van Winkle Wolf; and Boof Bonser (yes, John Bonser did, indeed, legally change his name to Boof.). Then, of course, there is one of my favorites –  Wonderful Terrific Monds III, who never played in the major leagues, but patrolled the outfield in the minors from 1993 to 1999.

In this post, BBRT would like to take a look at a lineup of names (drawn from current minor leaguers) that I would like to see on a major league scorecard someday.  I have limited myself to actual names – not nicknames – eliminating such contenders as Boomer Biegalski (Leon Mather Biegalski) and Rock Rucker (Orrin Christian Rucker.)

So, here’s BBRT’s All-Name Futures Lineup.

Catcher – Sicnarf Loopstok

Okay, we’ve had Nomar Garciaparra, whose first name was his father’s more common moniker (Ramon) spelled backwards.  Now there is Sicnarf Loopstok (his father’s name is Francis) – a 2013 13th Round MLB Draft pick of the Cleveland Indians (out of Western Oklahoma State College).  The name and the logic behind it belong in the big leagues. The 5’11”, 195-pound, 23-year-old native of Aruba is currently playing at High A Lynchburg (Carolina League). He was hitting .275-2-14 in 44 games as I wrote this.

Honorable Mention:  Raywilly Gomez, assigned by the Mets to Binghampton in the Eastern League. Raywilly – it just kind of rolls of the tongue.

First Base – Dash Willingham

A Mets’ 2014 draft pick (out of Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, Florida), the 6’2”, 225-pound, 20-year-old is playing for the Columbia Fireflies (A level) in the South Atlantic League. At 224 pounds, I expect “Dash” maybe a misnomer. As I put this list together, Dash was hitting .237, with seven homers and 50 RBI in 102 games – no stolen bases.

Second Base – Joseph “Joey” Pankake

Yes, it is pronounced like the buttermilk breakfast offering – and that is enough to earn him the start at 2B.   The 6’2”, 185-pound, 23-year-old infielder was taken by the Tigers in the seventh round of the 2014 MLB Draft after three years as a starter (SS-3B) for the University of South Carolina.  He is playing for the Lakeland Flying Tigers (High A) of the Florida State League and, after the first 95 games of the season, was hitting just .215 – but with 15 round trippers.

Honorable Mention:  Gonzalo Galastica, currently playing for the Dominican Summer League Orioles. Love the alliteration, and I’d give him the nickname “Battlestar.” This was really a close call.

3B – Trey Cabbage

This Twins’ prospect was drafted – out of Grainger High School, Rutledge, Tennessee – in 2015.  The 6’3”, 204-pound, 19-year-old plays for Appalachian League (Rookie level) Elizabethan Twins.  Vegetable names are always good, and I am a Twins fans.  Plus, it’s awfully close to a former Twins’ third-sacker; Mike Cubbage. After 20 games this season, Cabbage was hitting .266, with two home runs.

Shortstop – Yeyson Yrizarri

The 19-year-old Dominican is already in his third professional season – playing for the Rangers’ Hickory Crawdads (A Level) in the South Atlantic League.  Why here?  I like the YY initials and I want to listen to broadcasters trying to pronounce his name. As I developed this list, Yrizarri was hitting .266, with seven homers, 51 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 97 games.

Outfield – Skye Bolt, Forrestt Allday, Bo Way

Skye Bolt:  Drafted by the A’s in the fourth round of the 2015 Draft (out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), the 6’3”, 190-pound, 22-year-old is playing for the Midwest League Beloit Snappers (Class A) – and hoping to catch some lightening and ride that “bolt” to the Big Leagues.   He’s here to add a little electricity to the lineup. He joins this squad with a .244 average, three home runs, 30 RBI and eight steals in 78 games.

Forrestt Allday: Allday is a great for an everyday player, and there is the two-r, two-s, two-l spelling to add a little edge.  Allday (5’11”, 190-pounds) was taken by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The 25-year-old currently plays for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League, having been promoted from High A Inland Empire. He is hitting .281 (in 28 games) for the Travelers.

Bo Way: No Way you can leave Bo Way off this squad. Taken by the Angels in the seventh round of the 2014 draft, the 6’, 180-pound, 24-year-old outfielder – like Forrestt Allday – is on the roster of the AA Arkansas Travelers. In 108 games so far this season, Bo has hit his way to a .258 average, with one home run, 31 RBI and 16 stolen bases.

Starting Pitcher – Mark Hamburger

Mark Hamburger is the veteran of this team in that his name has already appeared on the back of a major league jersey.  In 2011, he went 1-0, 4.50 in five games (relief) for the Rangers.  Hamburger is currently a starter for the American Association (independent) Saint Paul Saints, where he has an 11-3 record, with a 2.79 ERA and six complete games. The 29-year-old (6’4”, 200-pound) right-hander is a veteran of 10 professional seasons.

Honorable Mention: Joan Baez (self-explanatory), a 21-year-old Dominican right-hander in the Nationals’ system, Baez is pitching for the Hagerstown Suns in the Class A South Atlantic League.  The 6’3”, 190-pound hurler has a record of 7-7, with a 4.42 ERA in 22 starts.

Closer – Christian Turnipseed

The reason his “name” is in this lineup is pretty obvious. Turnipseed was drafted late (28th Round) in the 2015 MLB Draft – out of Georgia Gwinnett College. The 5’11’, 214-pound, 24-year-old right-hander is pitching for the Delmarva Shorebirds of the Class A South Atlantic League – where (as of August 11) he has a 1-4, with 16 saves and a 3.74 ERA.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member:  Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  

 

Brandon Crawford, Seven Hits – How About Nine?

Brandon Crawford photo

Photo by SD Dirk

Giants’ SS Brandon Crawford yesterday (August 9, 2016) tied the National League record for base hits in a single game – going seven-for-eight as the Giants topped the Marlins (in Miami) 8-7 in 14 innings. Crawford’s seventh and final hit counted for more than a piece of the NL record, his single to center  in the top of the 14th inning drove in in what proved to be the winning run. Crawford’s seven hits included five singles, a double and a triple – and he scored once and drove in a pair of runs. His lone out was on a strikeout to end the fourth inning.  Overall, the Giants collected 18 hits in the contest. Crawford entered the game hitting .265 and raised his average to .278.  The 29-year-old Crawford, in his sixth MLB season, seemed an unlikely prospect to collect seven hits in a game – having never hit more than .256 in an MLB season before thus year. Note: Ironically, Crawford’s seven hits tied for the most in an NL game of any length, and set the record for an NL extra-inning game, the MLB record for hits in an extra inning contest is nine.

 Most Hits in a Major League Game

On July 10, 1932, Cleveland Indians’ shortstop Johnny Burnett came to the plate eleven times as the home-team Cleveland Indians lost to the Philadelphia Athletics 18-17 in 18 innings.  Burnett delivered an MLB single-game record nine hits that day – seven singles and two doubles. He also scored four runs and drove in two – in a game that, despite a total of 35 runs, 58 hits (33 by the Indians), 17 walks, and six errors (five by the Indians) – took only four hours and five minutes.

Here’s a look at Burnett’s record-setting game:

  • First inning – infield single, scores on a home run by CF Earl Averill.
  • Second inning – single to left field.
  • Fourth inning – single to left.
  • Fifth inning – double to right, driving in RF Dick Porter.
  • Seventh inning – single to right to lead off, strikeout to end the inning.
  • Ninth inning – single to right, driving in 3B Willie Kamm – tying the game at 15, sending it into extra innings.
  • Eleventh inning – double to right.
  • Thirteenth – single to center.
  • Sixteenth inning – single to right, eventually scores, tying the game at 17.
  • Seventeenth inning – fly out to center.

Burnett entered the game hitting .299 and raised his average to .323. He hit .297 for the season and had a career average of .284 over nine seasons. 

Another Record Set In This Game

Surprisingly, Athletics’ right-handed, knuckleball specialist Eddie Rommel, in his 13th (and what would prove to be final) major league season (at age 34) – a two-time 20+-game winner with 170 MLB victories – relieved starter Lew Krausse in the second inning and went the final 17, giving up 14 runs (13 earned) on 29 hits (eight of Burnett’s nine) and seven walks.  Despite the woeful performance, Rommel got the win, his 171st and final major league victory. The 29 hits allowed in the game remains an MLB record for a pitcher (game of any length, 26 hits is the record for a nine-inning game). Rommel, as fans may remember, went on to become a major league umpire after his playing and coaching days.

 

Other players with at least seven hits in a game:

Wilbert Robinson, catcher, Baltimore Orioles (NL) – June 10, 1892

Wilbert Robinson is one of only two players to collect seven hits in a nine-inning game – going seven-for-seven as Baltimore topped the Saint Louis Browns 25-4 in the first game of a doubleheader on June 10, 1882 (collecting 25 hits in the process). Robertson’s day included seven singles and a double – and a (since-broken) MLB-record 11 runs batted in.  Robertson had a 17-season MLB career (.273 career average). In 1892, Robertson hit .267 for the Orioles.

Rennie Stennett, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates – September 16, 1975

On September, 16, 1975, at Wrigley Field, 2B Rennie Stennett led off the Pirates’ game against the Cubs with a ringing double to right field, then scored on a single by number-two hitter, 3B Richie Hebner – a good start, but just a start.  Nine batters later, Stennett would collect his second hit of the game and the inning, a single this time, and later score his second run of the frame on a single by 1B Willie Stargell.  It was still just a start.  On that day – as the Pirates downed the Cubs 22-0 – Stennett would become just the second player to collect seven hits in a nine-inning contest. Stennett would go seven-for seven, with two doubles, a triple, five runs scored and two RBI – raising his average from .278 to .287. He would also have a second two-hit inning, again collecting a double and a single in the top of the fifth. Stennett would go on to hit .286 for the season – and would enjoy an eleven-season MLB career in which he hit .274.

Cesar Gutierrez, shortstop, Detroit Tigers – June 21, 1970

Tigers’ SS Cesar Guiterrez is the “forgotten man” among players with seven hits in a game. Gutierrez went seven-for-seven in a 12-inning contest between the Tigers and Indians (in Cleveland) on June 21, 1970 (second game of a double header). The Tigers won the game 9-8 on a home run by Mickey Stanley in the top of the twelfth inning. Along the way, each team collected 17 hits and Gutierrez rapped six singles and a double in seven at bats – scoring three runs and driving in one. Gutierrez was hitting .218 at the start of the game – .249 at its end. He finished the season, the best of his four-year MLB career, hitting .243, with no home runs, 22 RBI and 40 runs scored in 135 games (the only season in which he played at least 40  games).

Why is Gutierezz the forgotten man on the list of players with seven hits in a single game?  First, since he did not accomplish the feat in nine-inning contest, so he owns no share of that record.  Second, while seven hits would have given him the NL record for an extra-inning game, the AL record was set at nine hits by Johnny Burnett of the Indians in 1932.  So again, Gutierrez does not get a line in the record books.  His feat, however, will not be overlooked here.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member:  Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Scott Hatteberg – Instant Redemption from Triple Play to Grand Slam

HattebergOn this date 15 years ago (August 6, 2001), Boston Red Sox catcher Scott Hatteberg had a unique day at the office – one that earned his bat a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Red Sox were facing the Rangers that day and Hatteberg (catching and batting ninth) made four plate appearances.  In his first and last appearance, he did not put the ball in play (a swinging strikeout in the bottom of the second and a walk in bottom of the eighth).

In his middle two at bats, however, Hatteberg made history.  In the bottom of the fourth, he came up with runner and first and second and no one out and lined a 3-2 pitch to Rangers’ shortstop Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod turned the liner into a short-to-second (Randy Velarde) triple play.

Just two innings later, in his very next at bat, Hatteberg redeemed himself. Coming up with the bases loaded and no outs, he took a 2-1 pitch over the right-center field fence for a Grand Slam – becoming the first (and still only) player to hit into a triple play and hit a Grand Slam in the same game.  The Red Sox won the contest 10-7 – and the bat Hatteberg used to make history made its way to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hatteberg was in his seventh season with the Red Sox at the time – and finished the campaign with a .245 average, just three home runs and 25 RBI.  He played in 14 MLB seasons – (Red Sox/A’s/Reds) and hit .273-106-527. Hatteberg was known for his ability to get on base (.361 lifetime on base percentage) – a reputation documented in the book and film Moneyball. He also played in 17 post-season games, hitting .286, with one home run and four RBI; which included a .500 average (7-for-14), with a home run, five runs scored, three RBI, three walks and zero strikeouts for Oakland in the 2002 ALDS.

For those who like to know such things, Hatteberg was drafted by the Boston Red Sox (sandwich pick) between the first and second rounds of the 1991 June MLB draft – after starring as a catcher for the Washington State Cougars. Hatteberg was also MVP of his high school baseball and basketball teams, as well as a football letterman and played for the United States in the 1990 Baseball World Cup.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member:  Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.