Results tagged ‘ AAA ’
After over a year of anticipation, the day finally arrived. Taking place last night in Durham, North Carolina, and showcasing some of the minor league’s premier power hitters, the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby is something that I’d been looking forward to witnessing for a long time. As always, I made the decision to show up to the ballpark early to try for a few autographs. Thus, despite a gate opening time of 5:30 for the 6:35 derby, I made my way to the All-Star themed Durham Bulls Athletic Park at around 4:50:
Even though I still had a good amount of time until I could go inside, I went ahead and jumped in line. The extremely hot sun was beating down on myself and the fans around me, but I was glad I made the choice to get my place in the line, as it wasn’t long afterwards that it became fairly long. Thankfully, the time in the heat passed fairly quickly, and upon the opening of the gates, I took off for the Pacific Coast League’s dugout.
With the Pacific Coast League being such a loaded team of top prospects and former big leaguers, there were already a lot of people down by the dugout when I got there, making it difficult for me to get down to autographing level. But when Nick Franklin (the first player to emerge from the dugout) popped out . . . . :
. . . . I was able to (with a little help from fellow auto seekers) get him to sign a couple of cards for me.
Soon afterwards, tons of players began to flood out of the dugout, and items to get autographed were passing by me right and left. The next player I got to sign a few cards for me was Wednesday night’s All-Star game starting pitcher, Elih Villanueva. But autos from Franklin and Villanueva was all I was able to acquire before the game, as the ushers made us all go back to our assigned seats to clear out the aisle.
Before the derby got underway, the well known softball slugging long haul bombers, who have been known to hit softballs up to 500 feet, took to the field to show off their amazing hitting skills:
There were three total sluggers, each of which were impressive. Though I had seen the long haul bombers last season up in Seattle, they were just as good this time, slamming two total home runs onto the roof of a four story building, some 450+ feet away. But while they were great, the event that everyone came to see was the Triple-A home run derby, which began shortly after.
Despite losing Mike Hessman (the all-time International League home run leader) and Dan Johnson from the derby roster due to an injury to Hessman and a big league callup for Johnson, the lineup was still decent. Consisting of Francisco Pena, Matt Hague, Allan Dykstra, Jesus Aguilar, Mike Jacobs and Mikie Mahtook, there were sure to be a good amount of homers hit, and after the participants posed for a group photo down around home plate . . . . :
. . . . the derby got underway.
The famous bull sign (“hit bull, win steak”) down the left field line at the DBAP was originally predicted to play a big role in the derby, with the incentive to hit it being that if it was hit 15 times one lucky fan would take home $15,000. But unfortunately, the Bull was hit only once (everyone in attendance received a free steak taco as a result), with the low number of bull-hitting home runs coming thanks in part to a pair of zeros posted in the first round of the derby by Mike Jacobs and Mikie Mahtook — each of which were eliminated.
The second round of the derby saw a cut to four players, as well as a change in my location. For this round, I made my way out to the outfield, with the slight hope of catching a home run ball, but mainly with the reasoning to see a few batters take their turns from a different perspective:
A few balls were lofted in my general direction, but nothing came too terribly close. While I was in the outfield, Matt Hague and Jesus Aguilar posted rounds that didn’t hold up in the end (though Aguilar did nearly drill me with a foul ball, had it not have been for fans who knocked it down). Meaning, the final round of the derby was going to be between Francisco Pena and Allan Dykstra.
Clay Counsil — the BP pitcher who threw to Josh Hamilton in his historic 28 home run first round of the 2008 derby up at Yankee Stadium — was on hand to throw the final round of the derby to both of the remaining players, and the crowd seemed excited to see him:
In Francisco Pena’s set of swings to kick off the championship round, he failed to hit a single home run, leaving Allan Dykstra with just one homer needed to take home the title of 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby champion. And he did just that. Slugging a home run to right field, Allan Dykstra wound up winning the derby in front of the sold out crowd:
After the derby had concluded, there was still a multitude of players hanging around on the field, so I once again took off for the dugout with the hopes of getting some more autographs. I was able to get one more player to sign for me before I left the ballpark, being Andrew Susac, bringing my total number of player autographs to three for the game.
Although not everything went my way on Monday night, it was still a very enjoyable time. It’s likely going to be decades before the Bull City hosts these events again, and it’s one of those things you may only witness once or twice in your lifetime.
For the second half of the events, I’m planning to head out to the All-Star game on Wednesday, where I hope to do better in terms of autographs, but no matter what, I’m going to have a great time, no doubt about it.
The wait is finally over for Pirates fans.
Gregory Polanco — the 12th overall ranked prospect in all of baseball, and one of the highest praised young outfielders in years — is set to make his MLB debut later tonight against the Cubs, receiving the call after second baseman, Neil Walker, was placed on the disabled list.
Set to play right field for the Buccos, Polanco is joining an already talented outfield of Starling Marte (left) and Andrew McCutchen (center), taking over for Josh Harrison, who has done a fantastic job this year in right field, hitting near .300 and making numerous spectacular catches. Nonetheless, replacing Harrison with Polanco instantly makes the Pirates outfield one of the best in baseball.
And that’s why, in the minds of many baseball fans, the arrival of Polanco is long overdue. After getting off to such a great start to the year at Triple-A Indianapolis, the idea of a big league call up for Polanco began to gain mention (several rumors were started just in the past week regarding a promotion), but when he continued to stay hot, making it up to seven home runs and 49 RBI’s, to go along with a .347 batting average before his call up, Polanco truly left the Pirates no other choice.
With the Pirates struggling somewhat so far this season, the hope is that the young, talented Polanco will arrive on the scene and help turn things around.
Sitting three games back of .500, and 7.5 games back of first place, it’s still too early to count out the Pirates, especially now that Polanco is going to get some time for the club. Despite lofty predictions being made for this year after the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in twenty years last season, at this point in 2013 they were eleven games above .500, which is allowing understandable concern to come into play.
But could Gregory Polanco’s mere presence truly be enough to turn around the Pirates?
Well, though it’s going to take the entire team playing better for the Pirates to go on a run, we’ve seen big time players make big time impacts before. Take Yasiel Puig for example. The Dodgers were doing terribly last season before his call up, and after Puig’s arrival, the Dodgers went on a record-breaking streak that ultimately led them to the playoffs. Sure, the entire team began playing well, but the initial spark undeniably came from Puig.
However, while it’s certainly possible that Polanco will kick start the Pirates, it’s not all that likely. The biggest difference between the Dodgers’ team, and the Pirates’ 2013 team for that matter, is pitching — bother the starting rotation and the bullpen.
Last season, the Pirates had a magical year, where nearly every one of their pitchers from top to bottom was superb. But the loss of A.J. Burnett this offseason, the recent injury to Gerrit Cole, and the terrible performance by 2013 ace Francisco Liriano, has hurt the chances of an already poor team.
And thus, it will certainly be interesting to see just what type of impact Polanco has for the Bucs. Asking him to put the whole team on his back and carry them to the playoffs for the second straight year is an awful lot to expect from Polanco, but with young phenom prospects, you never truly know what they can do.
But one thing’s for sure: Gregory Polanco is just as excited as Pirates’ fans to finally be making his way to the Steel City, regardless of the current struggles; saying in a tweet on Monday night, “Pirates fans, thanks for being patient with me . . . The wait is over. My dream has officially come true.”
After nearly seven months, I’m finally attending another baseball game.
Later today, I’m heading out to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), in Durham, North Carolina, where the visiting Gwinnett Braves are set to take on the defending International League Champion Bulls in game three of a four-game series. With the teams having split the series so far through two games, it’s sure to be an exciting game.
The thing I’m most excited about, besides the game itself, is seeing the DBAP for the first time since it underwent a multimillion dollar renovation this past offseason, which involved putting in new lights, new seats, a new playing surface, in addition to changing just about everything you can think of. Anything that helps make the fan experience better I always approve of.
Now, if you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know the DBAP is one of the two local minor league ballparks — Five County Stadium, home of the Carolina Mudcats, being the other — that I frequent throughout each baseball season. Though I always enjoy a good baseball game, generally, I only go out to see a game when a good amount of prospects are set to be there, or if an MLB player is playing in a rehab game. Otherwise, I’m content to merely reading the box score each night.
As many of you are aware, within the past couple of seasons, I’ve developed a big passion for going out to games and getting autographs from the games’ most promising young players who are on their way up, and that’s the main reason I’m heading over to the ballpark tonight. Not living near any MLB teams, it’s truly my only chance to get autographs from what will likely be future MLB stars down the road, and Gwinnett certainly has plenty of them, with Christian Bethancourt, Tommy La Stella and Cody Martin, among others.
However, they’re not alone.
The Bulls definitely hold their own when it comes to roster construction. While this year’s roster doesn’t compare to the one they had last season, which saw Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer as part of the Opening Day roster, their lineup and pitching for this year is set to be good yet again. From Enny Romero to Nathan Karns, and many inbetween, the Bulls stand a good chance of repeating as Champions, and as such, there are numerous players I want to snag an autograph from at some point this year.
But the Braves are the team I’m going for tonight. I’m not going to be trying for any autographs from the Bulls players this time around due to the fact that I can always get them in a few weeks, as opposed to a team that may not return with the same players next time. I learned that lesson last year with Wil Myers. In taking three games to finally get Myers, I missed my chance to get the top opposing teams’ players. I won’t let that happen this time around.
The way I’m viewing the schedules right now, it’s likely that I’ll be going out to Durham often this first month, with possibly no trips to see the Mudcats until May. The Mudcats simply aren’t that great of a team, and the teams that are going to be visiting aren’t that fantastic either. But it’s just the opposite for the Bulls, as every team they’re playing against throughout April has some really good players on it that I hope to get autos from. Though, it’s likely that I won’t be blogging about any of it, unless things happen to change.
But that’s just the very beginning of what looks to be a great autographing season.
From May through the end of the season, both the Mudcats and Bulls are taking on loaded teams, making it difficult to decide when I want to head out to the ballpark and see certain players in person, though that’s a good problem to have.
More significant than that, however, the DBAP is hosting the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game in mid July, which will bring in numerous top prospects from the Pacific Coast League which usually never comes closer than Memphis. I truly can’t wait until then, as it’s a can’t miss experience that I’ll absolutely be blogging about.
From the exciting Bulls games to kick off the season, to the remaining strong schedules between both the Mudcats and the Bulls, and the All-Star events thrown in there as well, everything combined altogether, it’s sure to be an unforgettable season.
Now that the 2013 Minor League Baseball season is over, and with no shot at attending any more MLB games this year, I can finally post a blog entry recapping my season out at the ballpark.
I managed to make it to 16 baseball games this season. Two of those were major league games — one up in Baltimore and one in Seattle — with the remaining fourteen being minor league games. In those minor league games, I saw numerous top prospects, as well as future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones, on August 20th, at his number retirement ceremony in Durham. It was a great season, full of fun, and I thought I’d take the time to recap it all:
April 5th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Winston Salem Dash
I went into this game looking forward to seeing Indians’ top prospect, Francisco Lindor, and White Sox’ top prospect, Courtney Hawkins. Both are sure to be future MLB stars, and both are exciting players to keep an eye on. I didn’t get an autograph from Lindor at this particular game, but I did receive the bat that Hawkins cracked during his second at-bat of the game, in which he got a bloop-single:
April 9th – Durham Bulls Vs. Gwinnett Braves
Having one of the best opening day Bulls lineups ever — including Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, and Hak-Ju Lee — I was excited to attend this game. I didn’t get Myers, but I ended up with an autograph from both Lee and Brandon Guyer….:
….as well as a game home run ball hit by the Braves’ Ernesto Mejia:
(This was my first ever home run ball.)
April 24th – Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens
I was hoping to get an autograph from Wil Myers at this game, since I was unsuccessful the last time, but I failed, once again. I did, however, get an auto from Mike Fontenot….:
….as well as a game homer from Tigers’ number one prospect, Nick Castellanos:
May 9th – Durham Bulls Vs. Syracuse Chiefs
Not much to say about this game. Just that I finally got Wil Myers to sign for me; once on a program, and once on a card:
May 14th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Salem Red Sox
I didn’t have the chance to get an autograph from Indians’ top prospects, Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin, as I was too busy getting autos from all the Red Sox’ top prospects. Salem was loaded with great players when I saw them in May, and I ended up getting an auto from Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart and Brandon Jacobs:
Then, after the game, I picked up a game used, unbroken bat from Deven Marrero:
May 30th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks
I was able to get an autograph from Cheslor Cuthbert, however, due to a mistake on my part, I missed out on Royals’ top prospect, Kyle Zimmer. Although, I did manage to finally get an autograph from Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin after the game — both are super-nice guys. I was happy to finally get those:
June 3rd – Durham Bulls Vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
I was really hoping to get an autograph from Chien-Ming Wang, but I never saw him in the dugout before the game, so I figured he wasn’t there. But after the game, I ended up running into him on my way out of the ballpark. Turns out, Wang had been in the stands, charting the game. So I was thankfully able to get him:
I also got a game home run ball hit by Ronnier Mustelier:
June 15th – Durham Bulls Vs. Indianapolis Indians
With the great year he was having, I was looking to get an autograph from Vince Belnome, since I had finally gotten his card. Not only did I get Belnome, but I also got Jake Odorizzi; as well as Wil Myers, for the third time:
(Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d ever see Myers with the Bulls, as he was called up the next day.)
June 17th – Durham Bulls Vs. Louisville Bats
I had been planning on attending this game since before the season even started. The record holder for most stolen bases in a single season, with 155, Billy Hamilton, was set to be there, and I was looking to get his autograph. I was able to get it, as well as an auto from Reds’ prospect Henry Rodriguez:
(Two things: Hamilton is now in the majors, and Rodriguez needs to work on his auto.)
June 25th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Frederick Keys
I didn’t think I’d be going to this game, but I got an offer from Orioles’ prospect, Nick Delmonico, for free tickets, and I couldn’t pass it up. I was able to thank him in person, as well as get him to sign a card, making it a great time:
June 29th – Baltimore Orioles Vs. New York Yankees
Didn’t get any autographs, but had a great time.
Check out my recap HERE.
July 26th – Seattle Mariners Vs. Minnesota Twins
As with the Baltimore game, nothing too exciting.
Check out my recap HERE.
August 20th – Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights
Third straight game without an auto, but Chipper Jones was there, so it was fun anyway.
Check out my recap HERE.
August 24th – Durham Bulls Vs. Norfolk Tides
This game turned out to be the most successful game of the season; as I got four out of the five guys I wanted an autograph from to sign for me. Those players include Orioles’ top prospects, Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop, as well as Alex Liddi and Eric Thames. All were extremely nice about it, and I was surprised with the number of autos I got:
September 3rd – Durham Bulls Vs. Indianapolis Indians
As if this game wasn’t exciting enough, being a playoff game, I was able to get autos from Pirates’ number one and two prospects, Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco:
September 10th – Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox
Didn’t get any autographs or home run balls — bad way to end the season.
But what a season it was.
I can’t wait for next year; when the auto collecting, home run chasing, and prospect scouting can start all over again.
By the Numbers
Though you could take the time for yourself to add it all up, I figured I’d make things a bit easier. Here’s a numbers recap of my 2013 MiLB & MLB season:
Games attended: 16
Win-loss record for the home team: 12-4
Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 102-44
Top 100 prospects seen in person: 16
Autographs from top 100 prospects: 8
Total autographs: 26
Game used gear: 2 bats (Courtney Hawkins & Deven Marrero — both signed.)
Game homers: 3 (Ernesto Mejia, Nick Castellanos & Ronnier Mustelier)
Total miles traveled to & from games: 7,740 (Including Baltimore & Seattle)
Tonight’s Bulls game versus the Pawtucket Red Sox will be my final game of the season.
The Bulls are in the final round of the Governors’ Cup Playoffs, against Pawtucket, in a best three out of five series, to determine the winner of the International League, and after Wednesday’s game, won’t play at the DBAP until April of next year.
Starting for the Bulls, in tonight’s game one, is their Ace, Jake Odorizzi, who has been outstanding all year; even more so in his past two home starts. On the mound for the opposing Red Sox is Anthony Ranaudo, who has also had a great season and is subsequently sure to pitch a great game.
As with any game I go to, I’m looking to try for autographs. Mainly, at this game, I’m hoping to get an auto from Pawtucket’s Matt Barnes and Bryce Brentz. Earlier in the season, when they first came to Durham, the Sox had Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Allen Webster on the roster, but I wasn’t able to attend, as I was across the country in Seattle — they’re all in the majors now.
But in the end, with two great pitchers, along with two outstanding teams, it’s sure to be an exciting conclusion to the season for me, regardless.
Overall, it’s been a really fun year, and I’ve been able to attend more baseball games (mostly minor league) this season than in all of the other years of my life combined; including a game at two different MLB ballparks (Safeco Field and Camden Yards) — the first time I’ve ever done so in the same year. Truly something when you think about it.
I’ve seen numerous MLB top prospects — Nick Castellanos, Billy Hamilton, Wil Myers, Francisco Lindor, Jameson Taillon and Courtney Hawkins, to name a few — and have gotten a good deal of autographs this season. (I plan to post a recap of it all in the next week or so.)
But as fun as this year has been, I’m already looking ahead to next season.
The Bulls are set to host the 2014 AAA All-Star game, in July of 2014, and I’m fully planning to attend. With so many top prospects in one place, it’s any autograph collectors’ dream. The festivities are also going to include a Home Run Derby, showcasing some of the best sluggers on the Triple-A level; many of which will become big league stars. So, obviously, that’s something to be excited about.
In addition to my readiness for the 2014 MiLB season, I’m also looking forward to the 2014 MLB season, as the schedule for each team is set to come out later today. I’m sure I’ll make it to one or two games next year — which games is yet to be determined — and therefore, I’m going to study the schedules to plan out which teams I’ll be seeing.
But even with the season almost over for me, there’s still tonight’s game left to be played.
And I’m going to make the absolute most of it.
The decision by the Royals to not call up Wil Myers towards the end of last season, in which he batted .314, with 37 home runs and 109 RBI’s, left many people scratching their head. Then, after an offseason trade that sent Myers to the Rays, many expected Myers to get moved to the big league club fairly quickly, especially with the great spring training he had. But once again, it didn’t happen. Myers was sent to Triple-A Durham, where he spent 65 games, before finally receiving the call that everyone has been waiting for.
After five seasons in the minor leagues, Wil Myers is going to the majors.
Pulled from Sunday’s Durham Bulls game, after doubling in the first inning, Myers is set to make his major league debut on Tuesday, up at Fenway Park, against the Red Sox. Myers truly left the Rays no choice but to bring him up, as he began to heat up over the past couple of weeks. After a short slump, Myers has been a hitting machine as of late, quickly increasing what started out as subpar numbers, by his standards, up to 14 homers and 58 RBI’s, this season at Triple-A. After the recent success, it will be interesting to see if Myers’ hot streak will continue into the majors.
But Rays manager, Joe Maddon, isn’t too concerned with Myers making a flawless transition, saying, “You’re not going to hear a lot of the high expectations coming from this particular desk or this chair. I want him to play. I want him to be a Ray. I want him to run hard to first base. I want him to try to do the right things on the field, continue to work on his defense, try to improve his baserunning.”
Many feel Myers will do all of that, and much more.
Myers is set to take over the right field position, wearing the number nine for the Rays, and is going to bat towards the bottom of the order, at least for now. As is to be expected when a player of Myers’ caliber is promoted to the big leagues–arguably the most hyped hitting prospect to reach the majors since Bryce Harper–nearly everyone is making their predictions as to how they feel Myers will perform. Having seen him play in five games this season, I have a fairly bold opinion as to how he will fare.
I may be placing the bar a bit too high for Myers, but I could easily see him hitting a home run in his first major league game. After all, the green monster at Fenway is nothing new to him, as the Bulls have a blue monster, and therefore, Myers is used to the challenge that comes along with the towering left field wall. But wall or no wall, there’s really no ballpark that can contain Myers’ power. The rare combination of the ability to hit for power AND average, as well as the skill to take the ball to all parts of the field, make Myers a very special player.
Wil Myers should become a major impact player for the Rays for many years to come.
The forecast for this game was rain; and rain it did–up until around 5:00, when I left for Durham, NC. Luckily, when I arrived to the ballpark at around 5:45, the dry spell continued, and I was able to grab a spot near the front of the line without having to get soaked.
Gate 1 already had tons of people lined up behind it when I arrived, so I headed over to Gate 2. Behind Gates 1 and 2 there were two lines (normally four) in which you could enter the ballpark, and just my luck, I picked the wrong one. The lady that was scanning tickets had no idea what she was doing. Heck, she couldn’t even figure out how to get the gate open, as she had to wave down an orange shirt employee to come help her out. (As you can kind of see in the left portion of this photo posted by the Durham Bulls):
I was able to cut my way into the other line, but it really didn’t help. I was stuck outside Gate 2, as people filed in through Gate 1.
All I could do was watch as dozens of people entered the ballpark–many of which I assumed were headed down to the dugouts (just like I was planning to do) to get autographs. Finally–after what seemed like an eternity of waiting–I made my way into the ballpark and down to the extremely crowded Pawtucket Red Sox dugout.
Going into this game I had made the decision that I wanted to go for autos from Pawtucket Red Sox’ players such as Danny Valencia, Bryce Brentz, etc., instead of Reno Aces standouts like Trevor Bauer, A.J. Pollock, etc. Unfortunately for me Danny Valencia didn’t sign, and Bryce Brentz signed for everyone BUT me. Meanwhile, I watched as the entire Reno Aces team (or so it seemed) signed for everyone who wanted an autograph.
It was one of those days.
After it became evident that I had failed in getting autos from the players I wanted, I made my first logical decision of the day. I knew American Idol Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery was going to be throwing out the first pitch, so I made my way over to the Reno Aces dugout where I predicted he would come out from. Sure enough, after a few minutes of waiting, Scotty emerged from the clubhouse:
McCreery then proceeded to make his way out to the mound to throw out the first pitch:
The starting pitchers for both teams–Trevor Bauer, for the Aces, and Nelson Figueroa, for the Red Sox–had both been great so far in the post season…:
…but in the end only one could be crowned Triple-A National Champions. It was going to come down to which lineup performed better on this particular day, as you had to figure the pitching was going to be stellar.
My view at the start of the game (from my ticketed seat) was this:
Did you notice how empty the outfield seats were in the picture above? Well, the desire to snag a home run ball got the better of me, as this soon became my view:
Check out the view to my left (1) , right (2) , and behind me (3):
I sat out there for a few innings, but around the 6th inning it began to rain so I headed back to my original seat (which happened to sheltered). On my way back I was surprised at how many people were making their way towards the exits. I mean, come on. I realize the Red Sox were getting killed—the rain didn’t make it any better–but this was the Triple-A National Championship. How could you leave early?! I don’t get it.
By the time the ninth inning rolled around there weren’t that many people left:
Soon after taking that picture I decided to move down a little closer to the field. My view of the final out (and the victory celebration by the Reno Aces) came from the first base side of the ballpark…:
…but my view of the trophy presentation came from the third base side:
I want to take a second to say congrats to the Reno Aces. They were extremely impressive in their 10-3 victory. I had a feeling that they would come out on top–as they had top prospect Trevor Bauer on the mound, backed by an impressive lineup–but anytime you go up against a team that had gone 6-1 in the playoffs up to that point, you never really know what the outcome may be.
As stated in my last blog entry, this was my final baseball game of the year. This is not, however, my last blog entry of the year by any means. There’s still a couple weeks left in MLB’s regualr season, followed by the play offs, and the World Series, so I’ll have plenty to blog about in the weeks/months to come….