Results tagged ‘ Durham Bulls ’
About a year ago, I made the statement that I’d love to take batting practice and play catch on a professional baseball field, should the opportunity ever present itself. Little did I know that there was a way to make my wish a reality, as the local Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Durham Bulls, hold a fan fest twice a year, giving fans the chance to participate in both of the activities I was looking to take part in.
When I first learned that there was such a thing as fan fest, in October of last year, I already had a vacation planned with my family, so I unfortunately couldn’t attend. Therefore, when it was announced that they were holding another one in March, I made sure to mark the date on my calendar.
I wasn’t going to miss it this time around.
Accompanied by my dad, I arrived at fan fest at 12:30, right at an hour and a half after the gates first opened:
With the line being so long (continuing further out of the frame in the picture above), we decided to go ahead and play catch first. So we made our way down the steps, and into the outfield:
All of the balls were being used when we first arrived–we weren’t told to bring our own, though I think most people did–however, a couple of kids were nice enough to let the both of us play catch with them, in a square formation, of sorts.
After the four of us played catch for around 30 minutes, the plan was to head to the batting cage, to take some hacks, but after watching a few people take their turn, it came to my attention that you only received five swings. Knowing that I would more than likely swing and miss on every pitch, I figured it wasn’t worth it. So after a stop in the Bulls’ dugout….
I continued my walk, ending up over by the blue monster….
I had a great time at Bulls fan fest. It’s something I’d recommend to anyone, if you’re ever in the area when they hold it. But then again, it’s hard not to have fun anytime baseball is involved.
All of the pictures were taken on my phone, so if they seem a bit blurry, that’s why.
Although Spring Training games have yet to begin, the current speculation is that Rays’ phenom Wil Myers will start 2013 with AAA Durham, instead of with the big league club, down in Tampa, regardless of how he performs over the course of the next month. This leaves many people (myself included) to ask the question: Is this the right decision for Myers?
I’m not 100 percent sold on the idea.
This past season, before getting traded from the Royals to the Rays, in December, Myers batted .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI’s, between AA North West Arkansas and AAA Omaha. The expectation was for Myers to receive a September call up from the Royals, however, that didn’t end up happening. Leaving many people scratching their heads.
In response to not calling up Myers, the Royals made the statement that they didn’t feel he was big league ready. While that might be true, I still don’t understand why they didn’t give him a shot for the last few games of the season, especially with them not being in play off contention; just as I’m not fully understanding the Rays’ logic with Wil Myers, going into the 2013 season.
According to Rays’ manager Joe Maddon, the decision to keep Myers down in the minors, to begin the season, is merely a “baseball decision”, that would give Myers a greater chance of success once he makes the transition to the major league level, sometime this season. Maddon is known for preferring this type of strategy, as his recent comments would suggest:
“I just think that it’s easier for a player with that kind of expectation level to get some time under his belt on a Minor League level, get it rolling, get the feel going, when you know it’s going well, then walk into a big league situation. Not as difficult as opposed to leaving a camp with all this expectation, all this hype then having to match up to that on a Major League level right out of the chute.”
I sort of understand where Maddon is coming from, though I still have to disagree.
While it’s vastly debated as to whether or not Maddon’s approach with Myers is the correct one, there’s no argument when it comes to if Myers has enough natural talent, and potential, to perform at the big league level. Anyone can see that, just by watching the guy play. No one more so than Rays’ hitting coach, Derek Shelton, who, after day one of Rays Spring Training, had this to say about Myers, and his talent level:
“The thing that’s the most impressive is the bat speed. The way the ball comes off his bat….You don’t see very many people who generate that kind of bat speed….It’s loud. It’s a different sound….You don’t hear many guys that can create that sound….it’s exciting to see.”
After reading all of what Shelton had to say, combined with my personal observations of Wil Myers’, and his stats from 2012, if it were up to me, I’d choose to let him loose to see what he can do at the major league level. Worst-case scenario, Myers doesn’t produce, and the Rays could then decide to either work through it or send him back down to the minors. But there’s always the possibility that Myers could hold his own, picking up where he left off in 2012, absolutely tearing it up out of the gate.
To me, the mere chance that Myers could be an impact player for the Rays to begin the season is enough to give him a shot. Playing in the somewhat difficult American League East, if the Rays want a chance to win their division, I’m not sure they can afford even a few weeks without Myers.
Stephen Vogt was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 12th round of the 2007 draft. Since the draft, Vogt has been able to steadily work his way up through the ranks of the Rays’ system, all the way up to AAA Durham; where he currently resides. (This year with Durham, Vogt has posted a .269 batting average, with 9 home runs and 43 RBI’s.)
Earlier this season Vogt received a taste of what it’s like to play in the big leagues, as he spent 10 games with the Rays. Things didn’t go as planned for Vogt, however, as he went hitless in all 17 of his at-bats; though he did put the ball in play in all but 2 of them.
Although his short stint in the Majors didn’t go all that well, Vogt still has a good shot of making it back to the big leagues in the near future, if he can continue to post decent numbers. (Something he’s been able to do fairly consistently throughout his baseball career.) He certainly has the work ethic, and determination to make it happen.
Stephen Vogt–utility man in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:
1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?
I was always interested in playing baseball from a very early age. I loved playing anytime, all the time. My father and brother helped me the most at a young age.
2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?
Barry Bonds was my favorite player because I was a huge Giants fan and [he] is one of the greatest hitters of all time. Every time I went to watch him play it was the most exciting moment, whenever he stepped in the box.
3.) You were drafted by the Rays in the 12th round of the 2007 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you found out? Initial thoughts?
I was a senior in college and was hoping to just get a chance to play. I was at my parents house with some friends and my wife just waiting to see my name pop up on the computer and fortunately it did.
4.) You made your MLB debut on April 6th of this year. How did you receive the news that you’d been called up? What do you remember from that game?
I was told by our hitting coach in AAA, Dave Myers, that I was going up and I immediately began to shake and just have an overwhelming excitement come over me. I remember getting my name announced with all the great players of the Rays and Yankees and thinking how honored I was to be there. My journey through baseball had so many twists and turns that I was just humbled and honored to be there.
5.) After spending 10 games with the Rays you were sent back down to AAA Durham. What aspect of your game are you currently working on most to hopefully help speed up your journey back to the big leagues?
I am working mostly on my quality of at bats. I learned a lot about hitting in my short stint in the big leagues to know how much more detailed everything has to be. At bats are much different than AAA.
6.) Playing at the Triple-A level, do you feel any more pressure to perform well in every game then you did in the lower ranks of the Rays’ organization, when you weren’t just a phone call away from ‘The Show’?
The only pressure you feel is the pressure you put on yourself. I have to just relax and play the way I know how.
7.) Favorite thing to do on an off day during the season?
Nothing! Honestly the pool and a nice BBQ’d steak for dinner are what make me happy on off days.
8.) Favorite food?
Steak and potatoes.
9.) Favorite TV show?
White Collar and Saved by the Bell.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
You have to love the game and be dedicated to working everyday to be the best you can be. In a professional season you will get worn out and tired and the love of the game and hard work will get you through any tough times you may have. Also, family will keep you focused on the goal. Without my wife Alyssa’s support I would never be where I am today.
Big thanks to Stephen Vogt for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on twitter: @SVogt1229
More and more reports continue to come out stating that Tampa Bay Rays’ superstar third basemen, and three-time All-Star, Evan Longoria, will continue his rehab assignment with the Durham Bulls until at least next week. This of course thrills me, as I’m set to attend tomorrow night’s game in Durham.
Up until this point I was hesitant to blog about the possibility of Longoria for fear that it would be all for naught. Now I can say with 99% certainty that I’ll have the pleasure of watching Longoria do his thing tomorrow night versus the Gwinnett Braves. (Longoria will serve as the Bulls’ DH.)
It’s a noteworthy day any time a player as good as Longoria comes to town; even if it’s just for a few days. Guys like him fill the stands and give some pizazz to what might of otherwise been just another ordinary minor league baseball game. It’s a load of fun for fans of all ages.
As with any time a star player comes to the area, my main goal for tomorrow night is to get an autograph from Evan Longoria. He signed for the fans on Thursday night, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t a couple of days later. He seems like a cool guy. I’m sure he will. Or at least, I hope he will.
Whether or not I blog about tomorrow’s game is yet to be decided. I probably won’t. But if something crazy happens, or I’m just in the blogging mood, I might decide to. You’ll just have to wait and see….
I stated in my last blog entry that I was going to attend this past Friday’s Durham Bulls game versus the Pawtucket Red Sox; which I did. I didn’t however announce that I’d be attending yesterday’s game versus the Charlotte Knights as well. There’s a good reason for that. At the time, I didn’t know I’d be going. It was a last minute decision, which turned out to be a great one.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about either game, but I thought I’d give a brief overview of my time spent at the ballpark over the past few days. I normally wouldn’t blog about a MiLB game but considering the fact that the 2009 World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui, is currently playing with the Bulls, I thought I’d type up this little entry.
May 18th: Durham Bulls vs. Pawtucket Red Sox
The moment I heard that Kevin Youkilis was going to be rehabbing with the PawSox I knew I’d be attending this game. But going back even further in time, I knew I’d be attending one of the four games versus the Sox from the day the schedule was first released.
My day at the ballpark started out like every other game of my life: With me standing in line outside of the ballpark, waiting for the gates to open up. It’s one of the things that is a MUST for me. Showing up early to be one of the first inside is something I’ve always enjoyed doing.
Once the gates opened up I made my way past the mobs of the people in Red Sox gear and down to the PawSox dugout. I then proceeded to wait for the players to make their way up the steps from the clubhouse. It seemed to take them longer than usual.
The first player out of the clubhouse was Jose Iglesias, but he flat out ignored my autograph request. Next up was Lars Anderson. I was promptly denied again. I couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t going to be a good day for autograph collecting, and for the most part, I was right. I only got two autographs at this game. One from Kevin Youkilis, and another from Gerald Perry. Not a great day, but at least I got Youk.
Moving on to the game itself.
It was really exciting to say the least. Down 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th, Jesus Feliciano stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and proceeded to clear them on a 3 run triple. The ballpark was electric. You should’ve been there.
After the game I dashed back to the PawSox dugout to ask their manager for the lineup cards, but was told that they never give those out. I know for a fact that’s a lie, but I just let it be. I didn’t want to cause a scene.
All in all it was a great game. The Bulls won. I was successful in getting an auto from Kevin Youkilis. And I got to see Matsui play. I’ll take that kind of game every day of the week.
I know what those of you who aren’t big on reading are thinking: Where are the pictures?! Well, don’t worry, I took some, I just wasn’t sure how I could incorporate them into the entry without giving a pitch-by-pitch recap, which I know would’ve been unnecessary. So here you non-readers go:
Hideki Matsui walking away after signing autograph for a few kids.
Kevin Youkilis getting ready for the game.
Lars Anderson in his first at bat.
Hideki Matsui in his first at bat.
‘Godzilla’ in left field.
And that’s all she (or in this case, *he*) wrote.
May 20th: Durham Bulls vs. Charlotte Knights
I hadn’t planned on attending this game, but I REALLY wanted to get an autograph from Hideki Matsui. This was going to be my last Bulls game until June 8th, and who knows if Matsui will still be on the team then. I knew it wasn’t a guarantee that I’d get him to sign for me, but I at least had to try.
The day started out with me making friends with a relatively nice usher down by the Bulls’ dugout. This would turn out to be important. More on that a little later.
My main autograph target for the day, as stated earlier, was Matsui, but there were a few other guys I wanted as well. Leslie Anderson has been tearing it up this year, and Tampa Bay Rays number 3 prospect Chris Archer has been having a good year as well, so I was going for their autos too.
I was all by myself down by the dugout for the first ten or so minutes after the gates opened. After that, however, people showed up in bunches, and before long there were 10 or so fellow autograph seekers, including a young kid who decided it was necessary to continuously kick me in the back of the legs. But I digress.
I completely missed the arrival of Leslie Anderson from the clubhouse. He came out while I was looking at something that was happening on the field, and by the time I noticed him he was heading onto the field to warm up. I made sure not to turn my head after that. I didn’t want to miss Matsui.
Several minutes passed by and still no sign of Matsui. Finally, after 30 minutes of standing there waiting, he appeared. I was the first one to notice him, and proceeded to hollar “Hideki!!” all while holding out my card and sharpie (which apparently isn’t the universal sign for “can I have your autograph”?). Matsui looked up at me and nodded, but an acknowledgement is all I got. He ran up the steps and onto the field. No auto love from Matsui, but I did get Chris Archer just before I went to my seat. So I was glad about that.
This game wasn’t as exciting as Friday’s. It was ALL Bulls the entire game, which lasted a mere two hours. As soon as the last out of the game was made I rushed over to the Bulls dugout but was stopped by an usher who said I couldn’t go down there because the kids were going to run the bases. But my usher friend came to the rescue and told me I could go down their for just a couple of minutes. Haha! Take that mean usher guy. (This particular usher has always been grouchy to me. If you ever make it to a Bulls game, don’t think you’re going to get past him unless you talk to my usher friend. Haha.)
The only other people down by the dugout were people who had nearby seats. They were all after Matsui’s autograph, and to my surprise he actually stopped to sign. He only signed for four people, but I am happy to state that I WAS one of the lucky few. I have my usher buddy to thank for that.
Here’s a random pic of Matsui in the Bulls alternate home uniform:
If you’re ever in the area I highly suggest you make a trip to Durham to see a ball game. It’s an awesome ballpark, and you’ll have the time of your life. Guaranteed.
I said awhile back that I wasn’t planning on blogging about any more baseball games until June 23rd–when I head to Cincinnati for the Twins-Reds game–but I may have to make an exception for tomorrow’s game.
I’d been planning on attending a game during the Durham Bulls 4-game series against the Pawtucket Red Sox since the schedule was first realeased. At the time I was just going for the sole purpose of seeing the top Red Sox’ prospects in action, but I never expected things to develop as they have.
In case you haven’t heard, Kevin Youkilis is currently rehabbing with the PawSox. He’s expected to join back up with Boston as early as this weekend, or as late as next week. Either way, he’ll be playing tomorrow when I head out to the ballpark, so I’m pretty excited about that.
Another guy who’s had success in the Majors but is currently down with the Bulls is former World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. He had a hard time finding any team to sign him in the offseason but finally was successful a couple weeks ago; as the Tampa Bay Rays picked him up.
There’s no timetable for Matsui. The Rays are saying it could be next week, or next month (or never at all?) when they call him up to the big leagues. It all depends on how he does. He has to prove that he can still have an impact for his team.
I’m hoping a bunch of guys on the Pawtucket Red Sox sign autographs because I’ll be ready for them. With so many good names currently on the roster this is one of the most star packed teams I’ll see all year. Some of the standouts on the team include Daisuke Matsuzaka, Lars Anderson, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway and of course, Kevin Youkilis. That’s just a few of the many. Feel free to view the entire roster by CLICKING HERE.
I’m really excited about tomorrow’s game. It’s not that often that there are so many great players in Durham, North Carolina. It’s sure to be a fun time.
I was able to get autographs from Kevin Youkilis and PawSox’ Hitting Coach (former Brave) Gerald Perry. I’m heading out to the ballpark again today, so I’m planning on posting a recap of Friday’s game and tonight’s game in the same entry. So check back for that on Monday.
This was my first Durham Bulls game in almost four years, and I was pretty excited. Here’s the view of the ballpark I had when I rounded the corner from the parking lot:
It was good to be back.
I had originally planned to go straight to my seat when the gates opened but I HAD to stop and take a picture of one of the coolest T.V. dogs of all time:
Yeah, that’s Scooby Doo. I wish my dog was that cool.
After I climbed the steps to the concourse I walked all the way to the outfield and got my first view of the field:
SO awesome. I love baseball, but I think I love baseball fields just as much. They’re so cool.
Anyway, there are also a lot of unique design features to the ballpark. One of which being the Blue Monster:
If the Red Sox can have the Green Monster, I suppose the Bull’s can have the Blue Monster.
Did you notice the bull atop the wall? Here’s a closer look:
Everytime a home run is hit the tail waves and smoke comes out of the bull’s nose. Pretty cool stuff.
After taking my seat in the stands, I noticed some action around the field tarp. Moments later, this happened:
I couldn’t figure it out. It was still a little sunny. But they covered the field anyway.
A few minutes passed, then ten minutes, then a half hour. What the heck did they see on the radar? It didn’t make sense.
Two of the Bull’s players took advantage of the “rain” delay by signing autographs:
I could of easily gotten at least one, if not both, of them to sign for me, but I chose not to.
I only cared to get an autograph from one of three players: Dirk Hayhurst (Author of ‘The Bullpen Gospels’), Matt Moore (No. 15 pospect), or Reid Brignac (recently optioned from the Rays.) None of them signed. In fact, I never saw Dirk or Matt at all. I did however see Reid Brignac when he came out to warm up during the “rain” delay, by playing a little catch:
Moments after Reid came out to throw, the tarp was pulled off the field:
It never rained at all. Go figure.
With the tarp off the field, some more Bull’s players came out to stretch and warm up:
Then some players from the visiting teams dugout emerged to warm up and stretch.
Some stretched more than others:
Things were looking like they were about to get going. But they didn’t. The tarp was rolled out once again, but this time it did rain. Not only did it rain, it POURED. Check it out:
All of the people that were sitting in the lower sections, moved up underneath the shelter to keep dry:
My seat was already under the shelter, so I didn’t have to move at all.
Then something that I didn’t think was possible happened. The rain got heavier:
The thunder and lightning was also terrible. But hey, at least we were entertained during the storm:
In case you can’t tell, that’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which he played baseball. Pretty fun to watch. Yes. Fun. (I was bored.)
The rain lasted what seemed like forever. Check out the puddles that formed behind home plate:
They also occured towards the outfield:
About thirty minutes later, the rain let up, and the tarp was removed. The grounds crew then worked hard on sweeping the water asside:
Now that’s a lot of water.
Despite their efforts, it wasn’t meant to be, as moments later it began to rain again. An announcement was made soon after stating that the game had been posponed. (Sigh.)
I took this photo on the way out:
Although there was no game played, I still enjoyed the four hours spent at the ballpark. Anytime I can go to a ballpark, game or not, I still have a great time.
I wanted to post this short entry just to let you know what to expect in the coming days. (In terms of future blog entries.)
I’m going to a Minor League ballgame Saturday night featuring the Durham Bulls taking on the Charlotte Knights. I’ll post the entry from the game on Sunday. Should be interesting. Stars on the team include Matt Moore, Dirk Hayhurst, recently added Reid Brignac, etc. I’ve been talking to Dirk recently on twitter, trying to plan out where I should go to get him to autograph my copy of his book “The Bullpen Gospels.” (A great book by the way. Pick up a copy.) I’m also going to call out to other players to see if they will sign, so come back to see if I succeeded.
I’ve sent off questions to A’s prospect, Sonny Gray, and hope to recieve the answers back within the next day or so. So come back around Tuesday, to read my Q and A entry on him.
Other than that, I’m not sure. I’ll blog about whatever seems important in baseball at the moment.
If you have any thoughts on what you think I should blog about, leave a comment and let me know.