Results tagged ‘ Kyle Hendricks ’

Surprisingly Good and Bad Performances from 2016

In baseball — much like in life — surprises can be really good or they can be really bad. A good surprise in baseball might be a player or team having an unpredicted breakout season, while a bad surprise may be defined as a team or player destined for great things having a below average year. The 2016 season has had plenty of both throughout the entire stretch.

With just over a week left until the last games of the season leading up to the playoffs, a lot has taken place that can be deemed as good surprises or bad surprises. Having said that, I wanted to take the time to go over six hitters, six pitchers and six teams who surprised the baseball world in good or bad ways, keeping in mind that it is by no means a record of all the players who fit each category, nor is it the very top options in some cases. It’s simply a broad overview meant to recap the season as a whole.

HITTERS

Surprisingly Good: Brian Dozier, Brad Miller and Adam Duvall

Over the past several seasons, Brian Dozier has been one of the best second basemen in all of baseball. However, this season, he has broken out as arguably the best second baseman in baseball. With a previous career high of 28 home runs coming last year, Dozier has been even better this season, having knocked 42 so far — the most in American League history for a second baseman. Despite the Twins having the worst record in baseball, Dozier has been a huge surprisingly bright spot in Minnesota.miller

On the same theme, Brad Miller has been the biggest standout on the Rays, with the exception of All-Star Evan Longoria. Hitting 30 homers to this point in the year, Miller has blasted more round-trippers this campaign than he had over the past three seasons (343 games) combined. For that reason, Miller has been a great surprise to Tampa Bay. Whether Miller will be this type of player moving forward or is simply having a career-year, there is little argument that he wasn’t expected to be this good when the season began.

The final player on my list is Adam Duvall. After winning a World Series ring with the Giants back in 2014, Duvall has spent the last two years in Cincinnati, where he has turned out to be an extremely productive player. After playing in just 27 games last season, in which Duvall managed to hit just 5 home runs, this season has seen Duvall breaking out to record 31 blasts. It surely was surprising to see Duvall break out in the way he did, but it certainly was of the good surprise variety for the Reds and their fans.

Surprisingly Bad: Mark Teixeira, Jason Heyward and Bryce Harper

Mark Teixeira announced earlier this season that 2016 would be his final year, but he’s not going out with a bang as many of baseball’s greats have before him. Unlike his fellow retiree David Ortiz, who has recorded one of the best years in baseball history for a player 40 or older, Teixeira hasn’t been able to hit even a mere .200 and has notched only 13 homers and 38 RBI’s in 2016. Following 2015, in which Tex managed 31 homers, his year has definitely been a bad surprise for the Yankees. Even so, he is still one of the best players in recent baseball history, having hit over 400 homers in his career.heyward

When the Cubs signed Jason Heyward to an eight-year, 184 million dollar contract leading up to this season, he was obviously expected to put up All-Star numbers for Chicago. However, he has somewhat surprisingly been pretty horrible, quite frankly. Only managing to record seven home runs and a .230 average, Heyward has yet to get things going, now nearly six months into the season. Given, Heyward can turn things around with the playoffs looming, but it would take a lot for that to happen where things stand now.

Bryce Harper’s 24 home runs and 82 home runs would be a great season for any number of players around Major League Baseball. But by Harper’s standards — set last season with his MVP-earning 42 homers — Harper is having a surprisingly bad year, seeing his batting average drop nearly an entire 100 points from a year ago. There have been rumors that Harper has been playing through an injury all season long, but that’s being denied by Harper. Whether or not it’s true, Harper — who was expected to be in the running for a second straight MVP — is still having a surprisingly down year by all accounts.

PITCHERS

Surprisingly Good: Kyle Hendricks, Tanner Roark and Steven Wright

Part of a rotation that includes the likes of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks has surprisingly been the best pitcher of the Cubs’ entire rotation. Over the course of 28 games started for the Cubs, Hendricks has notched a mere 2.06 ERA — the best in all of baseball. By doing so, Hendricks has helped to lead the Cubs to the best record in baseball and what looks to have all the makings of a postseason run. Although it’s yet to be seen whether or not this is actually the year for the Cubs, it has certainly been the year for Kyle Hendricks.roark

Tanner Roark has been an average to above average pitcher for the Nationals over the past few years, but this season Roark has truly broken out. Holding a 2.70 ERA over 200.1 innings pitched, Roark has kept the Nats push towards October strong, despite the loss of Stephen Strasburg for a good chunk of the season, and inevitably the final several weeks. It very well may come down the Roark’s ability to keep his surprisingly good performance going in order to keep the Nationals going deep into the postseason.

I’ve been bringing up the name Steven Wright all season long, and for good reason. Despite being a knuckleballer, Wright has been one of the top surprises in terms of pitchers this season for the Red Sox. Although his historic start to the season has slowly dwindled away as the year progressed, Wright’s 3.30 ERA is still good enough to make this list. Although he is currently working to battle his way back from an injury, Wright has still recorded enough innings to prove himself to all of baseball that he is a true weapon moving forward.

Surprisingly Bad: Chris Archer, Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke

Chris Archer broke out in 2015 to be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and was set to be the Rays’ ace moving into this season. But after getting off to a poor start to begin the year, Archer hasn’t been able to get much of anything going with only one more start remaining. The strikeouts are still there, as he has produced over ten strikeouts per nine innings on the year; and with the Rays’ poor collective season, Archer’s 19 losses are somewhat deceiving. But his 4.02 ERA can’t be ignored, especially following his Cy Young eligible season last year.miller

Being traded to the Diamondback’s this past offseason in exchange for Dansby Swanson, who has gone from 2015 first overall draft pick to star in the big leagues, Shelby Miller has been one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball this year. Having never recorded a full-season ERA above 3.74 heading into this year, Miller has posted an ERA of 6.47 over 19 starts. Following Miller’s 3.02 ERA with the Braves last season, many expected Miller to help get the Diamondbacks back into the postseason, but he has been virtually no factor whatsoever.

Joining Shelby Miller as part of the D-back’s rotation, Zack Greinke was expected to help make their rotation one of the greatest in the majors. After all, with Greinke posting a historically-low 1.66 ERA with the Dodgers in 2015, he was all but guaranteed to be the number one starter for the D-backs. But this is baseball, where nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen from one year to the next. As such, Greinke has put up his worst ERA since back in 2005, notching a 4.37 ERA for his efforts in 2016.

TEAMS

Surprisingly Good: Marlins, Mariners and Indians

I didn’t know what to make of the Marlins heading into the 2016 season, but they truly surprised me in a big way. Dealing with the losses of star players such as Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton at various points in the season, for drastically different reasons, many expected the Marlins to fade away early on. But they’ve hung in there all season long, sitting five games back of a wild card spot. Inevitably, there aren’t enough games remaining for the Marlins to wind up in the playoffs, but to still be in the discussion at this point in the year is remarkable.mariners

Things are coming down to the wire for the Mariners, and they may not have enough in them to make the postseason for the first time since 2001, but they had a year that shocked a lot of people. With Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager all having great seasons at the right times, Seattle was able to beat a lot of teams around baseball that many felt would give them trouble. As such, they easily made my list. They may or may not make the postseason in 2016, but things are looking positive all of a sudden for them to finally get there in 2017.

Many people felt the Indians would be as good as they have been this year, but I wasn’t as convinced. I simply thought the World Series defending Royals and the always good Detroit Tigers would keep Cleveland from being relevant in the month of September. But to my surprise — as well as the surprise of some people who felt the same way I did — the Indians are sitting atop the American League Central. If they can keep things going into the playoffs, they may not be done surprising people as the postseason plays out.

Surprisingly Bad: Rays, Braves and Twins

A lot of people actually picked the Tampa Bay Rays to win the American League East division this season, with their rotation being the key to that happening. However, with Chris Archer having a rough year along with several untimely injuries, the Rays haven’t been able to come close to realizing their predicted potential. With only a week to go, the Rays are in sole possession of last place in the American League East. With the division strong once again, it remains to be seen if the Rays can turn things around in 2017 and beyond.braves

It took the Braves forever to win a single game this season, and once they finally recorded one in the win column, they still weren’t able to get much of anything going. Losing 91 games to this point in the year, the Braves are promising that 2017 will be the year things turn around, with them getting a shiny new ballpark across town. But if the Braves don’t turn things around next year in a big way from this season, their ballpark could easily turn out to be the bright spot in the entire season when all is said and done.

Much like the Braves, the Twins’ season was over before it even got started. When the final game has been recorded, the Twins will have more than likely lost 100+ games after finishing four game over .500 last year. Following that breakout performance for the Twins, many people felt that they would be able to keep it going into this year. But it wasn’t meant to be, as the Twins have been one of the worst teams in recent baseball history. Although they could easily turn things around in 2017, all hope is lost for this year.

Can Any Team Stop the Cubs in October?

After making the playoffs last season following a seven-year drought, many felt that the time had finally arrived in which the Cubs would break their historic curse and win the World Series title that has eluded them for over a century.cubs However, despite making it all the way to the National League Championship series for the first time since 2003, the Cubs were promptly swept in four games by the Mets.

This season, the Cubs are setting themselves up nicely once again. They have a great team, which has been evident all season long, allowing them to be the first team to officially clinch a postseason spot, as well as run away with the division title by a whopping 17 games over the Cardinals.

But the big question is, are the Cubs setting themselves up for a magical finish to the year or yet another disappointing conclusion?

One of the key differences from the team the Cubs put on the field last season and the one they have this time around is their overall dominance. From week one of the season, the Cubs put their talent on full display, taking the division title with ease (they wound up in third place last season), having never been out of first place since the first few games of the year.

Their offense is extremely good, despite the collective team stats saying otherwise. The Cubs don’t sit in the top few slots in either home runs or batting average for their team, but with 30+ homer guys such as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — who are both considered top MVP-candidates — the Cubs have plenty of thump to get the job done.

But as good as their lineup is, it’s their pitching that puts them in historic territory.

Four of the Cubs’ rotation options from this season hold ERA’s below 3.00, with all of their starters having recorded ERA’s less than 3.60, chapmanall adding up to a collective team ERA (including the bullpen) of just over 3.00 — by far the best in all of baseball.

On top of their fantastic starting pitching, holding an elite closer in Aroldis Chapman to get the job done at the end of the game gives the Cubs a great chance at a win day in and day out.

However, as has been proven in the past, a win isn’t guaranteed by any means in the month of October, no matter how good of a roster any team may possess. All it takes is for an under-the-radar team to get hot at just the right time and come along to kill the dreams of any given team.

But does any team actually have a chance of beating the Cubs when the postseason rolls around in less than three weeks? Obviously, the answer is yes — anything can and usually does happen in October. But although it remains a possibility, I — along with a great number of people around the baseball world — believe that this could actually end up being the year the Cubs win it all (I said that in 2015, too).

No team could stop the Cubs in the regular season.

Only time will tell if the same will hold true in the postseason.

Cubs Could Be Better Than Many People Think

It’s been quite awhile since people have whole heartedly believed in the Cubs.

CubsBut let’s face it. They haven’t had a reason to believe for the past several years. With the Cubs having failed to even make the postseason since 2008, not having made a World Series appearance since 1945, and currently holding a 107-year World Championship drought, the Cubs’ fan base has been nothing but disappointed for a long time.

The Cubs, however, have finally put together what could prove to be a formidable team that fans could actually get behind. In fact, many Cubs fans are getting so behind this year’s roster that they have visions of a World Series title to round out the coming season. While I like their optimism, and wouldn’t be too stunned if it happened, I don’t think it will necessarily occur in 2015. I think it will be 2016 at the earliest before the World Series becomes a possibility.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think the Cubs will have an amazing team this year. Although a lot of people are saying that the Cubs are extremely overhyped and stand little chance of doing much of anything this season, I actually believe in the club they have.

First off, their new manager, Joe Maddon, has proven to be one of the best in baseball — not necessarily for his winning records but for his ability to get the most out of each and every one of his players. His addition to the club house will have an immeasurable impact on the Cubs in my mind.

As far as the players themselves are concerned, it’s a talented group of characters the Cubs are going to be putting on the field throughout the season.

The one weakness a lot of people foresee, however, is their pitching staff, consisting of guys like Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada and Kyle Hendricks. While those players aren’t the worst pitchers in baseball, they aren’t Cy Young candidates either. But the Cubs do in fact have a Cy Young caliber pitcher they snatched up this offseason, set CubsRizzoto lead the staff every fifth day. Jon Lester, who came over to the Cubs on a 155 million dollar contract, is sure to instantly make the Cubs pitching staff relevant (with their bullpen being decent enough).

Beyond that, the Cubs’ lineup is fairly good as well. Admittedly, it consists of a lot of young, unproven talent, but it’s a good group, nonetheless. Having Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and newly added catcher, Miguel Montero, slotted in the Cubs’ lineup is sure to lead to runs being scored. But it’s the youth of the Cubs that could ultimately lead to a lot of wins in 2015.

With Jorge Soler, Tommy La Stella, Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez looking to have breakout seasons — along with uber prospect Kris Bryant, who should be called up shortly into the year — the Cubs’ team is going to be one to reckon with.

However, it’s that very youth and inexperience in a great number of the players that has a lot of people remaining cautious from hopping aboard the Cubs’ bandwagon. After getting their hopes up in the past only to see things come crashing down, many people from around the baseball world refuse to believe that the Cubs stand a chance at making much ground in a division that includes the Cardinals, Reds, Pirates and Brewers.

But it’s not stopping me from predicting the Cubs to have success in 2015.

Maybe the 2015 Cubs aren’t the team that will break the “Curse of the Billy Goat”. Maybe they aren’t even the team that will dominate their division for the better part of the season. But I feel that the Cubs are in fact the team that will surprise the most people this season as they make a run toward the second wild card spot in the National League.

Recapping My 2014 MiLB Baseball Season

Last year I did a post at the end of the 16 games I spent out at a baseball park, recapping my 2013 MiLB and MLB season. Unfortunately, this time around, I wasn’t able to make it to any MLB games, however, with the 2014 MiLB season now over, I wanted to post an overview of the games and of the autographs I received this year, nonetheless. In all, I managed to make it to 20 baseball games this season. It was a great year, full of fun, and I thought I’d take the time to recap it all:

April 5th – Durham Bulls Vs. Gwinnett Braves

This was my first professional baseball game of 2014 (I attended a college baseball game, with Carlos Rodon on the mound, earlier in the year), and the first since the DBAP underwent a multimillion dollar offseason overhaul. For this particular game, I was looking to get autographs from as many of the visiting Gwinnett Braves as I could, with my hopes being highest that I could get one from their top prospect at the time, Christian Bethancourt.

Not only did I succeed in getting an auto from Bethancourt, but I also got one from Jose Constanza, Tommy La Stella and Joey Terdoslavich as well:

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April 9th — Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

This particular game was absolutely terrible in terms of autographs. While there were several players I was hoping to get, I was only successful in getting one auto, coming from the White Sox’ top prospect, Matt Davidson, as the remainder of the players were all “in a hurry” and didn’t sign:

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(If I could only get one, Davidson is the one I wanted the most.)

April 19th — Myrtle Beach Pelicans Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

While the visiting Blue Rocks had several top prospects, the Pelicans had even more at the time I visited Myrtle Beach, and thus, I tried to get autos from their side. I was able to get two autographs from Joey Gallo (he hit 40 home runs last season, and followed that up with an encore of 42 homers this year) and Nick Williams, as well as one auto from Chris Bostick, Hanser Alberto and Cody Buckel:

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I also received a game used bat from Nick Williams, which he shattered in half (the break is on the back) during the game:

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April 27th — Durham Bulls Vs. Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons

I attended this game with the sole purpose of getting autographs from the Durham Bulls, since Scranton wasn’t that great of a team at the time, except for a few players. I wound up getting seven total autographs, coming from Kevin Kiermaier (the blank auto card), Mikie Mahtook, Jerry Sands, Wilson Betemit, Hak-Ju Lee, Enny Romero and C.J. Riefenhauser:

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May 4th — Durham Bulls Vs. Columbus Clippers

It was Star Wars night, but despite the awesome looking jerseys the Bulls were wearing, I couldn’t have cared less (I’m, obviously, not a fan of Star Wars). Unfortunately, autographing wasn’t too successful, as I only managed to get a single autograph, coming from Jerry Sands:

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(An interesting side note: Trevor Bauer — an Indians’ top pitching prospect — was in the stands charting the game, but although I spotted him and was prepared, he didn’t sign for anyone.)

May 23rd — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Though I’d already seen Myrtle Beach once this season, I attended this game to get another autograph from Joey Gallo, who had 18 home runs on the season heading into the game. I succeeded in getting Gallo three times, as well as a couple of autos from Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Chris Bostick, Cody Buckel, and one from Zach Cone:

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In addition, I got a 4×6 photo signed by the Rangers’ 2013 number one draft pick, Alex Gonzalez:

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May 28th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

The Royals’ prospects on this given team weren’t the best, but they were good enough to warrant a trip out to the ballpark. I ended up getting two autographs from Hunter Dozier, Raul Mondesi, Bubba Starling and Zane Evans (the blank auto cards), as well as an autographed 4×6 of Sean Manaea and Christian Binford:

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June 2nd — Durham Bulls Vs. Leigh High Valley Ironpigs

I ultimately went to this game because it happened to be a day game, and I love day games, but I also attended it because one of the top prospects in baseball, Maikel Franco, was playing for the visiting Ironpigs. When all was said and done, I succeeded in getting Franco’s autograph, as well as an autographed 4×6 from Durham Bulls’ pitcher Mike Montgomery:

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June 4th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Winston Salem Dash

This was the second game in three days that I had gone to, but with the talented Dash team visiting, it was worth it. I got two autographs from White Sox’ top prospect Courtney Hawkins, as well as a single auto from Keenyn Walker, Tyler Danish, Jacob May, Tim Anderson and Francellis Montas (on a 4×6):

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June 6th — Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

The third game in a five day time frame — I headed out to this game simply because of the great team the Red Sox had, with six of their top ten prospects as part of the roster, four of which were part of the top 100. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Not too many players signed, and I only got one autograph from Garin Cecchini and Mookie Betts, as well as two from Travis Shaw:

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June 22nd — Tennessee Smokies Vs. Chattanooga Lookouts

The original plan was to visit the Smokies for a game as part of a family vacation, regardless of whether or not Cubs’ uber prospect Kris Bryant was a part of the team or not. However, when I heard the news mere days before that Bryant had been called up to Triple-A, it was still disappointing. Even so, I had a great time, and got an autograph from both Dustin Geiger (on my ticket) and Corey Black:

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July 14th — Triple-A Home Run Derby

For just the second time in my life, and the first time since the MLB home run derby back in 2012, I found myself out at a home run derby. This time the derby saw some of Triple-A baseball’s top sluggers, instead of major leaguers, but it was still an impressive event. I didn’t do too great in terms of autographs, but I hadn’t expected to, really — getting just two autos from Nick Franklin and Andrew Susac, along with three from Elih Villanueva:

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July 15th — Triple-A PCL & IL Autograph Session

There was no game played, being that it was merely an autograph session, so I’m not including it in the number of games played statistic in the numbers section down below; but what an enjoyable time it was. I was able to get an auto from pretty much everyone I wanted on both teams, going home with 31 total autographs.

I received a couple of cards signed by Jonathan Galvez, Ben Paulsen and Josh Phegley, along with a single card signed by Kyle Hendricks, Joc Pederson, Stephen Piscotty, Chris Taylor, Wilson Betemit, Matt Hague, Tommy Layne and Steven Souza Jr:

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I also got a home run derby program signed by Francisco Pena, Allan Dykstra and Mike Jacobs . . . . :

DSCN7392. . . . in addition to individually autographed 4×6’s from Max Stassi and Jesus Aguilar (top two below); along with three All-Star logos collectively signed by Spencer Patton, Paulo Orlando, A.J. Atcher, Phil Gosselin, Andy Oliver, Aaron Laffey, Bobby Korecky, Ivan De Jesus, Ezequiel Carrera, Jose Pirela, Felix Perez and Jhonatan Solano:

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July 16th — Triple-A All-Star Game

Due to the numerous autographs I had gotten at the previous day’s autograph session, there weren’t a lot of players I cared to get an autograph from at the All-Star game itself. So, I didn’t really try all that hard to get any. The only player I attempted to get an auto from was Joc Pederson, but apparently he remembered me from the autograph session the day before, because he signed for everyone but me, skipping over me twice.

It was still a fun time, which you can read about HERE.

July 26th — Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens

After Mike Hessman broke the all-time International League home run record back in late June, hitting his 259th IL homer, and 404th career minor league home run, I really wanted to get his auto. Thankfully, I was successful in getting Hessman’s autograph on a 4×6, in addition to getting a single auto from Danny Worth and Leon Durham, along with three autographs from former big league slugger Larry Parrish:

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August 10th — Durham Bulls Vs. Buffalo Bisons

With Wil Myers rehabbing in Durham, I was looking to get an autograph from him, and ended up getting him on a card and a 4×6 photo:

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Then, after game one of the double header — which was being played due to rain the night before — I got Daniel Norris on a card (Norris pitched a 10 strikeout game in his Triple-A debut that day), as well as Kevin Pillar (on two cards), Brett Wallace and A.J. Jimenez:

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August 12th — Winston-Salem Dash Vs. Lynchburg Hillcats

I went to this game with one purpose in mind — getting Carlos Rodon’s autograph. After being unsuccessful twice earlier in the year while he was still a member of N.C. State, I wanted to get the 2014 draft’s third overall pick to sign a card for me. Despite a threat of rain, I was able to get Rodon like I had hoped, in addition to a couple of autographs from former big leaguers Luis Salazar and Gary Ward; along with a 4×6 photo signed by Keon Barnum:

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August 13th — Greensboro Grasshoppers Vs. Lakewood Blue Claws

There wasn’t nearly as much talent at this game as there was the night before, but with it being a day game, I headed out to a ballgame (this time in Greensboro) for the second time in around 17 hours. Though I wasn’t really targeting anyone in particular, I was able to get three decent players to sign for me, being Domingo German, J.T. Riddle and Sean Townsley:

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August 17th — Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

This was the second time this season that I had seen the Knights play, but after doing so poorly with them back in April (only getting one autograph) I was looking to redeem myself. Although I didn’t get White Sox’ top prospect Micah Johnson like I wanted, I managed to get seven total autographs, including two from Michael Taylor and one from Andre Rienzo, Richard Dotson, Chris Beck, Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien:

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August 20th — Carolina Mudcats Vs. Frederick Keys

Around a week before this game, I was looking forward to seeing highly ranked pitching prospect Dylan Bundy. However, Bundy unfortunately injured himself shortly before the Frederick Keys came to town, and therefore didn’t make the trip. To make matters worse, most of the few players I wanted an autograph from were not there either, for whatever reason. Thankfully, though, one of the biggest reasons I attended the game was to pick up a previously promised bat from Orioles’ prospect Adrian Marin, which I was able to get after the game had concluded:

DSCN7406(It’s hard to see, since there happens to be a baseball mark in the location, but Marin signed the bat in silver sharpie.)

September 5th — Durham Bulls Vs. Columbus Clippers

This was the second time I had seen the Clippers play this season, but after doing so poorly the last time, I wanted to try for a few players again. In addition to trying to get some players that I had missed before, both Francisco Lindor and James Ramsey were newcomers to the team since the last time I saw them, so I was looking to get an autograph from them as well. Unfortunately, Lindor only signed autographs for a few people, myself not included. Even so, I got an autographed card from James Ramsey and Nick Maronde, as well as an autographed 4×6 photo of Giovanny Urshela:

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September 11th — Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

In what was going to be my final game of the season, I was really looking to make this game a memorable one. With six of the Red Sox’ top ten prospects on the team, and with Cuban phenom Rusney Castillo also a part of the roster, it was sure to be a great chance to grab some great players’ autographs. Mere minutes after entering the stadium I was able to get Castillo to sign a photo for me, and before the game began I got Blake Swihart, Garin Cecchini and Deven Marrero to autograph a card for me as well.

After the game, I did something I’d never done before, and — after it took a tremendous amount of time — will likely never do again: I stuck around outside the ballpark to try for a few more autographs as the players left. Despite the frustration from the extremely long wait, I ended up getting Brian Johnson to sign a couple cards, as well as Bryce Brentz to sign one, before leaving the ballpark for the last time until next season:

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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 2014 MiLB season:

Games attended: 20

Win-loss record for the home team: 14-6

Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 99-77

Top 100 prospects seen in person: 20

Autographs from top 100 prospects: 16

Total autographs: 136

Game used gear: Nick Williams broken bat & Adrian Marin unbroken bat

Total miles traveled to & from games: 3,170

2014 Triple-A All-Star Game

While Monday night’s Triple-A Home Run derby was extremely exciting, with Minor League Baseball’s top sluggers putting on a home run hitting show, Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star game was the event that everyone had been waiting for. With the stars of tomorrow from both the Pacific Coast League and the International League set to take on each other in what was sure to be a thrilling game, many people (myself included) showed up to the ballpark fairly early.

Normally I’d be getting to the ballpark early because I was going to try for autographs. But thanks to an autograph session that was held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday afternoon, I was able to get an auto from every player that I wanted, and thus, it wasn’t a top priority at this game. Even so, I still arrived to the ballpark right before the gates opened, getting inside in time to watch the last portion of the Pacific Coast League’s batting practice:

DSCN7230Down on the field (as seen in the picture) was Stephen Piscotty (in the batting cage), Andrew Susac and Max Stassi, among others, with numerous players in the outfield shagging balls. With me not trying that hard for autographs, I wasn’t down near the dugout at this point, but after seeing arguably the best player of both teams, Joc Pederson, gesturing that he’d sign autographs after he came back out of the clubhouse, I decided to head down to the field anyway.

Despite having gotten Pederson’s autograph the day before, with him being listed as the number 30 prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com, it was worth another shot. Unfortunately, although he kept his promise of signing autographs once he came back out, Pederson signed for everyone but me. Skipping over me twice, apparently he remembered me from the day before; at least, that’s all I can think of. But that was okay.

Although I would’ve liked to have gotten his auto again, seeing the future Dodgers’ star outfielder (assuming they can figure their outfield situation) up close was cool in itself:

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After failing to get an autograph from Pederson, I made my way to my ticketed seat (the same one I had for the home run derby) to watch the pre game introductions. While every player seemed thrilled to be there and honored to have been selected to participate, no other player seemed quite as happy to be taking part in the All-Star game as the Clippers’ first baseman, Jesus Aguilar:

DSCN7256If that’s not pure excitement by Aguilar, I don’t know what is.

Shortly after all of the players had been introduced from both the Pacific Coast League and the International League, and after a flyover during the National Anthem, . . . . :

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. . . . the 2014 Triple-A All-Star game got underway.

The starting pitcher for the International League, Liam Hendriks, had been fantastic heading into Wednesday’s game. Having gone 7-1 with a 2.19 ERA so far this season for the Buffalo Bisons (Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays), Hendriks picked up right where he left off, keeping the Pacific Coast League off the board in the top of the first inning.

On the mound for the opposing Pacific Coast League was Elih Villanueva, who didn’t fare nearly as well. In the bottom half of the first inning, Wilson Betemit drove in a pair of runs, taking the score up to a quick 2-0 International League lead. Then, in the very next inning of swings for the International League, Jhonatan Solano (with a man on base) blasted an impressive shot over the left field blue monster, bringing the score up to 4-0:

DSCN7277Not surprisingly, that’s as far as Villanueva was allowed to go, being replaced by Spencer Patton after 1.2 innings pitched:

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Patton would finish out the inning, with the Pacific Coast League once again bringing in another pitcher for the third, in Kyle Hendricks, who was finally able to keep the International League off the board, after they had scored a couple of runs in each of the previous two innings.

Neither team would score for the next few innings, with the first run of the game for the Pacific Coast League, and the first run of the game since the bottom of the second inning, coming in the top of the sixth inning thanks to a Joc Pederson home run. Pederson, who had struck out in his first two at-bats of the game, took out some of his frustration, absolutely demolishing a ball deep into the right field stands:

Having attended dozens of Bulls games, I’ve never seen a ball hit that well to right field. For that matter, I’m not sure any of the participants in the home run derby a couple of nights prior hit a ball quite that deep. Though I’d heard a lot about the extreme power that Pederson possesses, I was still amazed at how far the ball traveled.

Getting back to the All-Star game, which, on a side note, was being broadcasted live on MLB Network with Darryl Hamilton and Paul Severino doing the play-by-play, . . . . :

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. . . . despite Pederson finally getting the Pacific Coast League on the board and bringing the score to within three runs, the International League would ultimately put the game out of reach in the bottom of the sixth. A two-run triple by Felix Perez, followed by a double from Steven Souza Jr. that scored Perez from third, took the score up to 7-1 in favor of the International League.

Though the Pacific Coast League would attempt a comeback, scoring a run in the top of the eighth as well as the top of the ninth, Merrill Kelly was able to record the final out of the game to secure the 7-3 win for the International League, which has now won seven of the last ten Triple-A All-Star games:

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For their contributions to the game, Liam Hendriks of the International League and Chris Taylor of the Pacific Coast League were named the “top stars” of the game. Hendriks’ two shutout, one hit innings, in which he struck out four, got the International League off to a great start, which they were able to continue. Taylor, going 3-4 with a couple of doubles, was one of the few bright spots for the Pacific Coast League (other than Joc Pederson), being one of only three players from either side (Jose Pirela and Ivan De Jesus were the others) to record more than one hit.

Though I’ve never attended a Triple-A All-Star game at any other ballpark, it’s hard to imagine that it could’ve been done any better than the one on Wednesday in Durham, North Carolina. The entire week — from the home run derby, to the autograph session, to the All-Star game itself — seemed as though it was planned out specifically with the fans in mind. While it will likely be a long time before Durham ever hosts these events again, after the experience from this week, whenever it returns to the Bull City, I’ll certainly be sure to make the trip.