Results tagged ‘ Kyle Hendricks ’

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:


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:


(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:


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


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:


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:


(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:


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


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:


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:


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):


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:



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, 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:


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, . . . . :


. . . . 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:


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, . . . . :


. . . . 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:


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.


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