Results tagged ‘ MiLB ’
Awhile ago I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during the Arizona Fall League. At the end of the post I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back any autographs. Having received one more TTM autograph requests since my last update, I figured I’d post another update — the final one of this round of autograph requests:
JAMES RAMSEY — CARDINALS’ ORGANIZATION
James Ramsey is the Cardinals number ten prospect, and he proved to be worthy of his top ten spot in 2013. Ramsey batted .265 with 16 home runs and 51 RBI’s, between High-A and Triple-A, and participated in the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game. The Cardinals are looking to move him to the big leagues quickly, as at 24 years old the clock is ticking. But Ramsey hasn’t let them down yet, and, therefore, should easily make it to the Majors at some point in 2014.
This is the third and final update of the through the mail autograph requests I sent out to players at the Arizona Fall League in 2013. Though I may receive back one or two in the next few months, I won’t be posting an entry on it. I’ll begin doing autograph updates next March/April, when I send requests out to players at Spring Training.
Chris Beck was drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. Originally projected as a first round draft pick, a drop in velocity during his junior year of college led to a drop to late in the second round. But Beck has been able to prove his ability as a pitcher, posting good stats over his first two seasons of professional baseball.
After a good 2012, Beck had an even better 2013 season, going 13-10 with a 3.07 ERA in 26 starts. Beginning the year strong in High-A, Beck was selected to participate in the Carolina League/California League All-Star game, and was quickly promoted to Double-A afterwards, where he ended the year.
Beck is a player worth keeping a very close eye on. He should continue to post good stats, and could make it to the majors in the next year or two.
Chris Beck — top 10 prospect in the White Sox’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:
1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball?
I’d say from the time I was able to walk. I always had my plastic ‘Fisher Price’ bat in my hands walking around the house.
2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?
Chipper Jones, hands down, because he was a Georgia boy right up the road in Atlanta.
3.) You were drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?
It was an amazing experience but stressful at the same time. I had upper first round buzz heading into my junior season, and I fell into the second round. So I had no idea when I was going to go, but [I'm] very lucky the White Sox took me when they did.
4.) Although you signed with the White Sox in 2012, you were originally drafted by the Indians in the 35th round of the 2009 draft. What made you decide to attend college instead of beginning your professional career?
Just my maturity situation. I had gone to a one-hallway high school in a small town, and [had] never really been away from home, ever. I knew I had some growing up to do before I could handle pro ball.
5.) You had a fairly successful first half to the year that earned you a spot in the 2013 Carolina League/California League All-Star game. What did it mean to you to be named to the team along with all the other great players in High-A baseball?
It was awesome just being able to be surrounded by that talent. You look now and most of the guys that played in the game moved to AA right after and continued their success. They could be in the big leagues at any point this next season, and that’ll be something cool to know I played beside them.
6.) After the All-Star game, you were promoted to Double-A. What kind of differences, if any, did you notice from the level of talent you began the first half of the year facing?
It’s just the margin of error is that much smaller. I’m very lucky that the Carolina league was loaded with great players and competition so I believe that helped with the transition. But back to AA, those guys are there for a reason and most are future or former big leaguers.
7.) Winning a World Series Championship is, obviously, every player’s dream, but while you haven’t yet had the opportunity to do so, you won the next best thing: The 2013 Southern League Championship, with the Birmingham Barons. What was that experience like, pitching in a Minor League playoff atmosphere? What did you take away from it?
I don’t think there’s one certain word that can describe that. It’s such a rush of emotions and adrenaline even when you’re not on the mound. You’re hanging on the rail during every pitch. And after playing for the love of the game, you play to win, and winning a championship is the ultimate prize.
8.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?
2013 I gained loads of experience of it being my first full season. I learned a lot of how to treat your body (laying off Dunkin Donuts everyday) and when to push and when to let off in between starts. Staying healthy was my primary goal, and that happened. So into 2014 it’ll be a lot of the same — staying healthy and continuing to work on putting guys away. I walked a lot of guys in High-A this year and want to take what I did in AA into this coming Spring Training.
9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?
I really love ‘Duck Dynasty’ and, as mentioned before, donuts. Lol.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
Biggest advice I could offer: Have fun! It’s a game, and it’s meant to be fun. When that stops happening something isn’t being done right, no matter what level you’re on.
Big thanks to Chris Beck for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on Twitter: @WatchurBeck
Monday was a busy day for Major League Baseball’s Hot Stove. Several players either signed or were traded, making an otherwise slow offseason pickup a bit. I won’t take the time to go over every single deal that has taken place recently, however, I do want to give my thoughts on the main deals that took place on Monday — and one from today.
The biggest deal, by far, was the Tigers trading Doug Fister to the Nationals, in exchange for Minor League player, Robbie Ray, along with Nat’s second baseman, Steve Lombardozzi, and rookie pitcher from 2013, Ian Krol. This deal helps out the Nationals most, as they have a young prospect, Anthony Rendon, who’s ready to take over at second full time, and Krol and Ray aren’t a lot to lose for a pitcher of Fister’s caliber. (Fister went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 2013.)
On the Tigers’ side of things, while it doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense, they’re going to use the money saved by getting rid of Fister to sign Joe Nathan to fill their closer role. The Tigers are still left with a rotation of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Annibal Sanchez, and the signing of Nathan will help them out tremendously.
Theoretically, this furthers the case for the Tigers hanging onto Scherzer, instead of trading the 2013 Cy Young award winner, but it’s still possible that they will. What the Tigers really needed was a closer, and they’re getting a good one in Joe Nathan, who recorded 43 saves in 2013.
As far as closers go, Jim Johnson is one of the games best at the moment, and he was part of a deal between the Athletics and Orioles that sent him out to Oakland for Jemile Weeks — a low-end player who only spent eight games in the Majors last season, batting .111 – and a player to be named later. Johnson, who posted a 2.94 ERA last season while recording 50 saves, has achieved at least 50 saves for the past two seasons. (His 101 saves over the past two years is the best in baseball.) He should improve the A’s bullpen drastically.
The Athletics also signed Scott Kazmir to a two-year deal, who was decent in 2013, having the best season of his career since 2008, and will join a pretty good rotation of players such as Sonny Gray and Jarrod Parker.
This signing likely ends their pursuit of Bartolo Colon, who was great last season, going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA, but was asking for more money than the A’s were willing to give him. But even if Colon leaves, the signing of Kazmir and Johnson makes them a much better team, at least as far as their pitching goes.
After the great season he had with the Rangers in 2013, batting .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBI’s, the Red Sox signed free agent A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year contract on Monday.
This more than likely means that the Sox’ catcher from this season, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, will be headed to another team, despite posting decent stats of 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s to go along with a .273 batting average in 2013. As I stated in a previous post, I feel the Rangers would be a good fit for Saltalamacchia, however, it all depends on what the Rangers are looking to do.
With four months remaining until the 2014 season, anything can happen.
Around a month ago I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during the Arizona Fall League. At the end of the post I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back a few autographs, and now that I’ve successfully gotten back some of the requests I sent I figured I’d go ahead and type this entry up. Of the seventeen total TTM’s I sent off, I’ve received three of them back, with them being from:
C.J. CRON — ANGELS’ ORGANIZATION
C.J. Cron is the Angels’ number two overall prospect, and he proved why this past season. Batting .274 with 14 home runs and 83 RBI’s to go along with 36 doubles, Cron is well on his way to the Majors, though it may take another season or two. Things are looking very promising for Cron, and it should be interesting to see how he performs next year.
STEPHEN PISCOTTY — CARDINALS’ ORGANIZATION
Stephen Piscotty is the Cardinals’ number seven prospect, and becomes the first player I’ve ever had sign a card in purple (magic marker?). Still fairly young, at 22 years old, Piscotty has a good chance at making it to the big leagues. He hit 15 home runs and drove in 59 runs in 2013 to go along with a .295 batting average. Piscotty is a player worth watching down the road.
ADDISON RUSSELL — ATHLETICS’ ORGANIZATION
Addison Russell is the Athletics’ number one prospect and the number seventeen overall prospect in all of baseball. Russell participated in the 2013 Futures game, up in New York City, and is sure to see his fair share of Major League All-Star games in his future, assuming he pans out as predicted. Batting .269 with 17 home runs and 60 RBI’s this past season, Russell is going to be a special player.
An interesting side note, Addison Russell doesn’t normally sign through the mail — telling me he signs around one random thing a week — but he graciously agreed to sign something for me. He truly seems to be a great guy, and I’m going to be posting an interview I did with him sometime over the next month or two. So check back for that.
I still have autograph requests out for Andrew Heaney, Corey Seager, Jorge Bonifacio, Austin Hedges, Kyle Crick, Jorge Soler, Delino DeShields, Jorge Alfaro, Taylor Lindsey, Adalberto Mejia, Kyle Parker, James Ramsey, Kris Bryant and Colin Moran. When/if I get any of those back I’ll be sure to post another update. Though, there’s no guarantee I’ll get any more back at all.
Ethan Chapman was drafted by the Royals in the 30th round of the 2012 draft. Since the draft, Chapman has put together a couple of decent seasons, winning the 2012 Idaho Falls (Royals’ rookie league) player of the year award. During that season he batted .313 with a homer, nine triples, nine doubles, 29 RBI’s and 25 stolen bases, over 67 games played. A fairly good first year.
Dividing the 2013 season between Low-A and High-A, Chapman put together another similar year, though his offensive statistics were a bit lower than the previous year. But Chapman was able to show off his athleticism on multiple occasions, making great plays in the outfield, and stealing 32 bases.
If Chapman can continue to develop, he could find himself moving up the ladder in the years to come.
Ethan Chapman — prospect in the Royals 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?
There are videos of me hitting off the tee at two years old. My biggest influence had to be my dad. We always played catch; countless visits to the field for batting practice. He really sacrificed a lot for me.
2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?
My favorite player growing up was Ken Griffey Jr. We are both left handed, and he had the sweetest swing – a swing that every player strives for.
3.) You were drafted by the Royals in the 30th round of the 2012 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?
Getting drafted was my biggest dream. Growing up playing baseball, every kid dreams of being drafted. It was a dream come true. All the hours of work I put into my craft had paid off. I was at home watching with my family. After hearing my name there were plenty of emotions: screaming, crying, smiling, etc.
4.) You were named the 2012 Idaho Falls player of the year, batting .313 with a home run and 29 RBI’s over 67 games. What did it mean to you to receive that accolade?
Being a later round draft pick, receiving the Player of the Year award meant a lot to me. It, in some ways, “put me in the map” in the Kansas City organization. This is a business, and keeping your name on the minds of executives is a must. It was a great honor that they were proud of me for the season that I had. A really great experience, and I thank the KC organization for that accolade.
5.) You divided this past season between Lexington and Wilmington. What difference, if any, did you see between the two levels, and compared to the level of baseball you had played up until that point?
When I started in Lexington (Low-A) most of the starting pitchers threw tons of heat. They were consistently throwing 96 MPH. In Wilmington (High-A) the starting pitchers toned down how fast they threw but added more movement, location and a secondary pitch. As you go up in organizations pitchers start to make less mistakes and know how to “fool” hitters more often.
6.) What do you feel went well in 2013? What are your goals for 2014?
I am proud of my 2013 season but there is always room for improvement. I will continue to work hard and grow in each aspect of my game. In 2014 I want to play hard, play the game right, and win a championship for my organization.
7.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?
Life on the road in the minors isn’t easy. It’s time away from family, friends and on buses for the most part. But we are lucky to see many parts of the world that I would not be able to see if it wasn’t for professional baseball. It makes you want to work hard to get to the big leagues so you can be with your loved ones and get the best of treatment.
8.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?
Stats are important because we want to move through the organization, but you can’t focus on them as a player. Over 140 games, stats can change. You have to go out and focus on each game and getting wins.
9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?
I have a bunch of favorite TV shows: MLB Network, ‘Boy Meets World’, ‘Pawn Stars’ [and] ‘Law and Order SVU’. My favorite food has to be Italian food. I love pizza and pasta.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
My advice to up and coming stars is to never give up and keep working hard. Be a sponge. Soak up all the advice you can. In this game, you are never too old or good to learn something. Play this game with passion and love. ——————————————————————————————————————————————
Big thanks to Ethan Chapman for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on Twitter: @EthanMChapman
The 2013 MLB postseason is well underway, and it sure has been exciting so far. A lot of unexpected things are sure to happen in the coming weeks, but for now I’m not going to discuss any of it. For this blog post I’m focusing solely on the Arizona Fall League. More specifically, through the mail (TTM) autograph requests that I’m sending out to various participating players.
Taking place every October/November – this year it’s October 8th through November 16th — the Arizona Fall League (AFL) gives top Minor League players who didn’t get a full season of playing time, for one reason or another, a chance to show their organization what they can do, as well as provide them with a little more baseball experience.
I usually only send off autograph requests in March, for Spring Training, and October, for the Arizona Fall League. Some people send requests to players throughout the season, however, I’ve never really wanted to do that — they’re too busy going around from ballpark to ballpark. In Spring Training and the Arizona Fall League players stay in the same relative area for over a month; giving, in my mind, a better chance of success.
There is a ton of great talent in this year’s Fall League, but I’m not sending to all of them. If a player has a chance of coming to play the Bulls or Mudcats – my local MiLB teams — I don’t want to send to them. A good example of that being Byron Buxton. He’s participating in the AFL and was the 2013 MiLB Player of the Year, however, in addition to the unlikelihood that he would sign TTM, he could come to Durham with Rochester in the next year or two. So there’s really no point in wasting a card.
Last year I sent out fifteen auto requests and received back nine of them. That’s a fairly decent return as far as TTM’s go. This time around, I’m sending out seventeen, to players such as Addison Russell, Andrew Heaney, C.J. Cron, Delino DeShields and Colin Moran — all of which are on the top 100 prospects list – among multiple others.
The plan is to post an update every time I receive back a few autographs, as I did this year during Spring Training; assuming I get any autographs back at all. So look out for that over the course of the next few months.
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)
Major League Baseball’s number one prospect, Byron Buxton, was named the 2013 Minor League Baseball player of the year by Baseball America, on Wednesday, making him the 31st player to receive the award since it was first handed out in 1981 to Mike Marshall.
By winning the award, Buxton joins a very impressive list of past winners. Wil Myers, Mike Trout and Jeremy Hellickson — all currently in the Majors — are the most recent three to receive it, with Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas and Dwight Gooden being some of the more notable players to have been named MiLB player of the year.
When Derek Jeter won the award, back in 1994, he batted .344 with 5 homers and 68 RBI’s, between Single-A and Triple-A.
Combine that with 50 stolen bases by Jeter, and you have a very similar year to the one Buxton had.
While I’m not saying Buxton will turn out to be the type of player Jeter has been over his MLB career — .312 career average, with 256 HR’s and 1,261 RBI’s — it is a good indication of the type of talent that receives the award each year.
Buxton certainly has his share of talent, as he had an outstanding year in the Twins’ farm system. He posted a .334 batting average with 12 home runs and 77 RBI’s, to go along with 55 stolen bases, combined between Low-A and High-A.
The second overall draft pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton also participated in the 2013 Futures Game, up in New York, back in July, and is well on his way to living out his full potential of becoming a future big league super star.
But unlike Byron Buxton, who’s the current Minor League player of the year on his way up, Derek Jeter is a former Minor League player of the year on his way down; as he found himself back on the disabled list on Wednesday with an ankle injury.
This makes the fourth time Jeter has been placed on the DL this season. But this time, he won’t be back in 2013, as the Yankees have officially shut him down for the remainder of the year.
“The entire year has been pretty much a nightmare for me physically. I guess this is kind of fitting that it ends like this”, Jeter said. “If you can’t play the way you’re capable of playing, then you’re not really helping out.”
Many have raised the question of whether Jeter will ever return at all, posing the idea of retirement. But Jeter is adamant he’s not done, saying, “You don’t start thinking about the end just because you have an injury.”
While I fully agree with that statement, and have no doubt Jeter will return in 2014, I find myself, along with most of the baseball world, pondering the thought of whether or not Jeter can return to even a version of his former self.
Though he will never be the same Jeter he once was, there’s always the chance that he can have a good comeback 2014 season, however, there’s no denying that he had a horrible 2013 — posting a mere batting average of .190 with one home run and 7 RBI’s in just 17 games played this season.
Not exactly getting the job done.
But if there’s a bright spot to it all, a full shut down for Jeter will finally give him the chance to recover without the thought of having to take the field to help out the Yankees crossing his mind.
I don’t believe Jeter was ever fully healed over the entire season, and this will give him nearly six months to get everything right. Something that Yankees’ manager, Joe Girardi, has no doubt Jeter will do.
“It seemed like, when he came back, he was fine, and then he would play a couple of days and something would happen”, said Girardi.
“The first time, I think it was his quad. The next time, it was his calf. Then his ankle started bothering him. The repeated days seemed to get to him a little bit, and that was frustrating for him. It was frustrating for all of us, because we wanted him out there.”
“He’ll have a full offseason to rehab it, to get stronger. To get to do all of the things that he didn’t necessarily get to do last year, because he was in a boot for so long. There are no guarantees in life, but I think he’s going to do everything he can to get back. I just know that he’s going to do everything in his will power to get back on that field for Spring Training next year. That’s just who he is.”
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.
I wasn’t originally planning to attend this game, as I had already gotten most of the Bulls players autographs that I wanted, and the opposing team, the Charlotte Knights, didn’t really have any players that were worth a trip out to the ballpark. But when it was announced back in June that the Bulls were going to retire Chipper Jones’ uniform number in August, and that Chipper himself was going to be there, of course I had to go.
As with any game I go to, I showed up (along with my dad) to the ballpark around thirty minutes before the gates were set to open. With the large crowd expected, due to Jones being there, the gates opened up an extra thirty minutes earlier than usual, which was nice, as when I headed down to my normal spot beside the Bulls dugout, I was able to witness batting practice for the first time at the DBAP:
Taking in batting practice at this particular ballpark is something I’ve always wanted to do — it’s usually over by the time the gates open — ,however, after seeing it, I can honestly say that it wasn’t any grander than any other BP I’ve seen at major league parks. (I guess that makes sense; I don’t know what I was expecting, really.)
But getting back to Chipper Jones; I stuck around by the dugout for nearly an hour, at which point the ushers cleared out the aisles. I made my way to an empty nearby seat, and shortly thereafter, Chipper entered the ballpark, in a Porsche (as to be expected), to make a “parade lap” around the warning track:
After making his way around the park, and back to the infield, Jones headed up onto the stage that had been set up for the ceremony, where he was given a piece of the old ‘Hit Bull, Win Steak’ sign…:
….before taking to the podium, for his speech:
Jones didn’t speak terribly long, but he didn’t have to. People know what he did here, and what he went on to do. A no doubt Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones is one of those few players that comes along and just does everything right, both on and off the field. Calling Durham “the greatest place to play Minor League Baseball in the country”, the fans still, and always will, admire Jones as one of the best to ever come through Durham, on the way to a successful Major League career.
After throwing out the first pitch of the game, Chipper quickly exited the ballpark. Although I didn’t get an autograph like I was hoping, it was still one of the greatest times I’ve ever had out at a Minor League Baseball game. It was an incredible night.
But the night didn’t end when Chipper Jones left. There was still a game to be played.
Bulls’ starting pitcher, Mike Montgomery, started off the night great, as he didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning. After the one hit, however, the wheels fell off. Giving up three runs in the fourth, the Bulls quickly found themselves down 3-1. But they didn’t waste any time answering back, posting three runs of their own in the bottom half of the same inning.
Both teams would score a run in the fifth, putting the score at 5-4, Bulls. And that’s how things would end. (An appropriate ending to the night, in my book.)
I stopped by the Bulls’ retired numbers wall on the way out of the ballpark, where Jones’ number had already been added:
I have no doubt I’ll stop to glance at the wall every time I head out to the ballpark from now on; recalling the night of August 20, 2013 — one of the most special nights I’ve ever experienced at the DBAP.