Results tagged ‘ Rays ’

My First Two MiLB Games of the 2013 Season

Opening Day for Major League Baseball took place on Monday, however, Opening Day for the Carolina Mudcats (A+ affiliates of the Indians), of hawkinsthe Carolina League, is taking place later tonight. For the second season in a row, I’m attending tonight’s game, once again versus the Winston Salem Dash (A+ affiliates of the White Sox), and I’m extremely excited. This year’s Opening Day game is packed with top notch talent.

For the Carolina Mudcats, while their pitching staff isn’t too fantastic, their position players include the organization’s number one prospect, Francisco Lindor, 2012 1st round draft pick, Tyler Naquin, along with top prospect, Tony Wolters, who is making the transition this season from short stop to catcher. Wolters played with the Mudcats last season, and I really enjoyed watching him play. I’m looking forward to seeing how the move to behind the plate plays out.

As far as the Dash go, the highlight of the team is undoubtedly Courtney Hawkins, who was drafted 13th overall in last year’s draft; doing a backflip afterwards. Though Hawkins won’t be doing any backflips (as far as I know), I’m looking forward to seeing the White Sox’ number one prospect in action–maybe he’ll even blast a home run. If nothing else, I’m certainly going to try for his autograph, as I’m also planning to do from the Mudcats’ Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin.

But when it comes to autograph collecting, no other game throughout the entire rest of the season will have more highly ranked prospects than 579585_10151513541113908_2023782346_nthe April 9th Durham Bulls game I’m planning to attend. Having been traded from the Royals’ organization to the Rays, in the 2012 offseason, the number four prospect in all of baseball, Wil Myers, will be there and is sure to draw a huge crowd, so autographs may be hard to come by. I’ll just have wait and see how it goes.

A few other Bulls’ players worth mentioning, that I’m hoping to get autographs from on Tuesday night, include Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee, who are the Rays’ third, fourth and fifth ranked prospects, respectively. In all, the Bulls are beginning the season with 7 of the top 20 prospects in the organization. I can’t think of a team in all of minor league baseball with more talent, which is why I’m going to be blogging about the game. It will likely be posted on Wednesday afternoon.

So that’s the basic plan for my first two minor league games of the year. I’m not sure when, or where, the rest of the year will have me going to games; the only game set in stone is the June 3rd Bulls day game, when they take on the Red Barons (Yankees affiliate). But one of the games during the series when Billy Hamilton comes to Durham with Louisville is almost a sure bet, as well. Other than that, I don’t know.

American League Predictions for 2013

Last year was the first time I ever made actual predictions as to how the MLB standings would look at the end of the regular season. To say I did poorly would be an understatement, but this is a new year, and with it comes a new shot at getting the predictions right. So I’m up for the challenge once again.

Unlike 2012, when I posted both my American League and National League predictions in the same blog entry, this year I’m doing separate posts for each league. As the title states, I’m giving my 2013 American League standings predictions today, starting with the AL East:

EAST

1. Rays

2. Yankees

3. Orioles

4. Blue Jays

5. Red Sox

With the Yankees’ season uncertain, I see this as the year the Rays need to make their move. With the lineup they have, the Rays have the ability to win their division, but it’s going to come down to if their starting pitching begins and ends with David Price, or if their potential superstar pitchers in Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson can get things going. That’s the deciding factor, for me.

Although the Yankees’ season is up in the air, I still have them finishing second in the AL East. Why? Because they’re the Yankees; a team that seems to be able to always find a way to win. But it’s going to come down to Derek Jeter, in my opinion. If he misses a large chunk of the season, at any point, it could send my predictions way off course. Right now, I’m not too worried about him missing the first few games; but that could change.

The Orioles surprised everyone last season with the way they were able to put things together, however, I still think it’ll be 2014 before they stand a good chance of winning the division. Their phenom prospects are still far from ready, with top prospect Dylan Bundy beginning the season in AA Bowie, and I just don’t see everything clicking together in their favor this season.

I’m hesitant to place the Blue Jays all the way down in fourth, with so many people seeing them finishing near the top, but it’s the way I foresee their season panning out. Even with the offseason additions of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, etc., I don’t see the Jays putting together a season much over .500. You just can’t buy chemistry, and with so many new faces, I don’t see them gelling from the start of the season.

What can I say about the Red Sox? They were once major competitors in the division, but after a couple of horrible seasons, by their standards, I don’t see this year being any better. They didn’t do much to improve their team in the offseason, and it’s going to show once the season starts up. I’m looking down the road, when their key prospects such as Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts arrive, before I can see them getting things going in the right direction again.

CENTRAL

1. Tigers

2. Indians

3. White Sox

4. Royals

5. Twins

There’s truly no reason the Tigers shouldn’t run away with things in the AL Central division. With one of the best lineups in all of baseball, including sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, along with newcomer Victor Martinez, their lineup should be there. The only question mark is their pitching. Justin Verlander is going to dominate–that’s a given–but the remainder of the rotation is a bit uncertain. But all in all, I think they’ll be just fine.

Coming in second, I have the Indians, as they did a great job of signing guys in the offseason to fill key spots they were missing last year, and I feel it’s bound to pay off in the coming season. The only concern would be their starting pitching. Without a true Ace, you don’t know who to look to for to carry the team throughout the season. It’s definitely something worth watching, however, they should be able to have enough decent pitching to make things very interesting in the division.

It was really a toss up between me placing the Indians or White Sox in third place (with the other in second) but I decided to have the Sox finishing third in the division. The Sox have a future Cy Young winner, in Chris Sale, but with the remainder of the pitching, as well as the lineup, a question mark, I can’t see them winning too many games over .500 in the 2013 season. They still have too many holes to fill.

I’m still questioning the Royals’ decision to trade away their phenom prospect, Wil Myers, along with a few other prospects, to the Rays, in exchange for a couple of middle of the rotation starting pitchers, on most teams, in James Shields and Wade Davis, but it is what it is. I see the move doing more harm than good. The Royals certainly needed starting pitching, but to trade away your top prospect is a poor choice, in my opinion, which is why I have them finishing next to last in the division.

The Twins are a team that have the potential to be very good a year or two down the road, but for right now, I see them having to endure another last place season, in their division. They just don’t have enough top notch guys, both in their pitching rotation and lineup, to make any sort of a run this season, as far as I can see.

WEST

1. Angels

2. Athletics

3. Rangers

4. Mariners

5. Astros

For the Angels, the AL West division is theirs to lose. With the addition of Josh Hamilton in the offseason, along with their already potent lineup of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, there is no reason the Angels shouldn’t dominate the division. Although they lost Zack Greinke to the Dodgers, their rotation is still really good, and it should all combine to be enough to lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The Athletics were one of the big surprises of last season, but I don’t feel it was a fluke. They’ve put together a really great team out in Oakland, and with the majority of the other teams in the division (with the exception of the Angels) still trying to figure things out in the coming season, the Athletics stand a good shot of making the playoffs for the second straight year.

With the loss of Josh Hamilton during the offseason, I don’t see the Rangers doing much of anything this year. While they have a few big bats in their lineup that can change the outcome of a game with one swing, I don’t see their rotation as being strong enough to overcome the uphill climb they face. It’ll be interesting to watch unfold, but I don’t like their chances in 2013.

The Mariners are one of the most interesting teams to keep track of. While I don’t see them having all that impressive of an upcoming season, with all of the talent they have knocking on the door of the big leagues, I feel they’ll be major contenders as early as next season. They don’t have all of the necessary pieces, just yet, to put together a playoff run, but starting in 2014, keep a lookout for the Mariners to do big things in the AL West division.

Last season was flat out ugly for the Astros, as they finished in dead last, with a league leading 107 losses. Being that they’re making the transition from the National League to the American League this year, I don’t see things being any better for them; but when you lose over 100 games in a season, it can’t really get all that much worse.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

Click HERE to be taken to my National League predictions for 2013.

Chapman Prefers Closing; Myers To Begin 2013 In AAA

When it was first reported that the Cincinnati Reds had plans to convert Aroldis Chapman–known for his overpowering fastball, that’s been clocked up to 106 MPH–from closer to a starter, to begin the 2013 season, I couldn’t help but question the decision.mlb_u_chapman_b1_400

Chapman struggled a bit last year after pitching in multiple outings in a row, so I don’t understand what good would it really do to make him a starter. And now, with the recent comments from Chapman himself that he would prefer closing out games over starting, I question the change even more.

“In the beginning when I started closing, it was something I didn’t know,” Chapman stated in an interview. “But as I started throwing and getting into the late part of the game when the game is more exciting and has more meaning, I kind of liked it. Yeah, the adrenaline goes up and I like to be in that situation. I would like to be a closer, yeah, but there are some things that I can’t control.”

I understand that the Reds would like for Chapman to have a greater impact on the entire game, rather than just the ninth inning, but I feel they should just leave things the way everyone’s used to: With Chapman as their closer. That’s where Chapman feels the most comfortable, and where he has proven to be the most dominant–recording 38 saves off a 1.51 ERA, with 122 strikeouts in 71.2 inning pitched, last season.

To me, there’s too much uncertainty to have the move work out in the long run, especially with Chapman not fully on board.

In other news, Wil Myers was reassigned to minor league camp on Saturday, ensuring that he will begin the 2013 season with Triple-A Durham. Thus finally answering the question everyone had on their minds throughout the entire offseason, of whether or not Myers would break camp with the big league club.

Myers seems to be taking the news well, stating, “It was something I knew was going to come eventually. It wasn’t a surprise at all…I’m really looking forward to getting down there [to minor league camp] and getting some at-bats….I really enjoyed my time here, it was a blast. But now I’m ready to get down to business.”

While I somewhat disagree with the Rays’ decision, Myers beginning the year with Durham guarantees the opportunity for fans, like myself, to see the number four prospect in all of baseball in action. So I can’t really complain all that much.

UPDATE: 3/21/13

The Reds have made the decision to leave Aroldis Chapman as their closer.

2013 Durham Bulls Fan Fest

About a year ago, I made the statement that I’d love to take batting practice and play catch on a professional baseball field, should the opportunity ever present itself. Little did I know that there was a way to make my wish a reality, as the local Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Durham Bulls, hold a fan fest twice a year, giving fans the chance to participate in both of the activities I was looking to take part in.

When I first learned that there was such a thing as fan fest, in October of last year, I already had a vacation planned with my family, so I unfortunately couldn’t attend. Therefore, when it was announced that they were holding another one in March, I made sure to mark the date on my calendar.

I wasn’t going to miss it this time around.

Accompanied by my dad, I arrived at fan fest at 12:30, right at an hour and a half after the gates first opened:

image2The line you see extending from the batting cage is (obviously) the line of fans waiting for their chance to hit.

With the line being so long (continuing further out of the frame in the picture above), we decided to go ahead and play catch first. So we made our way down the steps, and into the outfield:

image4All of the balls were being used when we first arrived–we weren’t told to bring our own, though I think most people did–however, a couple of kids were nice enough to let the both of us play catch with them, in a square formation, of sorts.

After the four of us played catch for around 30 minutes, the plan was to head to the batting cage, to take some hacks, but after watching a few people take their turn, it came to my attention that you only received five swings. Knowing that I would more than likely swing and miss on every pitch, I figured it wasn’t worth it. So after a stop in the Bulls’ dugout….

image6….I decided to take a trek around the outfield warning track:

image9Here’s what it looked like from straight away center field:

image8From where I was standing, it’s exactly 400 feet to home plate.

I continued my walk, ending up over by the blue monster….

image11….where I had my picture taken, just before my dad and I made our way out of the ballpark:

image17

I had a great time at Bulls fan fest. It’s something I’d recommend to anyone, if you’re ever in the area when they hold it. But then again, it’s hard not to have fun anytime baseball is involved.

All of the pictures were taken on my phone, so if they seem a bit blurry, that’s why.

Should Wil Myers Begin 2013 In the Minor Leagues?

Although Spring Training games have yet to begin, the current speculation is that Rays’ phenom Wil Myers will start 2013 with AAA Durham, instead of with the big league club, down in Tampa, regardless of how he performs over the course of the next month. This leaves many people wil-myers-landov2(myself included) to ask the question: Is this the right decision for Myers?

I’m not 100 percent sold on the idea.

This past season, before getting traded from the Royals to the Rays, in December, Myers batted .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI’s, between AA North West Arkansas and AAA Omaha. The expectation was for Myers to receive a September call up from the Royals, however, that didn’t end up happening. Leaving many people scratching their heads.

In response to not calling up Myers, the Royals made the statement that they didn’t feel he was big league ready. While that might be true, I still don’t understand why they didn’t give him a shot for the last few games of the season, especially with them not being in play off contention; just as I’m not fully understanding the Rays’ logic with Wil Myers, going into the 2013 season.

According to Rays’ manager Joe Maddon, the decision to keep Myers down in the minors, to begin the season, is merely a “baseball decision”, that would give Myers a greater chance of success once he makes the transition to the major league level, sometime this season. Maddon is known for preferring this type of strategy, as his recent comments would suggest:

“I just think that it’s easier for a player with that kind of expectation level to get some time under his belt on a Minor League level, get it rolling, get the feel going, when you know it’s going well, then walk into a big league situation. Not as difficult as opposed to leaving a camp with all this expectation, all this hype then having to match up to that on a Major League level right out of the chute.”

I sort of understand where Maddon is coming from, though I still have to disagree.

While it’s vastly debated as to whether or not Maddon’s approach with Myers is the correct one, there’s no argument when it comes to if Myers has enough natural talent, and potential, to perform at the big league level. Anyone can see that, just by watching the guy play. No one more so than Rays’ hitting coach, Derek Shelton, who, after day one of Rays Spring Training, had this to say about Myers, and his talent level:

“The thing that’s the most impressive is the bat speed. The way the ball comes off his bat….You don’t see very many people who generate that kind of bat speed….It’s loud. It’s a different sound….You don’t hear many guys that can create that sound….it’s exciting to see.”

After reading all of what Shelton had to say, combined with my personal observations of Wil Myers’, and his stats from 2012, if it were up to me, I’d choose to let him loose to see what he can do at the major league level. Worst-case scenario, Myers doesn’t produce, and the Rays could then decide to either work through it or send him back down to the minors. But there’s always the possibility that Myers could hold his own, picking up where he left off in 2012, absolutely tearing it up out of the gate.

To me, the mere chance that Myers could be an impact player for the Rays to begin the season is enough to give him a shot. Playing in the somewhat difficult American League East, if the Rays want a chance to win their division, I’m not sure they can afford even a few weeks without Myers.

My Vote for American League Cy Young

This is the second in a series of four blog posts that I plan to type up between now and Friday; all of which will focus on who I feel should win the three major awards of Most Valuable Player (MVP), Cy Young and Rookie of the Year (ROY). (If you haven’t read my posts on who I think should win the AL MVP and NL MVP, go ahead and check those out now.)

When making a pick for American League Cy Young, I feel I can rely on stats (and not just personal opinion) more so than I did with Most Valuable Player. Unlike with MVP–where I didn’t let stats influence my decision–stats played a big role in my decision making for AL Cy Young; as the numbers don’t lie.

But don’t get the impression that the decision was an easy one. There are SO many good candidates for AL Cy Young that it made it impossible for me to choose just one player. So I ended up letting the stats do the deciding for me.

I took the American League starting pitchers with ERA’s below 3.00 (Price, Verlander and Weaver) and compared them from 20 different statistical angles. (I chose to use so many different stats to compare them because I felt that using Wins, ERA and strikeouts alone didn’t tell the whole story of how good a particular pitcher was.)

My method works as follows: The pitcher with the best numbers in a given category receives 1 point; with the 2nd and 3rd place pitcher receiving 2 and 3 points, respectively. (The occurence of a tie in a particular category results in the tied players receiving the same point amount.) In the end, the pitcher with the lowest combined total would be my pick for the Cy Young award.

It took me awhile to crunch all of the numbers, but once I finally finished, this was the result:

As stated earlier, the pitcher with the lowest combined total is declared (by me) as the winner. Which makes Jered Weaver the statistical choice (as well as my pick) for AL Cy Young.

I’m a bit shocked by the results, but not THAT shocked. (It’s not like Jered Weaver doesn’t deserve it.) Posting a record of 20-5, with a 2.81 ERA, Weaver is definitely worthy enough. He led the league in opponent batting average (.214), as well as WHIP (1.02), and in addition, pitched a no-hitter on May 2nd against the Twins.

Just icing on the cake for Jered Weaver–my pick for 2012 American League Cy Young.

Do you agree or disagree with me?

As always, feel free to leave a comment below.

MLB Players Alternate Jobs

Before I get started with what will be my final Q and A post until after the playoffs have concluded, let me first start out by saying that yesterday’s AL and NL Wild Card games went completely opposite from what I had expected.

With the Braves having won the past 23 times Kris Medlen started the game on the mound, I though it was a sure bet that the Braves would get the win. But as you know, that’s not what happened. The Braves ended up falling to the Cardinals (6-3), thus making it their final game of 2012; and Chipper Jones’ last game of his career.

Furthermore, I fully expected the Rangers to beat the Orioles, and just like the Braves-Cards game, I was completely stunned by the end result. The Orioles pulled out the win, beating the Rangers 5-1, ending the Ranger’s chances of a third straight World Series appearance. Incredible; but that’s baseball for ya. Just because you’re the better team on paper, doesn’t mean you’ll always come out on top.

Now that I’ve given you my two cents on yesterday’s Wild Card games, I’ll now get on with the regularly scheduled blog post:

Have you ever wondered what MLB players would be doing had things not of worked out for them to play baseball? Well I did, which I why I spent last week on twitter asking players just that: “If you weren’t playing baseball what would you be doing?”

Of those who replied, some actually put some thought into it while others replied with a somewhat humorous answer. I’ll let you distinguish between the two:

Chris Gimenez–Tampa Bay Rays

Def a coach. Think it would be fun.

David Huff–Cleveland Indians

Probably either playing golf on the tour or teaching high school history.

David Aardsma–New York Yankees

Prob a model.

Denard Span–Minnesota Twins

I’d be doing something associated with sports.

Daniel McCutchen–Pittsburgh Pirates

Prob be a movie star or maye a rapper. Then again, I could always give politics a shot.

David Hernandez–Arizona Diamondbacks

I’d probably be in my 8th year of college trying to figure out what I wanna do.

Luis Exposito–Baltimore Orioles

I would find an occupation where I can help less fortunate kids and help make the world a better place!

Steve Cishek–Miami Marlins

P.E. teacher and coach.

Ricky Nolasco–Miami Marlins

Police Officer for sure.

Brandon Snyder–Texas Rangers

I always say military but who knows. My wife would say I would be a trainer or something.

Josh Lueke–Tampa Bay Rays

Professional outdoorsman like my buddy @IHuntStrong [and] @BackwoodsLife #outdoors4life

Brian Dozier–Minnesota Twins

Lead guitarist for a rock band.

Paul Maholm–Atlanta Braves

Something in golf.

Daniel Hudson–Arizona Diamondbacks

No idea. Probably coaching somewhere.

Thomas Neal–Cleveland Indians

Coaching somewhere.

Mike Olt–Texas Rangers

I would be a lion.

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My next blog post will come tomorrow evening, and will detail my blogging plans for the next few weeks. So check back for that…

Q and A With Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 12th round of the 2007 draft. Since the draft, Vogt has been able to steadily work his way up through the ranks of the Rays’ system, all the way up to AAA Durham; where he currently resides. (This year with Durham, Vogt has posted a .269 batting average, with 9 home runs and 43 RBI’s.)

Earlier this season Vogt received a taste of what it’s like to play in the big leagues, as he spent 10 games with the Rays. Things didn’t go as planned for Vogt, however, as he went hitless in all 17 of his at-bats; though he did put the ball in play in all but 2 of them.

Although his short stint in the Majors didn’t go all that well, Vogt still has a good shot of making it back to the big leagues in the near future, if he can continue to post decent numbers. (Something he’s been able to do fairly consistently throughout his baseball career.) He certainly has the work ethic, and determination to make it happen.

Stephen Vogt–utility man in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I was always interested in playing baseball from a very early age.  I loved playing anytime, all the time.  My father and brother helped me the most at a young age.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Barry Bonds was my favorite player because I was a huge Giants fan and [he] is one of the greatest hitters of all time.  Every time I went to watch him play it was the most exciting moment, whenever he stepped in the box.

3.) You were drafted by the Rays in the 12th round of the 2007 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you found out? Initial thoughts?

I was a senior in college and was hoping to just get a chance to play.  I was at my parents house with some friends and my wife just waiting to see my name pop up on the computer and fortunately it did.

4.) You made your MLB debut on April 6th of this year. How did you receive the news that you’d been called up? What do you remember from that game? 

I was told by our hitting coach in AAA, Dave Myers, that I was going up and I immediately began to shake and just have an overwhelming excitement come over me.  I remember getting my name announced with all the great players of the Rays and Yankees and thinking how honored I was to be there. My journey through baseball had so many twists and turns that I was just humbled and honored to be there.

5.) After spending 10 games with the Rays you were sent back down to AAA Durham. What aspect of your game are you currently working on most to hopefully help speed up your journey back to the big leagues?

I am working mostly on my quality of at bats.  I learned a lot about hitting in my short stint in the big leagues to know how much more detailed everything has to be.  At bats are much different than AAA.

6.) Playing at the Triple-A level, do you feel any more pressure to perform well in every game then you did in the lower ranks of the Rays’ organization, when you weren’t just a phone call away from ‘The Show’? 

The only pressure you feel is the pressure you put on yourself.  I have to just relax and play the way I know how.

7.) Favorite thing to do on an off day during the season?

Nothing! Honestly the pool and a nice BBQ’d steak for dinner are what make me happy on off days.

8.) Favorite food?

Steak and potatoes.

9.) Favorite TV show?

White Collar and Saved by the Bell.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

You have to love the game and be dedicated to working everyday to be the best you can be.  In a professional season you will get worn out and tired and the love of the game and hard work will get you through any tough times you may have.  Also, family will keep you focused on the goal.  Without my wife Alyssa’s support I would never be where I am today.

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Big thanks to Stephen Vogt for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @SVogt1229

Felix Hernandez Throws A Perfect Game

To say Felix Hernandez was dominant in Wednesday’s outing against the Rays would be an understatement, as Hernandez became the 23rd pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game. (The first perfecto in Mariners’ history, and the third this season.)

This coming on the heels of Melky Cabrera’s 50 game suspension for testing positive for testosterone; a performance-enhancing substance. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on Cabrera but at the same time I can’t NOT talk about it. So here it goes.

Melky Cabrera made the following statement in response to his suspension:

My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down.

A short while later the San Francisco Giants had this to say:

We were extremely disappointed to learn of the suspension of Melky Cabrera for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs from our game. Per the protocol outline by Major League Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Giants will not comment further on this matter.

I feel that basically covers it. (If you want to read into all the details just CLICK HERE.)

The only thing I’d like to add is this: The Giants without Melky Cabrera is like a bike with a loose bolt. Things might run smoothly for a little while, but eventually it’ll all fall apart. Mark my words on that.

With just over 40 games remaining in the season, the Gaints are facing a hefty challenge in the weeks to come. Without their most consistent hitter, I feel the Giants stand little chance of holding their current tie with the Dodgers for the lead in the NL West. It should be interesting to see in they can prove me wrong.

Moving back to Felix Hernandez and his pefect game.

Hernandez struck out 12 in his quest for perfection. Afterwards, he had this to say about his performance:

I don’t have any words to explain this. When Phil Humber threw his perfect game here, I said ‘I have to throw one. I have to.’ I’ve been working so hard, and there it is for you guys.

I’m thrilled for Hernandez. After 8 seasons of stellar pitching–including a Cy Young award, in 2010–he finally went the distance in Wednesday’s game. As stated earlier, this marks 23rd perfect game in MLB history–just the 7th by a former Cy Young winner.

Hernandez moves to 11-5 on the year, with an ERA of 2.60.

May 18th and 20th Durham Bulls Games

I stated in my last blog entry that I was going to attend this past Friday’s Durham Bulls game versus the Pawtucket Red Sox; which I did. I didn’t however announce that I’d be attending yesterday’s game versus the Charlotte Knights as well. There’s a good reason for that. At the time, I didn’t know I’d be going. It was a last minute decision, which turned out to be a great one.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about either game, but I thought I’d give a brief overview of my time spent at the ballpark over the past few days. I normally wouldn’t blog about a MiLB game but considering the fact that the 2009 World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui, is currently playing with the Bulls, I thought I’d type up this little entry.

May 18th: Durham Bulls vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

The moment I heard that Kevin Youkilis was going to be rehabbing with the PawSox I knew I’d be attending this game. But going back even further in time, I knew I’d be attending one of the four games versus the Sox from the day the schedule was first released.

My day at the ballpark started out like every other game of my life: With me standing in line outside of the ballpark, waiting for the gates to open up. It’s one of the things that is a MUST for me. Showing up early to be one of the first inside is something I’ve always enjoyed doing.

Once the gates opened up I made my way past the mobs of the people in Red Sox gear and down to the PawSox dugout. I then proceeded to wait for the players to make their way up the steps from the clubhouse. It seemed to take them longer than usual.

The first player out of the clubhouse was Jose Iglesias, but he flat out ignored my autograph request. Next up was Lars Anderson. I was promptly denied again. I couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t going to be a good day for autograph collecting, and for the most part, I was right. I only got two autographs at this game. One from Kevin Youkilis, and another from Gerald Perry. Not a great day, but at least I got Youk.

Moving on to the game itself.

It was really exciting to say the least. Down 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th, Jesus Feliciano stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and proceeded to clear them on a 3 run triple. The ballpark was electric. You should’ve been there.

After the game I dashed back to the PawSox dugout to ask their manager for the lineup cards, but was told that they never give those out. I know for a fact that’s a lie, but I just let it be. I didn’t want to cause a scene.

All in all it was a great game. The Bulls won. I was successful in getting an auto from Kevin Youkilis. And I got to see Matsui play. I’ll take that kind of game every day of the week.

I know what those of you who aren’t big on reading are thinking: Where are the pictures?! Well, don’t worry, I took some, I just wasn’t sure how I could incorporate them into the entry without giving a pitch-by-pitch recap, which I know would’ve been unnecessary. So here you non-readers go:

Hideki Matsui walking away after signing autograph for a few kids.

Kevin Youkilis getting ready for the game.

Lars Anderson in his first at bat.

Hideki Matsui in his first at bat.

‘Godzilla’ in left field.

And that’s all she (or in this case, *he*) wrote.

May 20th: Durham Bulls vs. Charlotte Knights

I hadn’t planned on attending this game, but I REALLY wanted to get an autograph from Hideki Matsui. This was going to be my last Bulls game until June 8th, and who knows if Matsui will still be on the team then. I knew it wasn’t a guarantee that I’d get him to sign for me, but I at least had to try.

The day started out with me making friends with a relatively nice usher down by the Bulls’ dugout. This would turn out to be important. More on that a little later.

My main autograph target for the day, as stated earlier, was Matsui, but there were a few other guys I wanted as well. Leslie Anderson has been tearing it up this year, and Tampa Bay Rays number 3 prospect Chris Archer has been having a good year as well, so I was going for their autos too.

I was all by myself down by the dugout for the first ten or so minutes after the gates opened. After that, however, people showed up in bunches, and before long there were 10 or so fellow autograph seekers, including a young kid who decided it was necessary to continuously kick me in the back of the legs. But I digress.

I completely missed the arrival of Leslie Anderson from the clubhouse. He came out while I was looking at something that was happening on the field, and by the time I noticed him he was heading onto the field to warm up. I made sure not to turn my head after that. I didn’t want to miss Matsui.

Several minutes passed by and still no sign of Matsui. Finally, after 30 minutes of standing there waiting, he appeared. I was the first one to notice him, and proceeded to hollar “Hideki!!” all while holding out my card and sharpie (which apparently isn’t the universal sign for “can I have your autograph”?). Matsui looked up at me and nodded, but an acknowledgement is all I got. He ran up the steps and onto the field. No auto love from Matsui, but I did get Chris Archer just before I went to my seat. So I was glad about that.

This game wasn’t as exciting as Friday’s. It was ALL Bulls the entire game, which lasted a mere two hours. As soon as the last out of the game was made I rushed over to the Bulls dugout but was stopped by an usher who said I couldn’t go down there because the kids were going to run the bases. But my usher friend came to the rescue and told me I could go down their for just a couple of minutes. Haha! Take that mean usher guy. (This particular usher has always been grouchy to me. If you ever make it to a Bulls game, don’t think you’re going to get past him unless you talk to my usher friend. Haha.)

The only other people down by the dugout were people who had nearby seats. They were all after Matsui’s autograph, and to my surprise he actually stopped to sign. He only signed for four people, but I am happy to state that I WAS one of the lucky few. I have my usher buddy to thank for that.

Here’s a random pic of Matsui in the Bulls alternate home uniform:

If you’re ever in the area I highly suggest you make a trip to Durham to see a ball game. It’s an awesome ballpark, and you’ll have the time of your life. Guaranteed.

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