Results tagged ‘ Tommy La Stella ’
It’s been quite awhile since people have whole heartedly believed in the Cubs.
But 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 to 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.
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 . . . . :
. . . . 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:
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
After nearly seven months, I’m finally attending another baseball game.
Later today, I’m heading out to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), in Durham, North Carolina, where the visiting Gwinnett Braves are set to take on the defending International League Champion Bulls in game three of a four-game series. With the teams having split the series so far through two games, it’s sure to be an exciting game.
The thing I’m most excited about, besides the game itself, is seeing the DBAP for the first time since it underwent a multimillion dollar renovation this past offseason, which involved putting in new lights, new seats, a new playing surface, in addition to changing just about everything you can think of. Anything that helps make the fan experience better I always approve of.
Now, if you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know the DBAP is one of the two local minor league ballparks — Five County Stadium, home of the Carolina Mudcats, being the other — that I frequent throughout each baseball season. Though I always enjoy a good baseball game, generally, I only go out to see a game when a good amount of prospects are set to be there, or if an MLB player is playing in a rehab game. Otherwise, I’m content to merely reading the box score each night.
As many of you are aware, within the past couple of seasons, I’ve developed a big passion for going out to games and getting autographs from the games’ most promising young players who are on their way up, and that’s the main reason I’m heading over to the ballpark tonight. Not living near any MLB teams, it’s truly my only chance to get autographs from what will likely be future MLB stars down the road, and Gwinnett certainly has plenty of them, with Christian Bethancourt, Tommy La Stella and Cody Martin, among others.
However, they’re not alone.
The Bulls definitely hold their own when it comes to roster construction. While this year’s roster doesn’t compare to the one they had last season, which saw Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer as part of the Opening Day roster, their lineup and pitching for this year is set to be good yet again. From Enny Romero to Nathan Karns, and many inbetween, the Bulls stand a good chance of repeating as Champions, and as such, there are numerous players I want to snag an autograph from at some point this year.
But the Braves are the team I’m going for tonight. I’m not going to be trying for any autographs from the Bulls players this time around due to the fact that I can always get them in a few weeks, as opposed to a team that may not return with the same players next time. I learned that lesson last year with Wil Myers. In taking three games to finally get Myers, I missed my chance to get the top opposing teams’ players. I won’t let that happen this time around.
The way I’m viewing the schedules right now, it’s likely that I’ll be going out to Durham often this first month, with possibly no trips to see the Mudcats until May. The Mudcats simply aren’t that great of a team, and the teams that are going to be visiting aren’t that fantastic either. But it’s just the opposite for the Bulls, as every team they’re playing against throughout April has some really good players on it that I hope to get autos from. Though, it’s likely that I won’t be blogging about any of it, unless things happen to change.
But that’s just the very beginning of what looks to be a great autographing season.
From May through the end of the season, both the Mudcats and Bulls are taking on loaded teams, making it difficult to decide when I want to head out to the ballpark and see certain players in person, though that’s a good problem to have.
More significant than that, however, the DBAP is hosting the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game in mid July, which will bring in numerous top prospects from the Pacific Coast League which usually never comes closer than Memphis. I truly can’t wait until then, as it’s a can’t miss experience that I’ll absolutely be blogging about.
From the exciting Bulls games to kick off the season, to the remaining strong schedules between both the Mudcats and the Bulls, and the All-Star events thrown in there as well, everything combined altogether, it’s sure to be an unforgettable season.