Results tagged ‘ White Sox ’

My Busy Upcoming Baseball Game Schedule

Every now and again, I like to post an entry covering my baseball game plans and such for an upcoming week or two, especially when it’s going to involve a rather busy schedule. Although I try to avoid too difficult of a schedule, when several good teams come to town in a short period of time, sometimes it can’t be helped. For the next couple of weeks that’s going to be the case.

Starting on Friday, I’m going to be attending the first of what will be five minor league baseball games in two weeks, to see some of baseball’s 536ac5c2910c8_imagefuture stars in person as well as get an autograph or two from as many of them as I can. While five games in two weeks could sound hectic — and to a certain degree it is — I have it all planned out so that everything will, hopefully, go smoothly.

Friday’s game will be my sixth MiLB game of the season so far, and my first Mudcats game of 2014. (Four of the games I’ve been to have taken place in Durham, with the other game occurring down in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.) It will be the Mudcats taking on the Pelicans, who are the High-A affiliate of the Rangers.

Though I’ve seen the Pelicans once this year, and therefore have already gotten many of the players’ autographs, I couldn’t pass up seeing them once again with the level of talent on the team. From Jorge Alfaro (their number one prospect) to Joey Gallo (who led all of the minors in home runs last season, with 40) and numerous players in between, it’s sure to be a fun game.

My next game will take place sometime during the following week (I haven’t decided the exact date yet). It will be another Mudcats game, but this time they’ll be squaring off against the Blue Rocks (Royals’ affiliate).

The Blue Rocks has its fair share of top prospects, despite them having underachieved for the most part in 2014. Including names such as Raul Mondesi, Hunter Dozier and Bubba Starling (who has unfortunately seemed lost throughout his past three minor league seasons), it’s well worth the trip out to the ballpark for another game.

Then begins the somewhat crazy week of games.

On Monday, June 2nd, I’m planning on heading over to Durham (for what will be the first time in nearly a month) to see a game against the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, the IronPigs.

While it isn’t an overall fantastic team, with Maikel Franco (their number one prospect) being the main standout, with it being a day game, it’s sure to be an enjoyable time, as is any game. But there’s just something different about a day game (not necessarily better, just different) that’s makes the game special.

UntitledFollowing that game, either on Tuesday or Wednesday (just not Thursday due to the 2014 MLB draft which I plan to watch on MLB Network), I’m heading back out to the Mudcats to see the opposing White Sox affiliate, the Dash.

The Dash’s roster includes names such as Tim Anderson (their first pick in the 2013 draft), Courtney Hawkins (their first pick in the 2012 draft), and future pitching star, Tyler Danish, among a few other standouts. As a team with so much high talent, it should be an entertaining game, in addition to being a good time for autographs.

The last game in the busy two week span will take place on the following Friday, when I’m heading over to Durham once again to see the visiting Pawtucket Red Sox, who have quite the team.

Currently with a roster of five of the Sox top ten prospects, including Allen Webster, Garin Cecchini, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo and Christian Vazquez, as well as some former big leaguers, the Pawtucket team is a very good one — and one that I’m really looking forward to seeing.

That game will end the planned five games in two weeks schedule, in which it should be interesting to see how much I can add to my autograph totals for the year. Over the five games I’ve attended thus far, I’ve amassed 20 autographs, with four of those being from top 100 prospects. While I haven’t blogged about any of those games (I’ll probably be blogging about at least one of the games over the next two weeks) I’m still going to do a recap at the very end of the season, like I did last year, covering how my time went out at the ballpark in 2014.

With there still being two and a half months remaining, even after the games I’ve planned out, including the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game in July (I’ll definitely be blogging about both of those), there’s going to be a ton of opportunities to add to my overall autograph totals.

How the Major Offseason Pickups Did On Opening Day

Opening Day is the most exciting day of the year as far as baseball fans are concerned. With it comes lofty expectations, of both individual players and teams, as well as predictions for how every team will fare. But the best part of Opening Day is that, being the first game of the year, it gives every team — no matter how good or bad they may turn out to be — the opportunity to have a great deal of optimism for the coming season.

While the hopes and dreams of certain teams and fans alike will dwindle as a given season goes on, game one of the long season provides fans their first look at the key pickups their team made during the offseason, with the hopes that the moves they made will lead them to a World Series title. Whether it be by a trade or a free agent signing, each and every team always does something in the offseason to attempt to improve their team for the following year.

With that in mind, I thought I’d go over how the major (non-pitching) offseason additions performed in their first game with their new team, and give my thoughts on each player. While not every name is listed, pretty much all of the major players are:Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu: 2-4, with an RBI single

Yet another predicted future phenom to make his way over from Cuba, Jose Abreu impressed many people throughout Spring Training, and he continued to do so on Opening Day. Going 2-4, with one of his two hits scoring a run, Abreu didn’t show off the power in his first big league game, however, the natural pop he has in his bat was evident. With the White Sox being somewhat of a question mark for the coming season, Abreu, if nothing else, will go a long way in bringing attention to the team.

Marlon Byrd: 2-6, with a solo homer

Part of a long list of player who’ve tested positive for performance enhancing drugs over the years, with his suspension coming in 2012 , Marlon Byrd is coming off a breakout season spent between the Mets and Pirates last year, and is looking to prove that he can continue to be that type of player moving forward. Hitting a career high 24 home runs last season, Byrd is well on his way to reaching the lofty total yet again, going 2-6 with a home run in his first game in a Phillies uniform since 2005.

Jhonny Peralta: 0-4

Moving from the Tigers to the Cardinals this past offseason, Jhonny Peralta can be an impact player on any club. Despite a performance enhancing drug suspension last season, Peralta was signed by the Cards to man the shortstop position for the coming season, and while he went hitless in his first game of the year (he looked solid defensively), many are looking for Peralta to have a great season. With an already fantastic team from top to bottom, Peralta could find himself apart of a very special season.

Nelson Cruz: 1-2, with a solo homer

Yet another player who served a suspension last season due to performance enhancing drug use, Nelson Cruz is a major power threat, nonetheless, and was a great pickup by the Orioles. He proved that threat first hand on Opening Day, blasting a solo home run in one of his two official at-bats of the game. With a lineup of several power sources already — Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado, once he returns — Cruz combines together to make for a very formidable Orioles lineup.

Michael Morse: 1-3, with a strikeout

Though he isn’t the best power hitter in baseball, Michael Morse has the potential to go on hot streaks in which he can rack up a good amount of home runs in no time. Bouncing around between teams over the past few seasons, Morse wound up with the Giants this past offseason, and is sure to be a key part of their lineup moving forward. Going 1-3 on Opening Day, Morse is part of a very good Giants team, and if he can perform to his potential throughout the year, they could do very well.

Grady Sizemore: 2-4, with a solo homer

One of the best stories of the year, Grady Sizemore joined the Red Sox in January, after not having played in a major league game since 2011 due to a multitude of injuries. He was subsequently put up against promising prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. during Spring Training, having to prove himself worthy of the Opening Day center field spot. Sizemore wound up having a fantastic Spring, winning the job, and had a great 4ufdt_St_58return game in Baltimore, going 2-4, including a towering home run to right field.

Prince Fielder: 1-5

Part of a trade between the Tigers and Rangers, which sent Prince Fielder to the Rangers in return for Ian Kinsler, the Rangers definitely have a much better lineup than they did last season. While Fielder went just 1-5 on Opening Day, on a mere single, he possesses one of the biggest power bats in all of baseball. He should get things going and come close to, if not exceeding, his previous averages of over 30 homers and 100 RBI’s a season. For the Rangers to beat out the Athletics in the division, they need Fielder to get hot.

Shin-Soo Choo: 0-4

Known for getting on base better than pretty much anyone all of last season, putting together a .423 on base percentage, the Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to a major deal this offseason, looking for him to continue to be the same type of player. But he didn’t start his year off all that well, going 0-4 in game one, though he did reach first on a walk. Despite his poor debut with the Rangers, Choo should be fine. He’s not going to hit you a ton of home runs, but if he can get on base, the rest of the lineup will take care of the runs.

Ian Kinsler: 0-4

The piece that the Tigers got in return for sending Prince Fielder to the Rangers, Ian Kinsler can contribute both offensively and defensively. Though the Tigers lost a major run producer in Fielder, and they will undoubtedly miss his presence throughout the long season (with Miguel Cabrera having to carry the Tigers more than ever), Kinsler, although he went hitless in his first game in a Tigers uniform, should make an impact for the Tigers, who are predicted by many to run away with the division.

Mark Trumbo: 3-5, with two RBI’s

Coming over to the Diamondbacks from the Angels this offseason, Mark Trumbo can launch a baseball like very few others can. With that power threat comes a major impact player, as Trumbo played a big role in the Angles lineup and will undoubtedly be a big piece of the D-backs’ lineup. Going 3-5, with a pair of RBI’s, in his first game of the season, Trumbo certainly didn’t disappoint in what could turn out to be a big year for him if he can get everything going from here on out.

Curtis Granderson: 0-5, with three strikeouts

Moving across town this past offseason, Curtis Granderson surprised many when he exchanged his Yankees pinstripes for those of the Mets. But although Granderson is supposed to be one of the top power threats in the Mets lineup — hitting over fourty home runs in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons — he disappointed in his Opening Day start. Striking out three times in a hitless five at-bats, Granderson certainly didn’t show much of anything, but he should still get up around the thirty homer range when all is said and done.Untitled

Robinson Cano: 2-4

The top free agent of the offseason, many felt that Robinson Cano would remain a New York Yankee for the entire length of his career. But instead, Cano signed a mega deal with the Mariners keeping him in Seattle for the next ten seasons. In his first game with his new club, Cano went 2-4, including a double late in the game. Though many people are predicting a fall in Cano’s power numbers, with him playing home games at Safeco Field, Cano proved that his consistency will likely remain.

David Freese: 0-4, with two strikeouts

With the loss of David Freese to the Angels in exchange for Peter Bourjos, the Cardinals are a slightly weaker team than they were last year. However, Matt Carpenter, previously their second baseman, took over Freese’s spot at the hot corner, and is expected to do a great job. On the Angles end of the trade, they picked up what should be a decent upgrade at third. Freese didn’t do much in his Angels debut, going hitless in four at-bats, but he looked good defensively, and his bat will surely come around to give the Angels a great overall lineup.

Justin Morneau: 1-4, with a strikeout

Having been moved from the Twins to the Pirates in the second half of last season, Justin Morneau found himself joining the Colorado Rockies this offseason, giving them some much needed pop in their lineup. While Morneau can be an impact player, the Rockies simply don’t have a good enough team to put together all that great of a season. Therefore, even though Morneau went a mere 1-4 in his Rockies debut, he should continue to be consistent, with the Rockies’ poor performance as a whole staying consistent as well.

American League Predictions for 2014

For the third season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I picked the Red Sox to finish last in 2013 and they won the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I’ll be posting my predictions for the National League in the next few days, but for now, I’m going to give my predictions for the American League (along with my reasoning), starting with the American League East:

EAST

1. Red Sox

2. Yankees

3. Rays

4. Orioles

5. Blue Jays

Originally, I had the Yankees winning the division, but the more I thought about it the more I second-guessed the choice. The Red Sox are far too good of a team to ignore, and should have just enough to beat out every other team in the American League East. What really puts them over the Yankees when it comes to deciding first and second place is their pitching depth. Not just their starting rotation, but their bullpen as well. From Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and John Lackey, to a top of the line closer in Koji Uehara, there is a ton of talent to keep the opposing teams from scoring runs. As far as their own lineup goes, it’s one of the best in the division, with a good mix of veterans — David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, A.J. Pierzynski — as well as young future stars — Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Will Middlebrooks. And therefore, they should be able to win the division, yet again.

The Yankees did a lot of things right this past offseason, and I really feel confident in them for the coming year, but I can’t quite see them placing first. They lost their All-Star closer, Mariano Rivera, and didn’t really address that by signing another closer to take his place. On the topic of pitching, their starting pitching improved a bit with the addition of Masahiro Tanaka, but it will take a bounce back year from C.C. Sabathia, and the rest of their rotation, for the Yankees to pitch themselves to a lot of wins. But what they lack in pitching, they more than make up for in their lineup. Newcomers Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann will go a long way in helping the offense score runs. Even without their star second baseman, Robinson Cano, to provide a major power threat, the Yankees still have a chance to go far, in this Derek Jeter’s farewell season.

There were a lot of rumors this offseason that the Rays’ 2012 Cy Young winner, David Price, was going to be traded. But that didn’t happen, which is what will help them barely beat out the Orioles, in my opinion. If Price can return to form, combined with Chris Archer, Matt Moore and the remaining players of their entire pitching staff, including newly acquired Grant Balfour to fill their closer role they lost when Fernando Rodney left, the Rays will be good to go. Their lineup is decent, with Evan Longoria and Wil Myers being the standouts, and with James Loney and Ben Zobrist likely being good yet again, their overall lineup should be good enough to compete. Towards the end of the 2013 season, the Rays went on a run, and if they can do that at the right times throughout this year, they could surprise some people.

The Orioles have the ability to beat out the Rays for third, but I don’t think they’ll be quite good enough to get there. I have them finishing next to last, as despite adding Nelson Cruz to go along with Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis as the big impact players in their lineup, they don’t have the best pitching. Signing Ubaldo Jimenez will go a long way in making them a good team if he is able to have a breakout year, but losing their All-Star closer, Jim Johnson, to the Athletics, will hurt them at the end of games, as they have no true replacement for him. If everyone up and down the lineup and all throughout the bullpen can get going, the Orioles could move up the division ranks, and make a push. But I don’t see that happening until their top prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are full time members sometime next season.

Last season after signing so many impact players in the winter months, many had the Blue Jays making the playoffs, with some going as far as to predict a World Series championship for Toronto. I thought those predictions were a little far fetched, and I predicted a fourth place finish for them, despite having some veteran proven pitchers such as R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. After they disappointed many by finishing dead last in the AL East last season, I’m putting the Blue Jays last again. They didn’t do a whole lot this offseason, and if anything they got a little worse by losing some players to free agency. It would take a near perfect and injury free season by their star players Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie, as well as perfect years by all of their starting pitchers, for them to compete in their division. To me, that’s an awful lot to ask out of the Jays.

CENTRAL

1. Tigers

2. Royals

3. Indians

4. White Sox

5. Twins

There’s no reason why the Tigers shouldn’t run away with things in the American League Central. Although they lost one of the biggest bats in the game, Prince Fielder, trading him away for Ian Kinsler, who will play second, freed up their options. Meaning 2012 Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, will now move back to first, with top prospect, Nick Castellanos, taking over his spot at third base. With Jose Iglesias at shortstop, who could pick up a Gold Glove this season, there really aren’t any holes in their infield, or anywhere in their entire lineup for that matter. And that continues with their pitching staff. The Tigers have a superb starting rotation, with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, and strengthened the back end of their bullpen by signing proven closer, Joe Nathan. Everything combined together, the Tigers could have a magical season.

This is finally the year for the Royals, in my mind. They made a strong push towards the end of last season, with their first baseman, Eric Hosmer, beginning to play like many predicted he was capable of, but they came up just short. This season, however, the Royals have enough to finish second if they can get everything to come together. Their starting rotation won’t dominate, but it will do fairly well, from James Shields to rookie Yordano Ventura. They have one of the best, under the radar, closers, Greg Holland, and he should have a great year again. In addition, their consistent players such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon will continue to perform, but it will take production from players like Norichika Aoki, Omar Infante and Mike Moustakas (he has something to prove this season) for the Royals to make any sort of a deep playoff push.

The Indians made the playoffs last season via the Wild Card, quickly being eliminated, but I don’t see them getting back this year. I have them finishing third, but a down year by the Royals could see them moving up a spot. Their rotation has the potential to be good, with Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar leading the way, but they lost Scott Kazmir, and need Trevor Bauer to finally come through for them more than ever. As far as their lineup goes, it’s pretty good. Yan Gomes will likely be their catcher, with Carlos Santana transitioning to third, and Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis will contribute both offensively and defensively, along with Jason Giambi providing the Indians some pop. Francisco Lindor, their top prospect, could see major league time towards the end of the season, but it likely won’t be enough to push them over the edge.

While the White Sox probably won’t do much this season, finishing next to last in my book, they will have a slightly better season than the one they had last year. Chris Sale, one of the best players on the team, will be the leader of their starting rotation, which is good but no where near great. Another spot where they have a ton of holes is their lineup, however, Jose Abreu is set to be the next big, power hitter out of Cuba, so it will be interesting to see how he does. If he can perform well, along with Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, who have been known for years for their power, the Sox should have a decent year. One of the biggest things that will hurt them is the loss of their overpowering closer, Addison Reed, who was great at finishing out games for them. With so many question marks and missing pieces, it will take a lot for the White Sox to finish any better than fourth.

I have the Twins finishing last again, but it will likely be the final year for awhile. They have numerous top prospects coming up in the next few years, including Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, and those players will definitely have an incredible impact. But with the players they have for this season, they will likely have a subpar year. With a rotation of Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, and Phil Hughes, among others, the Twins don’t have a true ace of their pitching staff like a lot of teams do. They also no longer have Justin Morneau at first base, losing him in the second half of last year, and the rest of their infield is a question mark. One of their stronger points is their outfield, with Aaron Hicks and Josh Willingham, as well as newly signed catcher, Kurt Suzuki, but those players alone won’t be enough to win the Twins many games in 2014.

WEST

1. Rangers

2. Athletics

3. Mariners

4. Angels

5. Astros

Trading away Ian Kinsler in exchange for Prince Fielder will really go a long way in helping the Rangers beat out the Athletics for the number one spot in the AL West. Adding Fielder to an already great infield of Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, will give the Rangers their first production from first base since Mark Teixeira left in 2007. The only thing that could hurt the Rangers is their pitching, as Derek Holland will miss the first portion of the season, along with a few other of their key pieces. Yu Darvish will be dominant again, and Tommy Hanson, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross will help a bit, but the loss of their closer, Joe Nathan, will have somewhat of an effect. If newcomer Shin-Soo Choo can produce from the leadoff spot the same as he was able to do in 2013, the Rangers, and several players on their team, could have an amazing year.

As far as the Athletics go, although they’ve won the division the past two seasons and made some fairly good moves this offseason as they seem to always do, they don’t have the lineup threats that the Rangers do. They do, however, have an overall better pitching staff (especially in the bullpen) with young stars Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily leading the rotation. A pickup of Scott Kazmir and closer Jim Johnson will have a great impact on their success throughout the coming season, as will Coco Crisp and Eric Sogard, who really broke out in 2013. But it will take great seasons from Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick for the A’s to make a run at beating out the Rangers. With the seasons they’ve been able to put together without any superstars on the team, however, it wouldn’t be all that difficult for the Athletics to surprise me.

The Mariners, with all of the offseason moves they made, could potentially place better than third place, but I’m projecting them to disappoint a lot of people. The biggest signing they made was undeniably the top free agent of the offseason, Robinson Cano, for the next ten years. He will go a long way in turning the Mariners back around. But other than Cano, and possibly Corey Hart who they signed as well, there’s no major power threat in the lineup. Logan Morrison will add some average hitting, and young players such as Mike Zunino, Kyle Seager and Brad Miller will be decent. The one player that needs to produce is Dustin Ackley, but you never know with him. Their pitching should be excellent, with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, etc., as well as new closer, Fernando Rodney, but if they don’t produce a ton offensively, it won’t do them much good.

After really disappointed a lot of people last season, the Angels could very well could do so again this year, finishing next to last in my opinion, as they didn’t do a lot to get much better this offseason. Their rotation doesn’t extend much past Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, though they did pick up promising prospect Tyler Skaggs. While Mike Trout is going to be amazingly good, as he has proven he can be, and I feel Albert Pujols will have a bounce back year, Josh Hamilton isn’t really looking all that promising. Also, although they picked up David Freese this offseason, they lost a huge impact bat in Mark Trumbo, and really don’t have any other major impact players to place in their lineup. While they certainly have the pieces to surprise many people this year if everything goes right, I just don’t see it happening for the Angels.

It’s becoming routine for the Astros to finish dead last, and they will likely do so again this season, but on a brighter note, they could possibly finish with fewer than 100 losses, which they haven’t been able to do since 2010. The Astros don’t have any impact players to speak of for their rotation or lineup, but one of their top prospects, George Springer, if called up soon enough, could play a big role in the outfield. Jarred Cosart will likely be their best starting pitcher, with players such as Jose Altuve, Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez making some noise with their bats. However, it won’t be enough to do any better than fifth. But it shouldn’t be long until the Astros are moving up in their division, as they have several fantastic prospects coming up in the next year or two. From Mark Appel to Carlos Correa, the Astros could have a very formidable team in the very near future.

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

2014 Final MLB Standings Predictions

We’re quickly approaching the opening-series of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, down in Australia on March 22nd, and so begins the predictions of where each team will finish in the coming year. Most of the time there’s a team or two that comes along and completely throws off your predictions, but that’s what makes it fun.

I’m going to be doing a separate couple of blog posts on my predictions for how I feel each team will fare this season sometime in the next week or two, but for now, I want to hear what you all think. Cast your vote below for which team you feel is most likely to win each division in 2014:

Voting ends on March 22nd.

Major League Baseball Ballparks I’ve Been to

After hours of searching the internet (mainly MLB.com) for topics to discuss in a blog post, I couldn’t really come up with anything all that worthwhile. Although there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential things to write about, nothing caught my attention enough to publish something on. (Thank goodness Spring Training games start soon.)

Therefore, I decided to type up a post on the MLB ballparks I’ve been to in my life — in chronological order — and tell a little about my time spent at each one. While that may not be all that exciting to read about (sorry?), I figured it might appeal to some. Living in North Carolina, I can’t make it to MLB games too often, and thus, I’ve been to nine major league ballparks in my life — some more than once — with them being:

Turner Field — Home of the Atlanta Braves

One of only two ballparks I’ve been to more than once, I first visited Turner Field way back in 2002. It was my first ever baseball game, and I didn’t know who was playing (the Cubs), nor the basic rules of the game. All that I knew was that there was some sort of sport going on. A lot has certainly changed since then — I’m a huge baseball fan now — but this game was the first professional baseball action of my life, and will subsequently always be a special memory.

My second visit to see the Braves play came in 2009, against the Yankees . . . . :

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. . . . followed by another visit the following year for a couple of games against the Mets and the Giants (seen below):

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The Yankees would go on to win the 2009 World Series, with the Giants going on to win the 2010 World Series. So, I guess you could say I bring teams long-term luck at Turner Field — just not the Braves.

Citizens Bank Park — Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

In what would turn out to be their final year of existence, my first game in Philadelphia saw the Phillies taking on the Montreal Expos, back in 2004. I don’t have any pictures from the game, but I remember it fairly vividly; except for the fact that the manager of the Expos was Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. That I don’t remember, but it’s neat to look back and say, at least, that I saw him. (Or, I think I did.)

Comerica Park — Home of the Detroit Tigers

Yet another game against the Yankees, this game was took place back in 2005, and included the likes of Gary Sheffield, Derek Jeter, Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez. Though I remember the game, I still didn’t care about baseball all that much. That is, until Bernie Williams hit a game-winning homer in the ninth inning, which is the one moment from the game that sticks out in my mind, and really began my baseball obsession. (I even wrote a blog post on it.)

PNC Park — Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates

PNC Park was the first ballpark I can recall saying “wow” at. Not in reaction to a miraculous play made in the game, but as response to the beauty of the stadium itself. It’s truly one of the most scenic parks I’ve been to, and although this was the only time I’ve ever been (July 2, 2006, against the Tigers), I have no doubt that I’ll be back one day. Especially now, with the Pirates finally having a team worth seeing; making the playoffs for the first time in my life last year.

Fenway Park — Home of the Boston Red Sox

Beautiful in its own way, Fenway Park is my favorite ballpark I’ve ever visited — hands down. The historic aspect to the park is enough to make it number one on my list of stadiums visited, as not too many places can you say that players such as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski have played on the same field at one point in time. This particular game was in 2008, against the Diamondbacks, and despite a Red Sox loss, it was an all around amazing time.

Great American Ballpark — Home of the Cincinnati Reds

After a first attempt to visit this ballpark in 2011 resulted in a rainout, 2012 brought my first ever game at Great American Ballpark:

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It turned out to be Reds’ Hall of Fame induction day, and although it wasn’t planned that way, it was an extremely full day of baseball fun. Starting early in the morning, with a meet and greet with former Reds greats — including Eric Davis and the 2012 inductees Dan Driessen and Sean Casey — and ending with a great Reds win, this was one of the more entertaining MLB games I’ve ever been to.

Kauffman Stadium — Home of the Kansas City Royals

I’m counting this as a ballpark I’ve been to, as although I’m yet to see a “game” here, I went inside the park and witnessed an MLB event, in this case, the 2012 Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium:

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This wouldn’t even be on the list if it wasn’t for State Farm. As you may recall if you’ve been following my blog for awhile, I received an all expense paid trip to the 2012 derby in Kansas City, which I attended with my grandpa. Prince Fielder ended up taking home his second derby title, and I was able to add another ballpark to my list.

Camden Yards — Home of the Baltimore Orioles

One of the most recent ballparks I’ve visited, just last year, Camden Yards could very well be the most amazing MLB park in all of baseball when you combine everything together. (Though, I can’t make a fair conclusion, since I’m still far from having been to them all.) The fans are electric, the park itself is perfectly designed, and it certainly was a fun time:

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With the help of a couple of Chris Davis homers, the Orioles cruised to an easy 11-3 win against the Yankees in this particular game.

Safeco Field — Home of the Seattle Mariners

The last ballpark I’ve visited up to this point in time — I attended the Mariners-Twins game on July 26, 2013 — Safeco Field wasn’t my favorite ballpark I’ve ever been to (don’t get me wrong, it was incredible) but the city views were definitely better than any I’ve witnessed at an MLB stadium:

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Felix Hernandez pitched a gem of a game, but would go on to get a no decision in a tough Mariners’ loss. Nonetheless, this made the ninth ballpark I’ve been to, and I don’t plan on stopping until I’ve been to all thirty. Hopefully that won’t take too terribly long.

While that concludes the ballparks I’ve been inside, I’ve seen five other stadiums in passing which I thought I should include anyway. I won’t spend very long discussing them, since there isn’t really a great story behind the encounter, but I do want to mention them anyway.

Back in 2006, on a family vacation to New York City, I was lucky enough to see the exterior of the Old Yankee Stadium, which has since been torn down. Unfortunately, tickets were sold out to the games during our trip, which led to having to settle with a game in Pittsburgh (as described above).

The final four ballparks I’ve “seen” include U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox’ park), Nationals Park, Busch Stadium (Cardinals’ park) and Chase Field (Diamondbacks’ park). My distant views of the parks came from an airplane, for U.S. Cellular Field, and the highway, for Nationals Park, Bush Stadium and Chase Field.

As you’d probably agree, all of the parks listed after Safeco Field don’t officially count.

But I have no doubt I’ll see games in them some day.

Maddux, Glavine & Thomas Elected to Hall of Fame

For the first time since 1971, there will be six living Hall of Fame inductees enshrined in Cooperstown on July 27th, in this the 75th anniversary of the museum. It was announced on Wednesday that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas would be joining Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who were elected in December, as part of the 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.

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Maddux, Glavine and Thomas — the first player elected to have played the majority of their games as a designated hitter — all received above 80 percent of the vote, and each were elected on their first time on the ballot. This marks the first time since 1999 that three first-ballot nominees (Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount) were elected, and just the second time in history.

Maddux saw the most votes, earning 97.2 percent of the 571 voters’ approval, making him the eighth highest vote getter in Hall of Fame voting history, behind Tony Gwynn (97.61), Hank Aaron (97.83), George Brett (98.19), Ty Cobb (98.23), Cal Ripken Jr.(98.53), Nolan Ryan (98.79) and Tom Seaver (98.84).

All three players were extremely deserving, no doubt about it, but many people feel that a couple of players who were just as “deserving” didn’t get enough recognition.

None more so than Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote, falling a mere two votes shy of the 75 percent necessary for induction. Biggio becomes the third player to miss getting in by two or fewer votes, joining Pie Traynor and Nellie Fox, who both eventually made it into the Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza is another player that didn’t earn enough of the vote to be elected, but could’ve easily been elected in. Piazza’s percentage, as with Biggio, was likely hurt by the great amount of talent on this year’s ballot, but it’s still surprising to me that he didn’t come a bit closer.

Nonetheless, both Biggio and Piazza will likely be voted in next year.

Players who may not ever be elected, however, include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who all saw drops in percentages from last year, and are all linked in one way or another to performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). Clemens was the top vote getter of them all, but received just 35.4 percent of the vote, down from 37.6 percent in 2013 — no where near the percentage needed. Rafael Palmeiro, who is also associated to PED’s, didn’t even receive the necessary 5 percent to remain on the ballot for next year, getting just 4.4 percent.

Palmeiro is one of 16 players from this year who will not be on the ballot for next year. Those players include the likes of Eric Gagne and Kenny Rogers, among others, who were good players but not good enough for the Hall of Fame. Jack Morris will also not be returning next year, as although he received 61.5 percent of the vote, this was his 15th and final year of eligibility.

Looking forward to the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra will all be making their first appearance, and that could make it tough for really good players such as Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent, who received 20.3 percent and 15.2 percent of the vote this year, respectively, to make much progress. Only time will tell how the voters decide.

But one thing is for sure: Next year’s Hall of Fame class has the potential to be even more exciting than this one. And that’s truly saying a lot after the memorable class of 2014.

Q and A With Chris Beck

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 duringBeck 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.

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Big thanks to Chris Beck for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @WatchurBeck

Torre, LaRussa and Cox Elected to the Hall of Fame

With around a month remaining until the players’ portion of the 2014 Hall of Fame class is announced on January 8th, there’s still plenty of time left to debate which players deserve to make it in this time around. (I’ll give my take a few days before.)

But while we don’t yet know the players who will be elected in 2014, the baseball world found out on Monday that Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox will be among those inducted as part of the 2014 class.

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Voted in by a unanimous vote of the Expansion Era Committee, Torre, LaRussa and Cox are all very deserving — each winning over 2,000 games in their managerial careers — but that doesn’t stop controversy from surrounding the vote. Not controversy that the three shouldn’t have gotten in, but that another name or two on the ballot should’ve been voted in.

The ballot, consisting of twelve of the games’ great players, managers, and other baseball figures, included Tommy John, Ted Simmons, Dave Parker, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Dan Quisenberry, George Steinbrenner, Marvin Miller and Billy Martin, as other candidates for the Hall of Fame besides Torre, LaRussa and Cox. But no one besides the three elected received more than six votes. (The necessary number for election is twelve.)

In my opinion, Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner should’ve been elected, as they did a lot for the game of baseball, and were important figures of their time, but in the end, it is what it is. While I disagree with them not getting the votes to be elected, I’m not going to talk about them that much, because I want to spend time discussing the three managers that made it in.

Joe Torre managed a total of 29 seasons, spending time with the Mets, Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers, however, his most memorable years came with the New York Yankees. With the Yankees, Torre led his team to four World Series championships — three straight from 1998-2000. Torre was named Manager of the Year twice in his career, and finishes fifth all time in terms of wins, with 2,326.

Tony La Russa shared his time between the White Sox, Athletic’s and Cardinals, managing for a total of 33 seasons. LaRussa was voted Manager of the Year four times, leading his teams to three World Series titles — one with the A’s and two with the Cardinals. Winning 100 or more games in a season four times, LaRussa sits third all time in wins, with 2,728.

Bobby Cox managed for 29 seasons, between the Braves and Blue Jays. Cox took the Braves to 14 straight playoff seasons — the one thing that stands out most in my mind — and was a player favorite. Four-time Manager of the Year, Cox led the Braves to a 1995 World Series title — the only one of his career — and finished fourth all time in victories, with 2,504.

I was fortunate enough to have seen two of the three Hall of Fame mangers, manage — Bobby Cox four times, and Joe Torre twice. Though I never witnessed a game that Tony LaRussa managed, I saw him on the field during the 2012 All-Star workouts, before the Home Run Derby, in Kansas City, Missouri. Nearly everyone took the time to talk with LaRussa, who had retired the previous season, and it was an impressive sight to witness, with the obvious respect they had for him.

All three managers are well respected, and are deserving of the Hall of Fame.

Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox will be inducted on July 27th, in Cooperstown, NY.

Recapping My 2013 MiLB & MLB Baseball Season

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:

DSCN5713(The bat is signed, but the auto is around the other side. It was done very hastily.)

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….:

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….as well as a game home run ball hit by the Braves’ Ernesto Mejia:

DSCN5554(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….:

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….as well as a game homer from Tigers’ number one prospect, Nick Castellanos:

DSCN5602(Castellanos was a September call-up by the Tigers.)

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:

DSCN5845(Myers is a top candidate for 2013 American League Rookie of the Year.)

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:

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Then, after the game, I picked up a game used, unbroken bat from Deven Marrero:

DSCN5719(Great guy — actually took the time to sign nicely, unlike Hawkins.)

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:

DSCN5847(Lindor would go on to take part in the 2013 Futures game, up in New York City.)

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:

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I also got a game home run ball hit by Ronnier Mustelier:

BL2j594CIAI5CH_(Chasing down home run balls never gets old.)

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:

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(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:

DSCN5850(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:

DSCN5851(Delmonico is now part of the Brewers’ organization.)

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:

DSCN6936(As with Rodriguez, some of these autographs need work.)

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:

DSCN6938(Both are expected to do big things in the majors as soon as next season.)

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.

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By the Numbers

Though you could take the time for yourself to add it all up, I figured I’d make things a bit easier. Here’s a numbers recap of my 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)

Durham Bulls to Retire Chipper Jones’ Number

Twenty-one years since playing for the Bulls, Chipper Jones is returning to Durham.

Jones is set to join Crash Davis, Joe Morgan and Bill Evers as the only players to ever have their number retired by the Bulls, in a chipper28retirement ceremony on Tuesday. Morgan currently holds the distinction of being the only Bull to go on to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but that’s likely to change, once Chipper becomes eligible a few years down the road.

Jones played with the Bulls for a total of 70 games during the 1992 season, in which he batted .277 with four home runs and 31 RBIs. This coming back when the Bulls were the Class-A affiliate of the Braves, Jones would go on to become an eight-time All-Star, playing for the Braves his entire career.

Jones’ career MLB stats of 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI’s, coming over 2,726 hits, will go down as one of the best careers of anyone to ever don a Bulls uniform.

The uniform number retirement ceremony for Chipper Jones is set to take place at around 7:00, before tomorrow night’s Bulls game. And I’m planning to be there.

Gates are set to open at 5:30, and I’m hoping to be one of the first inside. This will more than likely be my last time seeing Chipper, and I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to get his autograph. (I’m going to try to get it on a 2012 All-Star baseball, that I won last year in a Twitter contest.) But no matter what happens, it’s sure to be an exciting night, and I’ll be sure to blog about it all on Wednesday.

But as if that’s not enough baseball excitement for one week, I’m also planning to attend Saturday’s Bulls game, versus the Norfolk Tides (AAA affiliate of the Orioles).

The Tides are loaded with great players and prospects, with the most notable being Orioles number one and number five prospects, Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop, who have both been having great seasons. I’m hoping to pick up an autograph from both. (Eric Thames, Zach Britton, Danny Valencia and Freddy Garcia being the other players I’m after for an auto.)

I haven’t yet decided whether or not I’ll be blogging about Saturday’s game, but you never know. It really depends on if anything out of the ordinary occurs, and how much else is going on around the rest of the baseball world. So, stay tuned….

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