Single A Ball in the Lowcountry

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On vacation in South Carolina, I got to see the Yankees Single A affiliate Charleston Riverdogs play the Mets’ Single A team the Columbia Fireflies.

In an effort of full disclosure, I initially was drawn to purchase tickets because Tim Tebow was playing LF for the Fireflies.  I found us great seats because I bought them in May, Section 119, Row 1, seats 18 – 21.  These four seats are immediately in front of the left fielder.  Tim Tebow plays left field for the Fireflies, or, rather he used to.  As luck would have it, he was promoted a couple of weeks back to St. Lucie High A and was nowhere to be found last Friday night in Charleston.

The absence of Tebow did not dampen our spirits though.  A beautiful night for baseball as met with a 7-1 win, and the good fortune of getting a foul ball!!!

It is funny to me that in all my years of going to baseball games the only two foul balls I ever got were at The Joe, in S.C.  Both tossed to me by players of the opposing team, I am now the proud owner of TWO Official South Atlantic League baseballs.  In fact, once in found its way into my glove the other night my future father in law asked me if I was going to give it to a kid…I still laugh when I think of him asking.

Part of the fun were two boys from Jersey representing the Garden State in Charleston for our Yankees – Brandon Wagner and Ben Ruta.

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Brandon Wagner, Princeton, NJ

Wagner, 21, was drafted in 2015 in the sixth round.  After spending the remainder of the 2015 season in High A, he spent all of 2016 in Rookie ball before his promotion to Charleston this spring.  He had a great night Friday, going 3 for 4 while hitting his 12th, 13th and 14th double of the season.  In the process of doing so, he drove in three of the Riverdogs’ seven runs.

For the season (as of this writing) he is having his best year since becoming a professional baseball player.  Batting .292 with 70 hits, 14 2B, 3HR, 34RBI and 30BB he still has some work to do before we see him in Trenton, I believe … he has struck out 80 times so far…but this is why he is in A Ball – for now.  I will not be surprised if the Princeton, NJ native is playing closer to home next summer.

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Ben Ruta, West Windsor, NJ

Ben Ruta, a 23-year-old native of West Windsor, NJ, is in his first season with the Riverdogs.  Drafted in 2016’s 30th round, he split time last year with the Pulaski Yankees and the Staten Island Yankees.  So far, he has put in a solid season, batting .290 in 155 at bats, drawing 13 walks and driving in 13 runs.  On Friday, Ruta went 1 for 4 with a run scored.

Minor league baseball just does not get old for me.  I love it and I love seeing baseball talent develop over the years.  Sometimes we forget that big hitters like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper once were kids trying to learn how to hit Big League pitching.

Wagner and Ruta – although they may not be Trout or Harper – are taking on those same challenges now.  I hope both fair very well.  I hope to see both in Trenton next season, too.  Their family and friends would love it!

Box Score

 

 

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Let’s Play Two …

Arm & Hammer Park, Trenton, N.J.

The only thing I can think of that’s better than going to the ballpark for a game is going for two. So last weekend, while Stacy was celebrating Mother’s Day with her family in South Carolina,  I took advantage of the bachelor lifestyle in the best way I know how…watching live baseball.

With my Mum deceased and my girl away, I pretty much had the day free.  I took in a doubleheader at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton to see the Yankees AA-Affiliate play the Nationals’ Harrisburg Senators.

Section 103 on the first base side.  Row AA.  Seat 1.  It was ideal.  The Bronx Babies split with the junior Senators from Pennsylvania.  Gleyber Torres, considered by most to be the Yanks’ top minor league prospect, hit one out in game two.  I even got a nice looking shot at the swing when he took Mr. Rawlings deep.

I went full cliche and I loved every second of it.  A hot dog and a beer during each game; in game two a bag of Cracker Jacks and Peanuts…although I didn’t really eat the peanuts yet.  For most of the day the sun shone on the 3,500 of us and when the storm clouds rolled in during game two, most people left.  They wanted to beat the rain.  Candyasses.

You don’t go to a ballgame to leave before it is over.  If you’re going to do that, stay at home.  No.  I stayed.  The rain came.  For about seven minutes it came down relatively hard.  I got soaked but the game continued.  The sun returned,  and some people had straggled back in.

When the crowd left because of the rain I moved left to Seat 10 … the one that was the closest to the dugout and the field.  I just don’t know a better place to sit than up close.  No matter where you are.  First base line, third base line, behind home plate or on top of the dugout.  The closer you get to the field, the better the game.

You may remember I told you back in April how going to Oriole Park at Camden Yards was so wonderful and how the baseball bug has bitten me.  Seeing the Thunder has gotten me even more excited about going to games.  So much so, that two days after the Trenton game I went to see the Somerset Patriots.

I even took a selfie with Sparkee.

Next up?  I go to see the Thunder again on Tuesday June 26.

The following week or so I will be in Charleston, S.C. where I will see the River Dogs (the Yankees A-Affiliate) play the Columbia Fireflies….as of this writing the left fielder for the Fireflies is Tim Tebow.  Yes.  THAT Tim Tebow.  I got me, Stace and her parents tickets on the left field side, front row.  Hopefully he won’t get called up to AA-ball before the Friday July 7 game.

We also have tickets for the July 12 Atlantic League All Star Game at TD Bank Ball Park – home of the Somerset Patriots.

Man, I do love this game.  Pictures from all three games below.

Game 1:  Trenton Thunder 2  Harrisburg Senators 1

Game 2:  Harrisburg Senators 6 Trenton Thunder 4

Somerset Patriots 2  Sugar Land Skeeters 1

You Told Him I was Gonna throw a Deuce, Right?

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If you are paying any attention to Major League Baseball you know the future of New York Yankees looks more exciting than it has in years. Fortunately, now that Comcast and the YES Network have put their big boy pants on and came to an agreement, I have Yankee baseball in my home once more. Even though it is about damned time, it could not have come at a better time. if it had not, I would be missing out on something special.

The story of the season thus far has centered around right fielder Aaron Judge. I unabashedly join in the chorus of Bomber fans everywhere singing his praises.

image014The man is a powerhouse. He stands 6′ 7″ tall and 282 lbs. To give a better perspective, Yankee Magazine tweeted out this photo of him with our shortstop Ronald Torreyes. Standing slightly smaller than the average American male, Torreyes is 5′ 8″ and 151 pounds.

That is a big boy.

Just last night, in the 25th game of the year he hit home runs 11 and 12 of the season and in the process is becoming the best thing that happened to MLB’s Stratcast since its 2015 inception.

I know. I had no idea either. But since it keeps coming up when people talk about him, I felt it was time to learn. Now it’s your turn.

Statcast is a high-speed, high-accuracy, automated tool developed to analyze player movements and athletic abilities.

With respect to hitting, it measures exit velocity, launch angle, vector, hang time, hit distance and projected HR distance. The latter by calculating the distance of projected landing point at ground level on over-the-fence home runs.

One month into the season Judge is at the top of the list. last week he hit a shot that got out of there in a hurry, exiting at 119.4 MPH. In doing so, he sent Mr. Rawlings 435 feet. No one this season has hit one harder.

Further? Yes.  Harder? No.

When reviewing Stratcast’s Top 50 hardest hit balls of the season, Judge is responsible for nine of them. NINE! Let’s do quick math: 30 teams. 25-man rosters. In the NL, pitchers can hit. This makes a total of 375 potential NL batters and 240 American League batters who are on active rosters.

Of these 615 men, one is responsible for nine of the top 50 (18%) hardest hit basballs in April.  It is the rookie right fielder for the NY Yankees.  Three of those nine were home runs that went 435, 448 and 457 feet.

I have been hearing a lot of comparisons to Derek Jeter lately. That initially gave me pause until I learned these comparisons are with respect to Judge’s mannerisms on and off the field. Polite. Respectful. Professional. Pausing and thinking before he speaks. He does not shoot from the hip. For a young athlete in NYC, that is impressive.

“He’s a little bit like Derek to me,” Yankee Manager Joe Girardi said on Monday. “He’s got a smile all the time. He loves to play the game. You always think that he’s going to do the right thing on the field and off the field when you look at him. He’s got a presence about him. He plays the game to win all the time, and that’s the most important thing. It’s not about what you did that day.

Even Jeter himself is becoming a fan.

“The good thing about him is you can tell from his demeanor and his attitude that he wants to improve,” said Jeter on a video posted on yankees.com “He wants to be better and he handles himself the right way, not only on the field but off the field. So I’m a fan of his.”

Judge’s reaction? He is staying silent.  I think Jeter would have done that, too.

In my limited experience in watching him, Judge comes to play everyday. He comes to win, everyday. That’s also what Jeter did. That’s what all the great Yankees have done in the past and do today.

With a bit of luck, Judge will be one of them. The coming years will tell us yes or no.

But for now, all rise for Aaron Judge!

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NOTE:  Judge named American League Rookie of the Month

This is For the Birds…

For those who prefer to listen, than read, I offer this:

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As a Catholic, it is a big no-no to have any other Gods before me. I get that and I should be clear that I don’t have any. I don’t have any before me, behind me, beside me or any others. So I would then respectfully request you not misinterpret what I am about to write as taking the Lord, His name or His church in vain.

Hell, I love me some Jesus just as much as the next Christian does. I pray and I talk to Him every day. Am I a good Catholic? Mmm. No. No. But, my faith is important to me and it is a big part of my life.

That being said, you can believe me when I tell you there are few places on earth where my spirit will rise to the heavens like it does when I am inside a cathedral that houses the church of baseball.

Someone, I don’t know who, once said “90 feet between bases is the closest man has come to perfection.”

They’re right.

Last Saturday, a church opened its doors to me; a cathedral I’ve longed to visit. Clad in vestments of orange and black, their opponents in gray and navy, there was a  congregation of 38,000 strong readying themselves for a religious experience. I grant you there may not have been any laying of the hands, or kumbaya’s, but there was a warm sun and no there was no threat of rain.

The service begins as it usually does, with a hymn and a prayer. In our case the hymn was the Star Spangled Banner, the benediction was a cry from the pulpit behind home plate, letting the the boys know it was time to “Play Ball.”

For communion I had a soft pretzel, a hot dog, a bag of peanuts, four pints of Miller Lite … don’t judge me, I was at a game. And all of this was complimented by the Baltimore faithful singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

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Me and Stacy

 

Three-plus hours later, and in spite of a 5-4 loss, my heart was singing Hallelujah and Praised be to Jesus … and at the risk of full-blown blasphemy, Praise be to Cal Ripken, Jr. and the house he built too.

For the first time since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened 25 years ago, I stepped through its gates. Immediately I was impressed. Inside the stadium and out, its cleanliness was eye opening. The concession staff greeted patrons with smiles, even late in the game when they were tired. Lest I forget the kindness of Baltimore baseball fans. Holy cow.  One thing was for sure, I was not in the South Bronx.

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I mean, come on. Look at that face? How can you not love it?

As a kid, as I am now, I was and am a Yankee fan.  But the Orioles have always my “second team.”  Quietly, my second team.  To explain this would deserve its own blog post at some point.  Just not here and now.  Nevertheless, it began when I was a kid.  It may have been the colors, or it may have been their logo.  I will tell you, to this day, The Oriole Bird is my all-time favorite logo in sports.

But win or lose, on this day it didn’t matter. It was spending an afternoon in the sun at Camden Yards, right next to my girl, and a handful of her friends from college, all making for a great day at the ballpark; a great day of baseball.

After I wrote that last line it reminded me of something a friend of mine once told me close to 30 years ago.

Every day is a great day for baseball, Patrick. It’s just some are better than others.

Amen, brother. Amen.

 

CORRECTION:  In the audio I mistakenly said 23 years ago … it is 25 years ago.