Spring Training Trip 2010

This week I made my first pilgrimage to the festival known as Spring Training.  There is no better excuse to get out of town, find some sun and get a taste of things to come.

I had my first ballpark hotdog of the season within minutes of arriving at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida.  It was a little taste of heaven.  Grilled.  Spicy mustard and sweet relish.  Yuuuum!  
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Roger Dean Stadium is a nice place to see a ball game.  It is the size of a minor league park, so all the 6000+ seats are close to the field.  The atmosphere is more relaxed and loose than during regular season games.  Players take more time to sign autographs and interact with the fans.  If you want autographs, spring training is the place to be.
Here is a picture of the Cardinals’ clubhouse:
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The flag in the picture reminds me of a particular gripe I have concerning the Star-Spangled Banner.  There are many rules dictating how we should fly Old Glory.  There should be rules about how the National Anthem is sung.  
First, it should not be drug out like a funeral dirge.  I do not care how lovely your voice is, nobody wants to hear you hold notes for excessively long times because you want your five minutes in the spotlight instead of three.
Second, nor should it be sung like a ditty in a lounge act.  Keep it sharp.  Keep it tight.  If you do that, then you can have your big moment of embellishment at the end.
Third, we all stand for the anthem because it is the rule.  A proper anthem, sung with heart and gusto, should make people jump to their feet and be ready to go and fight!  They should want to cheer with patriotism at the end, and not simply because we are glad it is over.  
I would rather hear someone sing it badly with heart, than a beautiful voice that misses the point.
But, I digress…
You can read the stats, scores and analysis elsewhere.  I will give you what we all really want: pictures!
I suppose we should start with this guy:
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Sure hope he makes the club!
Here is Ryan Ludwick at the plate.  With all the talk about Pujols and Holliday, Ludwick gets left out of the conversation a bit.  He is a Silver Slugger, and I expect in this lineup, he will get some pitches to hit.
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One of the things I was most looking forward to was watching my favorite catcher, Yadier Molina, play.  At his first at bat, he did not disappoint, sending a ball into the left-field corner and sliding into second, safe with a double.
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Sadly, that slide did him in for the time being.  Here he is at second after the slide.  I have looked at this picture trying to decide if I can see the pain. His stance seems uncomfortable.
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Molina left the game after running to third and pulling up when Oquendo was waving him home.  Strained oblique.  I got to see him play less than two innings.  Bummer. The next time I saw him was a couple days later in the dugout, next to Oquendo:
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Due to a bruised knee, I did not see much of Colby Rasmus either.  I will be interesting to see what he does in 2010 with a year of major league experience under his belt.
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Felipe Lopez is back with the club.  I hope he does as much damage for the Cardinals as he did against the Cardinals last year.  Lopez was my only “away from the park sighting” of a player.  I saw him with his family at the pool.  No, I did not talk to him.  I am shy and did not want to intrude.  Here he is at the plate, wearing number 8.  I still think of that number as Troy Glaus.
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Speaking of Glaus, last year due to his injury, the Cardinals had an opening at third base.  This year, they do, too.  David Freese won the job last year, then lost it due to injury.  He seems on track to win the job again this year.
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The contest for the last couple of roster spots is a tight one.  Joe Mather seems to be a strong candidate, particularly since Rasmus is hurt and Mather can play center.  Mather had a 2009 season plagued with injury and illness.  
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The other two strong candidates are in the picture below:  Nick Stavinoha and Allen Craig.  Stavinoha has the advantage of some major league experience, but Allen Craig has put together two strong spring trainings in a row, as well as a great Triple-A season in 2009.  Cr
aig first caught my eye playing for AA Springfield two years ago.  I liked him immediately, and I am pulling for him to make the club.
StavinohaCraigST.JPG
What a difference a year makes.  Last year, Brendan Ryan was just trying to make the club.  This year he is the everyday shortstop.  He played acrobatic defense last year and hit around .300.  I love it that he is still wearing the socks!
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Much to my pleasure, there is another Cardinal wearing the socks this year.  Our newest starting pitcher, Brad Penny.  Brad Penny had an excellent outing on Saturday.  Our rotation is really looking tough this year.
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Here is another shot of Penny before the game with backup catcher, Jason LaRue.  I was happy to see LaRue re-signed this year.  It is so nice to have a backup of that quality.

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Hmmm…who else did I see?  Oh yeah, this guy.  Chris Carpenter was in excellent form on the day I saw him pitch.  He ready to go.  Opening day, maybe?  Last year, I got so sick of the term “a healthy Chris Carpenter”.  This year, it has been nice to think of him as a lock, rather than a question mark.
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On the day Carpenter pitched, I sat next to a couple friendly old fellows.  They were testing me.  Asking me questions.  Some I knew.  Some I tanked, but that was okay because then I got to learn something. Here are the two I got right:
The game was low scoring, so one of the guys says, “Only a few runs and hits.  Pretty boring game, huh?”  
I said, “No.  This is great.  I love pitching.”  
I could hear the approval in his voice when he said, “Good for you.”
The other guy asked me a question that I am sure he did not think I would know the answer to.
He says, “Do you know the first two words to ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’?”
I immediately guessed the trick.  “You mean the first two words to the verse, right?” I said and began to rack my brain.  I had looked this up once.  I knew I knew it.  Finally, the words flowed.
“Katie Casey was baseball mad.  She had the fever and had it bad.”
I got it!  I liked the verses to the song because they are girl that wants nothing more than to be at the ballpark.  I was pretty sure it was written about me in a former life.
But…back to the players.
In the way of former Cardinal sightings, I offer you Brian Barden.  Brian tagged teamed with Joe Thurston at third last year before a little guy named Mark DeRosa came along.  Why did we not re-sign DeRosa?
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And, I enjoyed watching this exchange between the NL MVP and the guy that would likely be the NL MVP, if Pujols went to the AL.  Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez have a friendly chat behind second base before the game:
PujolsRamirez.JPG
Under the category of “players that I remember making a splash at the World Baseball Classic”, I offer you, Frank Catalanotto.  He played very well for the Italians.  I particularly remember his defense.  Although, he had a double off Carpenter, so maybe it was his bat.  The Mets fans around me said he was competing for the last roster spot.  
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This was a trip I will never forget and intend to repeat!  I was so happy be at the ballpark again.  To see the green grass.   To be in the sun.  And, to be hot.  I was actually hot for the first time since September.  
If you go, I recommend eating at The Food Shack and The Lazy Logger Cafe.  Both were excellent.  I also recommend taking the tour of the Jupiter Lighthouse.  105 steps up, but worth the view.  
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But, possibly my favorite sight of all was my toes buried in the sand:
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Dead Arm Syndrome

Dead Arm Syndrome.  The bane of the pitcher.  Particularly, the rookie pitcher, who is not used to a 162 game schedule.  Inexplicably, the arm feels dead.  Fastballs are not so fast.  Curve balls do not curve.  Sliders do not slide.
It strikes in the heat of the summer.  In July and August, the dead arm reports begin surfacing.  Rest is the most effective cure.
Last July, Redbird Chatter developed Dead Arm Syndrome.  I could not type.  I could not write.  I could not crop pictures.  I could not blog.  My arm was dead.
I wondered why.  Did I blog too hard in the off-season?  Was I a rookie that was unprepared for the toll a long season could take?   Was I blogging inefficiently, using too many pitches, I mean, words?  No matter how badly I wanted to chat about the Cardinals acquiring Matt Holliday for my birthday or my trips to Springfield, Houston and St. Louis, I just could not get the ball over the plate.
So, I went on the DL.  I rested throughout the winter.  I did not so much as Tweet.  Suddenly, my arm has feeling again, and the tingle of new ideas.  Spring Training is getting underway, and I am ready to throw off the mound.  
Last summer, my goal was to see as much baseball as possible.  Between college, AA, AAA and MLB, I saw approximately 35 games, and traveled thousands of miles to do so.  It was a blast.  I am not sure what this summer’s agenda will be, but if the Cardinals come through, I will still be writing in October.

Springfield Rolls; St. Louis Rocks a Trade

While the
St. Louis Cardinals and the Memphis Redbirds have their struggles, the
Springfield Cardinals are rolling.  On
Friday, they clinched a playoff appearance with a 10-2 win over the Tulsa
Drillers. On Saturday, I traveled to
Tulsa to check out this hot Springfield team

 

 

“Well,
there’s something you don’t see every day” -Dr. Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters)

 

 

As I
approached the park, I saw something strange in the neighborhood:

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I’m still
not sure what the Ghostbusters car was all about.  It drove around the field playing the
Ghostbusters theme song.  It stopped
behind homeplate and guys got out armed with proton packs.  I was really hoping for a Stay Puft
Marshmallow Man sighting.  But, there
were no ghosts to bust and no one got slimed. 

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On a Roll…

 

The
Springfield Cardinals picked up where they left off the night before, although
the Tulsa Drillers were given hope when their starter Keith Weiser struck out
Cardinals lead-off hitter, Antonio DeJesus.

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Shortstop,
Peter Kozma, came to the plate.  Kozma’s
hometown is a few miles north of
Tulsa, so the local boy always gets a
few cheers.  Kozma singled.

 

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The
Drillers were worried about Kozma, a base-stealing threat.

 

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As well they
should be.  Kozma swiped second.

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Kozma’s
fellow infielder, second baseman Daniel Descalso, who is hitting .329 and
slugging .532, knocked a double to score Kozma. 
He did it so quickly that I did not get a picture until he was on second
base.

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Steven
Hill, who is listed as a catcher but was playing left field, flew out to right.  Tony Cruz, who is listed as a catcher and was
playing catcher, reached on a error. 
Descalso scored from second as the Drillers first baseman chased down
the missed catch.

 IMG_4365.JPG

 

 

A fan
behind me made the comment that “an error is like a can opener”.  It is probably a common expression, but I had
never heard it.  In this case, it turned
out to be true.

 

 

Centerfielder,
James Rapoport, singled quickly (i.e. no pic). 
That brought to the plate, big first baseman, Matt Arburr.  How big you ask?  6′ 4″, 260 pounds.  Mike Hamilton was called up to
AAA Memphis, so Arburr is getting his
chance.  He did not miss this one:  2 RBI Double. 
In the seventh, he would also have a solo home run.

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Third
baseman, Mike Folli, ended the inning with a fly-out to right.

 

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But, the
damage was done.  Cardinals lead
4-0.  They had another four run inning in
the third, but Kozma’s first run would be all the Cardinals would need, as
starting pitcher, Ryan Kulik, pitched a beaut. 
Eight shut-out innings, five hits, one K, no walks.  Twelve groundouts.  Eleven flyouts.

 

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Tyler
Norrick came in to pitch the ninth.  The
Missouri native was un-hittable, but not
necessarily in a good way.  He walked the
bases loaded
AND struck out the side.

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Cardinals
win 9-0.


 

In most
minor league parks, you will find a between innings food race.  You might think if you have seen one, you
have seen them all.  I must give a tip of
the hat to the folks at
Drillers Park that flirt with heatstroke to
dress up as QuickTrip food items. 

 

Hot dog,
Taquito and Egg Roll are very creative in mixing up the race and coming up with
gimmicks to make it interesting.  In the
latest installment, Egg Roll came from behind with a snow shovel, knocked Hot
Dog down with a sharp blow to the back. 
As Taquito attended to his fallen food item friend, Egg Roll crossed the
finish line.

 

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Everything is Coming up
De-Rosas

 

Yep, that
pun was a stretch.  As I drove home from
Tulsa, I tuned into MLB Homeplate on XM Radio.  When they said they had a breaking story on a
Cardinals trade, I held my breath. 
Trades make me very nervous. 
Perhaps, I get too attached to Cardinal players.  I usually hate to see them go. 

 

Then, all
the trade rumors had been about a rental deal for Matt Holliday.  In all the scenarios I heard, the price
seemed too high.  I did not make sense to
me to trade the second best power threat (Ludwick), plus a pitcher, plus a
prospect just to have Holliday for a few months.

 

So, with
breath held, I listened to the news: 
Mark Derosa for Chris Perez and a “player to be named later”.  I exhaled in relief.  I can live with that.  In fact, I am excited about it.

 

My mind
went into high gear, considering all the defensive alignment options.  That was followed by all the offensive
line-up options.  The possibilities are
endless. 

 

Mark
DeRosa is such a good fit.  I have
secretly always liked this player, even when he was a cub.  Not that I liked playing against him, but
next to catching, utility players are my favorite.  DeRosa can play anywhere, and by all accounts
he is a class act, a great guy to have in your clubhouse.

 

 

And,
doesn’t it feel like we stole him from the cubs?  That may be the thing that puts a rather evil
smile on the face of Cardinal Nation. 
The cubs traded him to the
AL, so DeRosa could not hurt them.  They signed our utility player, Aaron Miles, out
from under our nose.  Ironically, Miles has
not played nearly as well as a cub.  That
made payroll room for the cubs to sign Milton Bradley, who has been nothing but
a blight.  Now, DeRosa is back in the NL
Central, in the clubhouse of a division rival and posed to do damage to his
former team.  Score a coup for the
Cardinals.

 

All that
said, I will miss the flame-throwing, Chris Perez.  And, he may come back to haunt us, as traded
players often do.  I wish Perez all the
best.  I hope he has a great career, and
stays in the American League.  Here is
Perez warming up in
San Francisco:

 

 IMG_3091.JPG

 

 

And,
there is a list of potential “players to be named later”.  I do not know who is on this list, and that
makes me nervous.  But, for today, I look
forward to seeing DeRosa wearing the ‘Birds on the Bat’.  He is the type of player that was born for
it.

A Hot, Hot Time in Kansas City

Goin’ to Kansas City. 
Kansas City, here I come.

They’ve got some crazy little
women there,

And you know I’m gonna go be one.

 

Off to See Some Inter-league Play

On my drive to Kansas
City, I listened to MLB Homeplate on XM Radio.  There were endless debates over inter-league play.  It’s bad.  It’s good.  Love it.  Hate it.  Love it, but let’s tweak it. Always use the DH.  Never use the DH.  Switch the use of the DH to the NL parks.  Make the inter-league records determine the home field advantage for the World Series. And, on and on and on.

I could not care less about all of that.  I am a fan of inter-league play for one reason and one
reason alone:  The Cardinals play in Kansas City.  Short of an inter-league game that would take them to Arlington, it is as close as the Cardinals ever get to me. Still, it’s a six-hour drive.

I lived in Kansas
City for a number of years and have friends and family
to visit, which makes the I-70 series weekend very special for me.  I got to meet my brand week week-old nephew.  I love hanging out with my fam.

The home of the Kansas City Royals, Kauffman Stadium or
“The K”, is a special place for me.  I saw my first major league game there.  I was probably nine or ten.  I did not really know baseball back then.  I do not remember who we played.  I do not remember who won.  I did know who George Brett was, and I knew when I walked into The K, that it was the biggest place I had ever been, and I liked being there.

I went with my sister her fiancé and some of his
family.  We sat near right field.  We played a game where each person drew an outfield position.  Each time the Royal playing your position caught a fly ball, everybody else paid you a dollar.  I had right-field and the other team must have been stacked with lefties because I made a killing.

It was poetic and special that I would be back at The K
with my sister on Friday.  She does not understand my attraction to this game, but she is one person in my life that does not look at me like I am crazy when I take off cross-country to go see a game.  And, I love that about her. 

 

Welcome to the New K

 

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The outside will always look a bit like a place the Jetsons’
would have gone to watch a game.  It is a throwback to the early 70s when we were in love with astronauts, men walked on the moon and I drank Tang for breakfast.

 

TheK.JPG

The field area at The K has always been spectacularly
beautiful, with the signature outfield fountains.  It was a gem in it’s day.  However, as new parks are built, the old girl had been left in the dust.  Little luster remained on the hunk of forty year old concrete.

 

No longer.  Major
renovations were completed over the winter, and the old girl has a whole new look.  The fan experience in this park is excellent.

 

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The scoreboard seemed more fabulous that ever.

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Before the renovations, there were no seats between the
foul poles.  Unless a home run ball took some sort of funny hop, it could not be caught here.  Now the outfield is full of seats and activity.

 

Although there were plenty o’ Cardinals fans in the seats,
I do believe I saw much more Royals blue than last year during the I-70 series.  Good for you, Kansas City!  However, the fans in blue (except for the ones in powder blue retro
Cardinals jerseys) would not have much to cheer about.

 

 

Game 1 Davies vs. Thompson

 

The Cardinals came out hitting the Royals well.  Single, single, two-run single. But, in the
third, they broke out the cannons.

In the first, the Royals pitched to Pujols and were
punished with a 2-RBI single.  This time they walked him.  Enter the slumping Ryan Ludwick.  Although the words “grand slam” were bouncing around in the back of my head, I quieted them and thought how nice it would be if Ludwick just got a nice simple base hit.  And, he did 393 ft. into the brand new outfield seats.

 

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The Cardinals weren’t finished handing out souvenirs to
that section.  Rick Ankiel and Khalil Greeene went back to back with solo shots.  All sluggers have had their issues at the plate lately.  Nothing like a little long ball to get them going.


I like the move of Khalil Greene to third base.  After seeing the athleticism that Brendan
Ryan and Tyler Greene can bring to the shortstop position, I think one of them should be playing that position.  On a team with the pitching philosophy of “pitch to contact and let your defense do the work”, they need to play their best defenders.

Also, because of the philosophy, that puts extraordinary
pressure on the middle infielders to be practically perfect in every way.  Perhaps, that is part of the pressure that was getting to Khalil Greene.  Perhaps, he can relax a bit at third.  It seemed to work in his rehab starts in Memphis.  And, it seems to be working now. 

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I did not want to say this out loud too soon for fear of
jinxing it, but I think it is safe to say that Skip Schumaker has turned into a very fine second baseman.  With Schumaker’s athletic ability and intense work ethic, I really believed the transition would work.  I just did not know it would work so well.  He looks
like he was born to it.

 

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Davies was pulled in the third and Thompson pitched a
gem.  Cardinals win!

 

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Game 2 Bannister vs. Carpenter

With a rain delay of
about an hour and a half, it looked like it might be a long day at the ballpark.  However, Bannister and Carpenter were like to pilots grooving in the jet stream trying to make up time on a cross-country flight.  Length of game:  2:37.


Many might argue that Albert Pujols is the most intimidating
Cardinal.  If I were a National League pitcher, I might agree.  But, the Cardinal I find most intimidating is Chris Carpenter.  

CarpenterStandingKC.JPG

He is big.  He is tall.  His voice
is deep.  He has amazing stuff, and he is all business, all the time. You often see Pujols smile or share a laugh.  Not Carpenter.  I am sure he has a light-hearted side, silly, fun-loving side.  I have just never seen it, and that’s fine by me.  If he scares the bejesus out of me
just sitting in the bleachers, I can only imagine the fear he inspires in those
who must stand in the batter’s box.

 

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This was really the best game of the series.  Although the Cardinals let the whole game, it
was close until the ninth.  The Royals threatened to get the bats going in the 8th.  Carpenter was pulled after a 2-out double.  The third out was four batters, one walk, one error, one run and two pitchers away. 

 

In the ninth, a string of base hits by Ludwick, Duncan,
and Molina, was topped off by a Khalil Greene home run. The four run inning turned the formerly 3-1 game into a rout. 

 

Game 3 Meche vs. Wainwright

 

I enjoyed the game with family on Friday.  Saturday was spent swapping baseball stories with friends.  Both were great, but Sunday was for me.  I walked up to the ticket booth and purchased
one of the last seats in outfield section 105.  I wanted sit in one of the new seats. I wanted to sit where the home run balls landed.

 

The 1:00 pm start on the first day of summer was as hot as
they come.  Despite application of sunscreen, I would leave with a souvenir sunburn.  But, the weather was no hotter than Albert Pujols’ bat.

 

I have run out of words to describe El Hombre.  Special. 
Amazing.  The best player in baseball.  The words fall short.  While he is capable of anything, he still
finds a way to exceed our expectations.

 

When Albert Pujols came to the plate in the 4th
with bases loaded, I tucked away my pencil and scorecard.  I was ready to catch the ball.  The grand slam ball.  I thought, “Albert, hit it to me.”

 

But, he missed.  The
grand slam ball landed about 15 feet to my left and 10 feet back.  I expected a home run, but I did not expect the 423 feet monster shot.  He’s such an over-achiever. 

 

The game had been close, but the grand slam put the
Cardinals out of reach.  In a continuation of that inning, the Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate and
scored 8 runs.  I began to feel sorry for the Royals.  Especially, the catcher,
Olivo.  I was drenched in sweat just sitting there.  I could not imagine
working in the heat while wearing catcher’s gear.

 

In other news, Khalil Greene hit his third home run in
three days.  He was rewarded by a plunking.  Maybe, intentional.  Maybe not.  Either way, the Royals paid.  The pinch runner, Thurston, was the first to score on the grand slam.

 

 

Random Images from the I-70 Series


Colby Rasmus at the plate.  How much to we love our little Rookie of the Year Candidate?

ColbyRasmusKCPlate.JPG

 

 On Friday, the Royals catcher, Olivo, hit a long fly ball to deep left field.  I quickly tried to get a picture of Ankiel making a spectacular catch.  Instead, I got a blurred image of his attempt and the very sad shot below of him looking at where the ball landed inside the Cardinals bullpen:

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Did I mention the scoreboard is fabulous?  Especially, when it lists Ludwick’s grand slam:
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A night time view of the renovations in the outfield…
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Here are some shots of the Cardinals outfielders warming up:
Rick Ankiel:
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Colby Rasmus who seems to have staked a claim in centerfield:
RasmusWarmup.JPG
And, Ryan Ludwick.  Sometimes, I find surprises in pictures.  In this one, Ludwick is throwing the ball into the ball boy, and low and behold, I caught the ball!  In the frame that is.
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Here is some action with Colby Rasmus at the plate:
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Oquendo coaches Brendan Ryan at second:
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Ryan makes it to third on an E-2:
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The “Greenes”, Tyler and Khalil, have a chat during a pitching change:
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Then, it’s back to work guarding the left side of the infield:
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Some call the following picture, the prettiest play in baseball:  bases loaded, 2 outs, full count, the runners going:
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However, I am a little partial to the following picture.  It starts with  bases loaded, 1 out, full count and….
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…ends with Albert Pujols scoring on the grand slam:
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On Sunday, I joked about heading to the ballpark with my broom in the trunk, ready for the sweep.  I was appalled that a couple of Cardinals fans actually brought brooms.  That might be a cool thing to do in your home park, but it was completely rude to do it in someone else’s park.  So, here he is. A representative of the so-called “smartest baseball fans”…acting like an idiot.  Come on, Cardinals fans!  Keep it classy.
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Here is Tony LaRussa before his 2500th managerial win:
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Nice to see Kyle Lohse with a bat in his hand to take a little BP.  Hopefully, he will be back in the rotation soon:
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Under the category of things you do not see every day:  Yadier Molina playing first base in the late innings:
On Sunday, my seats were right behind the Cardinals bullpen.  Here are several images from the ‘pen:
Wainwright warming up:
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And, Molina catching him:
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Warmup complete.  The battery heads to the dugout:
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Here are most of the relievers walking out to the bullpen before the game.  Note that rookie Blake Hawksworth is wearing the rookie “hazing” pink backpack:
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I never understood why, but during each game, Ryan Franklin and Dennys Reyes would not go to the bullpen until the 3rd or 4th inning.  Anyone know why?  I thought maybe they were watching the Royals hitters on TV, one time through the lineup, but that is totally a guess.
FranklinReyesJPG
As Waino wears down in the heat, LaRue rushes to the bullpen to ready the relievers.
LaRuetothepen.JPG
Dennys Reyes warms up:
ReyesWarmsUp.JPG
And later, Jason Motte.  I love watching Motte throw.  He gets down to business and works fast.  
MotteWarmsup.JPG
…and you cannot believe how loud LaRue’s glove pops when he catches Motte’s heater.
LaRueWarmingUpRelivers.JPG
The rookie, Blake Hawksworth, pitched the ninth.  Here are two picks of him:
HawkWarms.JPG
HawkRunsin.JPG
Hawk got the ninth.  Franklin got the day off.  Here is a nice shot of the shrubbery that grows from his chinny-chin-chin:
Franklinchinhair.JPG
With Hawksworth leaving the bullpen via the mound, that made Chris Perez low man on the totem pole.  After the game, he got pink backpack duty:
PerezPinkBackpack.JPG

You Never Know Who You Might See at the Ballpark

On
Tuesday, I went to a Oklahoma City Redhawks games with some girlfriends.  It was a very “chilled out” game by my usually
standard of insanity.  I did not go early
for batting practice.  I did not even
make it to my seat before first pitch.  I
did not keep a score sheet.  Sometimes,
it nice to be normal.

 

I also
did not take the time to shoot some photos of the “Dodgers” theme throughout
the stadium.  I did eat a tasty Dodger
Dog.  A Dodger Dog is long and skinny,
much like the people you see in
L.A. 
I also had garlic fries that were just as good as the ones I had in
San Francisco.


However, I did listen to the Cardinals game on my iPhone and enjoyed the play-by-play of the Cardinals disassembling the Tigers’ ace, Verlander.  Nice to see the offense come around.

 

 

Under the
category of “Where are they now?”, I saw three people you might have wondered
about.  It is just amazing who you might
cross paths with on a weeknight in the southern
Midwest. 

 

So
Taguchi

 

I wrote a
blog this Spring about how So Taguchi might possibly be the ultimate good luck
charm, and I was concerned because he was a non-roster invitee to the
Chicago cubs camp.  I knew that he did not make the 25-man
roster, but I did not know what became of him. 

 

I scanned
a borrowed roster for the Iowa Cubs and was tickled to find So Taguchi’s
name.  Actually, I was down right
excited.  I mean, it is not like you see
a former Cardinal with two World Series rings (one from Philly last year)
playing in
Oklahoma City.

 

I spotted
him in the dugout in his usually bench playing role:

 

SoTaguchi.JPG

 

 

He later
came in to play right field and got one at bat:

 SoTaguchiBat.JPG

I missed
getting a picture of his at bat because he was hit by a pitch almost
immediately.

 

When he
came up to bat, I cheered loud.  I was
the only one in an otherwise quiet stadium, so it seemed really loud to
me.  Yes, I cheered for a cub.  Probably, the first and last time that will
ever happen. 

 

However,
I am nervous that he is a lucky charm, and he could still end up playing for
the cubs.  More about my So Taguchi
superstitions can be found here.

 

Jeff Samardzija

 

Jeff
Samardzija is probably better known for his college years where he was a fine
wide-receiver at Notre Dame.  Samardzija
set single-season school records in both receiving yards and touchdown
receptions.

 

He did
spend a little time up with cubs last year, but did not make the team out of
Spring Training.  He has been pitching
with the
AAA Iowa Cubs this year.  He has a
3-3 record with a 4.27 ERA.

 

Samardziji
got the start (and the loss) on Monday night. 
So, on Tuesday he was in the stands with a radar gun logging pitches for
the Tuesday pitchers.

 

IMG_3777.JPG

 

 

El
Duque

 

Orlando
Hernandez, the pitcher born in
Cuba in either 1965 or 1969, recently
signed a minor league contract with the Rangers.  I spotted El Duque in the dugout:


IMG_3770.JPG

Hitting the Minor (League) Notes

If you are a Cardinal Fan living in Oklahoma,
the past couple weeks have been good.  Not
just because the St. Louis Cardinals are climbing out of their offensive
funk.  Not just because
after sweeping us, the tornado that is the Rockies these days, continued raping
and pillaging the NL Central by sweeping the Brewers as well, keeping the
Cardinals within easy striking distance of the leader spot.  But, mostly because both the Memphis
Redbirds and the Springfield Cardinals made road trips to Oklahoma.  Nice of them to come to me.

 

Well, nearly to me.  Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa are at least two hours from my
house. There have been some late nights, followed by going to work early
the next day, so I could leave early to go back to the ballpark.  However, it is not like my favorite
minor league clubs play here everyday, so when they are here, I gotta go! 

 

I always say, “Sleep is what you do when there is nothing better
to do”.  However, there is a
little story that goes along with that:  At
some point, there is nothing better to do than sleep. Friday, I hit that
wall.  Slept 13 hours.  And, now I am ready to go again!

 

Memphis Redbirds

 

The Memphis Redbirds came to Oklahoma City for a four game series against the
Redhawks. This is the last time the Redbirds will be in my state this
year.  If I want to see them
again, I will have to go track them down in Memphis or maybe Round Rock or both. 

 

As I watched the games, I listened to the St. Louis Cardinals
games.  It was easy to get
the games confused in my head because the St. Louis Cardinals seemed to be
having the same problems with the Reds and the Rockies as the Redbirds were having with the
Redhawks.

 

In the first game, the Memphis Redbirds did show the offensive
fire power that they are so capable of, but has often eluded them this
year.  Joe Mather had a fantastic night with two
sacrifice flies, two doubles, one single, two runs and two RBIs.  Mather looks a 100% better than he did
in April.  In April, he
still looked thin and weak, like he had never completely recovered from the
Spring Training bout of flu that had derailed his strong start. 

 

JoeMather.JPG

Infielder, Jarrett
Hoffpauir
, had a Gold Glove night at second base, while going 2-3 with a
walk and an RBI.  Two
fielding plays earned a star on my scoresheet:  1) a leaping catch of a line drive and
2) the pick of a grounder far to his right then the throw fired to first in
time to catch the runner.

 

Hoffpauirat2.JPG

After the first game, the offense would slow to a trickle.  Game two had twelve hits, but only
four runs.  Game three would
have nine hits but no runs.  Game
four would feature only six hits and no runs.

 

In game two and three of the series, it was easy to look at the
score sheet and see that they game was really much closer than the score
indicated.  However, game
four was plain ugly with the Redhawks flamethrower, Naftali Feliz on the mound.

 

And, the lack of offense was complicated by the fact that the
Redbirds’ pitching was not particularly sharp.  All the while, pretty much the same
thing was going on up in St. Louis.

 

There were two call-ups:  Jess
Todd
 and Tyler Greene.

 

With Tyler Greene on third, Joe Mather hits a fly ball…

MatherKnocksinGreene.JPG

…which scores Greene

GreeneScores.JPG


With Tyler Greene gone, Hoffpauir moved to shortstop and
to the delight of the hometown crowd, Oklahoman, Casey Rowlett, got a start at
second base.

 

Jon Jay is an outfielder to
keep an eye on. He plays hard as evidenced by the large tear in his pants:

JonJayTear.JPG

 

I will probably watching him a little more closely for one simple
fact:  I have his bat.  It’s cracked. 
It’s signed.  It’s mine.  It has found a home in my office where it
serves as a memento, conversation piece and potential weapon.  It may be cracked, but I bet it has one good skull
cracker left in it.

 

I have no game, so you can be assured that it is in my possession
through no effort of my own, but through the kindness of fellow baseball fans.  There is a family, who sits near me at Redhawks
games.  The son is adept at snagging
broken bats out of the dugout and getting them signed.

 

They know I am a huge Cardinals fan.  During the series, they acquired bats from
Shane Robinson, Jarrett Hoffpauir and Jon Jay. 
They came to the game early and got the bat signed for me.  They told Jay who it was for.  He asked if I was there. They said that I
would be there later.  He said he would
wave to me.

 

Which he did.  When he
popped out of the dugout, they yelled at him. 
He looked up at me.

 

I said, “Thank you!”

 

He said, “You’re welcome.”

 

And, off he went to abuse another piece of lumber.  Yep, I am oh-so-eloquent in person.  Still, my gratitude was sincere, as was his smiling
response.  Best of luck to you, Jon Jay!

Here is Jon Jay and the bat before it was cracked:

JonJayPrecrackedbat.JPG

And, no minor league coverage would be complete without a mention of last year’s first round draft pick, Brett Wallace They say he has a plus bat, but you could not prove it by the five games I have seen him play this year (one at AA in Tulsa, four at AAA in OKC).  In five games, I have seen him on base one time.  One single.  Lots of strikeouts.  Lots of groundouts.  No walks.  One lone base hit in five games.


IMG_3295.JPG

 

I know he does hit.  I
know he has hit.  I know he
will hit.  But, for all you
Cardinal fans that have been calling for his call-up, back off.  Brett Wallace is not ready yet.

 

In response to my statement, “You’ve got a lot of talent out
there”, Redbirds Manager, Chris Maloney, said that they have been in a slump
all year.  Yes, much to my
surprise, the Redbirds Manager walked over and chatted with me during batting
practice.  I had a nice
conversation with the Mississippi gentleman about baseball and such.

 

Of course, it proved to me once again that while I might be a writer,
I am so not a journalist. There I was with a great opportunity and no good
questions.  I do not think,
“So, who’s pitching today?” qualifies.  Still,
I thoroughly enjoyed the chat.

 

Later, however, I did think of the question I wish I would have asked.  With the call-ups of Greene and Todd,
who had both been playing well, it occurred to me how difficult it is to
“build” a team in the minors.

 

In the major leagues, a manager typically has his cornerstone
players to build on.  For
example, with the Cardinals, you start with Pujols and Molina, who are rarely
missing from the lineup. You have a couple solid starters who always keep
you in the game, like Carpenter and Wainwright.  Perhaps, you have a “go-to” arm or two
in the bullpen, like Franklin.  Then you fill in and mix and match
from there.

 

Now, you might lose a key player to injury.  If you are not in contention, you
might lose someone to a trade.  However,
you do not lose a player because he is “too good.”

 

Not so, in the minors.  Your
best starter is the “sixth man” in the big club’s rotation.  Your closer is one major league injury
away from being plucked from your bullpen.  And,
whoever is swinging a hot bat, could be on a plane tonight to St.
Louis.  With
an ever changing cast of players, how do you build?  I wondered, if that was the hardest
job of a minor league manager.

 

Or, is it herding ‘birds?  I
imagine keeping young men on task and out of trouble can be a challenge.
Normally, I would say “herding cats”, but a small bird somehow ended up in my
house a few weeks ago, and I tried my best to herd it back outside to the great
outdoors.  So, I can say
from experience that it is nearly impossible to herd a bird. 

 

However, I believe the following look from the Redbirds manager might
actually herd ‘birds.  Here
is the Chris Maloney coaching third base and looking like there might be hell
to pay if more Redbirds do not find their way around the bases.

 

MaloneyMadatThird.JPG




The AT&T Bricktown Ballpark continued its “Taste of the Big
Leagues” promotion finally bringing Busch Stadium to me.  I must admit I was a bit disappointed at
first.  I am not sure what I was
expecting.  A replica of the arch?  Clydesdales?

 

There were only three Cardinals banners:  Enos Slaughter, Lou Brock and Dizzy Dean:

 

DizzyDeanBanner.JPG

The photo op included seats from old Busch stadium.  That was kind of cool.

 

IMG_3381.JPG

Of course, a big Stan Musial banner was a must.

Musial.JPG

 

The Busch Stadium food included toasted ravioli.  Although I promise you what they called “toasted
ravioli” was not toasted ravioli.  If
real toasted ravioli is like a piece of homemade pie, then what they were
selling was a pop-tart.  Tasty, but not
special.  However, the “Bratzel”, a brat
wrapped in pretzel dough, pig-in-a-blanket style, did not disappoint.  It was huge.

 

I slathered the Bratzel in mustard and ate contentedly as the crowning
touch to the Busch theme played over the PA: 
The Budweiser Song.  No, the
Clydesdale’s did not appear.  The crowd
did not stand and clap along.  But, I
could see and hear it all in my head.  It
was beautiful.

 

 

 

Springfield Cardinals

 

The Springfield Cardinals returned to Tulsa this week.  Tulsa is a bit farther and unless I leave
work early, I cannot make first pitch.  However,
on Thursday, I left early to watch a double header.  It was a beautiful night and the
Cardinals won both games with Trey Herne and Brandon Dickson on the
mound. 


Trey Herne:

Herne.JPG

 

 

In the shortened seven-inning games,
the Cardinals won 2-1 and 4-1.  In
addition to the two one run outings by the starters, Tyler Norrick and Francisco
Samuel turned in one hitless inning a piece.  Eduardo Sanchez turned in two.

 Francisco Samuel:

FranciscoSamuel.JPG

 

Starter, Lance Lynn, would not be so fortunate on Saturday.  He gave up three runs in six innings, which
would not be bad except the Cardinals scored zero runs.  

Lance Lynn:

LanceLynn.JPG


Samuel Freeman, joining the club from Palm Beach, threw two
perfect innings with two K’s.  His
call-up was so fresh, that he was not listed on the roster. 

Samuel Freeman:

SamFreeman.JPG


As I searched for his number on the roster, I heard a voice behind
me say, “He’s probably not on there.  He
only joined the team today.”  I turned to
the voice, which belonged to the Cardinals’ bus driver.  This information I obtained from his name tag.

 

 I suppose if I had game, I
would have pumped him for all sorts of AA details, but instead I just lamely asked,
“What’s his name?”, wrote “Sam Freeman” on my scoresheet and turned my
attention back to the game.

 

 

Other player notes.

 

I enjoyed watching second baseman, 
Daniel Descalso.  He has a nice
glove and is batting .328.

 

Descalso.JPG

 

 

Pete Kozma is a local boy and a hometown favorite even among the
Drillers fans.  Kozma made his AA debut
when I lasted saw the Cardinals in early May. 
The shortstop is batting .245 and has accumulated 17 RBI’s in that time.

 

PeteKozma.JPG

 

Outfielder, Daryl Jones is hitting over .300, but never seems to
hit when I am watching.

 

DarylJones.JPG

First baseman, Mark Hamilton, is putting together some good
numbers:  batting .294 and slugging .521.  For that, he gets two pictures:

Hamilton1.JPG

 

Hamilton2.JPG

Fine, you are right.  I really posted two pictures because I actually caught the ball in both.  I have not figured out the trick to making pictorial contact with the ball consistently, but there are a lot of guys who have been trying for a lot longer to figure out how to do the same thing with a bat.


When I last visited the Drillers Stadium, I met a fellow Cardinals
fan and had a nice warm baseball chat on an otherwise damp, chilly night.  Later, Scott took the time to find and
comment on my blog and asked me to let him know if I was coming back when the
Springfield Cardinals came to town.

 

So, during the Drillers/Cardinals games I enjoyed the rare treat
of sharing the games with a fellow Cardinals fan.  Although since he usually is there rooting
for the Drillers, he sometimes gets confused about who he should be cheering for.  I
suppose that is understandable.

 

Although I do not mind watching games all by myself, it is a
delight to watch them with a knowledgeable baseball fan, because they notice
things that you miss.  I enjoyed his
stories, insights and company.

 

As I am going through my billions of pictures, I cannot believe
that I did not take one of Scott, who looked so great in his Eckstein
jersey.  So much better than Eckstein
ever did. 

 

Scott, if you are reading.  Next
time in Tulsa,
you bring Eckstein.  I’ll bring
Molina.  We will get a picture.  And, maybe even catch someone stealing
second.

 

Potpourri for $500, Alex

 

Random notes.

 

I accidentally purchased a MILB.tv subscription for $29.95 or
so.  Now, I can watch the Memphis
Redbirds on my PC.  Yes, I know, I have
an addiction problem.  But, as my mom puts
it, it is a very wholesome addiction.

 

But, I have gotten to see Khalil Greene in his rehab starts.  The good news is that he looks good at the
plate.  However, he did have a
multi-error game at shortstop.  Not
good.  The crowd booed.  It was ugly.

 

After a conversation in St. Louis,
he is back in Memphis
at third base, where he looks very, very good tonight.  I read that he was a third baseman in
college.  Perhaps, playing shortstop is
where the pressure gets to him. 
Especially, on a team where the prevailing pitching philosophy is pitch
to contact and let the defense work. 
Maybe, third base is his comfort zone, his happy place.  It sure seems so, he just knocked in two and
scored the go ahead run from second.

 

The Redbird skipper pulled Shane Robinson in the first inning of
Sunday’s game for not running out a ground ball.  Robinson did not start tonight, but he came into the game later.

 

New call-up, Pete Parise, threw two perfect innings in relief.

 

Jarrett Hoffpauir is on fire!


Redbirds win!

 

Up Next?

 

This weekend I will be in Kansas
City for the I-70 series between the Kansas City
Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals.  I am
excited to see the renovations at the K. 
I am excited to see my Royals.  I
am excited to see my family and friends. 
But, I am most excited to meet my brand new nephew who was born last
week.  Yes, I am an addict, but I still
know what is most important.

In Times Like These…

In times
like these…

….I
remember last year.  There were two teams
that happily chugged along, leading their divisions, leading their
leagues.  They finished over .600 looking
like the best teams in baseball. 
However, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Angels quickly bounced out
of the playoffs with only one win between them.

 

In times
like these…

…I
remember last year.  There were two teams
that won their divisions, but really had to fight for it.  There were streaks and slumps, but in the end
the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies went the distance.

 

In times
like these…

…I
remember 2006.  That year the St. Louis
Cardinals scratched out only 83 wins. 
And, by scratched out, I mean, the difference between the season total
for runs scored and runs allowed was only 19. 
Yet, it was enough to win the N.L. Central and land a playoff
berth.  And, that berth–that chance–was
all they needed to win it all.

 

In times
like these…

…I
remember that a season is 162 games long. We have only played 58.  Barely a third of the way through.

 

In times
like these…

…I
remember that it is the struggle that makes us strong.  That in losing, we learn how to win.  And, that which does not eliminate you from
contention, only makes you stronger. That life is often a process of
elimination.  Sometimes, you have to
figure out what does not work before you can know what does work.

 

In times
like these…

…I
remember that panic accomplishes nothing. 
The team that was hot in April is the same team that is swooning in
June.  There is every reason to believe
that success will be theirs again.

 

In times
like these…

…I
remember that June is a fine time to have a slump.  Even an entire team slump.  September is not.

 

In times
like these…

…I watch.  I wait.  I build character.  I persevere.  I earn the right to call myself a true fan,
rather than the bandwagon fan I started out as.

 

In times
like these…

…when the
St. Louis Cardinals were swept at home by the
Rockies, losing seven of the last ten
games.  …when I watched the Memphis
Redbirds loose three out of four games to the Oklahoma City Redhawks, getting
shutout twice.  …when it seems like the
entire Cardinals organization is in collapse. 
I know that this too shall pass. 

In fact,
the Memphis Redbirds have already turned it around.  They returned home to
Memphis and handily took the first two
games from the New Orleans Zephyrs.   I
know the Cardinals are right behind them.

 

Because
even in times like these…

I know
the Cardinals are talented and determined. 
I know the manager is crafty. 
And, come September, we will still be in the fight.  Go Cardinals!!!!

The Giant San Francisco Blog

Over the
weekend, I made a trip to the west coast to see some Cardinals-Giants
baseball.  Being my first time in San Francisco, my weekend
was packed just trying to get it all in. 
With so much to see and so many pictures to take, that can only lead to
one thing:  A Giant San Francisco Blog.

 

The City by the Bay

I am a
meticulous travel researcher.  Someday,
when I am less constrained by time and money, I might be one of those travelers
that packs a back and just goes where the road takes me.  No real plan. 
No itinerary.  But, until then, I
plan and plot.  I look for deals and know
my options.  I know how to get where I am
going and do not waste time wondering around. 
Unless, of course, wondering around is the plan.

 

Sometimes
in the research, I see things that seem like nice tidbits, but I only learn of
their significance latter when I am actually onsite.  For example, all of the suggested walking
tours in the Fodor’s Guide to San Francisco, made a point to show the reader
where all the coffee shops were along the way. 
This seemed simply to be a nice touch. 
However, I did not understand how important coffee would be to me in San Francisco. 

 

Every San Francisco travel tip
on the planet includes the advice to dress in layers because the temperature
can change quickly.  I took this advice
to heart.  I hate to be cold.  So, layers I packed, and layers I wore.  At Saturday night’s game, I wore two long-sleeved
t-shirts, a #4 Molina jersey, a thick hooded sweatshirt, a Cardinals therma
base jacket, two pairs of gloves and another rain coat that I wrapped around my
legs.  Yet, it was not enough to ward off
the San Francisco
chill.

 

Enter
coffee, my new best friend. There were only three times I was not cold in San Francisco:  the rare moments when the sun was out, when I
was walking (which was often) and when I was drinking coffee. 

 

Forget
the beer and soda at the ballpark.  Give
me a piping hot coffee that I can cradle in my hands and try to wrap my body
around.  The highs were in the 60s and
lows in the 50s, but I will be darned if was not the coldest 50 or 60 degrees I
have ever experienced.  I have spent
warmer days skiing.

 

Still,
the city is fabulous.  The hills.  The cable cars.  The wharf. 
The bay.  The food.  The people-watching is among the best in the
world.  The city is a melting pot of
cultures and lifestyles.  In San Francisco, you can
walk down the street and see every type of person you could imagine.  And, probably a few that a Midwest
girl could not.

Here are
some scenes from San Francisco.

After getting checked in, I enjoyed lunch at Il Caffe at Union Square.  

IlCaffe.jpg

I felt very urban eating my lunch in the sunshine that I would find fleeting throughout the weekend.  

UnionSquareView.jpg

There were modern dancers performing.  

Dancers.jpg

There were pigeons pillaging.  

PigeonsFeast.jpg


There were shopping opportunities…although probably not for me. 

Tiffany.jpg

I would love a little something in the signature blue box, but once again, my disposable income was allocated to baseball.  A girl has to stick to her priorities.

I rode the iconic Cable Cars:

CableCar.jpg

And, took pictures along the way…




StreetLady.jpg

ChinaTown.jpg

IMG_2985.JPG

The Cable Car brought me to Fisherman’s Wharf, where I found sea lions lounging.  They look quiet, but actually sound like a kennel of barking dogs.  Actually, they reminded me of dogs, laying their “puppy piles” and playing with each other.

SeaLions1.jpg

SeaLions2.jpg

The birds seem to do pretty well on San Francisco Bay.  This one looks very fat:

FatBird.jpg

My first foggy glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge:

GoldenGateBird.jpg


My afternoon adventure was sailing on the Alma, a flat-bottomed schooner built in 1891 that has sailed the bay her whole life.

Alma.jpg

Here are the sails I helped hoist (one of the few times I was warm).  They said the boat could be sailed with only a crew of three.  All I can say is the three must be freakishly strong.  

AlmaSails.jpg

Here is a picture taken off the bow of the Alma of a sailboat cruising past Alcatraz:

AlcatrazBoat.jpg

I fully
meant to walk across the Golden
Gate Bridge,
but ran out of time.  The closest I came
was a view from a point near Fisherman’s Wharf. 
I saw a trail heading up a hill. 
It looked like I could get above the wharf buildings for a better view
of the bridge.  When I reached the
overlook, I was not high enough, so I trudged onward and upward.

 

When it
comes to hiking up hills I have learned it is always best to keep going.  No matter how slow the pace must, just keep
putting one foot in front of the other, because if you stop, it is too hard to
start again.  There is probably some life
lesson in that somewhere.

 

My effort
was rewarded by my body finally being warm and the following view:

GoldenGateView.jpg

  

The Ballpark on the Bay

 

Shuttling
into downtown from the airport, I got my first look at AT&T Park. 

ATTPark.jpg



Banners lined the streets promoting this
year’s theme, “Let’s Play”.  They were
fun:

 

PlayLewis.jpg

 Cy Young?  Which one?  

PlayLincecum.jpg

 The banner says Molina.  The motto is very much Sandoval. PlayMolina.jpgPlayRowand.jpg

   And, finally the closer…   

     PlayWilson.jpg 

I was
anxious to get to the ballpark on Friday. 
I wanted to walk around the outside of the park and take pictures.  I was greeted by Willie Mays:

 

Mays.jpg

 

Around
the backside, there are several bronze milestone markers imbedded in the
sidewalk near McCovey’s cove.

 

SchmidtMilestoneMarker.jpg

NenMilestoneMarker.jpg
BondsMilestoneMarker.jpg
BondsMilestoneMarker.jpg

I expect
that soon they will by adding a new one for Randy Johnson’s 300th
career win. 

That
brought me to the Marina Gate: 

 

MarinaGate.jpg

Where you
could enter after arriving in this:

SailingtoATTPark.jpg

And,
parking it here:

 MarinaATTPark.jpg

How cool
would that be?

 

There
were more nods to Giants history.  A
statue of Orlando Cepada and plaques honoring Giants of the past.  AT&T Ballpark does an excellent job of
honoring the team history and making it feel like the Giants have always played
here.

Yes, the Garlic Fries Live Up to the Hype

Besides the coffee necessary to ward off hypothermia, the ballpark has lots of great food.  The first thing I searched for were the garlic fries.  I found them here.

GarlicFries.jpg


The fries were all they were cracked up to be…if you like garlic….a lot.  I do, so I enjoyed.  If do not like garlic, you may not like AT&T Park.  Even if you do not order the garlic fries, the stadium reeks of the smell of garlic.  No vampires here.

 

At the second game, I had a hot dog that was pretty basic, but good.  On Sunday, I treated myself to a Cha-Cha bowl, which includes black beans, rice and jerk chicken topped with pineapple salsa.  It was my favorite!

 

Giant Baseball Fans

I like them.  They were into the game.  Loud, at times.  They were knowledgeable and enjoyed the good close games.   I wore my Cardinals gear.  Took and gave some very good-natured ribbing, but never at any time did I feel uncomfortable. 

 

They told me stories of Candlestick Park and how much colder it was there (I cannot imagine.)  There were stories of Barry Bonds homeruns, taking the ferry to the game and how much they hate the Dodgers. 

 

Of course, I am a respectful fan when I am visitor, and I know that helps.  Once, I did cheer loudly and obnoxiously, punching my fist in a “you’re out” sign, when Yadier Molina caught Fred Lewis stealing 2nd.  He was out by a mile.  I yelled, “That’s my Molina!”  However, the Giants fans were too busy groaning and yelling at Lewis and the umpire to notice.

 

Then, there is always the non-fans at the game.  People that just go because it’s something to do.  Or, someone gave them tickets.  On Saturday, a young couple sat next to me and spent seven innings cuddled-up discussing their relationship. 

 

Seriously?  Two Cy Young pitchers are on the mound and this guy thinks this is a good time to talk about how he does not have a job, but was still looking for work here.  He may have to go back to Michigan, but he really did like her.  Maybe, they could find a way to make it work.  Her body language said that she was all into him as he put his are around her and pulled her to him.  Gag.

 

Or, maybe, it was just cold.  How could you be all into a loser without a job who (even worse) does not get baseball?  What kind of man discusses his feelings during a baseball game?  No real man, that’s for sure.  She could do better.  Anyone could.  Secretly, I think she was hoping that his moving back to Michigan could be her out pitch.  If she knew what an out pitch was, that is.  I  went to make a coffee run and thankfully they were gone when I came back. 


Warming Up

It turns
out on Friday’s they open the park an hour earlier than normal so that fans can
watch Giants batting practice.  This was
my first view of the field.

 FirstViewATTPark.jpg

The
starting pitchers were getting ready to take their BP.  Here is a shot of Lincecum, Zito, Sanchez and
Johnson.  Maybe, San Franciscans are used
to it by now, but how cool is it to be able to take a picture of three Cy Young
winners…all together…in the same uniform? 

 

GiantsPitchers.jpg

Here
Randy Johnson practices laying down a bunt as Tim Lincecum looks on.

 

JohnsonBunts.jpg

 

I
wondered how many times Randy Johnson has practiced bunting in his long
career.  I wondered what Lincecum would
be doing at Johnson’s age. 

 

In
talking with a local the next day, Randy Johnson’s name came up.  The San Franciscan was complaining about the
acquisition.  Things like, “paying him a
lot of money for what?…he’s not what he once was…grumble….grumble.”

 

In
thinking about it later, I wondered who the guy thought they should have in the
rotation instead of Johnson? 
Seriously.  He is not the pitcher
he once was, but he is still better than most. 
In addition, he brings leadership and experience to a very young
talented pitching staff.  And, he sells
tickets.  This may be his last
season.  He is chasing win #300.  People will turn out to see him.  I was disappointed that I would miss
him.  Although, I did not want him to get
#300 against my Cardinals. 

 

After the
pitchers finished batting practice, the Giants did something that you do not
often witness in Major League Baseball, they took infield.

 

Watching
a major league team take infield is like watching a beautifully choreographed
ballet.  The movement.  The symmetry. The rhythm.  The dance. The fun.  

Pablo Sandoval tags out an imaginary runner trying to get back to first base:

Pic.JPG

 

 

Here
Bengie Molina prepares for infield practice. 
He wearing a very serious game face…

 

BMolinaInfield.jpg

 

 

 

…until
Pablo Sandoval comes along.  I love watching
Sandoval.  He plays like a big kid.  Always full of energy and quick with a
smile.  His joy is contagious, as you can
see here as he leans in for a fist bump, before heading to first.

 

BMolinaSandovalInfield.jpg

 

 

The
Giants program contained a great article by Jeff Fletcher on the Venezuelan
native, Sandoval.  He learned to hit with
his brother pitching a tape ball because they could not afford baseballs.  A tape ball breaks crazily, but Sandoval
learned to hit it.  This makes him a
challenge for pitchers now because he seems able to get the barrel of the bat
on most anything thrown somewhere in the vicinity of the plate.

 

In the
article two players were quoted regarding Sandoval:

 

Barry
Zito: “He just goes out there and plays the game like a kid.  He has a good time.”

 

Bengie
Molina:  “If you grew up where he grew
up, that’s pressure.  When you get a bat
in your hand and step up to the plate and try to hit a ball, it’s not as much
pressure as you think.  I think our lives
in general [in Latin America] gave us a lot of
pressure.  This is just a game you try to
play.  That’s how he sees it.  It’s just a game, and he’s having a lot of
fun.”

 

And then,
there was Sandoval on Sandoval:  “I love
this game.  I just go play for fun.  I just go on the field and help my teammates,
give 100 percent for the fans.  We play
for the fans.  I just want to be happy.”

 

Oh, if we
all could approach our jobs with that attitude! 
All this talk about having fun on the field reminds me of a Cardinal for
whom the field has become more of a mine field than a play ground.

 

That
would be the Cardinals’ shortstop, Khalil Greene, who was placed on the DL due
to what they are calling “anxiety”.  Joe Strauss’ May 31st St. Louis Post Dispatch article says the following 

Greene compares the condition to someone with a fear of heights suddenly perched
on a 10th-story ledge.

“You become dizzy or feel ill. But you can pull
yourself off the ledge and come inside,” Greene said. “When I’m in the game I
can’t get off the ledge. The feeling doesn’t go away.”

 

What a
contrast between the two infielders. 
Sandoval, perhaps feeling like a kid skipping school to go play on the
sandlot, while Greene feels like he is standing on the edge of an abyss that
will swallow him if he fails. 

 

I wish
that we could send Greene to hang out with Sandoval for a couple weeks.  Perhaps, Sandoval could pitch him some tape
balls, and Greene could find within himself the pure joy that comes from
playing this game like a big kid.

 

What a Minute, I Thought this was a Cardinals Blog?

And, it is.  Enough on the Giants. 

During
the Giants batting practice, the Cardinals started to appear, then the media:

Former
Cardinals pitcher and Fox Sports commentator, Al Hrabosky (aka The Mad Hungarian chats with Cardinals
hitting coach, Hal McRae.  Hrabosky and
McRae were teammates at Kansas City in 1978-1979. 

Hrbosky.jpg

Then,
good old Mike Shannon.  Former Cardinals
third baseman and radio voice of the Cardinals on KTRS.  It’s always fun to listen to Mike Shannon
call the game.

 

MikeShannon.jpg

Then
there were interviews and such.  So, many
distractions for players.  Fan wanting
autographs.  Reporters wanting a word.  I wonder how players learn to tune out the
sound of their own name being shouted by fans trying to get their
attention.  They have to or they would
only sign autographs and never be ready by game time.

 

Our Cy
Young is Better Than Your Cy Young pitc
her

 

At least
one of them anyway.  The Cardinals Chris
Carpenter faced off against the Giants Barry Zito in Saturdays game.  It would be the one game the Cardinals would
win.  It seemed like Carpenter might
leave the game with a loss or a no-decision, but the Cardinals rallied for some
runs in Carpenter’s last inning.

Here are pictures of Carpenter and Zito:

Pitching coach, Dave Duncan, watches with an eagle-eye as Chris Carpenter warms up:

CarpWarmsup.jpg

As does Zito under the watchful eye of his pitching coach:

ZiotWarmsup.jpg

 It was such a treat to see Carpenter deal:

CarpenterDeals.jpg


The
Return of the Cleanup Hitter

 

Ryan
Ludwick is finally off the DL.  

LudwickChecks.jpg


His bat has been sorely missed both in term of production and protection.  His return seemed to be all Albert Pujols needed
to get his bat going, homering twice in Saturday’s game. 

PujolsSwinging.jpg

 



PujolsSwinging2.jpg

Brendan
Ryan, Oh How I Underestimated You!


Brendan Ryan starts a double play:

DPRyanStarts.jpg

Ryan takes a high one…

BrendanRaynTakes.jpg

As I watched Brendan Ryan last year, I do not remember being overly impressed.  Sure, I loved his enthusiasm.  I loved his speed.  I loved how hard he played.  I just do not remember thinking, “Wow”, in the way I have this year.

Ryan has taken the opportunity to play every day by the horns.  He has made stellar defensive plays. He has taken good at bats and hit very well during this series.  I always saw him in the utility role, but perhaps his is an everyday player after all.

He has been effective and a real asset.  However, occasionally, his speed and enthusiasm do get the best of him.  A case in point is illustrated by the series of photos:

Brendan Ryan thinks about stealing second:

RyanCaughtStealing1.jpg

He goes and he is safe, just avoiding the tag…

RyanCaughtStealing2.jpg

….but his momentum takes him past the bag


RyanCaughtStealing3.jpg

…where he is tagged out, and he knows it…

RyanCaughtStealing4.jpg

He sooooo knows it…
RyanCaughtStealing5.jpg
And, he just cannot believe it….

RyanCaughtStealing6.jpg
Still, he had a great series in San Francisco.

All Things Molina

I believe
I have written this before.  I fell in
love with the St. Louis Cardinals the moment Yadier Molina hit that homerun
against the Mets scoring the runs that would bring home the 2006 National
League Pennant.  It awakened in me a
passion for this game of baseball that I did even realize I possessed.

 

Subsequently,
I have come to appreciate the Cardinal catcher’s outstanding defense, which
was recognized last year by a long over-due Gold Glove.  Guess you have to hit over .300 to get
recognized for your defense, huh?

 

I love
watching great catching, so Yadier Molina is a joy.  One night last year, the Cardinals game was
over, but I needed more baseball.  It was
late.  West coast games to choose
from.  Hmm….I wonder how Bengie Molina
compares to his brother?  Giants game, it
is.

 

Thus, a
nightly ritual began of falling asleep to the Giants game.  Not that they are boing.  They just play really late.  The Giants will be playing on the East coast
this weekend, which really screws up my world.

 

I have
come to appreciate Bengie Molina as I did his brother Yadier, and I should also
confess to sometimes catching a bit of a Yankees game when Jose Molina is
behind the plate.  Three brothers.  Three catchers.  Three major league ballplayers.  What are the odds?

 

I was
fascinated by the two brothers facing off this weekend.  Especially because of the nature of the role
they play calling the pitches to get the other out.  Surely, they have the best scouting report
ever on each other.  You might think that
they would not want to be too hard on the other, being family and all.  But, then again, they are brothers.  Is there any relationship that is more
competitive? 

 

I took
lots of pictures because it was just cool seeing one behind the plate and other
in the box.

 

Here Yadier watches Bengie take batting practice:

YMolinaWatchesBMolinaBP1.jpg

 

 

YmolinaWatchesBMolinaBP2.jpg

 

 And, hang out around the cage in between turns…

MolinasBP5.jpg

 

They are joined by fellow countryman, Jose Oquendo…


MolinasOquendoBP.jpg

 

 …and watch Sandoval in the cage.

 

MolinasOquendoBP3.jpg

 

MolinasOquendoBP4.jpg

 



MolinasOquedoBP4.jpg

Others come up later and I start to realize what a fraternity major league baseball is.  I suppose, it might bother some fans to see players so friendly with members of the opposing team.  And I suppose, it was not always that way back in the days before free agency when more players played for the same team their whole career.

Now, players are connected by country, college, winter ball, the minor league days and former teams.  Players move around, yet the friendships remain.  The brotherhood I saw on the field went beyond blood.  

Again, this might bother some who think hating the other team is critical to competing.  But, really “hating to lose” is the only hate that is required.  And, losing to your brother is the worst.


In the pre-game warmups the brothers were like mirrors.  Bengie warming up Matt Cain on his side of the field…

BengieWarmsupCain.jpg


 …and Yadier warming up Joel Pineiro on his side.

YadiWarmsupPiniero.jpg

 I like the old school bull pen mounds at AT&T Park.  It nice to really be able to watch pitchers warm up.


Later, the brothers met at the plate.

YadiBBengieC2.jpg

As Yadier stood in and Bengie laid down the fingers, I wondered if it is trickier calling a game against your brother.  Do you get in each others head?  Like, I would normally call a fast ball, but he knows that I would, so maybe I should call a slider, but what if he knows that I know that he knows….until your head hurts.  

Or, is it really just the same as everything else: work to your pitcher’s strengths, mix your pitches and hope your pitcher does not leave anything too juicy over the plate.

YadiBBengieC3.jpg

Later, Bengie stood in the batter’s box, while Yadier figured out what to call.  

YadiCBengieB1.jpg


Pineiro gets the sign and throws the ball….

PineiroThrows.jpg

….right at Bengie Molina’s leg.  

YadiCBengiB2HBP.jpg


It was the one time a batter was hit by a pitch that I was 99.9% sure it was unintentional.  And, I was 100% sure that Bengie was not going to go charge the mound.  But, I did wonder what Yadier would have done if he had.  Typically, the catcher rushes to the pitchers defense, often tackling the batter.  I wondered if Yadier would have let Bengie get in a couple of swings before going out to get him.


I am sure Bengie has a bruise to show for it.  Just one of many that a catcher gets in a days work.  Fortunately, he was able to stay in the game.



YadiCBengieB3HBP.jpg


Sometimes when you are taking hundreds of random pictures, it is funny the ones you run across that capture similar moments.  


Here are complimentary pictures of Yadier and Bengie with the umpire.  In both, they seem to be taking an aggressive posture toward the umpire, which goes to prove that sometimes pictures lie.

YadiLeansin.jpg



BengieLeansonUmp.jpg


Here Yadier looks toward second base.  I wonder if he is thinking of stealing on his brother.  Think of the ribbing for years to come.  Whatever Bengie might throw at Yadier, the come back could be, “Yeah, but I stole second on you.”  Which would like coax the response, “You stole it on the pitcher, not me.”

But, he did not go.

YadithinksaboutRunning.jpg

Sunday was a day game after a Saturday night game.  After both Molinas caught on Saturday night, I knew it likely that one or both would get the day off.  So, I was not surprised to see Bengie Molina’s name missing from the cleanup spot.


However, it is pretty much a given that Bengie never gets a whole game off.  At some point there will be a pinch hit opportunity with runners in scoring position, and it will be likely that he will come through.


YadiCBengieBPinch.jpg

As he did here, hitting a sacrifice fly, scoring Sandoval.

YadiCBengieBPinch2.jpg


Bengie stayed in the game.  Yadier came up to bat in the bottom of the 9th with two outs.  In Bengie’s at bat, he hit a pop up to the backstop.  I think they might be discussing where it went here.  Yadier did not have a play on it as he did when he put Bengie out on a P-2 the night before.

YadiBengieLookingup.jpg

Yadier stands in as the last Cardinal hope.

YadiBBengieC03.jpg


Bengie is smiling here, as if perhaps he knows something Yadier does not….

BengieYadiSmile.jpg

Like how to entice his younger brother into a very rare strikeout

YadiBBengieCGotHim.jpg


Sliding Home

 

You know
you have the baseball bug bad, when everything reminds you of baseball.  As I passed through the Denver airport on my way home, I noticed the
cities that the other planes were headed to. 
Chicago.  Surely the Cubs or the White Sox are in
town.  Kansas City. 
I wonder if I will see Grienke on the mound there in a few weeks.  Las
Vegas.  Hmmm…no
MLB, but there is a Triple-A team there. 
Seattle.  A thought…never seen Griffey play in
person. 

 

But the
hardest gate to walk past was the one that said “St. Louis”. 
The Cardinals are at Busch tonight. 
If I hopped the plane and took the link downtown, I could probably just
make it in time to see Wellemeyer take the mound.  For all that I loved AT&T Park,
there is really nothing like a home game at Busch Stadium.

 

But, I
kept walking on to my Oklahoma City
gate, and I was not too sad.  For
although I will not find the Cardinals there, the next best closest thing is
coming to town:  The Memphis
Redbirds.  

Will I Leave My Heart in San Francisco?

The Cardinals had a welcome off-day today.  Welcome to me anyway.  I’m not sure how I would have gotten packed otherwise.  Packed?, you say.  Yes, packed.  

Thus far, I have been to two exhibition games, seven Triple-A games, one Double-A game and two college games.  This weekend, I break into the majors with a trip to San Francisco to see the Cardinals play the Giants.
I started contemplating this trip last summer as I fell into the habit of tuning in the Giants game at bedtime and falling asleep to the sounds of AT&T Park.  Tomorrow it comes to fruition.  Both teams have great pitching, cold bats and a Molina behind the plate.  In addition there are sailboats practically in the outfield.  I could not ask for more. 
Except for maybe one clear day to see the Golden Gate Bridge.  I guess there is always one more thing.  Or, five.  I can think of five more things I would like to put in my suitcase, but I’m determined to carry-on only.
Love the Cardinals.  Love the Giants.  Love great catchers.  Love Baseball.  Love Sailboats.  Love Waterfronts.  I may not leave my heart there, but it sure is looking forward to the trip.


Bedlam, Scoring a Triple Play and Family

Catching up and vowing to
blog more regularly.  Yeah, right.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I have
read that in a blog.

 

Still, nothing wrong with
good intentions.   Actually, I should do better in the next few days.  There will be plenty to write about as I head to San Francisco for the Cardinals-Giants Series.  To say I am excited would be a huge understatement.


In the meantime, in no particular order,
here are some snippets from the past couple of weeks.

 

Bedlam

No matter the sport, when
the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Oklahoma Sooners face off, it is
Bedlam.  The two universities met on the
neutral ground of the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City for the annual Bedlam Baseball
Series.  And, as an OSU alum, you know I
was there.

Bedlam.jpg

 

Let it be said that I hate
the Sooners as only a Cowboy (or Cowgirl) can. 
As only a Yankees fan can hate the Red Sox.  As only a Giants fan can hate the Dodgers.  Or, more appropriately, as only a Cardinals
fan can hate the cubs.

 

Why do we hate our rivals
so?  Are their fans more obnoxious than
ours?  Seems so.  Are their players more arrogant than ours?  Possibly. 
Do they play dirty?  Are they
degenerates?  Do they kick dogs?  Pinch sleeping babies?  Beat their wives?  Sass their mothers?  Have excessive carbon footprints?  Use plastic bags?  Steal cable? 
Are they really a fundamentally evil empire?  Well, obviously.

 

Realistically though, we
hate them because at some time or other, they beat us in a game we needed to
win. 

 

Game one of the Bedlam
Series held all the intensity one would expect from a rivalry.  Very close game.  Often the runs, hits and errors of both teams
were identical.  Lots of controversial
calls.  Both managers got tossed.  With the game in knots at 5-5, the Cowboys
went to their bullpen and brought in the star freshman closer, Randy McCurry,
who ironically graduated from a rival high school just down the highway from my
hometown.

McCurry.jpg

It’s amazing how soon the autographs start.  Freshman in collage and signing balls for little boys.

McCurry throws pretty good
heat…94ish.  He has been outstanding for
the Cowboys this season.  However, this
would not be his day.  He was not
particularly sharp, but he got no help from his catcher, who gave four…count
‘em….four passed balls in the inning, which allowed two runs to score.  Sooners win. 
Watching catching that bad, especially from my team, made me want to
puke my peanuts…oops I mean, made my stomach a tad queasy.

Maybe, the catcher’s problem is that he was having some sinus difficulties that prevented him from seeing the ball:

CatcherSinus.jpg


Or, maybe he broke a nail, and oh darn, his manicurist was all the way up in Stillwater:

Picture 1923.jpg

 

It’s funny the pictures you find on your camera. 


In game two, a fine mist
that fell through most of the game seemed to put a damper on the intensity we
had witnessed the previous day.  No calls
argued.  No managers tossed.  The Cowboys strung together some runs while
keeping the Sooners off the bases, but their catching was still shoddy.

 

Early in the game, a pitch
missed by the Cowboy catcher (actually, a different one) dinged the umpire in the leg.  He was in some serious pain.  Later, another pitch narrowly missed him.  The pitcher had come to the plate as the
catcher scampered off to find the ball. 
The umpire put his arm around the pitcher and they had a little
conversation that I could only imagine went something like this:

 

“Son, your catcher
stinks.  I already have a welt.  I don’t need another.  So, I’m going to need you to throw
strikes.  In fact, anything your backstop
can actually catch, I will call a strike. 
But, if you hit me again, I’m going to run you both.”

Whatever was said
worked.  No more passed balls.  Cowboys win!

 

Cardinals Bounce Back

Maybe my being unable to
write for a couple weeks was related to the Cardinal slump that seemed to
coincide with the arrival of May.  With a
sweep of the cubs, taking two of three from the Royals, taking two of three
from the Brewers and the amazing round of performances by the entire pitching
staff, it is hard to remember how we struggled against the Pirates and were
swept by the Brewers.

 

The Cardinals are back on
top of the NL Central and all is well with the world. I like, like, like most
of what I have observed so far from the Cardinals.  I think the offense dry spell will end once
Ryan Ludwick is back in the lineup.  And,
the pitching, both starting and the bullpen, has been such a joy to watch. 

 

Triple Play

I gave up trying to be
cool a long, long time ago because no matter how I might try to package myself,
my natural nerdiness will prevail. 
Baseball, better than any other sport, lends itself to nerdiness.  There are endless numbers to crunch.  Statistics, probabilities, matrices,
algorhythms, physics, lions, tigers and bears…oh my!

 

Then, there is all the
technology that brings baseball to the tech-nerd.  Gameday, Gameday Audio, Gameday mobile, XM
Radio, At Bat for iPhone, MLB.tv and all the great baseball reference
websites.  I am all about the technology.

 

But, even before
technology existed that would instantly calculate the speed, location and break
of a pitch, there was another low-tech tool employed by baseball nerds
everywhere:  the scorecard.

 

Keeping score.  The art and science of using a piece of paper
and a pencil to create an accurate reflection of a game of baseball.  It is a science because there are rules.  It is an art because everyone does it a
little different.

 

I am a score keeper.  It is the essence of my baseball
nerdiness.  I have an Excel template that
I stole borrowed from baseballscorecard.com 
(they said
it was okay) and tweaked to my liking.  I
print them out, attach them to a clipboard and take them to games.  I have a particular Cardinal red pencil that
I like to use.  Although the blue one
just like it will do in a pinch.  I would
like to be superstitious and think I NEED the red one…the Cardinals NEED the
red one, but I just do not have it in me. 
I have enough OCD enough to keep score, but not to keep up
superstitions.

 

I know I can go to Gameday
or At Bat and see a play by play game summary that tells me “Albert Pujols
singles sharply to left fielder David DeJesus”. 
I know that every time a batter comes to the plate either the TV or the
scoreboard will tell me what that batter has done today.  But, it is not the same as being able to see
an entire game at one time.

 

Scorekeeping keeps me
sharp.  Keeps my head in the game.  Although those sitting around me may look at
me like I am crazy when I pull out my scoresheet, before the game is over they
always end up asking me a question that is easily answered by my score
sheet.  Say what you want about nerds but
we are darn useful.

 

In Keith Olbermann’s first
blog
, he talked about how he liked to keep score.  He also described the joy of recording his
first ever triple play in a spring training game.  He described how the triple play is
scored.  The numbers of the positions
touching the ball are surrounded by two circles.  A double play would be one circle.  A triple play is two.  This was not something I knew.  But, now that I knew, I wanted the chance to
use it.  However, I knew might be years,
even decades, before I saw one outside of a highlight reel.

 

So, I am sitting in Oklahoma City on May 15,
2009 watching the Portland Beavers play the Oklahoma City Redhawks.  In the bottom of the third inning, the center
fielder Boggs leads off the inning with a single.  The catcher, Ramirez draws a walk.  I know these facts because my scorecard says
so.  The weather was also cloudy and the
start time was 7:05.

 

With Boggs and Ramirez taking
appropriate leads at first and second, Vallejo,
the second baseman, lines out to his counterpart at second, who throws to the
shortstop covering second, who then throws to first.  Triple play. 
4-6-3 with a double circle.

 

I always thought a triple play
would be this exciting thing where it goes boom-boom-boom and the crowd goes
crazy because they have just witnessed something amazing.  However, mostly everyone sits there stunned
trying to be sure that they saw what they just saw.  Were there really no out before the
play?  Did they get all three?  Even Boggs stood back on second for a while,
not entirely sure that he had been got. 
But, he had.  As had Ramirez and
Vallejo.

 

A fellow scorekeeper from
a few rows back hollers down, “How do you even score that?” 

 

“Two circles”  I yelled back as I took my time printing the
numbers and drawing my two circles.  The
crowd may have missed the thrill, but I didn’t

 

The Parents and a Local Boy Makes Good

As I have said before, my
dad is a football guy.  My mom likes to follow
sports by checking the scores, not actually watching the games.  So, when I asked them if they wanted to go to
an Oklahoma City Redhawks game sometime, I really was not sure I would get a
“Yes”, but I did.  I suggested a Sunday
game might be the best.  4:05 start.  Home before bed time.

 

The Sunday we picked could
not have been a better one.  The weather
was absolutely, positively perfect. 

 

The Parents.jpg

The Redhawks were
scheduled to play the Tacoma Rainers.  If
I get a chance, I like to take a peek at the roster of the opposing team
because you never know who you might find. 
So, Sunday morning, I click on roster. 
Unbelievably, the first game was familiar.  The name could be common, so I thought,
“Coincidence.  Probably not him.” 

 

I click on the name to get
more information.  Hometown:  Holdenville,
Oklahoma.  Well, there might be hundreds of Daren Browns
in the world, but there is only one baseball Daren Brown from Holdenville, Oklahoma.

 

Daren Brown was a star
athlete at a very, very tiny school called Moss.  Moss is a country school.  Although his address might have been
Holdenville, that town was ten miles away. 
My very best girlfriend graduated from Moss High School.  She was Valedictorian of a class of five,
although most classes averaged around twenty.

 

My ex-husband also
graduated from Moss the same year as Brown. 
They played baseball together from little league to seven state
championship tournaments (they play spring and fall ball).  Brown was a pitcher.  The son of a former big leaguer, Paul
Brown.  The nephew of minor leaguer
Jackie Brown.  Baseball was in his blood.

 

After a couple years of
college ball, he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and fell off my
radar.  Since I had not really seen him
in the Bigs, I assumed he had settled down somewhere in middle
America, selling cars like his dad or coaching high school
baseball.

 

Instead, he has been
working his way up the coaching chain. 
Starting with a player/coach role in an independent league and working
his way up to being the manager of the AAA minor league affiliate of the
Seattle Mariners.  Pretty sweet to see a
hometown boy make good.

 

This made the game much
more interesting for my parents, who had purchased a truck from Brown’s dad
once upon a time.  Although I did not
really know Brown, I knew his sisters, who are very talented in their own
right.  Singers.  Athletes. 
One held the state high school basketball scoring record in her class
and played for Oklahoma
State.  One sang at my wedding to the aforementioned
ex-husband.  He voice is one of the
reasons that I still have my wedding video. 

 

Brown’s family was at the
game.  I caught up with another sister, while
my parents chatted with his dad.  This
hometown connection made the game much more interesting for my parents as
Brown’s Tacoma Rainiers shut out the Redhalks. 

 

 

If Heaven Exists…

While I did not convert my
parents into baseball fanatics, they did enjoy the game. My mom, the daughter
of a great baseball fan, had never been to a professional game.  Although she did not mention it, I know she
was thinking about how much her dad would have enjoyed the day.  I know this because I never enter a ballpark
that I do not think of my grandpa and wish he was in the seat beside me.

 

Oddly enough, my grandpa
only attended one professional game in his life, even though he lived much of
his life within an hour of Kaufman Stadium. 
He followed baseball every night through the TV and Radio and had a head
full of baseball stats, but he was a simple, contented type of man.  A farmer that had provided well for his family
during the Great Depression.  Going to a
game would be an extravagance.

 

In the early 70′s, my dad
and brother were working road construction in the Kansas City area.  The company they worked for had Royals
tickets that they sometimes doled out to employees.  My dad and brother scored tickets.

 

My dad asked my grandpa to
go, knowing he was a baseball fan, but not really knowing if he would say
“Yes.”  But, of course, he said “Yes”.  My dad talks about Grandpa being like a kid
in a candy store.  I can only imagine his
excitement of finally being in the place where the legends played on his radio
every night.  The thing that struck him
the most was how high the pop-ups soared. 
Baseball may be the game you can see on the radio, but that was
something he could not have imagined.

 

Over Memorial weekend, I
visited my grandparents’ grave.  Their
lives were long, both living into their nineties.  A marriage of 70 years.  Kids, grandkids, great-grandkids.  The whole she-bang. 

 

I left some uniquely
colored orange and red roses that I knew my grandma would appreciate.  I told grandpa that I could not stay long
because the Cardinals were playing the Royals in just a few minutes.  I know he understood.

 

I wish.  I wish. 
I wish.  If heaven does exist and
it is a place where we are, in fact, reunited with our loved ones, and we
really can look down upon the earth.  The
thing that will make heaven perfect for me is to be able to sit next to my
grandpa, watch a ballgame, keep score and pepper him with hundreds of
questions.  That’s what would happen in
my “Field of Dreams”


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