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.

2 Comments

Kathy – how great that not only do you have the signed bat but also the way that you came about it! What really nice people they all were. And don’t worry about not asking “hard hitting” baseball questions; I bet there are times when managers of these minor league teams appreciate just having a “normal” conversation. Have fun this weekend!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Kathy,
I’m so glad that you had fun at these games! I love minor league baseball– I was at some Pawtucket games this past week in Boston and I had a great time. I spent an entire baseball game talking to one of my projects, he’s my favorite now :). I can’t believe you got a signed bat, that’s truly a prized possession.
Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

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