Sep 172014
 


I don’t want to say this is the end of the road, but there’s a good chance that it is.

When I took over this site four years ago, I was stay-at-home parent to two elementary-school-aged sons with special needs. Like many things in life, this wasn’t something I had planned (the stay-at-home part, not the parent part), but it was something I had to deal with. It was also what I really needed to distract from the day-to-day drudgery; an opportunity to employ my passion via my lost profession.

Even though I tried to keep the scope of the site manageable in the event that I would return to work — the pseudonym that I used (Sue Dinem) from January 2010 until January 2012, was largely motivated by that concern — it grew too large. I may have succeeded in building something good, something to be proud of, but I failed to keep it modest enough to withstand the changes in my offline life.

This isn’t a knee-jerk decision. It’s been in the back of my mind for most of the summer, as it became harder and harder to publish as I had less and less time (and energy) to do it, despite having significant help from Jason Crocker and Julie Goldberg. I’ve been working part-time for quite some time now, but it’s been steadily ramping towards full-time.

I wish I could say that I’m excited about that (the work part), but I’m not. It’s a matter of doing what’s best for my family financially in the short-term while I continue to look for something more rewarding in the longer term. The kids getting older (they’re now in high school and middle school) actually makes this possible (and necessary).

I’m not looking to elicit sympathy — unless it’s a job with Fred Flintstone hours and/or Phillip Drummond pay — after all, I’m not shutting down the site just yet. If it continues, it’s going to be different, and less intensive. I just don’t know yet; I’m going to take a few months to figure that out.

But if this it, it’s been quite a ride. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, too.

Aug 312014
 

The Hagerstown bullpen served as an operator, twice connecting long distance balls from home plate to the trees lining South Cannon Avenue in a 7-4 loss to Lakewood. Thanks to the Intimidators, who beat the Grasshoppers 3-1, the Suns still remain a game up with two to go in the race for the second-half division title.

It’s hard to believe, but this game was a pitcher’s duel through five innings with Hagerstown’s Reynaldo Lopez trading doughnuts with Ranfi Casimiro. The hype about the heat from Lopez? Believe it. His first five pitches were 96-96-98-98-98 in a whiff of BlueClaw leadoff man Malquin Canelo.

Part of the joy of following prospects is seeing the development, and this was a different pitcher than the one I saw in June. The curve, which might be the only thing he throws below 90mph, was more than a show-me this time around — especially when he dropped it over the back corner for a called third strike to end the 2nd.

Lopez finished with five shutout innings with one hit — by Canelo, and it was a clean single — two walks and five strikeouts. In addition to the high-90s four-seamer, he brought a mid-90s two-seamer and a Strasburg-like low-90s change. Perhaps most impressively, everything seemed to have some kind of movement — a tail, a dip, a break.

Unfortunately, Lopez had but one run to work with, which came in the 1st when Rafael Bautista doubled over the left fielder’s head, stole third after Wilmer Difo flew out to CF, then teamed up with Austin Davidson on a double steal after Davidson walked. Speed giveth, speed taketh away as Davidson was caught trying to match Bautista’s feat (feet?) to effectively kill the rally.

Ryan Ullmann was the first man out of the Suns to start the 6th, and when he threw the ball away for a three-base error, it wasn’t difficult to predict this would be a bad outing. The next batter missed a home run by about a foot to tie the game at 1-1. The third batter blasted a two-run shot to put Lakewood on top 3-1. A walk, another double — that’s five straight batters without an out — pushed the score to 4-1.

Ullmann struck out the sixth batter he faced, then induced a flyout to right before giving up his fourth hit, a single to center that Narciso Mesa managed to skip to home on five or six bounces to get the lead-footed Zach Green at home for the third out.

The Suns answered with one in the 6th on a Bautista single followed by Difo double, and tied it in the 7th with a two run golf shot by Wilman Rodriguez off the pavilion beyond LF, scoring James Yezzo who had gotten with the first of his two singles.

Justin Thomas followed Ullmann in the 7th and turned in two scoreless before giving up back-to-back singles to start the 9th, then the second Lakewood home run to Andrew Pullin for an Earl Weaver special. Thomas retired the next three in order, but it was too little, too late.

Yezzo singled again in the 9th with one out but was picked off to end the Suns hopes of yet another tie or walkoff as they fell, 7-4.

Nick Pivetta (13-8, 4.24) gets the call tonight against Lakewood’s Matt Imhof (0-2, 4.10) followed by Wander Suero (4-1, 2.13) vs. Jon Prosinski (5-5, 3.50) tomorrow afternoon as the Suns wrap up the regular season in preparation for their best-of-three playoff series against the Grasshoppers, which begins on Wednesday at the Muni.

Jun 202014
 

After getting rained out the night before, the clouds were ominous as Auburn and Mahoning Valley began play last night. But the rain never came and the two teams combined for a pair of close games, with the Scrappers posting a 3-0 shutout in the opener and the Doubledays returning the favor with a 2-0 whitewash in the nightcap.

Auburn’s Reynaldo Lopez took the hill in Game One and quickly established a mid-90s fastball… but not much else. The 20-y.o. Dominican walked two in the first inning as he tried to get a feel for the strike zone, showing a slider, change, and a curve.

Despite the Scrappers not having to worry too much about his secondary offerings, they struggled to get the bat on the ball solidly. They avoided the K, but also popped up four times in the first three innings.

Mahoning Valley got on the board when a two-out, two-strike fastball was taken the other way by the No. 5 batter Jorge Martinez to drive in leadoff man Ordormar Valdez, who got on with with a single, and cleanup man Leo Castillo, who walked.

Lopez would go four innings total, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks, but curiously for such high heat, zero strikeouts.

Brett Mooneyham was the first man out of the ‘pen in the 5th and served up a solo HR to the first batter he faced. He then retired the side in order and the leadoff batter in the next before loading the bases in the 6th on a single, hit batsman, and a walk — committing an error on a poor pickoff throw but getting out of the mess with by starting a 1-2-3 DP to end the inning.

Offensively, the Doubledays were no-hit for three innings by 20-y.o. Sean Brady, a southpaw who could throw a nice 12-6 hook, just not for strikes. Unlike Lopez, he kept with the secondary pitches and might have had four no-hit frames had he not been caught napping by Jose “Orange” Marmolejos-Diaz, who dropped down a bunt with one out in the 4th.

Diaz went to 2nd on a two-out walk by Cody Gunter and was stranded there as Raudy Read flew out to end the 4th. That would be the one and only batter to get into scoring position as the two Scrapper relievers finished the job with three scoreless innings.

# # #

In the second game, Auburn got on the board first in the 1st to put Mahoning Valley in chase mode for the rest of the game. With one out, Bryan Mejia singled, then stole second. After a Drew Vettleson strikeout, Jean Carlos Valdez ripped a grounder through the 5/6 hole for an RBI single to put the Doubledays up 1-0.

Luis Torres was the starter in the second game. He didn’t flash the heat like Lopez, but had much better breaking pitches and much better command. He retired the first five batters he faced and didn’t allow a runner to reach second until the 5th, which he did by firing a strike to the first base wall for a two-base error.

That was enough for manager Gary Cathcart to pull the plug and insert R.C. Orlan into the game. The slender southpaw got the Scrappers leadoff man to pop up to end the 5th, and preserve a 1-0 lead.

Auburn plated an insurance run in the 6th with some help from Mahoning Valley. Vettleson and Valdez went back-to-back with singles to lead off the inning while Cody Gunter drew a walk to load the bases with nobody out.

Matthew Page couldn’t get ‘em in when a tapper to first base was tossed in to home plate for the force, erasing Vettleson, but hit slowly enough for Page to beat the return throw from the catcher.

Garrett Gordon also came up short with a flyout to right field which wasn’t hit deep enough to send in the runner (Cathcart wisely put the brakes on Valdez, as the Scrappers outfielder fired in a bullet in that probably would have nailed him).

And then, after two good plays to deny Auburn, Mahoning Valley literally threw it away with a wild pitch and dug themselves into a 2-0 hole.

Orlan retired the side in order in the bottom of the 6th, which would earn him the win. He was replaced by David Napoli in the 7th, who got the first two batters easily. An error and a walk made things interesting before he struck out the final batter with a sharp curve to earn the save. It would be the first win and save for Orlan and Napoli, respectively.

The Doubledays (3-4) return to upstate New York for a pair of games against the Crosscutters tonight and tomorrow before hosting the Scrappers on Sunday and Monday.

Jun 142014
 

RIP Spike 08/03/2003-6/14/2012

The annual baseball road trip is a week later than last year as I’ll be heading southwest again down I-81 for a tour through Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The mission is to keep the site running and updated while I dine on the fine breakfasts provided from two-star motels (or Dunkin’ Donuts) or snack on the gourmet offerings from vending machines (or 7-11). However, the News & Notes will be abbreviated some mornings (like tomorrow) as I’ll need to hit the road early to make the next stop and/or account for time lost crossing in/out of the Central Time Zone.

First stop tomorrow afternoom: Kodak,TN to see the Tennessee Smokies, followed by games in Nashville, Louisville, Columbus, Mahoning Valley (versus Auburn), and Lancaster. Folks who are interested in pictures from previous vacations can take a look at the tab above labeled… wait for it… “Road Trips.”

May 272014
 

Sammy Solis’s AA debut was one to forget.

The 25-y.o. southpaw, originally drafted in 2010, made quick work of the first three Bowie batters in the 1st — a flyout to right, a three-pitch strikeout, and weak tapper to 1st. The velocity was as advertised: low-90s, touching 94 depending on which radar gun you choose to believe.

After an infield single and a flyout, Solis seemed ready to dispatch the Baysox again in the 2nd. But then an inside-out single to right put runners on 1st and 3rd, then a sacrifice fly erased a brief 1-0 lead that had come off the bat of Cutter Dykstra with a solo shot to the [sorry, no free advertising] cheap seats in left.

A two-out double from Garabez Rosa gave Bowie the 2-1 lead and Solis rolled a grounder to end the 2nd. He mowed down the first three BaySox in the 3rd. After Adrian Sanchez hit another solo shot to left to tie things up, all Solis needed to do was respond with another goose egg.

Instead, the BaySox connected for six hits in the space of eight batters — nothing cheap, nothing weak, nothing lucky. Solis was lifted with one out in the 4th. His replacement, James Simmons was renamed Richard with a three-run blast off the roof of the Senators team well beyond the left field fence.

The final line for Solis — nine runs, eight earned, one walk, one strikeout over three and 1/3rd innings. He faced 20 batters and threw fifty-six pitches, forty-two for strikes and only went to a three-ball count on the one batter he walked (former Nats farmhand David Freitas).

As Patriot-Times beat writer Geoff Morrow tweeted, perhaps some credit goes to the Bowie offense, which leads the Eastern League in several offensive categories (H, 2B, K’s, BA, SLG%).

The Senators would not answer the BaySox eight-run 4th until the 7th, when they mounted a similar, slow-motion rally for five runs, punctuated by Matt Skole’s two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded to pull Harrisburg within four at 11-7.

Alas, Bowie answered with a pair of two-run innings in 8th and 9th and homers in both frames to make it a 15-7 final.

With the loss, Harrisburg’s quest for three wins in a row in 2014 remains unfulfilled as they fell to a 17-32 mark, second-worst in the Eastern League.

Apr 282014
 

Ed. Note: Frequent commenter SoulDrummer (@souldrummer25 on the Twitters) got quite the treat when he drove up to Harrisburg…
It’s Michael Taylor’s world today and we’re only living it.

Michael Taylor with a long HR on the 1st pitch B1. It landed beyond the people on the boardwalk in CF [pic to the right]
Terry Byrom @hbgsensradio

Michael Taylor just hit his 3rd home run of the game. He’s the first #HbgSens player to hit 3 in a game since Danny Espinosa in 2010.
Geoff Morrow ‏@RageAgainstGMo

Sadly, I missed first pitch due to a long ticket line and my own meandering ways in heading up Rt. 15 to head to Harrisburg. I didn’t mind that. What I did mind is that the Senators didn’t have Terry Byrom’s radio call audibly available while we were in line. They had a weak speaker too far away from the line that wasn’t loud enough to be properly heard.

In a shocking development, the Senators managed to play several innings of good baseball. They built up a 10-1 lead. They were so far ahead that I stopped paying attention to the game after maybe the third inning or so. I struck up a conversation with this fine fellow in a Lawrence Taylor throwback jersey who just so happens to be a Hagerstown Suns ticket holder. He claimed that Drew Ward is a comparable ballplayer to Bryce Harper and far nicer as a human being. Perhaps we should all attend Giolito’s next start in Hagerstown on Friday.

Given that these are the Harrisburg Senators, they decided to revert to their tragic ways. A 10-1 lead became a 10-6 score in the top of the 7th when the persistent Bowie Baysox score five, that is five, runs off of Gabriel Alfaro. The 31-year-old Mr. Alfaro has given up 15 runs in the 11.1 innings that he has pitched.

The Senators then sent Paulo Espino into pitch the 8th inning. Mr. Espino was the International League Pitcher of the week in August of 2011. He will not be the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for the week concluding on April 27th. Espino first drew two ground outs to the infield. But then his inner 2014 Harrisburg Senator came out. He gave up a pair of singles and a double before getting the hook with two outs and two on from Harrisburg manager Brian Daubach.

He called upon Richie Mirowski to restore order and protect a now 10-7 lead. The 25-year-old rolled a grounder to end the inning.
Thankfully, Mirowski is good at throwing baseballs, and came back out for the top of the 9th. Strikeout. Strikeout. Walk. (Because it wouldn’t be entertaining to retire the side in order, would it?)

Chien Hsien-Chang then became my favorite member of the Bowie Baysox. Why, you ask? He was the 27th out, grounding out to first to end the game and give Richie Mirowski his first save, Felipe Rivero his first win, and end a six-game losing streak.

Apr 122014
 


Longtime readers know when they see the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, it means I’ll be hitting the road soon, usually for New England.

It’s also a warning that posts and tweets will slow down and/or shorten, as I’m at the mercy of family and in-laws cheap motel WiFi. I hit the road tomorrow, but between work, packing, renting, and boarding it may as well be today.

A note to the younger readers: Spring break ain’t quite the same in your 40s as it is your 20s. But it’ll give me some time to give my sons a TED talk.

As always, keep the conversation going in the comments (and wish me luck!)

Mar 252014
 

Editor’s note: Ever wonder what it’s like at the minors camp? Well, so have I, so when site regular SoulDrummer offered to write a first-person narrative, how could I say no?

My brother and I recently had the pleasure of attending Nationals Spring Training this past Saturday. I love baseball. It has gotten me through one of the most challenging parts of my life. This “vacation,” however, will likely be a launchpad to greatness because I was so inspired by this beautiful game and the wonderful personalities that make up the Washington Nationals.

I had hoped to watch baseball on Friday and spend all day at Nats camp. Sadly, it was an off day for the boys. No games. No baseball after morning practice. I did go to the compound, picked up a free issue of Baseball America, the schedule, and plotted my revenge on the baseball gods for not having my favorite players available at my beck and call. I was going to get up early so I’d be able to watch the players practice.

Michael Taylor and Nats stafferMy brother and I woke up promptly and got to camp around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. We had resolved to hit minors camp in the morning and catch most of the big club’s game in the afternoon. Simply put, the day is a blur of baseball joy. Right away we got to watch some of the AA/AAA players getting on the bus to head to the away game against Detroit. I got a great pic of Michael Taylor and let him know that I’ve got him pegged for MVP of the Eastern League and an September callup this year.

I then hit the field and watched the players do their drills. You meet great, similar hardcore fans doing this. Antonio is a fabulous guy local who supports the Venezuelan minor-leaguers. He befriended and supported Alcides Escobar when he barely knew English and received the joy of watching Escobar play as a major-leaguer and thank him as a countryman for helping with a hand up not a handout. Got a great pic of the man’s Omar Vizquel autograph. He had gotten the autograph at Tigers game recently because Omar is now coaching for the Tigers.

TwinkletoesBut of course the Nats players were the best. Yes, I did stalk Giolito for about 20 minutes because I knew that you guys would be interested. I clowned him and called him “twinkletoes” for his footwork during the pitchers’ agility drills. He took it in good fun, though. I said that I was giving him a hard time because I know that he gets revenge on everybody else with his blazing fastball. I also let him know that I hope to see him in Harrisburg for my late summer trip and that I know he’s going to have a great year.

me and drew ward!Drew Ward impressed me the most. This kid looks like a man, but he just turned 19. And he is so, so, fan friendly. The pic to the right is me talking to him through a fence. Drew was thankful that I followed him, and I expressed how grateful I was to Mike Rizzo for taking a chance on this high school kid. I asked him what he would study if he had gone to college, and he said “baseball, baseball, baseball.” Imagine being his age, blessed with otherworldly talent, and getting to spend all of his time immersed in the culture of the game that he loves. We are blessed to have Drew Ward as a young prospect, and I am optimistic that he will build on his progress and “master the level” to warrant a midseason promotion. What a preternatural kid.

After failing to catch a home run ball at the fence during batting practice (it was low minors so the players didn’t have as much pop), I went to the central area where you can see several fields and hung out and waited for the game to start. The Detroit Tigers got there first so I decided to whip out my cell phone and play DJ with them for a couple of minutes. I played “Oye Come Va,” a country song by request that I can’t remember, “In the Stone” by Earth Wind and Fire, before regaling them with an impromptu karaoke version of “One In a Million You.” Baseball builds connections. Turns out my karaoke standard was the wedding song of one of the coaches. He’s been happily married for 30 years. What a blessing to meet such great people for the opposition.

Deion WilliamsThe game finally started and I got to watch Jake Johansen throw some smoke. But I didn’t really spend that much time watching the game. Other pitchers from the squad were hanging out, and I was eager to connect with Deion Williams. Deion is making the transition from shortstop to pitcher, and it was fascinating getting his impressions on Johansen’s work. I told him that I would try to make him a star on Nationalsprospects.com so here’s his pic!

After watching the game for an inning or two, I figured I should join my brother, the Mets fan, at Space Coast and we watched that game. Spinner hit a walk off homer and Bryce had two hits in a one-run victory!

What a day.

Jul 142013
 

The Hagerstown Suns rallied for five runs with two outs in the first inning, taking advantage of mistakes both mental and physical, en route to a 7-4 victory over the Rome Braves.

Like many big innings, the genesis is often subtle. Estarlin Martinez beat out an infield single on a high tapper to third. Brandon Miller broke his bat, but fisted it into shallow right field for another two-out hit.

A balk pushed both runners over one base, and “Help Me” Wander Ramos made Rome’s 20-year-old starter Wes Parsons pay for worrying more about the runners than about him with a double down the left field line for a 2-0 lead.

A walk to Bryan Lippincott once again set up a force at any infield base. Braves 3B Eric Garcia froze up on grounder off the bat of Khayyan Norfork and committed the dreaded double error, booting it for one, throwing it past 1st for another, which let in the third Suns run and put runners on 2nd and 3rd for Craig Manuel.

The eighth batter of the inning cashed in the mistake with a single to left to complete the five-run sequence as Stephen Perez struck out to end the frame.

Kylin Turnbull, who began the year in Potomac and was dropped down twice, couldn’t stand the prosperity of a 5-0 lead. After setting down the side in order in the 1st on three groundballs, he let in a run on three singles in the 2nd, gave up a leadoff HR in the 3rd, and allowed two more runs in the 4th before finally putting up a zero in the 5th.

He left after five innings thrown, giving up four runs on 12 hits, walking none and striking out four. He would end up the winning pitcher nevertheless. It’s fashionable nowadays to try to explain away that many hits and blame the defense, especially sight unseen, but that wasn’t the case (it rarely is). The almost-24-year-old remains timid in long counts and gets hit when he gives in as a result.

Bryan Harper only got the hold, but was the most effective pitcher on either team. The brother of you-know-who faced seven batters and got seven outs, giving up a “hit” when Martinez and Perez converged but couldn’t snare a shallow pop to left field as Martinez dropped it, but Perez quickly recovered to gun down the runner trying to turn a gift single into a double.

Travis Henke replaced Harper with one out in the 8th and gave way to Gilberto Mendez in the 9th. The diminutive Dominican with a big arm gave up a leadoff hit, then retired the next three on groundballs to secure his fifth save.

Nos. 4-5 batters Miller and Ramos combined for five hits, two runs, and two doubles as Hagerstown piled up 10 hits total and tacked on insurance runs in the 3rd and 8th innings.

The win keeps pace with first-place Hickory, keeping Hagerstown a half-game back in second place and a game ahead of third-place West Virginia. Pedro Encarnacion gets assignment this afternoon in Game 3 of the four-game set, which concludes with a Monday morning getaway game.

Sep 032012
 

The strike zone and the Hagerstown hurlers had a hard time getting along last night, as they walked nine in a 7-3 loss to the Asheville Tourists.

Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez struck out the first batter, then walked the bases loaded in the top of the first. He struck out the fifth batter in the lineup and appeared headed for a Nuke LaLoosh inning (3BB, 3K) when Cutter Dykstra was able to knock down a grounder but unable to get a throw off, as two Tourists made the return trip home for a 2-0 lead.

Estevez settled down in the 2nd, walking just one, but gave up two more free passes in the 3rd as Asheville connected for a one-run single and a two-run double to push their advantage to 5-0. The 20-year-old Dominican would finish the night with six walks allowed, and as the old saw goes, that’s what killed him as five of the six base on balls came around to score.

Meanwhile, the Suns offense plodded along for a pedestrian three runs on seven hits. The first run came in the fourth with a leadoff walk by Dykstra and an error that was ruled a hit by Adrian Nieto to set up a first-and-third with no outs. Caleb Ramsey grounded into a double play to break up the shutout bid.

An inning later, Bryce Ortega led off with a double to center and took third on an infield hit by Hendry Jimenez. It would be the lone hit in 11 tries with a runner in scoring position. Billy Burns plated Ortega with a groundout to short for the second Suns run.

Ramsey would atone for his GIDP with a HR off the RF billboards in the sixth to for the third straight one-run inning. The Suns put on two in the 7th, one in the 8th, but went down in order in the 9th.

Three Hagerstown relievers followed Estevez out of the ‘pen, combining for five innings of one-run pitching with six strikeouts but walking three.

Hagerstown finishes up the regular season with an afternoon tilt, with Taylor Jordan taking the hill (3-3, 3.75) against Tyler Gagnon (0-0, 2.84). They will host the Game One of the Sally League Divisional Series on Wednesday against Greensboro, with Game Two in North Carolina on Friday (and Game Three on Saturday, if necessary).