4/9/13 Bulls Vs. Braves–My First Ever Home Run Snag

When it was made official a few weeks ago that Rays’ top prospect, and number four overall prospect in all of baseball, Wil Myers, was going to start the season in Triple-A Durham, I knew I’d be attending one of the first home games of the season. Though I would rather have gone to Opening Day, it wasn’t possible, so the next game would have to do.

My main goal for this game was (obviously) to get an autograph from phenom, Wil Myers. I had seen on the Durham Bulls’ twitter page that Myers had signed autographs the night before, so I was keeping a positive mindset, hoping he would sign, once again. But it wasn’t meant to be, as although I was the first person to arrive down by the dugout, before the game, when Myers came up from the clubhouse, he didn’t even look over in my direction. He ended up signing for a few people down the line, but I wasn’t able to get him to come over.

This day would turn out to be a horrible one, if you’re a person like myself who loves collecting autographs. The only player on the entire Bulls team, of the players I wanted autos from, that signed for nearly everyone, was Rays’ number five prospect, Hak-Ju Lee. Lee was extremely nice about it, and I was happy to get his autograph, even if it was the only one I got before the game.

After failing to get any more autographs, I made the trek up to my ticketed seat:

DSCN5528Wil Myers, who was serving as the Bulls’ designated hitter for the night, was chilling at the top of the dugout for most of the game:

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As for the game itself, it was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen in person. After Bulls’ starting pitcher, Alex Torres, struck out the side, in the top of the first, the Bulls proceeded to go on a tear, causing Gwinnett’s starting pitcher, Daniel Rodriguez, to be pulled from the game after only a third of an inning pitched, in which he allowed eight runs:

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The Bulls would end up plating two more, for a grand total of TEN runs in the bottom of the first. Five of those runs came from the bat of Brandon Guyer, who blasted two home runs–a two run, and a three run–in the first inning. (The first International League player to do so since 2005.)

Seeing that the ball was flying out of the ballpark, on this particular night, and with the outfield seats being so empty….:

DSCN5546….I decided, as I’ve done in the past, to move to the outfield seats, after the conclusion of the first inning.

It was during my walk to the outfield that one of the most unusual things to ever happen to me at a baseball game occurred.

As I was making my way through the concourse, a guy, who I had seen earlier taking photos with an old-fashion-looking camera, stopped me and asked if I had been getting autographs down by the dugout before the game. I told him yes, and he went on to tell me that he was a photographer from Minnesota that had been hired (or picked?) by the Bulls (I think?) to take photographs of people at the ballpark for an art gallery (or museum?), and wanted to know if I’d be willing to be photographed. As you can tell, I didn’t fully understand it all, but I agreed to it, nonetheless.

We both made our way out to where his camera was, which happened to be where I was headed anyway. It probably took 10 minutes for him to get the photo he was looking for, but I had nothing else to do, and was happy to do it. Here’s a picture of the camera….:

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….with him and his friend standing just below it, looking at the field. So if you happen to see me on a wall somewhere, now you know why; let me know if you do.

Moving back to the game, and to the reason I moved to the outfield, with there still being five innings left in the game after I finished having my picture taken, I was optimistic that someone (I didn’t care who) would hit a home run in my direction. The seats continued to empty more and more as the game went on, and I was getting more and more anxious.

When it got to be the sixth inning, and no balls had even come close to me, I began to feel it was unlikely that a home run would be hit my way, but just as the thought crossed my mind, Gwinnetts’ Ernesto Mejia blasted a moon shot (the 114th HR of his MiLB career), which barely cleared the center field wall. I wanted to just run out there and get it, but I recalled the Triple-A National Championship game, when a guy ran out onto the grass after a home run ball, and the umpires stopped the game. I didn’t want to be “THAT guy”.

So I waited patiently, hoping no one would make a run for it. A few people came over and had a glance, but they didn’t try to retrieve it, which made it extremely easy for me to jump the short fence and run over to grab it as soon as three outs had been recorded.

Here’s the ball:

DSCN5554This was the first home run ball I had ever gotten, and with the rush I got from running over and picking it up, I highly doubt it will be my last.

I stayed in the outfield for one more of Wil Myers’ at-bats, but after he failed to hit a home run, I made my way back to where I had begun the game.

The Braves would make things interesting, scoring two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth, to make it a 12-8 ball game, but that would end up being the final score. As soon as the final out had been recorded, I quickly headed down to the dugout, with a dozen others, to try for an autograph from Myers, but once again, he didn’t even look up.

I did succeed in getting an autograph from the star of the game, Brandon Guyer, afterwards, and he was extremely nice about it. He seems like a really great guy in general, as before the game he went out of his way to ask how everyone was doing, when he came up from the clubhouse. It’s guys like that, that you want to see do well, and I wish him the best moving forward.

I’m not sure when my next MiLB game will be, or whether it will be a Mudcats or Bulls game, but if it’s half as great as this one was, it’s sure to be a fun time.

My First Two MiLB Games of the 2013 Season

Opening Day for Major League Baseball took place on Monday, however, Opening Day for the Carolina Mudcats (A+ affiliates of the Indians), of hawkinsthe Carolina League, is taking place later tonight. For the second season in a row, I’m attending tonight’s game, once again versus the Winston Salem Dash (A+ affiliates of the White Sox), and I’m extremely excited. This year’s Opening Day game is packed with top notch talent.

For the Carolina Mudcats, while their pitching staff isn’t too fantastic, their position players include the organization’s number one prospect, Francisco Lindor, 2012 1st round draft pick, Tyler Naquin, along with top prospect, Tony Wolters, who is making the transition this season from short stop to catcher. Wolters played with the Mudcats last season, and I really enjoyed watching him play. I’m looking forward to seeing how the move to behind the plate plays out.

As far as the Dash go, the highlight of the team is undoubtedly Courtney Hawkins, who was drafted 13th overall in last year’s draft; doing a backflip afterwards. Though Hawkins won’t be doing any backflips (as far as I know), I’m looking forward to seeing the White Sox’ number one prospect in action–maybe he’ll even blast a home run. If nothing else, I’m certainly going to try for his autograph, as I’m also planning to do from the Mudcats’ Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin.

But when it comes to autograph collecting, no other game throughout the entire rest of the season will have more highly ranked prospects than 579585_10151513541113908_2023782346_nthe April 9th Durham Bulls game I’m planning to attend. Having been traded from the Royals’ organization to the Rays, in the 2012 offseason, the number four prospect in all of baseball, Wil Myers, will be there and is sure to draw a huge crowd, so autographs may be hard to come by. I’ll just have wait and see how it goes.

A few other Bulls’ players worth mentioning, that I’m hoping to get autographs from on Tuesday night, include Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee, who are the Rays’ third, fourth and fifth ranked prospects, respectively. In all, the Bulls are beginning the season with 7 of the top 20 prospects in the organization. I can’t think of a team in all of minor league baseball with more talent, which is why I’m going to be blogging about the game. It will likely be posted on Wednesday afternoon.

So that’s the basic plan for my first two minor league games of the year. I’m not sure when, or where, the rest of the year will have me going to games; the only game set in stone is the June 3rd Bulls day game, when they take on the Red Barons (Yankees affiliate). But one of the games during the series when Billy Hamilton comes to Durham with Louisville is almost a sure bet, as well. Other than that, I don’t know.

Chapman Prefers Closing; Myers To Begin 2013 In AAA

When it was first reported that the Cincinnati Reds had plans to convert Aroldis Chapman–known for his overpowering fastball, that’s been clocked up to 106 MPH–from closer to a starter, to begin the 2013 season, I couldn’t help but question the decision.mlb_u_chapman_b1_400

Chapman struggled a bit last year after pitching in multiple outings in a row, so I don’t understand what good would it really do to make him a starter. And now, with the recent comments from Chapman himself that he would prefer closing out games over starting, I question the change even more.

“In the beginning when I started closing, it was something I didn’t know,” Chapman stated in an interview. “But as I started throwing and getting into the late part of the game when the game is more exciting and has more meaning, I kind of liked it. Yeah, the adrenaline goes up and I like to be in that situation. I would like to be a closer, yeah, but there are some things that I can’t control.”

I understand that the Reds would like for Chapman to have a greater impact on the entire game, rather than just the ninth inning, but I feel they should just leave things the way everyone’s used to: With Chapman as their closer. That’s where Chapman feels the most comfortable, and where he has proven to be the most dominant–recording 38 saves off a 1.51 ERA, with 122 strikeouts in 71.2 inning pitched, last season.

To me, there’s too much uncertainty to have the move work out in the long run, especially with Chapman not fully on board.

In other news, Wil Myers was reassigned to minor league camp on Saturday, ensuring that he will begin the 2013 season with Triple-A Durham. Thus finally answering the question everyone had on their minds throughout the entire offseason, of whether or not Myers would break camp with the big league club.

Myers seems to be taking the news well, stating, “It was something I knew was going to come eventually. It wasn’t a surprise at all…I’m really looking forward to getting down there [to minor league camp] and getting some at-bats….I really enjoyed my time here, it was a blast. But now I’m ready to get down to business.”

While I somewhat disagree with the Rays’ decision, Myers beginning the year with Durham guarantees the opportunity for fans, like myself, to see the number four prospect in all of baseball in action. So I can’t really complain all that much.

UPDATE: 3/21/13

The Reds have made the decision to leave Aroldis Chapman as their closer.

2013 Durham Bulls Fan Fest

About a year ago, I made the statement that I’d love to take batting practice and play catch on a professional baseball field, should the opportunity ever present itself. Little did I know that there was a way to make my wish a reality, as the local Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Durham Bulls, hold a fan fest twice a year, giving fans the chance to participate in both of the activities I was looking to take part in.

When I first learned that there was such a thing as fan fest, in October of last year, I already had a vacation planned with my family, so I unfortunately couldn’t attend. Therefore, when it was announced that they were holding another one in March, I made sure to mark the date on my calendar.

I wasn’t going to miss it this time around.

Accompanied by my dad, I arrived at fan fest at 12:30, right at an hour and a half after the gates first opened:

image2The line you see extending from the batting cage is (obviously) the line of fans waiting for their chance to hit.

With the line being so long (continuing further out of the frame in the picture above), we decided to go ahead and play catch first. So we made our way down the steps, and into the outfield:

image4All of the balls were being used when we first arrived–we weren’t told to bring our own, though I think most people did–however, a couple of kids were nice enough to let the both of us play catch with them, in a square formation, of sorts.

After the four of us played catch for around 30 minutes, the plan was to head to the batting cage, to take some hacks, but after watching a few people take their turn, it came to my attention that you only received five swings. Knowing that I would more than likely swing and miss on every pitch, I figured it wasn’t worth it. So after a stop in the Bulls’ dugout….

image6….I decided to take a trek around the outfield warning track:

image9Here’s what it looked like from straight away center field:

image8From where I was standing, it’s exactly 400 feet to home plate.

I continued my walk, ending up over by the blue monster….

image11….where I had my picture taken, just before my dad and I made our way out of the ballpark:

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I had a great time at Bulls fan fest. It’s something I’d recommend to anyone, if you’re ever in the area when they hold it. But then again, it’s hard not to have fun anytime baseball is involved.

All of the pictures were taken on my phone, so if they seem a bit blurry, that’s why.

Should Wil Myers Begin 2013 In the Minor Leagues?

Although Spring Training games have yet to begin, the current speculation is that Rays’ phenom Wil Myers will start 2013 with AAA Durham, instead of with the big league club, down in Tampa, regardless of how he performs over the course of the next month. This leaves many people wil-myers-landov2(myself included) to ask the question: Is this the right decision for Myers?

I’m not 100 percent sold on the idea.

This past season, before getting traded from the Royals to the Rays, in December, Myers batted .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI’s, between AA North West Arkansas and AAA Omaha. The expectation was for Myers to receive a September call up from the Royals, however, that didn’t end up happening. Leaving many people scratching their heads.

In response to not calling up Myers, the Royals made the statement that they didn’t feel he was big league ready. While that might be true, I still don’t understand why they didn’t give him a shot for the last few games of the season, especially with them not being in play off contention; just as I’m not fully understanding the Rays’ logic with Wil Myers, going into the 2013 season.

According to Rays’ manager Joe Maddon, the decision to keep Myers down in the minors, to begin the season, is merely a “baseball decision”, that would give Myers a greater chance of success once he makes the transition to the major league level, sometime this season. Maddon is known for preferring this type of strategy, as his recent comments would suggest:

“I just think that it’s easier for a player with that kind of expectation level to get some time under his belt on a Minor League level, get it rolling, get the feel going, when you know it’s going well, then walk into a big league situation. Not as difficult as opposed to leaving a camp with all this expectation, all this hype then having to match up to that on a Major League level right out of the chute.”

I sort of understand where Maddon is coming from, though I still have to disagree.

While it’s vastly debated as to whether or not Maddon’s approach with Myers is the correct one, there’s no argument when it comes to if Myers has enough natural talent, and potential, to perform at the big league level. Anyone can see that, just by watching the guy play. No one more so than Rays’ hitting coach, Derek Shelton, who, after day one of Rays Spring Training, had this to say about Myers, and his talent level:

“The thing that’s the most impressive is the bat speed. The way the ball comes off his bat….You don’t see very many people who generate that kind of bat speed….It’s loud. It’s a different sound….You don’t hear many guys that can create that sound….it’s exciting to see.”

After reading all of what Shelton had to say, combined with my personal observations of Wil Myers’, and his stats from 2012, if it were up to me, I’d choose to let him loose to see what he can do at the major league level. Worst-case scenario, Myers doesn’t produce, and the Rays could then decide to either work through it or send him back down to the minors. But there’s always the possibility that Myers could hold his own, picking up where he left off in 2012, absolutely tearing it up out of the gate.

To me, the mere chance that Myers could be an impact player for the Rays to begin the season is enough to give him a shot. Playing in the somewhat difficult American League East, if the Rays want a chance to win their division, I’m not sure they can afford even a few weeks without Myers.

My Upcoming Week of Baseball

It’s officially that time of year again. The calendar reads April 1st which means the MLB regular season is just days away, and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve got a busy week of baseball games coming up, so I thought I’d type up a brief overview of my schedule for the coming week.

Five County Stadium. Home of the Carolina Mudcats.

My first game of the year is Tuesday, April 3rd. It’s an exhibition game between the Cleveland Indians and my local minor league team, the Carolina Mudcats. Game time is set for 2 o’clock, but with gates set to open at 11:30, I’m planning on arriving at 11:15. While it might seem crazy to some of you that I’m showing up nearly 3 hours early, I feel that showing up early is half the fun. If you ask me, being one of the first through the gates is the only way to go. I’ll never understand the people that show up in the third inning and leave in the seventh. Why even come at all?!

Part of the reason I’m showing up as early as I am is to go for autographs. I’m not a big autograph collector, but I don’t plan on passing up the opportunity to get autos from some of today’s up and coming stars like Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, etc. Living nearly 300 miles from the nearest MLB stadium, this is a MUST attend game for me. It’s not that often that a Major League team “comes to me”.

Game two of the week comes three days later, on Friday April 6th. It’s another Mudcat’s game. (Opening night to be specific.) I wouldn’t be attending this game under normal circumstances, but when I bought my ticket the the Cleveland Indians exhibition game I received a FREE ticket to Opening Night. So I mean, why not? It’s a baseball game after all! Even if it is against a team in the White Sox organization, baseball is baseball. (There is a chance of rain that day however, so hopefully they’ll be able to get it in.)

The game I’m probably looking forward to the most is game three of the week. That game sees the Durham Bulls taking on the visiting Gwinnett Braves. There are tons of future Atlanta Braves stars on the team including newly acquired Joey Terdoslavich, who made the jump from Class A advanced ball to Triple A. Terdoslavich is more than likely going to take over for Chipper Jones at third base once Jones retires, so it’s pretty neat to get to see him play.

That’s pretty much it. Three games, five teams, and two stadiums, all within a five day span. Pretty exciting stuff, in my opinion. I’m pumped!!

VERY Quick Update

I am going to another Durham Bulls game tonight (weather permiting) and am planning on posting a recap from that game on Sunday.

I’m also still planning on posting a Q and A on Casper Wells, of the Seattle Mariners, tomorrow. However, due to hurricane Irene, I may not be able to. (My power might go out.) So please stay tuned….

Thank you.

UPDATE

Due to the threat of rain, I decided NOT to go to tonight’s game.

I’m going to go on Sunday to a double header. Two, seven inning games. Should be fun.