Ryne Sandberg resigns and my encounter with Ruben Amaro earlier this week…..

Monday was the first game of the Gulf Coast League. Baseball Ross and I made the trek to Tampa to see the GCL Phillies take on the Yankees1 team.

It was oppressively hot. As Ross and I sat on the bleachers, Phillies great, former World Series winning manager Dallas Green came and sat on the bottom row of bleachers.

As the temperatures rose, I went looking for shade under the press box. As I stood there, Ruben and his daughter walked up the ramp to the platform so that his daughter could use the ladies room.  Amaro smiled and said hello. When his daughter was done the they went down the ramp to go back to the bleachers and Amaro, walking with his head down as always nearly smacked into Ross, who was coming up to stand in the shade with me.

Ross looked at him and they each stepped aside and went on their ways. Amaro went to sit on the bleachers…not with Dallas Green but with Ed Wade.

Amaro and Wade sat at the top of the bleachers until the game ended. Neither looked stressed or concerned in any way. Amaro had his daughter with him so one would assume he wasn’t too worried about needing to talk over serious matters with Wade…

May be Ryne Sandberg did manage to surprise them all…

The Times They Are A Changin’-CLEARWATER THRESHERS WIN FSL NORTH AND BERTH IN PLAYOFFS!

Last year it was tough to be a Clearwater Threshers fan. At this point last year, they had only won 17 games of the first 70 games! One of the absolute worst teams in all of Minor League baseball. This year, they are 37 and 33 and most importantly, they made the last five wins really count.

It is important to note that the Florida State League divides its season into two halves and the winner of each half gets a playoff spot (per division).  Going into the last five games of the first half, the Threshers were second in the northern division trailing the Daytona Tortugas by five games. 

Clearwater took the first step by winning two games against St Lucie before the three final games against Daytona. Daytona, by contrast, lost their last five games before starting the series with Clearwater.

Monday night, newly promoted Ricardo Pinto made his Threshers debut.

  
Pinto was outstanding in his debut leading the team to a 4-3 win.

After that, the biggest factor was the weather. Tuesday night, the rain and lightning started in the second inning.

  
The remaining 7 innings were to start today at noon with the second game to be only 7 innings. 

So just before noon today Ross and I entered Brighthouse as lightning crashed nearby. The rain was heavy and the lightning frequent and close.

 

The on deck circle was under water.

But 10 time best groundskeeper in FSL, Opie Cheek had the field in tip top shape after the hour and 40 minute delay.

The Threshers won the game 6-4 and it looked like we might be able to breathe. 

I wasn’t able to stay for game two as Baseball Ross and I will be traveling to Hickory tomorrow to see the Lakewood BlueClaws take on the Crawdads, so I listened from homers I packed. (Ross stayed so check his BLOG for videos)

FSL All Star and Member of Team Canada, Colin Kleven took the mound for game two. Kleven shelled the Tortugas, striking out a total of eight, six of which he struck out in a row during his 5.2 innings. Kleven’s ERA is now down to 2.89. Kleven’s final line was 5.2 IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 8SO and 1 HR. Threshers were up 3-1.

Ulises Jaoquin gave up a home run to the first batter he faced making the score 3-2 Threshers. I held my breath. It was close. So many times last year, we would get our hopes up only to have them dashed. Would it happen again? 

NO!

Jaoquin settled in and they won! 3-2! For the first time since 2007, the Threshers are going to the playoffs! 

Photo courtesy of Frank Berlingis

I screamed so loud that I was afraid that my neighbors would call the police thinking I had been murdered. My dogs were frightened, but I was elated!

THE THRESHERS ARE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS!

Oh! What a night!

This was one of those amazing nights that I won’t soon forget. Not just for the game but a lot of things.

Baseball Ross and I went to the Threshers game tonight and it was Ladies’ Night where they give away a gift basket. On a whim, I signed in and we got something to drink and took our seats.  It was hot, really hot. We were not getting any air and the game was moving very slowly. 

By the top of the 4th, the Threshers were down 7-0 to St. Lucie and Ross and I were drenched with sweat. We thought we’d wait to see if I won the gift basket before we left.

I won!

I went to pick up the basket and suddenly the Threshers picked up 3 runs! I got back to where Ross was standing and we took some pictures:

   
  
And then my friend Phinley came over:

 

Then Ross suggested we take one with the field in the background…and with the distraction of taking pictures we failed to notice that the Threshers has loaded the bases so as Ross took the picture…they were scoring on Andrew Pullin’s GRAND SLAM! The game was tied at 7!

  

The basket was awesome!   There were two bottles of wine, two huge coffee mugs, a hat (sparkly too), a headband, tickets to a concert and two coozies!  

We took the basket to the car we realized we needed to walk our dogs…so we ran home and took care of the pups.

My mother was one of those “always send a thank-you card” kind of people. So I sent the Threshers a modern day version, a tweet of the picture of me with Phinley with my note of thanks—AND IT WON PHOTO OF THE NIGHT!

To claim the prize I needed to pick it up tonight before the game ended…they were tied 8-8 so I prayed for extra innings and dashed back to Clearwater…

I must be good luck, because just as I claimed my second prize of the night, Aaron Brown hit a walk off single to score Dylan Cozens in the bottom of the ninth! They literally won at the same time! 

I win the basket- they get a grand slam, I win photo of the night and they walk off winners too…coincidence?

The photo of the game prize was a pizza at the Galley, which is just a mile or so from my house and another hat:

 
My total “haul”

  

I gave the 2nd hat to Ross and we will get pizza for Fathers’ Day on Sunday-what a great night we had! I don’t think I’ve ever been so lucky! What an amazing time!

  

Fan Injured by Broken Bat that Flew into the Stands

A woman attending last night’s Red Sox, A’s game was seriously injured receiving what was described as “life-threatening injuries” when Brett Lawrie’s broken bat flew into the stands.

A detailed story can be found HERE. (Warning graphic content)

Injuries cause by equipment flying into the stands is something that I’ve not only seen while attending sports events, baseball and hockey but sadly, something I experienced first hand during the 1997 AHL play off season in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

I had just started dating Ross and we were really into watching the Hershey Bears, a perennial contender for the Calder Cup. The game started with a fight, a big fight that caused on of the Kentucky Thoroblades to be ejected only five minutes in. The goon, Ken Belanger, went into the locker room, got dressed and was walking the concourse.

Of course, that caught the crowd’s attention, so I will be the first to admit I should’ve been watching the game. However, I wasn’t and I would pay dearly for not paying attention. Hershey Bear Captain Mike McHugh hit a wraparound shot on the glass that picked up speed as it went. Ross and I were sitting where the glass went from high to low so as the puck whipped around the glass, it came to the end of the high glass and went out in the crowd full speed. 

I knew from the sound of the puck that it was coming our way so I turned to look-so I know which way duck but there wasn’t time. The puck hit me squarely between the eyes. I was lucky, I never lost consciousness. My first thought was to check to see if Ross was it as well. Before I could turn my head-my vision was obscured by blood. 

By the end of the night I went home with 15 stitches, a concussion and a skull fracture. To this day, I have a scar between my eyebrows. The emergency room doctor said I was lucky, had the puck hit me anywhere else in the head I might not have had a good outcome.

Just five years later, 13 year old Brittanie Cecil was killed at a Columbus Bluejacket game in the same manner. Soon after, the NHL placed nets behind the goal for safety. Had the nets been in place at the time of my incident, I wouldn’t have been scarred.

Is this incident the one like Brittanie Cecil’s, the one that will make MLB act in the interest of fan safety? While getting a foul ball is baseball tradition, is it worth the risk? What will it take? MLB didn’t take action in 1970 when a 14 year old was killed by a line drive ball hit by Manny Mota at a Dodgers game. Fan protection must be paramount and MLB must act.

At last report the injured Sox fan had undergone surgery and was in stable condition.

Sometimes It’s Hard to be a Fan

In the wake of General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s “BitchAndMoanGate”, there is further evidence that the organization cares little about their fans. Today, for at the least fourth time this season, the time or place of the Extended Spring Training game was changed. This does not include weather-related changes.

As I mentioned before, it’s already difficult to be a fan of these games. They “usually” take place at 1 (during the week), it’s the hottest part of the day and there is little shade. If you hide in the shade against one of the buildings, you have to concede the cooling breeze.

They do not count towards any records so sometimes there may be two outs per inning, or there maybe five outs and inning, it’s all up to the coaches.

They also do not publish the schedule online. The only way to find out when the games are is to stop by the front office at the Carpender complex and ask the secretary for a copy of the  schedule, a paper schedule. That we did, at the beginning of the season but they haven’t been sticking to it as of late. Yesterday,  they were scheduled to play the Bradenton  Pirates at home at one, however, when we got there just before one no one was there. Turns out they flipped the schedule and were playing in Bradenton.

So today we go to the field because the schedule said that they were playing the Pirates today at one, we get there at 12:45 and they are already at the bottom of the eighth inning. For some arbitrary reason, they started early. A friend of ours said that they told him yesterday they will be revising the schedule and it would be available today, but when we went to the office it was locked so we weren’t able to get a copy.

I understand that there are not a lot of people that go to these games, but those of us that do are loyal fans we truly care about these kids. How hard would it be for them to have either a Facebook or Twitter account where they could just announce today’s game is at home or away at noon or 1 o’clock? I often have people ask how do you know where the games are what time and my responses your guess is as good as mine.

It’s so frustrating. If you’ve been reading my blog you know how much I care about these kids–it makes me feel bad when I tell them I will show up to watch them play and I end up missing it because they switch up the schedule without rhyme or reason. If I didn’t care about the kids so much I would just give up.

So don’t think I’ve given up covering extended spring training, I’m trying,it’s just that they’re not making it very easy.

Summer in Clearwater, We are Here

The weather this spring has been hot. Especially for the Extended Spring Training games. Noon, 1 o’clock in Florida is not an easy game to watch, even more as many of the fields have little to no shade, or if they have shade, you give up the breeze because you’re standing against a building.

Despite this, there is a loyal gang of followers who show up. Day after day, week after week we stand (mostly) and watch games that do not count and will never be found anywhere outside of the blogs the few of us write.

BUT, we are there. We watch young kids from the United States, Canada, the Dominican, Venezuela learning the game or the occasional player from a higher level or even an MLBer make a game or two in a rehab appearance.

Some of the innings might have two outs, others five, since they do not count you often hear a coach say, “roll it” (end the inning even with only 2 outs) or “give him another one” (or two). It all depends on the teams and what each of the players are working on. It’s interesting to see on many levels because you might see a 17 year old kid with killer stuff–all natural ability trying to learn control and additional pitches or you might see a 24 year old coming back from an injury. You could say XST is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Like today, Ross and I made our way to the complex only to get a call from a fellow blogger when we were two blocks away that they had arbitrarily move the game to Bradenton. Last week, they moved a 1pm game to 10 and were done when we got there. Other days if there is a threat of rain, the visiting team might not come and it ends up being a scrimmage. You just never know…

Yet, we go. We hope and if lucky, we see the stars of tomorrow in the very beginning of their careers. That is what makes it all worth while.