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They also do not publish the schedule online.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.

JP Crawford Hits 2 Run Homer in 2015 Clearwater Threshers Debut

JP Crawford, 20 from Lakewood California,  was the DH today in Clearwater as he ended his stint on the DL for an oblique injury.

Crawford, had 3AB, 2 R, 2H, 1HR, 3RBI, 1BB, 1SO and was HBP, giving him a .667 average for the day.

Threshers Struggle to Score Runs in 2-1 Defeat by the Brevard County Manatees

Colin Kleven
Colin Kleven

It was a rough night in Clearwater. It showed the biggest problem with the Threshers this year, they are missing consistent hitting.

photo of box courtesy of
photo of box courtesy of

Colin Kleven (RHP) started and went five innings gave up 6 hits, 2 runs 3 walks and had 3 strike outs. He had little help from the bats, there were only 6 hits the entire game. The lone Threshers run was scored in the bottom of the sixth, when Drew Stankiewicz (2B) scored and Andrew Knapp’s (DH) ground out to short.

Another glaring problem is the number of men left on base, at seven. They were also only 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

While they seem to always try, last night, the bats were largely silent leaving an up hill battle for the pitching staff.

The Threshers and Manatees will go at it again at 1 Wednesday.


Road Trip: Watching the Lakewood BlueClaws on the Road in Savannah Georgia

If you have been reading our blogs for a while, you will remember that Baseball Ross and I have become unofficial “American Parents” to a few of the young Dominican players, two of which are currently on the Lakewood BlueClaws roster. The first weekend in May, the BlueClaws made their trip to the most southern team in the South Atlantic League, the Savannah Sand Gnats.

Savannah’s Grayson Stadium is a beautiful, old stadium, reminiscent of the Williamsport Cross Cutters’ Historic Bowman field.

Grayson Stadium
Grayson Stadium

We were in town for three games of the four-game series. We drove seven hours each way to get there, and it was so worth it. The BlueClaws won all three games we attended and only dropped the final game of the series.

Our “baseball son” Ranfi Casimirio, a RHP, pitched the first game.

Ranfi Casimiro
Ranfi Casimiro

Casimiro led the team to a 2-1 win over the Sand Gnats, the Mets Low-A farm team. Casimiro went five shut-out innings to increasing his record in his last two starts to 12 innings of allowing only one run. He executed four strikeouts in this five inning start. When he walked off the field at the end of the fifth, the BlueClaws were ahead 1-0.

The  Sand Gnats tied it up in the sixth when BlueClaws reliever Alexis Rivero gave up a run, but the Threshers would win it with a run in the top eight with the help of a wild pitch after a double by Carlos Tocci. Matt Hockenberry, who has held the opposition scoreless in his five appearances this season, recorded the save.

Saturday night, RHP Chris Oliver pitched the team to a 4-0 victory, striking out seven over seven innings. Carlos Tocci-CF went 3 for 4 and had stolen bases. Rhys Hoskins-1B went 2 for 4 including a double and 2 RBIs. Reliever, RHP Jesson Therrien, pitched the last two innings to preserve the shut out.

Sunday afternoon, our other BlueClaw baseball son, Elniery Garcia, a LHP, pitched.  Garcia surrendered three runs in six innings, still a quality start and he got the win. His Clayton Kershaw-esque curve ball helped him to strike out six including four in the first two innings. Later, he used his sinker to induce two infield ground ball double plays in the outing.

Elniery Garcia
Elniery Garcia

In the nine innings of relief in the three games I saw the bullpen has given up only two runs. Closer Matt Hockenberry got his sixth save of the season on Sunday,  but gave up his first run of the season.

One thing I noticed this weekend, in addition to the BlueClaws games I’ve listened to on “Tune In Radio” is that Carlos Tocci is a target. Unfortunately the opposing teams in the South Atlantic League are “head hunting” Tocci.  Already this season, he has been hit by a pitch three times but that is not the whole story. Friday night in the ninth inning he had to jump out of the way with an up and in pitch.  Saturday, he also dodged a pitch. Sunday in the first inning he had to do duck out of the way with a ball aimed right at his head by Sand Gnat pitcher Martires Arias. The plate umpire then warned both teams that the next hit batter would result in the ejection of the pitcher.

Carlos Tocci dodged a pitch Friday night.
Carlos Tocci dodged a pitch Friday night.
Carlos Tocci ducks and narrowly misses being struck in the head by a pitch Sunday afternoon

Three games in three days and the BlueClaws won all three. We were lucky that we got to see both of our baseball sons get to pitch–and win. We also were lucky enough that they each were “charting” the game (pitchers will write down the pitches, placement and speed of both their team and the opposing team) so that they were in the stands.

The best part of the entire trip was getting to spend a little time with my “boys”.

Elniery Garcia, me and Ranfi Casimiro in Savannah
Elniery Garcia, me and Ranfi Casimiro in Savannah

It made the 14 hour round trip worth while to see them (as well as many of their teammates) happy to see us. I can’t wait to see them again, hopefully in June in Lakewood.