Yappy Hour

If you’ve been reading my blog you’ll have noticed I adore my dogs which makes me LOVE anything I can do where they can be included.

This week—Yappy Hour. It’s basically bark in the park. I have 2 shih tzus–a 12 1/2 year old named Maggie and a 6 year old named Veronica. Both are included in the famous “Dogedin” mural in Dunedin where we live:

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Veronica is the white one on top and Maggie is the white one below her.

Unfortunately, it was extremely hot so we had to leave Maggie home in the air conditioning. At her age, she is stressed by the heat.

Veronica loved the game. She even remembered how to get from the parking lot to the stadium from last year.

Here are some pictures:

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Veronica sitting in my seat.

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Veronica watching Hoby Milner pitch.

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She only lost interest after Hoby was done 7 2/3 innings after the game began. She really seems to enjoy watching.

It was a fun night capped off by a Threshers win.

How many other sports allow your “fuzzy children” a chance to participate?

This is just another reason why baseball is great.

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Brian Gump Retires

You know, when you first start seriously following baseball, especially in the minors, there’s always a couple of guys that for one reason or another you take a liking to and follow as long as they play. If you’re lucky, you may even get to know them a little bit.

I really started to follow minor league baseball in 2010. It was the first time we really started paying attention to Gulf Coast League Phillies. One of the guys that caught my attention was Brian Gump.

Brian played right field and at first, it was his name and flaming red hair that caught my attention.  You can always tell the guys that are out there for the love of the game. Brian was one of those guys and that love was the main reason I loved to watch him play.

That year, the GCL Phillies won the championship and Baseball Ross and I were there. It was Ross’ birthday, Brian went 3-5 with 2 doubles and 4 RBIs. His performance really stuck out in my mind.

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Fast forward two weeks, Brian was promoted to Lakewood to help them in the South Atlantic League finals. Ross and I were back from Florida and we took a few days and drove to Lakewood. We watched as Lakewood won that championship with Brian on the team.

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He spent 2010 and 2011 in Clearwater.

Sadly, the Phillies left him go last year. It was a surprise to me. He went on to spend 2012 in the Independent League with San Rafael and St. Paul. This season, he went to Trois-Rivieres in Montreal so that he could pitch.

Yesterday, he announced his retirement from baseball.

I’ve always respected the way he played the game, full out and with a love of the game that was there for all to see. Before walking away, he pitched, which he said was something he always wanted to do and when things didn’t work out the way he hoped, he left the game, knowing that he had left it all out on the field, he’d done all he could and walked away with grace.

He was a part of FOUR professional championships in his career and no Phillies team at any level has won a championship since they released Brian. Coincidence?

I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know Brian a little since he left the Phillies and regret that I didn’t get to know him when he was here. He’s also quite an elegant writer. His announcement on his blog about his retirement made my eyes, err, water for a while.

If you’d like to read it, you can click HERE.

I’d like to wish Brian all the best of luck in the future, I’ll miss seeing him play.

I Choo-Choo Chooch You

Carlos Ruiz is coming back from his suspension for banned substances. He was allowed to play five games in the minors prior to his return to the Phillies. Wednesday was his second game with the Threshers on his way back to the big club.

If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you will know that I am a big time collector of autographed baseballs. It’s my favorite thing to collect and I have two mostly-filled bookcases to show for my effort. Anyone who’s “in the know” about collecting the Phillies’ autographs will know that Ruiz is one of the hardest to get. Until this spring, I honestly don’t know if I have EVER seen him sign in a public setting.

This spring was different. He actually signed a few times. Not much, but considering I’ve never seen him sign anything it was a vast improvement. Wednesday, Baseball Ross and I spent the day in Tampa (shopping, he, he, he) so that we would be sure of getting to the ball park early and not getting caught in the traffic crossing the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

We picked up our FREE tickets at the window (having Threshers’ season tickets has its perks) and headed down to the field. I elected to go down along the third base side, all alone. The other autograph hounds when next to the dugout on the side towards the plate. When Ruiz came into the dugout all the other hounds started hooting “Choooooch”. I, all alone on the other end, said nothing. When he exited the dugout I simply asked, “Carlos, would you please sign my ball??

He smiled slightly and asked, “Where’s your ball?”

I had JUST gotten to the rail when he came out so I was unprepared, which breaks one of my cardinal rules of autograph seeking–ALWAYS BE READY.

I dug quickly and produced the ball and he signed it. I thanked him for signing and welcomed him back to baseball.

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Friends soon arrived and waited for him to return to the dugout after warmups, again after being POLITELY asked, Ruiz provided my friends with autographs of their items. The fans on the other end who yelled, “Chooch”…well they went home empty handed. Moral of the story: always be polite.

Ruiz was third in the line up and when he came to the plate there was two on base. It took a few swings, but he smacked one of the longest balls I’ve seen hit out of Steinbrenner field.

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He hit a three run homer!

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He was greeted at the dugout by his Threshers teammates with high-fives.

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Now, while I do NOT condone what Ruiz did off the field to result in his suspension, I would NEVER in my life ever condone what happened during the rest of the game. I’m also afraid he will have more of this in his future.

From that point on, every time Ruiz came to the plate this obnoxious Yankee fan heckled Chooch. It was exceptionally loud with the small crowd in attendance. This fan’s voice bounced and was amplified by the stadium. This jerk yelled things like:

“Go back on steroids”
“You juicer”
“Cheater”

and a few other things I won’t dare to repeat in pleasant company.

Really? And Yankee fans wonder why no one likes them.

Like my mother always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Sold! Two Jerseys for a Good Cause

Last night at Brighthouse, it was Ed Randall’s Bat for the Cure prostate cancer awareness night. In support, the Threshers wore light blue jerseys that were auctioned off with the proceeds going to Randall’s charity,

Ross and I bid on three jerseys, Perci Garner, Carlos Alonso and Colin Kleven. When all the dust settled, we won Alonso and Kleven.

After the game, we went down to the field to get the jerseys ad have them autographed.

With Carlos Alonso

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With Colin Kleven

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Alonso’s Jersey

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Kleven’s Jersey

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The ironic thing is that this wasn’t the first time we had tried to win Kleven’s jersey. Three years ago, we had driven up to Williamsport to see Jesse Biddle pitch in his first professional game. That was “Celebrate Recycling” night. The jerseys were auctioned off that night as well. Ross and I had bid on Biddle’s and Klevin’s jerseys that night and lost. I remember the bidding on Biddle’s jersey was up over $250 by the end.

So last night, Ross finally got his Kleven Jersey…he just had to wait three years.

Opening Night in Clearwater

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It’s the home opener here in Clearwater. They’ve got a good size crowd.

Perci Garner is on the bump tonight and he’s mowing the Jays down. He looks in midseason form. Perci has a good change-up, curve ball and is painting the corners with his fastball.

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Top of the 7th, Garner is done. Gave up a single to start, then retired the next 17 batters in order.

Score is still 0-0

Colby Shreve is now in for the Threshers.

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