Jorge Alfaro, the new catcher acquired in the Cole Hamels trade, played today in a Gulf Coast League game.
Alfaro played three innings–hit two strong line drives that might have gone out, if the wind didn’t blow it back in.
I’ll admit it, I’ve slacked off a bit this summer. It’s hard not to. This has been one of the hottest summers in recent history and definitely the hottest since Baseball Ross and I moved to Florida full-time. Almost every day for over a week has had “feels like” temperatures over 100, with one day being 110!
With the heat like that, going to Gulf Coast League games at noon is brutal. At the Carpenter Complex, there is a trade off: if you want shade-you get no breeze, if you want a breeze-you get no shade. Regardless of where you sit, every available space for spectators is covered in heat-absorbing concrete.
Couple all the heat with a severe case of elbow tendinitis in my right elbow that kept me from being able to take pictures with anything heavier than an iPhone and you have a recipe for a long summer.
That being said, I have gotten to see a fair bit of baseball and a few things that helped me to love baseball again.
So I will list them here (in no particular order):
1. Winning a jersey in an auction that was worn by my favorite Williamsport Crosscutter. Ross and I have been good friends with Feliberto Sanchez since last year when he spent the year here in GCL and the Fall Instructional League. He’s a great kid and I just had to have the jersey. OK, the auction was for their “Ugly Christmas Sweater” promotion, but still, it was Sanchez’s jersey. There was only one problem. The Cutters never responded to my inquiry about proxy phone bidding. Luckily, Tim Luzier (@20schmidtfan) saw my plea and helped me out. I’m so grateful for his help.
2. Our crazy marathon trip to see every team in the Phillies minor league system–IN ONE WEEK. (You can read it and see the pictures in this post.) 3,200 miles (1,200 by car) and it was a blast. That being said, I’m not sure I’d do it again! It was very draining.
3. Seeing pitchers overcome difficulties and succeed. Colin Kleven had a back injury that prematurely ended his season in Clearwater last year. Seeing him come back and steadily progress has been great. As difficult of a season that Clearwater had, I always looked forward and went out of my way to see him pitch and was often rewarded by a strong performance.
I was also glad to see Jesse Biddle roar back in a rehab appearance here in Clearwater. Jesse’s difficulties this year, starting with a concussion caused by a hail stone, have been well documented. To see him tear it up in his first rehab appearance was just great. (You can read my blog about Jesse here.)
3. Seeing Aaron Nola’s first and second professional starts. That could be one of those things that in 10 years I’ll be bragging about it. You can read about his first start HERE and the second start HERE.
4. Getting to know Frank Viola III and learning about the knuckle ball. I had written a story about Frank’s return to baseball and one night, while Ross and I were at dinner the waiter came up to me and asked, “Would you happen to be Baseball Betsy?” I replied that I was and he smiled and said, “The gentleman at that table over there would like to buy you dessert.” (Now there’s a guy who knows the way to my heart!) I looked over and it was Frank and his mother. He had read the story and liked it. Ross and I ended up joining them and had a great time. I learned so much about the “mindset of the knuckleball”. If you’ve read my blog this summer, about a third of the posts were about knuckleballs.
After that, I followed his progress through the Blue Jays minor league system including a stop in Dunedin, where I got to see him pitch.
Sadly, my heart was broken at the end of July when he was released. On the plus side, I made a new friend and that is amazing by itself.
5. Helping the Threshers mascot, Phinley win the Mascot Mania Challenge to be the best mascot in ALL of minor league baseball. It was a hard push, but after hundreds of tweets, retweets, online votes and my followers retweeting my tweets helped to make Phinley a winner. It was a matter of time since he was second last year.
I know looking at the picture above you can hear “You’re the Best Around” playing in your head.
6. Bark in the Park/Yappy Hour. To me, this is the best trend in all of baseball. Pay a few dollars to an animal charity for a “ticket” for your dog and they can join you at the game. We have two small shih tzus and over the years we have taken them to several BitPs. Sadly, Maggie our 14 year old, cannot endure the Florida heat so she was not able to attend this year, but Veronica our youngest, LOVES to go. I wrote a story about her game.
Just look at that face, you can tell she’s having a blast.
So there are the things I loved most about the summer of 2014, I couldn’t really even rank them because they were all pretty stellar.
It was during the long, cold winter that Baseball Ross and I were sitting and dreaming of warmer days. Somehow we got on the topic of “epic trips” and started brainstorming…what if…
At some point one of us said, “what if we saw every single team in the Phillies farm system in a week?” Sure, it sounded so easy when we were sitting there in the living room all wrapped in blankets (It was during the polar vortex and even here in Florida, we had wind chills in the teens) but putting it into action was a whole other story.
We scoured the schedules of all the teams looking for a time when all of them would either be at home or at an away game that would not only be an easy drive from Harrisburg (we have family there to see) but also coordinated with the pitching schedules of our favorite pitchers. What made it even more difficult is that the rotation for the Williamsport Crosscutters would be the last released, the day before their season began.
We found one week, actually 9 days, where we could see the last game of Extended Spring Training, get on a plane and fly to Harrisburg, the next night we drove to Williamsport saw the Crosscutters, then back to Harrisburg, then drove to Lakewood to see the BlueClaws, then back to Harrisburg, then to State College to see the Cutters again so we could see Feliberto Sanchez pitch, then back to Harrisburg, then we drove to Lehigh Valley to see the IronPigs, then back to Harrisburg, then we drove to Reading to see the Fightin’ Phils, then back to Harrisburg, then we hopped on a plane flew back to Clearwater and the next day see the first game of the Gulf Coast League Phillies and a Threshers game. We flew a total of 2,000 miles and drove an amazing 1,200 more. It really was a trip of a lifetime, because I really don’t want to do that all again in a week!
It was opening night. It had rained and was threatening to rain again (this would become an ongoing theme of the trip). I did a blog on that night and you can read it HERE. The downside of all the driving (4 hours in the car for Williamsport) was that it did take a lot out of me so I only did this one blog while on the trip.
We were here to see our friend, Ranfy Casimiro pitch. He’s a great kid and people never stop staring when they see us together. I’m barely 5 feet tall, he’s 6′ 8″! We are totally “the long and the short of it”.
We were lucky enough to also catch Cody Asche make a rehab appearance here in Lakewood. (This would also be a reoccurring theme as we saw him in Clearwater before we left, then Lakewood…)
The best was seeing Casimiro pitch one of the best games of his career.
I also was lucky enough to meet Jay Floyd of Phoul Ballz. He had interviewed me last year on his podcast along with Mr. Tug. (You can listen to the podcast HERE)
While it didn’t rain, it was cold, 64 degrees!
State College to see Williamsport again
Our friend Feliberto Sanchez pitched in State College against the Spikes.
What trip to Happy Valley would be complete without a trip to the CREAMERY? If you ever go to Penn State a trip to the Creamery is a must.
State College’s stadium is right next to Beaver Stadium. It also lies in the shadow of Mount Nittany. As this was the first game, it seemed that the grounds crew groomed the mound to be a miniature Mount Nittany. It was high and seemed to have steep drop offs instead of gradual sloping sides like a “normal” mound.
The thing that sticks out in my mind is the lightning. It only rained for about five minutes that night but the lightning was all around the stadium. Long, bright bolts of lightning were striking all around the stadium. I was amazed that there wasn’t a delay. Ironically, the next night the new Lion LED sign that was added to Beaver Stadium just across the street was struck by lightning!
There were many things on this leg of the trip that were memorable.
Three words: Aw Shucks Corn
Seriously, it’s my favorite ballpark food of all time. I am ashamed to admit I ate two ears of it.
Four words: Bacon-scented Tee-shirts
Seriously! I love bacon, but this is taking it just a little far don’t you think?
I finally got to meet @cherylpursell and @Kram209! Cheryl takes amazing pictures and Kram well he’s the biggest Pigs fan there is. He was also gracious enough to present me with a CODY ASCHE BOBBLEHEAD! (*FAINTS*)
He was also kind enough to show me around Coca Cola Park.
The funny thing was, Cody Asche was making a rehab appearance there in Lehigh Valley so we got not only to see him play again, but got to see him next to his bobble head.
I also was witness to long time Pharm-hand Tyson Gillies second to last appearance as a Pig before his release.
I got to see Jesse Biddle pitch.
I also saw my friend Carlos Alonso
I also met @Mr.Tug who was with PhoulBallz and is now the photographer of the Reading Fightin Phils! Meeting people is fun so before the night was done, @mikeyesh dropped by to say, “Hi” to Ross and I.
The next day, we flew back to Clearwater. By Friday we were up at ant Englebert field to see the GCL Phillies.
All the Phillies Brass were there
Nola didn’t pitch that day…
And finally to complete the trip, the Threshers game at night to catch a rehabbing Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.
The highlight was seeing JP Crawford in his first at bat with the Threshers.
In all that traveling we managed to see my brother, his girlfriend and my niece as well as the two girls who grew up next door next to me as a girl who are like sisters to me. We even stopped at Hershey’s Chocolate World on the way to the airport.
I don’t think our crazy trip could have worked out any better! That being said, I sure am glad to be home.
Bottom of the 9th, GCL Phillies and Yankees are tied, 1-1, 1 out, Chase Harris on third…
Trey Williams steps up and does THIS
GCL Phillies WIN! 2-1
It’s summer here in Florida. Yesterday was supposed to be the beginning of the Gulf Coast League season with the GCL Phillies playing the GCL Blue Jays at the Carpenter Complex.
As it often happens here in Florida, we left our home just a few miles from the Complex and the sun was out and there were only big fluffy clouds. Three miles later, the sky had opened up and as we neared the Complex it was obvious that they had had a good amount of rain. The drainage culverts that were usually empty were more than half full and there was standing water in both the outfield and infield at the Complex. We were informed that the game was cancelled and that a double header would be held on Saturday at the Blue Jay’s Englebert Field. We went to a local eatery for lunch and they were without power–which may show how much worse the weather was in Clearwater as opposed to Dunedin.
Today started out beautiful, sunny and a light breeze and since we had rain last night, the temperature was good.
Draft pick Cord Sandberg led off for the Phillies….unfortunately, he struck out. Sandberg is from nearby Bradenton and he had several fans there to see him in his first professional game. (Next week the GCL Phils will head to Bradenton to play the Pirates and I will bet that there will be a large contingent of fans to see their hometown boy. Ross and I will also hope to make the trip over the Sunshine Skyway to see Feliberto Sanchez pitch again.)
Jiwan James was up next in a rehab appearance and he singles. Followed by Tommy Joseph who was also making a rehab appearance. There’s a pass ball and James goes to second. Joseph walked and James to third. Next was Nick Ferdinand…
Ferdinand hit one to center that SHOULD have been caught, but as it wasn’t he goes to first, Joseph to second and James scores!
Next up was Robinson Torres who popped up. Next was Jose Pujols. The pitcher for the Jays throws another ball that gets by the catcher and Tommy Joseph runs home, but is tagged at the plate. (I thought he was safe, but what do I know?)
The opening day pitcher for the Phillies was Feliberto Sanchez. He’s a 19 year old out of the Dominican Republic.
Sanchez was impressive in his first start. By the end of his 3 innings, he gave up 2 hits, no runs, no walks, hit one batter and 2 strike outs. When he left the game the Phils were up 5-0.
Next to pitch for the Phils was Mark Leiter. His line 1 inning, no hits, no runs, no walks and 1 strike out.
In the fifth, Matt Soren came in to pitch and the wheels came off for the Phils. Soren looked great for the first two batters then fell apart. Soren’s final line was 2/3 of an inning, 3 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk and 1 strike out. Phils still up 5-3. Ronald Mendez came in to finish the inning and pitched the sixth and gave up a run, but it was unearned as it was the result of an error. Phils up 5-4.
In the seventh, Cody Forsythe, gave up 3 hits, one run and no walks or strikeouts. So what was supposed to be the last inning of the first game of a double header…wasn’t and not by long shot. The game ended up going FOURTEEN innings.
Ricky Bielski was the highlight of the next two innings.
Bielski went 2 innings 1 hit, no runs, no walks, 3 strike outs. He had good command and when he started the 2nd he got behind with a 3-0 count, he got the batter to ground out to second. What impressed me is that after that 3-0 count, he struck out the next two batters. It was good to see that during this first game of the season. I was impressed.
In the fourteenth, the Jays managed to score and ended the game. It was a hot one, 92 degrees and sunny with little to no breeze. I called it a day. I was fried by the sun, very hot and downed almost 80 ounces of iced tea to cool off!
I left game two to more hardy folk, like Baseball Ross.
In the end, it was a day that supposed to be the second game of the season, then a day with two 7 inning games and by the time it was done, TWENTY innings of baseball were in the books…I’ll bet those guys will sleep well tonight. (Sadly, the GCL Phillies also dropped the second game 3-1)