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maurice
09-01-2005, 04:55 PM
This mostly will be general info about the Sox minor-league affiliates, but I’ll include info about some players as well.

From a non-baseball standpoint, minor-league games often are sparsely attended, offering outstanding access to the players. Most players still haven’t gotten over the fact that they’re getting paid to play baseball, so they’re very appreciative of fan attention and willing to sign before every game, especially for kids. Minor-league games are extremely kid friendly, targeting promotions at youngsters, retaining quality mascots, and offering kid’s menus. Most stadiums now have extensive play areas and very inexpensive lawn seats. They also have gift shops with reasonably priced items that you just can’t find anywhere else.

From a player evaluation perspective, it’s absolutely essential to see players in person to pick up on relevant factors that do not show up in the stats (no matter what Moneyball says). If you’ve only seen a stat sheet, you’ll be surprised to learn that many apparent "prospects" are terrible defensively, are much smaller than listed, or can't pitch harder than the low-80s. On the flip side, it’s nice to learn that a young pitcher with mediocre stats is 6'8 and throws 95 MPH or that a .270-hitting infielder is outstanding defensively, extremely fast, and a great situational hitter.

So, without further eloquence . . .

maurice
09-01-2005, 04:58 PM
Knights Stadium is off I-77 and just over the NC / SC border. Parking is $2, and the best seats in the house are $10. That was an outstanding value on the day we went, because the Knights gave away high-quality, adjustable ‘59 Sox hats with no sponsor tag (in addition to Joe Borchard posters and dollar dogs). I’d be willing to pay > $12 for the hat alone so, from my perspective, the game was essentially free. They offer standard concessions, plus Subway sandwiches and Sonny’s BBQ. A generic beer costs $4.75. The Knights’ mascot is far better than anything the pro team ever had. Homer the Dragon rides around the field in an ATV and interacts with young fans during the game and especially between innings.

Charlotte isn’t much of a tourist destination, but they’re working on it. One fairly unique attraction is the Carolina Raptor Center (http://www.carolinaraptorcenter.org/).

The game featured back-to-back-to-back HRs by Brown, Toca, and Gload, and 4 shutout innings by the Knights’ bullpen. Podsednik was making a rehab start and could not have been any more fan-friendly. He’s usually pretty zoned-in before MLB games, but here he signed pre-game for as many fans as possible, going out of his way to approach a birthday party full of kids in RF. He continued signing right up until his name was announced, and he needed to grab his glove and run out to LF. (Harris, OTOH, spent the pre-game goofing off instead of warming up, and persistently ignored the kids’ extremely polite pleas for autographs, earning his a sharp rebuke from Dr. / Mrs. Maurice.) As usual, Borchard made himself available to the fans as much as possible, coming over to sign on more than one occasion. Borchard and Bajenaru did not know that they were going to be called up. McCarthy was scratched from the start, throwing on the side in preparation for his up-coming MLB start and excited at a chance for revenge against the Rangers.

Overall, Knights Stadium was a great experience, but it’s much easier to watch Charlotte play when they come to Indy and other, closer I.L. cities.

maurice
09-01-2005, 05:05 PM
Hoover Metropolitan Stadium is located off the ring highway around Birmingham in a fairly ritzy southern suburb. It costs $3 to park, but most box seats can be had for $8 on the day of the game. We went on a comfortable Tuesday night, and there were maybe 200 fans in attendance. They must draw much, much larger crowds on weekends. The Hoover Met has standard concessions plus Little Caesars Pizza, and a generic beer costs $4.00. The playing field is huge. Posted signs indicate 340' down the lines and 405' to CF, and the OF wall is about 20 feet high. Their mascot is some kind of dog.

Hoover also is home to the Aldridge Gardens (http://www.aldridgegardens.com/visitor.htm) (free) and a huge shopping mall (http://www.riverchasegalleria.com/html/index4.asp). B’ham has an extensive civil rights museum (http://www.bcri.org/index.html), in addition to the zoo, science museum, etc. typical of most U.S. cities.

Lubisich had one of his worst starts of the year. The little lefty can dazzle opponents with offspeed pitches, but this day he wasn’t fooling too many hitters (3 IP, 4 R, 10 H).

Wasserman came in to relieve Lubisich and gave up 2 R in 3 IP. Wasserman is a local kid who was signed by the Sox following an annual open tryout. The sidearm slinger had success as a closer at lower levels but might not make it much further with a low-80s fastball.

The Barons’ lineup is loaded with legit prospects. It’s always a pleasure to watch Young play. He flashed some leather in CF and got the job done at the plate, going 2-3 with a walk and a big sac fly. In one of his ABs, he was fooled badly by 2 off-speed pitches, but made a quick adjustment and lined the next pitch to RF. His bunting ability forces the 3B to play in which, given Young’s right-handed power, must be terrifying.

Owens went 1-5 but showcased his abilities in the Baron’s 8-run 8th inning. Owens drove a pitch up the middle for a 2-run single, advanced to second on the throw home, went to third on Young’s sac fly, and scored on the RF’s overthrow. Speed kills.

Sweeney showed off his arm in RF and later laid down a great sac bunt up the 1B line. He’s currently hitting with a Ventura-like open stance.

Speaking of Ventura, Fields made an outstanding, barehanded play on a surprise bunt down the 3B line. He also hit a bullet down the LF line for a RBI 2B. Despite struggling at the plate, Fields has been a top RBI guy all season. He looked real bad K’ing on 3 straight changeups, but he was all over fastballs. It looks like he’s trying very hard to keep his front shoulder closed, even when he takes pitches. The technique he’s using to do this is extremely pronounced and awkward-looking.

Rogowski made a few good defensive plays and appeared to be breaking out of his slump by going 3-5 with 2 runs scored. One of his hits was a hard liner off the shin of the West Tenn pitcher. Rogo hit the ball so hard that it caused the pitcher to scream in pain. The pitcher showed a lot of guts by hobbling over to get the ball, but it went as a very hard IF single, and the pitcher had to leave the game. I hope he’s okay.

I was really impressed with Stewart. He called his own game and made several strong throws, despite little help from the pitching staff holding runners. He blocked several balls in the dirt, but one low-and-outside pitch got by him for an arguable PB. He also completed a strike-‘em-out-throw-‘em-out DP.

I was less impressed with Gonzalez. It’s easy to see why he ended up switching positions with Lopez. Lopez is a vastly superior defensive player. Gonzo showed little range to his left, and bounced the throw on what should have been a routine 6-4-3 DP. OTOH, he’s extremely patient at the plate, and it paid off big time in this game.

maurice
09-01-2005, 05:10 PM
Ernie Shore Field is pretty far from the interstate and part of a multi-building sports complex with lots of shared parking on the north end of town. Parking is $2, and box seats are $8. They offer standard concessions plus Chick-fil-a sandwiches and Yuengling for $4. Their mascots are Wally the Warthog and his cousin. The architect unfortunately thought that it would be a good idea to put a concourse in front of the seats down either baseline. This means that otherwise excellent seats beyond the dugouts are usually obstructed by vendors, ushers, and kids. Save some cash, and sit further back and closer to the plate.

If you’re traveling to W-S from Charlotte or Kannapolis, stop in Lexington for BBQ. The major local tourist attraction is Old Salem (http://www.oldsalem.org/), a restored Moravian community. W-S also is the home to beautiful Wake Forest University and other beneficiaries of the Reynolds family fortune.

We got to see Gio Gonzalez pitch for the first time. He has a slight build but has time to add some pounds, and throws much harder than you would expect. The gun in the park had his fastball at 93-96, but it probably wasn’t quite that hard. Throw in a sharp curve, and you get 7 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 0 BB, 9 K. Very nice. He also throws a changeup, but that’s a work in progress. Though he rarely throws his change, it wasn’t fooling anybody. Gonzalez also showed a good, deceptive pickoff move similar to Buehrle’s.

Valido was outstanding. He’s got a real feel for the game and obviously enjoys playing ball. Like Ozzie Guillen, he knows exactly how hard he needs to throw the ball to get the runner and rarely guns it any harder than necessary. His major stat sheet highlight on the day was an RBI 2B off the LF wall, followed by a steal of 3B. What didn’t show up on the stat sheet is the fact that his second hit was a ground ball behind the runner with no outs, followed by a takeout slide at 2B that prevented a GiDP. I wish more major league players has this kid’s baseball acumen.

Schnurstein drew the collar, but he also successfully advanced runners by hitting behind them with no outs. Impressive stuff for A-ball. Some credit must go to the coaches.

Collaro is built like a major-league baseball player. Tall, strong build. Big arm and good range in RF. Plenty of pop in his bat. He doubled hard off the wall in RCF. Later, he blooped a hit to RF and stole second.

Nanita also showed off a pretty good arm. He nearly threw out a fast runner at 3B after a fly ball out to the CF wall. He also managed to score twice without the benefit of a hit, because he reached on a walk and also on a successful sac bunt that was scored a FC because of a late throw.

maurice
09-01-2005, 05:14 PM
Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium probably is my favorite minor-league park. It’s low-A-ball, so you can’t expect the same bells and whistles you get in Indy or Louisville, but it vastly exceeds any reasonable expectations. The park is right off I-85 about 30 minutes NE of downtown Charlotte. It’s in a forested area, and the outside facade is very attractive. Parking is only $1, and box seats are $7. You can get a small Yuengling for only $3.

The Kanny area is NASCAR heaven. It includes Lowe’s Motor Speedway (http://www.lowesmotorspeedway.com/) and many race-related attractions. Also nearby is the Cannon Village (http://www.cannonvillage.com/) furniture center with its giant Dale Earnhardt statue.

Russell got the start for the I’s. He’s a huge kid (listed at 6'8 with an athletic build) and throws hard, which is important since he throws fastballs 85% of the time. His breaking ball was not effective, and he only threw about 3 changeups in 6 IP. Russell doesn’t have a lot of command yet, but he did manage to pick off a runner with a quick move to 1B (especially impressive for a big righty). There were few hard-hit balls against him, and a better defensive IF would have recorded more outs.

Josh Hansen has been one of the I’s most productive players this season, but he was in a slump. He also doesn’t appear to have the stature to be a MLB 1B. He’s listed at 6'0 even, but that’s probably too generous.

Getz is shorter than Hansen. He has a nice all-field stroke that allows him to poke the ball the other way or pull it behind a runner on 1B. In this game, he twice failed to get a sac bunt down, but still managed to put the ball into play and advance the runners with 2 strikes. He showed little range to his right, but made a nifty turn on a marginally difficult DP.

Smith and Cook are relatively experienced players who carried the offense in this game – with 2 HR, 5 hits, and 9 RBI between them.

Lucy went 1-2, 2 BB, 2 R, 2 RBI, and nobody tried to run on him. He has a textbook Lau / Brett swing from start to finish.

I only got to see 1 PH AB from the recently promoted Aaron Cunningham. He hit into a FC. Cunningham has a Texas / Baines-style leg kick that they may want to beat out of him.

Mr. White Sox
09-01-2005, 05:34 PM
Awesome stuff. Doing a minor-league tour sounds like a lot of fun, and it definitely provides a vastly different experience. I got to go to a few Eugene Emeralds games (A ball), and the environment, players, and the stadium itself makes a tour like this worth doing.

BigEdWalsh
09-01-2005, 06:04 PM
Nice reports, Maurice! Nice to see some info on the various ballparks as well as reports on the players. Much appreciated.:cool:

He gone
09-01-2005, 07:11 PM
Most players still haven’t gotten over the fact that they’re getting paid to play baseball, so they’re very appreciative of fan attention and willing to sign before every game, especially for kids. Nice report. I took my kids to Indy twice to see the Knights. Both times my kids were able to get plenty of autographs. The key to getting autographs from minor leaguers is to call them by name. There were several players that stopped what they were doing and came over to us when they heard their name called. I would imagine they are not use to people knowing their names when they're on the road. My kids even got balls from Eduardo Villacis and Dennis Ulacia (how many kids would know them 2 players :cool: ) Even Brian Anderson threw them a ball from centerfield during batting practice.

All my experience at minor league games have been enjoyable and CHEAP :D:

DaleJRFan
09-01-2005, 11:28 PM
The Kanny area is NASCAR heaven. It includes Lowe’s Motor Speedway (http://www.lowesmotorspeedway.com/) and many race-related attractions. Also nearby is the Cannon Village (http://www.cannonvillage.com/) furniture center with its giant Dale Earnhardt statue.

Don't forget, just prior to Dale Earnhardt's death, he purchased the Kannapolis Intimidators, hense the name... Earnhardt was known as "the Intimidator". I would imagine that his wife, Theresa Earnhardt now owns the team, unless it has been sold off.

DaleJRFan
09-01-2005, 11:29 PM
oh yea, and THANKS MAURICE. Great stuff here.....

Randar68
09-02-2005, 01:48 PM
Russell got the start for the I’s. He’s a huge kid (listed at 6'8 with an athletic build) and throws hard, which is important since he throws fastballs 85% of the time. His breaking ball was not effective, and he only threw about 3 changeups in 6 IP. Russell doesn’t have a lot of command yet, but he did manage to pick off a runner with a quick move to 1B (especially impressive for a big righty). There were few hard-hit balls against him, and a better defensive IF would have recorded more outs.

Sounds like you had a great time! Was Russell really throwing mid-90's? That's huge if he is. Out of college, he sat in the 89-91 range. Still hasn't developed a reliable offspeed pitch though, huh? A little disappointing to hear...

How did Lucy look? What were your impressions of him behind the plate?

maurice
09-02-2005, 03:29 PM
Was Russell really throwing mid-90's? That's huge if he is. Out of college, he sat in the 89-91 range. Still hasn't developed a reliable offspeed pitch though, huh? A little disappointing to hear...

He was defintely over 90 on a regular basis -- maybe as high as 94 at times. Significantly, nobody was hitting his FB hard, despite his lack of a reliable secondary pitch. Lots of ground balls. There were a couple of swings-and-misses on his change, probably because he almost never throws it.

How did Lucy look? What were your impressions of him behind the plate?

It's hard to say. Nobody tried to run on Lucy, and Russell's breaking ball isn't big enough to bounce. (He's fairly wild, but not Mitch Williams wild.) Lucy certainly looks comfortable back there, but I'd have to see him again under different circumstances to form a judgment.

By contrast, I got a great look at Stewart. Lubisich is such a soft-tossing junkballer that Stewart got challenged by an inordinately high number of SB attempts and pitches in the dirt. I got to see a bunch of throws and blocks.

maurice
09-02-2005, 03:33 PM
The key to getting autographs from minor leaguers is to call them by name. There were several players that stopped what they were doing and came over to us when they heard their name called. I would imagine they are not use to people knowing their names when they're on the road.

Great call. Just buy a scorecard or print out the roster before you go to the game.

I remember calling out Casey Rogowski by name during spring training. He was so shocked that a fan of the pro team could identify him that he almost tripped over himself to rush over and sign for a group of kids.
:D:

Daver
09-02-2005, 05:51 PM
Don't forget, just prior to Dale Earnhardt's death, he purchased the Kannapolis Intimidators, hense the name... Earnhardt was known as "the Intimidator". I would imagine that his wife, Theresa Earnhardt now owns the team, unless it has been sold off.

Dale Earnhardt never owned the Intimidators, Teresa did. She owned 100% of DEI when he was alive. DEI still owns the majority of the team.

DaleJRFan
09-03-2005, 12:58 AM
Dale Earnhardt never owned the Intimidators, Teresa did. She owned 100% of DEI when he was alive. DEI still owns the majority of the team.

Do you actually think it was/is her money? :?:

C'mon Daver, I know you watched "3" on ESPN.... :cool:

ChiSoxRowand
09-03-2005, 01:36 AM
It's interesting you bring this up, because tonight me and a friend drove up to Beloit, Wis. for a Snappers game. I urge anyone in the area to check out a game up there. One of the only bad things is that the Snappers are the low-A affiliate of the Twins, otherwise its a good experience. The stadium sucks, but you have GREAT access to the players. The players have to walk through the concourse to get from the dugout to the locker room. You can just stand right by the dugout and wait for the players to head to the locker room after BP, during warmups, or after the game. Tonight Beloit played the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (low-A affiliate of the Mariners) and I got Jeff Clement's autograph. I need to make a trip to Kane County next year.

Deuce
09-06-2005, 12:52 PM
C'mon Daver, I know you watched "3" on ESPN.... :cool:

The real question is does Daver have a "In memory of 3" decal on the back window of his pickup. They are quite the fad out in Jerseyville, Illinois.