Category: Minor League Games

9/12/12 at TD Bank Ballpark

I was back at TD Bank Ballpark for my second game in 4 days and I wasn’t sure how big the crowd would be, because it was a game in the middle of the week. I wasn’t sure how many kids would be there because of school, or how many adults there would be. I was sure that the crowd would be smaller than it would be at games on Saturdays and Sundays. When I got into the stadium, it looked like the average crowd, but it was a much more relaxed atmosphere, probably because there weren’t nearly as many kids.

There were a few pairs of Patriots still throwing, so I decided to go down and see if there was any chance of getting a ball. Someone had just finished a bullpen session, and as they were walking back to the dugout, I asked if there was any chance for a ball, and they didn’t even bother to look my way (probably because they’re such superstars playing in the Atlantic League). After that, there was only one pair of players who were still throwing, and the player who ended up with the ball apparently knew the family next to me, and immediately handed it off to one of the kids.

The Patriots were playing the Sugar Land Skeeters, the team the Roger Clemens “plays” for, although not surprisingly, he did not travel with the team from Texas.

During the game, I decided to do something different for a change, and go sit in the area of the stadium, that has three levels of picnic tables – all three of which were deserted for the entire game.

This is not my photo, but one I found on flickr, taken by someone with the username 66baseball. What you can’t see in the photo is that directly below the first row of tables, there is the visiting teams bullpen. It’s fun to go over there sometimes and just listen to the players conversations. (Not creepy, right?) While I was there, I was tempted to ask one of the pitchers if they thought Clemens was an absolute douche like I do (What guy has highlights in their hair at age 50?), but I decided against it.

I was only there to try to get a ball, and then I would be on my way. That chance came when someone on the Patriots hit a bouncer right to one of the relievers, and since I was the only fan in sight, I was pretty sure that I would get it tossed up if I asked for it. When I did, one of them peeked over their shoulder, and after about 10 seconds, Will Startup got my attention and tossed me a ball, that I’m not so sure was game used because of how dirty and scuffed it was. It probably was used at some point, because it was commemorative.

I then said my thank you’s and went back to our seats, which were close to the stairway that leads out of the stadium, just in case a ball happened to be fouled off into the parking lot. I got my chance when Dominic Ramos fouled one back, and I was the first one out. It was sitting right in the middle of the parking lot, and just like that, I had ball #2.

That would be my last real baseball of the night. The Patriots won the game on a walk off home run by Jeff Nettles. After every win, the Patriots throw victory balls into the crowd (small, squishy balls). I had never gotten one before, so as soon as they won, I positioned myself where I knew a few would be thrown. One of the Patriots threw one right over my head, which then trickled down the steps, and into my waiting hands. They look like this, except they are stamped with the team’s logo and “2012 Patriots win ball” and they don’t have the holder.

And it was time to leave, after a good night at the game.

STATS:

2 balls at this game

6 minor league balls this year

9/9/12 at TD Bank Ballpark (Double-header)

Before I start this entry, there will only be pictures of the balls that I snagged, because I forgot my camera.

GAME 1:

This was my first minor league game in two months and I had been looking forward to it for a few days, mostly because I would be getting 5 free innings of baseball, with the two teams playing two seven inning games. When I got inside the stadium I saw that some Patriots were finishing up the pregame throwing, and after a couple of them finished up, I held up my glove half heartedly (because I was only there to snag game balls) and the ball was thrown to the kid on my right. My Dad had gotten aisle seats in the fourth row next to the Patriots dugout, even though we could have sat anywhere we wanted with even the cheapest available tickets.

In the top of the first inning, when my Dad went to get us some food and water, the Lancaster Barnstormer’s cleanup hitter, Fehlandt Lentini popped up a foul ball about 5 rows behind me. A lady was sitting right where it was going to land, but she had no interest in trying to catch it. By the time the ball began to descend, I had moved about two or three rows back, but I realized that the ball was going to land before I could reach it, so I froze. I was waiting for it to bounce high up in the air or begin to roll down the steps. When it slapped off the concrete, it went high up in the air, and it was going to come down again right where I had been sitting. I drifted down the steps, stuck my glove out, and felt the ball come down in the pocket. I got a small ovation from the even smaller crowd and then took a seat and took a look at the ball.

And it was a commemorative! I had been hearing rumors all throughout the season that the Patriots as well as the rest of the Atlantic League had been using these baseballs to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the League. Earlier this season, I even went out of my way to buy one from the team store, because I wasn’t sure if they would be used during games.

Above the seats along the right field foul line is a whole bunch of games that kids usually play throughout the game. A few foul balls occasionally land up there, and a few more land outside the stadium, which is a beautiful thing because every fan is granted reentry as many times as they need it. Late in the game, there was a foul ball that was hit directly over my head and into the play area. There was a man who was walking with his son in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the ball came down directly on top of his head. The sound the ball made when it bounced off of his skull sounded more like the ball went off a slab of concrete.

I immediately sprinted up the steps to see that someone had already gotten ice and napkins from a nearby concession stand, to try to keep the swelling down and to keep pressure on his head so that it wouldn’t bleed as profusely as it had been five seconds earlier. Long story short: the man was able to walk away with his son to the first aid room to get treatment, and a stretcher was not needed. A few minutes after the man had gotten up, my Dad said that it is a wonder that no one has been killed at this stadium. In the few games that I have been to at TD Bank Ballpark, I have seen some injuries up close. A different incident happened 10 days after this one, a little girl was struck by a foul ball last year, and I was hit by a foul ball last season. But this can only be expected when more fans are sitting closer to the field at minor league games.

I played the staircase that led out of the stadium for about half the game and should have had a few foul balls, but a man and his young son were always the first ones out. It might just be a better idea standing outside of the stadium during games from now on.

Anyway, back to snagging. About an inning after the incident, Fehlandt Lentini once again hit a foul ball towards me, except over the play area and out of the stadium. I had gotten a good read on it. I had noticed that it had struck a few tree branches before I lost sight of it, so I knew that it wasn’t going to be in the parking lot. I was the first one to get out for what seemed like the first time, and I had jusged it correctly. There it was, just waiting for me to pick it up from the base of the tree.

Two foul balls from the same player in one game! Unfortunately, that would be all that I got for the first game of the double header.

GAME TWO:

By this time, most of the fans had left the stadium after game one and there was literally only about 100 people left, a number which continued to decline throughout the game. I decided that my best chance of getting foul balls with all of these empty seats around me would be by sitting on top of everything, in the last row of a section. This move was about to pay off when the Lancaster leadoff batter hit a foul ball that was coming right for me. I assumed that it was going to make it over my head and go into the play area, but of course, with my luck, I misjudged it, and it hit the seat that I had been sitting in, where it trickled down the steps and was snagged by a man who gave it to his son.

If the two teams had been fouling off pitches that ended up going outside of the stadium like they had been doing the previous game, I would have had about 15 baseballs, but that wasn’t the case. Since nothing was going my way over where my actual seats were, I moved behind the third base dugout and tried to get a couple third out balls, but I soon found out that that would not be happening because there were so many kids waiting for one who were a lot younger than me. No foul balls were coming anywhere near me, and I didn’t have any opportunities until someone on the Barnstormers hit a line drive home run over the left field wall.

Since there aren’t any seats in the outfield, I knew that it was probably just sitting there. So, being the only one that thought there was a chance of getting the ball, I ran over to see a Lancaster’s Mike Johnston walking towards the ball. I quickly asked him if he could please toss it up. He peaked over his shoulder and told me that he would give me the other ball that was in his hand, which was a home run ball that was hit by Yusuf Carter of the Patriots earlier in the game. He didn’t mention Carter, but he did say it was “my team’s home run from earlier.” Carter’s home run was the only one that the Patriots had hit. I guessed that he was going to give the other ball to the guy on his team who had hit it. I’m just hoping that he was telling the truth about the ball. Here is my first home run ball (what should be my third):

For the rest of the game, my Dad and I kind of just wandered around and eventually sat right behind home plate for the last few innings, where we watched it horror as a boy who was about  years old literally jumped the bar between the protective screen and the seats, where he was basically just waiting to be smacked by a foul tip. We had no idea where his parents were, or why an usher hadn’t done anything, but when he got down at the end of the inning, we moved back to our original seats. Right in front of those seats is a small compartment at the end of the Patriots dugout where Yusuf Carter always keeps his catchers gear. This meant that I would be able to get the home run ball signed at the end of the game!

When the game ended, Carter came over to his compartment after catching 7 innings. I immediately asked him if he could quickly sign his home run ball. He must have said “In a second,” because after I asked him again, thinking he hadn’t heard me, he told me to “Hold on!” I apologized, and a few seconds later, this was what I was holding:

He didn’t sign on the sweet spot, but oh well. And then it was time to leave.

STATS:

3 balls at these games

4 minor league balls this year

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9/12/12 at TD Bank Ballpark, 9/19/12 at TD Bank Ballpark, and 9/23/12 at Citi Field should all be up soon. I am also planning on going to a Yankees playoff game as my last game of the  season.

7/1/12 at TD Bank Ballpark

Another game at the local ballpark. This time it was the Patriots going up against the Bridgeport Bluefish. Last time I attended a game while Bridgeport was playing, it became a memorable one very quickly. Last year, on August 21st, my Dad and I were sitting right next to the Patriots dugout, the best seats in the house when Adam Greenberg stepped up to the plate. Get ready, I’m about to get a bit off topic.

For those of you who cannot identify game is shown above or what Greenberg is known for, you can click on his name, or you can continue reading. In 2005, while playing for the Cubs organization, he was called up, and got his first major league at bat as a pinch hitter. Unfortunately, to this day, that at bat remains his only at bat ever in the Majors. It was the only pitch he ever saw. It hit him right in the back of the head, and what makes it worse is he never even had the opportunity to play the field. ESPN did an entire story on him, comparing him to Moonlight Graham. You can see the story here.

Anyway, back to the flashback. Greenberg was leading off the game, and on the third pitch of his at bat, he hit a screaming line drive in my direction. It was right at me. All I had to do was stand up, but my reaction time was not quick enough. I misjudged the ball, and it crushed the brim of the hat that I was wearing, and then caromed off of my head and into right field. I didn’t feel a thing at first, but then some pain began to set in and my Dad realized what had happened and he sat me down. I have the radio broadcast of the game somewhere, and right after the pitch, the crowd can be heard going “OHHHHH!”

All of the First Aid people were at my side within a minute, but I was telling them that I was OK, which strangely enough, I was. I did not realize it until I was in the car, on my way home that my hat had taken most of the impact of the ball.

However, I was still in some pain. When they saw that I really wasn’t hurt that badly, they gave me an icepack and told me to hold it on my head for 20 minutes or so. I had no idea who had hit it, but at that point, I really didn’t think it mattered.But when the Bluefish came onto the field for the bottom half of the inning, I saw a player come jogging out of the dugout with a bat. At that point I looked the other way at the scoreboard until I heard someone say “Excuse me” or something along those lines. I looked up and there was Adam Greenberg standing there, holding a bat out to me. I took the bat and said thank you. He then jogged out to his position in center field, leaving me with this.

I was stunned. He did not need to do that. But of course, I accepted it, and unfortunately left the stadium because of a rain delay that lasted around three hours. I did not find out about his career until the next day, and while I was on vacation a few days later, the following tweets occurred.

He was really nice about the entire thing, he really didn’t have to do anything for me. Unfortunately, Greenberg is not on the Bluefish anymore, but there was a recent article about him that said he was invited to try out for Team Israel for the upcoming World Baseball Classic and he might be making a comeback with the Bluefish. You can read all about it here.

Anyway, moving onto the actual game, it was not very eventful. After about four innings, I got bored of sitting in the middle of a row with screaming children, so I went towards the visitors bullpen, and stood in a corner in which I could see absolutely everything, including the pitchers warming up. The volume there was perfect. Soon after, when a man moved from his table and sat somewhere else, my Dad came over and joined me at that table. This was our view.

So, towards the later innings, some pitchers got up from their spot in the bullpen and began to warm up. Like Julio DePaula.

As well as Kyle Zaleski and Rommie Lewis. At the end of the game, I tried to get a ball from the Bluefish, but I was no match for the small children all around me, so I ended up going home empty handed. But I still had a good time.

5/25/12 at TD Bank Ballpark

No, this wasn’t an MLB game, but it was a professional game, so why not post an entry about it. This game was being played for the Atlantic League, between the home Somerset Patriots and the Camden Riversharks. The stadium is a nice size, probably a little less than one fifth of Yankee Stadium.

Every time that I go there, I almost always get a ball. They are the closest professional sports team to me, so I go to about 10 games per season. I was invited to go with two friends, one of whom was there with a group from his church.

These games usually attract all sorts of people, but so do the Yankees, Mets, etc… so it just felt like a normal game. All of these minor league teams always keep the crowds entertained. Their mascot, “Sparky” (you’ll find out where the name comes from later) posed for the camera for the first photo of the day.

Soon after all of the small pre game first pitches and on field promotions, I got to see an interesting moment during the lineup card exchange at the plate.

The man facing away in the photo is 1977 AL Cy Young Award Winner, Sparky Lyle, manager of the Somerset Patriots since the team was founded in 1998. The man in the Camden uniform is former minor league player, Jeff Scott. The two look a lot alike, mostly because of their facial hair.

Anyway, right when the game began, I got a photo of the first pitch, thrown by Somerset starter Justin Cassel, going by Camden’s leadoff batter, Chris Walker.

After a scoreless top of the first, it was the Patriots turn to bat, and they scored one run. I was able to get this photo of Jeff Nettles, son of former Yankees captain Graig Nettles during his first at bat.

He recently became the Atlantic League’s all-time leader in hits with 934, passing Rolo Avila. All of his hits have come with the Patriots. When I met his Dad a few years ago, I told him that I had seen his son play many times, to which he responded that he has been hoping that his son would soon go somewhere else. That does not seem like it is going to happen any time soon, because he recently signed a contract extension with the team.

For most of the game, my friends and I kind of just sat back and relaxed. I didn’t really care if I got a ball or not, mainly because I can go to a game anytime and get a ball. I also did not have my usual seats. I was stuck in the middle of the second row in what is the “upper” deck at the ballpark, when I usually have the aisle seats in the fourth or fifth row, next to the Patriots dugout (each ticket costs $13.50).

While I was taking photos of the game, when I was zoomed in, I could see what was on the TVs in the small bar that is in the concourse. It was Game 6 of the 2012 NHL Eastern Conference Finals between the Devils and the Rangers.

In the area that I live in, this was a very big deal. These are basically the only two hockey teams that anyone in the area likes (no one cares about the Islanders). The Rangers were facing elimination and if the Devils won, they would move on to the Stanley Cup Finals. This being said, my friends and I decided to go over and see what the score was. After we awkwardly scooted through the narrow aisle of our row of seats, we walked over to the bar and saw that our Devils were winning. We decided that we didn’t want to head back to our seats after being there for such a long time, so we headed to the patio next to the third base lawn area. I was thrilled that we weren’t going back because for most of the game, this was my view.

Isn’t it just fantastic?

When we got there, there was a bench open that was literally directly above the Riversharks bullpen. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, so I wasn’t able to take any pictures. We spent most of our time being annoying and asking the pitchers for a baseball every five seconds. Something funny happened when a deep fly ball ricocheted off of the wall and towards the bullpen. One of the pitchers picked up the ball, and after several seconds of asking for it, all three of us gave up, and he tossed the ball to the right of us where a three-year-old girl was given the ball. Right after she was given the ball, she threw it back onto the field, kind of like this. A different player retrieved the ball and gave it to her.

After this incident, a woman, probably mid to late 40s, with a glove began to rant to the player who originally tossed up the ball. It went a little something like this.

Lady: Come on, I’ve been cheering you guys on all night, I’ve been being supportive, give me a ball!

Player: She’s 3!

Lady: Oh, well that’s all right then, as long as she’s little.

I’m still wondering though, what would she want a ball for? I hope it was to give to a kid or something like that. After that half inning, we watched one of the pitchers warm up the left fielder and when he was done, he came in with the ball. We weren’t expecting for him to toss it up, but we asked any way, and fortunately, he did just the opposite of what we were thinking. One of my friends and I reached for the ball at the same time, he had two hands one it, I had one, and I accidentally knocked it out of his hands and under a picnic table, where he retrieved it, and was kind enough to give it to me, even though I didn’t care one way or the other. He said that it was because I had been being taunted by a couple of the players who had baseballs. They kept playing wall ball right below me, just low enough so the I could not reach the ball. I’m still not sure if they were doing this on purpose or not, but hey, I ended up with a ball! Here it is.

And on the sweet spot, there was some graffiti.

This was the first ball that I have ever gotten with something written on it. Soon after the ball was tossed up, a man told us that we were in his seats, and so we apologized and left, very satisfied. When we got back to our seats, I wanted to find out who it was who tossed the ball. I made sure to make a mental note of his number before we left, it was 15. When I got home, I checked the team’s website, and discovered that number 15 is Ricky Brooks. Here’s a picture that I took of all of the bullpen players. Brooks is on the far right, standing.

Although this ball is not going to count in my collection because of how I received it, I find that it is always good to have a background story behind every ball.

That was pretty much it for the game. The Patriots won by a score of 4-0.

I froze Jonny Tucker‘s RBI hit in time right when he made contact, with an amazing photo.

After the final out, there was fireworks for everyone in attendance to enjoy, which I must say, were very nice.

STATS:

1 ball at this game (Kinda)

1 minor league ball this year (Kinda)