Thursday, December 17, 2015

Reds: Three Minor Leaguers for an All-Star

The Reds, in a stunning trade that must have some deeper plan to it, traded away their all-star third baseman Todd Frazier (who had become perhaps the most beloved player in Cincy) to the White Sox so they could send men to the Dodgers - who then sent three minor leaguers to the Reds.

Ummmm . . . Okay. There has to be some reasoning to that madness. Let's take a look at the minor leaguers the Reds brought in.

The most promising is Jose Peraza: Peraza is a hitter, but has not shown power in the minors. He has also been a base stealer. Last year he was ranked the Dodgers' #1 prospect. He has previously worked as a shortstop but now he is filling the second base slot. So, if the Reds develop an opening in their middle field he will be ready to take his shot.

Scott Schebler: Schebler is an outfielder who carried about a .250 batting average in both AAA and the 19 games he spent in the majors. His on base percentage was about .325 in the two levels; his OPS in AAA was .732 and during his short time in the majors it was a .825. A year back he was the #8 prospect in the Dodgers' organization.

Brandon Dixon: A second baseman in AA, Dixon had a .244 batting average, on base percentage of .272, and OPS of .647. Maybe he will develop, but if so he is a long term project.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Reds & the Rule 5 Draft

If you understand the Rule 5 draft completely, you're either a professional baseball writer or you aren't paying enough attention to your actual job. Heck, I say the words "Rule 5 draft" to most people - even life long baseball fans - and they look at me like I'm speaking Martian.  Anyway, all you really need to know is that it's a way for teams to grab some other teams unprotected minor league players. The first few rounds are minor league players whom the drafting team will be required to have on its major league roster for the next year. After that there are drafts which allow players to be moved from one minor league franchise to another.

As I was raised properly, I am a Reds fan. Thus, I am going to go through what the Reds did. They made 4 picks in the R5 draft, so it should be of some interest. If you want the other teams, go over to BA to get an eyeful.

Of the 30 teams in MLB, only 11 drafted in the first round. The second draft overall belonged to the Reds and they chose an outfielder out of the Yankees organization, Jake Cave. Cave played seven games on the Yankees' AAA team last year, but he was really a AA player. He rose steadily in the Yankees' organization. Grabbing him before he becomes embedded in the Yankees AAA team (and protected) is a gamble that he's either good enough now or that sitting a year in the majors before sending him to develop at Louisville won't spoil him.

In the second round the Reds took a left handed pitcher from the Angel's organization, Chris O'Grady.   The Reds seem to be pitcher mad lately in their minor league approach, but O'Grady appears to be a bit of a puzzler. By the records, it appears that the Angels bumped O'Grady straight from A+ to AAA and then, after seven games, bumped him back down to AA. He appears to have had similar ERA's in both levels, but his walk numbers in AAA were significantly higher. Taking him straight into the MLB seems a stretch. Maybe the Reds foresee him as some sort of reliever next year.  However, if he struggled in AAA, the MLB seems too far to push him this quickly and it also seems hard to picture holding a pitcher on the bench for a year and then sending him to AAA for appropriate development.

Next came the AAA draft from lower levels. In the first round here the Reds took Ariel Hernandez from the Diamondback organization. Hernandez is a right handed pitcher who played for several years at low rookie in the Giants' organization before being injured. After sitting out a year, he next appears to have played in the Frontier League for a while before the Diamondbacks picked him up to play short season A ball for them. In short season A he had an ERA of 4.61 and averaged 7 walks per 9 innings.

In the second round of the AAA draft the Reds selected a second baseman from the Cubs organization, Pin-Chieh Chen. Pin-Chieh seems to be stalled out somewhere in the A+/AA level and is probably just someone who will fill a roster spot on a low level team.

The Reds didn't take anybody in the AA R5 draft. In fact, only the Dodgers took someone that low.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

New Logo for the Tides

The logo changes roll on. The latest is the Norfolk Tides. They've gone with a color switch, word logo switch, anchorish "N", and added a cutesy seahorse.

The anchor "N" is poor, but the remaining logo changes are upgrades. That doesn't make the change great. It moves it up to mediocre. The new color scheme is actually something of a downgrade and I'm not particularly thrilled by the cutesy seahorse; it's just another in the meme of the last few years of bad cartoonish logos (although this isn't as bad as most).

Still the wave on the Tides old logo didn't work and they've moved from a logo which would have been graded as a C- to a logo which my first impression is a C+.

The old logo:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

New League

As I did a sweep looking to see if there are any new minor league baseball logos, I tripped over a brand new league which is forming up in Detroit: the United Shore Professional Baseball League.

It has announced three teams: the Unicorns,
The Beavers, and
 The Diamond Hoppers.

As best I can tell, they will all being playing on the same field in Utica, Illinois: the Jimmy Johns field. This is a 12 million dollar brand new stadium which will seat about 2,000. The schedule promises to be interesting. Unless every day has one team playing a double header every team should get every third day off.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

And the Leagues Are Changing Logos Too

Three leagues have changed logos for the upcoming 2016 season.

The most relevant to me is the change in the Appalachian League. This is the league that is close enough that I can attend several games and it had a crummy logo. In fact, if you turned in a receipt proving you bought honey this summer they would give you a free hat with the old Appy League logo. I bought honey; I declined to get the free hat. With the new logo I might very well next year (assuming the honey-hat deal still exists).

The Southern League (AA) changed their logo so that it has a classier look to it. Their old logo wasn't terrible, but this one is clearly a step up.

The Texas League (AA) has also come up with a new logo. In this case, it is replacing an acceptable, but terribly generic, logo with one that is actually a solid step or two up.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Best Logo Change for 2016


So far, the best logo change has been the West Virginia Power which didn't do a complete revamp, but just added a new letter based logo to all the rest which is pretty cool. In fact, it's so cool that I am considering a trip up to Charleston just so I can get the new hat and wear it legitimately (gotta go to the game to wear the cap legitimately.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mediocre Logo Changes for 2016

There have been several logo changes which are in the mediocre range.


The best of the mediocre is probably the Hickory Crawdads who have a great name, but never have come through with a good logo. Their redesign didn't hit it out of the park, but it is clearly a step up from the old logo.

The worst of the mediocre is probably the Kane County Cougars who went from having a unique logo that was kinda cool because it was so uncool to having a more generic logo that won't stick out at all in the crowded cartoonish logo market. In between - in no particular order - are the
Riverdogs,
Hot Rods,
Fireflies, and






Missions.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Worst Logo So Far for 2016

Today the Louisville Bats became the latest team to change its logos and it instantly became a contender for worst new logo.The old logo had a kind of cool Batmanish vibe to it in the old purple and green colors. The new logo is kind of a washed out red and blue with really poor letter design. The "LB" and "BATS" designs are poor designs and the cartoon bats are almost Japanese level goofy. The "Louisville" design with the cute little bats dotting the i's looks like it belongs on a young girls' softball jersey. The only halfway decent design is the circle logo and it rates a mediocre.

This means Louisville has displaced the former worst logo for the 2016 season the Hartford Yard Goats. At least Louisville didn't move and change its name to something obnoxious.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Best Baseball You Aren't Watching

The semi-finals of the Premier 12 baseball tournament are in progress and if you are in the good old USA the odds are you haven't watched a second of the tournament. The first game was in Japan and then the round robin was played in Taiwan and now they are back in Japan (at the Tokyodome) for the last three games. The games have been fun to watch, the fans have (at least when the home country team is playing) been amazing, and Japanese have looked invincible throughout.  The US team is theoretically the second best team, but since the MLB has banned anyone in their major league 40 man rosters from playing and is holding the Arizona Fall League for its best lower level players at the same time it is a theoretical second best. In actuality, I think that Korea and Canada are better than the team the US is fielding, but Canada got its only loss against number twelve Mexico and is out (USA plays Mexico tomorrow in a semi).

It's on Youtube for free on the WBSC channel. Here's the best game so far: Cuba v. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)


Watch it and see what you wish was going on at your local minor league - or even major league - stadium.

Or watch the second Japan - Korea game (stay to the end):


Tune in and watch the last two games. At the very least pull up the championship game after its done and watch it. Go back and pull up either of the Japan- Korea games and watch Ohtani pitch: ready for the MLB now if they could pry him away from Nippon Professional Baseball.

You're missing it and shame on you for it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

WBSC Premier 12 : Japan v. Korea

I watched the first game of the Premiere 12 last night between Japan and Korea. It was an interesting game, although it was a bit surreal watching two teams from Japan and Korea play while the game was being announced by an Australian(?). Korea scrapped, but it was clearly outmatched. The Korean team looked like it was somewhere between a AA to AAA team and the Japanese team lived up to where just about everyone lists Japanese baseball (AAAA - not quite MLB, but not a minor league either). In the end Japan coasted to a pretty easy 5-0 win.

 A few notes:

 Japan is ranked #1 in the tournament and if last night was any indication it may win on pitching alone. Ohtani looked like he would smoke AAA players and might be ready for MLB. He certainly handled Korea.

 The field was terrible. It was a multi-use stadium with astroturf everywhere except for islands of dirt at the mound and around each base. There were no dirt base paths and not even any lines other than the foul lines. The ball bounced off the astroturf like a ping-pong ball and just slid over top of it without any friction. Now I remember why these things have been banished in the U.S.

 Japanese fans cheer all the time. They don't stop over there just because the pitcher is getting ready to pitch (at least the other team's pitcher). Drums. Drums. More drums.

 As someone who grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, I approve of Korea's blue uniforms with white K on their hats.

 It sounds wrong to hear someone speaking the Queen's English while announcing a baseball game. The Australian(?) announcer did a fine job, but it was so weird hearing him say "in the fourth innings", "in the fifth innings", "in the sixth innings", etc.

 In Japan they do not appear to have any of the time concerns that everybody over here is obsessed with. The game went over 4 hours and nobody cared. As it should be.

 Next game: Netherlands v. Chinese Taipei in Chinese Taipei.

Friday, November 6, 2015

AFL Fall Stars & The Premier 12 in Asia

The Arizona Fall League is at its halfway point and is having its Fall Stars game this Saturday. It's actually something of a mix of a Stars of the Future game and an All-Star game. It should be a great game and it will be available on mlb.com.

Perhaps more interesting is the Premier 12, which is a tournament in Japan and Taiwan in which the top 12 baseball countries participate. As I understand it, Japan is favored to win. It will start on the 8th of November and have selected games available on WBSC in Youtube.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Picking Next Year's Trip

This year I went to every minor league stadium within reasonable driving distance. However, there was one glorious ten day trip which took me through several Ohio teams and all the teams in Michigan.

Next year, I may make a trip across the nine hours or so of Virginia it takes to get to the east coast because an unaffiliated team is starting up in Virginia Beach (the Neptunes). However, that will probably only occur if I go out there for something job related and can swing by the stadium.

The big trip next year is still up in the air. There are three potential trips. Two head North and one South.



The first trip go through all the teams in Indiana and hits the big bunch of teams in the Chicago area. The middle one goes through West Virginia (picking up the Black Bears to complete all teams there), then through the teams in the western part of Pennsylvania (including the Pirates), and picks up all the teams in the Cleveland area (finishing up Ohio). The third gets me all the Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia teams.

Right now, the last two trips are more probable. The southern trip gets me to the Cincinnati AA team in Pensacola. I may think they have one of the worst logos in baseball, but they are a Cincy farm team and I'd like to see them in their home stadium. This trip has more flexibility than the others and the far southern leg of the trip could be scrapped and replaced with a less distant leg to pick up the two teams in southern South Carolina (but, that would cut out the trip to Pensacola and make this trip less tempting).
The middle trip has a more frivolous reason for coming to the front of my choices. It would give me an opportunity to go get a hat with the new West Virginia Power logo. I went to watch the Power this year (and saw one of the coolest home runs of the year), but I wasn't too thrilled with the hat (my legal assistant now owns it). I really like the new logo and would like to buy one, but I don't like to wear hats unless I've been to the team's stadium.




The trip on the left is tempting because it would allow me to do less traveling once I get to the Chicago area. However, it has a couple difficulties. First, it involves going to two pro teams in the middle of a city with no parking. Beyond that, the Cubs are ascendant at the moment and their fans are obsessive. A ticket to Wrigley would probably constitute half the expenses for the trip. And even beyond that, if I want to pick up all the teams in Indiana I have to get to Evansville and it just doesn't fit anywhere. It will mean a long leg of the trip would be dedicated solely to going to watch a single team. On the other hand, I do want to go see the Otters pretty badly (never could work them in this year).

I haven't sat down to figure out when I could do any of these trips yet. Affiliated baseball levels A and above seem to all have their schedules worked out, but the unaffiliated teams do not have theirs up. As well, I haven't seen the major league teams' schedules either. Which team I go to in which order depends upon when they are scheduled to play at home. It will probably be a couple months before I can figure out the exact trip I'll make in exactly what order.

Suggestions? Comments?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One Week Until Fall League

For those of us without a major league franchise making it into the post season, the affiliated minor leagues start the Fall League in a week (13 October 2015). All the players in this league are assigned by their major league affiliate to a team and there are only six teams so each team has various players assigned by various teams.



The Cincinnati Reds (the major league team I grew up watching) have assigned the following players to the Peoria Javelinas:


PITCHERS:

Stephen Johnson - (AA) Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Layne Somsen - (AAA) Louisville Bats
Nick Travieso - (A+) Daytona Tortugas
Zack Weiss - (AA) Pensacola Blue Wahoos

Position Players:

Catcher: Chad Wallach - (A+) Daytona Tortugas
Short Stop: Alex Blandino - (AA) Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Out Field: Phillip Ervin - (AAA) Pensacola Blue Wahoos

The Reds' assignments will be playing with players from the Orioles, Braves, Mariners, and San Diego.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Looking Like Minor League Soccer

So, the baseball season is over (for the minors) and I'm casting about for something else to do. Next weekend looks like there may be a trip to Louisville to watch Louisville City FC (so named because soccer fans get heartburn every time that someone comes up with an original name that might not sound vaguely Euro). LFC is in a second round playoff match for the United Soccer League championship and it is against the Charleston Battery. USL playoffs play a single game elimination format, so go now if you are interested.

LFC was formerly in Orlando, Florida and I'm pretty sure the ugly color scheme (purple and yellow) migrated to Louisville with the team, but the rather generic shield has what I suspect is supposed to be the Louisville skyline and a fleur de lis (prominent on Louisville's city seal). They play in the Louisville Bat's stadium and I'm not sure how that works out when they lay down the soccer field, but I suspect it limits the availability of good seats. Still, I think it would be cool to go see a game.

I didn't make it to any minor league soccer games this year, but next year I may try to mix more of them in - particularly since I think I've gotten to every minor league baseball team within easy driving distance.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Proof That Someone Associated with the Cubs Can Win It All (Congrats Pelicans)

Congratulations to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans won the Carolina League (A+) title last night with a bases loaded single in the bottom of the 9th. They swept the best of 5 series and every one of you should go watch the game on MiLB.

In winning the game they have proven my hypothesis that if you are a Cubs farm team, but you've resisted having the bear imposed upon you it is still possible to win a championship. Stay strong on the mascot, Pelicans, and keep winning championships.

Monday, September 14, 2015

This Year's Odyssey: Best Experience at Each Level

Of course, traveling around this summer to games I saw many stadiums and crowds. There were only a couple stadiums that were abysmal and few crowds were really bad. I've chosen my favorite experience from each level and then compared them to come up with my five favorites.

5)  AA - Carolina Mudcats - Honestly, all the AA teams I went to this year had good stadiums, but the Mudcats just stuck in my head. They didn't have the newest stadium in the world, but the crowd was live and loud and they edged out the Tennessee Smokies to get on this list.



4)  Rookie - Burlington Royals - When I went to Burlington I wasn't expecting much. It was the last weekend of the year, Burlington was already out of the running for the post season, and the night before I had a very disappointing experience at a different rookie league stadium. Then I got there and the stadium was better than most in the Appalachian League, the crowd was enthusiastic, the people running the stadium were obviously trying to make things fun, they had a mascot (Bingo) who seemed to have a never ending well of energy, and there were kids everywhere having a blast.

3)  A+ - Salem Red Sox - This was another pleasant surprise. This stadium probably had the friendliest staff I ran into over the summer. The crowd was so into it that they even belted out "Sweet Caroline" which is played at all the Carolina League games (and inexplicably at other non-Carolina teams as well). I had a blast.




2)  AAA - Durham Bulls - The Bulls have an unfair advantage over other teams because of the movie and they shamelessly take advantage of it. And it's great. Then, on top of all that the fans are great. I don't just mean they are enthusiastic. They act as though the Bulls are an old school single A team with players still living in host family houses. The folks sitting around me were talking about the players by first name and talked about different interactions they'd had with them. They were also fiercely loyal to the vendors. A man pretending to be a peanut vendor came down the aisle on his way to take part in a skit on the dugout and the locals started in on him about poaching Darnell's business and almost ruined the skit. It's a great littlish-big stadium experience.


1)  A - Dayton Dragons - This place was simply the most amazing ballpark experience. This single A park sells 8,000+ tickets per game. I couldn't even buy a ticket for a seat. I had to buy a ticket to sit on the grass berm behind the outfield wall. It was early in the season and they were already making announcements that if you want a chance to get season tickets for next season you need to contact stadium representatives now. When you check minor league attendance records there are only 6 teams which average more than the Dragons do per game and they are all AAA teams. In fact, 19 out of the top 20 teams were AAA with the only exception to the rule being single A Dayton. That means Dayton is selling its stadium out a lot while the AAA teams are maybe selling half their seats. And it's not hard to see why Dayton is so successful. Every part of the stadium was state of the art and they used everything they had to keep that stadium rocking. The crowd was having a blast and there wasn't any of the tired, same-old-same-old activities between any of the innings. Hands down, this was the best experience I had at a game all summer long. If you are ever within a 90 minute radius of Dayton and you can get tickets, you must treat yourself to the Dayton Dragons experience.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Real Origin of the Cubs' Curse

This is just a work in progress, but here's what I've uncovered so far:


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

This Year's Odyssey: The Best Mascots

Almost every team has some sort of mascot. Like everything, they vary in quality. The majority range from sad to bland to fun and exceptional. Here are the five mascots that made the biggest impression on me and the one I owe an apology.

1) Greensboro - The Bat Dogs: This was the most unique thing I saw in any stadium. The Grasshoppers had somebody in a pretty lame costume, but the real mascots were the dogs. When the home team was batting, the dogs chased down any balls which were dead in the plate area and they picked up bats after batters hit the ball.  Then they brought them straight back to the dugout. Between innings the dogs brought balls out to the home plate ump in a bucket. It was cool, different, fun, and the fans loved it. In fact, one of the dogs was retiring the weekend I was there and the people around me were quite sad about it. Heck, it's worth going to a Grasshoppers game just to see the bat dogs.

2) Louisville - Louisville's mascot is unique in that it is rather ugly. On the other hand, it is far outside the fur/feather generic costume and the costume is such that it allows far more movement than most. And the guy in the costume took full advantage of it. He bounced around like a madman for the entire game leading cheers, dancing on the dugouts, and making some truly lame entertainment which the Bats had scheduled for that day enjoyable. The mascot was manic and fun and those wings were flaring all around.

3) Burlington - Bingo is about as generic a mascot as you can find. It's an indeterminate orange blob with a ping-pong type head, huge eyes, and a home team uniform. It looks like a giant muppet. At first I didn't pay much attention, but it quickly became obvious that the B.Royals fans were nuts for him. I didn't get it until Bingo got up between innings and danced on the roofs of the dugouts. Lots of mascots dance, but this one was about a 9.5 out of 10. And the crowd was really into it. They love him and he worked the crowd the entire game. It's an example of starting with less and building a whole lot more.

Richmond - The Richmond Flying Squirrels have a terrible logo and name. Imagine my surprise when I got into the park and the coolest looking superhero squirrel came out. I don't remember him doing anything particularly impressive, but it was probably best costume I saw all Summer.





Jackson - The Generals' mascot is a bulldog lieutenant general. He didn't really do anything particularly spectacular, but it was one of the more impressive looking mascots and the entire game kids were chasing him and people were getting pics.







Toledo - The Mud Hens' mascot was above average, but that's not the reason I remember him. I had arrived at the game early and I had already bought and was wearing my hat (third favorite hat of the summer) while I sat in my seat watching warmups. The mascot was working the crowd and walked behind me without me knowing he was there. He reached down and patted me on the head. Surprised, I reacted on instinct and flung my arm back slugging the mascot. Thankfully, the costume was thick enough that the guy inside didn't even notice and he just kept walking. I've always felt a little regret about hitting the mascot, but, on the other hand, reaching down a hitting an unwary fan on the head probably isn't a good idea.



Weirdest Mascot Behavior: I won't name the particular team, but at one AAA game there was a group of fairly rough characters drinking it up. About halfway through the game they were well into their cups when I noticed that a woman in the group and the mascot interacting. I don't know who started it, but the mascot was making motions to her encouraging her to raise the front of her shirt and she was making the same motions back at him, although I never saw her actually flash him. This went on for several innings every time the mascot came back into the area until the woman left with her companions sometime late in the game. I've never seen anything like that in a game before or since (thankfully).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Astros Are The Champions!!!! (The Greeneville Ones)

Congratulations to the Greeneville Astros who won the rubber match against the Princeton Rays in an excellent and hard played 8-7 game and became the Appalachian League champs. I look forward to seeing y'all and the entire league again next year.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Time to Put an Appalachian League Team in Wise

So far this Summer I have visited all the Appalachian League teams except Danville and Burlington (next weekend). As I traveled to park after park a nagging question kept coming top my mind: "Why is there no Appalachian League team in Wise County, Virginia?" Between Wise County and Norton, the population in WiseCo is somewhere between 40-45 thousand. This means that WiseCo has a larger potential fan base than Princeton WV (Rays), Elizabethton Tn (Twins), Greeneville Tn (Astros), the combined Bluefields WV & Va (Blue Jays), and Pulaski Va (Yankees). It puts WiseCo on par with Danville Va (Braves) and the combined Bristols Va & Tn (Pirates). Of the remaining three venues - Kingsport Tn (Mets), Burlington NC (Royals), and Johnson City (Cardinals) - the only one with a much larger population is Johnson City at 65,000. It makes no sense to me that there is no Appalachian League team in WiseCo.

Earlier this week, quite by accident, I tripped over an article from earlier this year talking about how the league may expand. Here's our chance. And here's my plan for Appalachian League baseball in WiseCo.

First, while you dance with the best suitor you can get, WiseCo should try to attract an affiliate with the most irrationally loyal fan base it can find - probably either the Red Sox or Cubs. A Wise Red Sox team would come with a built in rivalry with the Pulaski Yankees that could make things fun. However, I think a Wise Cubs team would probably work better. For one thing, if the Appalachian League expands it will probably add one team to each division and a Red Sox team would be a better fit in the Eastern Division in Wytheville, Abingdon, or Martinsville (same division as the Pulaski Yankees).

THE CASE FOR THE CUBS


WiseCo is closer than any other rookie league team would be to Chicago and we're only a couple hours down the road from the Cubs' AA team in Tennessee (the Smokies) and almost in a direct line at the halfway point between Chicago and their A+ team in Myrtle Beach (The Pelicans). Likewise, it is almost halfway between the Cubs' single A team (the South Bend Cubs) and the Pelicans in Myrtle Beach. WiseCo would be the most convenient rookie location both for Chicago's scouting purposes and for those Chicago fans who run around making what amount to pilgrimages to all their minor league teams (you doubt their existence, but I've met them). Thus, the Cubs would benefit because of location and WiseCo would benefit from a built in fan base.

BUILD THE STADIUM

One important factor in making something like this work is the stadium. A stadium built something along the lines of what Greeneville has would be ideal, a Pulaski style park would be good, and a clone of the Kingsport stadium would be perfectly workable. Important considerations for the stadium should be shade for the bleachers (a huge failure of Kingsport's Wright stadium), parking (an equally huge failing of Pulaski's Calfee Stadium), and findability (the main flaw of the otherwise excellent Pioneer Park in Greeneville). The stadium needs to be built close enough to a four lane highway that it can be easily and constantly seen and built with a large parking area (gravel would be fine)

There are certain traps to avoid in building a stadium in WiseCo. These poison pills would seriously damage any attempt to put together a viable team. The first is associations and the second is location.

PROBLEMS TO AVOID

Associations: This needs to be a Wise County team, not a team associated with one of the towns. Those of you not from around here won't get this and there are a number of locals who will deny it. People hereabouts are extremely loyal to their local town. Thus, a 10 minute drive from Norton to Big Stone Gap or Coeburn becomes a trip to a foreign land and association with one of the towns will drive people from any other town away. Any local person who tells you this is not true is misleading you - most likely for the purpose of getting you to limit your options by attaching your stadium to his town.

As well, this stadium must not be built on the campus of either the university or the community college. I don't really think the community college would be interested (I don't think it has any sports programs). However, the college has a strong lobby, sports programs of its own, and a deep need for money and publicity. There would be someone who pushed for the team to be located there because it would benefit the college. This would lead to multiple serious issues for any rookie league team suckered into it. If associating the team with a town would cause people not to come associating it with the college would probably double down on that effect. Like any college people who attend, are alumni, and are local elites who gain prestige from the college love it. Most others at best are neutral toward it or look at it with dislike for various reasons. Beyond that, the university is on a small back road, inconvenient to just about 95% of the county, and has horrendous parking. Putting a rookie league team there would guarantee low attendance.

Mind you, if the university were to kick in to aid in the building of a stadium in a proper location and play its baseball at that stadium I think it would be a good thing and helpful. However, the stadium must remain primarily for the rookie league team and in a proper location.

So what would be a proper location? Glad you asked.

THE LOCATION

It would have to be somewhere near the intersection of US-58 and US-23. This means outside of Norton (or maybe barely inside the city line). Probably the best location would be on US-58 heading toward Coeburn slightly past the Virginia-Kentucky Regional Shopping Center. It would be off a major thoroughfare. It would avoid going through any town. It would be near hotels for any traveling team (or fans). It would be convenient for anyone coming from other parts of the county and even people coming from other counties or states (the intersection being 30 minutes from Letcher County, Kentucky and maybe an hour from Tennessee). It would be in a location where it would be seen by people traveling along the major local highways (called "the four lanes" locally).

Less optimally, it could be placed off of US-23 between Norton and the Town of Wise (seat of government in Wise County). It carries most of the same advantages of the prior location except each would be slightly less convenient.

Anyway, it's doable and advantageous to all concerned. I nominate local prominent attorney J.B.F. (you know who you are) to put together a committee of prominent citizens to raise funds and convince the Cubs. Let's make this happen folks!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Greenville Drive

Single A : Greenville, South Carolina

I started this year's baseball Odyssey with a trip to Greenville South Carolina.  When I first planned my various trips South Carolina wasn't even on my radar. Then I started plotting out my travels and my first couple weekends were in the area of Charlotte, North Carolina and I had one empty night. In fact, I couldn't get any western North Carolina team to fit the first night of the first weekend. Then, I widened my horizons a bit and tripped over the Greenville Drive.

I am glad I did.

The Drive play at Fluor Field in the middle of town. It may well be the only single A team that I've gone to that does not have any of its own parking which means you will be $5 - $10 to park on a private lot. To be fair, that's not much more burdensome than the $4 - $6 that most single A parks charge for their lots, but it is a little more. If you get there a little too early (to make sure that you can get decent parking) the souvenir shop is actually outside the front gates so you can browse to kill some time.

Once you get inside,  the park feels brand spanking new.  One of the ushers told me that it was modeled on Fenway (the drive are a Red Sox affiliate). I don't know how accurate a model it is since I've never been to Boston, but it was still pretty cool. They have their own "big green monster" in left field and the scoreboard is an old fashioned hand placed system.  I saw two home runs go over the "big green monster" during the game, so it may not be quite as monstrous as the name implies. Still, it was a really nice stadium.

The game itself wasn't the best I've ever seen, but it was the second day of the season and it was single A ball. In the end the game was 9-6 in favor of the visiting Augusta GreenJackets. There were thirty hits in the game and 4 errors charged (many more actually occurred). The game never quite felt like a blowout because the Drive kept pecking away at the lead, although they never quite got there.

Best Part: The stadium

Worst Part: Parking (which was not too bad).

The Logo: A red G with the arm of the G sweeping back in silver with the word "Drive" across it. As logos go, it is a little on the weak side. I think it is supposed to be modeled on the logo that goes on the front grill of a car. In reality, it just looks generic. The shame of it is that their nickname used to be the Bombers and that offers all sorts of interesting logo possibilities.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

So You Want the Bull Durham Experience

If you're like many people, the closest you've come to a minor league ballpark is watching Bull Durham a couple times. Shame on you. And when you finally do get to a field it turns out that most of them are modern, well lit, and not at all the dim, dingy stadiums in the film. And while the modern minor league experience is probably one of the best entertainment bangs for your buck out there, you feel that slight tingle of nostalgia for the old beat up fields that you never got to see.

Well, has the Appalachian League got a deal for you!

The Appalachian League is a rookie league. Tickets range from $5 to $7 depending on whether you want general admission in the bleachers or the nicer seats with backs which are usually behind home plate. Generally, the fields are so small it's hard to find a bad seat. Also, there is almost always some sort of special going on for ticket or concession prices. Price discounts for bringing receipts from certain stores, being a veteran, or bringing cans of food are common. There is also the ubiquitous $1 hotdog, $1 cola night (sometimes $2). And if you complain because the $1 hotdog is not awesome, I invite you to go to a AAA game and pay $5 for the same dog. Or go to a Detroit Tigers game and pay $11 for a hotdog and cola and never actually get either (yes it happened to me). If you are really looking for a deal, track the special giveaways at the gate. I got t-shirt and $20 hat from the Princeton Rays just for buying a ticket.

The fans are surprisingly dedicated to their teams. A couple weekends back I went to a Pulaski Yankees game on Friday and a Princeton Rays game the next night. The P.Yankees and P.Rays are neck and neck for the lead in their division  and when scores of the other team were announced everybody cheered or booed. These were not casual fans; they knew the standings and wanted their teams to be on top.

On the other hand, it wouldnt be the kind of experience that hearkens back to Bull Durham if there weren't some flaws. Some flaw will impact your experience at each field. The Pulaski Yankees don't have a box office (they used folding card tables) and clearly did not understand what "will call" meant when I walked up to get the tickets I had pre-ordered to pick up at will call. The Greeneville Astros stadium is in the middle of a college campus and thus difficult to find unless you know where to look.  Some of the seating at the Bristol Pirates stadium is basically on top of a couple big concrete blocks (you sit on the concrete). The Johnson City Cardinals have chain link fencing in front of the seats on the 1st and 3rd base sides which is annoying to look through. Almost all the parks show their age, although they are generally kept up well, and feel like what you would expect from a municipal park that's been around for a few decades. The one problem that is almost universal is parking. Unlike any other level of minor league baseball, parking is free. However, it is also limited. Show up early and you park 100 feet from the front gate. Show up later and you might be parking over a mile away down some country highway. However, none of these problems rise much above the level of quirky nuisance and in general the small limitations and flaws add to the nostalgic atmosphere. And you're an idiot if you expect a perfect experience for $5 instead of just a really good experience.

If you live near an Appy League, you should go. Heck, if you live close enough you should buy a season ticket (or two). A season ticket for the Kingsport Mets this year was $70. That's less than I paid for a single ticket in either Cincinnati or Detroit. For that money you get to watch a bunch of young kids playing really hard day after day and you will see some of the great young talent which each team starts out in the rookies. Go treat yourself to some fun days at the park.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

And So It Begins . . .

The purpose of this blog is to put forth my meandering thoughts on the minor league baseball matters which catch my eye.