5/11/17 – Cy Young

Part of the fun of collecting lineup cards is to try and get lineup cards with guys who go on to become MLB players, if not stars.  As an example, our first MiLB lineup cards are from a Class A game that Trey Mancini played in.  Two years later, Mancini’s playing regularly for the Baltimore Orioles.

Lineup Cards (April 10, 2015)

 

The independent Atlantic League offers the opportunity to get lineup cards of players who are usually on their way out of professional baseball.  Typically, none of the MLB organizations are willing to offer them a contract.  The Atlantic League is often their last chance to catch someone’s eye and get back to an MLB organization, perhaps even make it back to the big league.

Most former MLB players in the Atlantic League were journeymen-type players, if that.  So it caught my interest when I saw that 2003 Cy Young winner Eric Gagne, 41, had joined the Long Island Ducks in an attempt to make it back to MLB.

For three years, Gagne was the best closer in MLB, including posting 55 saves in 2003 in winning the Cy Young Award.

So I went to see the Ducks play the Bees in New Britain earlier this week, hoping to get a chance to see Gagne pitch.

Unfortunately, he didn’t play in a 4-3 Bees walk-off win, but I hoped to at least get the Ducks’ lineup card with his name on it.  I asked manager Kevin Baez for the lineup card, but he said no.  He gave me his card last season after a Long Island win, so I’m guessing the reason he didn’t give it to me was because his team on a walk-off.

New Britain manager Stan Cliburn did give me his dugout lineup card, but unfortunately, it did not include the Long Island relief pitchers.

But he also gave me the official lineup cards, without me asking.  Long Island’s card had Gagne on it.

Ducks 2

 

Long Island’s card is the yellow one.  Here is a close-up.  Gagne is #30.

Ducks 1

 

Not the most aesthetically pleasing lineup card we have ever gotten, but cool to have a lineup card with the 2003 Cy Young Award winner nonetheless.

2017: 10 lineup cards (3 dugout/bullpen; 7 “official batting order”)

Lifetime: 131 lineup cards (90 dugout/bullpen; 39 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League. MiLB: International League; Eastern League; Carolina League; New York-Penn League; Southern League. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

March/April Recap

We got off to a slower start this year as compared with the previous two years.  Sean is still recovering from a concussion he suffered four-plus months ago, and Kate has been busy with her robotics team.

Still, we made the most of the opportunities we had in March/April:

  • Getting lineup cards from both teams (Quinnipiac and U Hartford) in the first-ever game played at Dunkin’ Donuts Park)

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  • Getting the Baltimore bullpen line-up card after a game against the Red Sox at Fenway

Os Red Sox (4.12.17)

  • Getting the first of hopefully many Atlantic League 20th Anniversary baseballs at a New Britain Bees’ exhibition game

Bees

 

The lone disappointment was not being able to get a lineup card from a Syracuse Chiefs at Pawtucket Red Sox Game.

May will likely also be a fairly quiet month as Sean continues to recover and Kate wraps up robotics.  Hopefully, we’ll be back in the swing of things by June!

4/14/17 – Atlantic League’s 20th Anniversary Baseball

I wandered over to the New Britain Bees pre-season exhibition game against players from a local amateur league given that there was a chance the Bees might be using some of the Atlantic League’s 20th Anniversary baseballs that it had been announced would be used during this upcoming season.

Still, I figured it was more likely that the Bees would use balls from last season.  When the Atlantic League switched from red-laced balls to red-and-blue-laced balls a couple years ago, it took a while before the red-and-blue laced balls started to appear regularly.

So I was surprised when I found a a foul ball that left the stadium and sure enough it was a 20th Anniversary ball.

Atlantic League 20th

It’s a nice looking ball, and kudos to the Atlantic League 1) for making it to their 20th season, and 2) doing something fun/different with their baseballs.

I ended up getting four balls on the night, and since I stayed until the end, I also got the lineup card from New Britain Manager Stan Cliborn.

Bees

The game itself was more interesting than I would have expected.  The amateurs looked alright to start, I assume because the better players played early in the game.  As the game went on, things started to get out of hand.  The amateurs committed six errors, and I think the scorer was generous.  But they seemed to have a good time regardless and I enjoyed watching them give it a go.

2017: 7 lineup cards (2 dugout/bullpen; 5 “official batting order”)

Lifetime: 128 lineup cards (89 dugout/bullpen; 37 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League. MiLB: International League; Eastern League; Carolina League; New York-Penn League; Southern League. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

4/13/17 – Chiefs & Pawsox

I headed to a Pawsox matinee game against the Syracuse Chiefs.

Last year, Sean and I got our first Triple-A lineup card at a Pawsox game on this very date.  This year, I was flying solo without Sean.

I got to the game early, and was able to ask Syracuse manager Billy Gardner Jr. if I could get his lineup card after the game.  He said yes.

Fast forward about three hours.  The Chiefs had gotten a great start out of Nats pitcher Joe Ross, who started the season at AAA as the Nats didn’t need a 5th starter.  But the Syracuse offense was almost non-existent, and the score was 1-1 heading to the bottom of the 9th.

Of course, the Chiefs lost.  A throwing errors allowed Pawtucket’s first batter to get all the way the second, and a bloop two-out single gave the Pawsox the win.

I had been rooting for Syracuse 1) because I am a Nats fan, and 2) even though Gardner had said he’d give me the lineup card, I knew I had a better chance of that happening if the Chiefs won.

So the walk-off loss was bad news.

McCoy Stadium is unique in that the dugouts and playing field are about eight feet below the lowest row of stands.  So in the picture below, you have to be a couple sections away from the dugouts in order to see into them.  If you are by the dugouts, you cannot see into them.

Pawsox (3)

 

When the game ended, I immediately headed to right above where the lineup card was and asked for it a few times.  No response.  It’s easy to be ignored when players/coaches don’t have to look at you.

I then headed down a couple sections to see if the lineup card was still up, and it wasn’t.  That was that.

I headed over to the Pawsox dugout, and there lineup card was also gone by that time, too.

I had thought about just trying to get the lineup cards from the home plate umpire if the Chiefs lost on a walk-off, but there’s no guarantee they would have given them and even if they did, they’re not as nice as the dugout version.  I could have also tried for the Pawsox lineup card, but we had done that last year and the manager apparently kept it.

I think I made the right call, it just didn’t work out.

I did manage to get a few baseballs that flew out of the stadium.  And it was a good game, so it was still a good day.

Pawsox 2

 

 

 

 

4/12/17 – Orioles-Red Sox: Joy and Sadness

It was great to get to my first MLB game of the season, the Orioles versus Red Sox at Fenway Park, but disappointing not to have Sean with me as he continues to recover from a concussion he suffered three-and-a-half months ago.

We had been eyeing this game for a few months knowing that there might be a chance to score a Camden Yards’ 25th Anniversary baseball that the Orioles are using this season.  It wouldn’t be easy, though, as the Orioles would likely only have them in their bullpen bag, if they had them at all.

The day got off to a bad start with BP cancelled due to a couple showers.

Fenway 2

It’s too bad because the weather got nice again shortly thereafter for the rest of the evening.

In the picture above, you’ll notice two baseballs in center field.  They were there when I got in.  No players were on the field at that time, so I don’t know how they got there.

Some Orioles pitchers came out and started warming up.  Eventually, Vidal Nuño threw me one the balls.  It was a regular Manfred ball that appeared to be mud-rubbed and in good shape.  Could it have been a gamer at some point?  Who knows.

Fenway

I hung out by the Baltimore bullpen before the game as starter Ubaldo Jimenez warmed up.  Hopes of scoring a Camden Yards 25th seemed dashed as the Orioles only seemed to be using Florida Spring Training (FL ST) balls.  There were also a lot of kids by the bullpen, so I didn’t get a toss-up anyway.

The game itself was essentially over shortly after it started.  Red Sox starter Steven Wright gave up eight runs before being lifted in the second inning.  The Sox pulled within four runs, 9-5, in the fifth, but Baltimore tacked on three more runs for the final margin of 12-5.

The decision I had to make was whether to stand by the Orioles or Boston bullpen after the game.  The Orioles had a new bullpen coach, Alan Mills.  Previous bullpen coach Dom Chiti posted the Baltimore lineup card on the bullpen wall adjacent to section 87, and we got them at both Fenway games we attended last season.  But I noticed right away that Mills posted the card on the inside of the bullpen dugout.

Would Mills give the card away, would he leave it for security to give away, or just take it with him?

The other option was to try for Boston’s bullpen lineup card, which we had never done before.  As best I can tell, the Red Sox do not post the lineup card anywhere in the bullpen, so I have no idea if they give it away.

I decided to play what I thought were the better odds and go for the Baltimore lineup card.  Between the score and the fact that the game was so slow — it took 3:46 — the stands slowly but surely emptied as the game went on, and I was able to get into section 87 and then move to a seat right up against the Baltimore bullpen fence, and almost directly above the Baltimore bullpen bag.

I took a few looks into the bag, and could still only see FL ST balls.

When the game ended, an Orioles reliever — I think it was Zach Britton, who had not pitched — grabbed a couple balls from the bag and handed them to two young boys sitting behind me.

I snuck another look into the bag, and among the FL ST balls, I could see a Camden Yards 25th ball as well as a ball with pink laces that had to be a Mother’s Day ball!

When the bullpen catcher came to grab the bag, I nicely begged for a 25th ball.  He ignored me, closed the bag, picked it up and started walking to the Oriole’s dugout.

It was a huge downer as I would’ve loved to score our first 2017 MLB commemorative right there and then.

The good news is that when I asked Mills for the lineup card, he obliged and handed it to me.  One out of two ain’t bad!

Os Red Sox (4.12.17)

It wasn’t until I started writing this blog that I realized that Sean and I had gotten our first Baltimore lineup card exactly one year earlier.  The lineup sure does look different without “Ortiz” on it any more.

Orioles

This was our sixth MLB lineup card, all from the visiting teams’ bullpen: three Orioles all from Fenway; two Marlins both from Nats Park; and one Rays also from Fenway.

To walk out of any MLB game with a lineup card is awesome and lessened the sting of not scoring the 25th anniversary ball, which we hopefully will be able to get later this season.

2017: 6 lineup cards (1 dugout/bullpen; 5 “official batting order”)

Lifetime: 127 lineup cards (88 dugout/bullpen; 37 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League. MiLB: International League; Eastern League; Carolina League; New York-Penn League; Southern League. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

4/11/17 – First-ever Game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park

I chose to avoid the insanity of the Hartford Yard Goats’ first game at Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) Park in Hartford and instead went to the stadium’s “soft-opening” two days earlier between Quinnipiac and the University of Hartford (UHa).

The game drew very well, about 2,000 announced, with many UHa students and people like me wanting to see the stadium.

DDP 9

 

Per my stadium review, I found DD Park to be quirky, to be frank.  Most notably, there’s a net that covers the entire first deck of right field, with balls hitting the net still being in play.

DDP 7

 

The stadium is nice, but it should be for $71 million, $15 million more than originally budgeted.  But it clearly will distinguish between the “haves” and “have nots.”  If you have access to corporate suites, which which make up a significant portion of the stadium, you’ll love it.   Otherwise, make sure you don’t sit behind the net in the right field lower deck.

The game itself was a long affair, compounded by a 20-minute delay in the top of the 8th inning because the lights were set on a timer to automatically turn off, hence the “soft-opening.”

DDP 1

 

UHa eventually won 6-4.  I was able to get the official lineup card for both teams after the game, as well as a foul ball that flew out of the stadium.  UHa’s lineup card was the first we’ve gotten from an America East team, and it’s cool to have lineup cards and a ball from the first-ever game at DD Park.

DDP 10

 

2017: 5 lineup cards (0 dugout/bullpen; 5 “official batting order”)

Lifetime: 126 lineup cards (87 dugout/bullpen; 37 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League. MiLB: International League; Eastern League; Carolina League; New York-Penn League; Southern League. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

4/11/17 – Dunkin’ Donuts Park Review

Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford will officially open on April 13, 2017 when the Hartford Yard Goats host the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in an Eastern League game. However, a “soft opening” of the ballpark was held on April 11, 2017 when the University of Hartford hosted Quinnipiac University in the first-ever game at DD Park.

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Entrance to Dunkin’ Donuts Park

In a word, “quirky” is how I would describe the brand new Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) Park in Hartford, CT, home of the MiLB Hartford Yard Goats.

Is it a nice Minor League ballpark?  Sure. For starters, it’s new. If you want to be sarcastic, you can say it should be nice given that it took an extra year to open, although that was really due to in-fighting between the park’s owner (the city of Hartford), operator (Hartford Stadium Authority), Yard Goats’ management, architects and developers (Centerplan and then Whiting-Turner).  Then there’s the $71 money spent on the stadium, which was originally supposed to cost $56 million.

Why do I call it quirky?  First and foremost, there is a net covering the entirety of the lower right field deck.  Apparently, after construction had begun, they realized the right field wall was going to be too short a distance from home plate for current ballpark standards, so they decided to cover the first deck with a net similar to protective netting around the home plate area. Balls hit off the netting are in play.

Seeing it in person last night, I’m not a fan of it.  Even worse, it’s awful for anyone sitting in the right field first deck, having to look through the net.  I can only wonder if there wasn’t a better solution (e.g., plexi-glass?).  Whatever the case, it’s a significant flaw.

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View from the first deck of right field

More quirkiness: The visiting bullpen is beyond the left field wall, but the home bullpen is tucked away under the first deck of right center field.  I can only assume that given the small footprint there was to work with, they had to shoehorn the home bullpen in where they could.

Walking around the stadium, there are windows to look into the home bullpen from outside of the stadium, and also get a decent look at the rest of the field.

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View of the home bullpen from outside the stadium

Speaking of walking around the stadium, one of the concerns since the ballpark was first announced was the location.  In short, the stadium is not in the greatest area.  There is parking essentially across from the stadium for $5.  I chose to drive a couple of blocks from the stadium and park on the street.  I didn’t feel uncomfortable making the walk, but that is in part due to the significant police presence around the stadium.  There had to be at least 10 uniformed police officers stationed at different points around the stadium, including some rovers.  I can only imagine what that cost the city (at least 10 police officers ‘x’ their hourly rate for roughly 5 hours).  I wonder if the police presence I saw last night will remain the same as the season goes on, or if last night was more for show.

Back to the stadium.  It clearly was made with corporate folks and socialites in mind, rather than true baseball fans.  There are plenty of suites, including a couple around the home plate area.  Bluntly, the stadium will distinguish between the “haves” and the “have nots.”  If you are fortunate enough to work for or have connections with companies buying suites and corporate tickets, you’ll sit in the best seats and probably enjoy the stadium.

Concession prices are not cheap, either.  You’ll feel like you are at a Major League ballpark given what things cost.

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Some DD Park concession prices 

Then there’s the video scoreboard in left field.  It’s impressive, although it wasn’t working correctly for the soft opening, so hopefully they get those issues sorted out.

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DD Park video scoreboard

Another problem in the soft opening was that the stadium lights suddenly went out in the top of the 8th inning of last night’s game.  I read this morning that the lights were set on a timer, which is why they went off.  It took 15 minutes for the lights to come back on, with a total delay of about 20 minutes.

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No lights = game delay

If we take all of the negative things (e.g., the cost, how will the city recoup the investment, the delays and related finger-pointing, etc) out of the equation, DD Park is a nice ballpark.  Like I said at the beginning, it’s quirky.  Some will probably like the quirkiness, especially those fortunate enough to get suite tickets.  Considering myself more of a baseball purist than a casual fan, I’m not a huge fan of the stadium based on my first game there, but I am at least glad that there is baseball being played in DD Park.