A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lexington Legends

I have finally been able to get out to Applebee's park. I got to watch Rome the other night and I was able to see the Legends play the new Bowling Green team.

Bowling Green played the good guys on Saturday and Sunday. They looked very sloppy on Saturday ending the game with a big loss, and 5 or 6 errors. The next day they looked good winning.

I am hoping to catch a game at the new park in Bowling Green soon. I am glad to have another pro team in the state. I drove by their new park a few weeks ago, and it looked like a very unfinished construction site. Obviously the park was put together in time. I am also curious about the parking situation in the area with the college near by.

I know a couple years ago Owensboro was close to getting a Frontier League team in town. That whole plan fell apart. A few years ago Owensboro would have fit right in to that leagues landscape. The Frontier League has really sprung in to a nice upscale league. I am a fan of both, the Frontier League and Owensboro, and as much as I would still love to see pro baseball in the Boro, I can't see it happening. Owensboro does have the amateur team, the Oilers, and they have the pro basketball team the Bisons. I hope they keep both.

Back to the Legends. Last years team had a lot of heart, but it felt like a desperate low A team. Sometimes it didn't feel like a team, it felt like a bunch of guys trying to keep their pro careers alive a little longer. I felt their pain at times. It was hard watching them. I do hope that a couple of players on that team find their rhythm somewhere else in the system and make it.

I feel a lot more optimistic about this team. I chatted briefly with the new coaching staff this year. Their energy was infectious.

Pete Rancont, who is a bit over 60, had a smile on his face like a 5 year old getting his 1st base hit ever. He seems excessively happy. This guy is too mature for this kind of enthusiasm! I hope he can stick around Lexington for awhile, I like watching him coach and interact with the Legends.

Tom Lawless is Tom Lawless. He was on some of those great 80's St. Louis teams. He played for the regional favorite Reds too. He also played for both Canadian ML teams. He seemed pleasant to me, but you can tell he can be tough as needed. I could easily see him working his way up as a manager.

Travis Driskill just made the switch from ML pitcher (Orioles, Rockies, and Astros) to a coach in the minors a couple of years ago. He also spent a little time playing in Japan which increases his cool level several points. You get the impression that he still might be able to give a few good innings if needed. Travis seems like he has a ton of excitement about baseball, his job, and being at the park. Rumor was Charley Taylor should be back soon, and I am excited about that. That guy is minor league gold, but I wish we could keep Driskill around too. I called him coach, and he insisted on being called Travis.

Maybe its the way Lawless manages, or maybe we really do have some prospects here. I have enjoyed watching these guys trying to impress with bunts, steals and focus. This should be an exciting team for Lexington.

For fans of other sports, I did catch a Horsemen's game the other night and had a great time. Former UK and New York Giants Quarterback Jared Lorenzen is with the team and is very exciting. They guy is just entertaining, as is the rest of the team. Some of my older friends have complained about the loudness of Horsemen games (and it does get loud). If you can deal with the noise, these games are a lot of fun. Also, Kentucky basketball legend Kyle Macy was interviewed at the game about his upcoming gig managing a pro basketball team that will play at the new arena at the Horsepark!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lansing Lugnuts, Michigan

We stopped by Oldsmobile Park to check out the home of the Lansing Lugnuts. I had a moment to run through their gift shop and take a few pics of the park.

This was one of our briefest stops ever at a park. The place looked nice, had some character to it. There were some nice statues and scenery.

The downtown area, close to the park, was getting ready to host their "tea party" while we were there, and the area was getting a bit chaotic.

The town and the park area seemed pretty busy too.

Friday, April 24, 2009

West Michigan Whitecaps

Continuing on with Michigan.... We were able to stop by Fifth Third Ballpark near Grand Rapids Michigan. Again, we were unable to catch a game here, but we were able to stop by the park, look around, and hit the gift shop.

I really hoped to catch more games on this trip but we were hitting towns on off days (I have no doubt Jenn planned things this way... more time at malls).

"Fifth Third" is becoming way too common of a name for parks. I guess, as a fan of the minors, I do appreciate support.

This park has gained some notoriety lately for their massive huge $20 burger. I have seen spots on this in the national news. I think the burger was originally meant to be a meal for 4, but some have answered the challenge, and have taken out the entire burger on their own. A t-shirt was available in the gift show giving the "nutrition" information on it.

They have a nice gift shop, with a sale section. I picked up some shirts with Darth Vader on them from their Star Wars night at the park. Does it get any better than combining Star Wars and baseball?

I did not get to see a game here, but I enjoyed checking the place out. It is close enough to the parent team in Detroit that locals do get to see guys from the main team on rehab assignments. I hope to catch a game here in the future.

Fort Wayne TinCaps, Indiana

On my last road trip, I made a brief stop at the new park for the new Fort Wayne team. The formerWizards are still affiliated with the Padres, but they have a new identity and a new park.

I love this new logo and name. Its cute and funny. I have heard that some of the locals don't like it (jokes have been made about the apple with the pot on its head) but it is original.

This road trip was originally planned so that we could hit opening day games here and in Columbus, but, do to other obligations, that did not work out. I was able to stop by briefly to take some pictures. The gift shop, unfortunately, was not open. It looked well stocked. I am going to have to order some merchandise because the logo is so funny. I really want a t-shirt.

From what I could see this park looks great. It was a few days before their opener, but it looked ready to go. They had a very cool video board and the park really made this downtown area look fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Indianapolis Indians, Indiana

Indianapolis has quickly become one of my favorite towns to visit. If you stay downtown, you are a brief walk from just about anything. Indianapolis is a nice city that seems to take pride in keeping itself up. The downtown area is especially well maintained and kept up.

The Indians play at Victory Field. Victory Field is a short walk from most attractions (we walked to the park from our hotel). It is a very nice AAA park, with lots of lawn area, and nice, affordable seats close to the action.

The staff was great too. Friendly and helpful, but not difficult. I didn't see anyone hassled for standing in an isle for more than a few seconds. The staff was nice and casual.

I would imagine that the park usually has a great city skyline view, but there is some construction going on across the street affecting the view at the moment.

The Indians have a well stocked gift shop. It did seem a bit small for AAA, but it had the usual jerseys, shirts, cards, etc. They had postcards too, which I wish more parks stocked. In general, I would say their merch was a little more expensive than at other parks.

I was pretty excited to see Tom Gorzelanny pitch on this night. I had seen him pitch for the parent team Pirates before, and I always liked him. As a fan of the minors, I love catching guys playing for different teams in a system. I hope he is with the big club soon though.

Andrew McCutchen is another fun guy in the Pirates organization. I have seen him play at every level and it has been great. Like Gorzelanny, he is a nice guy too. I always see him chatting with fans and signing autographs before games. I've had the privilege of talking to him a couple of times, and he seems humble. I think just about anyone who has seen him play or talked to him is in his corner.

The Indianapolis Indians are a bit of a confusing team. I don't get their logo at all. It might be the most unbaseball logo around. I love their mascot, but I prefer the big, warm and fuzzy muppets. I know my purist friends like to act like they hate them, but I think deep down, they want to hug them. They secretly enjoy them too. I can't explain the Indians red, short haired critter mascot.

Probably the most confusing part of the Indians is their name. Think about this scenario. The Indianapolis Indians are playing the Cleveland Indians affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. Try explaining that the AAA Pirates, the Indians, are playing the AAA Indians to a friend that does not know how the minor league systems work. I mean, I like the fact that the AAA teams do not take the name of the parent team (except for that arrogant Pawtucket team!) but carrying the name of a former parent club is just too much.

I really like this park, and I look forward to my next trip there. The only bad thing about going to see a game in Indy is that there is so much else to do in this town.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Indiana, Michigan and Ohio road trip

It has been a little while between posts, but we just got back from a trip around Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. We hit several parks, but we were only able to see games at 2 of them. I will try to get something up about each game and park in the next few days.

I did have to miss opening day games in Lexington and Bowling Green for this trip, but it looks like all went well, and it seems that Bowling Green's park was ready for opening day to my surprise.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Memphis Redbirds vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Finally! I attended my first game of the season! I feel better now.

I made it down to Memphis to catch the 1st of 2 exhibition games between the St. Louis Cardinals and their AAA team, Memphis at the spectacular Memphis Autozone Park.

Memphis is an impressive drive. We spent Thursday night in Nashville, after driving several hours in rainy stormy weather.

This was my second trip to Memphis within the last year. Memphis is an impressive town on several levels. It has attitude and history. The town is intense.

We made our way downtown a few hours before the game. We walked around the park and the Peabody Hotel next door. Many St. Louis players were walking between the hotel and the park. To me it seemed to have a pretty cool vibe, in general. There were about 20 fans trying to get autographs. Players were generally accommodating. I must say that the staff from the ballpark seemed the only downside to the whole situation. I saw staff get pretty rude with discouraging the autograph seekers.

We had to go in to the Peabody to say hello to their ducks. There is no reason to go to a Memphis game and not walk across the street to the Peabody to see their ducks. They enter the hotel lobby at 9am, and leave at 5. They come and go from the elevator, and a red carpet is put out for them.

The Peabody was very active. The basketball Mavericks were in town, and we road up the elevator with one of their players, and we road down with one of the Cardinals, which was pretty cool.

We made our way to the game after walking around a little. The game had a good crowd, but was far from a sell out. There were still plenty of seats. There was a booth set up to promote St. Louis travel and they were giving out draw string bags and travel guides.

This was my 1st trip to this park to see a game (I was here last year, but my game was rained out). This park is very nice. It has its own personality for sure. The big batter logo over the front entrance is a real trademark for the team and the city. The walkway around the park enables you to walk the entire way around the field. I wish all parks had this. I recently read that this park was rated #1 in a recent poll of parks in the minors. It is beautiful on the inside and outside.

The park is built into their downtown, so people in many of the surrounding buildings could watch the game from a balcony.

There was a great selection of food items too. For $6.50, you could get a huge hot dog, covered in cheese, chili, and a couple of onion rings. I put relish on mine.

The Clydesdales were there! This was very cool. They made a lap around the field and they looked great.

Fridays game saw the AAA Birds get beat up by their parent team. It was very exciting to see Pujols do his thing. I was also excited to see Ryan Ludwick. I saw him play with the Mud Hens a few years ago, and love his story. The guy has had potential and bounced around. He is starting to get some deserved recognition.

This is a cool stadium, in a cool area. I found out later that Friday Night Fights was going on down the street too! Memphis has so much going on, it is easy to miss out on some stuff.

The only minus about this park and this stadium is the security. It seemed like annoying staff were everywhere telling people what not to do. One guy in the row in front of me complained very loudly about something (I am not sure what) and one of the staff at the stadium came over several times to apologize for the situation. This staff person literally blocked my view of the game for about 10 minutes.

I was telling a friend about how bad the staff there seemed. I compared the situation to security and staff at Lexington's Rupp Arena. I am at Rupp for many sporting events through the year. Their staff is very casual and helpful. The few times I have seen them escort someone out, or hassle someone, it has been very justified and quick.

In defense of the staff at Autozone park, my friend pointed out Memphis can get rough at times. Also, this was a bit of a Major League event. They may have added some to their security because of that.

Still, even with annoying staff, this was a fun game, and this is a great park. I did not get to go to Saturdays game, though I listened to some of it. Jose Oquendo took an at bat for the cardinals, and Memphis manager Chris Maloney took an at bat for his team.

On the way back home, we stopped to see a couple of parks. We stopped briefly in Jackson TN. to look at Pringles Park, home of the Diamond Jaxx. It was gated up, so we didn't get a good look. I did see a game here last year, and this is a great place (with very friendly staff) to catch a game.

We also stopped briefly in Bowling Green to get a look at the new park where the Hot Rods are scheduled to begin play. With only a couple of weeks left until opening day, there is a lot of work still needed on this stadium. I am glad the town has a team, but the stadium looked far from finished. I am not sure about game day parking either.