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

Friday, May 29, 2009

Neall French and the Charleston RiverDogs

The Charleston RiverDogs recently played a series of games against the Legends here in town. 4 games were played, I was at the 1st and 3rd one, and listened to the 2nd one on the radio.

The 2rd game was a brilliant one on the part of Charleston. Hector Noesi took a perfect game to the 7th before walking a batter. Casey Erickson relieved Noesi, pitching a perfect 8th, and the switch pitcher Pat Venditte pitched the 9th. Ronald Ramirez had the Legends only hit, a home run against Venditte in the 9th inning.

A no-hitter is something special, but you hate to see one pitched against your team. In that respect, I was pretty happy Ramirez hit one.

On the other hand, a no-hitter is pretty rare and exciting, even if it is against the good guys.

As a side note, I almost went to the similarly pitched AAA one-hitter by the Paw Sox over the Louisville Bats. It was a rainy day here, I figured Louisville had similar weather. They played, and again, I missed a great pitching performance from Clay Buchholz.

So, the Yankees single A team had a great showing against Lexington. This team looked more like a AA team. Several of these guys have a real chance.

I did correspond a bit with Charleston first baseman Neall French concerning the game, and playing baseball. He said that his favorite park to play in so far has been the RiverDogs home park, "The Joe." He said that his second favorite park so far is the one in Bowling Green.

Neall noted that his favorite team is the Yankees, as they have been good to him.

I asked Neall about what he thought of the new team and park in Bowling Green. He said, "the new team in BG is a talented team with some exciting players, and they play in a top notch stadium. Great place to play, with outstanding facilities."

I asked him about the one-hitter in Lexington, noting the outstanding pitching performance. Neall responded, "And that one hitter was a great game to play in, what a great pitching performance?!"

I may have put too much emphasis on the "pitching performance" part of my question. It was without a doubt, a great performance from the entire team.

I was pretty excited that Neall responded to my questions about his career, playing in Kentucky, and his experience in the game in Lexington this year.

I know Neall comes out of the Bay Village/Cleveland area, and went to St. Ignatius High School. I know when I lived in the Cleveland area, I bumped in to guys from the school doing volunteer work more than once. I met some St. Ignatius students doing volunteer work over their Thanksgiving break one year. Many kids would be home playing video games or sleeping! I have a lot of respect for any alumni coming out of this service minded school.

Neall is doing good with Charleston this year after playing with the Gulf Coast League Yankees last year. It will be fun watching his career as he goes up the baseball ladder. Thanks Neall!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kentucky Horsemen at Rupp Arena

Unfortunately, I was unable to get out and do a lot this weekend. We originally planned to do a quick road trip through Tenn. but things fell apart. Actually, I had some dental work done and my jaw and face are feeling pretty rough. Resting around the house sounded like a great idea!

I did catch up on some stuff. We also took the time to catch a Horsemen's game at Rupp. The crowds are looking better, but they announced the attendance at just a little over 3,000.

I really love Rupp, and I really love the Horsemen. Going to any event at Rupp is a good time.

I know I have talked about how great Rupp is before, but every time I go there, I feel more of an appreciation for the place. The arena food is affordable, and the staff is friendly. Their security is exceptional too. I honestly haven't seen a lot of bad stuff go down at Rupp, but I have noticed security jump into action when it has happened. I'm not kidding either. Security at the arena is very perceptive, and I have noticed them take action before an unpleasant situation gets ugly.

The Horsemen continue to put on a great show. They have mentioned that they operate as a not for profit at this point. I think this started with the 09 season, and was the only way to keep the team from going belly up.

Its a bit strange, I know the Louisville team was drawing a much bigger crowd than the Horsemen, but that team is no more.

Going to a Horsemen's game is a lot of fun. They have the pyro like they do at a UK basketball game. The team is a lot of fun too. Their on field announcer, Steve, is probably the best on field guy I have seen at a pro sporting event in some time (are you listening Microphone Mike?). He is funny and witty. He shows a lot of subtle humor too, which is appreciated. Also, this season, the team has Jared Lorenzen. This guy has played in the NFL!!! He's fun to watch too, and I think he is having a good time hanging out in the Arena 2 league for now. Jared alone is worth the price of admission.

You can still get great seats for as low as $10, PLUS this past Saturday they offered buy 1 get one free tickets. It's a great way to get the Rupp Arena experience, and see a fun sports team at a reasonable price, without fighting a crowd of 24,000 plus.

I love downtown Lexington and Rupp. I love getting downtown late afternoon early evening, eating at Deshay's, taking the walk ways over to Rupp Arena, passing the shops, and getting to a game.

Monday, May 18, 2009

5/14/09 Florence Freedom vs. Evansville Otters

The Freedom hosted their 1st exhibition game at Champion Window Field this past Sunday. They beat the Evansville Otters in an exhibition game.

I am a little embarrassed to admit that this was the 1st time I have ever seen the Evansville Otters play. I grew up near them, I have been to Bosse Field (in the off season) but this was my first time actually seeing the team. I have tried to see them many times. Hopefully, I can catch a home game this season.

I really enjoy catching the Freedom. I enjoyed the Freedom/Miners game a few days earlier at Crosley (mentioned in my last post) but the Freedom's home field has a great vibe going on. It seems to get better each season too.

Being the classy organization that they are, the Freedom were letting people in to the game for a canned food item. Most people I saw brought in more than just one, so the Freedom seemed to have had a nice little collection going.

The Freedom have put down that new fake grass stuff on their field. I thought it was pretty cool. Jenn wasn't so sure. It looked nice though. There is kind of an orange/brown grass where the base path dirt used to be. I do appreciate watching a grounds crew prep, but this stuff looked nice. The colors of the grass really stand out. You notice it the second you step in and see the field.

The Freedom still have their original mascot Liberty. Their new mascot, Belle is about the greatest mascot around. She is, without a doubt, the coolest mascot in the state, and she may be the best mascot in all of the Minors. I love big muppets and so do you. The Freedom also have a new mascot that I think they called the Run Rabbit. Rabbits are creepy.

Continuing with their very family friendly (and affordable) theme, the Freedom have added a $1 menu!!! This is super cool. I would love to see this catch on at other parks. They have small burgers for a buck each.

I am really looking forward to my next game in Florence, this is a great park that is very casual and relaxed. The staff is friendly, and they don't have ushers telling you to get out of the isles, or asking to see your ticket.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Crosley Field in Blue Ash Ohio

I was able to hang out some at the Florence Freedom's exhibition game against the Southern Illinois Miners. This game was played at the Crosley Field in Blue Ash. I really love the Frontier League and the Freedom. This was a fun event at a fun place.

I have to admit that I only recently heard about the "new Crosley Field" in Blue Ash, OH. The original was before my time. I have seen pictures, but I have no personal connection to it in anyway. You would not be able to go to this Crosley Field and pretend that you were at the original. The original had a view of the Cincinnati skyline and held over 25,000. This field is one of several in Blue Ash. A few hundred could watch a game here comfortably. In many ways, it is an appropriate place for high school level play, and it feels like any other lower level amateur field. It is very unique though. I love this sort of thing. Blue Ash put this re-creation together as part of their community sports complex. I read that there are original seats form the original Crosley Field. The seat frames looked original to me. Also, there is an original ticket booth there which seemed it's age. They have a replica scoreboard too. I read that the dimensions of the field are the same as the original. There are plaques displayed with signatures of Reds players.

I really love the idea of trying to recreate an old park. I do know some larger cities have tried to make smaller versions of their big league stadiums for the kids. This is similar. I did find myself thinking about other additions to make the park more authentic, and more like the original. More seats? More replica era ad signs? I quickly abandoned this line of thinking. Without a big league budget you really can't make a Major League park- original or replica. Blue Ash has done the nicest job possible in carrying the Banner of Crosley Field.

The Freedom organization put on a nice show too. They scheduled this and another preseason game here since their regular park is still being prepared. No tickets needed. The game had an extremely casual feel as players and fans mingled. The Freedom played the same team the night before in IL, and that game was shown live on the internet which was cool.