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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tennessee Smokies near Knoxville

I FINALLY had the chance to catch a game at Smokies Park near Knoxville!

I have been through the area before, and I have stopped by to check out the park, but the times before have been on non-game days.

There are a lot of things to like about this park and this team. The park has several very unique features.

The Smokies have one of the coolest souvenir shops around. It is very upscale, unlike some teams that have a kiosk, or stand. They have a great selection of hats, shirts, jerseys, etc. They have always had game used jerseys for sale when I have been there, and they offer game used bats! Their programs are very attractive and reasonable at $2 each.

They have some unique items too, like baseball clocks.

There is a very green hill behind the outfield wall. I like a nice city skyline view at a park, but I love green too. It has a very relaxing, rural feel to it.

Let me take a moment to mention the hotel where we stayed. There is a great Hilton right next door to the park. Walking distance! These days, I have a personal preference for Hyatts in general, but this is a really nice, friendly hotel.

Plus, many of the rooms have a nice view of Smokies Park! I talked to the Assistant GM Timothy there for some time and he was great! The place almost feels like an independent place more than a chain.

Oh, the legendary Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas are close by. Very close to the park here are a great Bass Pro Shop and some other cool little shops.

I did have a little trouble at the concessions. I got a pretzel at the pretzel stand. they did not have cheese, but they said I could try to get some at the main concession area, depending on who I talked to. My drink mix was a bit off too. Then again, it was a hoppin' day when I was there. They were busy.

They do have a cool, refillable cup program thing going on. You buy their travel mug for $10, then refills are a buck after that.

The park itself is just really nice. It has a nice open feel, and it is spacious. You can have a seat on the grass area about the outfield wall, AND you can walk all the way around the park. That is a feature I really appreciate at any park.

So, check out these photos! I will probably be back here soon!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reggie Baldwin- 1979-1978 Astros

Reggie Baldwin played for the Astros in the late 70s.

He says that his best time in Baseball was hitting his first major league home run in the Astrodome off of Jim Bibby.

Reggie is now pastor of Antioch International Ministries in Ann Arbor.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jim Tyrone- 1970's Cubs and A's

Jim Tyrone played for the Cubs in 1972, 1974, and 1975, and he played most of the 1977 season with Oakland. He sent a nice note recently.

He says that he really doesn't have a favorite team though he does follow the Rangers, as he lives in their area.

He tells me that Billy Williams will always be his favorite former player. He helped Jim with his hitting. He says Dick Williams is a close second.

He loves watching Mitch Moreland with the Rangers. He feels that Mitch will be a great player as he matures.

Friday, June 24, 2011

baseball Interactions

Hey, I stumbled over another cool blog recently that I thought others might enjoy. The blog's author has left a couple of comments here, and it looks like he is doing a fun job of documenting his correspondences with former players too!

Check out baseballinteractions.blogspot.com

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kim Andrew 1975 Red Sox

Kim Andrew played a couple of games for that great 1975 Boston Red Sox team!

Kim let me know a little bit about himself recently.

He says that, since he lives in the LA area, he usually gets the Dodgers games. He is pretty busy these days though, so it is hard to watch them. He usually sees the highlights on cable.

Right now he says that he has no favorite teams.

He did meet Ryan Braun a couple of years ago, and he has followed his career. He feels that Braun is putting up some good numbers and could eventually make it to Cooperstown.

Mr. Andrew spent some time playing in Italy and I asked him about this. He said it was a fun place to play and to visit, but it was not much of a challenge for him. Plus, the country's main sport is soccer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Indianapolis Indians

I know, I have mentioned the Indianapolis Indians here a zillion times, but here I go again! I got to see my first game in Indy a few weeks ago. I really look forward to my visits in this town.

If you have never spent a weekend in Indianapolis, do it! Seriously, get a room downtown for the weekend, preferably a 3 day weekend, if not longer. Several museums are within walking distance, and the Circle Center Mall is just a great, cool place in my books. The Pacers, Colts, and Indians all play within walking distance of most of the downtown hotels. Indianapolis is a very alive town with music, theater, and restaurants too.

Victory Field (they have not sold the naming rights- a very classy move!) is one of my favorite parks. it is roomy, and the staff has always been friendly.

I love the skyline too. It seems have been in change over the last few years, but it looks right now. You can see the major hotels and other buildings from the park, including Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Eagles Nest rotating restaurant on top of the Hyatt Regency.
The team has fun promotions too. When I went in April, the entire team was signing autographs on the concourse!

One more thing. The Zooperstars were there too! I am starting to think that those guys are following me around! I don't mind though, they are always fun!

Friday, June 17, 2011

"The Bullpen Gospels" by Dirk Hayhurst

The "Bullpen Gospels" by Dirk Hayhurst is one of my new favorite baseball books. I think "Everything Happens in Chillicothe" is still my all time favorite baseball book, but this might be a close second.

Hayhurst writes a very fun and entertaining book about players having a good time in the minors, hoping to make their way up to the majors.

There are many, MANY fun stories in here. If you like reading a book simply for fun stories about baseball's minor leaguers, you can't go wrong with this book.

Dirk is open about his own personal flaws in the book. He even reveals some moments when he has been vain and a little uppity.

There is a fun story about Dirk, humbly volunteering at a soup kitchen. He thinks that some of the people coming in for food might enjoy having an autographed baseball card from him. Obviously, a signed baseball card is pretty meaningless to some of the folks coming in. Dirk ends up helping one of the people in need by trading his good shoes for the man's worn out footwear.

Another time, Dirk is dealing with his stresses in life (family problems, career choices,etc). He gives a baseball to a young disabled boy who actually can't even grasp the ball. He realizes that his problems do not seem so significant.

Personally, I am a huge fan of the Frontier League. Frontier League managing legend John Massarelli makes an appearance in this book, which is pretty cool with me. On an unrelated topic, why hasn't affiliated baseball given this guy a chance??

Oh, Yoda and the Baseball Grim Reaper show up too! Both are fun characters, but I am more impressed with Massarelli myself.

Anyway, this is a really nice book.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bowling Green Hot Rods

I did swing by the Bowling Green Ballpark in 2009, before it was completed. I have tried to get back each season a time or two for a game, but I have not been able to mostly because of weather. Well, recently, I was finally able to catch a game there!

I have always thought that Bowling Green was a great town. Plus, it is so close to the cave area, and even has some cave's right in it (Lost River Cave, for example).

I think the town has taken some of the momentum that Owensboro once had. I think a minor league ballpark is a perfect example. I am very glad the Owensboro has the Owensboro Oilers now, but the town came close to see a professional team a few years back when the Frontier League thought about putting a team there. Well, Bowling Green finds a way to get an affiliated team to come to town!

Bowling Green has done a great job with this park, and with this team. The park is near the college campus, and a little ways off from the mall. It is close enough to the stuff you will want to see in town, but still in its own space.

So, we arrived at the ballpark about an hour before the start of the game. I asked at the ticket window for seats under a roof area as there was a drizzle going on. We got two great ones for $10 each behind home but covered! Perfect! And, in my books, a good value.

The guy running the gift shop seemed knowledgeable about baseball, the team, and the park. EVERYONE that I talked to at the park seemed proud of their association with the team and they acted happy to be there.

Bowling Green Ballpark is not a park with all of the bells and whistles you see at other parks, which, in many ways, is nice. Physically, I might even describe it as standard. Let me clarify how I feel a bit- it was pleasantly traditional. They have a very nice, spacious concourse area, a bar, and a nice gift shop. It doesn't have the loud, obnoxious, cluttered feel some parks can have.

Concessions were more than reasonable. We had two souvenir cup drinks, and two dogs (quality dogs too by the way, not the 6 in a pack kind). That was around $12.

I had heard that the park uses a lot of netting. Personally, I hate netting, but it is appropriate here as the park has a smaller feel, and the seats are close to the action. I did not mind the netting as much as I thought I might. There are some areas on the sides with no netting too.

As we left the park, a staff person thanked us for coming out. That was nice! Again, the staff seemed happy to have each fan out at the park. Other parks, take note!

Oh, there was a marriage proposal at the game I went to too! Very nice!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"I Told You I Wasn't Perfect" by Denny McLain

I recently pick up "I Told You I Wasn't Perfect" and read through it pretty quickly. Denny McLain is easily one of the more odd characters in recent baseball.

There is something very likable about him. He is interesting, he has dabbled in flying, business, gambling.... and baseball. In fact, he probably had one of the best seasons a pitcher could possibly have in 1968.

But... there is something very unlikable about him too. He spends time doing some bad things that hurt a lot of people. He spends time in jail. He associates with questionable characters.

He does come off as a family type of guy who loves his wife and kids. You hope Denny McLain, at some point, redeems himself.

In this book, Denny kind of does at the end, after leaving jail. He talks openly about his ego and his need for taking chances.

This book does make you feel some sympathy for Denny in a lot of ways. The death of his daughter is very tragic. The fact that he was such a superstar who takes such a fall is very sad. The fact that at one point he finds himself working at a convenient store is depressing. He was humble about it, but still, you feel bad for him. He was on the cover of every major magazine at one point just a couple of decades earlier.

I met Denny once at a card show in Detroit (see photo). He was very friendly, and seemed happy in general. He was kind to all of the fans. I remember telling him that it was good to see him there. He said that he was glad to be there!

I am all for giving someone a second chance, but Denny seems to get several second chances.

As far as baseball personalities go, Denny is a one of a kind. I like reading about him. I think, a decade from now, people will really be fascinated with him. I would love to chat with Denny about baseball and his life. I would not, however, go in to business with him.

Oh, Denny does talk in this book about his first professional baseball team, the Harlan Smokies! he is not very kind to the people of Harlan at that time (his descriptions of the area and people are not flattering), but it is still great hearing a little about Denny's brief time with that team. He says he throws a no-hitter in his very first game for the team. I like that Kentucky connection!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Willie Norwood 1977-1980 Twins

Willie Norwood spent some time playing for Minnesota in the later 70s mostly.

He took the time to answer some questions recently!

I asked him if he had a favorite team in the majors or minors. I also asked if he had a favorite player. He said, "no" to these questions.

He did mention that he remembered playing for one of my favorite teams, the Mud Hens.

He also said that he did not have any stories relating to baseball and Kentucky.

Thanks Willie!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jack Baker- 1976-1977 Red Sox

Jack Baker spent some time with the Red Sox in 1976 and 1977.

He let me know recently that he still follows the Red Sox and the Braves. Also, he follows the minor league teams in Pawtucket and Birmingham.

He mentions that his favorite players are Jim Rice, and now Kevin Youkilis.

As a kid he loved Mantle, and says that he has read most books on Mickey.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ross Seaton- 2009 Lexington Legends

Former Legends pitcher and 2008 3rd round pick Ross Seaton sent a note recently.

Ross is not pitching for AA Corpus Christi in his home state of Texas.

He says that he loved playing in Lexington. He made a lot of friends at a local church!

He says that the league was great, except for the travel.

Right now he is happy to be playing back in Texas. With justified confidence, Ross says that he can only imagine how great it will be to play in his home town!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tom Bruno- 1976-1979 MLB

Tom Bruno spent time in the late 70s playing for the Blue Jays, Royals, and Cardinals. Tom now spends time fishing and hunting professionally! My dad is jealous!

I asked him specifically about playing for the Mud Hens in Toledo. He says that he really doesn't remember a lot about that time (blogger's note: as much as this blogger enjoys Toledo- autographed hot dog buns, a great art museum, and strangely named sports teams, I understand that there are those who see the town as unremarkable).

I asked Tom about books, and he mentions Doug Gladstone's "A Bitter Cup of Coffee". That one is about former major leaguers who's playing time ended before 1980, and they lost out on some significant benefits.

Concerning Kentucky, Tom mentions that he has done some championship walleye fishing at Cumberland Lake!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wild Pitches

It is a very interesting time for baseball right now.

I caught a report on NPR that Barry Bonds has offered to pay for the college educations of the children of Bryan Stow. Stow is the Giants fan who was attacked by a couple of fans at Dodger Stadium.

Personally, I am not a fan of Bonds. I can think of many reasons to not be a like him as a player. this act, however, is classy. I tip my hat to him on this one. In my opinion, acts like that can really help a guys image.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Randy Savage

I really hate to admit it but when I was a kid, I loved wrestling. I think all boys do.

I am not a fan these days. I cringe a little every time I am at a ballgame and they play the Ric Flair "Whoo!" over the PA. I think to myself this is baseball. The outcome is not pre-determined. I wish they would play a Vin Scully call instead, or maybe a John Fogerty song clip.

But, when I was very young, every kid I knew loved wrestling- including me.

I remember seeing Randy Savage and Austin Idol at the Sports Center in Owensboro beating each other red with a strap one night. Another time, Savage and his brother, Lanny Poffo wrestled Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson. Savage tried to pile drive Morton on the announcers table. The crowd unloaded on Savage like he was Freddy Krueger. THEY HATED HIM. Savage convinced the fans that he wasn't just trying to win a match. He was trying to put someone in the hospital... or worse.

Savage ALWAYS looked wild eyed and ready to hurt someone. Especially someone that the fans loved. He looked like he had just had a couple of drinks and was ready for a bar fight if someone looked at him the wrong way. He had to be the most intense human alive.

You had no doubt that if Savage saw Ricky Morton at the mall, or at Wal-Mart, he would try to pile drive him there too. Savage truly sold his bad guy image in a way that no one could pull off today.

Later in his career, when he became more famous, his character was watered down. He dressed in colorful costumes and hung out with the comic book like Hulk Hogan (who, at the time, was literally copyrighted by Marvel Comics). Sadly Randy Savage became likable.

Before his career as a wrestler, he was a minor league baseball player. jimmy Piersall was one of his minor league team managers (I know their conversations were probably strictly about baseball, but it is fun to imagine those two guys sharing a dugout having strange conversations about running the bases backwards).

He never made it past low A, but by all accounts, he was very determined. Sports Illustrated has a nice write up on their site about his playing days. The local paper here in Lexington also had a very nice article, interviewing local baseball legend Doug Flynn about his friendship with Savage. Flynn knew him in baseball circles, AND officiated one of Savage's wrestling matches later.

I felt sad when I was told by a buddy that Savage died a couple of weeks ago. Some characters are very easily duplicated, but there will never be another one like Randy Savage.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Elmer Kelley Stadium- Madisonville Kentucky

Digitalballparks.com really deserves a lot of credit. It might be my favorite site these days.

They have done a great job of covering parks everywhere that have been used professionally at some point.

In fact, I found out about this park while visiting that site.

So, thanks to Digitalballparks.com, I spent a few moments visiting this former home of the Madisonville Miners.

I was there on a very rainy, muddy day. I hope to catch a game there at some point since the park is so nice, and so well preserved.