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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cody Clark- Catcher

Cody Clark has spent most of his career in the Royals organization, hanging out at AAA Omaha for a lot of the time between 2007 and 2012.  This year he started at AAA Oklahoma City for the Astros organization.  He sent a very nice note recently!

He tells me that he played in Kentucky twice- once in college where his team beat UK 2 out of 3 his freshman year.  He played in Lexington in 2006 when he was with the Braves organization.  He says it was a great place to play and he remembers eating at the Waffle House by the hotel.

He says that he loved his experience in the GBL (independent league).  He had a great manager in Terry Kennedy.  Also, he got to play with Ricky Henderson!  He also says that he loved Omaha a lot.  He says it is a great baseball city, and he has become a  KC Chiefs fan!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Simmons Field- Kenosha, Wisconsin

You know that I love stopping to see great old historic parks, even if they are small and not used much these days.

I stopped by Simmons Field which was the home of the Kenosha Comets of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1948-1951.

The Frontier League briefly had a team here too.  The Kenosha Mammoths played their only season (2003) here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ethan Stewart- Phillies minor league LHP

Ethan Stewart from the Phillies organization signed a photo I took AND sent a great note about his life!

He told me his favorite major league team is the Angels, because his favorite player, Ervin Santana, pitched for them.  Unfortunately, Ethan says, Santana now plays for the Royals.

His only favorite minor league team is the one he currently plays for!  He does say that he likes the Montgomery Biscuits because of their cool name.

Growing up, his favorite player was Randy Johnson.

He loved Lakewood, mentioning that people were great, there were big crowds, and the people in general were just great.  The only thing he didn't like was the 14 hour bus rides!

He does miss his home country of Canada, though he does make it back in the off season.

He has no favorite book, though he did read "The Hunger Games" series in spring training and he enjoyed them a lot.

Thanks for the great note Ethan!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chad Huffman 2010 Yankees

Chad Huffman spent some time in 2010 with the Yankees, but he hung out in AAA with different organizations all through 2009-2012.

He sent a nice note recently about playing.

He is from a big football family, and he admitted that there was temptation to go that path over baseball.

He mentions that "Mind Game" is his favorite book, and he is in one of my favorite books, "The Bullpen Gospels".

Concerning Kentucky, he says that he loved playing against the Bats- Great stadium and great fans!

Thanks Chad!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Jeff Manship- former Twins pitcher

Jeff Manship let me know recently that, though he grew up in Texas, he was a Mariners fan because of Ken Griffey Jr.!

The highlight of his career has been making it to the majors.

Growing up, he loved the series of baseball books by Matt Christopher.

Jeff signed a pocket schedule for me from his days with New Britain.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Slade Smith- Pitcher in the Tigers System

Slade Smith, pitcher in the Tigers system, sent a very nice note recently, and he signed a photo I took earlier!
He says that he appreciates the fan support, though he does miss his family and fiance in Alabama very much!
His favorite stadium is probably Fort Wayne.
His favorite team is his Auburn Tigers.
He suggests checking out 1 John 4:7-10.
Thanks Slade!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rent One Park- Marion IL

Rent One Park, home of the Southern Illinois Miners, is QUICKLY becoming one of those parks that I want to visit AT LEAST once a season.  I love the team, the area, and the park.

I stopped by late last season to see MY Florence Freedom in the Frontier League Championship and I really liked the vibe here.  Even though the Freedom ended up losing the Championship in an exciting series, I still felt joy for the Miners and for the town of Marion.

We drove from the Owensboro area early to enjoy some of the cool things going on in the lower part of the state- this is a great area for road trippers!

We were able to fit in some hiking around Cave-In-Rock, some exploring of the historic and mysterious area of Herrin, and we visited Marion!

As we walked in to the park, we started chatting with the usher in our section.  I am not sure how we started talking with him, but we ended up talking for probably half an hour.

The usher was super cool.  He was retired, and just enjoyed being at the park.  He was previously a season ticket holder for the Miners, and he just decided to go ahead and work for them!  I think living in an area like Marion, AND working at a great park like Rent One Park sounds like a fantasy life!

You know I love mascots, and the Miners have several floating around.  I am still not sure that a canary is an appropriate mascot for this team but thats a topic for another day.

I REALLY love the fact that the Miners started the Saturday game I attended a little early (at 4) because we had to make the drive back to Owensboro that evening.

I am guessing that you have never made the drive between Marion and Owensboro.

Well, the drive is beautiful and it is a GREAT, VERY SCENIC trip to make.  Hitting the road early in the morning on this journey and driving slowly is a real treat.

HOWEVER, it can be a tough drive after dark.

The curvy roads and the dark rural areas don't make for the easiest driving after the sun goes down.  So getting to the game a little early and hitting the road while there is still daylight in the evening is nice.

Actually, the Miners were having a Christian Rock concert after the game.  I think that is a very cool idea, though I am not a fan of that genre.

Still, if I didn't have a 2 hour drive in front of me, I would have hung out for the show.  The band Citizen Way's lead singer Ben was warming up with the Miners before the game.  The guy has an arm on him, and I thought maybe he was a new guy on the team out of uniform or something.  He has obviously played at some point.

Anyway, he also did the singing before the game and he nailed it.  He sounded great as he avoided adding all of the extra notes that some do these days.  I am going to have to check Citizen Way out sometime in the near future!

Concessions were reasonably priced, though the team shop is on the higher side.  They do have a nice selection though.

I am really looking forward to getting back to this park.  I hope they do some more games next year on Saturdays with an earlier start time and I wouldn't mind if more teams picked up on this!



Monday, July 15, 2013

Gateway Grizzlies- Sauget, Illinois

Catching the Gateway Grizzlies near St. Louis has been at the top of my "to do" list for some time.  I finally made it recently!

I have been very open about my admiration for the Frontier League for some time.  It is a real treat getting to see any game in this well established and respected independent league.

We got a room in nearby Collinsville and spent a lot of time here and in Belleville.  These are great little towns.  I know they are near the East St. Louis area, but never let that scare you away from these great communities.  We were there several days and had nothing but pleasant encounters with everyone.  These are proud, happenin' little towns full of character.

We spent one evening at the Sky-View Drive-In, and we had coffee at The Abbey.  Any town with an upscale coffee shop, a drive in theater, AND a Frontier League team near by makes it a candidate for possible relocation in the future.

I have to give a special mention to Eckert's Country store.  The vibe is identical to a vibe from decades past.  We had a nice lunch in their restaurant, purchased some great local foods in their grocery store, and had root beer floats at their custard shop.

We also visited the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site and the Cahokia Mounds in the area.  This neck of the woods is worth a weekend trip easy!

So, we got to the ballpark in the early afternoon to pick up our tickets and scout the place out.  Staff were busy getting ready for game day, but they were still helpful and eager to chat a bit, and to help us in the gift shop.

The Grizzlies have a great gift shop that doubles as a local area visitor center. 

The girl working the gift shop while we were there was great, helping us get tickets and with our purchase.  She told us to feel free to look around the park before we headed out until later in the evening.

One of the coolest items in the gift shop was a shirt (they also had a similar jersey) that looked very much like the old Cardinals logo use primarily in the 50s.  Instead of 2 Cardinals standing on a bat with "Cardinals" written underneath, 2 young Grizzlies (Cubs, to satisfy sports fans elsewhere in Illinois) stand on the bat with "Grizzlies" written in.  VERY COOL!

We did come back later in the evening.  This was over the July 4th weekend and the place was packed!  I was very happy to see this team drawing such a good crowd!

We brought our lawn seats in and we were very pleased with our affordable ($6 each!) tickets and free parking.  I had a dog and a coke.  I can't remember the exact price but we felt that this team's food prices were more reasonable than others.

The lawn seating was crowded but pleasant.  Lots of families, and a family friendly vibe was observed.

Make sure you check out the Grizzlies if you are in the St. Louis area!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jack Lopez- Royals minor league infielder

Jack Lopez has been working his way up in the Royals system since last year.  He signed a picture I took of him last year while he was playing for Kane County.

He also sent a note to tell me that his favorite player growing up was Robinson Cano. 

His favorite book is "Heart of a Champion."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ken Vining- Baseball AND Rum Cakes!!

Ken Vining was lucky enough to have played for 8 years in professional baseball, making it to the majors with the White Sox in 2001, pitching in 8 games.

After his baseball career, Ken got in to making rum cakes!  How cool is that?  For a very reasonable price, you can order a rum cake actually made by former MLB player, Ken Vining!

Check out his site and make sure you read the reviews!


Ken was very kind and recently answered some questions for me by email!  His answers are in bold- enjoy!

1.  You played in some great minor league towns- Birmingham, New Orleans and Charlotte come to mind.  What did you think of those towns and their ballparks?
Birmingham Barons actually play in Hoover, AL.  I was on that roster for three years.  I loved the area and the people associated with the team down there.  I made some great friends while I was there.  I've heard they are about to get a new stadium.  New Orleans was a tough year for me.  It was my last full season of playing…things didn't go so well.  I enjoyed being there because my wife had a lot of family down there and those folks can cook!!  It would have been a great year if I had pitched a little better.  Charlotte was probably my favorite out of the three.  It was close to my hometown, decided to live here permanently, and I had a couple of very good years on the mound.  

2.  Do you still follow the White Sox or Giants?  Do you still keep up with their minor league systems?
I don't follow either of those teams.  To be honest, I don't really follow baseball at all.  I'll watch the college games when they are on TV late in the season.  I can't remember the last time I watched a MLB game
3.  Do you have any baseball stories relating to playing in (or near) Kentucky that you could share?
I think my best story relating to baseball in Kentucky is when we went to play Louisville.  I'm pretty sure it was July 4th weekend….they had an air show and a massive firework display on the river.  During the game, one of the jets did a low flyover past the stadium….scarred the hell out of everyone!  ha!
4. Have you ever contributed to a book on baseball?  Have you ever thought about writing one?
I have never contributed to any baseball books.  I thought about writing something a very long time ago, but the idea faded.  I have known a couple of guys who have written books/instructional guides for baseball.
5.  I MUST ask about the rum cake business!  First off, you have the coolest website name ever!  How does one go from playing professional baseball to making rum cakes?
Thanks for the props….actually the name is a jab from my wife ha!….her attempt at calling me a Bum.  If you go to the website and click on "film promo", there's a short video that kind of explains how things got started.  I had been working as a pitching instructor for several years with a local travel team.  I had a lot of fun working with the 17-18 year olds, but it was time for a change.  I had been making the cakes for years and everyone kept telling me I should turn it into a business…so we eventually did….kind of crazy
6.  Are your cakes available at any restaurants down there in South Carolina?
I'm actually not legally allowed to wholesale the cakes at this point.  Under the South Carolina cottage laws I need a certified commercial kitchen in order to wholesale.  That is something we would like to see happen one day in the future.  
7.  Have you thought about getting back in to baseball, maybe as a coach, at some point?
The only way I would get back in to baseball is if a major D-1 college in the ACC or SEC called needing a pitching coach.  However, that's not going to happen….I'm off those guy's radar now.  I'm completely fine with it….I loved the game for a long time, but I really don't miss it all that much.  Now I get to work with my son and help him get better…maybe the love for the game will come back.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

VOTE FOR Kentucky's own STEVE DELABAR!!!!!!

I wanted to take a moment to mention that former Florence Freedom pitcher (and current member of the Toronto Blue Jays) Steve Delabar is in the running for a final spot on the American League All Star Team!

Steve VERY briefly played for the Freedom in 2008 and he was out of professional baseball by 2010 (he was a school teacher in Elizabethtown at that time).  In 2011 he found his way back in to professional baseball and he has made it to the majors!

Anyway, click on the link to vote for Steve!


Monday, July 8, 2013

Jonathan Cornelius- Springfield Cardinals

Jono Cornelius started playing baseball professionally in the Cardinals system in 2011.  The Cards obviously think highly of his pitching as he is already at AA!

He sent me a great note recently about his career, and he signed I photo I took of him last year in Davenport.

He tells me that he really enjoyed playing in the Midwest League, especially in a great atmosphere like Quad Cities.

Growing up, he and his dad shared a love of the Braves.  He became a Rays fan as soon as they started up in his home territory of Tampa.  He excitedly tells me that they had season tickets for a while and he was there for the first game in Rays history!  His seat was right behind the right field foul pole!

He says proudly that ever since the Cardinals drafted him, he has been a loyal Cards fan and he does not cheer for any other team.

Growing up, his favorite players were Fred McGriff and Tom Glavine.

He tells me that though he was in Florida, he didn't attend many spring training or minor league games.

Jono tells me that he loves baseball books, especially "The Mental ABCs of Pitching."  He gives that book a lot of credit for helping him while he pitched for Florida Tech.

I asked him about playing in Kentucky, and he says that he only passed through on a trip to Wisconsin.  He did play summer ball in Martinsville, Virginia in 2010 though.  He says that he loved every minute of that.  He loved his host family there and talks at length about how good they were to him.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chris Lashmet- Bradenton Marauders

Chris Lashmet was drafted by the Pirates back in 2011.  He has spent time in State College, West Virginia, and Bradenton on his way up.  He answered a couple of questions for me recently, and he signed a photo I took of him last year!
He let me know that his favorite book is the Alchemist.  He has never contributed to a baseball book.
Coming from Illinois, he was a Cubs fan, and he mentions that Sammy Sosa was his favorite player.
Thanks Chris!