March 14 – Day 4
The Phillies had a road game today against the Orioles in Sarasota. We opted not to make the drive to Ed Smith Stadium, having been there once a number of years ago. It is not a picturesque ballpark. In fact, the exterior somewhat resembles a motel. I’ll have to dig out a photo from those pre-digital days, and scan it in for tomorrow.
Instead, we decided to take in a Blue Jays – Braves game in Dunedin, with a stop by the Phillies’ Carpenter Complex beforehand to check out some of the minor-league training camp action.
Brandon Duckworth, last with the Phillies in 2003, has returned to the organization on a minor-league contract after stints with Houston and Kansas City. As noted in Larry Shenk’s Phillies Insider blog, and evident in this photo, all the minor-leaguers wear their socks knee-high. No baggy “pajama” pants for these guys!
Two minor-league shortstops work on fielding drills on one of the four practice fields in the complex:
Minor-league pitchers wait between the batting cages to take their turn at a bunting drill:
Prospect Anthony Hewitt, the Phils’ top pick in 2008, awaits his turn in the batting cage (is it just me, or do his feet look really big?):
After checking out the workouts for about an hour, we made the approximately 10 minute drive to Dunedin, spring home of the Blue Jays. Sometimes going to a game in which I have no rooting interest is a nice break – I can relax and enjoy the game action without getting worked up about the outcome.
Brandon Morrow was on the hill for Toronto. Not a great day for him – he gave up six hits and four earned runs in three innings of work:
Braves top prospect Jason Heyward makes contact early in the game. He had a good day, going 2 for 4 and scoring a run:
Kris Medlen started the game for the Braves, pitching two shutout innings:
The Blue Jays watch from the dugout as Aaron Hill makes contact:
The Jays’ Jose Bautista was nearly caught in a rundown, but somehow managed to elude the tag of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman to make it back safely to first:
Some people will do just about anything to get a foul ball. Even the umpire seems to be watching the kid, and not the game:
Blue Jays outfielder Chris Lubanski is out at second. Lubanski is a non-roster invitee to the Jays camp, having been signed to a minor-league deal after spending the past 6 seasons in the Royals organization. I’ve always kind of followed his progress, as he is a local guy from my area. Having signed right out of high school, he’s still pretty young, only 24:
The Jays ended up dropping this game to the Braves, 8-5. After the game we enjoyed a refreshing postgame brew at the Dunedin Brewery, before enjoying Mexican food for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants when we are in Florida, Casa Tina.
March 15 – Day 5
From St. Petersburg, Bradenton is an easy drive of 40 minutes or so south over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The Pirates were hosting the Phillies today, so we made the drive and got there just before the gates opened.
I parked myself in a prime spot right by the end of the Phillies dugout near the backstop. My husband is left to wander around the ballpark carrying my extra stuff while I’m clicking away at all the activity on the field.
The Phillies came out to stretch while the Pirates were finishing up their portion of batting practice. One anonymous Phillie decided to stick out from the crowd during this drill:
As the players were walking in and out of the dugout, they were mere feet away from me (and everyone else). Most of them seemed to try to not even look up and make eye contact. New Phillie Brian Schneider did come over and sign some autographs for the fans, as did coach Davey Lopes and manager Charlie Manuel – thanks guys! Jayson Werth signed one or two autographs, no more, but I did manage to catch a glimpse of his stylin’ shades:
ESPN’s Dick Vitale and the Schwab were on hand. Dick seemed to be getting a lesson on gloves from Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Dick then came over to the dugout and signed autographs for anybody who wanted one:
Zach Duke was on the mound for the Pirates. Duke gave up one run and two hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four, but also walked three:
Roy Halladay pitched for the Phils. He gave up three hits and one run (his first of the spring) in five innings. He struck out six, and walked two:
John Mayberry, Jr., making a start in center field, connects on this pitch to drive in a run with a sacrifice fly:
Ryan Howard “admires” (not) his mile-high pop-up:
Placido Polanco is helped off the field after injuring his knee. He stumbled near the mound while tracking down a wind-blown pop-up. Thankfully, the injury was not serious, as Polanco is now back in action after a few days of rest:
Lastings Milledge is forced out at second, as Jimmy Rollins throws to first to try for the double play (the throw was not in time):
The Pirate Parrot appears to be using a Phillies fan as a footrest. Yo, Parrot, what’s up with that?
Chase Utley chases down a fly ball in the infield on a very windy day. He made the catch, though it wasn’t particularly graceful:
The Phils came out on top in this game, winning 5-1. Another Phillies victory on another sunny, though windy, day!
On our way out of McKechnie Field, we stopped for a quick photo op at the large AT&T advertisement with a cutout where Zach Duke’s head would be. How do I look?
Afterwards, we took a scenic detour to check out the beaches on Anna Maria Island before heading back to St. Pete. We even stopped to stick our feet into the sparkling Gulf waters, but that water is not very warm in March! That explained why we didn’t see anybody actually swimming.
Next up, the third (and final) installment, covering our last two games in Clearwater before we reluctantly had to head home.
(all photos by me)
Alright, so it’s not technically winter yet, but it will be in just a few days, so it’s close enough.
And what is the source of my discontent? Why, the fact that the Phillies traded Cliff Lee to the Mariners. I’m irked by the way this whole Halladay-for-prospects and prospects-for-Lee trade triangle between the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Mariners keeps getting labelled as a three-team trade (four, if you count the fact that the Jays then sent Michael Taylor to the A’s in another trade). Maybe if the Mariner’s prospects had gone to the Blue Jays it would be. But they didn’t. This was two separate trades, not one three-way trade!
So while I’m happy to have Roy Halladay, I’m perturbed that we had to give up Cliff Lee AND Kyle Drabek, Micheal Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud.
In fact, Cliff Lee doesn’t sound so thrilled either. From phillies.com:
“At first I didn’t believe it,” Lee said. “I thought we were working out an extension with the Phillies. I thought I would spend the rest of my career there.”
In my opinion, this trade was not about restocking the farm system, and not about getting something for Lee before he becomes a free agent and goes looking for a Sabathia-like contract. No, it was about not wanting to spend an extra $9 million next season.
Even if Lee was only here for one more year, wouldn’t it have been great to have a rotation with Halladay, Lee, and Hamels at the top?
Last time I checked, it was still pitching that wins ballgames, not prospects.
Note to Ruben Amaro: I am not happy!!
Wait, let me say it louder:
I AM NOT HAPPY!!
I AM NOT HAPPY!!
I AM NOT HAPPY!!
Can you hear me now, Ruben?
Q: What do the Mariners, Blue Jays, and Phillies all have in common?
A: At one time or another, Pat Gillick was the GM. Coincidence, or something more? You be the judge.
If You Can’t Clone Them, Create Them
If only I’d perfected that plan to clone Cliff. We could have traded one, but kept a few others. *sigh*
But I have a new plan. According to an ad in my Sunday newspaper, I can create my own kids, for free!
I just need to figure out which combination of ice cream and mix-in would create a child with the ideal qualities – a combination of Halladay’s dominance, Lee’s work ethic, Hamels’ change-up, Victorino’s speed, Howard’s power (but without the tendency to strike out), and Utley’s postseason heroics. I’d need to get nine of them to fill out the lineup. But since it’s only valid for children 12 and under, I’d have to wait about 10 years or so for my plan to come to fruition. And if they’re made out of ice cream, they may be more suited to playing ice hockey than baseball.
Oh well, back to the drawing board.
Holiday, er, “Halliday” Shopping Update
I stopped in my local Modell’s this morning to look for a Christmas gift for one of my nephews. My timing turned out to be fortuitous – they were just opening up boxes of brand new Halladay t-shirts, so I snatched one. Hopefully my nephew doesn’t read this blog, or now he knows what he’s getting for Christmas :-).
But if any of you are bargain-hunting, the prices on the Cliff Lee t-shirts were slashed from $17.99 to a mere $10, due to the aforementioned trade.
In my last installments, we had visited San Francisco and Oakland during the summer of 2000. After this, another short break for the birth of kid number two was in the works. Once our quest resumed in 2002, we were off to Toronto to see the Blue Jays play two games in SkyDome.
After dropping the kids off at Grandma and Grandpa’s in northeastern PA, we pointed the car north towards Canada. Instead of making the whole drive in one day, we stopped off in Buffalo to take in a minor league game, and then stopped for the night at Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side – there is much more to do on that side, for some reason). After a little sightseeing the next day, we continued on to Toronto.
Once again, we had not made advance reservations, figuring it couldn’t be that hard to get a hotel room in a major city on a summer weekend. Everybody goes away for the weekends, right? Except that there was some sort of event going on that had everything booked up, and we ended up taking an interior room with no windows. I will never do that again! It was like sleeping in a crypt, it was so dark. You would think we would learn from these things.
The first game we saw was on August 2, against the Baltimore Orioles. Scott Erickson was on the mound for the Orioles, and Esteban Loaiza was pitching for the Blue Jays this night.
Neither pitcher would get a decision in this game. Erickson gave up 7 runs in three innings before being taken out. Loaiza left after 5 2/3, with a 8-3 lead. The Jays’ bullpen proceeded to cough up 6 runs, while the O’s pen had only given up one run. Final score, 9-8, with the win going to B.J. Ryan, and the loss to Kelvim Escobar.
[B.J.?? According to Retrosheet, his given name is Robert Victor Ryan. My mind is going places it really shouldn’t.]
From our seats, we had a great view through the open roof of the CN Tower next door:
Looking toward the outfield, you can see the massive Jumbotron, which at the time was the largest video display in any ballpark. The inside of the open roof is still very imposing, and there are also hotel rooms that overlook the field! The Renaissance Hotel is attached to the stadium, and there are about 70 field-view rooms. There have been a number of instances in which the activity taking place inside of one of the rooms was much more interesting than the activity taking place on the field below. Remember to close your drapes, people!
The next day we took a trip to the top of the CN Tower, located right next to SkyDome. On a clear day the views are spectacular, and we got a neat bird’s-eye view of the closed roof. Boy, is it blindingly white! The shadow of the tower adds an interesting touch:
We went to a second game later that day, again against the Orioles, but since it was a last minute decision as to whether or not to go, we bought the cheapest seats available, way up in the upper level in left field. But since the crowd was a relatively sparse 17,534, it was no problem to wander over behind home plate to get a shot of the entire field:
Chris Carpenter was pitching for the Jays, and Travis Driskill for the Orioles. Carpenter did not have a very good day, giving up 7 runs in four innings. Driskill got the win, and Carpenter the loss, in a 8-4 Orioles victory.
In yet another casualty of corporate naming, SkyDome is now known as the Rogers Centre. Note the spelling – “centre”, not “center”. Remember, we’re in Canada!
After this trip, there would be a three-year dry spell with no new stadiums visited. No, there weren’t any more kids being born! I don’t think there was a specific reason. Anyway, next time we will visit Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (they hadn’t been exorcised yet).
(all photos mine)
Yesterday was not a good day in our house – my son was home from school for the day with a stomach virus. Blechh! As with most males, he was a terrible patient – moaning and groaning, telling me every few minutes how horrible he felt. Thankfully, today he felt much better, and is off to school.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t get much done yesterday.
So until I get my photos and information collected for my next stadium installment, I wanted to share one of my favorite photos from the past. As I go through my albums looking for photos to include in blog posts, sometimes I come across ones that I really like, but that don’t fit into any of my entries.
Such is the case with this one:
One of the reasons I like it is that you can see his tongue sticking out. Although that just seems like a way to end up with one of those freak injuries – “Pitcher Bites Tongue While Slipping On Wet Mound” or something similar.
Anyway, this is a shot from Spring Training 2007, of Adam Loewen, pitching for the Baltimore Orioles. Loewen was the Orioles’ top draft pick in 2002, and was a top pitching prospect in their system.
He pitched well in this particular game against the Minnesota Twins, giving up one run on two hits in four innings, while striking out four. Problems developed later that season, and he ended up having surgery to insert a pin in his pitching elbow to stabilize a stress fracture. He attempted to come back in 2008, but again suffered the same injury.
Loewen was released by the Orioles after the 2008 season, and was signed to a minor league contract by the Toronto Blue Jays. He has given up pitching, and is trying to make the transition to a position player. He is a non-roster invitee for the Jays this spring, as an outfielder.
I will be interested to follow his progress this season, to see if he is successful. Best of luck to you!
(Loewen photo mine)
In an effort to speed up our stadium quest, in August 1997 we decided to go on an organized stadium trip for our vacation. There are several companies that run these kinds of tours – Broach Sports Tours and Sports Travel and Tours are two that come to mind.
[Unfortunately we chose one called Sport Tours – it was apparently run by someone who had split away from Sports Travel and Tours to run his own company. The webpages and brochures looked so similar, it was easy to get them mixed up. The tour itself went fine, but it seems that shortly thereafter the company went under, and some of the hotels were not paid by the tour operator, and one of them then tried to recoup the cost of the stay from the credit card I used for “incidental expenses”. I won’t go into all the gory details, but it was a total pain in the butt for us for about a year afterwards.]
The first stop on the tour itinerary was Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox. This of course was not “old” Comiskey Park, vacated after the 1990 season, but “new” Comiskey Park, which opened in 1991.
On August 20, 1997 we arrived at Comiskey Park to see the White Sox take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Robert Person (who would later become a Phillie) was on the mound for the Jays, and James Baldwin was pitching for the Sox.
I can’t say that I was impressed with this stadium. Instead of being oriented to provide a view of the downtown Chicago skyline beyond the outfield, it instead looks towards some housing projects on the South Side of Chicago:
All the white on the steel girders in the outfield contributed to an almost sterile feel to the stadium.
For a game featuring a lot of well-known names, it wasn’t particularly memorable. The Blue Jays at this time had Shannon Stewart, ex-Phillie Mariano Duncan, Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado, and Shawn Green. The Sox lineup that day included Frank Thomas, Albert Belle, Robin Ventura, Mike Cameron, and some guy named Ozzie Guillen 🙂 at shortstop.
Another ex-Phillie, and the hitter of the foul ball I got at my very first game, Benito Santiago was catching for the Blue Jays that night. Here he is singling to left:
This game was definitely not a pitchers’ duel. Delgado and Robert Perez homered for the Jays, and Belle launched one for the Sox. When one of the White Sox players hits a home run, the pinwheels atop the scoreboard light up and spin (though you obviously can’t see the spinning motion here):
The Sox had a 12-1 lead at one point in the game (actually right after Belle’s homer in the above photo), and the final score ended up 12-6, White Sox.
Since our visit, there have been many changes to this stadium. For one thing, it is now called U.S. Cellular Field. The outfield fences have been moved in, making it even more homer-happy. The batters’ eye has been redesigned with a plaza on top of it, and there are statues of famous White Sox on the outfield concourse. The blue seats have been changed to green, and the white steel supports have been painted a darker color. Pictures I have seen on other websites (check out baseballparks.com for an in-depth review) show a remarkable improvement over its appearance when I visited.
Next stop, Milwaukee County Stadium.
The Phillies dropped their second exhibition game yesterday, losing to the Blue Jays 6-2. The good news from the game was that Carlos Carrasco and J.A. Happ each pitched two scoreless innings. Carrasco struck out three, without giving up any hits, and Happ struck out one while giving up one hit. So it looks like the competition for the fifth starters’ spot is already off to a blazing start.
What is not off to a blazing start is the Phils’ batting. Rather, the bats still seem to be hibernating. According to Charlie Manuel, “Our hitting is behind. But we haven’t seen a lot of live hitting yet. Our players didn’t get here until the 17th.”
Um, Charlie, wouldn’t the other teams be in the same boat too? The Pirates’ and Blue Jays’ bats apparently aren’t so far behind.
OK, I know these games don’t matter, etc. etc., and the runs have been given up not by the starting rotation guys, but by the non-roster invitees. But the Phils weren’t facing the other teams’ aces either, so let’s wake up those bats, please!
Breaking news! The Phillies have released Adam Eaton. Looks like the team will end up eating $9 million on Eaton: $8.5 million for this season, plus a $500,000 club option for 2010. I’d still love to know why the front office thought that signing a pitcher whose ERA has never been below 4.00 was a good idea. For three years, no less! I will be interested to see if he ends up getting picked up by another team.
Book Review time
Earlier this week, I finished reading Jane Heller’s book Confessions of a She-Fan. Keep in mind that I was only familiar with Jane from her MLBlog of the same name, and then only since the beginning of February when I started this blog.
I was initially taken aback (slightly) by the true depth of Jane’s vitriol towards the Red Sox and their Nation. Of course, Jane can’t use some of the words directed at said players and fans here on the blogs without getting in trouble!
Being neither a Yankees nor a Red Sox fan, I was able to enjoy the book without reliving the heartbreak of the 2007 season (for Yankees fans), or being offended (for Red Sox fans). In fact, quite a few times while reading I was laughing out loud, to the point that my husband or children were asking me what was so funny. I don’t want to give anything away here to any of you who haven’t read the book yet, so I won’t go into specifics, but suffice it to say that she-fans of any team will enjoy it!
The book is more than just a recap of the Yankees’ 2007 season, and Jane’s experiences following the team across the country for the second half of that season. She deftly interweaves stories of her early years of Yankee love, and her personal life as well, into the week by week travelogues.
Also woven into the mix are the various attempts by Jane to gain access to the pressbox and the team, and how she seems to be thwarted at every turn by one Jason Zillo, the Yankees’ media relations director. All she wants is to talk to just one Yankee! By the end of the book, any Yankee will do.
Though the book is subtitled “The Course of True Love With the New York Yankees”, it also touches on the course of true love with her real-life husband, Michael, who has accompanied Jane on this adventure. We see the ups and downs of her relationships with both Michael and the Yankees. As the old quote goes, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
My favorite parts of the story are like bookends – one at the beginning (in the prologue), when Jane sights A-Rod in a Toronto restaurant, and one near the end, when Jane ventures into enemy territory at Fenway Park. After having been told to be on her best behavior and not draw attention to herself as a Yankee fan, what Jane finally does at the end of the game is worthy of a You-Tube moment!
Jane, I have found a comfortable home for your book here on my bookshelf, nestled in between Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth:
in order to avoid any karmic rage that could come down upon me! 🙂
(Carrasco/Happ photos by Miles Kennedy/Phillies)