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)
Actually, the words running through my mind last night were much more, uh, colorful than that, but if I use them here they’ll just get asterisked out by the filter that protects our delicate sensibilities.
I was downright giddy after Cliff Lee’s Game 1 gem, so giddy in fact that I never got around to blogging about it yesterday. Now that good mood has been replaced by one a bit more foul. I keep reminding myself that my rational mind knew the Phils wouldn’t sweep the Yankees, that there would be at least one loss, but that doesn’t make it any less unpleasant.
As I have a tendency after a loss to think not-very-nice thoughts about the opposition and the vast majority of their fans, thoughts molded by my formative years spent growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania surrounded during the summer by very annoying denizens of NYC who chose to vacation there while complaining that nothing was as good there as it was in New York, making me wish I could tell them all to go back home if it was so much better there, but…oops, sorry, got sidetracked there a bit…and darn it, I was going to once again abide by my not-saying-anything-at-all-if-I-couldn’t-say-anything-nice rule, but my fingers betrayed me.
Anyway, Ryan Howard can add a less glamorous “award” to his NLCS MVP trophy, the dreaded Golden Sombrero.
Yep, Howard struck out four times last night; three times against Burnett and once against Rivera. Not good, Ryan, not good. Please get back in the groove you had against Colorado and L.A.
Recent history would suggest that the Game 2 loss is not a portent of doom – the Phillies lost Game 2 of last year’s World Series and this year’s NLDS and NLCS, and all of those series ended up turning out pretty good for the boys in red. So I’ll get my bad mood out of my system today, and be ready to watch on Saturday as the series moves to Philadelphia (after washing the bad luck out of everything I was wearing last night, of course).
Last night’s NLCS Game 4 was just a little too stressful for my tastes. After jumping out to an early lead in the first inning via a Ryan Howard long ball (which I missed, by the way, while helping my young procrastinator finish a school project which was due today), the Phils’ bats went silent as Randy Wolf found his groove for the next several innings.
Joe Blanton, on the other hand, started out strong, but then began to falter the second time through the Dodgers’ lineup. The Dodgers took a 4-2 lead, and I began to resemble this:
Yep, I was giving some serious hairy eyeballs to the Dodgers, particularly when ManChild, oops I mean ManRam, was for once not “being Manny” in the outfield, as he ran in to make a shoestring catch on an Ibanez liner to end a Phillies scoring threat.
The Phils did manage to cut the margin to 4-3, but the Dodgers still held a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. But now it was payback time. Last Friday, it was the Phillies who blew the one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth to lose, 2-1, when their pitching began to unravel.
Jonathon Broxton, last night was your turn.
Broxton retired Ibanez for out number one. Matt Stairs came in to pinch hit, and worked a walk; Eric Bruntlett came in to pinch run. After Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch to put two men on base, Greg Dobbs came in to pinch hit and was retired on a humpback liner to third.
Two outs, I’m starting to imagine how bad my mood will be today.
Up to the plate comes Jimmy Rollins, who was only hitting .167 so far in the NLCS (not good, Jimmy). Miraculously, Jimmy smoked a liner to the gap in right to score both Bruntlett and Ruiz. Happiness ensued! I felt like doing this:
but unfortunately I don’t live near a beach (must change that situation!).
In the postgame interview, Rollins looked like he was doing his best Etta James impersonation:
Love the look, Jimmy – I hope we see it again this season!
The Joy of the NLCS Schedule (she says sarcastically)
So why is it that during the regular season, teams can play eight, nine, even ten games in a row, but come the postseason, they can’t seem to play more than two days in a row?? Why exactly do we need an off-day in the middle of the three games being played in Philadelphia? I’m sure it has something to do with TV and advertising revenues, but I don’t like it.
The Joy of Technology
It seems that StubHub experienced an “email glitch”, and accidentally sent messages to fans of the Mets that said,
“Be there alongside your New York Mets as they chase baseball immortality. Go to StubHub, where you’ll find a fantastic selection of tickets to every playoff game — so you experience the championship chase live and in person.”
Hee hee! I wonder if there were any dimbulb Mets fans who got confused and actually tried to order tickets?
Apparently fans of a few other non-playoff teams also got erroneous messages (see full story here), but I always take secret glee in the travails of Mets fans. Sorry, but I can’t help it :-).
Last night, the Phillies apparently put Friday’s painful Game 2 loss out of their minds, and set about administering a good old-fashioned butt-whuppin’ to the Dodgers, winning 11-0. Game 2 saw the Phils’ bats stymied by former Phillie Vicente Padilla (gotta admit I didn’t expect that), as they mustered only one run on Ryan Howard’s solo homer. In Game 3, they exploded for 11 runs!
And I wasn’t even wearing the lucky shirt! Mind you, it had been washed since Game 2, hopefully removing any bad luck remnants. But prior to the game, I’d been so busy helping my son with a school project, that I didn’t even think about changing shirts. So I sat down to watch the game still wearing my Penn State sweatshirt, and my Eagles not-so-lucky garment that didn’t do any good at all for them yesterday. And still the Phils won! So maybe I can just wear whatever I want for the rest of the series.
Random thoughts on Games 2 and 3:
– Talk about temperature extremes! Friday’s game was played under bright blue skies with temps in the 90’s; last night’s game had mid-40’s temps with windy conditions. Given my choice, I’d much rather the conditions in L.A., and besides, everything is better with palm trees!
– Cliff Lee once again pitched a gem for the Phillies, going eight shutout innings. So far this postseason, he is 2-0 with a miniscule 0.74 ERA.
– Pedro Martinez also pitched a gem on Friday, going seven shutout innings, but ended up with no decision in the 2-1 loss.
– Ryan Howard hit a two-run triple in the first inning last night. Now there’s something you don’t see every day, as Howard is obviously not known for his speed. Howard has now driven in at least one run in seven straight playoff games, setting a new record for a single postseason. Way to go, Ryan!
– Carlos Ruiz is quietly having a great postseason so far, hitting .429 with 7 RBIs. He doesn’t get the same amount of attention as the rest of the lineup (except possibly Pedro Feliz), but he’s been very productive batting in the number 8 spot.
The Nose Knows
Speaking of Pedro Feliz, not sure what was up with his nose last night, though I’m assuming this was a Band-aid, and not his attempt to impersonate Rudolph:
I would’ve assumed that there were products available for people with darker complexions, but surprisingly I can’t find any such thing on the internet. But there are lots of fun products out there for more interesting situations.
Celebrate a birthday:
Let the other team know you’re watching them:
Let the other team know you think they’re toast:
And since Halloween will only bring Game 3 (yes, this year’s postseason definitely goes too late into the fall) of the World Series:
Shocking TV Scheduling!
In a real surprise, the Yankees/Angels game is on at 4 pm here on the East Coast, and the Phillies/Dodgers game gets the prime time spot. What gives? Has the world tilted on its axis? Has hell frozen over? Steinbrenner wants to watch the Yankees and can’t stay up that late anymore?
Whatever the reason, I’ll be watching Game 4 tonight from the cozy comforts of home. If anyone has tickets they don’t want to use, I’d be more than happy to brave the elements! 😉
(Feliz photo by Mary Schwalm/MLB.com)
…to keep the Phillies out of the NLCS! After a very stressful pair of games (for me, anyway) against the Rockies at tundra-like Coors Field, the Phillies have a repeat engagement with the Dodgers for the National League Championship.
I will admit to missing the end of Game 3. I just could not keep my eyes open, and around 1:30 or so, turned the TV off in the middle of the eighth inning with the score still tied. Sacrilege, I know. My husband was already snoring by this time, and I was not feeling terribly optimistic and did not want to stay up even later if they were going to lose.
Then, I dreamed that they had won the game. Imagine my delight to wake up the next morning and find out they really had!
Game 4 thankfully came on earlier, so I didn’t have to worry about nodding off. The Phils took a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning, but it looked like things were about to implode after the Rockies scored 3 runs in the bottom of the eighth. I couldn’t bear to watch, so I again turned it off and proceeded to get the kids to bed.
Before settling down (glumly) to watch The Big Bang Theory – which is a really funny show, if you haven’t seen it yet – I had a few extra minutes and decided to check to see if the game was over, and to my shock saw Ryan Howard driving in the tying runs!
Me (to husband who is coming down the steps): Oh my God, Ryan Howard just hit a two-run double to tie the game!
Him: You’re kidding!
Me: No, I turned it on just in time to see it!
So of course we watched the rest of the ninth, saw Jayson Werth drive in the winning run and Brad Lidge get the final out, and went to bed happy that night.
The First Key to Victory
After many years of watching the Phillies, I’ve come to the realization that quite a few of their winning rallies coincide with my (or my husband’s) act of turning the TV off. Maybe there is a connection! While it results in our missing a lot of the excitement, I’ll try to stick with that plan for the NLCS.
The Second Key to Victory
L.A., meet my lucky shirt…
I realized that I was wearing this very shirt during all three Phillies victories (or at least the parts of them I was awake for), but not during the dreadful Cole Hamels debacle of Game 2. Where was it then, you ask? Well, it was (gasp!) in the laundry. I will not make that mistake again! I will only wash it on off days during the NLCS, which by the way, there are too many of, but that will lead me into a whole new rant.
Game 1 is tomorrow, so I better get started on that laundry!
[blogging note: You may have noticed a lack of entries from me since last week. That’s because when I am very tense about the games, I have a tendency to think not very nice things about the other team. So as everybody’s mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” Hence my silence.]
Some quick thoughts on yesterday’s game, before I settle in to watch Game 2 on TV. No visual aids today.
The “August” version of Cliff Lee was in the park yesterday, going the distance as the Phils beat the Rockies 5-1. Thank goodness it wasn’t “September” Lee that showed up! Today Cole Hamels takes the mound – let’s hope we get “2008 Postseason” Cole, and not the inconsistent 2009 version.
Though it looked like a nice sunny day, the gusting, swirling winds made for some entertaining fielding. On one pop-up, the ball must have taken a U-turn while in flight, as Jimmy Rollins first ran out to short left, then abruptly ran back towards third base before making the catch. The wind also robbed Jayson Werth, and possibly Ryan Howard, of homers.
I can breathe a little easier with the Phillies victory yesterday, but if they can win today I will definitely feel more comfortable.
Speaking of TV, I despise the coverage by TBS. They seemed to be having some sort of technical difficulties yesterday, as the sound kept cutting out. I also have it on good authority from Jenn of Phillies Phollowers, who was there in person, that the crowd was REALLY LOUD. You would not have known that from the broadcast – the crowd sounds were buried in the mix, leaving the announcers all too easy to hear. Maybe I should try muting the TV and listening to the local radio broadcast :-).
Ya know, I fully intended to write this post well before now. Didn’t happen. Better late than never, though!
Last Wednesday, I attended the Phillies’ Baseball 101 for Women event, held at Citizen’s Bank Park. This was the fourth year the Phillies have held this event. The first year, 2006, only had a May session, but each year since then has had a May and an August session. Needless to say, every one has been a sellout! I’ve attended one each year, so this was my fourth visit to Phillies Heaven.
I made sure I left my house extra-early, just in case of traffic problems. As my family and friends know, I am not a morning person, so anything that gets me out of bed wide awake at 6:30 in the morning is a minor miracle!
Once we were there and checked in, there was time for a light breakfast. Bagels, muffins, and the like were available, as well as juice, tea and the all-important coffee. Gotta have my coffee! There was also time for a photo op with the World Series trophy before the day’s activities began.
Unlike the last time I was near the trophy, my kids were not present. No need to worry that my offspring might accidentally knock it over while fighting with each other.
About 150 women were in attendance, and for the morning’s sessions, we were divided into four “teams”. While waiting to get our team photo taken, we got a quick visit to the Phillies’ clubhouse.
Upon entering the clubhouse, we were greeted by this guy, whose job at the moment involved sorting the socks. Though you can’t see it in this photo, we were prevented from getting too close to the table by a red rope; otherwise, who knows, a few garments may have vanished as souvenirs :-).
Though we couldn’t get up close to the lockers in the back half of the clubhouse, we did get a good look into the lockers of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Shane Victorino, among others. Actually, maybe a bit too much is on display in Chase’s locker.
Here is Ryan’s locker. Not too messy – he actually has a second one next to it. Apparently the big-name guys (Utley, Howard, Rollins) are afforded this little perk.
Shane Victorino’s locker is actually quite neat and tidy.
Even the clubhouse guys get World Series rings! Alas, he didn’t let any of us try it on.
Once we were done in the clubhouse, we made our way to the seating area behind home plate for a session with the guys who run Phanavision, the large video board in left field. Of course, all the video clips, in-game entertainment, music, etc. are computerized, with a small army of people working to make sure everything runs smoothly.
This same group is also responsible for producing many of the video spots promoting upcoming games and events. We got to see some outakes of Shane Victorino recording a spot for Jewish Heritage Night. It took Shane more than a few tries, and lots of laughing, to finally get the pronunciation of “chutzpah” right.
The four teams then split up for coaching clinics with the Phillies’ coaches. Rich Dubee talked about pitching, and we all got a chance to throw a few pitches in the bullpen. Milt Thompson and Pete Mackanin instructed us in proper hitting technique, and we had a chance to bat (off a tee) in the indoor batting cages. Davey Lopes discussed baserunning, and Sam Perlozzo talked to us about fielding. [no pictures of all this, it wasn’t feasible to carry my camera during this portion of the day]
After a break for lunch, we had a Q and A session with J.A. Happ.
He explained that even though his printed name is two initials, proper pronunciation is “Jay” (J.A. stands for James Anthony, in case you were wondering).
Happ answered all kinds of questions for us, though he was a bit reticent about divulging any inside secrets. He admitted to having pregame rituals, though he wouldn’t say what they were. At one point, someone asked about his time with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. At this, host Scott Palmer produced a J.A. Happ bobblehead that was given away at an IronPigs game. Here’s J.A. coming face to face with his bobble likeness.
After J.A. left to a standing ovation, it was time to head to the Media Room for our session with Charlie Manuel.
Though Charlie has a reputation for not being a very eloquent speaker, he seemed pretty comfortable and at ease answering our questions, though when asked which was more intimidating, facing a roomful of reporters or a roomful of us, without hesitation he replied, “A roomful of women!”
Other topics included keeping the team focused on this year’s pennant race and not resting on last year’s laurels, the use of instant replay on disputed home run calls, and Brad Lidge’s problems this year.
Next came a session with umpire Laz Diaz.
Though it may look like Laz is signaling for a touchdown, he is in fact doing his impersonation of Shane Victorino’s arm-flapping in centerfield prior to being ejected from a recent game. As expected, there were many questions asked about why Shane was ejected, and why the home plate umpire would even be paying that much attention to a fielder (answer: the centerfielder is in direct view of the home plate ump, and all that arm waving is showing up the ump, therefore grounds for ejection). He was also asked what, if anything, catchers and batters talk about, and if there are any sure-fire ways to get ejected from a game.
Finally, the radio broadcasting duo of Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen talked about their experiences covering the Phillies. Here, Scott is apparently having a hard time believing something that Larry has just said.
Though not everyone agrees with me, I have always enjoyed L.A. as a broadcaster. Franzke is slowly growing on me, and these two have a great rapport. Their personalities complement each other very well, and in person you can really see how they play off each other.
Then it was on to our pregame patio party, with complementary food and beverages, and of course a visit from the Phanatic.
Then it was game time! As an added bonus, it was also Brad Lidge bobblehead night. I was just praying that Brad didn’t have to come into the game and possibly blow a save – who knows how many bobbleheads may have been thrown on the field if that had happened!
Cliff Lee was facing Dan Haren and the Diamondbacks. Lee had a great game; Haren on the other hand did not, giving up 6 earned runs in 5 innings of work. The Phillies bats were alive, with home runs from Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and two from Jayson Werth. The Phillies won, 8-1!
All in all, a great day! I’ll be looking forward to next year’s event so I can do it all over again!
(all photos by me, except obviously the ones with me in them; those were taken by a fellow attendee and one of the ballgirls, using my camera)