NLCS Game 4: Hot Takes


  • Unnecessary to say this, but if the Cubs lose this game I have very little confidence in a series win. A win tonight and I feel like this is a brand new series.
  • I like John Lackey but his antics on the mound make it hard to watch him sometimes. Especially when he is bristling about a pitch the was, in reality, called correctly.
  • The Cubs catchers are absolute beasts throwing out baserunners. I’ll never get tired of seeing that.
  • Once again, Adrian Gonzalez can’t run. Adrian Gonzalez has never been able to run. Is the Dodger third base coach unaware of this fact? That’s been two bad sends during this series.
  • Like it or not, there wasn’t a definitive enough angle to overturn the play with Adrian Gonzalez thrown out at the plate. If you have to slow a clip down 100x and zoom in 25x to try to find something, that play shouldn’t be overturned. It has to be clear and incontrovertible evidence to change a call. It was not there in that play. I feel like that is the case in most extremely close replays. That’s OK. That would be OK even if it went against the Cubs. I wouldn’t be thrilled with it, but that’s how replay
  • Oh thank God. The Cubs can indeed score.
  • This game is significantly more fun than the game I attended last night. ct-cubs-dodgers-nlcs-game4-score-20161019
  • I may or may not be more relieved by Anthony Rizzo’s home run than Rizzo himself. He needed that. The Cubs needed that.
  • Josh Reddick’s “Lambeau Leap” is my favorite thing I’ve seen the Dodgers do all season.
  • I can’t believe there’s still any thought that the Dodgers will have Clayton Kershaw pitch in Game 5. Kershaw is a great pitcher, but there is no way he is ready to start a game tomorrow.
  • I actually kind of like Andrew Tolles. I don’t know that he’d be in my starting lineup, but I like him as a bench/utility piece.
  • With two walks to start the fifth I think Mr Lackey is done for the night if I’m Joe Maddon. This game is too important to lose with a pitcher losing his edge.
  • Well, the bottom of the fifth was rough, but the Cubs defense bailed them out. I don’t necessarily need a shutout. I just need the Cubs to end this thing with at least one more run than the Dodgers. However that happens.
  • I think Anthony Rizzo should buy all of Matt Szczur’s bats.
  • There have been more than a few plays tonight that look like they were choreographed by the Keystone Kops..not the least of which was the sacrifice fly that led to two runs and almost looked to be setting up a little league home run. From where I sit, that was a lot of fun to watch.
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  • Addison Russell has found his swing again even if they don’t always drop for a hit.
  • Hoping that the injury to Carl Edwards, Jr. is just a leg cramp or something minor. He has been too important out of the bullpen to lose him for the rest of the postseason.
  • Hey Anthony, I’m loving your production tonight, but you don’t have to make up the entire postseason in a single game.
  • Dodger Stadium is emptying out like the rats escaping the Wrigley Field bleachers. I realize that 10-2 is a rough score to swallow, especially on a weeknight, but leaving a game early is a sin to me.
  • Tonight was a big momentum shift and with the series now even at 2-2, the path to the World Series goes through Wrigley and I like the Cubs chances in that situation. I think tomorrow is definitely winnable and even if Kershaw pitches like Kershaw in the first game back at Wrigley, the Cubs can take Game 7. I’m feeling very good about this series.

NLCS Game 3: I Was There. Wish I Wasn’t.


I swore off of Dodger Stadium two years ago. The parking lots are miserable, there’s little to no charm and I have been harassed by fans (read: hooligans) more than I care to remember. I also don’t understand the appeal of Dodger Dogs. They are just extra large Farmer John hot dogs. Essentially the same thing anyone could get at any little league game across the country. Sorry, I just don’t get it. I broke that oath for Game 3 of the NLCS. What could go wrong? Jake Arrieta was pitching in California, where he has been utterly dominant over the previous two years, and at a ballpark where he threw a no-hitter. I took nothing for granted, but I also was hedging my bets on this one and broke my own rule.

The last time I was at Dodger Stadium a guy named Rich H. got lit up by a team wearing blue. I was hoping for history to repeat itself. It did, but not in the way I was expecting or hoping, but I’m guessing you know those gory details and I won’t waste time or emotional baggage on them. Instead, I want to address my Dodger Stadium experience, which, after talking to many other fans, seems fairly typical.


My brothers and I arrived at the ballpark a few hours before the game and slowly made our way to our section in the top deck. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by the section. There was a spacious concourse with high bar tables scattered around and a nice view. My brothers enjoyed a beer (in the process becoming beer holders/hand models for some unknown publication) as we whiled away the time until the game. We headed to our seats relatively early due to the fact that I have mobility issues and don’t like being a spectacle or recipient of pity as I make my way to my seat.

We ended up sitting in the front row, which meant that–unlike some other ballparks I have visited– I had to walk down many very steep steps, rather than entering at the lowest level with the rest of the section above and behind. While not terribly comfortable or convenient, the trek to the seats was not the end of the world. As we waited for first pitch the seats around us started to fill up–as expected–with Dodger fans. While there were other Cub fans in the general vicinity, we were all scattered apart. No little pockets of Cubdom in our section.

Immediately sitting behind me was a gentleman who was very knowledgeable about baseball and more or less a decent guy until he met his neighbor, who was a loud, ignorant aggressor throughout the entire game.


My brothers and I sat fairly quiet during the entire game, only talking to each other in relatively quiet voice and not at all engaging with the people around us. This didn’t matter to the aggressor who spent the game screaming and making comments intending to infuriate us and get us to engage with him. We did not, but that didn’t stop him. In addition to his harassment of our group, he was adamant about getting a “wave” started. In the NLCS. The “wave” is never acceptable and certainly not in a game of this import, but I digress.

As the game ended my brothers and I stayed in our seats and let our section empty, again due to my slow speed and lack of mobility so I wouldn’t block or delay any other fans trying to exit. As our area cleared we recieved some empty platitudes of “good game” and “there’s still a lot of baseball to come,” which redeemed some of the fans around us, but, of course, nothing from the aggressor. I expected nothing less. As we were walking to our car there was a man in a Dodger jersey literally walking up and screaming in the faces of any Cubs fans he could find. Simple people and families who were just minding their own business. Seeing that left a terrible taste in my mouth. Fortunately we were able to avoid him and get to the car without further harassment.

What started as a promising redemption for Dodger Stadium ended as further damning of my least favorite ballpark that I have ever visited. The staff was friendly and helpful, but the all too common dealings with bad fans negated any goodwill that the staff earned. On the way home I went on Twitter to vent about my experiences and got many responses from fellow Cub fans who indicated that my experiences were not isolated incidents, which saddened me further.

Would my feelings be different if the Cubs had won 6-0? Maybe. Maybe that would have quieted the cocksure fan and their bullying…or maybe it would have made things worse. There is, after all, nothing more dangerous than someone with nothing to lose and this is the place where an opposing fan was beaten into a long term coma.


I do not condemn all Dodger fans. I have many friends who are fans and are civilized human beings. I’m not even saying that the bad fans make up a majority of the fanbase. Every team has their “bad fans.” Witness the idiot throwing a bottle of beer on the field at the Orioles in Toronto of all places. All I’m saying is that a majority of my experiences with Dodger Stadium have been tainted by bad fan interactions and I know I’m not the only one.

Hey future self, please remember this game the next time you think about visiting Dodger Stadium and remember one of the most miserable sports experiences of your life. I went into this game expecting very little and left receiving even less.


Hot Takes: NLCS Game 2


  • Sitting a half hour before game time I’m not going to lie. This is the matchup that most gives me pause. Kyle Hendricks has been ridiculously good at home this year and I expect the trend to continue. However, Clayton Kershaw is still Clayton Kershaw. I’m hoping that the short rest/relief appearance against Washington may have him off of his game. While I do realize that this is a best of 7 series and I can’t expect to go undefeated, coming to LA with a 2-0 series lead will be HUGE. It means that the road for the Dodgers to eliminate the Cubs, come what may in LaLa Land, HAS to be through Wrigley. I like the way that looks. That being said, I like the pitching matchups for the Cubs in the remainder of the series. Certainly Rich Hill is no slouch, but versus Jake Arrieta? Plus having Game 4, as of now, looking like a bullpen game looks mighty good to me.
  •  I like John Smoltz. He seems knowledgeable, but I’m just not sure he should be a commentator.
  • In the first inning Kyle looked like Greg Maddux light. Not so much in the second. I don’t know if the Adrian Gonzalez home run shook him up, but I hope he calms himself down.
  • That was an “old Javy” swing on that high pitch. I thought we were over that.
  • Well, that was a stressful third inning but ultimately Kyle wound up doing what he has been doing all year.
  • Maybe I haven’t seen enough of Kershaw, but I don’t like his double leg kick delivery. Seems to me that it is a balk just waiting to happen.
  • That long ball that Anthony Rizzo hit foul by a few feet would have meant so much more than the 1 run that it would have scored. If that ball stays fair, I think Rizzo would have officially shaken his slump.
  • Hendricks wound up pitching a lot better than I was afraid of in the early innings. He picked himself up and worked out of some self-inflicted trouble. That resilience is going to benefit the Cubs going forward.
  • Gotta admit. I love the Mike Borzello fact of the night.
  • Thank God this perfect game nonsense is over. And yes, of course it was Javy Baez that did it.
  • Oh…and Mr. Baez can play defense too. He is showing some serious baseball intelligence tonight. First with his base running to try and draw a bad throw and then on the double play to get out of the inning. I’ve always like him from his minor league days and even I am getting more and more impressed with him this postseason.
  • I don’t know what to say. Hendricks and the bullpen were good. Really good, but Kershaw was Kershaw and that’s that. I was hoping he’d be off his game and not as sharp as usual. I was wrong.
  • Evidently my FS1 feed has a slight delay. I really need to remember not to go on Twitter during the game.
  • Where is Joe Blanton when you need him?
  • I have a number of issues with Aroldis Chapman, and I wish there was some way the Cubs could have gotten Andrew Miller instead. I honestly don’t feel like I can trust Chapman in these high pressure situations.
  • I can’t argue over individual balls and strikes, but that first pitch in the 9th to Kris Bryant shaped that entire at bat. That was ball 1. No question.
  • Next up, let’s go ahead and sweep the 3 games at Dodger Stadium and get that World Series berth. The Cubs need to go 7-5 for the rest of the post season. The Cubs can do that.
  • I wish Pete Rose’s suspension extended to commentating on baseball games as well.

Hot Takes: NLCS Game 1


  • I’d hardly qualify Javy Baez as the every day second baseman.
  • Lots of solid contact early against Kenta Maeda. With the wind blowing out, this could be a very good thing
  • Dave Roberts has my vote for NL Manager of the Year.
  • Sending Adrian Gonzalez home with 2 outs and Howie Kendrick coming up was just a dumb move.Unless something catastrophic happened with the relays to the plate there is no way Gonzalez scores.
  • I think Javy Baez took the lesson to heart about hustling in every at bat. His hustle is currently bordering on dangerous…and I like it.
  • If Justin Turner makes a better throw to the plate (i.e. lower) Javy is nailed.img_2302
  • “Even the mistakes seem to go the Cubs way” is not a phrase–or sentiment–that I am accustomed to during my lifetime.
  • It takes a lot of guts for Joe Buck to mock other announcers.
  • Jason Heyward has erased at least a month of crummy regular season tonight alone.
  • It looks like Dexter Fowler has been eating his Rizz-Os for breakfast!
  • Justin Turner looks like the AMPM mascotimg_2300 img_2301
  • FS1 sure has a lot of gratuitous crotch shots.
  • During the in-game interview (which I hate) I love the fact that Jake Arrieta would stop the interview to react to what was actually going on around him and on the field.
  • I just noticed that the standings flags atop the scoreboard have been removed, leaving just the flags for the Dodgers and Cubs. Very cool little touch.
  • Anthony Rizzo’s glove is more than carrying his lack of offense, and that’s ok, if not ideal.
  • I think this Javy Baez kid may be good at baseball.
  • Watching Pedro Baez pitch is painful. He is the reason that a pitch clock is going to be instilled.
  • Jon Lester pitched a good game, but that “wind-aided” home run cancels out a few of the times the Cubs defense bailed him out. It is a hard call, and in years past I would criticize it pretty heartily, but with the current bullpen, I think things will be OK. Until they’re not.
  • (^See? Still a classic Cubs fan at heart)
  • Evidently Joe Maddon didn’t learn about using relievers for more than a batter in Game 3 of the NLDS. Things look OK…for now.
  • The 8th inning is where the dark thoughts come from.
  • The reference to Bartman on the foul ball to Anthony Rizzo was completely unnecessary. The fans literally played no park in whether it was caught or not.
  • Joe Blanton lost enough Angels games that I attended, I feel like he owed me one. Or five.
  • I questioned the move to bring in Miguel Montero rather than Willson Contreras. What the heck do I know?
  • The Cubs need to go 7-6 at this point to win the World Series. That is absolutely doable for this team!
  • Despite the score, this game was saved by the Cubs defense!
  • If tonight is any indicator, I may not survive the next few weeks. I think in the grand scheme, I’m ok with that.

Hot Takes: NLDS Game 3


  • OK. New drinking game. Take a shot any time you hear “1908,””1984″ or “2003.” Bonus shots for “Bartman” or “Garvey.”
  • Madison is a girl’s name
  • I’m starting to worry less about Kris Bryant and his mini-slumps. Anthony Rizzo, however, is starting to scare me a little bit.
  • Yes, it would be hard for Jake to repeat his performance from last year…especially seeing as no one else was ever able to do it once.
  • 3 Ks in the first? I think Jake remembered he was pitching in California again.
  • Seriously, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner are probably the 2 major leaguers that I like the least, especially if AJ Pierzynski retires.img_1531
  • JAKE!
  • I think the neighbors are getting concerned again. Who is this Jake and why do I keep screaming bloody murder at him?
  • I don’t need Vasgersian and John Smoltz literally repeating each other  mere pitches apart.
  • Matt Moore is incredibly unpersonanble and a pretty bad interview
  • It didn’t look to me like Denard Span was going full speed on his double. I think if he was, he could’ve had a triple.
  •  I hate to admit it, but Brandon Crawford has a great glove.
  • The audio of my game feed has been cutting in and out. I don’t consider this a bad thing.
  • Cub factor notwithstanding, I’d be rooting against the Giants just to kill off the stupid “even year” mythology.img_2282
  • No offense to the Nationals or Dodgers, but I feel like the Cubs can easily handle either of them in the NLDS. This series was the one that I thought might have a fluke chance to knock the Cubs out, but the team showed their resilience.
  • Bruce Bochy looks weird without facial hair. I may be wrong but I think he had the goatee in Chicago. Was this some sort of motivational move for the team?
  •  Javy always looks like he’s having so much fun on the field. I can appreciate that.
  • I think comparing the Arrieta-Strop deal to the Broglio-Brock deal is a bit premature.  Brock is a Hall of Famer. At least give us a few weeks so Jake can win the World Series before making such comparisons.
  • Things look good. Things look exceptionally good. However, this is only the NLDS and the Cubs came this far last year. I’m not going to say that this doesn’t mean anything, because it certainly does, but this is just another step on the path to the ultimate destination. Albeit a big step, but one step nonetheless.img_1609
  • When the Giants clinched the Wild Card spot, I immediately looked for available tickets for tonight’s game. The best deal I found was $200 for pretty decent seats in one of the lower levels. When I went back to look again the following day, the cheapest seats were well over $300 for standing room only. I guess I should have jumped on that first deal! Edit: Maybe not.
  • I’m uncomfortable with how much the Cubs are depending on the pitching to provide the offense. I certainly don’t mind 6 RBI from the pitchers, but can we get a few runs from 1-8 in the lineup too? I’d feel a lot more comfortable with that.
  • We get it. Law is clapping and waving a towel. I’m over it.
  • I don’t really know what happened in the bottom of the 8th. There was a red mist and then I woke up to see Kris’ home run.
  • I am so glad that Joe found room on the postseason roster for Albert Almora Jr.
  • Hey Matt. EVERY time the Giants come to bat is a chance for a “walk-off winner.” You don’t need to remind us every single inning.img_2292
  • I understand going for the knockout punch and using Travis Wood for only one batter, but losing his longevity when the game turned into a marathon hurts.
  • Hunter “Crazy Eyes” Pence has got to be one of the most pesky ballplayers in the league.
  • THESE games are why I currently have a bleeding ulcer.
  • Cubs only need one more win. We can do this.

Hot Takes: Game 2 NLDS

  • I learned my lesson from last night and have the booze ready to go before the first pitch tonight.
  • I may regret this later, but I have little to no fear of Jeff Samardzija in this game. It ain’t Shark Week.
  • It’s funny how things work out. I was upset when the Cubs traded Samardzija during his All Star season and then failed to re-sign him. Now, I’m glad those pieces came together like they did, adding Addison Russell and, indirectly, Aroldis Chapman.
  • Oh really, Bob Costas? The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908? This is the first I’m hearing of it. Seriously though, this is why I hate ‘national broadcasts.’
  • I love Kyle Hendricks, but even I think the comparisons to Greg Maddux may be slightly premature
  • #YouGoWeGo!
  • 20+ pitches and a run in the first? Yeah, I’ll take it.
  • Hunter Pence has crazy eyes. I’m not sure he isn’t going to stab Anthony Rizzo when he’s standing on first.
  • Is there anything Kyle can’t do this season? ERA title, 2 RBI performance in the playoffs. This kid is good.
  • Uh oh. Looks like KB has found his stroke…
  • Samardzija has always reminded me of a cartoon coyote.
  •  When did Zobrist get new walkup music? I liked the old song, but “Bennie and the Jets” is fun too. I’m assuming it’s still being performed by his wife, Julianna.
  • Pretty pleased to be into the subpar Giants bullpen after only 2 innings.
  • Hoping it’s just a bruise on Kyle. This will be a scary few days until we get an official diagnosis.


    Photo from the Chicago Tribune

  • I was unaware that Lee brand jeans were still a thing.
  • I don’t like Bumgarner coming in a pinch hitter. I like Kris Bryant making 2 errors on the play even less.
  • I think Costas may have just implied that literally anyone but the Giants and Red Sox would be an excellent World Series champ.
  • Javy Baez is, at this exact moment, the last guy the Cubs need to be hurt.
  • OK. I may be biased in this particular situation, but using replay to overturn a play where a baserunner is off the base for a fraction of a millisecond is ridiculous. I don’t know how to remedy this, but it’s definitely overkill.
  • That being said, Javy should have been running hard from the moment the ball was hit and it wouldn’t have been an issue.
  • Of the 8 top position players on the field, the Cubs and Giants are 4-4? I’ll admit that Posey is probably the superior catcher and that Crawford and Russell are pretty much even, but that’s about it. I’m very curious as to how John Smoltz justifies that.
  • Kelby Tomlinson looks like he was the last pick in a PE softball game, but one day will “make you pay for that…make you ALL pay.”
  • Literally inches from a Bryzzo Company souvenir.
  • How much longer until we can officially start stressing about Anthony’s bat?
  • Throwing at Javy? Don’t you idiot Giants know the Chicago way? Hit one of our guys, we hit 2 of yours. Be careful what you sow.
  • Sometimes I think it’s just not fair to send mere mortals to bat against Aroldis Chapman.
  • While the Giants bullpen was not nearly as bad as it has been throughout the season, I’m still confident with a lead in the later innings or even being down by a run or two.
  • Singing along to “Go Cubs Go” alone at home is not nearly as much fun as at Wrigley, but a lot more fun than not singing it after a game.
  • 3 RBI were from the pitchers tonight. Not a bad showing at all.
  • I was slightly more relaxed tonight as opposed to last night. I don’t think any domestic disturbance charges are headed my way any time soon. At least not until Monday night.

Hot Take: Game 1 NLDS

  • I spent a majority of my evening trying not to cry. Or vomit. Or both.
  • Holy Cow is Jonny Lester good, or what?
  • Grandpa Ross is insanely good behind the plate.
  • Neither of these are new revelations, but they deserve to be reiterated in light of this game.
  • I love that Javy got to be the hero. He has been viewed a lot this season for his glove, and rightfully so, but his bat was what first drew him to the collective Cub fanbase as a minor leaguer.
  • We all saw Bill Murray, yes?cunb8i4weaae2f2
  • It’s probably a good thing that I tend to watch these games alone. I’m sure my neighbors think there was some brutal domestic squabble in my home tonight.
  • I honestly find all of the Giants unlikeable with the possible exception of Bruce Bochy, but even he seems to have gotten grumpy in his old age.
  • 1908 was an even year too.
  • 10 more wins to go.

Charity Focus: Signatures For Soldiers


Whether it’s a signed ticket from being in the right place at the right time or an autographed photo from an athlete to promote the opening of a car dealership, many sports fans have some signed items tucked away in their collections. What makes Tim Virgilio different is that he is using his collectibles to make a difference, rather than just collecting dust in a forgotten box in the attic. Virgilio is the founder of “Signatures For Soldiers,” an arm of Military Missions In Action (MMIA), a registered 501(c)3 charity supporting both veterans and current military members.

MMIA provides home care, repairs and home remodels for disabled veterans and the disabled children of active service members, as well as providing clothing and hygiene items for homeless veterans and sends care packages to deployed military personnel.

Virgilio has been involved with the organization since its inception in 2007, but a move out of North Carolina–home of MMIA– made it difficult to be as involved as he once was. Still desiring to support the organization, in November 2014, Virgilio founded Signatures For Soldiers, to “…use my hobby of autograph collecting to reach out to former MLB players to request that they sign cards that I had so that I could sell the cards and 100% of the money raised, not just the profits.” In just under two years, Signatures For Soldiers has raised over $14,000.

Tim Virgilio and Dodgers outfielder, Josh Reddick

Tim Virgilio and Dodgers outfielder, Josh Reddick

Virgilio takes trading cards, either donated or from his personal collection, and contacts the athlete to see if they would be willing to sign a few cards or make a  personal donation. Once the card or cards have been returned,  they are posted on the Signatures for Soldiers website and made available for purchase, with the full amount donated to the larger MMIA cause.

The support from athletes is nothing short of impressive. While contributions from any professional athlete are appreciated, Signatures For Soldiers has some impressive names amongst their over 300 supporters. Former All-Stars Ivan Rodriguez, Curt Schilling, Delino DeShields and Rob Dibble have contributed, as have  some top minor league prospects such as Jacob Faria, Taylor Motter and Jose Trevino.

Former closer, Rob Dibble, signs autographs for Signatures for Soldiers

Former closer, Rob Dibble, signs autographs for Signatures for Soldiers

Sometimes, the athletes will go above and beyond the initial request and add cards and signed photos from their personal collections. Sometimes, they even add more.

Jose Trevino, a catching prospect in the Rangers organization sent Virgilio a tweet of several signed cards as well as a pair of signed game-used batting gloves. Taylor Motter of the Tampa Bay Rays sent a signed game-used bat, but the biggest surprise came from Lance McCullers Jr., a star pitcher with the Houston Astros.

Lance McCullers used and signed cap and cleats

Lance McCullers Jr.’s used and signed cap and cleats

“Mr. McCullers. . . informed me that the game issued hat and cleats that he wore from the Memorial Day game this season were going to be donated to support my efforts.  True to his word, he donated the hat and cleats and signed all of them.”

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to support Signatures For Soldiers. If you have a dusty old box of baseball cards sitting in a closet somewhere that you can part with, Virgilio can use them.

“If I can make a dollar or two from the donated item, I’m willing to accept it.”

In addition, sending cards to the athletes isn’t free, and any postal supplies would be greatly appreciated as well. Stamps, padded 4×6 envelopes and sharpies are the items most in need, but the support doesn’t need to be tangible. Any assistance getting information about the charity can make a huge difference, as can contacting athletes and asking them to get involved with Signatures For Soldiers. Exposure is key, and any creative way to raise awareness of MMIA and Signatures For Soldiers can make a world of difference.

Prospect Jacob Faria's donated used cleats

Prospect Jacob Faria’s donated used cleats

You can find Tim Virgilio on twitter at: @Sigs4Soldiers and on the web at as well as on Facebook.

Storming The All Stars


In honor of the advanced Class A California League celebrating it’s 75th anniversary, the Lake Elsinore Storm hosted the annual California versus Carolina League All Star Game this past Tuesday, the 21, at the Diamond in Lake Elsinore and Lauren and I were fortunate enough to attend.

We had tried to get to the game last summer when it was hosted in Rancho Cucamonga, but my prolonged hospital stay following our horrific car accident endured that we missed it, despite having tickets. When I saw that the 2016 game was being held in Southern California for an unprecedented second straight year I marked the date on my calendar and bought tickets as soon as they went on sale.

Lauren and I took just over an hour to drive to Lake Elsinore and arrived shortly after the gates had opened for the pre-game FanFest. We had no idea what FanFest entailed, but thought it would be fun to try and get some autographs, especially since the Cubs were sending several members of their Advanced A team, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to the event.


Most of the ballpark was open to fans and there was a “Fun Zone” available, but the main draw for the FanFest was the chance to meet and get autographs from some of baseball’s future stars. The players from the Carolina League had the first set of autograph sessions, meeting fans for an hour while the California League players took batting practice, and then the leagues switched roles.


Upon first arriving, we were not entirely sure what was going on, so Lauren went ahead of me on a scouting mission, while I held my ground in what seemed to be the longest of the lines formed around the concourse of the ballpark. Our instincts were right, as it turned out, we were in line to meet 3 of the 4 Pelicans players, including top prospect, Ian Happ, and pitchers, Zach Hedges and Jake Stinnett. Despite the line looking fairly intimidating, we did not wait more than 30 minutes or so and the wait was amusing, with mascots from many of the teams represented at the game wandering the concourse and interacting with fans. I even got a kiss and a beard scratch from Thunder, the Storm’s fuzzy green dog mascot.

When we reached the table with the players they could not have been more gracious. They signed autographs with a smile and gave in for any specialized requests. I got a chance to talk very briefly to Hedges about the fact that we had gone to the same college and Stinnett complimented me on my Pelicans t-shirt (journalistic objectivity be damned.) My one regret for the whole interaction was the fact that for some reason I didn’t ask for a photo with them, which I’m sure they would have willing obliged.


By the time we had finished collecting our things, the Carolina players were about to head down to batting practice, so Lauren and I headed to the team store to see if there was any specialty All Star game merchandise. We lasted only a few minutes in the jam-packed store and didn’t see anything that particularly struck our fancy so we headed down to our seats, a row behind the visitor’s dugout.

Lauren headed back up to the concourse for some snacks, since we still had about 2 hours until the pre-game festivities would begin and returned with some standard ballpark fare; some nachos, hot dogs and a cold lemonade, all of which were tasty, if unremarkable.

I always enjoy watching batting practice, though in retrospect, I should have sought out some of the California League All Stars for their meet and greet sessions, but the benefits of resting my legs and relaxing for a little bit cannot be overstated.

The pre-game festivities began with a local band doing some *interesting* covers of ’80s rock songs and that was followed up with a helicopter from the local hospital landing on the field and delivering Thunder to the game. The pre-game also featured the induction of the initial class of the California League Hall of Fame, with all of the inductees present to receive the honor in person, which meant fans got to see Jose Cruz, Jr., Storm hitting coach, Xavier Nady, 500 home run club member, Gary Sheffield and MLB Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson.


Following the Hall of Fame presentation was the introduction of the All Stars. All of the non-starters were driven to their respective baselines by a parade of classic cars. A Navy parachutist carrying the American flag landed on the field and the game was underway.


A player for the Lynchburg Hillcats, an Indians farm team, and San Diego native, Greg Allen, got on base as the leadoff hitter and proceeded to steal 2 straight bases and come in to score. The Carolina League never looked back and the game felt like significantly more of a blowout than the score of 6-4 would indicate.

The Carolina All Stars always seemed to have something cooking on offense, and when the pitching allowed men on base, they seemed to get out of it with little to no pressure, until the 9th inning when Potomac Nationals pitcher, Evan Phillips gave up 3 runs and left with men on base. Even then, Pelican starting pitcher, Trevor Clifton came in to slam the door on the attempted comeback and nail down a save.


Clifton wasn’t the only Pelican to have a great showing at the game, however. While Happ was hitless, he had 2 good at-bats and looked good at second base, which is a relatively new position for him, as a converted outfielder. Both Hedges and Stinnett pitched hitless innings, and Hedges turned a particularly gorgeous double play. Speaking of Hedges, I mentioned earlier that he and I both attended the same college, located about an hour away from the Diamond, and the Zach Hedges fan club was in full force at the game. During his inning pitched, I think we heard the loudest and most enthusiastic cheers during the whole game, including any for local Storm players. It made for a fun environment…particularly for this Pelican fan.


I’d be remiss not to mention some of the other stars of the game, including the previously mentioned Greg Allen, who in addition to his 2 stolen bases managed to score 3 times, his teammate in Lynchburg, Bobby Bradley, who hit a monster home run and game MVP, Andrew Stevenson from Potomac, who hit 2 triples in a ballpark that seems far too cozy to give up too many extra base hits. If you are looking for some Cal League players to keep your eyes out for, I’d suggest looking at High Desert 2nd baseman Travis Demeritte, who is second in all of the minor leagues in home runs and hit a loud double in the game, San Jose  shortstop CJ Hinojosa who had 2 RBI and his teammate, reliever Rodolfo Martinez who was lighting up the radar gun in the mid-90s.


I love going to minor league games and seeing some of these talented players so early in their careers. It gives me a sense of pride, a “I saw them first” baseball hipster vibe, and attending the All Star game just heightened that feeling. The Cubs, Giants and Indians (Hillcats) seem to have quite a bit of talent coming up through their systems and it will be nice one day to be able to say “I saw them when…”


Until next time (…and I promise it won’t be long!)

Keep Trippin’ Baseballs!




18 Years Ago Today


It’s hard to believe it all happened 18 years ago. I was a sophomore in high school and I rushed home, like always during the baseball season, to try to catch the last few innings of the Cubs game on WGN.

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By the time I had frightened off any younger siblings and changed the channel away from a Barney and Friends rerun it was only the 7th inning…and something amazing was happening. A rookie–a kid, really, not much older than I was–had 12 strikeouts coming into that 7th inning and I was spellbound. I sat in awe for the next 3 innings as Kerry Wood struck out 8 of the last 9 Astros he faced.


This was not a weak hitting Astro team, either. Craig Biggio is in the Hall of Fame, largely for his hitting prowess and Jeff Bagwell should join him in Cooperstown soon. Derek Bell, Brad Ausmus and Moises Alou were above average with the bat also. Ironically, the only hit allowed by Wood was by light-hitting shortstop, Ricky Gutierrez on a ball deep to the 5.5 hole, between third base and shortstop.

It has been speculated, and I tend to agree, that allowing the hit helped take some of the pressure of a potential no-hitter away from Wood, pitching in only his 5th MLB game, and gave him the freedom to pitch the way that he wanted to.

The game took a mere 2 hours and 19 minutes to complete, and was played in front of less than 16,000 fans, in defiance of the legion of fans who now claim to have been in attendance.


20 strikeouts in a single game set the National League record, which has since been tied by Randy Johnson and tied the MLB mark, set twice by Roger Clemens, but what needs to be noted, once again, is the fact that Wood was pitching in the major leagues for only the 5th time, whereas both Johnson and Clemens were well established veterans for their record-setting games.

According to Bill James it was the greatest game ever pitched and it set Wood on track for a 13-6 record and, eventually, the honor of the National League Rookie of the Year. While his career never quite blossomed into one of Hall of Fame caliber, he was a 2x All Star and has become one of the faces of the Chicago Cubs and a wonderful ambassador for the team.


I always felt a connection to “Kid K,” likely due to the similarity in our ages, and he is one of my all time favorite Cubs, certainly of the late ’90s/early 2000s. Congratulations on your amazing game and thank you for giving me such a wonderful memory.