Revisiting the 2019 Thunder

While we haven’t been able to go to a Minor League game in well over a year, that 2019 season that the boys and I spent at Trenton is the gift that keeps on giving. We’ve been keeping an eye out for the players we got to know and it’s been a lot of fun to see them progress through the Minors and into the Majors.

This is something the three of us are all doing kind of in parallel. No one’s tracking, we’re just letting each other know when someone we watched makes it to the show or does something noteworthy. I have however decided to do quick card mockups of the guys who have debuted in the majors.

Since we’re up to a page’s-worth of cards now I figure it’s time for a quick rundown of who we’ve been following. And for fun I’m including autographs (when I have them) which I got that 2019 season as well as looking into whether or not their major league appearances have translated to cardboard yet.

Adonis Rosa was the first of the 2019 Thunder to make it to the show, debuting in the summer of 2019. This was a thrill for the boys since they had just gotten his autograph in Trenton that spring. Rosa pitched one game in 2019, then 2020 happened and he not only never got called up again he ended up being released last September.

He’s supposedly playing for Guadalajara in the Mexican League but his name doesn’t show up on the Guadalajara roster

Detroit grabbed Rony García in the 2019 Rule 5 draft so he ended up spending the entire 2020 season on the Tigers’ MLB roster. He ended up pitching 21 innings over 15 games, winning one game but getting knocked around a bit with a 8.15 ERA. His 2021 looked to be going better until he sprained his knee.

Unlike Rosa, García does have a Major League card that I should consider grabbing for the album. I haven’t started a “guys I watched in the minors” mini-PC but I can totally see myself doing this.

Brooks Kriske pitched in four games in 2020 and has pitched in four more this season. His ERA is not great (12.91 after 7.2 innings) but one horrible appearance each season for a reliever will really mess things up.

He looks to be a member of New York’s taxi squad for this season so I suspect we’ll see more of him this year. He has no MLB cards yet but if he sticks around all year he might slip into one of the end-of-year sets.

So I did get Nick Nelson’s autograph in 2019 only I sent it to Zippy. Probably should’ve gotten a stub signed. Oh well no regrets. Hardest part of Minor League autographing is getting the cards.

Nelson has been pitching a lot more that Kriske has for the Yankees—11 games last year, 8 games so far this year—and has a stronger ERA to show for it. He did pick up his first win last year but only has two losses this year. Like Kriske, he appears to be doing the tax squad thing bouncing between Scranton and New York.

Like Rony García, Nelson is on a multiplayer rookie card in 2021 Heritage.

So far, none of the guys who made it to the Majors where a big deal when they were in Trenton. Albert Abreu on the other hand is a completely different story. He was one of the guys to watch in 2019 and already had a bunch of cards available for autograph hunters to the point where he had to set strict one-per limits on requests.

He actually sort of struggled that season but I wasn’t surprised to see him get a chance in 2020. His 2020 numbers weren’t great (2 games, 1.1 innings, 3 earned runs) but he’s been doing good so far in 2021. Yes he’s made the trip between Scranton and New York a dozen times this season, but he’s kept the batters off the basepaths when he’s in New York.

Abreu also shares the same multiplayer rookie card as Nick Nelson. Unfortunately, the third player (Yajure) is not one of the Trenton guys.

Now, in terms of players who had it when they were at Trenton, Deivi Garcia is probably the best example. He could pitch and we all knew it was only a matter of time before he got called up. Unfortunately, I never managed to get his autograph but it was fun to watch him play.

Deivi is the first of the pitchers here who has featured as a starter. He had a decent 2020 where he went 3–2 over 6 starts and an ERA of 4.98. He’s primarily in Scranton this year but has been called up for two spot starts after which he is immediately sent back down. Neither of his year’s starts went particularly great.

Of the players here, Deivi is the one who Topps is hammering as one of the choice rookies of the season. He’s got cards in every product and I’ll be unable to avoid snagging one at some point.

Like Albert Abreu, Trevor Stephan was another prospect we all knew to watch in 2019. He battled injuries during the spring we were going to games but we did get to watch him pitch one great one. He’s also the only autograph in this post which we got at the open house. He got picked by Cleveland in the 2020 Rule 5 draft so he’s been up in the Majors since opening day.

So far he’s doing okay. 24.1 innings over 17 games. A 4.07 ERA which suggests that he’s been effective in most of his appearances nor has he gotten knocked around yet. And as a Rule 5 guy there’s a decent chance he’ll end up on one of the fall sets.

Garrett Whitlock wasn’t as good as Deivi Garcia but he was another pitcher who was clearly one to pay attention to. Unlike with Garcia, I did manage to get Whitlock’s autograph on a ticket stub. Whitlock was grabbed by Boston in last winter’s Rule 5 draft and has been pitching great for them all season.

34 strikeouts in 32.2 innings over 19 games. A 2–1 record and 1.95 ERA. It’s been fun to see how well he’s doing since he was also one of the friendlier players at Trenton too. He has no cards yet and I’m definitely looking forward to when he gets his first one.

And finally the first position player. Chris Gittens was literally the nicest guy on the Trenton team. Great with the fans. The type of player to promise to return to waiting kids and then actually do so. He was a good hitter and put together a pretty good season but I had to temper my kids’ optimism about his future because he’d been stuck at Trenton for a few years.

Was cool to see him get called up and the morning after he hit his first MLB home run my kids were more excited about him than they were about the Giants coming back from a 7–0 deficit. My eldest couldn’t wait to do the ceremonial transfer of the autographed card from the Minor League page to the Major League page. I’m pretty sure they’ll be excited to get a Major League card of him should he actually get one. Debuting in June 5 means there’s a chance he’ll make it into Update.

And for now that’s it. There are other guys from the 2019 team who have made it to the Majors but they weren’t part of that spring team that we got to know. Will be interesting to see if anyone else makes it up since this would be the year to do it. I see a decent number of guys in AAA (including a bunch in the Padres organization) so we’ll see if I have to make a sequel to this page.

Easter

A few photos from Easter this year. It’s been a long time since we dyed eggs. Last year we were in the midst of stocking food for Covid reasons and so didn’t have the space. It was nice to see the kids get so into it.

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Of course, them getting so into dying eggs meant that they didn’t want to break or eat their creations. So I had to photograph everything so they’d remember what they had done.

I also found many of the peeled eggs to be kind of interesting as well.

January 6

One of the interesting things about the kids being home from school for basically an entire year now is that we’ve gotten to see a lot more of their curriculum than we used to. Before it was mainly just math problem sets and already-completed writing assignments. Now we get to see a glimpse of what they’re doing in all their subjects.

This has made their social studies classwork kind of fascinating to see. Given the backdrop of what’s been going on in the country over the past couple decades but especially during the past year, what they’re learning has often felt woefully outdated and embarrassingly naïve. It’s basic stuff: Three branches of government. Checks and Balances. Limitation of powers. There’s also been instruction about what government does with examples like food safety and the postal service.

Nothing inherently bad or even wrong. Just that we have to gently explain the difference between the theory and the execution. One of the first things they commented on was that the President wasn’t nearly as powerful as they thought he was. So we had to explain that he gets to be as powerful as the other branches allowed him to be. And that Congress has been abdicating its responsibilities for decades now.

Same thing goes with what government does. We’ve had a year of government actively not doing what it’s supposed to do. Killing the mail. Letting the food supply chain break. Sticking its head in the sand regarding COVID. It’s been dismaying to see how far apart what they’re being taught is  from the actual reality of things.

At the same time, I don’t have a problem with this. Learning how things are supposed to work is not a bad thing. Learning what you should demand of your government is a great thing. We’ve just had to step in and explain that if things aren’t working it means we should be trying to fix them. And in order to fix something we need to know what it’s supposed to be doing.

Of course, not everything that government is supposed to be doing is a good thing. We’ve also discussed the electoral college and he Senate and how they’re both inherently undemocratic. And how the concept of voting for who you want most is usually not possible and you have to vote pragmatically. Lots of discussion about who we want to be President which we had to reframe to be about who we wanted to avoid being President.

Anyway, it’s been an ongoing topic for months. Last September we warned them that things were going to be especially bad after the election. While school suggests that elections just work without effort, this year has been a textbook demonstration that all the the things that “just happen” do in fact have to be maintained to continue happening. And that once the maintenance is neglected, everything that the schools teach us to take for granted might break.

We told them that the two most-likely scenarios were either a Trump win followed by months of retribution or a Biden win followed by months of denial and burning things to the ground. They haven’t been actively following the trainwreck that’s been gathering speed ever since election day but it’s something that we kept discussing in the house. We’ll let them know when a milestone is reached and how closer we are to a change in power while also making sure hey know that there’s still a lot of stuff going on.

Which brings us to last Wednesday. Did it scare the kids? Yes. Of course it did. It scared us too. Did it surprise them? Not at all. We’ve been building toward that conversation for over a year. We explained that it finally happened and Trump’s supporters tried to disrupt Congress and derail the election. That some people got hurt. That it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been. That the police appeared to be complicit. That the election still got certified despite everything. That this is part of a long pattern of white men breaking the rules in the country and not suffering any consequences. And that we were now in uncharted territory.

The conversations we’ve had since have surprised me a little. They’ve ranged from obvious reactions like concern that something like this will happen locally. To how much we trust the police and how their interactions with them in town have been good ones. To what will happen if there’s another coup attempt. To the Little House Books and how Pa and other settlers ignored the rules and tried to homestead on Indian land. To issues of multiracial identity, blood quantum, and the Dawes Rolls.

I think we’re going to continue to have interesting conversations all week. Especially as the ramifications of Wednesday start to shake out. I will probably have to remind them Inauguration Day is likely to have some problems. That’s an event which I can see them watching in school so I hope the schools are ready for it to get weird. But I’m glad that the door is open and they’re not in that shocked/stunned stupor that way too many adults are in.

Excitement!

For a summer when nothing was going on it’s sure been kind of crazy around here. It all started in late July when the boys came running upstairs shouting that there was a bird in the house. So I stopped what I was doing and went downstairs to see.

Yup. Definitely something big flying around. Nope. Not a bird. Navigated the windows way too well and flew in the way that only a bat can fly. At first I tried to get it to leave by opening the doors but it refused. Once I turned the inside lights on it went up and hid in the rafters.

Kind of fun to see it up close like that. It was about hand-sized and is a spectacular aerialist. At the same time the boys were understandably locked in their bedrooms and my wife was keeping them calm and telling them that animal control was on the way.

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Since I had it treed in the rafters I took a photo* while I waited for the police. Calling animal control on a weekend involves calling police dispatch who send a cop out whose job is to corral the bat into a room before calling animal control to come get it.

*My first time using fully-manual flash with a fully-manual lens.

Unfortunately, our house is an open floor plan with literally no rooms available to corral the bat into. Which meant our best bet was to leave the lights on and hope the bat stayed put until animal control could get there in 4o minutes.

When she arrived, the game plan was to hit the bat with a towel and then pick it up in a tupperware container once it fell. This did not go as planned. When the animal control officer finally hit the bat (it was as high as possible in the rafters) it started flying around the house again.

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I eventually got it with a towel only for it to escape while animal control tried to tupperwear it and so had to do it a second time. Second time was the charm.* As the animal control officer jars up the bat I got to hear it chitter and squeak and recognized what a lot of the sounds we’re hearing outside our windows actually are.

*Reading about how to handle a bat in the house contains a lot of information about how a bat can’t fly once it’s on the floor. This is apparently only true if the bat isn’t strong.

Before she left the officer asked us all a bunch of questions about what we’d been doing when we noticed the bat and whether it had been in contact with anyone. This was all to ascertain our possible rabies exposure and whether or not we needed to test the bat. The problem is that testing the bat ends up killing the bat and no one wanted to kill a locally-protected animal without a good reason.

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Since it was early evening when the bat appeared and no one came into contact with it, animal control determined that it could release the bat back into the wild the following day. So she came back with the bat and eventually placed her (we now knew the bat was female) into our cherry tree so she could orient herself in a protected place. By that evening the bat was gone and we thought our adventure was over.

It was only just beginning.

Three days later we woke up to a bat circling our bedroom. This is a much smaller space and it’s WAY less fun to wake up to a bat in the morning than it is to discover one in the house at dusk. Also two people plus a bat in one bedroom is way too crowded and the bat actually ran into my wife’s face. She handled it better than she had any right to.

Remembering what we had learned during the first bat experience we shut the bat up in the bedroom and waited until business hours to call animal control since we thought everything was under control. This is when we discovered that in times of Covid any call to animal control has to go through police dispatch. Whoops. We should’ve called at 5:30 instead 8:00.

By the time animal control arrived the bat was gone—presumably through the ceiling vent that leads to the attic fan. No bat meant that we had to go to the Emergency Room for rabies shots.

Rabies is not a disease you want to mess with. It’s basically 100% fatal and yeah, better safe than sorry. While it’s not the 20 shots in the stomach I grew up hearing about it’s still not a fun vaccine. Plus taking the kids to the ER these days is not something I want to do any more than necessary and this vaccine involves four trips. Yes to the ER since it’s the only place to get the shots.

Our first trip to the ER was pretty straightforward aside from the waiting. No one questioned why all four of us were getting shots. In fact it was treated as the obvious course of action. Bat in the bedroom? Time to vaccinate the entire family.

The first day of shots is kind of brutal because the immunoglobin injections are proportional to weight and consist of a lot of volume. Definitely more involved than a regular flu shot and the youngest got a bit of a panic attack. between the ER visit and learning about rabies and having to deal with multiple injections. The kids each got two shots while the grownups got three. We were all a bit sore for a few days.

For the second time we thought we were done with excitement (aside from having to return to the ER three times over the next two weeks). I spent the day sealing up all the vents in the bedrooms so the bat couldn’t come in that way and we figured that even if the bat was in the attic it would have to go outside now.

Wrong again. That night the bat was back. Or well we’re assuming it was the same bat but we’ll never know for sure. Turns out that it wasn’t using the ceiling vents to enter our living space.* I saw it perched on our screen door but it went flying around the house again as soon as I approached it. I figured I’d give it a fighting chance to survive so I opened the door.

*I have a pretty good idea where it got in though.

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It didn’t take the chance so I switched to Plan B, turned on all the houselights again, and called animal control police dispatch. This time it took refuge high on a beam in the living room but with a lot more ease of access than the previous time. I left the lights on, met the cop outside,* and had a nice chat about how weird this summer has been while we waited for animal control to show up.

*Actually the same cop who came to our original call.

The animal control guy was apologetic about not being able to find the bat in the morning and while he stressed that we couldn’t be sure it was the same bat I think he appreciated being able to draw a line under the call.

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He netted the bat and took it off to be tested. We all knew that after three bat incidents we were going to test this one. We also knew that we’d need a proper expert to batproof our house. Thankfully you can evict bats starting on August first so by the time the batman came to our house he could do whatever he felt needed to be done.

Batman’s first visit was pretty impressive. He quickly scoped out where the bats were getting into the house* and gave us an estimate of how many bats we were dealing with based on the amount of guano. Best news of this experience was that he thought it was only a couple bats total. This also provided the silver lining of the whole thing.

*Which made sense with my conclusion as to how they (or it) was getting into the living space. Basically, instead of heading outside where the roof lives met, one of them was getting confused and followed the roof beam into the house proper.

If we had insisted on testing the first bat we caught it’s very likely that we wouldn’t have had the second and third experiences nor would we be getting vaccinated.* But we’d also probably end up with a colony of bats living in our attic which means that not only would we eventually have another bat experience, but there would be a god-awful mess to clean up. Instead we literally caught the infestation at the beginning.

*Bat we tested was negative but we were still advised to go through with the shots.

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It took a couple of tries to install the one-way bat doors* since our roof geometry was a bit more complicated than batman initially guessed but we certainly slept better after he got them in place. We also heard a lot of bat chitter outside the first night after installation. It was hard for us to not anthropomorphize the noise as being disappointment at being unable to reenter our attic.

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That day was also the day we went back to the ER for our second round of shots. Turns out we went a day late due to them giving us incorrect discharge papers but thankfully that wasn’t a big screwup. We also discovered how common the rabies treatment is since walking to the ER as a family is enough for the Covid temperature screener to look at all four of us and preemptively ask, “Rabies vaccine?”

The good news is that the kids are more comfortable in the ER. The bad news? The kids are more comfortable in the ER. It’s nice to not have to worry about panic attacks or keeping them calm. But now they want to touch everything  and wander and we have to keep reminding them that they’re surrounded by sick people.

We got the bat doors installed right before Isaias hit. Thank god since otherwise we might have completely forgotten about them. The storm hit us around 11:00am and by 11:30 our power was out. Since our house didn’t even shudder in the wind we had no idea how much the area had gotten thrashed until the winds died down after 3:00pm and the PSEG webpage had crashed due to the number of people checking it.

It was bad. The boys kind of freak out whenever the internet buffers so having the power cut really messed them up. Meanwhile we were dealing with estimates of getting things restored in two to four days, having to plan meals around the food we had, and figuring out how soon it would go bad.

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The boys did enjoy going to bed with our fake candles though. Something about the flickering and red glow appears to be comforting even if it’s coming from a light-emitting diode and printed circuit board. If we’d had a battery-powered clock as well I suspect they’d have been just fine. Something about losing access to what time it is messed them up more than any other power-related adjustment.

They were not good on day 2 of no power. We had to keep reminding them that this sucked for everyone and that trying to make each other upset because things weren’t fun was only asking for them to get us upset at them.

I also got a chance to see how bad the town was since I went out to get ice and discovered that all the street signals save one were completely out. Between the busted signals on the big streets and all the debris and powerline work on the small streets I did not want to be out in a car any more than necessary.

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Day three though started off with more excitement. Not bat-in-bedroom excitement level but seeing your neighbor’s house on fire gets you up and running pretty quickly. This time I called police dispatch via 911 (four calls in a week and half now) and yeah, in minutes we had all kinds of sirens showing up outside to block off the roads due to a two-day-old downed electrical wire having sparked into life.

The fire never got dangerously large but there was a risk of a generator blowing up which could’ve done a decent amount of damage. As a result we backed away from the windows directly facing the fire and watched from a safer distance. Once they shut the power off the fire quickly crackled out and everyone drove off leaving the street blocked off with caution tape.

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It was an exciting way for the boys to wake up though. They’re not as into trucks as they used to be but fire engines and flashing lights are still a draw. A little scary to see them so close to the house but they gave a much more palpable sense of something happening than just waiting around for power to come back.

We went for our third round of shots that day and grabbed a free bag of ice from PSEG afterwards. This meant we were feeling pretty good about our food situation although we were still working on a run list of what to cook when. But a least we knew we’d make it whenever we got our power back.

Later that day we took a bike ride to check out the neighborhood and yeah, there were some impressive downed lines still. Biggest of the bunch involved a huge tree which fell and took out three whole lengths or power lines. Two days after the storm and PSEG had finally managed to remove the tree. Despite being out for over 48 hours it was clear that we were also somewhat lucky.

We caught another lucky break that evening when a worker came out to check the line that burned. We’d received a revised estimate that put us as not receiving power back until day five but he saw me watching him and wandered over to chat. Turns out that we live at a junction of sorts where we can be connected to multiple lines. The one we were connected to was busted but the worker said he might be able to hook us up to another one.

Sure enough, 30 minutes later our lights flickered on and the refrigerator started to run. After 60 hours of being without power we got it back in time to stream a movie that night.

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The next morning we had all sorts of cherry pickers on the street working on the downed line. Where the boys were into the fire engines still, these were of no interest. How sad. It feels like only yesterday when they would’ve sat outside for hours watching the guys work.

The week since then has been relatively calm. Thank god. Power has been steady. The last round of rabies shots which went without incident. No more bats in the house. We’re just eating down our frozen foods since we don’t trust them for long-term storage anymore and waiting for the ER bill to come.