Been going to more minor league games over the past month. A good way to stay relaxed especially while I’m still more comfortable only doing outside activities.
I got up to Somerset on the first day of summer and was treated to kind of an amazing weather show—typical New Jersey where the weather can’t choose and instead ends up with a little of everything. This culminated in a spectacular 8:30 sunset and rainbow combination.
The game against Hartford was pretty good too. Both teams were fighting for the firs half championship and the result was as tight as expected. Luis Medina started for the Patriots and it’s clear why he’s a top prospect since he’s no just capable of throwing 100mph gas but has some nasty offspeed stuff that he can rely on too. Unfortunately he could only make it through the Hartford lineup twice and the bullpen wasn’t as sharp.
Somerset did have its chances but couldn’t get that clutch hit and fell to a 3–2 loss. And as good as Medina was my main memory of the game was that it turned into an Ump show with an inconsistent strike zone (which contributed to Medina hitting 90 pitches in the 5th inning) as well as inserting themselves into ever single call they could.
Though I also need to mention that one of the Hartford players is actually from Somerset and his grandmother threw out the first pitch to him so that was pretty cool.
Yes I did get autographs. The Somerset environment isn’t great for getting signatures but I did bring a couple cards of their coach since those are pretty easy to get. While I’m happy to have added Chris Denorfia to the collection (especially on my first signed 2008 Upper Deck) I totally missed that Blaine Beatty was the pitching coach and as a guy who pitched in the early 1990s I have plenty of his cards lying around.
I caught another great sunset at the Trenton-Mahoning Valley game the following week. Unlike my previous game this one was mostly good. A Mahoning Valley error in the first lead to three runs which were all Trenton really needed. A great read by Thunder coach Jeff Manto allowed a runner to score from first base on a hit and run and give the Thunder an insurance run after Mahoning Valley had clawed a couple runs back in the top of the 6th.
It turned out that the Draft League mandates 7-inning games on Tuesdays (excluding home openers) before the Amateur Draft so this game ended in a quick two hours with a 4–2 6.5 inning Thunder victory. Trenton, being a wonderfully fan-centered place treats the 7-inning ticket stubs as a coupon for a free ticket to another game so that was an unexpected bonus.
Two Mahoning Valley coaches played in the majors. Homer Bush has a bunch of cards so I just went with a pair of nice photos and managed to get my first signed 1998 Fleer as well. Ron Mahay though, despite a 14-year career and over 500 games played, has just a solitary individual card and only two MLB cards in all. And they’re both ridiculously hard to track down since apparently no one collected or sells Topps Total.
I’m glad I found one but this kind of thing is possibly my least favorite aspect of the modern card collecting industry. It’s been a lot of fun getting autographs at the draft league games because it reminds me how much baseball cards matter. The players in particular love to see their coaches’ cards and, correctly, treat them as tangible evidence of having made it to the big leagues.
Everyone who plays in the majors should have a card yet the number of guys who can play for years and never get a card is really frustrating. It took Mahay seven years to get a “rookie” card and that’s just wrong.
I used my free ticket last week on a game against Williamsport. Another great night though the threatened rain (which never materialized) scared a bunch of fans off. Great clouds though.
Before talking about he game though I need to mention this photo. Taking a panoramic shot from my sea is clearly urning into a thing but this is the first time I’ve tried one with the game going on. Panoramas are interesting with action because I have to swing the lens slowly and that doesn’t always work with fast action. In this case it works amazingly well since I managed to capture both the pitcher’s follow-through when he released the ball and the hitter’s follow through after making contact. Definitely something worth trying again. I doubt I’ll get another shot this nice though.
This was a game where Manto’s aggressive baserunning ended up costing the team. No blunders just that Williamsport executed well on defense and getting multiple guys thrown out at 3rd base and home plate is usually going to hurt you. Is very nice to see that the defense has improved a ton after that disastrous game earlier this season though. Unfortunately the Thunder relief pitchers have problems finding the plate and turned a close 2–2 game into a 6–2 loss.
Jesse Litsch is the Williamsport manager and may be the only former pitcher who I’ve come across as the manager in the minors. He signed a pair before the game including my first 2010 Upper Deck.
I also got another pair from Shawn Chacon. A 2006 for myself and a custom for Marc Brubaker’s Astrograph project. Marc’s customs are always nice and since Chacon has no Astros cards he was especially excited to see this one and very much appreciated keeping the extra Marc had sent. I’m glad I not only helped him out in his project but that I got to relay a good story as well. This should be on it’s way back to Houston now if it hasn’t gotten there already.
Halfway through the season it’s been a good season for coach signatures (I think I’ve gotten 11 different coaches). Though it’s also making me notice some things about the coaching pipeline. I hadn’t paid much attention to it until I wrote about my sons’ 1991 projects but now in many ways it’s become something I can’t not see. It gets even worse when I put all the coaches I’ve gotten autographs from together.
This is a pretty white group. I’ve included two college coaches in here as well but as far as I’m concerned it’s all part of the same pipeline and demonstrates why Major League Baseball’s coaching and managing has such a diversity problem. To MiLB’s credit the coaching staffs do seem to be pretty diverse but the guys with MLB experience don’t reflect that and given the way MLB hires managers that’s a problem.
It’s also been interesting to me to see how many Draft League coaches have MLB experience but how few of the AA coaches do. This was very different in 2019 when most AA teams that came to town had at last one former MLB player on staff. This year it was just Hartford.