June 2010

GSO v WVP Game 5 (6/28/2010)

It was another scorcher today. It was a day game, and started at 12:30. As much as I was concerned about the heat, it was actually cooler at noon today than it was at 6pm yesterday. Sitting out in the sun was just asking to be baked, and with the sun directly overhead, it was difficult to find a seat in the shade. The good news is that the Hoppers came away with the win, 5-4.

I was concerned at the beginning of the game, as starting pitcher Edgar Olmos couldn’t seem to throw a strike. By the time he was replaced after only 2.2 innings, he had walked 4 batters with only 2 strikeouts. He threw a total of 32 balls and only 23 strikes. Somewhat surprisingly, only one batter scored on Olmos, in the 2nd inning. Olmos was replaced by Natividad Dilone, who pitched 4.2 innings and was credited with the win, allowing 3 runs. The last 1.2 innings were pitched by Alejandro (AJ) Ramos, who delivered 2 strikeouts and allowed no runs. Offensively, the Hoppers looked great. Two of our five runs were homers: Chad Cregar started off the 2nd with a solo homer on his first at-bat after coming off the DL and Justin Bass started off the 6th with another solo homer. Rand Smith spent a significant part of his time on first taunting second and attempting to steal. He never got a good chance to run for it, though. It’s definitely nice to see some good defensive playing from the Hoppers. You can see the improvement from the first half of the season. It’s showing both on the field and on the scoreboard — today’s game was another errorless outing for the Hoppers. Today was the last day for the home stand. The Hoppers are on the road to face the Rome Braves tomorrow through Saturday. They’ll be back in Greensboro for a four-game home stand against the Lakewood Blueclaws starting next Sunday.

Before the game, I headed out to the blazing hot left field and took a few pictures of the players warming up:

Warming Up

Warming Up-2

Promotion Results
Sumo (between 1st and 2nd): won by Red Sumo
Sausage Race (between 4th and 5th): won by Hot Sausage. They ran a 90-yard dash today (I suspect because it’s tough for the sausages to run the bases in the blazing heat we had today) and while Sage was off to a good start, she just fell short at the end.


Sausage Race

Perhaps one of the smartest things that the Hoppers did today didn’t have anything to do with playing baseball. They watered the stands. That is to say, that they hooked up the hose and sprayed down one of the sections. It was such a great idea, in the oppressive heat, to do it. For about an inning leading up to the spray-down, they were announcing over the PA that section 114 would be hosed down — both to let people who didn’t want to get wet enough time to get out of the area and to let people who did enough time to get over there. I think almost every kid at the ballgame made a dash to 114 to take part in it.

Cooling Down

Check out the complete recap and box score on the Hoppers site.

I used iScore to score the game. I missed a pitching change for the Power, and the reasons behind a couple of outs, but here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):

GSO v WVP Game 5 - 6:28:2010 (GSO)

GSO v WVP Game 5 - 6:28:2010 (WVP)

GSO v WVP Game 5 - 6:28:2010 (Pitchers)

I had a great time at the ballpark today, but I hope that it’s cooler next time the boys are in town for some home games.

All of my pictures from the game are on Facebook.

See ya at the ballpark!

GSO v WVP Game 4 (6/27/2010)

Starting Lineup

It was a hot Sunday afternoon at the ballpark today. I wish I could say that Hoppers fans were rewarded with a win, but alas, we fell 6-5. This is our first loss for the 2nd half of the season, and the Hoppers are still leading the league, once again sharing the top spot with the Lakewood Blueclaws. Even with the loss, it was a great game. I put my rally cap on after two and a half innings, when the Hoppers were down 5-1, but it just wasn’t enough. It was beginning to look hopeful as the Hoppers picked up three runs in the fifth and sixth innings, putting the score 5-4 in favor of the Power going into the ninth. The Power scored another run in the top and when the Hoppers took the field in the bottom, they needed a measly two runs to tie. And it was looking good: the first three batters got on base with walks. When Justin Bass stepped up to the plate, the bases were loaded and there were no outs. Unfortunately, he grounded into a double play. Kyle Skipworth scored and Kyle Jensen made it to third. With two outs and the tying run on third, Chris Wade grounded out and the game was over. It was a tough loss since it got so close at the end, but sometimes even the power of my rally cap (and the two other rally caps I saw in my section) just isn’t enough to pull the team through.

What hurt the Hoppers the most? The grand slam that Rogelios Noris hit in the third. That sucked the wind out of our sails and proved to be a tough psychological break to get past. For the Hoppers, Mat Montgomery gets the loss, pitching seven innings and allowing five of the six runs. Sandy Rosario pitched the final two innings and allowed one run. Highlights of the game included watching Michael Pasek steal a couple of hits from the Power in the seventh inning. The first two batters hit line drives toward the gap between first and second, but Pasek was exactly where he needed to be to snag that ball out of the air. I think he got significant applause and appreciation from the fans after each of those catches.

The promotion for today was a team baseball card set. I’ve been looking forward to this giveaway all season. I love getting baseball cards, and then trying to find all the players to get the cards signed. I got three autographs today: Rand Smith, Chad Cregar, and Ramon Benjamin.

Autographs: Ramon Benjamin, Chad Cregar, Rand Smith

Before the game started, I headed over to the autograph table where Rand Smith was signing autographs. There was no one in line and he seemed happy to sign my card. I told him that I enjoyed watching him play last night (he made a couple of good plays) and he thanked me. After getting his autograph, I headed over to the seats in the end of left field, by the Hoppers bullpen. This is where the players usually warm up before the game. I thought I might be able to get a few more autographs over there, especially since it was so hot that not many other people were over there. For a while, it was just me and a little kid who had a baseball that he was collecting autographs on.

Pregame Warmup
Pregame Warmup-2.jpg

Shortly after I sat down and pulled my notebook out, first baseman Chad Cregar noticed me and came over to say hi. I got his autograph on my card and asked him how his hand was doing (he’s been on the DL since June 11 for “callous on hand”). He said it was fine and that they took him off the DL today. I asked when he thought they’d put him back on the field and he said he was hoping to be playing tomorrow. I told him it would be a hot day for a comeback and we both had a chuckle. (Tomorrow’s game is a day game, and it’s been unseasonably hot in Greensboro for the past week or so.) It’ll be nice to see him back on the field. Once he starts playing again, I wonder what the team will do with Ryan Keedy, who was called down from the Jupiter Hammerheads and has been playing first base while Chad’s been on the DL. After the quick chat, Chad signed the baseball for the kid who was also hanging out by the bullpen and then headed back to the field to play catch. A few minutes later, I got Ramon Benjamin’s autograph as he was reporting to the bullpen.

First Inning Warm-up Ball

Another exciting event for me was the snagging of another baseball before the game started. Just prior to the first inning, one of the outfielders was playing catch with one of the bullpen pitchers (I think it was LF Kyle Jensen and P Ramon Benjamin, but I’m not sure) and the outfielder threw a ball just out of reach of the pitcher and it sailed into the section right next to where I was sitting. There was no one else around, so I jumped over to where the ball landed and scooped it up to add to my collection. Snagging that warm-up ball made it worth sitting in the blazing hot sun for the beginning of the game.

Promotion Results
Sumo (between 2nd and 3rd): won by Blue Sumo
Sausage Race (between 8th and 9th): won by Country Sausage. Sage was leading until she took a break at third base to get a drink of water. It was a really hot day, I don’t blame her for trying to stay hydrated.

Sausage Race.jpg

Check out the complete recap and box score on the Hoppers site.

I used iScore to score the game. I missed a pitching change for the Power, and the reasons behind a couple of outs, but here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):

GSO v WVP Game 4 - 6:26:2010 (GSO)
GSO v WVP Game 4 - 6:26:2010 (WVP)
GSO v WVP Game 4 - 6:26:2010 (Pitchers)

Tomorrow’s the last home game from this home stand. It’s a day game, which means I’m going to have to work extra in the mornings and evenings this week to make up for the time away from work. It also means it’s going to be incredibly hot at the ballpark tomorrow. I’m guessing it will be a pretty low attendance game, but I’d love to be surprised and find lots of other Hoppers fans in the stands with me.

All of my pictures from the game are on Facebook.

See ya at the ballpark!

GSO v WVP Game 3 (6/26/2010)

Put another game in the WIN column!

The Hoppers treated everyone to another great evening of baseball, and delivered another win. That keeps them undefeated in the 2nd half of the season, and secures their spot as the only undefeated team in the division right now. Let’s hope they can keep the momentum going. It’s not too early to ask for a sweep of this series against the West Virginia Power, is it? They’ve already secured the series win, and if they can win the next two games, they’ll sweep.

The Hoppers won the game 2-3, but didn’t get their first run until the fourth inning. The Power got on the board in the second, and I was beginning to wonder if I needed to get my rally cap out. I didn’t. Going into the fifth, the score was tied 1-1. The Power scored a run in the top half of the inning. The Hoppers responded by scoring two in the bottom half. The rest of the game was scoreless, but continued to be exciting, with great batting and fielding from both teams. Left-handed pitcher Chad James gets the win, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits with 4 strike-outs. It’s his second win of the year, bringing his record to 2-4. After five innings, James was replaced by Erick Carrillo, who allowed one hit in two innings with no strike-outs. Arquimedes Caminero pitched the seventh and eighth innings, also allowing one hit, but coming through with five strike-outs and getting the save. I love watching Caminero on the mound. As he’s preparing for his pitch and taking the signs from the catcher, he strikes an intimidating figure, stiff and leaning slightly forward. Just before his wind-up, he relaxes and quickly goes through a smooth delivery of the pitch.

In addition to securing the win, Chad James encountered a wardrobe malfunction. At one point (maybe the fourth inning?), his belt apparently failed and he had to get a replacement (click each picture to embiggen):

Chad James Replacing Belt
Chad James Replacing Belt-2.jpg
Chad James Replacing Belt-3.jpg

Chad James Replacing Belt-4.jpg
Chad James Replacing Belt-5.jpg
Chad James Replacing Belt-6.jpg

Promotion Results
Sausage Race (between 2nd and 3rd): won by Country Sausage. Sage came out first, but left the field at the visitor’s dugout before even getting to first base.

Hoppers Fan Greg and Myron Noodleman

In addition to entertaining the fans with a great ballgame, the Hoppers brought in Myron Noodleman, the hippest nerd in da’ biz. Myron provided great entertainment between several of the innings. He did some solo dancing. He led the crowd in the chicken dance and the YMCA dance. He did a very clever “dueling signals” dance with Hoppers manager Andy Haines while “Dueling Banjos” played over the PA. My favorite dance was when did a little dance with Hoppers players Terrence Dayleg and Alejanero (A J) Ramos. They started by approaching Myron as though the were going to fight with him, but Myron countered by hypnotizing them and getting them to dance with him. The players looked like they were having a great time with him, and the fans loved it. During the game, Myron wandered throughout the ballpark, signing autographs and posing for pictures with the fans, and just generally being funny. He posed for a picture with me, and while my shirt says that I’m proud to be awesome, I was thrilled to be hanging with Myron. If he’s going to be performing at a ballpark near you, that alone is reason to go to the game. Check out his schedule to find out when you can see him in your town.

Myron Noodleman, Terrence Dayleg, and Alejanero (A J) Ramos.jpg

Myron Noodleman and Andy Haines.jpg

Check out the complete recap and box score on the Hoppers site.

I used iScore to score the game. Here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):

GSO v WVP Game 3 - 6:26:2010 (GSO).png
GSO v WVP Game 3 - 6:26:2010 (WVP)
GSO v WVP Game 3 - 6:26:2010 (Pitchers)

There are two more games in the series before the Hoppers hit the road again. I’m planning on being at both of them. Tomorrow’s game is an afternoon game and they’re giving away a set of baseball cards to the first 1,500 fans in the gate. I’m definitely planning on getting a set. Monday’s game is a day game. I’ve been putting in overtime at my day job so I’ll be able to take a really long lunch and attend the game. I love day games, ’cause we get to play BINGO. The only downside I see so far about the next two games is that since they’re in the middle of the day instead of the evening, I expect it to be tremendously hot. It’s OK, I’m the Hoppers Fan. I can deal with the heat in order to watch the boys play baseball.

All of my pictures from the game are on Facebook. Most of them are of Myron Noodleman having a blast and entertaining the fans.

See ya at the ballpark!

GSO v WVP (6/25/2010)

Hoppers Haiku
Come from behind wins
are so exciting and fun
and make great drama.

Welcome back, Hoppers Fans fans! It’s been pretty dry in this blog for over two weeks. I got behind on writing about games, then I got really busy at my job that provides a paycheck, and to make it even more frustrating, the home stand that started Thursday was the first time in almost two weeks that the Hoppers were at home. I missed the Thursday night game, but I was at last night’s game against the West Virginia Power and was thrilled to have baseball back in the city!

I’ll just go ahead and say it. My rally cap takes total credit for yesterday’s win. I don’t remember what inning I put the cap on, but I’m sure I had it on by the sixth inning, when the Hoppers were losing 6 to 1. In the seventh inning, the Hoppers scored a second run, but they really got on fire in the eighth inning, where they scored six runs. The final score was six to eight, in favor of the Hoppers. It’s was another great game to watch — come from behind wins are always dramatic, and it’s nice when it’s the home team that is securing the win. This means that with two wins in the 2nd half of the season, the Hoppers are undefeated and continue to hold the top spot on in the SAL Northern Division standings for the second half of the season. (They share that spot with the Lakewood Blueclaws.) Curtis Peterson started the game, and allowed four of the six Power runs in four and two-thirds innings of pitching, with two of those runs being in fifth inning before he was pulled and a third one scoring from a runner he allowed on base before he was pulled. When Natividad Dilone took the mound from Peterson, the bases were loaded. He walked the first batter he faced (sending in a run that was charged against Peterson). The inning was thankfully over when the next batter grounded out. The final two runs the Power scored came in the sixth inning with Dilone on the mound. Dilone keep the Power scoreless through the seventh, and when Ramon Benjamin took the mound to close in the eighth, he only allowed a single batter to take a base, delivering what appeared to be three easy outs, two of which were strikeouts. I really want Peterson to emerge as a great starting pitcher, but I’m not seeing it yet. He always seems to come out doing well for about four innings, where he just kinda falls apart. I hope he’ll continue to work on his stamina and be able to stay in the games for more innings before being pulled.

I forgot to bring my fancy camera to the ballpark, but I took a few pictures with Camera+ on my iPhone and applied the filter that makes it look that you took a picture of a tiny model instead of real life (click to embiggen):

Tiny Ballpark
Tiny Ballpark at Dusk

Before the game started, I spent some time chatting with my friend Pat at the Taylor Made Kettle Corn booth. With the drought of home games, it had been about two weeks since we chatted. He hooked me up with a bag of delicious kettle corn for the evening and we caught each other up on what we’ve been up to the past couple of weeks. The short version is that it’s been a tough couple of weeks for both of us, and we’re both glad to be back in the park for some Hoppers home games. I can’t recommend the Taylor Made kettle corn enough — Pat’s a great guy, the kettle corn is delicious, and the prices are amazing. A small bag of kettle corn lasts me the entire ballgame, and a large bag can easily be shared by several people. The best part is that anything you don’t finish at the ballpark, you can take home and enjoy since it doesn’t tend to go stale for a couple of days. Just seal it up in some tupperware or something and snack on it for a few days. It’s good, good stuff.

Promotion Results
Susage Race (between 1st and 2nd): won by Country Sausage. Sage had the lead until she reached third base, where she stopped to drink a glass of water offered to her by one of the pitchers in the Hoppers bullpen. Will she ever win?
Sumo (in middle of 2nd): won by Red Sumo

Check out the complete recap and box score on the Hoppers site. Additionally, I’ve noticed that they are now providing a “Game Story for the games, which is a great little recap of the game as well.

I used iScore to score the game. Here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):

GSO v WVP Game 2 - 6:24:2010 (GSO)
GSO v WVP Game 2 - 6:24:2010 (WVP)
GSO v WVP Game 2 - 6:24:2010 (Pitchers)

In about an hour, I’m headed back to the ballpark. They’ve got Myron Noodleman scheduled for tonight, which should prove to be great entertainment. I’ll try to remember to bring my camera this time. And fireworks! Friday and Saturday games have fireworks — last night’s show was awesome, and I’m looking forward to another great display tonight.

See ya at the ballpark!

GSO v DEL Game 4 (6/4/2010)

The Hoppers just completed a four-game series against the Delmarva Shorebirds last night. With last night’s win, they took the series 3-1. It was probably the coolest night of baseball for me so far this year. Besides getting to watch a great win for the home team, I got to sit with a group of folks from my church who all came out for family night at the ballpark and I got to throw out the first pitch!

Let’s look at that first pitch again:

So, how did that happen? It’s all because I enter lots of contests and drawings at the ballpark. For several weeks, they’ve been promoting a Fritos Friday Night contest. The prize was to throw out the first pitch and stand on the field through the National Anthem. At the game Tuesday night, I signed up for it. Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Laura at the ballpark telling me that I had won. I was absolutely thrilled! Since I was already planning on going to the game, I didn’t have to change my schedule. And since it was the night my church was sponsoring an outing, my wife was already planning to come. Laura told me to meet her at the fan information booth at 6:30 before the game and we’d head down to the field.

I got to the game as early as I usually do, which gave me enough time to copy the starting lineup for scorekeeping purposes and just wander around the concourse a little, signing up for various contests. When 6:30 rolled around and it was time to go to the field, I gathered with all of the people who were going down for pre-game festivities: the little league team who was being featured, some inductees in a sports hall of fame, the McDonald’s small fries, and the Sheetz “Play Ball” kid of the game. With all of the things that the Hoppers do before a game, it’s kinda like controlled chaos. It’s amazing that all of the pre-game activities come off as smoothly as they do — a real testament to the Hoppers staff. Once we were all gathered, we headed down to the field. Going down to the field was very cool — we got to go through an “off limits” area and come out through the tunnel under the left field concourse. Underneath the concourse is a batting cage. One of the Hoppers pitchers was hanging out down there. They had all the props for the between-inning promotions (sumo suits, wigs, etc.) lined up against one of the walls. The walls were covered with paintings of baseballs. It was really cool. I was just taking it all in and didn’t think to take any pictures. I figured I’d snap a few pictures on the way back up, but we went up by the dugout instead of back through the tunnel. Oh, well, maybe some other time I’ll have a chance to be back there again.

Once on the field, there was lots to see and do. Laura was busy directing activities:

Directing Pre-Game Activities

Directing Pre-Game Festivities

I took some pictures of various on-field objects. Here’s the home team on deck circle and some bat weights, e.g.:

On Deck Circle


And the view of the player introductions from the field is just different enough than the view from the seats to make it seem like you’re *really* part of it (pictures include Jose Torres, Justin Bass, and Kyle Skipworth):

Player Introductions

Player Introductions - Jose Torres

Player Introductions - Justin Bass

Player Introductions - Kyle Skipworth

Greg and the First Pitch Ball

When I went to throw the first pitch, Laura gave me the ball to use. I was kinda surprised to see it was a souvenir Grasshoppers ball like they sell in the gift shop and not an official South Atlantic League ball like they play with. When it was my turn to throw the ball out, they described the Fritos contest I won that garnered me the first pitch, announced my name over the loudspeaker, and put it up on the scoreboard in big letters. It was very cool to see my name up on the scoreboard like that. Spaz accompanied me to the mound, further introducing me. Catcher Carlos Paulino headed to home plate to catch for me. I thought it was pretty cool to have a catcher behind the plate — often the catchers are busy warming up pitchers and they have another player catching. When I looked at Carlos, the distance between me and the plate didn’t appear to be as long as I practiced, so I was feeling better about that and more confident. When it was time to throw, I aimed right at Carlos and let the ball fly. It was a little low, but Carlos was able to easily grab it before it hit the ground. All in all, I’m happy with my performance — it wasn’t flat-out embarrassing! And I’d like to give a huge thank you to my wife, who was on the field with me and took a video of me throwing the first pitch.

A little bit later, they had a “second” first pitch by one of the officers at Syngenta (the company who sponsors the field conditions of the ballpark). His pitch fell a few feet short of the plate and bounced away. It helped make my first pitch look even better.

After all of the pre-game festivities were over, we all headed back up in the stands, where I joined all the folks from church. Some of them were pretty silly, asking me for autographs and whatnot. It was great fun.

The game started, and the Hoppers were off to a great start. They looked good the whole night, scoring three runs in the third inning, and a fourth run in the seventh. The Shorebirds only managed one run in the eighth inning, so we had a very tidy 4-1 win. There’s a new player with the Hoppers, Jose Duarte. Apparently, the Royals released him earlier this week (where he was on their AAA team), and the Marlins picked him up and assigned him to Greensboro. He debuted in Thursday’s game, and I was only slightly impressed with his performance. However, he improved as Thursday’s game went on, and he looked great last night, with a 2-RBI homer in the third. I wonder how long he’ll be in Greensboro before the Marlins start moving him up the ladder.

Promotion Results
Sumo (between 1st and 2nd): won by Red Sumo
Sausage Race (between 4th and 5th): won by Hot Sausage, who was so smoking that he ran in for the win backwards, taunting the other sausages. Sage had an early lead, but squandered it by talking to the ump between 1st and 2nd, where she was apparently asking him out to dinner.

Check out the complete recap and box score on the Hoppers site.

I used iScore to score the game. Here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):

GSO v DEL Game 4 - 6:4:2010 (GSO)

GSO v DEL Game 4 - 6:4:2010 (DEL)

GSO v DEL Game 4 - 6:4:2010 (Pitchers)

All of my pictures from the game are on Facebook.

See ya at the ballpark!

First Pitch!

Tonight was a very exciting night at the ballpark: I got to throw the first pitch before the game! I’ll write more about it tomorrow, when I’m not so exhausted, but here’s the video:

It was really awesomely exciting. And I’m thrilled that I made the ball go all the way to the catcher (Carlos Paulino), over the plate and without any bounces. I guess that makes me a better first pitcher than President Obama.

Until I get a chance to write up real entries for the blog, check out the pictures from the last four games that I’ve posted to Facebook:

See ya at the ballpark!