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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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.