It’s Friday. The Greensboro Grasshoppers are playing a home game against the Hagerstown Suns. There’s fireworks after the game. It’s a good deal all around. The game itself? Not so great. The Hoppers lost, 7-4. Check out the box score and the game recap for the details. The Suns started beating up on the Hoppers pretty early on, starting with back-to-back homers in the 2nd inning, followed by four runs in the 3rd inning. The Hoppers started a bit of a rally in the 9th, but a five-run deficit was simply too much to overcome. For a while, I thought we were going to play dodgeball instead of baseball. Our starting pitcher, Jheyson Manzueta (who is charged with the loss), hit 2 of their batters (Bryce Harper and Jason Martinson). The Suns’ starting pitcher, Taylor Jordan (who gets the win), hit 1 of our batters (Mark Canha). There were four home runs in the game (only one from the Hoppers, hit by Aaron Dudley), but I think the most exciting play of the game goes to Suns’ left fielder, Michael Taylor, who made an amazing catch, stealing at least a double and perhaps a home home run. I think his cleat marks may still be on the left field wall.
I headed out to the ballpark a little early to watch batting practice through the fence. The other guys who are usually there for BP weren’t there today, so I had the sidewalk pretty much to myself most of the time. Every now and then, someone came and stood by the fence for a little bit. A couple of other fans joined and stayed longer. We all got at least one BP Ball. (I got four.) And I had had fun chatting with the folks I met. I gave them cards with the blog address on it, so if any of them are reading this now, “hi!”
Once again, the excitement of the day was Bryce Harper. Since I snagged a few BP balls, I decided that I’d try to get him to autograph one of them before the game. I’m generally only interested in the Hoppers, but I’m starting to expand my knowledge and appreciation of other ball players on other teams. Give me a few years, and I’ll have a much better understanding of the whole league.
After getting into the park and chatting with a few friends, I headed over to the visitors dugout with my baseball and my pen to join the dozen or so other autograph-seeking fans. We ended up waiting about 15 or 20 minutes, but when he made it to the dugout, he was gracious enough to sign autographs for everyone who was there. Here’s the ball I got him to sign:
For the game, instead of sitting in my normal seat, I joined a friend who had seats available next to the visitor’s dugout, on the front row. It’s a great view of the game! I love my third-base side seats, but being right on the field was loads of fun, and gave me a chance to take some good pictures. Sadly, my only camera right now is my cell phone, so the pictures aren’t anywhere near as good as they could be.
Sitting by the visitor’s dugout also afforded me the opportunity to enjoy all the heckling that the Greensboro fans were able to scoop on the Suns, on Harper in particular. A couple of ladies even brought a sign for Harper, inviting him to “kiss this.”
For the most part, the Suns did their best to ignore the heckling. At one point, Harper did respond with a comment. The hecklers got more responses from first baseman Brett Newsome (who reached base only once in his five at-bats), who told them that they “better watch out” and wondered why they “paid money to see this.” By the end of the game, I had a much better understanding of how heckling can be an effective tool for the fans to use to get under the skin of the opposing players. Baseball’s a mental game as much as it is a physical game, and it was clear that the heckling was affecting the Suns’ players. Obviously, it didn’t affect them enough to cause them to lose the game, but I could clearly see the effect it had.
The effect was most notable after Harper’s last at-bat in the ninth, when he returned to the dugout, threw his bat on the ground and let loose a small stream of obscenities. When the Suns took the field in the bottom of the ninth, Harper was replaced by Mills Rogers (who went to left field, with Michael Taylor moving to center). Between being hit by a pitch in his first at bat and all the heckling he endured throughout the game, Harper had a rough night. His only hit of the evening was a double, though, so it wasn’t too bad for him.
And to his credit, Harper hung around the dugout a few minutes after the game and signed a few more autographs before heading to the clubhouse. My friend and I opted to get Michael Taylor’s autograph instead.
Before you think that this Hoppers Fan blog is turning into Harper-watch blog, let me get back to talking about the Hoppers a little. Besides securing a loss, nothing was truly memorable about their game. It was nice to watch Michael Brady close the game with a perfect ninth (a pop-up and two strike-outs).
I thought the view of the downtown buildings from the third base side was nice, but one of the awesome things from sitting on the first base side is the view of the sunset. My cell phone doesn’t come close to doing it justice, but check out this picture of Isaac Galloway swinging at a ball just as the sun goes down.
And a little later, after it got a little darker, James Wooster at bat:
This loss puts the Hoppers by themselves all the way at the bottom of the Northern Division standings, two games out of first. If they want a chance at the second-half playoff spot, it’s never to early to start winning.
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what do you think?