For the first time since the All-Star Break, the Greensboro Grasshoppers came to a ballgame and played some good baseball. Tonight was Game 3 in the series against the Hagerstown Suns, and the Hoppers started good and stayed good the whole game, resulting in a 5-1 victory. Check out the box score and game recap for the details.
Starting for the Hoppers tonight, and getting the win, was Zach Neal, and even though I’m mostly over the Bryce Harper Hype, I was interested in seeing if there was going to be any fallout from the famous kiss the last time these two faced each other. I was glad to see that there wasn’t. I was also glad to see that Bryce wasn’t getting nearly as many boos tonight as he was Thursday and Friday nights. He deserved them, and heckling is part of baseball, but it’s time to move on, and it seems like everyone’s moving on. Harper batted four times, and I only heard heckling during his last two at bats.
Scoring for the Hoppers was Noah Perio, Christian Yelich (three runs on two hits, including a solo home run in the 8th!), and Mark Canha. The Hoppers got their runs in the first, third, and eighth innings. Scoring for the Suns was Adrian Sanchez, in the first inning. Neither team had any errors.
Tonight, I was especially impressed with the Hoppers defense. Christian Yelich made an amazing sliding catch for a third out at one point. Several times during the game, Noah Perio extended his arms, which much be at least ten feet long, to stop grounders from getting past the infield, almost always in time to throw the ball to first for an out. Jacob Realmuto threw from home to both second (twice) and third (once) to catch runners attempting to steal, twice for the third out in the inning. After six innings, Neal was relieved by Mike Ojala, who pitched a single perfect inning. Grant Dayton relieved him to to pitch two great innings, where he faced seven batters and struck out four of them.
Tonight, the Hoppers were celebrating Christmas in June. Here’s the entertainment crew leading the crowd in “N-O-E-L” (not “Y-M-C-A”):
I got a couple of pictures of the game action, too. Here’s a shot of Jacob Realmuto at bat, followed by a shot of Grant Dayton pitching.
It was really nice to see the team win tonight. With three games played, we’re still in last place for the second half, two games out of first. But now we’re tied with the Delmarva Shorebirds and the West Virginia Power at the bottom. The Kannapolis Intimidators are alone at the top, undefeated so far. I hope the team can come off the excitement of tonight’s win and transform that into winning momentum tomorrow.
To start the day, I headed out to the ballpark early to watch batting practice through the fence, and hopefully get a few more BP Balls. As soon as I parked, I checked the bushes in the lot across the street, because I knew at least one ball went back there yesterday and I didn’t know if it was retrieved. It wasn’t, and there turned out to be a second ball in the bush, too. So I started the day with two balls to my name. Both of them looked pretty good, suitable for getting autographed. About thirty minutes later, I picked up a third ball that rolled out to the edge of the street. I was joined by my friend Josh to watch BP, who snagged 3 balls himself and gave me one of them. A little later, I gave that ball to a family who was hanging out, hoping to get a ball, but wasn’t able to get one. They had the cutest little girl with them who was hoping to get some autographs on the ball. I ran into them after the game and they told me that they managed to get several autographs. Very cool! After BP was over, I headed down to the gate to wait for it to open, and made a couple of new friends, one of whom came in his Santa hat to celebrate Christmas in June. As part of that celebration, they were giving away some really cool snow globes. I don’t have a picture of it, so just trust me that it’s cool.
The game experience was great. I took a break from my diet and indulged in a Chicago Dog from the Dog Pound. That’s definitely my second favorite ballpark concession so far this year, with my favorite being the delicious Taylor Made Kettle Corn — especially since Pat’s selling a spicy variety now. Partway during the game, @beckycdraper (who follows @HoppersFan on twitter) stopped by to introduce herself to me. That was very cool, I always enjoy making new friends at the ballpark. It’s especially neat to meet people in real life who I’ve “seen” online. So thanks a bunch, Becky, for stopping by to say “hi”! I also made some new friends in the couple who had the seats next to mine for the evening. Their names are Tom and Carol, and they were at the ballpark celebrating their 34th anniversary. I have it on good authority that they’re planning on spending another 34 years together, too. Tom mentioned that he’d love to catch a foul ball sometime, but nothing came close enough to us during the game for him to try. After the game was over, I gave Tom and Carol one of the BP Balls I had for their anniversary. They surprised me by asking me to autograph it for them. I’ve never autographed a baseball, and I felt a little weird messing up the ball with my signature, but they said they wanted it, so I obliged. If I sign any more balls, I’m going to have to think about my spacing more — I ran out of room writing “Anniversary” and I didn’t have a good place to put “Hoppers Fan” on it. Oh, well, it was my first baseball autograph (I’ve autographed books before), and I don’t expect I’ll be signing many more anyway.
I wish I had a better camera with me than my cell phone. I’d like to say that this picture is intentionally grainy and dark in order to create an “artsy” feel, but the truth is that a cell phone is simply a terrible tool to use to take pictures in the dark. Who would have thought? So I apologize for the poor quality of all the pictures in this post, especially the one of Tom and Carol.
After the game, I went down to the dugout in an attempt to get a broken bat souvenir, but was beat out by a cute kid. She’ll probably love it more than me, so I’m not disappointed. I had a chance to chat with Kyle Winters a little bit, who told me his shoulder is feeling much better and he should be on the mound again Tuesday. I had my scorebook with me, so I flipped back to his amazing one-hitter from June 13 against the West Virginia Power, and got his autograph on it. When the scanner gets back home, I’ll try to remember to scan a copy in and post it here.
The post-game fireworks were some of the best I’ve seen this year.
I’ve got another obligation tomorrow and won’t be able to be at the game, then the Hoppers hit the road again. My next planned game is July 4, which I expect will have an amazing fireworks show.
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 are you thinking?