Tagged: aaron dudley

“Heart Attack Hoppers” Do It Again (9/12/2011)

After tonight’s nail-biting win, one of my friends exclaimed “The ‘Heart Attack Hoppers’ do it again!” He was right on the money.

Tonight’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Savannah Sand Gnats was the first game of the SAL Championship Series. It had it all. Home runs? Check. Balk? Check. Strategic substitutions? Check. Walk-off homer that was called foul? Check. Manager ejection? Check. Walk-off double two batters later? Check. With two outs, Marcell Ozuna was robbed of what would have been a 2-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth. Then he made it to base on a walk. Then the pitcher balked. Christian Yelich walked to load the bases. Two outs, bases loaded, Mark Canha hit a perfect double towards center field. Danny Black scores to tie and Marcell Ozuna scores to win. It was tense, the fans were upset at the umps. Everyone was cheering for the Hoppers, and when things were tight, the Hoppers did what the Hoppers do. They delivered. They kept the game exciting right to the very end. And they tried to give fans heart attacks while they were working their way to the win. I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but it’s true: it’s a good time to be a Hoppers fan.

Check out the official box score and game recap for all the details. Savannah has also posted a game story. Check out Bill on Baseball for a great post, too: Hoppers come to expect late-inning heroics, with quotes from several of the players and Andy.

Starting tonight for the Hoppers was Kyle Winters. As regular readers of this blog know, he’s my favorite Hoppers pitcher. That’s why I especially hate to say that he had a rough night tonight. It wasn’t bad, but it was poised to turn bad at any moment. I was nervous from the beginning, when the Sand Gnats managed to load the bases with only one out on the board. Fortunately, a popup to third and a fly to right ended the inning. In the second inning, Winters game up a double to the first batter he faced, who was subsequently driven in by a sacrifice fly. In the third inning, one of the Savannah batters hit a home run, as did a Sand Gnat in the fourth inning. After facing three batters in the fifth, Winters was pulled with runners on second and third. Taking the mound in his place was Alex Caldera. Caldera pitched 2.2 innings of no-hit, one walk baseball, picking up three Ks along the way. In the top of the 8th, Caldera was replaced by Grant Dayton, who pitched both the eighth and the ninth. Dayton gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, as well as two doubles. He also notched up three Ks and was the pitcher of record when the winning run scored, so he gets credited with the win. This was another great example of the Hoppers bullpen really performing solidly for the team.

Here’s what I thought was a cool picture of Ryan Fisher. I think he was swinging and missing in this shot.

Offensively, the Hoppers impressive from the beginning, then mostly lacking until the very end. Noah Perio started the first inning with a double to right field. On the first pitch he saw, Marcell Ozuna hit a home run, bringing the score 2-0, Hoppers. The Sand Gnats chipped away at that lead, scoring a run in each of the second, third, and fourth innings. The Hoppers tied the score at 3 in the fifth inning when Ryan Fisher hit a solo home run to right that left the park with such force that I think it sailed over the Mariott and all the way to Alamance County before landing. There were no more scoring plays until the Savannah home run in the eighth put them ahead 4-3. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Aaron Dudley replaced Wilfredo Giminez as a pinch-hitter. Immediately, the Sand Gnats responded by replacing their pitcher to create what they believed would be a better pitcher-hitter matchup. Their new pitcher walked Dudley, who was then replaced by Joe Bonadonna as a pinch runner on first. At this point, the bases were loaded and the Hoppers were poised to take advantage of the situation when Ryan Fisher came to bat, but he ended the inning by striking out. The ninth was the crucial inning for the Hoppers. The Sand Gnats got a runner as far as second, but did not score. The bottom of the ninth kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Isaac Galloway reached first on a walk, but was put out on a fielder’s choice when Danny Black bunted. Noah Perio struck out. With two outs on the board, Marcell Ozuna hit a home run to left field that was just fair of the foul pole, but the umpire ruled it foul. This caused Andy Haines to engage in impassioned debate with the umpire about the call, eventually getting ejected. As he left the field, he got Marcell’s attention and yelled at him to do it again. Instead of doing it again, Marcell walked. With runners on first and second and Christian Yelich at the plate, the pitcher balked. With first base now open but runners on the other bags, the pitcher walked (probably intentionally, but they were playing it close) Yelich. With the bases loaded and Mark Canha stepping up to the plate, the Sand Gnats made one final pitching change. It turned out to be a mistake, because Canha hit a solid double to center field. Black scored to tie. Ozuna scored to win. The Hoppers dugout exploded for the second time (it also emptied when Ozuna hit the ball that was called foul).

Here’s what Ozuna looked like hitting the home run he was robbed of:

Cahna got an ice water shower. Then he got a shaving cream pie in the face. The fans loved it. The team loved it.

This puts Greensboro in a great advantage going into the rest of the series. This series is best of five, and it’s great for the Hoppers to already have a one game lead. The next game will be played tomorrow night in Greensboro. Then, the teams go to Savannah to play on Thursday, and if necessary, Friday and Saturday. Personally, I’m hoping for a sweep. It’s been a long time since Greensboro has brought home the SAL title. This might be the year for it to happen.

Here’s how I had the game. Full of excitement, especially at the end..

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?

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoppersFan

Hoppers Are Hot On Tropical Jersey Night (8/11/2011)

Tonight’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Lakewood Blueclaws was the perfect example of what makes baseball exciting. The Hoppers struggled almost all night, falling behind from the very start, and unable to take the lead until the eighth inning. But when they took the lead, they took the lead. Going into the eighth, the Hoppers were behind 2-1. Then they scored 5 runs. The Blueclaws scored a solo home run in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough to overpower the successful rally and the Hoppers took the 2nd game in this series, 6-3. Check out the official box score and recap for the details.

The highlight of the night for me was winning the bidding on Kyle Winters‘ game-used tropical jersey!

The Hoppers Fan and Kyle Winters After the Game

The Hoppers Fan and Kyle Winters After the Game

Every year, they have “Tropical Jersey” night. The players wear special “tropical” jerseys and the team auctions them off throughout the game. This year, I had decided that I wanted to win Kyle’s jersey if I could. The bidding went right up to my limit, but in the end, I had the highest bid. I was thrilled! After the game, all the winners went on the field and the players came out and gave them the jerseys, literally off their back.

View From The Field, Waiting For The Jerseys

View From The Field, Waiting For The Jerseys

It was great to get to chat with Kyle a little more. I saw him before the game and told him I was bidding on his jersey and he wished me luck. At the end of the night, he seemed happy to see that I had won it and we had a great chat on the field.

Here’s a couple of pictures of him pitching tonight:

Kyle Winters Pitching

Kyle Winters Pitching

Kyle Winters Pitching

Kyle Winters Pitching

Since he’s newly off the DL, they only had him pitch four innings. The first inning was really rough — the first three batters reached base on singles, the first batter eventually making it home. Thankfully, the inning ended with a strikeout then a beautiful unassisted double play by Mark Canha. The first batter Kyle faced in the second inning hit the ball hard over the left field wall. I’m not sure if the ball has landed yet. After that, Kyle kept getting better. Of the remaining 11 batters he faced, he got one more strikeout, didn’t allow any more runs, only one more hit, and issued only one walk. Especially for a rehab start, I’d call it a success. I’m looking forward to seeing how his next several starts go.

After Kyle was done, he was replaced by James Leverton for four innings (who got the win) and Michael Brady for the final inning, in a non-save situation.

The eighth inning was the exciting inning. Jay Johnson was pitching (and got changed with both a blown save and the loss) for the Blueclaws. All nine Hoppers batters got to bat. It started with Noah Perio, who singled. Marcell Ozuna struck out. Christian Yelich walked and Perio went to second. Mark Canha singled and made it to second on the throw as Perio scored and Yelich advanced to third. Wilfredo Giminez pinch hit for Aaron Dudley, singling and driving in both Yelich and Canha. Jacob Realmuto flied out. Danny Black singled and Giminez made it to third. While Ryan Fisher was at bat, Black stole second. Then, both Giminez and Black scored on a throwing error by Blueclaws catcher Cameron Rupp. It was a really funny play — Giminez had a bit of a lead off third and Rupp tried to pick him off. His throw was about three feet over the third baseman’s head and went into left field. Giminez jogged in, apparently not realizing that Black was flying behind him like a freight train. Giminez barely got out of the way for Black to touch home, just before the ball came in to try to tag him out. Fisher went on to single. The Blueclaws finally had enough of Johnson, and they replaced him with Tyler Knigge, who struck out Isaac Galloway to end the inning. The turn around was spectacular. The fans were on their feet. There was energy in the ballpark again. The top of the ninth was quick, the only excitement coming from a great home run from Bill Rice. It wasn’t enough, though, and the game ended with the Hoppers on top, 6-3. Five of those six runs came in the eighth inning. That’s how baseball works, it turns around quickly.

It was a good day for ball snagging and autographs, too. I made it out to the park early again and had a very successful day snagging balls during batting practice, ending up with an even ten. I gave a few away throughout the night. During a bit of a break in BP, I played catch with fellow snaggers Josh and Jonathan. I can’t throw worth a hill of beans, and my catching was pretty off tonight, too, but thy put up with me. We played until I had to quit because of my back pain. That worked out fine, though, ’cause BP was picking back up and there were a few more balls to be snagged.

I got Robert Morey’s autograph on one one of the BP balls before the game. You might remember Morey from the complete game shut-out he pitched a few weeks ago. I also got his autograph on his baseball card. With his autograph, that leaves me with only 3 more Hoppers players still on the roster that I don’t have autographs for. In addition to Morey’s autograph, I also got Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna on their SAL All-Star cards.

 

Robert Morey Autograph

Robert Morey Autograph

Autographs: Robert Morey, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna

Autographs: Robert Morey, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna

The Hoppers need to keep winning like this. We’re still five and a half games out of first for the second half title. It will be hard, but there’s still a shot of making it to the playoffs. Bill Hass describes the scenarios in his blog — go check it out: Hoppers begin crucial home stretch. Oh, look — as I was looking up that blog entry, I noticed that Bill has posted another entry about tonight’s game. Go check it out, too: Hoppers seize the moment and the game. Bill gives his own take on the beautiful eighth inning, peppered with some great insider commentary from the players and managers. If you’re not already following the Bill on Baseball blog, you need to start now.

It’s an exciting time to be a Hoppers fan.

Here’s how I had the game scored. Check out that bottom of the eighth. It’s just beautiful.

Scorecard 8/11/2011: Greensboro (6) v Lakewood (3)

Scorecard 8/11/2011: Greensboro (6) v Lakewood (3)

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?

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoppersFan

Greensboro Takes Lakewood To The Cleaners (8/10/2011)

Today’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game was against the Lakewood Blueclaws. The Hoppers dominated the game, defeating the Blueclaws 8-2. Check out the official box score and game recap for the details.

I was thrilled for the boys to be back in town after a long stretch away. I even made it out to batting practice before they had set the batting cage up.

Batting Practice

Batting Practice

Batting practice was great today. I got there a few minutes before my friend Jonathan arrived and snagged 2 balls. The first ball cleared the nets and bounced in the middle of Eugene Street before hitting a truck that was driving down the road. It didn’t appear to do any damage, and rolled down the block to the Greek restaurant. I jogged over to retrieve it, and another ball left the park while I was getting it. It was resting against the fence and I picked it up on the way back. It was a beautiful ball that looked barely used. Once in the park, I got Marcell Ozuna to autograph it.

Marcell Ozuna Autograph

Marcell Ozuna Autograph

After Jonathan arrived for BP, the balls kept coming out of the park. Between the two of us, we must have gone home with at least a dozen. And we got to watch a tow truck run out of gas. Each of the folks in the tow truck managed to snag a ball while waiting for gas to arrive. Lots of fun.

When I got in the park, I saw all sorts of folks I knew. Several families that I know from church were there. I also saw lots of the regular fans I tend to see at most of the games. It was a great time. I spent the time before the game working on completing my autograph collection. I added Zach Neal and Willie Glen from the Hoppers to my collection. I also got Lakewood’s Domingo Santana’s autograph on the SAL Prospect card. He accidentally signed the Jesse Biddle card I had, too. Pretty funny — so now might the Biddle card be interesting to someone as a “misprint”? Santana was very apologetic about it. I told him not to worry. It really was my fault as much as anything — I didn’t point out the card I wanted signed, and both of the Blueclaws cards I had were right next to each other.

Autographs: Zach Neal, WIllie Glen, Domingo Santana, Domingo Santana on Jesse Biddle Card

Autographs: Zach Neal, WIllie Glen, Domingo Santana, Domingo Santana on Jesse Biddle Card

I also got a chance to chat with my favorite pitcher, Kyle Winters, who is finally off the DL. He’s scheduled to start tomorrow, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him on the mound again.

Then it was time to settle in for the game. And what a great game it was. For the Hoppers, there were three home runs, a triple, and a double. Noah Perio hit the triple on his very first at bat and Marcell Ozuna knocked him in on a ground out. The second inning saw two home runs: Aaron Dudley and Ryan Fisher. Danny Black scored on Fisher’s home run, too, after having expertly stole second base while Fisher was batting. The third inning saw a 2-run homer by Jacob Realmuto (which won me a Red Mango gift card). Ryan Fisher scored again in the fourth inning, having reached base on a single. The fifth through seventh innings were quiet for the Hoppers offense. In the eighth, Ryan Fisher put another run on the board  after having reached base on a double. With three at bats (on four plate appearances, having been walked in the fifth), Fisher was batting 1.000 — a homer, a single, and a double. He was awarded player of the game at the end of the contest. Defensively, pitcher Rhett Varner had a nice looking no-no through the first three innings, but allowed a single in the fourth to break it up. He kept them to no runs until the sixth inning, where he allowed the only two runs Lakewood scored. He was relieved by Jordan Conley for the final two innings. Conley only allowed one hit, in the ninth. The game moved very quickly (official time was 2:25), and a big part of that was the efficiency both Hoppers pitchers displayed. Conley, especially, kept the game moving at a quick pace as he retired batters and didn’t take much time between pitches.

Mark Canha at bat

Mark Canha at bat

The Hoppers are struggling in the second half of the season. It’s still possible for them to make the playoffs, but it’s going to be difficult. If they can keep playing — and winning — like they did tonight, they have a chance at making it. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Here’s how I had the game:

Scorecard: Greensboro (8) vs Lakewood (2), 8/10/2011

Scorecard: Greensboro (8) vs Lakewood (2), 8/10/2011

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?

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoppersFan

Isaac Galloway And The Sunset

06/24/2011 – GSO Grasshoppers v HAG Suns (Game 2)

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!”

Hoping for a Harper autograph

Hoping for a Harper autograph

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:

Bryce Harper autographed ball

Bryce Harper autographed ball

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.”

Invitation for Bryce Harper to "Kiss This"

Invitation for Bryce Harper to "Kiss This"

Bryce Harper On Deck

Bryce Harper On Deck

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.

Michael Taylor Autograph

Michael Taylor Autograph

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.

Isaac Galloway And The Sunset

Isaac Galloway And The Sunset

And a little later, after it got a little darker, James Wooster at bat:

James Wooser Under The Lights

James Wooser Under The Lights

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?

See ya at the ballpark!
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