Tonight’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the West Virginia Power was a true joy to attend on many fronts. Obviously, a Hoppers victory is always a pleasure. I also spent the evening at the game with Donald, one of my good friends. Finally, it was a huge day for adding to my autograph collection. The Hoppers won, 3-1. Check out the official box score and game recap for the details, but I think Twitter user @CBinder513 said it best:
Seriously, it was that exciting. You don’t usually expect decisive gameplay from the bottom of your lineup, but tonight, the Hoppers delivered. When the Power put a run on the board in the sixth inning, Joe Bonadonna responded by blasting a solo home run high over left field. At first, I thought it had drifted foul, but it was ruled fair. Especially since Joe doesn’t get as much playing time as his teammates, it was great to see him hit that homer. The official score had him going 1-2, but I scored his plate appearance in the fourth as a sacrifice bunt, so I had him 1-1. I don’t disagree with the official scorer, though. Then, with the score tied at 1 apiece, Noah Perio replaced Bonadonna in the eighth and hit a home run of his own, very high over right-center field. Isaac Galloway had just reached on a double, so Perio’s homer brought him in as well. It was pretty awesome. After last night’s loss, it was great to come back and get a solid win.
I’ve got a few pictures with highlights from the game, and a bunch of pictures on the Facebook photo album.
FIrst, let’s celebrate the promotion of the night by checking out Spaz, Mike, and Laura in their disco attire:
I totally want a big black fuzzy hat like Spaz has.
How about our starting pitcher, Zach Neal? I think this was his 2nd start after coming off the disabled list. He lasted three and two-third innings, allowed two hits, issued three walks, and one strike-out. I think it was a pretty good start for him. Here he is pitching:
Zach was replaced by Greg Nappo (whose autograph I got at Monday’s game), who pitched three and a third innings and delivered an impressive seven strikeouts. Four of those Ks were in a row — batters 2-5 that he faced. He allowed four hits, the only run, and issued just one walk. I was very impressed and hope that I get to see him pitch again before the season’s over. Here’s a picture of Greg pitching:
Finally, here’s a picture of Joe Bonadonna coming home after hitting his solo homer:
Earlier, I mentioned it was a great night for me for autographs. Let me show them to you. First, there were my baseball cards. I got Power’s pitcher Jameson Taillon‘s autographed on the two cards out of the SAL All-Star sets I have. I also got Hoppers Manager Andy Haines’ autograph on his card. Andy was especially kind to come back to the tunnel to sign my card before the game after having to do some actual baseball-related work just before they introduced the umpires.
I also got a couple of baseballs autographed. Jameson Taillon and one of my favorite Hoppers, Mark Canha. I’m going to miss Mark’s walk-up music next year — he always comes to the plate to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Lastly, I got yet another Jameson Taillon autograph. This one is particularly special, because it’s on a photograph that another fan, Pete, took at last night’s game:
Seriously, this photograph is totally awesome, super-boss, and just plain cool. My scan came out OK, but the actual print is killer. I’ll be getting a frame for this and adding it to the baseball mini-museum I’ve started curating in an empty cube at my office. (I’ll write a post about that in the off season….) Super-big thanks go out to Pete for giving me a copy of this picture so I can add it to my autograph collection. Looking through some of the pictures he’s taken this year, I know exactly what’s going on my birthday/Christmas wish list this year: a nice telephoto lens suitable for sports photography. I had never considered taking pictures at the game, printing them out, and then bringing them to the next game for autographs. It’s super cool.
So, why all the focus on autographs from a West Virginia Power pitcher? Yeah, I’m the Hoppers Fan, but I also enjoy good baseball, and Taillon is a player to watch. He was last year’s number two overall draft pick (second to Bryce Harper). He’s got a fastball that flirts with 100mph. He’s got a nice curveball. And he’s just 19. He’s definitely got a major league career ahead of him. It was exciting to watch him work last night. And he was very gracious to autograph-seeking fans like me tonight.
To top all of that off, I got to hang with my buddy Donald for the whole game. He even bought me a hot dog and a drink. Even more — he grabbed a foul ball tonight that bounced off the upper deck and headed back our way. As soon as he picked it up, he handed it to the kid in the row in front of us. Made that kid’s day. I’m not sure a better evening of baseball could be had.
Here’s how I had the game scored. Check out the action that Bonadonna and Perio delivered in the sixth and eighth innings.
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?
Tonight’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Lakewood Blueclaws put the nails on the coffin of a clean four-game sweep. As always, check the official box score and game recap for the details. Don’t forget to check out Bill Hass’ “Bill On Baseball” blog, where he wrote a great piece about about tonight’s game, including a description of the at bat you’ll see pictures from later in this blog entry: Zawacki wins battle, Hoppers get the sweep.
It was a great day for a game. The overnight and morning rain cooled things down enough to make it comfortable. Season ticket holders were able to get into the park early today. They didn’t have any special programs for us again, but they let us go stand by the outfield wall and try to catch balls that left the park. The wind was blowing in, so most of the balls were staying in, but I managed to get one ball that made it over.
By the time the game started, I headed over to my adopted new seats by the visitor’s dugout to enjoy the game with my friend Jonathan. We especially had a great time heckling Jim Murphy, who is sporting an awesome mustache. Before the game today, announcer Jim Scott gave a nod to the mustache by introducing him as “Jim ‘Stache’ Murphy.” Jonathan even brought his fake mustache from home to help with the heckling:
Murphy’s been having a tough time in Greensboro. He hit a double yesterday, but that’s the only hit he had in the entire series. I think he ended up being one for fourteen for the series. The only time he made it on base today was via a walk. Remember earlier when I said that Bill Hass’ blog entry describes some pictures you’ll be seeing here? Well here they are — Jim Murphy’s final swing of the evening, striking out. It’s what Bill described as pitcher Greg Nappo’s crossroads:
When the game started, I was concerned that the Hoppers wouldn’t be able to keep their winning streak up. The first Lakewood batter reached base on a single and the second batter knocked him in on a two-run homer. Fortunately, those were the only runs Lakewood scored. Offensively, the Hoppers went to work chipping away at that lead. Marcell Ozuna scored on some very smart baseball in the first inning. He tripled, and when Christian Yelich was out on a dropped third strike, Ozuna was able to run home quicker then Cameron Rupp and Jim Murphy were able to complete a 2-3-2 volley. The fact that Ozuna even attempted to score on the dropped third strike took Lakewood by surprise. They weren’t particularly hustling to get the out recorded, and I’m not sure they even knew Ozuna was running until their dugout started yelling and pointing. It’s also a testament to the great instincts Ozuna has and the fine third base coaching manager Andy Haines provides. The Hoppers’ second run came in the third when Isaac Galloway scored on an Ozuna single, after having reached base on a single himself and advancing to second via either a wild pitch or passed ball. Galloway played the hero by brining in the final two Hoppers runs on a high-over-center-field homer that also drove in Ryan Fisher. Galloway was on fire tonight: 3 at bats, 3 hits (single, double, home run), 2 runs, and 2 RBIs.
As impressive as our offensive was, once again, the game came down to pitching. Of the 11 strikeouts recorded by Greensboro’s three pitchers (Greg Nappo (W, 4-0), Brett Zawacki (H, 1), and Michael Brady (S, 16)), a full 7 of them were called third strikes looking. Our pitchers simply displayed stuff that was difficult to hit and threw pitches that Lakewood didn’t want to swing at.
Here’s some pictures of tonight’s three pitchers: Nappo, Zawicki, and Brady.
I didn’t sketch out my scorecard in time for the game today, so I kept score in the program. Here’s how I had it:
With tonight’s win, the Hoppers pull themselves even with Lakewood in the 2nd half. We’re chipping away at that playoff spot. Tomorrow starts a four game series against the Augusta GreenJackets. They’re currently doing very well and could present a stumbling block for the Hoppers. But with the momentum the team has established, and the great pitching we’ve been seeing lately, the team’s got a good shot if they can keep doing what they’re doing. We’ll see how it goes.
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. I’ve been playing with a new camera, so some of them don’t embiggen well since I had bad settings on it. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
Last night’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Lakewood Blueclaws was another great success. Although the Blueclaws outhit the Hoppers 6-3, two of those Hoppers hits were solo homers, and the only runs of the game. Final score: 2-0 Hoppers. Check out the official box score and game recap for the official details. We’re still five and a half games out of first, but these wins against Lakewood have closed the gap some. That graphic to the right came from the official Hoppers website and shows exactly what the Hoppers need to overcome in order to get on top. A win against Lakewood tonight (if there’s a game, it’s currently raining pretty steadily) will bring us even with Lakewood, and one step closer to the top.
The day started out pretty slow. I got to BP about the same time my friend Jonathan did, and we noticed that the wind was blowing into the park. We figured that would keep most of the balls inside. A couple of minutes later, Kenyon and Josh joined us and the three of them headed across the street for a game of catch while I watched BP from the fence. Our theory about it being a slow day for BP balls turned out to be right, as only three left the park. We gave two away to a couple of kids who had come to watch through the fence, too, standing on their bikes in order to see over the outfield wall. They were very appreciative and seemed thrilled to be able to go home with a souvenir. Another reason it was a light day for BP balls is that the Blueclaws didn’t even take BP. The Hoppers started later than usual, and I guess there simply wasn’t enough time for Lakewood to have a turn. Or maybe that was the plan from the beginning. With BP over and a few minutes before the gates were going to be open, we all just kinda wandered around doing our own thing.
Shortly before the gates opened up, the sky opened up and it started raining. Hard. Most everyone took shelter under the concourse on Bellemeade street. When the gates opened, it was still raining, and the tarp was on the field:
There was plenty of room to stay dry inside the park and everyone seemed to know that the storm would pass quickly enough and we’d get a game on. In the mean time, pitcher Miguel Mejia was at the autograph table signing autographs. I got his signature on a ball:
Sure enough, the rain soon ended, the tarp was removed, and the field became playable. The game started after about an hour delay, and moved very quickly — total time was 2:11. For the Hoppers, Alex Caldera made the start (and got the win). He pitched 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, and issued 1 walk. He was replaced by Grant Dayton in the 8th, who pitched 2 innings, gave up 1 hit, didn’t issue any walks, and picked up the save. The word of the day for pitching was “strikeout,” as Caldera recorded 9 and Dayton recorded 3. They were about to run out of places in the K-Zone to hang the Ks. Offensively, the Hoppers didn’t look spectacular, but they certainly got the job done. The only Hoppers hits came from Marcell Oznua (who homered in the first), Danny Black (who singled in the fifth), and Jacob Realmuto (who homered in the seventh). If 2/3 of the hits are going to be homers, I’m not going to complain.
Bill Hass has written a great blog entry about Caldera’s start, describing the history of how Caldera came to be pitching for the Hoppers and including some quotes from both Caldera and manager Andy Haines about the seven-inning shutout performance. Be sure to check it out: Caldera makes most of fresh start.
It was a great game, and like I said in my last entry, it’s a great time to be a Hoppers fan.
I took more pictures, but neglected to dump them from the camera before my wife took the camera to a youth retreat this weekend. So the pictures I do have are from my phone. Oops. Poor planning on my part. I should have the rest of the pictures Monday.
Here’s how I had the game. With the threat of rain being what it was, I almost didn’t score it. But it turned out to be a great night for a ballgame and a great night to score it.
Tonight is the last of the season ticket holder Saturday events where they let us into the park an hour early. We’ll see how that works out with the steady rain we’ve been getting so far this morning. It’s still 9 hours until game time, so it can definitely get dry by then.
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?
After suffering back-to-back losses against the Kannapolis Intimidators, it was nice to come out of this one with a huge 11-5 win. The word of the day was “errors,” as that’s what Kannapolis kept making — by the end of the night, they had 5 errors (we had 0) and as a result, only 6 of our 11 runs were earned.
The day started slow. It was another of the special Season Ticket Holder Saturdays, where we were allowed to come into the park an hour before they opened the gates to the public. We could watch batting practice and get to hear a talk from someone interesting. Last time, it was GM Andy Haines who spoke for a bit, and took some Q&A. This time, it was supposed to be a scout, but there was apparently some mix-up and he wasn’t available. And BP was cancelled because of the rain.
Did I say rain? I mean rain and hail. At one point, and it doesn’t show up great in this picture, the entire outfield was covered in white because of the hail.
So the rain came in shortly after we got in the park. Instead of watching BP, we got to watch the tarp pull. And stand around eating free popcorn and peanuts with water and lemonade to drink. At this point, there were only two season ticket holders who showed up: Don and me. A little latter, Robert showed up. Since the weather and scheduling did so much to dampen the event, we got a bonus of 10 free lottery tickets. It was Las Vegas Night, and the promotion was the first 500 people would get 1 lottery ticket. So, we got 10 times as many. Of my 10, only one was a winner, and it was for $1.
Don and I also got a chance to have a brief chat with Andy Haines during the rain. Don asked why Christian Yelich is seeing so much action in center field instead of left. We’ve been speculating that it’s to teach him to run more — he seems sluggish in left, like maybe he’s not getting a good read on the ball when it’s hit. Andy said it was to get more exposure to different positions and help figure out where a good fit is. It was a fair, but diplomatic, answer.
Once the rain stopped, the field dried out fairly quickly. They have an amazing drainage system under that field.
The game got going sometime between 8:00 and 8:15ish and it moved along at a decent clip. One of the joys I have as a season ticket holder who has a seat next to non-season ticket seats is meeting all sorts of fans who come to the games and get the seats next to mine. For this game, I met a gentleman named Dan who was at the game with his kids. Everyone was having a great time, and Dan and I enjoyed chatting throughout the game. I go to most of the games by myself. Sometimes, I’ll travel throughout the stadium, visiting other regular attenders that I’ve gotten to know at the park. Sometimes, I’ll just enjoy the game from my regular seat and meet new friends. Everybody’s your friend at the ballpark.
As I mentioned earlier, the game was lots of fun — largely due to the significant lead we enjoyed for almost the entire game. Going into the 2nd, I was worried, as we were down 3 runs to 0. I was especially worried since we lost the two previous games and Jheyson Manzueta (who had yet to win a game) was our starting pitcher. But we got good in the 2nd and stayed that way. We ended up batting around, sending 10 batters to the plate, and scoring 5 runs. We scored another 2 in the 3rd, and 4 in the 5th. The Intimidators didn’t score any more until the 7th, and 2 more runs just weren’t enough to come close to our 11 run total. Manzueta got credited with the win, giving him a 1-5 record and bringing his ERA to 6.75 in 12 game starts, 50.2 innings pitched.
Check out the official box score, which is pretty close to how I had the game scored:
Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures.
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):
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.
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.
I used iScore to score the game. Here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):
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.
Last night, I attended the picnic that the Hoppers hold for their season ticket holders. I was really excited about it, ’cause it would be a chance to meet the players, have some good food, and watch batting practice.
I arrived at the ballpark just as they were starting and met my ticket rep, Kate. She was holding an extra Opening Day ticket for my wife, so I went ahead and picked that up. Then I headed over to where the food was going to be served and milled about a bit. After a few minutes, the players came out of the clubhouse and started mingling with the fans. The picture on the left shows them hanging out. They were really happy to chat with everyone and sign autographs. I looked for Kyle Skipworth (catcher) since he’s the only returning player from last year. I had his baseball card from last year’s set and wanted to get it autographed. He was great to chat with and said he was happy to be back in Greensboro. He likes it here, and I’m looking forward to watching him play before he moves up, which I expect to be soon.
After eating supper, I had a chance to chat with Curtis Peterson (right handed pitcher) for a while. He said that he was really enjoying Greensboro, loved the ballpark, and was looking forward to being able to explore some of the downtown attractions. He seemed like a really nice guy, and I want him to do well. Later in the evening, I watched him pitch a little bit and think he might have a future. It looked like he was struggling with his control a little bit, but he seemed confident enough that he’ll work through it just fine.
I also had a brief chat with manager Andy Haines, and got his autograph on a baseball. I had previously picked up autographs of several other players on the baseball, too. Hopefully, by the end of the season, I’ll have the full team.
Here are a couple of the autographs I got:
Before the team took batting practice, Andy Haines introduced all his staff and players by name and position. They were all standing on top of the dugout:
After the introductions, the players took the field for batting practice, which was really fun to watch. I also ran into a couple of my friends, Caroll and Jason, who are the chaplains for the team. The three of us had a great chat about the fantasy league we’re in this year, and about baseball in general. We’re all looking forward to the season.
The Hoppers let us stay as late as we wanted. I was having so much fun watching, I didn’t notice that pretty much everyone else left and I think I was the last one to leave. Everyone was extremely nice, from the players to the staff. It was a great little perk for season ticket holders, and I’m glad I went. It would be nice if they opened up batting practice more often.
Anyway, we’re less than a day away from Opening Day now. I can’t believe I’ve waited all winter and now the wait is finally over! I’m looking forward to it. If you’re at the game tomorrow, come find me and say “hi.” I’ll be in Section 104, Row Q, Seat 1.
Today was an exciting day at the ballpark. They had a press conference to welcome the new Hoppers manager, Andy Haines. The picture on the left is him granting an interview after the press conference was over.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a press conference before, so I was pretty excited to see how it would work. It was open to the public, so I decided to head over to the ballpark and check it out. I tweeted about it real-time over on @HoppersFan. The conference was scheduled for 10:00 and I showed up a few minutes before then. When I walked into the gift shop, where the conference was being held, I noticed that not many people had arrived. They had set up a small podium on a table, with a Greensboro Grasshoppers backdrop behind it. Sadly, the pictures I took of that were too blurry to include here. They had several rows of chairs set up for the audience. In the back of the room, they even had a little food table set up. I grabbed a danish, some fruit, and tasty cup of coffee.
Over the next few minutes, some more people wandered in and the room was pretty comfortably filled by the time they started the press conference. I don’t know the name of man who spoke first, but he welcomed everyone and gave Andy a short introduction. The Hoppers website has a nice story about Andy and other members of the field staff that has some good background information. When Andy stepped behind the podium, he appeared very relaxed and confident.
Andy made a brief statement, saying that he was excited and flattered to be part of the Grasshoppers organization. He immediately addressed the question on everyone’s mind: who’s going to be in the lineup? His answer is that the lineup is not set yet, but there are a lot of good prospects for Greensboro. He promised that the team will be an exciting team to watch.
After making his statement, Andy took questions from the floor. He talked about the relationships he already has with other members of his managing and coaching staff. He speculated about what players might return, noting that “it will be a dogfight in Spring Training” to secure spots throughout the Marlins organization. Someone asked what would be considered a success for the Grasshoppers vs. Marlins game, which elicited some chuckling from everyone in the room. Andy’s response was that we’re playing to win and that in baseball, anything can happen. He noted that one of his primary jobs as manager is to properly pace the players – to make sure they have appropriate amount of time off, etc. Someone asked him about the possibility of having two catchers and his response was that he’d love to have three, but doesn’t think the Marlins would let him. He said with three catchers, he’d be able to DH one of them.
At that point, the questions seemed to dwindle and they wrapped up the press conference. A couple of the reporters queued up to conduct some one-on-one interviews with Andy and I wondered around taking a few (blurry) pictures. My season ticket rep, Kate, came over and said hi. She pointed out that most of the people at the press conference that weren’t with the media were part of the Boosters organization. On my way out, Allison Moore (Director of Special Events & Hoppin’ Fun) introduced herself to me. She said that she had checked out this blog and that it was nice to have a fan’s perspective out there. Well, that’s what I’m doing – just putting one fan’s perspective out there.
The press conference was a lot of fun, but it made me even more excited for baseball season to start! Opening Day for the Hoppers is 40 days away.