Tagged: bryce harper

Guest Post from Bill Hass: Jackie Robinson And His Ties To Greensboro

Jackie Robinson swinging a bat in Dodgers uniform, 1954.

Jackie Robinson swinging a bat in Dodgers uniform, 1954.

Over the last couple decades Greensboro has seen some incredible, sometimes historic ballplayers grace the diamond. Andy Petitte, Derek JeterMariano Rivera, Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton, Bryce Harper, Brian McCann, and Ryan Howard have all brushed through Greensboro. Some of the ballplayers were on the Greensboro team that was affiliated with the New York Yankees, others played for the Marlins affiliate. Some even played on opposing teams that gave us a chance to get a glimpse at a major leaguer in a minor league ballpark. Before the season started Greg and I went to go see the movie “42” together. It tells the story of Jackie Robinson‘s entry into Major League Baseball. Phenomenal movie. I realized during that movie, that I didn’t know that much about good ol’ Jackie.  So I started doing some research and anything that had his name on it, I was intrigued to read it. It wasn’t too much longer, Bill On Baseball‘s Bill Hass wrote me a message to check out his article in the Greensboro Grasshoppers game day program. It was about Jackie Robinson and his ties to Greensboro. Bill has been so gracious to give us permission to share with you guys his story on baseball’s Hall Of Famer, Jackie Robinson, and his connections to Greensboro.

Jackie Robinson And His Ties To Greensboro
by Bill Hass

Jackie Robinson’s impact on the game of baseball and society in America was immense.

I don’t think I fully understood to what extent until I wrote a story in 2004 for the News & Record of Greensboro. It focused on how the stands were segregated in War Memorial Stadium, which didn’t change until the early 1960s.

One of the people I interviewed was Spencer Gwynn, the long-time voice of football and basketball at North Carolina A&T, who summed up what Robinson meant to African-Americans in 25 words.

“Black people all over the country identified with him,” Gwynn said. “When Jackie struck out, we struck out. When Jackie stole a base, we stole a base.”

Many people don’t realize that Robinson played three times in Memorial Stadium. Or they may remember two games, in 1950 and 1951, when the Brooklyn Dodgers played the Greensboro Patriots in exhibition games as they traveled north from spring training in Florida.

But the largely forgotten game, and the first time Robinson played here, came on Oct. 14, 1949. Robinson had a team of barnstorming all-stars that came to town to play against a local team of black all-stars.

Segregation of Memorial Stadium’s stands was suspended for that day. An advance story in the Greensboro Daily News noted that “a special section of box and reserved seats has been set aside for white spectators.”

That meant black fans, instead of having to sit in “their section” down the foul line behind first base, could sit anywhere.

Robinson’s presence created what Gwynn called “an electric crowd.” The official attendance was listed at 6,620 and Robinson was quoted as saying, “I know 3,000 crawled over the fences that weren’t counted.”

Robinson’s team won, 11-5. One of the opposing players was James Tonkins, a second baseman for the Greensboro Red Birds, a semi-pro team that played its games in Memorial Stadium.

“I remember he went sightseeing on old East Market Street, meeting people,” Tonkins told me. “It seemed like he went on campus (at N.C. A&T) that day.

“What fascinated me so much was how pigeon-toed he was, almost like he was walking on the tips of his toes. He was quite a guy, real outgoing. His appearance created quite a bit of interest.”

So did Robinson’s second appearance, on April 11, 1950. The Dodgers crushed the Patriots 22-0 and Robinson had three hits and two RBIs and scored twice. Attendance was 8,434, the largest crowd up until then to watch a baseball game in North Carolina.

The crowd probably was larger. Patriots owner Rufus Blanchard estimated that 1,500 youngsters slipped over the fence. One account told of 500 people “clinging perilously to tree branches and rooftops outside the stadium.”

For some reason I did not document, at least in that story, Robinson’s third appearance here. It came in April of 1951 and it’s likely the Dodgers won and the crowd was large.

I started thinking about all this after recently seeing the movie “42,” an account of 1947, the year Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues. For the most part, it was well done and a fitting tribute to what Robinson endured that season, set against the background of the social changes he helped set in motion.

The movie strived to be as authentic as possible — the physical resemblance between Robinson and actor Chadwick Boseman is uncanny — although it took some dramatic license with incidents and characters.

Two characters in the movie, both of whom are cast in a bad light, have a Greensboro connection. Dixie Walker, Robinson’s teammate, played with the Patriots in 1928 at age 17, although he appeared in just six games.

Walker is accurately depicted as one of the Dodgers who signed a petition — rejected by team president Branch Rickey — saying they would not play if Robinson was a member of the team. Although the movie implies otherwise, there is no evidence Walker gave Robinson a hard time during their season together.

In his biography “I Never Had It Made,” Robinson uses a quote from Walker that appeared in The Sporting News: “Dixie Walker summed it up in a few words the other day when he said: ‘No other ballplayer on this club with the possible exception of Bruce Edwards, has done more to put the Dodgers up in the race than Robinson has. He is everything Branch Rickey said he was when he came up from Montreal.”

Another “villain” in the movie is Pittsburgh pitcher Fritz Ostermueller. Unlike Walker, he didn’t just pass through Greensboro. He pitched for the Patriots in 1931, going 15-9, and in 1932, when he was 21-9.

In the movie Ostermueller, who died of cancer at age 50 in 1956, is shown as hitting Robinson in the head with a pitch and saying “You don’t belong here.” But there are several problems with the scene.

First, he was a left-hander, not right-handed as the movie shows. Second, research by several sources indicates that while Robinson was hit by Ostermueller’s pitch, it wasn’t in the head. The pitch may have been up and in, but Robinson was struck in the left forearm that he raised to protect himself, then fell to the ground. And there is no account that says Ostermueller shouted at Robinson.

The Dodgers are shown rallying around the fallen Robinson and shouting at Ostermueller, and accounts of the day bear that out.

Ostermueller’s daughter, Sherrill Duesterhaus, has publicly criticized the directors for unfairly portraying her father as a racist. Robinson didn’t seem bothered by the incident. In his book, the only mention of Ostermueller, whom he referred to as “Fitz,” is that during a game in Pittsburgh, Robinson noticed the pitcher had become “a little careless and relaxed.” So he stole home with what turned out to be the winning run.

Make what you will of Walker and Ostermueller. I just found it interesting that two players with Greensboro backgrounds played important parts in “42.”

There are two more indirect connections between Jackie Robinson and Greensboro. One came in 2002, when the second baseman for the Greensboro Bats was Robinson Cano, now a star for the New York Yankees. Cano told me his father named him for Jackie Robinson.

The other connection concerns Mariano Rivera, the great Yankees closer who played for the Greensboro Hornets in 1991 and 1993. Rivera, who will retire after this season, is the last player in the major leagues to wear the number 42, which was permanently retired several years ago for all teams.

It seems a fitting legacy that the now-famous number of Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson is being worn for the last time by future Hall-of-Famer Mariano Rivera.

That is one thing that makes Greensboro such a spectacular place to watch a game. You never know who you are watching make history. With storied names like Robinson, Jeter, Stanton, Petitte, Fernandez, it just makes Greensboro all the more fun. If you looked back in the history pages you would see that it has been and forever will be… A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!!!


Once again, we offer a sincere thank you to Bill Hass for sharing this incredible story. You can check out all of Bill’s stories on his “Bill On Baseball” blog. This story about Jackie Robinson is also set to run again in the Greensboro Grasshoppers program during their June 24-30 home stand against the Asheville Tourists and the Delmarva Shorebirds, so be sure to check it out in print when you’re at the ballpark next week!


West Virginia’s Power Surge was a bit much for the Hoppers

Tonight was a very rainy and dreary night for baseball.  It was spitting drizzling rain all afternoon and into the evening.  In the past, statistics would show that the Hoppers generally do good and come away with a win on days that it rains, or has rained that day.  Tonight, the West Virginia Power just couldn’t let the Hoppers flip their circuit.  

Right out the gate tonight, West Virginia comes surging out to put two men on base, first and second.  Then Gregory Polanco shocked a three run homer to give the Power the early 3-0 lead.  That homer would barely roll over the fence for Polanco.  That would be his 13th home run of the season for the Power.  Josh Adams would then answer in the bottom of the second with a homer of his own.  Which by the way, I now possess!!!  I’ll be getting him to sign his home run ball later in the week.  Josh is one of my favorite players so to get his home run ball is rather exciting!  This was Josh Adams 13th home run of the season as well.  This would be one of the Hoppers only three hits of the night.  With the Power surging tonight, Greensboro had their hands full!


Starting pitcher on the night was Josh Hodges.  He threw 7 innings, allowed 8 hits and 4 strikeouts.  He would be relieved by James Nygren who would sling the final two innings, allowing 3 hits and 1 strikeout.  Click for a Full Recap and Box Score of tonights game.  West Virginia pitchers would have a combined 7 strikeouts and would only allow 3 hits on the night.  The Hoppers put forth a valiant effort, but West Virginia would cut the power to Greensboro winning by a score of 5-1.  This would drop the Hoppers to 60-41 on the year and 14-17 in the second half.

I dodged the rain quite a bit tonight but I did manage to take advantage of Money Off Monday, purchasing dollar sodas and dollar hot dogs!  The Hoppers do a great job with the promotional nights and between inning games.  Tonight the crowd was a little thin, but to those of us that waited out the rain, it was worth it.  Because win or lose, THERE IS NO QUIT in our boys.  That is what makes me proud to be a Hopper, and that’s also why IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!


(Note:  Don’t forget to click here for ALL pictures taken at tonights game)

Good News/Bad News as Suns Down Hoppers Tonight

When I left the house tonight, I honestly thought the game would be rained out, maybe even a delay or two.  However, not even a drop of rain fell during the three hour affair in Greensboro.  The weather remained dreary and humid with an on field temperature of 86 degrees.

You could say tonights game was a GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS deal.

Good News: Rand Smith had three hits on five at bats.  Two which occurred in both the eighth and ninth inning while trying to start a rally.

Bad News: Josh Adams, Ryan Goetz, and James Wooster were each held to only one hit at five at bats

Good News: Shortstop Terrence Dayleg and relief pitcher Kevin Cravey will be activated back to the roster. Dayleg is the defensive anchor of the infield and Cravey will bolster the bullpen.

Bad News: To make room, reliever and 2011 SAL Championship pitcher, Chris Shafer will rejoin Jupiter and infielder Yeison Hernandez will return to Jamestown.

Good News: Brent Keys and Austin Barnes are only looking at a matter of days till they will be activated from the DL.

Bad News: With tonights loss, the Hoppers dropped to 6-13 and are currently 8 games behind the first place Hickory Crawdads

Bill Hass had the privilege of speaking to Manager Dave Berg tonight and captured Berg’s opinion in the latest Bill On Baseball entry:

“It will be a big difference,” manager David Berg said of getting players back. “The first half of the season we were healthy. I don’t know if we had a position player on the DL. The second half has not been kind to us in that regard. Now we’re adding the guys who got us to where we were.”

And with those additions back to the roster and the acquisition of Austin Nola I definitely think we’ll be back to where we were in no time at all!  So with all that said, IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!


Click for box score and full recap of tonights game.  As well as, all names and teams have been linked to their milb profiles so you can keep up with all your favorite players!  You can also check out Bill Hass’ Official Blog by clicking here

Senne “In The City” Goes 4-4, Not Enough To Take Care Of Crawdads

Between the threat of thunderstorms, a hundred degree heat, and the holiday weekend the stands sat a little empty today.  If they had been there they would have witnessed Aaron Senne hit a perfect game at four hits and four at bats.  They would also have witnessed Wooster’s superman catch over the Mercedes sign in midfield for the 3rd out in the 9th.  Had that hit not been caught out of the sky the game would have been over in nine, with the Hickory Crawdads on top.

Aaron Senne had a phenomenal game today with four hits at four at bats.  A Ryan Goetz homer out to right field looked like it made a u-turn at the sun, before coming back down.  John Shultz had a good day as well, having 3 hits on 6 at bats and sliding in to score a run in the second.  Between Ryan Goetz homer in the first and Shultz score in the second, the Hoppers would not be able to mount anything for another 10 innings.  The Hoppers would go down 4-2 to the Hickory Crawdads.

Starting pitcher on the mound today was Jose Urena.  He would sling six innings, allow five hits and 3 strikeouts.  He would be relieved by Daniel Oliver who would pitch two innings, allow no hits and two strikeouts.  Greg Nappo would start out the  ninth inning and pitch three innings, allowing one hit and three strikeouts.  Losing pitcher on the day was Chris Shafer.  He allowed four hits, no strikeouts, and the two winning runs.

With the loss today the Hoppers drop to 51-30 overall and 5-6 in the second half.  The Hoppers are still only 3 games back courtesy of some other losses around the league this week.  The Hoppers will be back at home tomorrow night facing the first place Hickory Crawdads.  Hope to see you out there, and remember, WIN OR LOSE, IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!


(Photo Courtesy of Don Moore)

Hoppers Nine-Hole Hitters Deliver The Win (8/24/2011)

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:

Grasshoppers’nine-hole hitters today: 2-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI in a 3-1 game. Noah Perio comes in for Joe Bonadonna and hits a 2-run shot.

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:

Spaz, Mike, and Laura Bring Back Disco

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 Neal Pitching

Zach Neal 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:

Greg Nappo pitching

Finally, here’s a picture of Joe Bonadonna coming home after hitting his solo homer:

Joe Bonadonna's 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.

Autographs: Jameson Taillon, Andy Haines

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.”

Autographs: Jameson Taillon, Mark Canha

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:

Jameson Taillon Autograph, Photo Credit: Pete

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.

8/24/2011 Scorecard: Greensboro (3) v West Virginia (1)

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

N-O-E-L (not Y-M-C-A)

Hoppers Beat Suns In Game 3 Of Series (06/25/2011)

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”):

N-O-E-L (not Y-M-C-A)

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.

Jacob Realmuto At Bat

Jacob Realmuto At Bat

Grant Dayton Pitching

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.

Anniversary Autograph

Anniversary Autograph

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.

Happy Anniversary, Tom and Carol!

Happy Anniversary, Tom and Carol!

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?

See ya at the ballpark!
Hoppers Fan on Facebook

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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