Hickory Crawdads Stadium Opening Day
The image above is what is becoming a familiar sight on Opening Day for the Greensboro Grasshoppers. Since their inaugural season, 2005, the Hoppers have sent their starting pitcher to the mound 4 times to open the season. In 8 seasons, they are 4-4 of starting the season on Opening Day. That being said it is not uncommon around these parts to have a delay or postponement opening day. What is uncommon, in fact unprecedented, is being cancelled due to snow and sleet.
Scott Lyman, RHP
Today’s game in Hickory was set to be a great matchup. Scott Lyman, returning for his second year in Greensboro, was set to take the mound. This right hander will start out the season to improve on his 3 game win record and 6 losses. He threw 62 strikeouts out of 74 innings pitched. I’m very interested to see what kind of heat he can throw this year.
I’ll be armed with my camera and scorecards this season, to bring you all the latest action, scores, and fan highlights from each game. Greg, I believe, will be joining me this year a bit more, and WOOT WOO IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!!!
And for those of you wondering where your favorite Hoppers are… Here’s the list as of today.
Jose Fernandez– MIAMI MARLINS, Brent Keys— GSO Grasshoppers, Tony Caldwell— GSO Grasshoppers, Collin Cargill– Jupiter Hammerheads, Jose Urena– Jupiter Hammerheads, Wilfredo Gimenez– Jupiter Hammerheads, Noah Perio– Jupiter Hammerheads, Ryan Fisher– Jupiter Hammerheads, Austin Barnes–Jupiter Hammerheads, Josh Adams– Jupiter Hammerheads, Austin Nola– Jupiter Hammerheads, Matt Smith– Jupiter Hammerheads, Ryan Reiger– Jupiter Hammerheads, Ryan Goetz– Jupiter Hammerheads, Isaac Galloway– Jupiter Hammerheads, Aaron Senne “In the City”– Jupiter Hammerheads, Adam Conley– Jacksonville Suns, Marcell Ozuna– Jacksonville Suns, Danny Black– Jacksonville Suns, Rand Smith– Batavia Muckdogs
Don’t forget to click on your favorite player to link up to see the latest news, stats, and more! If your favorite player is not listed please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to locate that player for you. Thanks!
Many of you remember Jose Fernandez as the guy that showed up from Cuba to sling fastballs at the upwards of 100 mph. Jose also holds the distinction of providing the SAL League with their first no hitter of the season. And first ever in Greensboro’s history. You may also remember him from earlier in Spring Training he slung a 101mph fastball at Giancarlo Stanton’s helmet. Stanton was treated and later returned to swing another day. Jose is the number one prospect for the Miami Marlins Organization and was expected to start the 2013 season with the Marlins. He was sent down to the Minors Camp March 13. He is expected to start for the Jacksonville Suns.
“He was impressive,” manager Mike Redmond said. “He was exactly how everybody described him. Everybody said that I’d be impressed, and I was impressed with everything — the way he handled himself, the way he pitched, his command, his presence. His mound presence is great. You can tell he’s a competitor. He wants it. And that’s what you want. Those are the type of guys you want in the organization. His day will come.”
“I’m 20 years old,” Fernandez said. “I just can’t be upset. I pitched six innings, didn’t give up a run. I knew, I was going to get sent down, I was ready for it. … They told me, ‘Hopefully this is the last time.'”
It was a hot Sunday afternoon at the ballpark today. I wish I could say that Hoppers fans were rewarded with a win, but alas, we fell 6-5. This is our first loss for the 2nd half of the season, and the Hoppers are still leading the league, once again sharing the top spot with the Lakewood Blueclaws. Even with the loss, it was a great game. I put my rally cap on after two and a half innings, when the Hoppers were down 5-1, but it just wasn’t enough. It was beginning to look hopeful as the Hoppers picked up three runs in the fifth and sixth innings, putting the score 5-4 in favor of the Power going into the ninth. The Power scored another run in the top and when the Hoppers took the field in the bottom, they needed a measly two runs to tie. And it was looking good: the first three batters got on base with walks. When Justin Bass stepped up to the plate, the bases were loaded and there were no outs. Unfortunately, he grounded into a double play. Kyle Skipworth scored and Kyle Jensen made it to third. With two outs and the tying run on third, Chris Wade grounded out and the game was over. It was a tough loss since it got so close at the end, but sometimes even the power of my rally cap (and the two other rally caps I saw in my section) just isn’t enough to pull the team through.
What hurt the Hoppers the most? The grand slam that Rogelios Noris hit in the third. That sucked the wind out of our sails and proved to be a tough psychological break to get past. For the Hoppers, Mat Montgomery gets the loss, pitching seven innings and allowing five of the six runs. Sandy Rosario pitched the final two innings and allowed one run. Highlights of the game included watching Michael Pasek steal a couple of hits from the Power in the seventh inning. The first two batters hit line drives toward the gap between first and second, but Pasek was exactly where he needed to be to snag that ball out of the air. I think he got significant applause and appreciation from the fans after each of those catches.
The promotion for today was a team baseball card set. I’ve been looking forward to this giveaway all season. I love getting baseball cards, and then trying to find all the players to get the cards signed. I got three autographs today: Rand Smith, Chad Cregar, and Ramon Benjamin.
Before the game started, I headed over to the autograph table where Rand Smith was signing autographs. There was no one in line and he seemed happy to sign my card. I told him that I enjoyed watching him play last night (he made a couple of good plays) and he thanked me. After getting his autograph, I headed over to the seats in the end of left field, by the Hoppers bullpen. This is where the players usually warm up before the game. I thought I might be able to get a few more autographs over there, especially since it was so hot that not many other people were over there. For a while, it was just me and a little kid who had a baseball that he was collecting autographs on.
Shortly after I sat down and pulled my notebook out, first baseman Chad Cregar noticed me and came over to say hi. I got his autograph on my card and asked him how his hand was doing (he’s been on the DL since June 11 for “callous on hand”). He said it was fine and that they took him off the DL today. I asked when he thought they’d put him back on the field and he said he was hoping to be playing tomorrow. I told him it would be a hot day for a comeback and we both had a chuckle. (Tomorrow’s game is a day game, and it’s been unseasonably hot in Greensboro for the past week or so.) It’ll be nice to see him back on the field. Once he starts playing again, I wonder what the team will do with Ryan Keedy, who was called down from the Jupiter Hammerheads and has been playing first base while Chad’s been on the DL. After the quick chat, Chad signed the baseball for the kid who was also hanging out by the bullpen and then headed back to the field to play catch. A few minutes later, I got Ramon Benjamin’s autograph as he was reporting to the bullpen.
Another exciting event for me was the snagging of another baseball before the game started. Just prior to the first inning, one of the outfielders was playing catch with one of the bullpen pitchers (I think it was LF Kyle Jensen and P Ramon Benjamin, but I’m not sure) and the outfielder threw a ball just out of reach of the pitcher and it sailed into the section right next to where I was sitting. There was no one else around, so I jumped over to where the ball landed and scooped it up to add to my collection. Snagging that warm-up ball made it worth sitting in the blazing hot sun for the beginning of the game.
Sumo (between 2nd and 3rd): won by Blue Sumo
Sausage Race (between 8th and 9th): won by Country Sausage. Sage was leading until she took a break at third base to get a drink of water. It was a really hot day, I don’t blame her for trying to stay hydrated.
I used iScore to score the game. I missed a pitching change for the Power, and the reasons behind a couple of outs, but here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):
Tomorrow’s the last home game from this home stand. It’s a day game, which means I’m going to have to work extra in the mornings and evenings this week to make up for the time away from work. It also means it’s going to be incredibly hot at the ballpark tomorrow. I’m guessing it will be a pretty low attendance game, but I’d love to be surprised and find lots of other Hoppers fans in the stands with me.
All of my pictures from the game are on Facebook.
The Hoppers just completed a four-game series against the Delmarva Shorebirds last night. With last night’s win, they took the series 3-1. It was probably the coolest night of baseball for me so far this year. Besides getting to watch a great win for the home team, I got to sit with a group of folks from my church who all came out for family night at the ballpark and I got to throw out the first pitch!
Let’s look at that first pitch again:
So, how did that happen? It’s all because I enter lots of contests and drawings at the ballpark. For several weeks, they’ve been promoting a Fritos Friday Night contest. The prize was to throw out the first pitch and stand on the field through the National Anthem. At the game Tuesday night, I signed up for it. Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Laura at the ballpark telling me that I had won. I was absolutely thrilled! Since I was already planning on going to the game, I didn’t have to change my schedule. And since it was the night my church was sponsoring an outing, my wife was already planning to come. Laura told me to meet her at the fan information booth at 6:30 before the game and we’d head down to the field.
I got to the game as early as I usually do, which gave me enough time to copy the starting lineup for scorekeeping purposes and just wander around the concourse a little, signing up for various contests. When 6:30 rolled around and it was time to go to the field, I gathered with all of the people who were going down for pre-game festivities: the little league team who was being featured, some inductees in a sports hall of fame, the McDonald’s small fries, and the Sheetz “Play Ball” kid of the game. With all of the things that the Hoppers do before a game, it’s kinda like controlled chaos. It’s amazing that all of the pre-game activities come off as smoothly as they do — a real testament to the Hoppers staff. Once we were all gathered, we headed down to the field. Going down to the field was very cool — we got to go through an “off limits” area and come out through the tunnel under the left field concourse. Underneath the concourse is a batting cage. One of the Hoppers pitchers was hanging out down there. They had all the props for the between-inning promotions (sumo suits, wigs, etc.) lined up against one of the walls. The walls were covered with paintings of baseballs. It was really cool. I was just taking it all in and didn’t think to take any pictures. I figured I’d snap a few pictures on the way back up, but we went up by the dugout instead of back through the tunnel. Oh, well, maybe some other time I’ll have a chance to be back there again.
Once on the field, there was lots to see and do. Laura was busy directing activities:
I took some pictures of various on-field objects. Here’s the home team on deck circle and some bat weights, e.g.:
And the view of the player introductions from the field is just different enough than the view from the seats to make it seem like you’re *really* part of it (pictures include Jose Torres, Justin Bass, and Kyle Skipworth):
When I went to throw the first pitch, Laura gave me the ball to use. I was kinda surprised to see it was a souvenir Grasshoppers ball like they sell in the gift shop and not an official South Atlantic League ball like they play with. When it was my turn to throw the ball out, they described the Fritos contest I won that garnered me the first pitch, announced my name over the loudspeaker, and put it up on the scoreboard in big letters. It was very cool to see my name up on the scoreboard like that. Spaz accompanied me to the mound, further introducing me. Catcher Carlos Paulino headed to home plate to catch for me. I thought it was pretty cool to have a catcher behind the plate — often the catchers are busy warming up pitchers and they have another player catching. When I looked at Carlos, the distance between me and the plate didn’t appear to be as long as I practiced, so I was feeling better about that and more confident. When it was time to throw, I aimed right at Carlos and let the ball fly. It was a little low, but Carlos was able to easily grab it before it hit the ground. All in all, I’m happy with my performance — it wasn’t flat-out embarrassing! And I’d like to give a huge thank you to my wife, who was on the field with me and took a video of me throwing the first pitch.
A little bit later, they had a “second” first pitch by one of the officers at Syngenta (the company who sponsors the field conditions of the ballpark). His pitch fell a few feet short of the plate and bounced away. It helped make my first pitch look even better.
After all of the pre-game festivities were over, we all headed back up in the stands, where I joined all the folks from church. Some of them were pretty silly, asking me for autographs and whatnot. It was great fun.
The game started, and the Hoppers were off to a great start. They looked good the whole night, scoring three runs in the third inning, and a fourth run in the seventh. The Shorebirds only managed one run in the eighth inning, so we had a very tidy 4-1 win. There’s a new player with the Hoppers, Jose Duarte. Apparently, the Royals released him earlier this week (where he was on their AAA team), and the Marlins picked him up and assigned him to Greensboro. He debuted in Thursday’s game, and I was only slightly impressed with his performance. However, he improved as Thursday’s game went on, and he looked great last night, with a 2-RBI homer in the third. I wonder how long he’ll be in Greensboro before the Marlins start moving him up the ladder.
Sumo (between 1st and 2nd): won by Red Sumo
Sausage Race (between 4th and 5th): won by Hot Sausage, who was so smoking that he ran in for the win backwards, taunting the other sausages. Sage had an early lead, but squandered it by talking to the ump between 1st and 2nd, where she was apparently asking him out to dinner.
I used iScore to score the game. Here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):
All of my pictures from the game are on Facebook.
The Crawdads are good.
They took us to school tonight.
Tomorrow? Game two.
Tonight was the first game of a 12-game homestead for the Greensboro Grasshoppers. They’re playing the Hickory Crawdads right now, who are really good. The Hoppers fell to the Crawdads, 11-3. Regardless, it was great to be back in the ballpark after a week and a half of away games.
I got to the park a little bit early, before the gates were open, and the Crawdads were still taking batting practice. I took a few pictures through the gate. I could tell within a few seconds of watching that the Crawdads were good and I expected we’d have a tough time with them. It was neat watching a little bit of BP through the gate. I wish the Hoppers would open the stadium a little earlier (maybe just for season ticket holders?) so that we’d be able to watch some BP from within the park.
When they opened the gates, I headed on in and took care of my usual pre-game activities: I signed up for all the contests (I didn’t win anything tonight), I set the starting lineup in iScore so I’d be ready to score the game, I chatted with some of the regular people I see every game (both Hoppers staff and other fans), and I headed over to the autograph table to see who signing autographs today. Today’s player was Chad James (#33, Pitcher) and I hadn’t got his autograph yet, so I had him sign my team ball. Chad was a first round pick last year, so he should be exciting to watch when he plays. I saw him pitch against the Shorebirds on April 14, where he got the loss. The current roster lists him as on the DL, and I don’t know what’s up with that. My team ball is getting full — I might have to get a 2nd one soon.
After meeting Chad and getting his autograph, I stopped by the Taylor Made Kettle Corn booth to get a bag of corn before heading to my seat. It was great to chat with the guys there again. Here’s the picture they put on the scoreboard when they advertise the “can of corn” pop-up or fly play.
Susage Race (between 1st and 2nd): won by Hot Sausage. Sage gave up before even rounding first base.
Sumo (in middle of 2nd): won by Blue Sumo
Morrisette Home Run Derby: Someone won $500 when Kyle Skipworth hit a home run in the 4th inning. That’s the first time I’ve seen that happen, and it was pretty cool.
The taunting of opposing players was in full force tonight. Matt West took the brunt of it with 3 different images of Adam West making their way on the scoreboard. (I only managed to photograph 2 of them, missing the cartoon Adam West from The Simpsons.) Jared Prince was replaced with an image of Jared, the Subway spokesman. Leury Garcia was replaced with a parody pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream. It’s hard to see the scoreboard with the small versions I’ve included in this blog entry, so you’ll need to click to embiggen the photo in order to get the full effect.
From a Hoppers Fan perspective, this was a tough game. In the top of the first inning, Erick Carrillo just got beat up, and the team never recovered. After the first inning, the Crawdads had 3 runs on 3 hits, with one Hopper error. Crawdads scored another run in the second. After a Hoppers pitcher change (Anillins Martinez took the mound) the Crawdads scored a monster seven runs in the sixth, with four of those runs coming off a grand slam. When the Hoppers took the plate in the sixth, they were down 11-1, and we knew it was more and more hopeless. The Hoppers managed to score a run in each of the sixth and seventh innings, but that wasn’t near enough to put a chip in the ten-point deficit.
At the end of the night, the Hoppers had 3 errors. They need to tighten that up. They’ll have 3 more games against Hickory. At this point, I’m just hoping that they break any sweep that the Crawdads might be trying to muster.
Here’s a four-photo series of Erick Carrillo warming up before the first inning. I especially like the third picture, where I managed to capture the ball shortly after it left his hand.
I used iScore to score the game. Here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):
All of my pictures from the game are on Facebook. I really missed my buddy’s telephoto lens today. I’m sensing a Christmas/birthday wishlist item….
The Greensboro Grasshoppers played their fourth game against the Shorebirds last Tuesday, and it was a day game. Day games are always fun. To make it even more exciting, this game was one of the Guilford County School Days at the ballpark. The stands were filled with about a hundred million second graders. OK, maybe not that many, but it sounded like there were that many once they started screaming and yelling.
Since there were kids all over the place in the main section of the ball park, including where my season ticket is, the Hoppers had all the season ticket holders that attended the game sit up in the Yes! Party Deck. That was really cool. I’d never been to the 2nd level, and it’s a whole different experience checking out the game from up there. I liked it, and I hope that when they have school days again, they put the season ticket holders in the Party Deck. It was lots of fun. I even made a new friend who won tickets to the game from his employer. We ended up sitting next to each other for the last couple of innings and really enjoyed chatting as the game wound down. That made the loss easier to bear.
It was a tough loss, 2-3. The Hoppers got on the board with a run pretty quickly in the 1st inning. No more runs were scored until the 4th, when the BlueClaws scored a run. The Hoppers didn’t respond with a run of their own until the 7th, but the BlueClaws tied it in the 8th with a run and scored another run in the 9th to secure the win. The bottom of the 9th was particularly disheartening: Kyle Jensen walked. Kyle Skipworth walked (then Michael Pasek replaced him as a pinch runner). With Chase Austin at bat, the BlueClaws had a pitcher substitution, who allowed both Jensen and Pasek to advance on a wild pitch. Then the pitcher intentionally walked Austin, loading the bases. It was exciting. I was hopeful that we’d at least tie, if not secure the win. How could we not? Bases loaded, no outs! Then Carols Paulino flies out. Then Jose Torres strikes out. Then Terrence Dayleg strikes out. It was a rough inning.
Sumo (between 1st and 2nd): won by Red Sumo
Sausage Race (between 4th and 5th): won by Hot Sausage
A note about parking. Since it was a day game, the lot across the street where I normally park for free was not available. Nor was street parking, since the meters were all in effect. All of the lots near the stadium were also full. It was difficult to navigate the streets due to the large number of busses. I finally gave up and parked in a city lot a few blocks away from the stadium. Much to my surprise, when I got out of the deck after the game, the parking was less than $2. Next time there’s a day game, I might just skip hunting for a spot and head straight for the parking deck. It was only a couple blocks away from the stadium. Nice and easy.
Once again, I used iScore to score the game. Here’s how I had it (click each picture of the scoresheet to embiggen):
All of my pictures from the game are on Facebook.
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.