“This is a magical game.”
That’s what one of my new Hoppers friends said sometime around the 13th inning of tonight’s 15-inning Greensboro Grasshoppers playoff game against the Hickory Crawdads. The game ended with a walk-off two-run homer hit by Christian Yelich. It’s a huge win for the Hoppers, who now only need one more win to take the best-of-three series, claim the division championship, and head to the league championship.
Going into the game, I was talking with the guys who hang out on Eugene Street during batting practice and I predicted that the game tonight could go pretty much any way: a complete blowout on either side, or an incredibly close and tense game. I was leaning towards close and tense, and that’s exactly what we got. Check out the official box score and game recap for all the details, but here’s how it went down for the Hoppers.
Starting for Greensboro was Rhett Varner. The game was scoreless through four innings. In the top of the fifth, Hickory scored a run. After six innings, Brett Zawacki replaced Varner on the mound. Greensboro did not score a run until the eighth inning, when Marcell Ozuna hit a solo home run. Grant Dayton took the mound for the Hoppers in the ninth. The score remained tied at 1-1 through the ninth inning. It was a tense game the whole time. Things got even more tense in the tenth. Michael Brady took the mound for the Hoppers, and the second batter he faced hit a solo home run, bringing the score 2-1 in favor of Hickory. When the Hoppers took the plate in the bottom of the tenth, they needed a run to stay in the game. And that’s exactly what they got from Danny Black, who walked, advanced to second on a beautiful sacrifice bunt by Isaac Galloway, advanced to third on a 6-3 groundout by Noah Perio, and made it home on a Marcell Ozuna single. Unfortunately, Christian Yelich flew out, ending the inning with the score tied 2-2. The eleventh and twelfth were scoreless. Jordan Conley replaced Brady on the mound in the twelfth. The thirteenth inning was the most tense of the game. The first batter reached on a double. The second batter walked. The third batter laid down a nice sacrifice bunt, advancing the base runners to second and third. Conley intentionally walked the next batter, loading the bases. At this point, Conley was replaced by Mike Ojala, who pitched the rest of the game and is credited with the win. Ojala struck out the first batter he faced, which put two outs on the board. The next batter singled, driving in one (and thank goodness only one) run. Finally, the last batter grounded into a 4-3 out. The Hoppers were both lucky and skillful in getting out of that situation with only one run scored. With the score now 3-2 in favor of Hickory, the Hoppers once again found themselves in need of a run to stay in the game. And once again, they found it. This time it came when Marcell Ozuna singled, and was then driven in by a Christian Yelich double. There were no other runs, so we left the thirteenth inning with the score tied at 3. This was particularly disappointing, as the Hoppers stranded three runners. We were hoping for either a walk-off grand slam or a walk-off walk to end the game, but our wish was not granted. There were no scoring plays in the fourteenth inning. In the fifteenth, Hickory scored another run via a homer, putting the score 4-3. Once again, the Hoppers found themselves in need of a run in order to stay alive. Things were looking good for the Hoppers, with the middle of the lineup scheduled to bat. Marcell Ozuna reached first after being hit (slightly grazed, it appeared to me) by a pitch. Then Christian Yelich drove him in on a two-run walk-off homer that was simply a bomb. The stadium exploded. The Hoppers cleared the dugout to welcome Ozuna and Yelich home. The fans went wild. It really was magical.
As always, Bill on Baseball has a great recap, including quotes from the players and manger: Hoppers’ flair for drama continues.
So, now Greensboro is in the playoffs for the first time since 1999. They’re facing tough competition, and they’re coming through. They’re not making it through easily, though. A fifteen inning game is tough on the team. I wonder how the bullpen is holding up. Fortunately, tomorrow is an off day so the team can rest before heading to Hickory for Friday, and if necessary, Saturday. With a best-of-three series like this, it is vitally important to get the first game so that your opponent is playing “catch up.”
Another fun note from the game. One of the advertising tie-ins is with Taylor Made Kettle Corn, which is unquestionably the best value concession at the ballpark. When the Hoppers catch a high fly ball, they call it a “Taylor Made Can Of Corn.” The first time they did that tonight, I held up my bag of kettle corn high above my head, which must have caught Jim Scott’s attention, as he announced on the PA that I was holding it up. It was funny to hear my name come through the PA at the park — thanks, Jim. And I’m glad to help share the love of kettle corn to all the baseball fans. I usually buy an extra bag to take home from the game.
My seat was right behind the Hoppers’ on-deck circle and I got a few decent pictures of the batters as they were warming up. Here are a couple of Marcell Ozuna that I’m particularly fond of.
I’ll be heading to Hickory after work Friday for the game. I’ll be pulling for the Hoppers to shut Hickory down and take the series early. If they do win the division championship, two of the league championship games will be played in Greensboro next week.
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?
The Hoppers were victorious, 9-6. But it took them 10 innings to claim victory, creating a lot of stress and tension among the sizable group of Hoppers fans who were in attendance. You’re free to check out the official box score, game recap, or game story (Kannapolis version or Greensboro version), but none of that conveys the level of tension that was in the ballpark in the eighth inning. Take a look at my scorecard (pictured at the end of this post) to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
The day started out well enough. I was keeping an eye on the weather map to decide if I should make the trip down or not. Reports from Kannapolis indicated it was warm and sunny, so at about 10:30, I jumped in the truck and headed down the road. It was a nice drive, the roads were clear, and the sun was out. I got to the ballpark and immediately saw a couple of my friends from Greensboro. We got inside the park and ran into more people that we knew. It wasn’t long before most of the Hoppers fans found each other and settled into our seats, mostly around the visitor’s dugout.
The game started, and the Hoppers scored two runs in the first inning. Noah Perio had reached on a single and was subsequently driven in when Christian Yelich hit a home run. The Intimidators went three up, three down in the first. In the second, the Hoppers scored two more runs. Wilfredo Giminez doubled and was subsequently driven in when Isaac Galloway doubled. Galloway was driven in when Ryan Fisher doubled. It was like we were having a doubling party, but the Intimidators broke it up by joining with a double play, closing out the half-inning. In the bottom of the second, the Intimidators scored one run. In the top of the third, Marcell Ozuna scored a solo homer. His was the only run on either side in the third. In the fourth, both the Hoppers and the Intimidators went three up, three down. In the In the fifth, the Hoppers were scoreless but the Intimidators scored another run. In the sixth, Danny Black scored for the Hoppers, having reached base on a walk and scoring from first on a double by Wilfredo Giminez. There were no other scoring plays until the bottom of the eighth.
And that’s when the Hoppers fans started getting nervous.
Before talking about the eighth, let’s look at a picture of Christian Yelich coming home after his home run in the first. That’ll put us in a good mood for the nervousness that’s about to ensue.
Going into the bottom of the eighth, the Hoppers had the lead, with the score 6-2. Robert Morey had pitched very well, and after seven innings of work, was relieved by Grant Dayton. Dayton faced five batters. The first flew out to right. The second reached on a double. The third walked. The fourth walked. With the bases loaded, Dayton walked the fifth batter he faced, and a run scored. With the bases still loaded, Dayton was replaced by Chris Shafer. This is aways a tough spot for a pitcher: to inherit a situation where the bases are loaded. Shafer struck out the first batter he faced, but the second batter he faced singled and two more runs scored. Shafer was replaced by Michael Brady, who struck out the only batter he faced in the eighth.
Three pitchers. Three runs. The comfortable lead the Hoppers had maintained throughout the entire game was eliminated. They still maintained a lead, but it was only one run, with the score 6-5.
And now it was raining. It kept raining ’til the end of the game and my entire drive back to Greensboro.
In the ninth, the Hoppers went three up, three down. One run behind, all the Hoppers fans were tense. The Intimidators were about to send the heart of their lineup to the plate. The first batter struck out. *wshew* The second batter grounded out. *wshew* One out was all that was between the Hoppers and a playoff spot. The next batter reached on a single. That’s OK. The next batter reached on a double good enough to push the baserunner in. Great, now the game is tied with the winning run in scoring position. Fortunately, the next batter flew out to center field. Inning over, but now it’s a tie ballgame.
In the tenth, the Hoppers do what they’ve done time and time again the past several weeks whenever they find themselves in a tough spot. They dug in, and they delivered. Ryan Fisher grounded out. Noah Perio doubled. Marcell Ozuna singled and advanced to second on the throw while Perio scored. The Intimidators intentionally walked Christian Yelich. I guess his home run in the first inning scared them. Mark Canha flied out to center. JT Realmuto doubled, driving in both Ozuna and Yelich. Finally, Danny Black grounded out. Three big runs for the Hoppers, when they really needed it. In the bottom of the tenth, Jordan Conley replaced Brady. The first batter he faced singled, but the next three struck out.
The game was over.
The Hoppers won.
The Hoppers won!
The Hoppers made it to the playoffs! With this win and Hickory‘s loss today, the Hoppers were tied with Hickory for the second half title. But since Hickory was already in the playoffs, the tiebreaker went to Greensboro. It was a great win, and the Hoppers did it all by themselves. They didn’t end up needing some other team to win or lose in order for them to make it in, they controlled their own destiny right to the end. This has especially been an amazing second half of the season — they’ve won 21 of their last 28 games, 11 of their last 12. This is the first time Greensboro has been to the playoffs since 1999.
The playoff game in Greensboro is Wednesday. Then, in Hickory on Friday. If necessary, a third game will be played in Hickory on Saturday. I’m planning on going to every game in the series. Initially, there was some confusion about when the first game would be played, but Bill on Baseball cleared it all up: Home playoff game Wednesday.
It’s definitely an exciting time to be a Hoppers fan!
Here’s how I had today’s game. You can just see the tension in the bottom of the eighth.
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?
The Greensboro Grasshoppers are back in town for a 9 day homestand: four games against the West Virginia Power and five games against the Delmarva Shorebirds. We pretty much need to sweep the entire homestand in order to set ourselves up for a playoff spot. We got off on the right foot tonight with a 4-3 win, that went all the way to the bottom of the ninth.
Starting for the Hoppers tonight was Kyle Winters, who pitched five innings, and was set up for the win with the Hoppers leading 2-1 at the bottom of the fifth, when he was relieved by James Leverton. Kyle ended up with no decision however, as the score became tied 3-3 in the top of the ninth. Leverton was replaced by Michael Brady, who came away with the win when he Hoppers scored in the bottom of the ninth on a big error by West Virginia.
Here’s how the bottom of the ninth went down. Batting out of the seven-hole, Danny Black singled on a nice hit to right field. J. T. Realmuto followed with a nice sacrifice bunt that pushed Danny to second. Isaac Galloway singled on a ground ball to first base, but the first baseman made a fielding error that allowed Danny to score from 2nd base. And that was the game. The Hoppers had pretty good command of the game, but when West Virginia scored those two runs to tie it in the ninth, it was starting to get tense. When the Hoppers got the win, everyone mobbed the field in celebration.
These are the results we need if we want a shot at post-season play.
Want to see Kyle Winters pitching? I thought so:
How about James Leverton? I thought so, too:
How about Player Of The Game Danny Black hitting a single? Yeah, I’ve got that for you:
Lots more pictures on the Facebook photo album. I actually managed to get some action shots of every Hoppers batting this time. So if you want to see any of them, be sure to check out the full album.
Before the game, Greg Nappo was signing autographs at the autograph table. I got his autograph on one of my baseballs:
And here’s how I had the game, without bothering to do the stats. Look how tense that ninth inning was:
That’s it for me. Tomorrow’s another day, another game. Let’s keep winning.
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?
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
After the eighth inning of last night’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Savannah Sand Gnats, my friends and I were wondering hoping that they’d let Robert Morey come back in for the 9th, in an attempt to get a complete game. He had been pitching great all night, facing only four over the minimum at that point. He had racked up 9 strikeouts and no walks. It hadn’t even registered to me that he was pitching a shutout. During the bottom of the eighth, they were warming up Michael Ojala, so we weren’t sure who was going to start the ninth. When Morey took the field, we were giddy with excitement. The first batter went down on a 6-3 groundout. The second batter made us nervous when he got into scoring position on a stand up double. But the third and fourth batters were easily retired with fly balls to left and center field and the game was over. Hoppers over the Sand Gnats, 5-0.
Robert Morey pitched a complete game.
Robert Morey pitched a complete game shutout.
I’ve never seen a pitcher pitch a complete game. I don’t think it happens very often in Low-A ball. To watch Morey work the game and secure a complete game shutout was a real thrill. The event was noteworthy enough that MiLB.com ran a story about the game. According to that article, Morey’s been lacking confidence this season, but last night’s game probably helped him in that regard. He notes that he’s happy with his curveball and the fact that he was throwing first-pitch strikes helped give him the confidence that his stuff was just where it needed to be. And in what I think is an incredibly classy move, he gives credit to catcher Jacob Realmuto for calling a great game.
Offensively, the Hoppers looked good, too. Three of our five runs were solo homers: Marcell Ozuna in the first, Christian Yelich in the third, and James Wooster in the fourth. The other two runs came in the seventh from Noah Perio and another run from Ozuna.
Lately, I’ve been showing up early to the games to watch batting practice from Eugene Street and snag BP balls. Last night, my wife and I decided to get supper before the game (we went downtown to the Mellow Mushroom, always a treat), and that ate into all of my BP time. We did drive by the ballpark on the way to supper, though, and I spotted a ball on the sidewalk against the fence. I pulled the car over and jumped out to retrieve it and found another ball along the fence on my way to pick that one up. BAM! Out of the car for 20 seconds and I snagged 2 more balls for my collection. The sweet spots were either too scuffed up or stained to make them good autograph balls, so they’ll probably find their way into the hands of a kid at the ballpark someday.
Once in the park, I concentrated on collecting more autographs on my card set and was very successful. I got autographs from Isaac Galloway, Noah Perio, Danny Black (who is sporting a pretty awesome “Second Half ‘Stache” now), Wilfredo Gimenez, Grant Dayton, Jordan Conley, Mike Ojala, and Michael Brady. I also had a quick chat with Kyle Winters, who is always friendly. His family made it out to the park for the last home stand, and I got to meet his mother (who sometimes comments in this blog as “catherine”). They’re all great people and Kyle said he was glad I got a chance to meet them.
After the first inning, I spent the evening watching the game from Section 110, next to the visitors dugout, with some friends. I think I’m going to move my season ticket to that area next year. I’m going to miss the tunnel area, but the view from that close is so much better, and it’s fun to heckle the opposing team.
Today’s one of the monthly season ticket holder Saturdays, where they’ll let us in the ballpark an hour early to watch batting practice, maybe hear a talk from a coach or players, and enjoy some complementary snacks. This is something new that they’re doing this year, and not many season ticket holders are taking advantage of it. I hope they keep it up because it’s a really nice perk.
Anyway, here’s how I had the game. I know of at least one error on my card: in the 2nd, Jet Butler was out on a dropped third strike, 2-3, not the 5-3 ground out I recorded. And I haven’t done the stats yet. I’m going to be keeping my eye out for Robert Morey for the rest of the season and try to get him to autograph this scorecard.
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!”
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:
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.”
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.
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.
And a little later, after it got a little darker, James Wooster at bat:
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?