Tagged: zach neal

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

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

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

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

Batting Practice

Batting Practice

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

Marcell Ozuna Autograph

Marcell Ozuna Autograph

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Canha at bat

Mark Canha at bat

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

Here’s how I had the game:

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

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

Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?

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

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!
hoppersfan@gmail.com
twitter.com/HoppersFan
Hoppers Fan on Facebook

06/16/2011 – KAN Intimidators v GSO Grasshoppers (Game 2)

I hit the road down to Kannapolis for Game 2 against the Intimidators. This is the final series before the All-Star Break. This was my first time in Kannapolis, and I’m thrilled I went down for the game. The Hoppers won, 5-2. Check out the box score, game recap, and/or game story (from Kannapolis’ point of view) for the particulars.

Pitching for Greensboro was Zach Neal, who pitched six innings and is credited with the win. He was relieved by Grant Dayton, who pitched two innings, and Michael Brady, who pitched the ninth and got the save. Both of Kannapolis’ runs happened while Neal was on the mound, who also allowed 5 of Kannapolis’ 6 hits. Neal struck out 4, walked 1, and hit 3 batters. Dayton allowed 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out 5. Brady’s single inning of pitching consisted of two fly outs to right fielder Marcell Ozuna and a strike out. All in all, the Hoppers looked good. They fell behind in the third, when Kannapolis scored 2 runs. In the 4th, Christian Yelich scored. No more runs scored until the 7th, when the Hoppers scored three runs: Wilfredo Giminez, Danny Black, and Noah Perio. A solo home run by Mark Canha in the 8th was the final run scored in the evening.

On the Intimidators side of the scorecard, the word of the day was “error.” As in the three errors they committed throughout the game, causing 2 of the Hoppers’ 5 runs to be unearned.

This win keeps the Hoppers in contention for the first-half pennant. Unfortunately, the Hickory Crawdads also won their game, so they still lead the Hoppers in the division by a tiny percentage of games won (.591 to Greensboro’s .589). At this point, in order for the Hoppers to win the first half, they need to win one more game than Hickory does. So Hickory still needs to lose at least one game. Of course, how Hickory performs is out of the Hoppers’ hands, so the best thing they can do is continue to win games. With just two games left in the first half, the race continues to be tight.

Enough talk about the game itself, let’s switch to the experience. As I mentioned earlier, this was my first visit to a ballgame at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium. I had previously been at the ballpark to find a geocache, but I’ve never seen a game there. It’s about an hour and a quarter drive south on I-85 from Greensboro, and the drive was enjoyable enough. The stadium itself is practically right next to the interstate, so it was easy to get there once I got off the highway.

I’m a bit spoiled being able to find free parking around the stadium in Greensboro. That’s part of the difference between a downtown stadium and a stadium off by itself. The only parking available was in the stadium lot, and it cost $2. After parking my car, this is what I stepped out to see:

Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium

Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium

Once inside the park, this is what it looked like:

Inside the Park

Inside the Park

Inside the Park

Inside the Park

As I was walking around a bit, an Intimidators employee stopped me and directed me to the gift shop. He assured me that I would be able to find a much, much nicer hat in the store than the one I was wearing (which was, of course, my Grasshoppers hat). He even offered to come in with me and help me pick one out. When I asked, he stopped just short offering to actually purchase it for me. It was a fun conversation. Everyone I encountered at the park was friendly and helpful.

For the game, I had a ticket on the front row right next to the visitor’s dugout, right behind the on deck circle. I loved it! Here’s a picture from the game of Zach Neal pitching:

Zack Neal Pitching

Zack Neal Pitching

The other great thing about my seat was that it was in the same section that almost all the other Hoppers fans seemed to choose to sit in. I recognized a lot of faces of the people who sit near me in Greensboro, and we all introduced ourselves to each other. Everyone was really friendly, and I look forward to continuing our friendship throughout the rest of the season. One of my new friends even insisted on buying me a soda during the second half of the game, which was especially welcome during the extended drive home. It’s funny that we sit 10 yards from each other for thirty games, and it takes running into each other on a road game to start talking. In addition to those folks, I met a father and son who also came down for the game from Greensboro. I didn’t recognize them from Greensboro, but that’s probably because they spend most of their time in Greensboro on Natty’s Hill and/or the seats near the bullpen. Again, loads of fun meeting them and I look forward to seeing them at future games downtown.

So, if you go to a Hoppers game in Kannapolis, apparently the section to be in is 107. That’s where I’ll be whenever I head back.

I also snapped a pretty cool picture of the final pitch the Hoopers took in the 9th. Isaac Galloway striking out (swinging), with Noah Perio on deck. See how cool the view from these seats are? It’s like I’m right on the field.

Isaac Galloway batting, Noah Perio on deck

Isaac Galloway batting, Noah Perio on deck

I could also tell that the players appreciated having Hoppers fans at the park cheering them on. Several of them nodded in appreciation when they were in the on deck circle.

The drive back home took an extra 45 minutes because of road work on I-85N. That was unexpected, and unwelcome.

The whole experience was great — going to see my favorite team play an away game is really cool. I thought the same thing when I went to Charleston to see the Hoppers play the Riverdogs last year.

My wife went to school for a few weeks, and she took the small camera and the printer/scanner. I seem to have misplaced the DSLR, ’cause it hasn’t turned up yet. As a result, all the pictures from this game come courtesy of my iPhone and I couldn’t scan in a copy of my scorecard. So here’s a photograph instead:

Scorecard 6/17/2011: Hoppers (5) at Intimidators (2)

Scorecard 6/17/2011: Hoppers (5) at Intimidators (2)

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.

See ya at the ballpark!
hoppersfan@gmail.com
twitter.com/HoppersFan
Hoppers Fan on Facebook