Monday, July 7, 2014

Hudson Valley Renegades 7 at Staten Island Yankees 6 (New York-Penn League) - July 6, 2014

I've been pretty down on MLB lately. The overly slow games coupled with Toronto's June swoon have left me with no enthusiasm for following the sport. Fortunately, New York City has a couple of minor league teams that are just an hour away from where I live, and with most 2014 draftees signed and assigned, I can start to follow future stars. The Blue Jays moved their short-season affiliate from Auburn to Vancouver a few years back, so I won't be seeing any of their draft picks, but the other AL East teams are all in this league, so I can scout future enemies of the Blue Jays.

Yesterday saw the Hudson Valley Renegades (Tampa Bay) visiting the Staten Island Yankees in a late afternoon start, while Brooklyn hosted Aberdeen at 1 pm. The Wimbledon final went long enough to eliminate the earlier game from my list of options, so after a brief subway ride to Bowling Green, I took the Staten Island Ferry to reach Richmond County Bank Ballpark. The ride is free and takes about 25 minutes from Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan, usually leaving on the half-hour. It passes by the Statue of Liberty (above).

You are dropped off at St. George and from there, you have a view of the New York Harbor and Manhattan skyline beyond. The ballpark is just a couple of minutes away from here.

Tickets start at $9 and despite this being a beautiful Sunday, only 1,904 other fans showed up, so I was able to sit where I pleased. The sun sets beyond third base, so there is a lot of shade underneath the overhang for the entire game.

Great views of the skyline can be had along the first base line, and you will see a few large ships passing as well. Really one of the minors' more unique settings and a great place to escape the crush of New York City.

The Game

There were two relatively high 2014 draft picks making starts in this game. Jonathan Holder (below), a reliever who was dominant at Mississippi State and was drafted by the Yankees in the 6th round (182nd overall) made his first start after a couple of appearances in the Gulf Coast League. Holder sported long hair and a goatee in college, but as you can see below, the Yankees rules on facial hair are enforced all the way through their system.

His opponent was Chris Pike (below), drafted in the 9th round (277th overall) by Tampa Bay. Pike played 3 years at Fordham and spent his final year in the NAIA at Oklahoma City University where he tossed a perfect game in March.

The most notable name was Casey Gillaspie (below), Tampa Bay's fist rounder this year (20th overall). Brother of Conor of the White Sox, Gillaspie played for Wichita State and signed for $2 million. His early numbers show a few too many strikeouts but he's just 18 games into his pro career so it is not something to be concerned about just yet.

The game started fast, with both pitchers working quickly and batters swinging freely - the first two innings took just half an hour. In the bottom of the third, the Yankees plated a couple with Austin Aune (2nd, 2012) contributing an RBI double.

As mentioned, Holder was a reliever in college and it appears as if they are trying to convert him to a starter. His arm isn't ready for the extended workload though, so he was removed after just three innings and 40 pitches, and David Palladino (5th, 2013, above) was brought in. Pike lasted 60 pitches and four frames before being replaced by Darren Fischer (16th, 2013).

Although the first four innings took just over an hour, the relievers did not have the same control and the rest of the game was filled with walks, wild pitches, and errors. The Renegades scored three in the top of the 5th, including a 2-RBI single from Gillaspie, but Staten Island regained the lead in the bottom half when Ty McFarland (10th, 2014) doubled home Devyn Bolasky (31st, 2014) and then scored himself after a wild pitch and Aune RBI single. Both teams added single runs in the sixth, with McFarland's second error of the game contributing to Hudson Valley's unearned run, and then the Renegades added two in the seventh to take the lead for good. Braxton Lee (12th, 2014) bunted for a single and advanced to third when Palladino threw the ball past first. A wild pitch brought Lee home to tie the game at 5. After a walk to Jace Conrad (13th, 2014), Rony Bautista relieved and walked two more, with the second walk coming on a wild pitch that allowed Conrad to score the go-ahead run from second base.

Conrad singled to lead off the 9th and stole second and third behind an apparently unconcerned Bautista. After Gillaspie struck out, Hunter Lockwood (11th, 2013) hit a sacrifice fly to make it 7-5. This turned out to be the difference as Isaias Tejada homered in the bottom half but that was all they could manage as Hudson Valley won 7-6. The Renegades are now 16-5 and on an 8-game winning streak.


Despite scoring 7 runs, Hudson Valley had only 3 RBIs. Two runs scored on wild pitches, one on an error, and one on a double play ground out.

The game lasted 3:06 but 314 pitches were thrown for a peppy 1.68 PPM. Again, long games are not the problem in MLB, it is the slow pace!

It is interesting to see the mix of players on rosters at this level. Aune, for example, was drafted out of high school, so even though he was picked in the 2nd round, he spent two years in the Gulf Coast League before finally moving up to short season ball. There are players from early rounds all the way down to the mid-30s. Few baseball fans (including me) really understand how organizations manage their minor league systems; most players are just filler with no real hope of making the majors. As an example, of the 41 minor leaguers who appeared for Staten Island in 2014, only 7 made it to The Show, with most just enjoying a cup of coffee. Phil Coke is the most recognizable name among them.

On the way back to Manhattan, stand at the front of the ferry to get pictures of the skyline as you approach.

Next Up

The Brooklyn Cyclones are home for a morning doubleheader tomorrow and I'll head down to check that out before the World Cup semi-final. I am then heading back to Canada and will be in Ottawa for the RedBlacks home opener on July 18th. Check back for recaps of both those events.



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