Sunday, August 9, 2015

Connecticut Tigers 2 at Lowell Spinners 3 (New York-Penn League) - August 8, 2015


I had two active New York-Penn League ballparks left to visit and the past weekend presented a perfect opportunity to add both Lowell and Connecticut to complete the circuit. Lowell was home on Saturday (against Connecticut no less) while the Tigers returned to Norwich on Sunday. The late afternoon start times allowed me to rent a car from LGA on Saturday morning and return it on Sunday evening, even then at exorbitant New York summer rates.



It is just over 200 miles from New York to Lowell, but with traffic in the northeast you can expect that trek to take four hours. The stadium is located on the UMass-Lowell campus, with street parking set at $3 for any event at the ballpark. There is also a $5 lot off Hall Street if you enjoy spending more than you need to.



The Lowell team name is the Spinners (as you probably guessed from the inflatable mascot above) as the area is known as a textile center and the American Textile History Museum is based here. Being just 30 miles north of Boston, the franchise is obviously a Red Sox affiliate. They play out of Edward A. LaLecheur Park, which is also used by UMass-Lowell. However, unlike other college parks, the protective netting does not extend to the far edge of the dugouts.



This proved to be costly to a young fan who was sitting in the eighth row along the third base line. An early foul ball found his cheek, opening a nasty cut. To his credit, he took it like a man without tears, and the EMT staff were there to ice it down, though he eventually left the game. If you have youngsters with you, consider sitting behind the netting or farther back.



Before the game, I made my way around the open concourse and noticed the usual display of players who left Lowell and ended up in the majors. The newest addition: none other than Brian Johnson! The Spinners staff doesn't waste any time here as Johnson had made his debut just over two weeks prior.



Another nice find was this tidbit: watching sports is healthy!



All seats are reserved, with the cheapest the benches down the lines at $8. However, I was happy to find several standing areas with small ledges just wide enough to place half a scorebook on. After four hours driving, I needed to stretch a bit and there were plenty of spots at which one could stand, most with clear views of the field.



You will notice in the shot above that the seats just beyond first base actually turn in to face the action, while the same cannot be said for those along the third base line.



This happened to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles night and the Spinners were sporting themed jerseys (below). These were auctioned off during the game (arbitrarily valued at $175 with a minimum bid of $75) and amazingly, people spent money to acquire this ugliness! Hey, I know the minors are always trying new things, but themed jerseys are just wrong, not to mention overdone - this was the 7th such occasion for Lowell this season (they were 0-6 so far in those games).



In the end, I quite enjoyed my time here. There are a few nice touches, such as video clips playing that refer to the action on the field. The fans really turn out for their team (over 4,000 on hand for this one) and are knowledgeable and friendly, as are game staff and ushers. Lowell is not that far from several other minor league franchises, so if you happen to be visiting Pawtucket, New Hampshire, or Portland, make sure to include a Spinners game on your itinerary.

The Game



Sandy Baez (above) started for Connecticut against Kevin Steen (9th round, 2014, making his second start for Lowell, below).



Both starters threw six strong innings, each yielding a single run before the bullpens took over. Gerson Morenot tossed 2 scoreless frames for Connecticut, while Taylor Nunez (27th, 2014) did the same for Lowell.



In the top of the ninth, Josh Lester (13th, 2015, above) homered off Bobby Poyner (14th, 2015) to give the Tigers the lead.



It looked like another themed-jersey loss for the home team, but Moreno remained in the game and gave up a leadoff single to Josh Ockimey (5th, 2014, my PTW from the State College game). Mitch Gunsolus chopped one to second but Patrick Mackenzie (28th, 2015) misplayed it and suddenly there were runners at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. A walk loaded the bases and pinch hitter Kyri Washington (23rd, 2015) forced the runner at home with a fielders choice to third. The game hung on lead off hitter Luis Alexander Basabe (above), who grounded one that just eluded Mackenzie and dribbled into right field, allowing the decisive runs to score as Lowell sent the fans home happy with a 3-2 walkoff win.



A well-pitched game from both sides, with the starters ending up with very similar stats: 1 ER, 5K in 6 IP. Steen ends up with my Player to Watch award, as he yielded only 2 hits and his overall ERA in the minors is 2.38, though that is only in 11 games.

Notes

Jumpin' Jack Flash the Frisbee Dog was one of the featured promotions and earned the loudest applause on the afternoon, until the winning runs were scored.



Andrew Benintendi, the 7th overall pick in this year's draft out of Arkansas and the Golden Spikes winner as the best college player, started at DH. From the picture below, it seems like he injured his hand recently (he had missed some games including a road contest I saw in State College), but it didn't seem to hurt his swing. He singled in four trips and barely missed a homer in the bottom of the eighth. He is already Boston's 6th-ranked prospect and 72nd overall according to MLB.com. His jersey was not on the auction block.



Best,

Sean

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