Saturday, July 31, 2010

Canada 3 vs Chinese Taipei 2 (World University Baseball Championship) - July 30, 2010

The World University Baseball Championships began yesterday with Canada taking on Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) at Jingu Stadium. There are 8 countries participating in the tournament: Canada, Chinese Taipei, Sri Lanka, and the USA comprise group A, while Japan, China, Cuba, and Korea make up group B. Each group has a 3-game round robin and the quarterfinals pit the 1st place finisher in one group against the 4th place from the other with the 2nd and 3rd place teams also meeting.

This is the 5th time the tournament has been held. In the inaugural event in 2002, Cuba took the gold defeating the USA in the final while Japan finished third. Since then, the USA has won each tourney, besting Japan twice and Chinese Taipei once.

Looking at the eight teams and the past results, it seemed like there are 5 strong teams that have each won at least one medal, while Canada, China, and Sri Lanka could expect to battle it out for 6th and below. So I went to this game with low expectations.

The Game

Canada was the visiting team and opened the scoring in the 2nd when DH Ryan Fleming (above) of Georgia State cranked a homer that just snuck inside the right field foul pole. They added another run when Carter Bell (Oregon State) singled home Garrett Regan (Oklahoma City University) who had walked.

Chad Marshall of Stony Brook University pops one foul

Chinese Taipei got one back in the third when DH Kuan Wei Yang who had doubled, scored on a single from Yi Kun Huang. But Canada regained the two-run lead in the 4th. With two out, Blake Carruthers (UBC) tripled. Bell then hit a grounder to short but Hsien Hsien Yang threw wildly to first allowing Carruthers to plate Canada's 3rd run.

After that, pitching took over. Sheldon McDonald (UBC, above) had started for Canada and only allowed two baserunners between the 4th and 8th innings, one on an error and the other on a walk. He was removed after 8 having scattered just 3 hits. He wasn't overpowering, striking out only 4, but he kept the ball inside and low and the Taiwanese hitters couldn't muster any serious offense. It was great to watch and certainly he impressed the scouts in attendance.

In the 9th, Adam Reynolds (University of Guelph) came on and gave up a two-out homer (above) to Chih Pei Huang to make the Canadian fans nervous. But he got pinch-hitter Chih Wei Teng (below) to ground out to second in a very close play and Canada came away with a hard-fought 3-2 win.

This is a huge victory for Team Canada as they should now finish second in the round robin, which means they will get a weaker team in the quarter-finals. Who knows, they might even beat the US on Monday.

Other Games

Japan defeated Korea 4-0 with only 5,000 fans in attendance, which surprised me. I would have expected a lot more locals to be there to cheer on what looks to be a great team. Yuki Saitoh pitched 6 innings, striking out 9. By the way, there were 300 fans in attendance at the Canada game, and judging by the picture below I'd say they overestimated.

In the third game of the opening day, the US beat Sri Lanka 15-0 in a game called after 5 innings due to the mercy rule.

I expect Japan and the US to meet up in the final next Saturday, but you never know. Canada takes on the Yanks Monday night and I plan to watch that in Yokohama. Depending on how the quarterfinal matchups go, I might see a few other games next week. Check back for the results then.



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MLB Doubleheader: Nationals 3 at Brewers 8; Cardinals 4 at Cubs 3 (11) - July 25, 2010

The last day of the trip was another two-state doubleheader, though this one was a much more manageable 90 miles between the two ballparks. I started by driving over to Miller Park to watch the Nationals and Brewers and then heading back to Chicago to catch the Sunday night game between the Cardinals and Cubs.

Miller Park

Located about 5 miles west of downtown, Miller Park resembles a large spaceship that is easily noticeable as you drive north on I-94. I mean, it is huge. I couldn't take a shot while driving, but the picture below illustrates jut how large it is.

Parking at the stadium is not recommended if saving money is important to you, as it is $8 for weekday games and $10 for weekends. You can go right from the highway to the parking lot, but getting out can be a hassle when it is crowded. I parked on Wisconsin Avenue just north of the highway and walked down; although I was 15 minutes from the stadium, it was only 5 minutes to the entrance of parking lot.

If you want to have fun, though, tailgating is the thing to do here. I arrived about 2 hours before game time and most fans had already set up their BBQs and were playing games and drinking beer in the Sunday morning sunshine. A different type of religious experience I would surmise. However, with all the tailgaters entering the stadium just a few minutes before game time, lines were ridiculously long. Keep that in mind if you want to ensure that you see first pitch.

There is a ticket resale area that is next to Helfaer Field, which is the small baseball park that is used for youth games. However, unlike the Scalp-Free zone in Baltimore, this zone is not validated by the Brewers, in fact, the ticket seller told me that they don't recommend using it. Didn't matter as it was empty when I walked by so I headed over to the box office. The game was nearly sold out, but there were singles available in all areas. I decided to wait as I felt I could get in for much cheaper than the box office, and as soon as I turned away from the ticket window, a gentleman asked me if I needed a single. He wasn't a scalper, just a guy who had bought four tickets and only required three for his family. It was a great seat in the loge section behind home plate, so we negotiated a price suitable to both (I used my roadtrip as a bargaining chip) and completed the transaction without having to go to the ticket resale zone. Still, I suspect as game time gets closer, that resale zone is a good place to find cheaper tickets.

After I spent a few minutes walking around the outside of the stadium. There are a number of statues and plaques honouring famous Milwaukee players (such as Robin Yount, above) as well as old Milwaukee teams. A unique addition here is the Workers Monument which commemorates those who built the stadium. Inside there is more of the same, with Walls of Honor for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as well as Wisconsin-born major leaguers. Take the time to walk around the ground level here, there are a few things to see.

From the upper deck you really understand just how cavernous the building is. There are four seating levels, but they rise one above the other, which makes it bigger than other parks with similar capacities. The picture above is taken from left field, next to Bernie's Dugout, where mascot Bernie Brewer slides down after a Milwaukee homer. The other two pictures below are from right field and behind the plate and just give an idea of the overall structure.

The fan-shaped retractable roof takes 15 minutes to open or close. It was open the entire day that I went, so I couldn't get any pictures of it closing.

Food is perhaps what Miller Park is most famous for. Brats are the obvious choice here, but you can try for a Polish or Italian, or Chorizo if you are daring. At $4.50 these are reasonably priced and better than most ballpark fare. I've been here about 4 times and never tried another food item.

However, you should be aware of an ESPN report that shows that many of the major league stadiums are in violation of food regulations. I'm not going to go into detail here, but have a look, it might change your attitude towards eating at the ballpark.

One final note - if you want to take advantage of the designated driver program and get a free soda, you will need a parking receipt from the parking lot. As far as I know, only Miller Park has this restriction which I find rather silly. Why should I be punished for trying to save money?

Anyway, I enjoy watching games here and think Miller Park is a decent stadium.

Best Bobblehead Ever

There was a giveaway that I didn't know about, but was happy to discover. An excellent Robin Yount full-size bobblehead. I'm not one to talk about stadium giveaways as they are usually crap, but this one is quite impressive. Not only that, but they gave away one to every fan.

Game 1 - Nationals 3 at Brewers 8

The Nationals and rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg (above) were in town. Unfortunately for them, he wasn't starting today, instead it was Ross Detwiler making his first appearance of the season after undergoing hip surgery in February. It was a bizarre decision as he had pitched 7 innings in AA just four days before. His mound opponent was ex-Blue Jay David Bush who was suffering through a mediocre season at 4-8.

With one out in the bottom of the first, Alcides Escobar reached on a ball that handcuffed Nats' 3B Willie Harris. It was originally ruled a single but changed to an error midway through the inning. That ruling would affect Detwiler's stats as he managed to retire Ryan Braun but then walked Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee (in the field below) to load the bases. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy then singled home Escobar for the 1-0 lead. Fielder then rambled home on a wild pitch and it was 2-0. With the error to Harris, both runs were unearned, an interesting turn of events.

In the 4th, another error by the Nats led to 3 more unearned runs. Shortstop Iain Desmond booted the third out, allowing Lucroy to score. Rickie Weeks then smashed a 2-run homer to make it 5-0 and send Detwiler to the showers. He gave up 5 runs - all unearned. The Washington defense is really terrible.

The offense isn't much better, but they added 2 runs in the 6th on 3 singles and a sac fly. In the 7th, Adam Kennedy singled (below) to end the day for Bush. Reliever Kameron Loe promptly threw wild on a pickoff attempt allowing Kennedy to second, from where he scored on a Nyjer Morgan 2-out single. Another unearned run, this one for Milwaukee.

But the Brew Crew wasn't worried. Escobar led off the 7th with a triple, and after Fielder (below) was walked intentionally, McGehee crushed a pitch to center for a 3-run homer and an 8-3 lead. I decided to leave at this point as I had to get back to Chicago, and the rest of the game was uneventful as the Brewers swept Washington with the 8-3 win.

An ugly game as both teams made 2 errors, and a scorcher too. I spent half the time standing in the shade as the sun was relentless. Below is a picture of another ex-Jay, Joe Inglett, who I saw last year in Colorado Springs when he was playing for Las Vegas. Glad to see he is back up in the majors, although he had an 0-4 day.

The Sausage Race

If you haven't been to Miller Park, you haven't seen the famous Sausage Race. Each of the five sausage options has a costume and these guys race each other around the infield as fans cheer on their favourite. In today's version, there was a handoff to some little weenies (kids in smaller costumes) by first base and they finished the race. Hot Dog won today, coming from 4th below.

The Drive Back to Chicago

Ugh. Getting out of the stadium area was easy as I was parked about a block away from a highway entrance. After that, it was road work part 1 (25 minutes to go 4 miles), road work part 2 (5 minutes to go 2 miles) and road work part 3 (just a short one). Nonetheless, a 90 minute drive becomes over 2 hours, and for the privilege you stop twice to pay $2.50 in tolls. I know the economy is in a recession and that one of the easiest stimulus packages involves road construction, but can't you space it out a little more? At least the streetlight problems in Chicago had been fixed and I made it to Wrigley around 6:30 for the 7:00 start.

Game 2 - Cardinals 4 at Cubs 3 (11)

Andrew Van Cleve again joined me for the game. He had given his season seats to some family members, so we bought standing room tickets for $16.80. Now, you might be wondering why they sell tickets for such an odd amount. It's because the tax is no longer included in the quoted price. Last season, standing room was $15, which included the 12% rip-off tax. Now the Cubs get the $15 to themselves, and the $1.80 goes to the government. The big loser: the fan as usual. Anyway, we took the seats in front of his season tickets and were fortunate that the regular users missed the game, giving us a great view and allowing me to be a part of some very interesting cheering from Andrew's uncle.

The Cubs started Canadian Ryan Dempster against Chris Carpenter, who is one of the league's best pitchers. The story in this one was missed opportunities. There were 27 hits but only 7 runs, with a total of 19 runners left on. St. Louis had two runners thrown out at the plate as well.

St. Louis scored two in the second, but the Cubs replied with a singleton in the 4th when Marlon Byrd singled home Derrek Lee who had doubled. But Alfonso Soriano (below) grounded into a double play to end things there.

In the 5th, Ryan Theriot tripled in Geovany Soto who had walked. After Dempster grounded out and Tyler Colvin (below) struck out, Starlin Castro singled home Theriot to give the Cubs a short-lived lead.

In the 6th, Albert Pujols, suffering through an off-year hitting just .300 with 22 homers and 69 RBI, belted HR #23 to tie the game. It was a line shot that took about 1.5 seconds to clear the left field fence, one of the more impressive homers I've seen. The fans naturally threw the ball back though.

The game then proceeded to extra innings knotted at 3. In the top half of the 10th, St. Louis loaded the bases on 3 singles, but Yadier Molina grounded into a double play to end the threat. The Cubs managed to load the bases in their half as well, but Ryan Franklin got Byrd to watch strike three, and we went to 11. The picture below is taken in the 10th, nearly all of the fans remain.

In the 11th, Felipe Lopez took a 2-out offering from reliever Brian Schlitter over the right field fence and the Cardinals had a 4-3 lead.

But the Cubs didn't give up, as pinch-hitter Xavier Nady singled to lead off the Cubs' 11th. After a force play and Theriot strikeout, Kosuke Fukudome (below) came to bat. He was a defensive replacement in the 10th and had already singled in his only appearance. It was also the only time I would see a Japanese player on this trip, so I was sure that he would homer to win the game and send me back to Japan happy. Alas, it was not to be as he struck out swinging against Dennys Reyes to end the game and my trip. Not sure if there is an omen there or not.

The last swing of the trip

All Done

After 16 days and 18 games (which could have been 21 if not for rain and traffic) the trip was over. It took me a minute to realize that I would have to leave the stadium. But it was a good trip in all, with 9 MLB games, 7 minor matches in Iowa, and the Northern League DH in Kansas City. Add on 2,700 miles of driving and it was a perfect sports road trip. Meeting old and new friends and enjoying Target Field were just a couple of the highlights and I hope you enjoyed following along.

Next Up

I'm back in Tokyo where the World University Baseball Championship starts Friday with Canada taking on Taiwan. I'll check that out plus a few other games next week. There are some future big leaguers (on both sides of the pond) that will be playing so it should be very interesting. Check back for updates next week!



Monday, July 26, 2010

St. Louis Cardinals 5 at Chicago Cubs 6 - July 23, 2010

After spending all of Friday getting to Chicago from Des Moines via Minneapolis, I woke early today, rented a car at O'Hare and then crawled over to Wrigley Field for a Cubs-Cardinals daytime duel.

There had been severe thunderstorms in Chicago over the past day; my flight spent an hour circling over Madison, Wisconsin on Friday night due to the weather and Saturday morning saw power still out in several locations. The rental agency's computer systems were down so they were handwriting the rental agreements. Traffic on the Kennedy Expressway was ridiculous, and it wasn't any better when I got on surface streets - stop lights were out here and there causing slowdowns for miles. It took about 90 minutes to drive the 11 miles between O'Hare and Wrigleyville. I finally parked about a mile from the ballpark and walked over.

I had arranged to meet Andrew Van Cleve, another sports roadtripper who maintains a site at Any Game, Anywhere. He's another international traveler who has seen plenty of soccer, cricket, and rugby in Europe as well as most of the stadiums in the US. He lives just a block from Wrigley Field and is a Cubs' season ticket holder. He contacted me a few months ago and when he found out I would be in Chicago, he kindly offered to attend the game with me. It was great fun swapping sports stories. Check out his site and blog, it's very interesting.

Wrigley Field

Normally I would write about the ballpark, but we didn't get in until just a few minutes before first pitch, so I didn't do the tour. However, there's not much to see here in terms of amenities. Wrigley is the second oldest ballyard in the nation and it hasn't been seduced by newfangled innovations like digital scoreboards or massive club sections. Of course, some changes have been made over the years; lights were installed in 1988 and there are a few digital linescores here and there. But I would guess that the atmosphere is the same as it was 94 years ago when it was first opened.

Parking is available about a mile from the ballpark north and west. As you get closer, you can expect to pay a minimum of $20 to park, so I would suggest parking north of Irving Park or west of Ashland.

Getting around can be difficult, weekend games are crowded and walkways are small. It took me about 25 minutes from the end of the game to walk out and get a block away. If you are in a rush, get close to an exit near the end of the game and make a run for it.

There's little in the way of encouraging fans to cheer at certain points. No "Everybody Clap Your Hands" garbage here, the fans know when to cheer and when to boo. It was still quite loud as fans are talking to each other and the sound seems to be trapped under the rooftops. These open air parks let the ambient noise escape, but it's part of the fun here at Wrigley.

I'm not going to detail much else here. I just sat back and watched a great game. If you haven't been to Wrigley and you are a ball fan, plan a trip. Spend time in Wrigleyville as well, it's a unique experience and one that shouldn't be missed.

The Game

It was a 12:05 start today as the division leading Cardinals sent spot starter and B.C. native Blake Hawksworth against Tom Gorzelanny, who is taking Carlos Zambrano's spot in the Cubs' rotation.
Chicago got off to a quick start when Tyler Colvin led off with his 15th homer of the season, which leads all rookies. St. Louis responded in the second with a Brendan Ryan RBI double to tie the game. After Hawksworth, batting 8th, struck out, Tyler Greene singled home Ryan to give the Cards a 2-1 lead.

In the third, the Cubs added 2 on a home run by another rookie, shortstop Starlin Castro. Derek Lee (above) walked and Marlon Byrd doubled him home for the 4-2 lead.

St. Louis got one back in the fifth when Greene reached on a bunt and Aaron Miles singled him to third. Jon Jay then hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-3 Cubbies.

Chicago got two easy ones in the 5th. After Castro and Aramis Ramirez (below) singled to chase Hawksworth, Mitchell Boggs relieved and promptly walked Byrd to load the bases. He then uncorked a wild pitch which allowed Castro to score. Cards' catcher Yadier Molina threw wild to Boggs covering home and Ramirez raced home for the Cubs' 6th run.

But the Cardinals were not quite done. In the 7th, Miles and Jay led off with base knocks, and Albert Pujols followed with a sac fly to score Miles. That's Pujols watching it below - it was nearly a homer but fell short on the warning track.

The first two Cardinal hitters in the eighth also reached on singles and then Ryan hit a tailor-made grounder to second baseman Ryan Theriot, who booted it, allowing a run to score and make it 6-5. The Cubs' fans looked like they had seen this before, but pinch hitter Randy Winn flew out and Greene grounded into a double play to end the threat.

Carlos Marmol (above) came in to close it out and struck out Miles and Jay before walking Pujols. Matt Holliday represented the go-ahead run but he could only meekly flare a ball to Theriot, who caught it to preserve a gritty win for the home team.

Next Up

Traffic problems made me late into Milwaukee, so I skipped the game tonight. I'll go to tomorrow's afternoon game with the visiting Nationals and then drive back to Chicago to catch the Cards-Cubs night game. I then fly back to Japan on Monday and get ready for the World University Baseball Championship which begins next week. As usual, updates will be posted here.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Idyllic Iowa

I spent a week traversing the highways of Iowa, watching 7 games in that time in 5 cities. I didn't spend much time in any one place, but did enjoy the relaxed nature of the state, and its rolling hills as I tried to find some back roads to get from town to town.

I normally like to write about a city after I have visited it, but in this case, I'll just briefly mention one thing about 3 of the places where I actually spent some time. I didn't see anything in Cedar Rapids or Clinton, simply driving in and out around a baseball game, but did manage to see a few things in Des Moines, Davenport, and Burlington.

Des Moines

The largest city and capital of Iowa, Des Moines is located at the junction of the I-80 and I-35, in the middle of the state. It has a small downtown area with Court Avenue serving as an entertainment district that is within walking distance of the ballpark.

The tourism highlight is the State Capitol (above), just east of downtown. It is open for guided tours or you can just walk around yourself. The dome is gilded in pure gold and the rotunda has several works of art. Below is the skyline from the Capitol on a hot and hazy day.


Davenport is one of the Quad Cities that lie on the Mississippi on the eastern border of Iowa. It is the third largest city in the state but the entire Quad Cities area (including Bettendorf and the Illinois cities of Moline, East Moline, and Rock Island) is much larger than Des Moines.

The river is the highlight of the town and you can spend time at parks next to the river, such as Centennial Park just next to the ballpark. There is also the Rock Island Arsenal, a U.S. military installation that has several tourist attractions, such as the Mississippi River Visitors Center. You need an ID to get on the island and if you are not American, you will need to contact them in advance to get clearance.

Near the Rhythm City Casino is the Davenport Skybridge which has a small observation deck (above) that looks over the Mississippi. Below is a picture of the Centennial Bridge from the observation deck, as well as a shot of train passing beneath.


Just 80 miles south of Davenport is the small town of Burlington. The downtown area is next to the river and has been flooded, but the highlight is Snake Alley, a twisted road much like Lombard Street in San Francisco. It was once named "Crookedest Street in the World" by Ripley's Believe It or Not.

There is also a Heritage Center run by the Des Moines County Historical Society and housed in the building below, just a couple of blocks from Snake Alley.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Burlington is the crazy fines for parking violations. A $5 fine for parking more than two hours? That's ridiculous. It's not even worth writing a ticket for that.

Seriously, Burlington is one of the smallest communities with an affiliated minor league team, with around 27,000 residents. But it is a good place to visit for a day and check out a game.

In fact, Iowa is a great spot for baseball road trippers. With the Field of Dreams movie site located in Dyersville, the 5 minor league teams, and an independent league team in Sioux City, there is plenty to see. But the backroad drives between the towns are beautiful and relaxing. If you've yet to see the Hawkeye State, plan a visit for next summer, you won't be disappointed.



Saturday, July 24, 2010

Oklahoma City RedHawks 8 at Iowa Cubs 4 (PCL) - July 22, 2010

Des Moines is located about halfway between Kansas City and Minneapolis, which makes it a great stopping place when the Iowa Cubs are in town. I had seen a game there the week before to start the trip, but wanted to spend some time in the city as well, so we stopped in to check out the visiting Oklahoma City Red Hawks, Texas' AAA affiliate.

It turned out to be a popular game as Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was to make an appearance, his first since being suspended for a dugout tirade back in May. It was also Casey Blake bobblehead night (he's a Des Moines native), which ensured a large turnout. There were only 2,000 bobbleheads to be given away and reports said that 3-4,000 people were lined up well before the game. With the temperature in the mid-90s, we waited until later to enter the ballpark and thus did not receive the bobblehead.

I talked about Principal Park last week, so won't rehash that but will add a few pictures to give you an idea of the place.

Des Moines Skyline from left field

The Des Moines River with the sculpture of baseball seams, taken from behind the left field party area

A good view of the seating area

The Game

Sam Fuld grounds out here

Jay Jackson started for the I-Cubs against Guillermo Moscoso, who appeared in 10 games last season with the Rangers. Iowa scored 4 runs in the 3rd, highlighted by a 2-run double from Brad Snyder. But Moscoso was solid otherwise and the RedHawks chipped away off Jackson, who was somewhat wild.

In the 4th, two walks and a hit batsman loaded the bases for Brandon Boggs, who hit a sacrifice fly to score Oklahoma City's first run. With two out in the 6th, Jackson seemed to hit a wall. A single by Mitch Moreland was followed by walks to Jarrod Saltalamacchia (below) and Boggs. A mound visit ensued but it didn't help as Ryan Garko hammered a ball to deep center that scored all 3 runners to tie the game.

In the 7th, Zambrano (below) made his appearance to the delight of the crowd. He only threw 15 pitches, giving up 2 singles and not looking that impressive. When Blake Parker replaced him in the 8th, much of the crowd began to head home. Parker took offense and gave up 3 singles as the RedHawks took a 5-4 lead.

In the 9th, Saltamacchia hit a 2-run homer and Garko added an RBI double to put this one away as the RedHawks won 8-4. Moscoso picked up the win with 7 strong innings and is now 6-3 on the year.

The announced crowd was 12,949, the largest of the season for Iowa. For the records, Monday's Royals game had only 12,968, and there were 18 major leaguers starting in that one.

Next Up

I'm in Chicago and hoping to catch the big league Cubs and Cardinals in two games this weekend. I'm also driving up to Milwaukee for at least one game there with the Nationals visiting. Check back later for updates as the trip winds down.



Friday, July 23, 2010

Schaumburg Flyers 2-4 at Kansas City T-Bones 6-2 (Northern League) - July 21, 2010

After the Royals-Jays rubber match, we returned to the hotel to find out that the power had gone out yet again. So we immediately headed over the border to Kansas to watch Kansas City's other ball team, the Northern League's T-Bones. The game was scheduled for 7:05 but we arrived two hours early, planning to grab dinner at a nearby restaurant. When we bought our tickets though, the lady said "Enjoy both games". Sure enough, Tuesday's storm caused a rainout here and so we would be treated to two 7-inning games this evening.

CommunityAmerica Ballpark

This ballpark is located in suburban Kansas City, surrounded by a mall and various eateries. It is huge for an independent league park, at least from my experience. This is partially because the stadium is also hosting the Wizards from Major League Soccer while their new stadium is being built. The free parking lot is located off Village West Parkway, you can drive up to the top of the hill to get close to the gates.

The park is typical of minor league stadiums in that it has an open concourse with one level of seating below and suites above. Box seats stretch well down the lines and there are bleachers in left field. Center and right field offer berm seating. Capacity is over 7,500 and attendance averages over 5,000 this year, which is quite impressive considering the Royals are just 30 miles away. Tickets here are not cheap though, with the front two rows going for $16.50. But ushers are not checking tickets, so just get the $6 GA and sit where you want.

The ballpark is not symmetrical with the left field foul pole just 300 feet away, while right field is 328. Left center is 411 and right center is 409, while dead center is 396. There are a lot of fly balls that might be doubles or homers elsewhere that are easily caught here.

Buck O'Neill's name and number 22 are posted on the left field fence, which is higher than the rest of the fencing. Above the bleachers is a cow with a hole for an eye - I guess that hitting a homer through here nets the player some cash, much like Durham's Bull.

Food was typical, but there was one special concession cart serving 1/2lb burgers and Boulevard Beer. This craft brewery's Pale Ale makes a refreshing change from the typical swill that you have to endure at ballparks around the country.

The scoreboard is also pretty typical. A small video board provide highlights above a linescore.

If there is a cookie-cutter version of new minor league parks, this would be the model. That's not to criticize, it's a perfectly fine place to relax and watch the game, but there isn't anything particularly memorable about the place.

The Games

The T-Bones were in first place in the 8-team circuit with a 34-18 record, while Schaumburg was last at 20-33. The biggest name on the rosters was KC's Dewon Brazelton, the 3rd overall pick in 2001, who is now inactive due to a shoulder issue. Most of the players have had some minor league experience, and a few had a cup of coffee in the majors. The T-Bones' program says that the quality of the league is between A and AA, and looking at where most of the players fell out of the system, I would tend to agree.

In the first game, Ray Sadler (above), who had all of 8 AB with the Pirates back in 2005, hit a 3-run triple in the third to stake the home team to a 4-0 lead. Schaumburg halved the deficit in the 4th, but Dwayne White belted a 2-run shot in the 6th to clinch the 6-2 win. White was 3-3 and just a double shy of the cycle, but in a 7-inning game, you are unlikely to get enough plate appearance to achieve the feat.

Richard Mercado singles

The second game was scoreless through four as starters Alain Quijano of the Flyers and Steven Stewart of the T-Bones pitched well. In the 5th, Joey Gomes hit a 2-run homer for Schaumburg to open the scoring but KC tied it up in the bottom half.

The Flyers rallied in the 6th when Ruddy Yan doubled and scored on Brandon Newton's single off reliever Drew Graham. They added another run in the 7th when Josh Burrus singled with the bases loaded. The T-Bones made it exciting, getting men on 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out in their last bat, but Rico Washington struck out and Sadler lined to first to end it. The final was 4-2 as Schaumburg salvaged a split. The game took 2:39 which is rather long for a 7-inning affair, but it was entertaining baseball.

The most annoying aspect of the game was a promotion where one of the batters was dubbed the Burger King K Man. If he struck out, everybody in a selected section would get a Whopper. The PA guy would chant "Whop-per, Whop-per, Whop-per" whenever the K man was at the plate. Near the end of the second game the K man had yet to strike out so they decided that if any batter struck out, the Whopper coupon would be distributed. This meant that whenever a batter got a strike, the Whopper chant would start. Highly bothersome.

The coolest thing here was that the teams changed uniforms between games. In the pictures above, KC is wearing a maroon top, but in the shot below, they have switched to all white. Schaumburg's sandy jersey was replaced by a black one that you can see on the catcher below.