Thursday, July 30, 2015

August Baseball Extravaganza

Since I moved to the United States, my ability to take extended road trips has been significantly curtailed. In Japan, I could take a couple of weeks off and fly to North America, seeing a game a day for that time before returning. That's how this blog got its name, from my long trips watching a variety of sports in different cities. Now that I am here and working, I have but a few weekends in which I can get away, and even then, only two or three events to attend. After returning to work on Monday, I don't have time to update the blog, and the quality of the posts, already rather mediocre, has worsened.

Finally, after a year of toil, I get a few days off during August, and I'm going to use that time wisely to visit some ballparks and close out a few minor leagues. First, I'm taking care of the six remaining parks in the New York-Penn League, then I'm off to Virginia to visit Salem, one of the last two remaining Carolina League venues. I'll also visit a number of South Atlantic League stadiums,  including Savannah, whose franchise is moving next season to Columbia, before a brief return to New York for that old work thing. The following weekend I'll return south to see Charlotte and open my Appalachian League account with a game in Burlington. I'll then revisit Winston-Salem and Greensboro before heading to Zebulon, where the Carolina Mudcats play, to finish the Carolina League. The final day will see another DH - this time Danville in the morning and Kannapolis at night. This will leave me in good stead to complete all the minor league parks by 2017.

Here is the schedule in its entirety:

Fri, Jul 31 Vermont Lake Monsters at Williamsport Crosscutters 7:05 (NYPL)
Sat, Aug  1 Lowell Spinners at State College Spikes 7:05 (NYPL)
Sun, Aug  2 Pawtucket Red Sox at Buffalo Bisons 1:05 (IL)
Mon, Aug  3 Minnesota Twins at Toronto Blue Jays 1:05
Mon, Aug  3 Toronto Argonauts at Hamilton Tiger-Cats 7:00
Tue, Aug  4 Auburn Doubledays at West Virginia Black Bears 7:05 (NYPL)
Wed, Aug  5 Charleston RiverDogs at Hagerstown Suns 1:05 (SAL)
Wed, Aug  5 Connecticut Tigers at Aberdeen IronBirds 7:05 (NYPL)
Sat, Aug  8 Connecticut Tigers at Lowell Spinners 5:05 (NYPL)
Sun, Aug  9 Auburn Doubledays at Connecticut Tigers 4:05 (NYPL)
Tue, Aug 11 Myrtle Beach Pelicans at Salem Red Sox 7:05 (Carolina)
Wed, Aug 12 Kannapolis Intimidators at Hickory Crawdads 7:00 (SAL)
Thu, Aug 13 Lexington Legends at Charleston RiverDogs 7:05 (SAL)
Fri, Aug 14 Greensboro Grasshoppers at Savannah Sand Gnats 7:05 (SAL)
Sat, Aug 15 Charleston RiverDogs at Greenville Drive 7:05 (SAL)
Sun, Aug 16 Augusta GreenJackets at Asheville Tourists 2:05 (SAL)
Sat, Aug 22 Indianapolis Indians at Charlotte Knights 12:05 (IL)
Sat, Aug 22 Johnson City Cardinals at Burlington Royals 7:05 (Appy)
Sun, Aug 23 Carolina Mudcats at Winston-Salem Dash 2:00 (SAL)
Sun, Aug 23 Hickory Crawdads at Greensboro Grasshoppers 6:00 (SAL)
Mon, Aug 24 Wilmington Blue Rocks at Carolina Mudcats 7:00 (Carolina)
Tue, Aug 25 Johnson City Cardinals at Danville Braves 11:00 (Appy)
Tue, Aug 25 Delmarva Shorebirds at Kannapolis Intimidators 7:05 (SAL)

Should be a blast, if you are in any of the neighbourhoods, drop me a line and let's enjoy a game together.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Greensboro Grasshoppers 6 at Delmarva Shorebirds 16 (South Atlantic League) - July 19, 2015

For years I’ve wondered about the Delmarva Shorebirds, a minor league baseball team in the South Atlantic League. Specifically, where the hell is Delmarva?! Obviously a quick Google search would sate my curiosity, and now that I am in the midst of visiting all minor league parks, I finally got around to it. The club plays out of Salisbury, Maryland, and it would seem like the Salisbury Shorebirds has a ring to it, but Delmarva is more inclusive, as it describes the peninsula surrounded by Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. So there you go. Or there I went.

Salisbury is off the beaten path, located next to US50 about 2.5 hours southeast of Baltimore. It is too far for a day trip from New York, but a nice drive from Charm City, where I had spent Saturday watching the Gold Cup quarterfinals.  Usually when you get off the Interstates, you find yourself on some nice, scenic road with little traffic. Not on the Eastern Shore though. I was anticipating a lot of people returning from the shore on Sunday afternoon, but what surprised me was the number of people heading east. The bottleneck is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a beautiful 4-mile-long span once you clear the toll booths, which caused a backup of a couple of miles. After traversing the bridge, traffic moved nicely through a few towns, until I arrived at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, just off the highway. You cannot miss the water tower signifying the ballpark, though it is need of a fresh coat of paint.

There is nothing in the immediate vicinity of the venue, so the ballpark is surrounded by a huge parking lot which will cost you $3 to enter. As you near the stadium, you will notice the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame to your right. It is open one hour before the game and is free to enter, though donations are gladly accepted, and has a very detailed history of baseball in the area, along with a docent to answer any questions.

General admission seats are $8 and the only option you should consider as they are benches that encircle the entire diamond (above), with the top few rows covered by the suites, protecting you from the sun. There are signs around the concourse noting that all maroon-backed seats are GA in case you get confused. If you do wish to sit closer, you will pay an extra $3 for the privilege. Note that the GA section behind home plate is actually a picnic area called the Hardball Cafe, a very nice setting for a group of 30 or more.

The main concourse here is very wide as you can see above and never presents any problem for getting around. Arthur W. Perdue Stadium is named for the founder of Perdue Farms (based in Salisbury) and although they are famous for their chickens, it is birds of another sort that can be found here as many Shorebirds grow up to be Orioles and there are small banners commemorating those who have done so, such as Jim Johnson.

The stadium was opened in 1996, just before the ballpark boom hit the minors, and so it lacks a lot of the distractions that newer parks have, which is a good thing in my books. I realize that many people come for more than the game, but some parks have taken it a bit too far. Not here, where the biggest attraction is a carousel down the right field line that spins throughout the game.

I really enjoyed the set up here, with an inner walkway between the two levels that included another concession stand for pizza lovers. At $3 a slice, it was just like New York! The picture below is taken from there.

I really love making these treks to minor league parks. Sure, after about 120 of them, it is tough to find something truly unique, but the fans and atmosphere at each stadium are always just a little bit different. Perdue Stadium is far enough away from the big cities that you are not going to happen upon it by accident, but a purposeful trip here is well worth your time. Even when you end up with a crap game like I did.

The Game

The Greensboro Grasshoppers (whom I had seen win a 1-0 battle at home just a week before) were the visitors, with Enderson Franco getting the start for them (above). Franco had recently been traded to Miami from Tampa Bay for an international bonus slot, which really has to be tough on your confidence. It certainly seemed that way as Franco struggled, giving up 7 runs in an inning plus, including a 3-run homer to Yermin Mercedes (below).

Shorebirds starter John Means (11th round, 2014, Baltimore's 30th-ranked prospect, below) had more than enough support as he lasted 5 innings giving up just a run while striking out 7.

The final score was 16-6 for Delmarva, with 8 of the 9 pitchers overall giving up at least a run. The only unblemished hurler was Nigel Nootbaar, a Tokyo-born graduate of USC (12th round, 2014) who threw a scoreless frame and thus earned my coveted "Player to Watch" award, primarily for his name.


My player not to watch is Ademar Rifaela, who can't even get the clubhouse guy to sew his name on right.

Next Up

Lots and lots of baseball to come through August as I finally get a break from work to take a couple of real sports road trips. I will be completing the New York-Penn League in the first week of August (6 parks total) and then a two-week trip to the Carolinas will see me finish off the International League (Gwinnett and Charlotte), Carolina League (Salem and Carolina), and the South Atlantic League (9). That's 19 new parks to visit, plus a trip to Buffalo, Toronto, and Hamilton. The full schedule will be posted here, so check back soon!



Gold Cup Quarterfinals - July 18, 2015

The Gold Cup is CONCACAF’s biennial tournament for North America. Unlike the Euro and Copa America, the Gold Cup is not at all competitive, with the US and Mexico combining to claim 11 of 12 previous titles (Canada won the other in 2000). Even the Women’s World Cup is more unpredictable than this, with four champs in seven tourneys. But the lack of competition didn’t stop me from paying a visit to Baltimore to watch the first two quarterfinal matches. 

When the schedule was announced, it was pretty clear that the US would win Group A and play their quarterfinal here. I thought that Canada would finish third in Group B and provide the opposition, but they managed nary a goal in their three matches and gave up a stoppage time marker to Jamaica to finish in last place with 2 points, earning instant elimination. Instead it was surprising Cuba, finishing third in Group C, that faced the Americans while Haiti took on Jamaica in the later game.

M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Ravens, was the venue. Before a Ravens home game, the walkway to the main gate (Ravenswalk) is lined with a sponsor booths and fans; on this occasion there were far fewer of both. The highlight was the actual Gold Cup on display.

With capacity here nearly 80,000, it was safe to bet that demand here would not exceed supply. I went to the box office to find out that the cheapest ticket was $30 (while the good seats were a ridiculous $150). I was pretty sure I could get in for less than that and found a scalper who was amenable to my initial offer of $20. And even then, I probably overpaid.  I had last visited here on my NFL trip and really enjoyed it, and found nothing to complain about today, including some nice views of the downtown skyline and Camden Yards.

It was baking on this day, with the heat index over 100, so the smart thing to do was to wait out the start in the concourse. Most other fans did the same as you can see below.

I was surprised to see the designated driver program in effect, so I signed up for my free small soda. When I presented the voucher to the cashier, she wasn’t sure what to do and gave me a large soda. The supervisor saw this and chastised her for giving me that extra 200 millilitres of pop. So the cashier got a small cup and filled it from the large cup, pouring out the remainder. I found that highly amusing, better to waste the soda than to have someone get more than he deserved!

I went to my seat about 15 minutes before kickoff, only to find it directly facing the sun. Thankfully the upper deck was empty and I moved over to midfield, sitting in the top row where the camera box blocked the sun. I had the space to myself for a while but eventually a number of other fans, no doubt tired of cooking in their seats, made their way up to the top. The view from here was quite good. When the players came out, they briefly formed a heart shape, but there was no love to be found on this day. Unless you count Cuba's score.

Cuba had lost four players to defection, always a risk when their athletic teams visit a foreign country. This simply wasn't going to be a close game, and it didn’t take long for the US to prove that as Clint Dempsey headed home in the fourth minute. Ten minutes after that and Gyasi Zardes one-timed a Fabian Johnson pass into the net (below) and the rout was on.

The US added two more in the half to great fanfare, and two in the second half, both from Dempsey (below), who netted his first hat trick for the national team.

I was surprised that the fans were somewhat classless, booing the ref whenever a call went against the US and cheering like crazy even on the fourth goal. Like it mattered. This game was never in doubt but US soccer fans seem to think that this is a level playing field. Much like the WWC, the US should contend for the Gold Cup every single time due to the advantages they have in population and infrastructure. Only Mexico provides any competition, and even that has been lacking lately. US soccer fans should act a bit more mature, like they’ve been there before and save the whining for the World Cup, when they are actually shafted by horrible officiating every four years.

Stepping down from my soapbox, the second game was more interesting. I had moved down to the lower level for this one, and as the sun was setting, it became quite comfortable. Jamaica was heavily favoured but Haiti attacked early, only to have a fluke goal against when a bad angled shot from Giles Barnes (below) went through the keeper’s legs and into the net.

There were many fans from both countries surrounding me and the picture below summarizes the moment. A happy Jamaican dancing in the aisles as a despondent Haitian looks away.

Haiti continued to attack (as below) throughout the half but missed chance after chance. The second half wasn't much different from what I heard (I left at halftime to meet a friend) and in the end, that one early mistake cost Haiti the game as Jamaica held on for the 1-0 win. They go on to face the US in the semi-finals in Atlanta on Wednesday, with the other semi-final featuring Mexico and Panama.

I'm glad I checked off the Gold Cup, my first actual confederation tournament (qualifiers don't count), but I don't think I will be back in 2017. Like the Asian Cup, there isn't much competition below the top couple of teams, and with all the sports going on, you can always find something more compelling.

Update: Well, I guess I jinxed the US as they lost to Jamaica 2-1. So maybe there is some competition, just not until the semifinals. 



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Potomac Nationals 8 at Winston-Salem Dash 2 (Carolina League) - July 12, 2015

After visiting two great ballyards in Greensboro and Durham, I had high hopes for BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, home of the Carolina League's Dash. The park looks great from the highway, but I found it lacking in a few aspects once I approached. Signage to the parking lot was a bit inaccurate and I ended up in a ramshackle gravel lot on the other side of street. Given the condition of other cars parked there, many of which were missing bumpers, headlights, etc., I thought that Dash fans were very poor drivers. Only when I walked to the park did I see the actual, paved lots, but it wasn't worth moving the car at this point. As it turns out, those lots cost $6, while the junk lot was free. Also free is the downtown shuttle that runs from Thursday-Saturday should you be staying in the city. Walking back to the ballpark gave me the chance to take a picture from the top of the hill, a unique vantage point.

The stadium opened in 2010 and received accolades from that year, but I found it to be quite average, particularly when compared to the other two parks I had seen on this trip. The entrance to the park is through the center field gates, where the ticket windows are located. There are separate lines for ticket purchase and will call that start from the top of the stairs, so make sure to get in the right one. Just in front of the main gate is a statue of three kids with gloves extended in anticipation of a home run ball.

Tickets are quite expensive for Class A Advanced ball, with the top price for infield box seats at $17 on game day. The cheapest option is the lawn seat at $9. Fortunately, fans were not in abundance this night and so you could sit where you wanted, thus the lawn seat is the recommended strategy.

Programs are free and handed out at the gate. From there you can take a walk to the seating bowl where there are several concession stands selling your usual variety of ballpark bites. This night happened to be dollar dog and soda night, so there was no need to try anything else. The hot dogs were quite good so I had three of those to go with my two Pepsi's, a top-notch ballpark dinner.

There aren't a lot of amenities here. The Foothills Brew Pen behind the left field fence is where you go if you want to sit at a table and have a beer or two; the picnic terrace in the right field corner is for group parties, while a kids zone is behind the scoreboard beyond centerfield. In other words, a typical minor league ballpark. Nothing wrong with that, with free parking and cheap eats, I paid only $14 for an evening of entertainment, so why I am complaining?

The game was scheduled to start at 5 and I had left Durham at 3:15 to get here in time. But at 5:05, they announced that the game was being delayed due to "impending inclement weather". The tarp was rolled out and the game day crew tried to entertain the fans with some silly dancing and other promotions. Meanwhile, that impending inclement weather never impended. After about 20 minutes, the grounds crew removed the tarp and the players began to warm up. The game eventually started at 6:05, meaning that I could have seen the whole game in Durham (won by Gwinnett 3-1 on an 11th inning homer). I was pretty annoyed at this turn of events, although it was no fault of the home team. Once the game started though, my frustration fizzled and I enjoyed myself as the teams played into the evening.

The Game

A couple of prospects took the mound: Reynaldo Lopez (above, Baseball America's #49 overall prospect and Washington's #5) for visiting Potomac and Brandon Brennan (below, 4th round, 2012, and the White Sox #20 prospect).

Potomac got on the board first when Khayvan Norfork (23rd, 2011, throwing below) singled home Spencer Kieboom (5th, 2012, Washington's #19 prospect). Meanwhile, Lopez scattered two hits over 5 innings but allowed a run in the 6th when Trey Michalczewski (7th, 2013, Chisox #7 prospect, sliding below) doubled to score Adam Engel (19th, 2013, #17 prospect).

Lopez was saved from the no-decision though, when Potomac notched four runs in the top of the 7th, with three of those unearned after Michalczewski threw low to first on a play that should have ended the inning. Stephen Perez followed with a 2-run double to make it 5-1.

Potomac added another in the 8th, and in the 9th, Michael Ynoa came in for Winston-Salem. Ynoa, from the Dominican Republic, was signed to a $4.25 million contract with Oakland back in 2008 as a 16-year old. He was considered a top prospect but injuries have kept him from achieving his promise. and Oakland finally gave up, trading him to Chicago as part of the Jeff Samardzija deal last year. Ynoa got two quick outs but then yielded a single and two doubles leading to 2 more Potomac runs before finally getting out of the inning. The Dash added a run in the bottom of the ninth to make the final 8-2 in a game that lasted 2:52, rather long for what transpired.


This was my sixth Carolina League park, with two left (Salem and Carolina). The league is considered Class A Advanced, along with the Florida State League and California League, in both of which I have seen all ballparks. So once I make a trip to Salem and Zebulon, I will have completed the entire level. Hoping to get this done in August.

Next Up

I'll be in Baltimore on the weekend to see the Gold Cup quarterfinals between the USA and Cuba as well as Jamaica and Haiti. Then I'll head to Salisbury, MD on Sunday to check out the Delmarva Shorebirds as I slowly try to complete all 160 minor league ballparks. Check back next week for a recap of those events.



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gwinnett Braves at Durham Bulls (International League) - July 12, 2015

The second day of my weekend jaunt to North Carolina started at the most iconic minor league stadium of all. You've all heard about the movie Bull Durham which chronicled veteran catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) teaching a young rookie pitcher (Tim Robbins) as members of the Class-A Durham Bulls. The movie was a surprise hit and since then, the Bulls are the only minor league team that most casual sports fans can name. The name Crash Davis was inspired by a real-life major leaguer who went to Duke University and played a season with the Bulls in 1948. The movie has had such an impact that the Bulls retired Davis' #8 (it is not clear if this is for the movie character, the real-life player, or both) along with the #10 of Chipper Jones (Joe Morgan and Bill Evers are the other two honoured numbers).

The Bulls moved from the Carolina League to the AAA International League when major league baseball expanded in 1998, becoming the affiliate of the newborn Tampa Bay Devil Rays, an affiliation that lasts to this day. Their three-year-old ballyard, Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) had to undergo renovations to meet requirements for the higher level of baseball being played, and since then, it has been upgraded on eight different occasions. And what a job they have done! I last visited here during my trip in 2001 and don't recall much about the stadium, but now it is a premier destination befitting its fame. DBAP is located as part of the American Tobacco Historic District, which includes a number of shops and eateries in renovated warehouses that are worth visiting before or after the game.

Parking is $5 in a garage across the street, but if you get there early enough, there is free parking on Willard Street, approximately one minute from the stadium. The signs state "No Parking Except Ball Park Events". This is the opposite of what you normally see, when a street with ample parking is restricted during a sporting event, forcing fans to pay to park. Even with the free option here, many fans choose to fork over their money which is good news for budget conscious road trippers such as myself, who have no trouble finding a spot on the street.

Arriving at the front of the stadium, you are greeted by statues of kids playing ball and a couple of fountains. The ticket windows are to the left and offer a nice surprise - some of the cheapest minor league tickets available. The value is outstanding for AAA ball, with the top ticket only $14.99, which includes $5 credit towards food or merchandise. I was debating what to do when a gentleman asked me if I needed a single. I replied in the affirmative and he sold me a ticket in the top row under cover (an important concern on this very sunny day) for $5.

I really loved this seat because it was at the end of a row and against the back wall (below). A great place to relax and enjoy the game. I did move around near the end and had no trouble sitting right down close to home plate as ushers are quite relaxed here.

When you enter the stadium you walk up a staircase to reach the main concourse. Along here are dozens of concession stands with all the favourites, including hot dogs at $3.50. A turkey avocado wrap was tempting at $8 but I had to save myself for the evening game at Winston-Salem, which was dollar dog night.

The most recent of the aforementioned renovations came before the 2014 season and included a new high definition scoreboard in the Blue Monster, the left field wall. When a player bats, the scoreboard provides useful information such as birthplace, draft position, and other tidbits, something that really helps you appreciate what is happening in front of you.

Above it is the most recognizable target in sports, the bull, updated to include vegetarian options.

One of the interesting touches here is a plaque from Durham's sister city of Toyama, Japan. They have a ballpark of their own, but I don't know if a similar plaque can be found there.

Overall, this is one of the best ballparks in the minor leagues. It touches all the bases: affordable, beautiful, excellent location and neighbourhood, spacious, friendly staff and fans, and a team with lots of prospects. Given that Duke basketball plays just a few miles away and the Carolina Hurricanes are just over in Raleigh, Durham might be the best sports city in the country, at least on a per capita basis. I'll definitely be back and if you have yet to visit, you should consider going as soon as possible.

The Game

The Gwinnett Braves were in town to finish up a four-game set before the All-Star break with first pitch set for 1:05. I had to be in Winston-Salem, about 75 minutes away, by 5:00, so I did not expect to see the end of the game, but I had hoped for a quick one, and that was what I got. Unfortunately, neither team could score more than a run, but it was pretty interesting.

The highlight for me was seeing J.P. Arencibia on his way back down. In 2009, I saw him play for Las Vegas as he made his way up to the majors. He had a short career with Toronto and spent last season in the Texas organization, but it is safe to say he won't have many more major league at bats as he is just not that good a hitter. I was lucky to get a shot of him making contact (above).

Gwinnett scored an unearned run in the second when Mikie Mahtook misplayed a single into a triple, but Durham answered in the bottom of the third as Taylor Motter singled home Boog Powell. After that, starting pitchers Matt Andriese (fresh off a spot call up for Tampa Bay) and Kanekoa Texeira each kept the other team scoreless, and the bullpens managed to do the same through 8 innings. Durham had a chance in their 8th when Powell led off with a single, but Arencibia grounded weakly to the pitcher to end the threat, and I decided to leave to make my way to Winston-Salem.

As I drove west, I listened to the rest of the game, which seemed pretty exciting with a couple of great defensive plays by the home team. As I neared my destination, the radio feed disappeared but I found out later that Gwinnett won 3-1 in 11 innings. That is the problem with doubleheaders in different cities, you always risk missing something. Such is the curse of the sports road tripper, but I'm gong to try my best to avoid these situations in the future. There is really no excuse for leaving early!



Monday, July 13, 2015

West Virginia Power 0 at Greensboro Grasshoppers 1 (South Atlantic League) - July 11, 2015

After leaving the Charlotte Hounds game at halftime, I made the short drive to Greensboro for the main event of the day, a minor league ballgame between the Grasshoppers and the West Virginia Power.

The Hoppers play out of NewBridge Bank Park, located in downtown Greensboro. It opened in 2005 and still looks brand new. There are two official parking lots at $4 plus several unofficial lots operated by enterprising neighbours, but you can park for free on Cedar Street just two blocks away. The box office is right at the corner of Bellemeade and Edgeworth Streets and they were doing a booming business. Tickets are $11 for the box seats behind the netting, $10 for all other box seats, and $7 for general admission. I usually recommend the cheapest option, but on this night, there was a large walk-up crowd that left few seats empty, so I bought a $10 box seat. Many of these seats do not have a clear view of the batters box due to the netting atop both dugouts, which is visible in the photo below. If this bothers you, try to get a seat in the upper rows. I was fortunate that my seat looked through the gap between the back netting and dugout netting, affording me a clear view of the batter.

I walked down the third base line to where the Grasshoppers were warming up and I took a photo of Arturo Rodriguez (who played in two seasons in the Mexican League) to illustrate their logo and bright orange cap. Hey, it's the minors, colourful uniforms are a part of the game.

The left field corner holds the Grandstand Bar, where you can pick up three varieties of Natty Greene's brew - at $6.50 for 20 ounces, this is a relative bargain and well worth it. Natty Greene's is a Greensboro-based brewery that has yet to make inroads into the upper northeast from what I have seen, but they are very popular around these parts. The view from the bar area is below.

Behind the left field fence is Natty's Hill (below), one of the places you can sit if you buy the GA tickets, while the right field line includes a kids play area and a shade zone as well as more lawn seating.

Greensboro has a long baseball history and this is commemorated with banners around the concourse, one for each decade.

Overall, this is one of the nicer ballparks I have visited - they seem to have something for every type of fan. But what really made the difference was a few thoughtful promotions that show the staff here is trying to keep things fresh. The funniest promo was the "Car or Horse" bit, where a guy was given the name of a car that could also be a horse (Mustang, Charger, Pinto, Escalade, etc.). He had to guess if it was a car or horse; of course he was always wrong, going 0-for-5. The scoreboard would show the opposite of what he said (i.e. if he said car, a horse would appear on the board) while womp-womp played. I am pretty sure that this is intentional, and it is really fun to watch the guy get more and more frustrated.

Other touches included announcing "Gesundheit" when visiting catcher Taylor Gushue was announced and replacing Chase Simpson's picture with one of namesake Homer. You really need to pay attention lest you miss something amusing and it is great to see a game-day crew that is not sticking with the tried and true.

The Game

Michael Mader (above, 3rd round, 2014, Marlins #12 prospect) got the start for Greensboro against Austin Coley (8th, 2014), who came in leading the league with 10 wins. Both pitchers were on their game and we were scoreless through 5 when Coley was relieved, having thrown only 49 pitches.

His replacements was Jose Regalado, who managed to keep Greensboro off the board through the 7th. Meanwhile, Mader was superb, tossing 95 pitches through 8 scoreless innings while scattering 3 hits and a walk. It looked like he would not get the win as his offense had failed to score, but in the bottom of the 8th, Zach Sullivan (14th, 2014) led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second. Rony Cabrera (above) followed with a double to score Sullivan with the first run of the game.

Kyle Fischer (30th, 2014) was brought in to close things out and he promptly gave up a leadoff single to Cole Tucker (above, 24th overall, 2014, Pirates #9 prospect). Fischer then threw wild on a pickoff sending Tucker to second and the slim lead was in jeopardy. Pablo Reyes grounded out to move Tucker to third but Jordan Luplow (3rd, 2014, Pirates #25 prospect) could only muster a grounder to third, forcing Tucker to remain there. Michael Suchy (5th, 2014) was the last shot for the Power but his broken bat flare landed in the shortstop's glove and the Grasshoppers won 1-0.

The entire game took just 2:03, a great evening at one of the best ballparks I have seen in some time and what makes these trips worthwhile.