Saturday, April 30, 2022

Philadelphia Phillies 0 at New York Mets 3 (Combined No-Hitter) - April 29, 2022

Living in Queens, I have become a regular visitor to Citi Field to see the New York Mets. Compared to the Yankees, the experience is more affordable (concessions excluded) and better caters to families, with Mr. and Mrs. Met cavorting around and Kiddie Field in the outfield plaza, where youngsters can try to hit home runs in a miniature ballpark. The re-opening of the outside bar by the right field entrance (now run by EBBS after Mikkeller shut down during the pandemic) and the addition of the Tom Seaver statue make Citi Field the best sports venue in NYC. This is a far different opinion than I had when I first visited in 2009, just after it had opened. Once you learn all the ins and outs of a venue, you appreciate it a lot more.

Of course, I don't post every time I go to a game because the experience is the same. But last Friday turned out to be a special occasion. I met my friend Markus at EBBS before the game and he introduced me to some of his buddies. After entering and taking my seat in Section 515 and saying hi to all the regulars there, I headed downstairs to Section 129 to chat with Markus. At the time, it was still 0-0 and the Phillies had yet to get a hit. But starter Tylor Megill was inefficient and there was no chance he would complete the game. Still, he finished his five frames with three walks his only blemish, and when Jeff McNeil drove in a pair in the bottom half, the possibility of a no-hitter began to form in everyone's mind. Drew Smith followed with 1.1 hitless innings while a Pete Alonso homer added some insurance. After Joely Rodriguez did his part, walking two but not yielding a base knock, Seth Lugo completed the 8th, inducing a couple of pop ups.

This brought closer Edwin Diaz to the mound. He always enters to the trumpet solo part of "Narco", a tradition that sees Mr. and Mrs. Met atop the dugout with trumpets and fans miming along. Everyone still in the ballpark knew what was at stake, though nobody was willing to jinx it. Diaz struck out public enemy #1 Bryce Harper on a vicious slider, then did the same to Nick Castellanos. J.T. Realmuto, who had the highest batting average against Diaz (4/9 with a homer) was the last hope for Philly, but Diaz struck him out on three straight sliders and Citi Field went crazy. It was only the second no-hitter in franchise history and although it was a combined one, no fan (other than grumpy Gary) will be unhappy about witnessing it.

Kudos to the graphics guys who had this one lined up. The Mets were wearing their black jerseys as they do on Friday nights, and so Black Out was appropriate. These five combined to toss 159 pitches, the most ever recorded in a major league no-hitter (of course, pitches have only been tracked for the last 30 years).

This was my fifth no-hitter attended, with the first coming in 2001 in the Arizona Fall League. The rest are documented on the blog; none has been a single pitcher 9-inning no-no, and with the way things are going, the chances of me seeing one are getting less and less by the day.



Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Northeastern Huskies 2 at High Point Panthers 5 (NCAA Baseball) - April 24, 2022

When I originally scheduled this weekend trip, the Sunday plan was to drive to Charlotte for UNC Charlotte at 1 and Gastonia at 4:15. With the two parks over 30 minutes apart, I would have to leave the first game early or arrive late at the second, both things I am loath to do. Adding in the extortionate price of rental cars made the idea even more unpalatable. So when I discovered that the High Point Panthers had a game on Sunday afternoon, I decided to avoid the Queen City on this trip and spend the entire time in the Triad.

On Sunday morning, I left my hotel and again walked through the deserted streets of High Point, known as the Furniture Capital of the World. Along the way, I stopped at the World's Largest Chest of Drawers, which is a fully functioning building along a residential street. It is now an office for a nearby children's museum, so I might have to revisit with the family.

From there, it is about a 20-minute stroll to the gates of High Point University. Not too many people walk up here and the guard was startled when I arrived at his booth. He also had no idea there was a baseball game and I had to wait while he confirmed with a phone call. Once on campus, I took a brief break at a shuttle bus stop and was surprised to see the shuttle was running. I asked the driver if he was going to the baseball stadium, and he said "eventually" so I hopped on, happy to get out of the noonday sun.

After a short drive through the very picturesque campus, I was dropped off next to the lacrosse stadium, where a girls' tournament was taking place. Here is where you can find a panther statue as well.

I then walked over to Williard Stadium, officially dubbed George S. Erath Field at Coy O. Williard Baseball Stadium.  As you can see below, tickets are usually $5, but for this non-conference matchup against Northeastern, I was happy to see another sign...

...featuring two of my favourite words right next to each other.

I should point out that you can watch any game for free here from the hills outside the seating bowl, but it is always better to be inside where the concessions and restrooms are, not that it made any difference on this day. The home dugout is the structure in the foreground.

There is no cover from the sun in the seating bowl, but there are tables with umbrellas on the concourse. If you get there first, you have to put the umbrella up yourself, not a trivial task. You can see my handiwork to the right in the photo below; I spent the first few innings here to avoid getting a major sunburn, even though the view is less than ideal. There is also a set of rocking chairs that sit right behind the top row of seats; these are quite popular so get there early if you want one. Capacity is 550 and at time they do come close to filling up, but that would not be the case on this day when only 137 fans stopped by.

There is a large amount of foul territory here but plenty of foul balls still reach the seats. If you get one, you can return it to the concession stand and receive a coupon to use at Bojangles. 

High Point's colours are purple and white and there is a bit of purple around home plate, which makes for a unique look. 

Overall, Williard Stadium is another simple collegiate baseball stadium that few traveling fans would bother see with so many other ballparks in North Carolina. But it is well worth visiting for its rather unique appearance, as well as to get to see the High Point campus. Just be sure to drive.

The Game

The Northeastern Huskies were visiting in an unusual non-conference matchup, and the teams had split the first two games. In the bottom of the first, Huskies hurler Cam Schlittler hit the first two batters he faced, then induced a double play ground before hitting the next batter and then walking the bases loaded. But Sam Zayicek flew out to end the threat. Schlittler settled down in the second but a two-out dropped pop up allowed Jackson Melton to reach and after he stole second, Javon Fields drove him home. The Huskies scored their own unearned run in the fifth off HPU starter Sean Duffy when a Melton throwing error allowed Luke Masiuk to reach second, and he scored on a single from Spenser Smith. 

The Panthers broke it open in the sixth when Cole Singsank singled and was sacrificed to second. After Melton flew out, Schlittler was replaced by Eric Yost, who promptly gave up a double to fields and a single to Peyton Carr that made it 3-1. In the seventh, Singsank added a two-run homer for insurance, but a Masiuk mash in the eighth got Northeastern back within 3, but that was the only blemish on Everett Vaughn's four innings of relief as the Panthers prevailed 5-2.

The game took just 2:25, a bit of a surprise given the slow start. Schlittler was the hard-luck loser, giving up the unearned run, while the other run charged to him was scored after he was taken out. Vaughn got the win, with the home run the only baserunner he yielded in his four frames.


The Panthers beat Wake Forest on Tuesday with a walk-off grand slam that made national news, in the college baseball world at least.

The UNC Charlotte game took 3:09 with all the runs coming in the last two innings, while Gastonia walloped Lancaster 13-4, with all but one run occurring in the first three innings. So I made the right choice. In the future, I am going to avoid situations where I need to leave early because it ruins the game experience.

Next Up

I will be checking out a couple of Frontier League games in the Rust Belt in mid-May, so check back to see how that turns out.



Monday, April 25, 2022

Wild Health Genomes 3 at High Point Rockers 1 (Atlantic League) - April 23, 2022

As mentioned in the previous post, my latest baseball quest is to see a game in all 46 ballparks that are in the four independent leagues that are partnered with MLB (Atlantic, Frontier, American Association, Pioneer). It is easier than it sounds, because I have already seen games in 21 of them and will not revisit those spots, leaving just 25, which I hope to complete by next summer. My first stop this year was North Carolina, where there are two teams in the Atlantic League: High Point and Gastonia. Less than two hours apart, I expected to visit both this past weekend, but the ridiculous price of rental cars plus finding two college games in the Triad means Gastonia will have to wait until next year.

So after watching UNC Greensboro shellack Samford, I took a rideshare to High Point, also known as the Furniture Capital of the World. I made a brief stop at my hotel before walking deserted streets to Truist Point, a nice combination of corporate sponsorship and city name. The stadium was only 15 minutes away, but I saw nary a single other pedestrian until I reached the venue, passing dozens of furniture stores along the way. A weekend in High Point would be a good setting for a post-apocalyptic movie because little work would have to be done to clear the streets. Perhaps Stephen King can pen a sequel to Christine, where the unsold couches and La-Z-Boy's become possessed and wander the town, swallowing unsuspecting visitors in their comfortable cushions. I'll set up a GoFundMe to get the movie rights.

Anyway, Truist Point opened in 2019 with the arrival of the Rockers, and has a capacity of 4,500. Walking from downtown will bring you to the center field gate, which has a box office right next to it. I purchased the cheapest ticket for $8 and entered about 30 minutes before first pitch. Inside, the first thing you will see is Blessing Park, a small area along the outfield concourse for fans to relax.

Walking past the bleachers toward third base, you will pass a playground and then make your way to the covered concourse. 

Along here as well as in other spots, you will find rocking chairs, not surprising as the team name is Rockers. This beat other candidates such as Sofas, Recliners, Tables, and Desks in a name-the-team contest when the club was formed in 2018. OK, maybe that is not true; the actual losing names were Chairmen, Dragon Claws, Hush Puppies, Iron Dragons, Iron Eagles, Pioneers, and Splinters, so kudos to the local fans for keeping the furniture connection alive.

North Carolina is also known as First in Flight after the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, and this is humourously referenced at the craft beer bar, naturally known as The High Pint. Two puns in one sign! Genius. There are 8 taps inside and 20-oz. beers are $8, and I found the ones that I tried to be quite refreshing. The team store is also here if you prefer your souvenirs to be of the permanent variety.

Just next to the bar is an open space facing west with a lighted Rockers sign. It makes a good photo with the sun setting behind it. 

Looking back along third base, you can see the seats stretch well into the corner. There are also drink rails along here, including one directly behind the plate.

Continuing along, you will notice some black seats on the left of the photo below; this is a club area and the club blocks the concourse, so you have to walk behind to get to the right field corner.

There are things to see here too though, including a collection of large seesaws that were quite popular. This team has done well to play up the Rockers nickname and has a bit of something for everyone.

The outfield fence is not quite symmetrical, with left field at 336 feet, right at 339, and 400 feet to center.

I continued around the outfield and was overjoyed to find a collection of seats from ballparks around the country, both active and demolished. In the photo below are seats from Candlestick Park, Dodger Stadium, Rosenblatt Stadium, The Metrodome, Wrigley Field, Tiger Stadium, and Camden Yards. 

A second row farther along includes chairs from Durham and Fenway (below). I have been to every ballpark represented here and it is possible I sat in one of these seats during my visits. This was a very impressive display, and I was glad to have seen it.

With the game nearing start time, I had to hurry back, but stopped at what I thought might be seats from Coors Field (just kidding, I know they are green). This purple section represents nearby High Point University, where I would see a game the following afternoon. 

As I wandered by here, I noticed a baseball on the ground. Given its worn condition, I guessed it was a batting practice homer that the kids had missed. The Atlantic League logo is still visible, so it has been added to my collection.

I then hurried back to the drink rail behind home plate to watch the game (view below). You are well above the seats and have a perfect view for the evening. I spent most of the game here and it is one of the best spots to watch baseball anywhere. The High Pint is just behind and there is enough time in the inning breaks to grab a beer and come back. Another reason that I always prefer walking to these games.

While I was here, Hype the Rocking Horse came by to say hello. He is significantly taller than I am, so I did not get a good picture. 

Overall, Truist Point demonstrated that I should enjoy my upcoming travels to independent ballparks. There has been a lot of thought put into the venue and it shows. I used to think the minor leagues were a lot better than the independent leagues, but this ballpark, and the game, have shown that opinion to be entirely wrong. North Carolina has a lot of baseball to see, and this is one of the best places to see it.

The Game

The Wild Health Genomes, a team that will exist for only two seasons before a new ballpark is ready in Hagerstown, were the visitors for this season-opening series. The Genomes are named for a medical concern in Kentucky and use the same ballpark as the Lexington Legends, a former minor league franchise that is now in the Atlantic League.

The Genomes mound man was Max Povse, a North Carolina native and UNC Greensboro grad who appeared in 3 MLB games with Seattle and pitched for High Point last season, while Brady Lail, a relative veteran with 11 MLB games, took the rubber for the Rockers. The Genomes scored an unearned run in the first and when Povse hit the first batter and walked the second in the bottom half, it looked like it would be a long night. But he struck out Logan Morrison and got Jerry Downs to ground into a double play to escape the jam. The two starters then dealt zeroes in a fast-paced affair and the game went to the bullpens. The Genomes scored on sacrifice flies in the 7th and 9th, and only a 2-out RBI single by Jay Gonzalez broke the shutout as the Genomes prevailed 3-1.

After the game there fireworks where fans were allowed to sit on the field, a nice way to end what had been a busy day for me.


While walking to the ballpark, I discovered that High Point was the home of Hall-of-Famer Luke Appling. I would not have known this had I driven.

This was my 700th venue in the United States.



Sunday, April 24, 2022

Samford Bulldogs 5 at UNC Greensboro Spartans 10 (NCAA Baseball, Southern) - April 23, 2022

Having seen a game in every minor league stadium, I am now looking at independent baseball to fill my summers. However, with only 44 ballparks in the four MLB partner leagues (of which I have already seen 21), weekend trips to see multiple stadiums are difficult. So I need to find other games in the area, and college baseball was quite helpful this past weekend in the Piedmont Triad, where I would be seeing the High Point Rockers on Saturday night. 

The Triad is an area in North Carolina with Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point as the three main cities. There are several universities here, and one of them, UNC Greensboro, had a game on Saturday afternoon. With rental cars exorbitant, I decided to use rideshares to get around, saving about $100 over an airport rental. I got dropped off at Old Town Draught House for an early lunch, and walked over to the ballpark about an hour before the 2 p.m. start. The home of the UNCG baseball team is creatively named UNCG Baseball Stadium; other venues on campus include the UNCG Softball Stadium, UNCG Tennis Courts, and UNC Greensboro Soccer Stadium. I will be running a GoFundMe so I can create SportsRoadTrips Stadium for one of these.

UNCG athletics teams are known as the Spartans, and this ballpark is, well, spartan. You can't complain though, because it is free. To be fair, most lower-level college baseball facilities are similar in that they have few amenities because they don't attract many fans (there were 423 announced on this day). One highlight is the Play at the Plate (above), a wall sculpture by alumnus Brad Spencer on the back of the press box; another is the painted wall listing the team's championships and NCAA regional appearances.

There is a small seating bowl with little shade provided for the early afternoon start. Two rows directly in front of the press box were about the only spots to avoid a nasty burn on your bald head if, like me, you are an idiot who forgot to bring a hat. But the row right next to the press box had cables running along it as they needed a camera set up for the game to be broadcast on ESPN+. This annoyed several elderly fans, who wanted some shade.

You could stand at the back wall, which provided some relief from the elements as you can see on the left above. This also gave you a chance to get a foul ball and if you did, you could return it to a box by the dugout and pick up a pack of free candy or peanuts. Things are different at this level of college ball. For those unlucky to not have a foul ball land near them, a small concession stand offered basics, while students could partake from a free taco stand sponsored by a local eatery. Midway through the game, after students had had their fill, this became free for all fans, but I wasn't willing to eat taco toppings that had been outside for the last couple of hours.

There are grass berms above the dugouts down both lines, and some trees along third base that also provided a bit of shade. There was even a small party space at the far end (below) for some group or other.

The view from there back to the press box and clubhouse gives you and idea of how small this place is.

I sat next to the press box and was able to keep mostly in the shade for much of the game. The view is below.

Overall, UNCG Baseball Stadium is a basic ballpark, as you would expect at this level. I don't chase NCAA baseball venues because there are way too many (301 in Division I right now) and they are mostly functional facilities rather than the more family-oriented stadiums in the minors and independent leagues. Still, I enjoyed my time here, as I do at pretty much every ballpark I visit.

The Game

The Samford Bulldogs were in town in the second of a three-game Southern Conference series. After a scoreless first, the Bulldogs got on the board in the second on a solo shot from Maurice Hampton, but UNCG scored 4 in the bottom half, including a 3-run homer from Kennedy Jones. After a scoreless third, the Bulldogs added a run in the fourth on a solo shot from Colton Ledbetter, but UNCG scored 2 in the bottom half on a 2-run dinger from Zack Budzik. After a scoreless fifth, the Bulldogs added a run in the sixth on another solo shot from Hampton, but UNCG matched that in the bottom half on a Jones RBI single. The Spartans ruined the scoreless odd inning narrative in the seventh however, when GC Jarman singled home two more runs to make it 9-3. Each team scored singletons in their remaining frames as the Spartans won 10-5 for their first conference victory of the season. The scoreboard is nearly impossible to see with the sun shining directly on it.

Austin Parsley got the win scattering 12 hits but getting out of trouble in nearly every one of his 7.1 innings. Michael Ross was the loser, while reliever Blake Bortak suffered a scary injury while pitching, leading a fan behind me to predict Tommy John surgery for the young man. However, Bortak was playing in Samford's next game against Alabama, so it looks like it wasn't that serious.


This was my first flight after the mask mandate had been struck down. About half the passengers were still wearing masks, including a few that were making up for those of us who did not by double masking. Masks work so well, you need two of them. As I've said many times here, planes are not the problem, it is restaurants, bars, and other areas where you are talking for an extended period of time. Sadly, COVID is here forever, and seemingly the mindless fear and ignorance is too.

This was my 325th unique baseball stadium at which to see a game.



Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Stupid Statistics

With the baseball season starting tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to write about some of the silly statistics that permeate the modern game. I am a mathematician by trade and so have a pretty good understanding of numbers and of baseball in general, and I will show you why so many of these new statistics are poorly conceived and add little to the discussion.


If you've been to a major league baseball game recently, you will no doubt have seen OPS somewhere on the scoreboard. This stands for On-Base Plus Slugging and is simply the addition of those two percentages. It has become the go-to stat, one of many new numbers that demonstrates that something newer isn't always better. There are so many problems with this statistic that it boggles the mind how it has become ubiquitous. The first problem is that it adds two numbers so you have no idea what the underlying contributors are. Is a .750 OPS combining .300 OBP and .450 SLG, or .375 each or what? No idea. And a player with a .300 OBP and .450 SLG is certainly not equal to one with .450 OBP and .300 SLG (unlikely numbers but you get the point). As well, a percentage point of OBP is not the same as one of SLG, so adding them together is meaningless.

The second problem is that it double counts. Any hit is included in both OBP and SLG. Any statistic worth measuring would not allow the same data to appear in multiple parts of the calculation, unless that data measured two things (such as a sacrifice fly, which measures an out and a base advanced).

You have probably seen OPS+, which is in itself not a terrible statistic as it simply measures how much better than average the player is. So if the league average OPS is .750, then a player with a .750 OPS has an OPS+ of 100, while a player with an OPS of .825 would have an OPS+ of 110 (10% above the average). But since OPS is not that useful, OPS+ is not that useful either.

As I have stated many times in these pages, Bases Per Out (BPO) is the best way to have a single number that defines a batter's offensive contribution, because it reduces the calculation to the two elements that matter in baseball: bases and outs. Yes, walks are the same as singles in this calculation, so it is not perfect (although if we could track the number of bases runners advanced due to a batter's actions, it would be better). BPO also includes stolen bases, caught stealings, GIDPs, and sacrifices (see the point above - sac flies and sac bunts would appear in both the numerator and denominator). Another advantage of BPO is that it can easily be applied to pitchers, though it would be Outs Per Base in that case. And you could have BPO+ to compare players to the average. Sadly, OPS has won this battle and will be around to annoy thinking fans for many more generations.

Win Probability

Probability is an exact science. Flip an unbiased coin, 50% chance heads, 50% tails. Roll an unbiased die, and each side has a 1/6 chance of appearing. But in sports, past games or simulations are used to estimate the chance of something happening in the future. Probability is not an estimate and the use of the word is ridiculous in these instances. (It is also known as Win Expectancy, which is slightly more tolerable.) For example, if home teams win 52% of their games, the win probability at the start of every game is 52% for the home team, regardless of the players on the field. The win probability then changes as the game progresses. You have probably (ha!) seen Win Probability graphs after big comebacks, which are nice clickbait but don't offer anything other than that the comeback was unexpected. Well duh, a team down five runs in the 9th inning doesn't have much of a chance to win, but it does happen occasionally. But the number of times that it has happened in the past is not related to the chance that it will happen this time.

Let me cite an example. In 2001, Cleveland overcame a 12-run deficit after 6 innings to beat Seattle 15-14 in 11. I cannot find out how many games a team was down 12 runs after 6 innings, but let's assume it is 500. Thus the next time a team is down 12 runs after 6 innings, their win probability will be 1/500. Then when that team loses, the win probability for the next team will be 1/501. I do hope that this has demonstrated how stupid this statistic is.

A related statistic is WPA, which is Win Probability Added. As you can probably deduce, this is the difference in Win Probability before the player's plate appearance and after, and applies to both pitcher and batter. This is now available in the play-by-play for every single plate appearance in a game and can be summed to get the player's total for the game and the season. I understand that it does differentiate between a 3-run homer in a close game and a blowout, but I don't need a stat to tell me that. Eventually, an epic collapse that has never happened before will occur and the win probability will go from 100% to 0%. At that point, I hope everyone realizes what a silly statistic this is.

I will say, however, that if you can derive a model that accurately estimates the win expectancy before a game based on the players and other conditions (rest, travel, weather etc.), you can use that to win money gambling on sports if you can find an edge over the sports books (whose odds imply win probability). The key word is accurate, because beating the bookies on a regular basis is not easy, but there are people who are doing it. 


This is Wins Above Replacement and has become widespread despite not yet having a formula that is agreed upon. Both Baseball Reference (bWAR) and FanGraphs (fWAR) have differing calculations that are not worth detailing here (interested fans can click the links to enter the rabbit hole). To explain in simple terms, a replacement player (AAA call-up for example) is assumed to contribute zero wins (though somehow an entire team of replacement players would win some games). Thus a player's WAR is how many wins he contributes above the zero coming from a replacement player. If that is the case, then a team's WAR should equal its number of wins less the number of wins a team of replacement players would achieve. To be fair, WAR does include defensive contributions, which are notoriously difficult to measure, but that does not change the underlying argument, which is that WAR is an approximation related mostly to runs and nothing more. 

Look at the 2021 Blue Jays. Their bWAR was 52.5, 38.5 less than their 91 wins. The nameless team that finished a game in front of them had a bWAR of 43.4. Even the AL East winners had a bWAR of only 48.8, 51.2 less than their 100 victories. So what WAR tells us is that the 2021 Blue Jays underachieved significantly, because they won many blowouts, but lost a lot of close games thanks to a brutal bullpen. I certainly did not need a statistic to tell me that. (To compare, fWAR numbers were 45.2, 42.2, and 48.5 respectively, so FanGraphs is somewhat closer to reality with their calculation.)

One final point - a batter has both an offensive WAR (oWAR) and a defensive WAR (dWAR). Marcus Semien last year had values of 6.0 and 1.8 respectively, yet his overall bWAR was 7.3. Nonsense. 


To be clear, I am not against these statistics entirely; I just think they need to be used appropriately, in conjunction with more meaningful numbers. And there are a lot of new statistics that are useful, but have yet to enter the mainstream. Baseball is always evolving and statistics will grow along with it, some good and some bad. Whatever your opinion, I hope you are looking forward to the 2022 baseball season, which has a 68.3 enjoyment probability.



Friday, April 1, 2022

St. Louis Cardinals 29 at Washington Nationals 8 (Grapefruit League) - March 30, 2022

After a doubleheader on Tuesday, Mike and I had just a single game to attend on Wednesday before flying back to NYC. It was a return visit to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, but this time, the Nationals would be the home team, hosting the Cardinals. As I had written about the stadium previously, I had no plans to even post about this game, but the experience ended up being quite memorable. During an early lunch at Hooters, I found a cheap pair of tickets on the secondary market, a bargain at just $11 each. We then drove over to the ballpark, where I scanned Mike in, since I wanted to take a picture of the giant W down by the parking lot. It turned out to be a good decision.

While walking over to the large logo, I noticed the sign below. I do not know how fast alligators run, but as it likely would be faster than an old guy like me, I did not venture any closer. No need to become a news item. While walking back to the stadium, I asked the parking lot security guard if he had ever seen any gators. He said they only come out when it rains. Good news on this sun-drenched afternoon. He then inquired as to whether he could ask me a question. I nodded, and he showed me a hard ticket and asked if I wanted it. That is the sort of question that I always enjoy hearing. Even though I already had a ticket, getting a stub would save me the hassle of looking for one after the game, which would be particularly difficult as we had to catch a 6:30 flight. So I gladly accepted and entered the stadium.

Then I took a look at the seat printed on the ticket. Section 106, Row B. Right next to the Cardinals dugout. The view is below. I found Mike and told him that I would not be sitting next to him. He prefers to sit up high in the shade, so he didn't mind at all. The people next to me had given the security guard the ticket and they were Gator fans (University of Florida that is). I chuckled at the coincidence.

The Cardinals sent out a major league lineup that included Albert Pujols (below) making his first appearance after re-signing with the team a few days before, a beneficiary of the new universal DH rule. The Nationals started Anibal Sanchez, who had shut down St. Louis in Game 1 of the 2019 NLCS. Things would be slightly different on this day.

The Cardinals scored four right away, with the first coming on a Pujols double play grounder (that's him swinging below). Down 5-0 in the second, Sanchez was removed after getting Pujols to pop out, but reliever Austin Voth promptly gave up a three-run homer to Paul DeJong (on deck below) before inducing Yadier Molina to ground out to end the inning. Before the Cardinals batted in the third, I went to get a beer and when I returned, Sanchez was back on the mound. In spring training, the rules are different. He did not give up a run in that inning but surrendered a threespot in the fourth, including a long home run to Paul Goldschmidt. Pujols singled and was replaced by a pinch runner, with the crowd on hand applauding. St. Louis added two more on a Molina dinger off Nats top prospect Cade Cavalli in the sixth, making it 13-0.

Cards starter Miles Mikolas pitched to a batter in the 6th before being removed and Josh Bell ended the shutout with a three-run shot. The game was starting to drag, but we still had plenty of time to get our flight after a scoreless seventh. Then the incredible happened. This was the Cardinals eighth: double, double, single, error, single, single, single, double, first out, HBP, pitching change, single, HBP, single, walk, single, error, wild pitch, sac fly (second out), passed ball, walk, pitching change, ground out. That's 19 batters, 10 hits, 2 HBP, 2 errors, and 15 runs. Leadoff man Juan Yepez was injured when he was hit by a pitch, otherwise he would have batted three times in the frame. Cavalli gave up 9 of those runs (and 11 on the day), while Francisco Perez was responsible for 6. The final pitcher was Erik Manoah Jr., Alek's older brother who was making his first appearance of the spring and is still trying to land a major league job after being drafted in 2014.

The Nats tried to make a game of it when Gilbert Lara smacked a three-run blast, which made the score 28-8. Hey, my birthday. Attendance was 1,964, very close to my year of birth too. That was pretty exciting, but sadly, with the clock approaching 4:45, we had to leave. The Cardinals added an insurance run off Manoah in the 9th to make the final 29-8. So if you were born August 29, 1964, You should have been at this game. 

Of course, it is only spring and the players can laugh about this one because it will soon be forgotten. Still, I don't think the Nationals will be repeating as World Series champs anytime soon.