Goin’ to Kansas City.
Kansas City, here I come.
They’ve got some crazy little
And you know I’m gonna go be one.
Off to See Some Inter-league Play
On my drive to Kansas
City, I listened to MLB Homeplate on XM Radio. There were endless debates over inter-league play. It’s bad. It’s good. Love it. Hate it. Love it, but let’s tweak it. Always use the DH. Never use the DH. Switch the use of the DH to the NL parks. Make the inter-league records determine the home field advantage for the World Series. And, on and on and on.
I could not care less about all of that. I am a fan of inter-league play for one reason and one
reason alone: The Cardinals play in Kansas City. Short of an inter-league game that would take them to Arlington, it is as close as the Cardinals ever get to me. Still, it’s a six-hour drive.
I lived in Kansas
City for a number of years and have friends and family
to visit, which makes the I-70 series weekend very special for me. I got to meet my brand week week-old nephew. I love hanging out with my fam.
The home of the Kansas City Royals, Kauffman Stadium or
“The K”, is a special place for me. I saw my first major league game there. I was probably nine or ten. I did not really know baseball back then. I do not remember who we played. I do not remember who won. I did know who George Brett was, and I knew when I walked into The K, that it was the biggest place I had ever been, and I liked being there.
I went with my sister her fiancé and some of his
family. We sat near right field. We played a game where each person drew an outfield position. Each time the Royal playing your position caught a fly ball, everybody else paid you a dollar. I had right-field and the other team must have been stacked with lefties because I made a killing.
It was poetic and special that I would be back at The K
with my sister on Friday. She does not understand my attraction to this game, but she is one person in my life that does not look at me like I am crazy when I take off cross-country to go see a game. And, I love that about her.
Welcome to the New K
The outside will always look a bit like a place the Jetsons’
would have gone to watch a game. It is a throwback to the early 70s when we were in love with astronauts, men walked on the moon and I drank Tang for breakfast.
The field area at The K has always been spectacularly
beautiful, with the signature outfield fountains. It was a gem in it’s day. However, as new parks are built, the old girl had been left in the dust. Little luster remained on the hunk of forty year old concrete.
No longer. Major
renovations were completed over the winter, and the old girl has a whole new look. The fan experience in this park is excellent.
The scoreboard seemed more fabulous that ever.
Before the renovations, there were no seats between the
foul poles. Unless a home run ball took some sort of funny hop, it could not be caught here. Now the outfield is full of seats and activity.
Although there were plenty o’ Cardinals fans in the seats,
I do believe I saw much more Royals blue than last year during the I-70 series. Good for you, Kansas City! However, the fans in blue (except for the ones in powder blue retro
Cardinals jerseys) would not have much to cheer about.
Game 1 Davies vs. Thompson
The Cardinals came out hitting the Royals well. Single, single, two-run single. But, in the
third, they broke out the cannons.
In the first, the Royals pitched to Pujols and were
punished with a 2-RBI single. This time they walked him. Enter the slumping Ryan Ludwick. Although the words “grand slam” were bouncing around in the back of my head, I quieted them and thought how nice it would be if Ludwick just got a nice simple base hit. And, he did 393 ft. into the brand new outfield seats.
The Cardinals weren’t finished handing out souvenirs to
that section. Rick Ankiel and Khalil Greeene went back to back with solo shots. All sluggers have had their issues at the plate lately. Nothing like a little long ball to get them going.
I like the move of Khalil Greene to third base. After seeing the athleticism that Brendan
Ryan and Tyler Greene can bring to the shortstop position, I think one of them should be playing that position. On a team with the pitching philosophy of “pitch to contact and let your defense do the work”, they need to play their best defenders.
Also, because of the philosophy, that puts extraordinary
pressure on the middle infielders to be practically perfect in every way. Perhaps, that is part of the pressure that was getting to Khalil Greene. Perhaps, he can relax a bit at third. It seemed to work in his rehab starts in Memphis. And, it seems to be working now.
I did not want to say this out loud too soon for fear of
jinxing it, but I think it is safe to say that Skip Schumaker has turned into a very fine second baseman. With Schumaker’s athletic ability and intense work ethic, I really believed the transition would work. I just did not know it would work so well. He looks
like he was born to it.
Davies was pulled in the third and Thompson pitched a
gem. Cardinals win!
Game 2 Bannister vs. Carpenter
With a rain delay of
about an hour and a half, it looked like it might be a long day at the ballpark. However, Bannister and Carpenter were like to pilots grooving in the jet stream trying to make up time on a cross-country flight. Length of game: 2:37.
Many might argue that Albert Pujols is the most intimidating
Cardinal. If I were a National League pitcher, I might agree. But, the Cardinal I find most intimidating is Chris Carpenter.
He is big. He is tall. His voice
is deep. He has amazing stuff, and he is all business, all the time. You often see Pujols smile or share a laugh. Not Carpenter. I am sure he has a light-hearted side, silly, fun-loving side. I have just never seen it, and that’s fine by me. If he scares the bejesus out of me
just sitting in the bleachers, I can only imagine the fear he inspires in those
who must stand in the batter’s box.
This was really the best game of the series. Although the Cardinals let the whole game, it
was close until the ninth. The Royals threatened to get the bats going in the 8th. Carpenter was pulled after a 2-out double. The third out was four batters, one walk, one error, one run and two pitchers away.
In the ninth, a string of base hits by Ludwick, Duncan,
and Molina, was topped off by a Khalil Greene home run. The four run inning turned the formerly 3-1 game into a rout.
Game 3 Meche vs. Wainwright
I enjoyed the game with family on Friday. Saturday was spent swapping baseball stories with friends. Both were great, but Sunday was for me. I walked up to the ticket booth and purchased
one of the last seats in outfield section 105. I wanted sit in one of the new seats. I wanted to sit where the home run balls landed.
The 1:00 pm start on the first day of summer was as hot as
they come. Despite application of sunscreen, I would leave with a souvenir sunburn. But, the weather was no hotter than Albert Pujols’ bat.
I have run out of words to describe El Hombre. Special.
Amazing. The best player in baseball. The words fall short. While he is capable of anything, he still
finds a way to exceed our expectations.
When Albert Pujols came to the plate in the 4th
with bases loaded, I tucked away my pencil and scorecard. I was ready to catch the ball. The grand slam ball. I thought, “Albert, hit it to me.”
But, he missed. The
grand slam ball landed about 15 feet to my left and 10 feet back. I expected a home run, but I did not expect the 423 feet monster shot. He’s such an over-achiever.
The game had been close, but the grand slam put the
Cardinals out of reach. In a continuation of that inning, the Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate and
scored 8 runs. I began to feel sorry for the Royals. Especially, the catcher,
Olivo. I was drenched in sweat just sitting there. I could not imagine
working in the heat while wearing catcher’s gear.
In other news, Khalil Greene hit his third home run in
three days. He was rewarded by a plunking. Maybe, intentional. Maybe not. Either way, the Royals paid. The pinch runner, Thurston, was the first to score on the grand slam.
Random Images from the I-70 Series
Colby Rasmus at the plate. How much to we love our little Rookie of the Year Candidate?
On Friday, the Royals catcher, Olivo, hit a long fly ball to deep left field. I quickly tried to get a picture of Ankiel making a spectacular catch. Instead, I got a blurred image of his attempt and the very sad shot below of him looking at where the ball landed inside the Cardinals bullpen:
weekend, I made a trip to the west coast to see some Cardinals-Giants
baseball. Being my first time in San Francisco, my weekend
was packed just trying to get it all in.
With so much to see and so many pictures to take, that can only lead to
one thing: A Giant San Francisco Blog.
The City by the Bay
I am a
meticulous travel researcher. Someday,
when I am less constrained by time and money, I might be one of those travelers
that packs a back and just goes where the road takes me. No real plan.
No itinerary. But, until then, I
plan and plot. I look for deals and know
my options. I know how to get where I am
going and do not waste time wondering around.
Unless, of course, wondering around is the plan.
in the research, I see things that seem like nice tidbits, but I only learn of
their significance latter when I am actually onsite. For example, all of the suggested walking
tours in the Fodor’s Guide to San Francisco, made a point to show the reader
where all the coffee shops were along the way.
This seemed simply to be a nice touch.
However, I did not understand how important coffee would be to me in San Francisco.
Every San Francisco travel tip
on the planet includes the advice to dress in layers because the temperature
can change quickly. I took this advice
to heart. I hate to be cold. So, layers I packed, and layers I wore. At Saturday night’s game, I wore two long-sleeved
t-shirts, a #4 Molina jersey, a thick hooded sweatshirt, a Cardinals therma
base jacket, two pairs of gloves and another rain coat that I wrapped around my
legs. Yet, it was not enough to ward off
the San Francisco
coffee, my new best friend. There were only three times I was not cold in San Francisco: the rare moments when the sun was out, when I
was walking (which was often) and when I was drinking coffee.
the beer and soda at the ballpark. Give
me a piping hot coffee that I can cradle in my hands and try to wrap my body
around. The highs were in the 60s and
lows in the 50s, but I will be darned if was not the coldest 50 or 60 degrees I
have ever experienced. I have spent
warmer days skiing.
the city is fabulous. The hills. The cable cars. The wharf.
The bay. The food. The people-watching is among the best in the
world. The city is a melting pot of
cultures and lifestyles. In San Francisco, you can
walk down the street and see every type of person you could imagine. And, probably a few that a Midwest
girl could not.
some scenes from San Francisco.
After getting checked in, I enjoyed lunch at Il Caffe at Union Square.
I felt very urban eating my lunch in the sunshine that I would find fleeting throughout the weekend.
There were modern dancers performing.
There were pigeons pillaging.
There were shopping opportunities…although probably not for me.
I would love a little something in the signature blue box, but once again, my disposable income was allocated to baseball. A girl has to stick to her priorities.
I rode the iconic Cable Cars:
And, took pictures along the way…
The Cable Car brought me to Fisherman’s Wharf, where I found sea lions lounging. They look quiet, but actually sound like a kennel of barking dogs. Actually, they reminded me of dogs, laying their “puppy piles” and playing with each other.
The birds seem to do pretty well on San Francisco Bay. This one looks very fat:
My first foggy glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge:
My afternoon adventure was sailing on the Alma, a flat-bottomed schooner built in 1891 that has sailed the bay her whole life.
Here are the sails I helped hoist (one of the few times I was warm). They said the boat could be sailed with only a crew of three. All I can say is the three must be freakishly strong.
Here is a picture taken off the bow of the Alma of a sailboat cruising past Alcatraz:
meant to walk across the Golden
but ran out of time. The closest I came
was a view from a point near Fisherman’s Wharf.
I saw a trail heading up a hill.
It looked like I could get above the wharf buildings for a better view
of the bridge. When I reached the
overlook, I was not high enough, so I trudged onward and upward.
comes to hiking up hills I have learned it is always best to keep going. No matter how slow the pace must, just keep
putting one foot in front of the other, because if you stop, it is too hard to
start again. There is probably some life
lesson in that somewhere.
was rewarded by my body finally being warm and the following view:
The Ballpark on the Bay
into downtown from the airport, I got my first look at AT&T Park.
Banners lined the streets promoting this
year’s theme, “Let’s Play”. They were
Cy Young? Which one?
The banner says Molina. The motto is very much Sandoval.
And, finally the closer…
anxious to get to the ballpark on Friday.
I wanted to walk around the outside of the park and take pictures. I was greeted by Willie Mays:
the backside, there are several bronze milestone markers imbedded in the
sidewalk near McCovey’s cove.
that soon they will by adding a new one for Randy Johnson’s 300th
brought me to the Marina Gate:
could enter after arriving in this:
parking it here:
would that be?
were more nods to Giants history. A
statue of Orlando Cepada and plaques honoring Giants of the past. AT&T Ballpark does an excellent job of
honoring the team history and making it feel like the Giants have always played
Yes, the Garlic Fries Live Up to the Hype
Or, maybe, it was just cold. How could you be all into a loser without a job who (even worse) does not get baseball? What kind of man discusses his feelings during a baseball game? No real man, that’s for sure. She could do better. Anyone could. Secretly, I think she was hoping that his moving back to Michigan could be her out pitch. If she knew what an out pitch was, that is. I went to make a coffee run and thankfully they were gone when I came back.
out on Friday’s they open the park an hour earlier than normal so that fans can
watch Giants batting practice. This was
my first view of the field.
starting pitchers were getting ready to take their BP. Here is a shot of Lincecum, Zito, Sanchez and
Johnson. Maybe, San Franciscans are used
to it by now, but how cool is it to be able to take a picture of three Cy Young
winners…all together…in the same uniform?
Randy Johnson practices laying down a bunt as Tim Lincecum looks on.
wondered how many times Randy Johnson has practiced bunting in his long
career. I wondered what Lincecum would
be doing at Johnson’s age.
talking with a local the next day, Randy Johnson’s name came up. The San Franciscan was complaining about the
acquisition. Things like, “paying him a
lot of money for what?…he’s not what he once was…grumble….grumble.”
thinking about it later, I wondered who the guy thought they should have in the
rotation instead of Johnson?
Seriously. He is not the pitcher
he once was, but he is still better than most.
In addition, he brings leadership and experience to a very young
talented pitching staff. And, he sells
tickets. This may be his last
season. He is chasing win #300. People will turn out to see him. I was disappointed that I would miss
him. Although, I did not want him to get
#300 against my Cardinals.
pitchers finished batting practice, the Giants did something that you do not
often witness in Major League Baseball, they took infield.
a major league team take infield is like watching a beautifully choreographed
ballet. The movement. The symmetry. The rhythm. The dance. The fun.
Pablo Sandoval tags out an imaginary runner trying to get back to first base:
Bengie Molina prepares for infield practice.
He wearing a very serious game face…
Pablo Sandoval comes along. I love watching
Sandoval. He plays like a big kid. Always full of energy and quick with a
smile. His joy is contagious, as you can
see here as he leans in for a fist bump, before heading to first.
Giants program contained a great article by Jeff Fletcher on the Venezuelan
native, Sandoval. He learned to hit with
his brother pitching a tape ball because they could not afford baseballs. A tape ball breaks crazily, but Sandoval
learned to hit it. This makes him a
challenge for pitchers now because he seems able to get the barrel of the bat
on most anything thrown somewhere in the vicinity of the plate.
article two players were quoted regarding Sandoval:
Zito: “He just goes out there and plays the game like a kid. He has a good time.”
Molina: “If you grew up where he grew
up, that’s pressure. When you get a bat
in your hand and step up to the plate and try to hit a ball, it’s not as much
pressure as you think. I think our lives
in general [in Latin America] gave us a lot of
pressure. This is just a game you try to
play. That’s how he sees it. It’s just a game, and he’s having a lot of
there was Sandoval on Sandoval: “I love
this game. I just go play for fun. I just go on the field and help my teammates,
give 100 percent for the fans. We play
for the fans. I just want to be happy.”
Oh, if we
all could approach our jobs with that attitude!
All this talk about having fun on the field reminds me of a Cardinal for
whom the field has become more of a mine field than a play ground.
would be the Cardinals’ shortstop, Khalil Greene, who was placed on the DL due
to what they are calling “anxiety”. Joe Strauss’ May 31st St. Louis Post Dispatch article says the following
Greene compares the condition to someone with a fear of heights suddenly perched
on a 10th-story ledge.
“You become dizzy or feel ill. But you can pull
yourself off the ledge and come inside,” Greene said. “When I’m in the game I
can’t get off the ledge. The feeling doesn’t go away.”
contrast between the two infielders.
Sandoval, perhaps feeling like a kid skipping school to go play on the
sandlot, while Greene feels like he is standing on the edge of an abyss that
will swallow him if he fails.
that we could send Greene to hang out with Sandoval for a couple weeks. Perhaps, Sandoval could pitch him some tape
balls, and Greene could find within himself the pure joy that comes from
playing this game like a big kid.
What a Minute, I Thought this was a Cardinals Blog?
And, it is. Enough on the Giants.
the Giants batting practice, the Cardinals started to appear, then the media:
Cardinals pitcher and Fox Sports commentator, Al Hrabosky (aka The Mad Hungarian chats with Cardinals
hitting coach, Hal McRae. Hrabosky and
McRae were teammates at Kansas City in 1978-1979.
good old Mike Shannon. Former Cardinals
third baseman and radio voice of the Cardinals on KTRS. It’s always fun to listen to Mike Shannon
call the game.
there were interviews and such. So, many
distractions for players. Fan wanting
autographs. Reporters wanting a word. I wonder how players learn to tune out the
sound of their own name being shouted by fans trying to get their
attention. They have to or they would
only sign autographs and never be ready by game time.
Young is Better Than Your Cy Young pitcher
one of them anyway. The Cardinals Chris
Carpenter faced off against the Giants Barry Zito in Saturdays game. It would be the one game the Cardinals would
win. It seemed like Carpenter might
leave the game with a loss or a no-decision, but the Cardinals rallied for some
runs in Carpenter’s last inning.
Here are pictures of Carpenter and Zito:
Pitching coach, Dave Duncan, watches with an eagle-eye as Chris Carpenter warms up:
It was such a treat to see Carpenter deal:
Return of the Cleanup Hitter
Ludwick is finally off the DL.
His bat has been sorely missed both in term of production and protection. His return seemed to be all Albert Pujols needed
to get his bat going, homering twice in Saturday’s game.
Ryan, Oh How I Underestimated You!
Brendan Ryan starts a double play:
Ryan takes a high one…
As I watched Brendan Ryan last year, I do not remember being overly impressed. Sure, I loved his enthusiasm. I loved his speed. I loved how hard he played. I just do not remember thinking, “Wow”, in the way I have this year.
Ryan has taken the opportunity to play every day by the horns. He has made stellar defensive plays. He has taken good at bats and hit very well during this series. I always saw him in the utility role, but perhaps his is an everyday player after all.
He has been effective and a real asset. However, occasionally, his speed and enthusiasm do get the best of him. A case in point is illustrated by the series of photos:
Brendan Ryan thinks about stealing second:
He goes and he is safe, just avoiding the tag…
….but his momentum takes him past the bag
…where he is tagged out, and he knows it…
I have written this before. I fell in
love with the St. Louis Cardinals the moment Yadier Molina hit that homerun
against the Mets scoring the runs that would bring home the 2006 National
League Pennant. It awakened in me a
passion for this game of baseball that I did even realize I possessed.
I have come to appreciate the Cardinal catcher’s outstanding defense, which
was recognized last year by a long over-due Gold Glove. Guess you have to hit over .300 to get
recognized for your defense, huh?
watching great catching, so Yadier Molina is a joy. One night last year, the Cardinals game was
over, but I needed more baseball. It was
late. West coast games to choose
from. Hmm….I wonder how Bengie Molina
compares to his brother? Giants game, it
nightly ritual began of falling asleep to the Giants game. Not that they are boing. They just play really late. The Giants will be playing on the East coast
this weekend, which really screws up my world.
come to appreciate Bengie Molina as I did his brother Yadier, and I should also
confess to sometimes catching a bit of a Yankees game when Jose Molina is
behind the plate. Three brothers. Three catchers. Three major league ballplayers. What are the odds?
fascinated by the two brothers facing off this weekend. Especially because of the nature of the role
they play calling the pitches to get the other out. Surely, they have the best scouting report
ever on each other. You might think that
they would not want to be too hard on the other, being family and all. But, then again, they are brothers. Is there any relationship that is more
lots of pictures because it was just cool seeing one behind the plate and other
in the box.
Here Yadier watches Bengie take batting practice:
And, hang out around the cage in between turns…
They are joined by fellow countryman, Jose Oquendo…
…and watch Sandoval in the cage.
Others come up later and I start to realize what a fraternity major league baseball is. I suppose, it might bother some fans to see players so friendly with members of the opposing team. And I suppose, it was not always that way back in the days before free agency when more players played for the same team their whole career.
Now, players are connected by country, college, winter ball, the minor league days and former teams. Players move around, yet the friendships remain. The brotherhood I saw on the field went beyond blood.
Again, this might bother some who think hating the other team is critical to competing. But, really “hating to lose” is the only hate that is required. And, losing to your brother is the worst.
In the pre-game warmups the brothers were like mirrors. Bengie warming up Matt Cain on his side of the field…
…and Yadier warming up Joel Pineiro on his side.
I like the old school bull pen mounds at AT&T Park. It nice to really be able to watch pitchers warm up.
Later, the brothers met at the plate.
As Yadier stood in and Bengie laid down the fingers, I wondered if it is trickier calling a game against your brother. Do you get in each others head? Like, I would normally call a fast ball, but he knows that I would, so maybe I should call a slider, but what if he knows that I know that he knows….until your head hurts.
Or, is it really just the same as everything else: work to your pitcher’s strengths, mix your pitches and hope your pitcher does not leave anything too juicy over the plate.
Later, Bengie stood in the batter’s box, while Yadier figured out what to call.
Pineiro gets the sign and throws the ball….
….right at Bengie Molina’s leg.
It was the one time a batter was hit by a pitch that I was 99.9% sure it was unintentional. And, I was 100% sure that Bengie was not going to go charge the mound. But, I did wonder what Yadier would have done if he had. Typically, the catcher rushes to the pitchers defense, often tackling the batter. I wondered if Yadier would have let Bengie get in a couple of swings before going out to get him.
I am sure Bengie has a bruise to show for it. Just one of many that a catcher gets in a days work. Fortunately, he was able to stay in the game.
Sometimes when you are taking hundreds of random pictures, it is funny the ones you run across that capture similar moments.
Here are complimentary pictures of Yadier and Bengie with the umpire. In both, they seem to be taking an aggressive posture toward the umpire, which goes to prove that sometimes pictures lie.
Here Yadier looks toward second base. I wonder if he is thinking of stealing on his brother. Think of the ribbing for years to come. Whatever Bengie might throw at Yadier, the come back could be, “Yeah, but I stole second on you.” Which would like coax the response, “You stole it on the pitcher, not me.”
But, he did not go.
Sunday was a day game after a Saturday night game. After both Molinas caught on Saturday night, I knew it likely that one or both would get the day off. So, I was not surprised to see Bengie Molina’s name missing from the cleanup spot.
However, it is pretty much a given that Bengie never gets a whole game off. At some point there will be a pinch hit opportunity with runners in scoring position, and it will be likely that he will come through.
As he did here, hitting a sacrifice fly, scoring Sandoval.
Bengie stayed in the game. Yadier came up to bat in the bottom of the 9th with two outs. In Bengie’s at bat, he hit a pop up to the backstop. I think they might be discussing where it went here. Yadier did not have a play on it as he did when he put Bengie out on a P-2 the night before.
Yadier stands in as the last Cardinal hope.
Bengie is smiling here, as if perhaps he knows something Yadier does not….
Like how to entice his younger brother into a very rare strikeout
you have the baseball bug bad, when everything reminds you of baseball. As I passed through the Denver airport on my way home, I noticed the
cities that the other planes were headed to.
Chicago. Surely the Cubs or the White Sox are in
town. Kansas City.
I wonder if I will see Grienke on the mound there in a few weeks. Las
MLB, but there is a Triple-A team there.
Seattle. A thought…never seen Griffey play in
hardest gate to walk past was the one that said “St. Louis”.
The Cardinals are at Busch tonight.
If I hopped the plane and took the link downtown, I could probably just
make it in time to see Wellemeyer take the mound. For all that I loved AT&T Park,
there is really nothing like a home game at Busch Stadium.
kept walking on to my Oklahoma City
gate, and I was not too sad. For
although I will not find the Cardinals there, the next best closest thing is
coming to town: The Memphis