The pursuit of happiness (watching baseball games) has left me little time to write. So, finally, here is summary of the past week in my baseball loving life.
Friday, May 1st – Cold Night, Cold Bats
I left work at 5:00 in a rush to get Tulsa. A 2+ hour drive. A 7:05 start. The AA Springfield Cardinals against the Tulsa Drillers.
Fortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Washington Nationals on the east coast with a 6:05 central start time. So, for the second half the drive, I had Mike Shannon and John Rooney to keep me company. Before I reached Drillers Stadium, Wellemeyer was off to a good start and both Albert Pujols and Chris Duncan had homered.
If Major League ballparks are cathedrals and Triple-A parks are lovely chapels, then the Drillers Stadium is little more than a place to hold a camp meeting. The park serves the purpose but is lacking in charm and beauty. However, the Tulsa Drillers are playing their last season in Drillers Stadium. A new park is under construction closer to downtown.
But, I know the folks that live close to Drillers will miss them next year. A friend of mine grew up in the neighborhood and could watch the Friday night fireworks from her backyard.
The Drillers threw a gem. The Cardinals bats did not get going. The biggest cheer for the Cardinals came when shortstop, Peter Kozma, came to the plate. Peter Kozma is from Owasso, Oklahoma, which is a few miles north of Tulsa. This was his first game with the AA Cardinals, as he benefited from the trickle down effect of the Tyler Greene call up to St. Louis.
Sitting near third base, I got a good look at last year’s number one draft pick, Brett Wallace. He went 0-for on the night, but then again most of the Cardinals combined for only six hits against the good Driller pitching. Wallace did make some solid plays at third.
Here Wallace is playing in, defending the bunt:
I thought back to last year when I impressed by another third baseman. That player came into spring training hitting like crazy, over .500. He is doing well at Triple-A Memphis this year. I wonder where they will both be next year.
One prospect that did get a hit is outfielder Daryl Jones:
And, no minor league game is complete without a food race. In this case it is the burrito, hotdog and eggroll from QuickTrip. Burrito wins! But, the Cardinals lose 5-3
It was not a nice night for baseball. Chilly and damp. Although it never actually rained, a mist hung in the air the whole game. I began to think I would never be warm again. By the end of the game, I figure the only people left in the stands were me, another Cardinals fan, the players’ families and two drunk hecklers.
I have been single much of my adult life. I am cool with that. Probably, too much so. I am comfortable going most places by myself. Never is that more true than at the ballpark. I have a seat that is mine, so I have a place to be. The people around me also like baseball, so I belong. And, it seems like no matter where you go, there is always a Cardinals fan to chat with.
Sitting in front of me at the Drillers game was Scott, the aforementioned other Cardinal fan who stuck out the game. We talked throughout the game, sharing Cardinal experiences and thoughts on players. He was a Cardinals fan by birth, the great-nephew of Oklahoman and Cardinal, Pepper Martin.
Saturday, May 2nd – Just Call Me Ball
Today was a family day. A Kentucky Derby themed 21st birthday party. Fun times with family in friends. However, all the fun was happening in Kansas City. So, I spent the night in Tulsa and was on the road again by 7:00 am.
Four hours later, I stopped to visit the youngest of our family, my nephew, who is 20 months old. Before going in the house, I reached into my baseball game bag and dug out a baseball from an OKC AAA game, which I slipped into my pocket.
After greeting the family, I asked my nephew, “What does Auntie have in her pocket?” He walks over, digs out the ball, gives me a million dollar smile and says, “Ball!”. Then, in a memory I will treasure forever, we had our first catch.
Well, maybe, it was not actually “catch”. Basically, he fired the ball as hard as he could at me from two to three feet away, while I pulled out my best Molina catching skills. The kid has an arm, but he does not exactly have pinpoint control, yet. Check out his form. Up over his front leg, nice follow through. Wonder how much Dave Duncan charges to tutor toddlers?
For the rest of the weekend, he scoured my pockets for balls and anytime someone said, “Where’s Auntie?” He would point at me and said “Ball?” I have been called much worse. He also had a catch with his dad where I captured this shot:
While we were playing catch, the Cardinals-Nationals game got underway. I reached my car in the 5th inning to drive to my sisters. The score was 0-0. Somewhere along the short drive from the suburbs to the plaza, the score was suddenly 4-0, Nationals. A single, a force out bunt, another single, a sac fly, a potentially inning ending dropped foul popup, another single (Ryan Zimmerman, a name I am suddenly all too familiar with), all topped off with a big home run from their big guy, Adam Dunn. Brutal.
With the Royals’ hot start, the city is buzzing about them. Later at the birthday party at a local pub, the Royals game was on. People were actually watching. I lived through many baseball drought years in this city. It nice to see the citizens of Kansas City falling back in love with their team.
Sunday, May 3rd – A Wash Out from Top to Bottom
Time to come home. The plan was to listen to the Cardinals-Nationals game on the road, and to drop back by the Driller Stadium to catch another Springfield Cardinals game. Mother Nature had other plans. Both games rained out. Coincidently, the Memphis Redbirds rained out, too.
I had to console myself by listening to the San Francisco Giants game. Good to have a backup team. But, it was not the same. Bengie Molina had the day off. The Giants finally beat the Colorado Rockies in the 10th by finally scoring the only run of the game on Rich Aurilla’s walk-off RBI single.
Monday, May 4th – Play a Hard Nine
The World Champion, Philadelphia Phillies, rolled into St. Louis for a two-game series with big bat and hometown hero, Ryan Howard, in tow. Howard always plays well in St. Louis. However, hitting a grand slam in the 5th seemed a bit like over-kill.
Cardinals pitcher, Kyle Lohse’s non-throwing arm was drilled by a pitch while batting. While he refused to use that as an excuse, the fact is he was pitching well before taking the bullet. He was not sharp afterwards.
“Play a hard nine” is the Cardinals mantra. They all talk about it. They all do it. It is the Cardinals way. For the past couple years, the Cardinals marketing theme has been “Play like a Cardinal”. It might as well be “Play a Hard Nine” because it means the same thing.
As Cardinal fans we sometimes have cause to whine about a lack of execution, but we rarely, if ever, have reason to complain about players not giving 100%. For example, in today’s game, Joe Thurston ran through third base coach Jose Oquendo’s stop sign and right into an inning ending out. Again.
While we applaud Thurston’s gumption, we hope he is beginning to understand that Jose Oquendo is one the most aggressive Cardinals to ever play or coach the game. Nothing good can come of trying to be more aggressive than him.
One player that always plays a hard nine is Rick Ankiel. How many outstanding diving, running or leaping catches has he already made this year with no thought to his own safety? Tonight, he almost made one too many.
Chasing a line drive, running all out and making the catch, Rick Ankiel ran out of room, stumbled, and had no time to put on the brakes before crashing headfirst into the outfield wall. Flipped over by the force, he landed on his back. Arms above his head, the ball rolled out of his left hand. Even knowing the collision was imminent, he had transferred the ball from the glove, looking to make a throw, even though no runners were on.
If there was any air left in Busch Stadium after Ryan Howard’s Grand Slam, it was sucked out as Rick Ankiel lay motionless on the warning track. The TV cameras scanned the worried faces of the crowd. Not so much worried about losing Ankiel to the DL for a while, but worried that he could be lost forever. As he left the field on a cart, strapped to a back board, he gave the thumbs up he knew his friends, family and fans needed to see. Later, we would get the reports that although banged up, he will be fine.
He did this in the 8th inning of a 6-1 game that the Cardinals had all but lost. When asked about it later, he said basically even if the play is not going to change the game, the pitchers still have ERAs to protect. On a team where “pitch to contact” is preached, never has “I’ve got your back” meant more.
Often it seems the pitcher stands all by himself on the mound. Solitary. Alone. His only friend, perhaps the catcher 60 feet 6 inches away. Not so, the Cardinals pitchers. They can feel the safety net behind them. A safety net ready, willing and able to go the distance for as many innings as it takes. All they have to do is keep it in the park.
However, the Cardinals defense has been criticized for the league leading error total racked up thus far this year. What statistics do not easily show is that for every error, there has been a play that should not have been made, but was. Rick Ankiel’s catch is just another one of those impossible plays.
Tuesday, May 5TH – Home Run Derby
I was missing my Oklahoma City Redhawks and hoping to go see them. However, it rained all day long, and the evening forecast did not look inviting. So, I stayed home and watched the Home Run Derby.
And, by Home Run Derby, I mean the Cardinals-Phillies game. Five long balls left Busch Stadium. The Phillies hit two off Adam Wainwright. Shane Victorino took a solo shot in the first. Jason Werth hit a three-run jack in the fifth.
Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina both took solo shots off Brett Myers. Molina’s career high season home run total is eight. This was his third, which in theory would put him on pace for 18. In other news, Albert Pujols took Brad Lidge deep. Again.
The Cardinals chipped away, scoring runs in five consecutive innings, but it was not enough. Phillies win 10-7.
Wednesday, May 6th – Oh, What a Relief
After dropping two games to the Phillies, the other Pennsylvania team came to town: The Pittsburgh Pirates. Albert Pujols homered at his last at bat on Tuesday. He homered at his first at bat on Wednesday. He also went 4-4. It is hard to beat the Cardinals when #5 is hot in the three hole.
Chris Duncan was also an offensive force with a two-run triple. Khalil Greene was back in the lineup after being limited to a pinch hitting role by a sore forearm. He got a double and a RBI on a sac fly.
Rookie Mitchell Boggs got the start. He gave up five hits and five walks. With that many ducks on the pond (runners on the bases), it is amazing he only allowed two runs. He also had four strikeouts. All this in 4.1 innings of work. In the fifth, after walking the leadoff batter, who stole second and scored on a McLouth double, LaRussa took the ball from Boggs hands and handed it to the bullpen.
Trevor Miller, Kyle McClellan, Dennys Reyes, Jason Motte and Ryan Franklin were nearly spotless in relief. Between them, only two walks, one hit, two strikeouts and no runs. They protected the 2 run game. McClellan go the win. Franklin got the save. His 8th out of eight opportunities, but who’s counting. Cardinals win 4-2.
Thursday, May 7th – Finally, Back to the Ballpark
The Cardinals played a matinee against the Pirates. While I sat at work, a friend was at the game. He texted me a picture of the arch from Busch Stadium.
Color me green with envy.
However, the day was not a total loss. I left work at 3:00 to head to the Oklahoma City Redhawks game and caught the end of the Cardinals game on the radio. Yes, Schumaker had already hit his lead off triple and scored on an Albert Pujols sac fly.
The Cardinals had already put up a nice fat crooked “four” in the 5th inning. Jason LaRue’s lead off homer got the party started. Schumaker singles. Rasmus bunt singled. Pujols took a first pitch, 93 mph fast ball in the ribs to load the bases. Ludwick was hit with same and a run scored. Duncan sac flied. Khalil Greene singled, and the Pirates were in a pit they would not recover from. Cardinals win 5-2
Cardinal batters have been plunked seven times in four games. Intentional or no? Impossible to say. But, the scouting report on the Cardinals seems to read “throw inside.”
Todd Wellemeyer, who has struggled a bit this spring, was super sharp, going seven innings, giving up two runs and notching the win. Maybe May is his month. Last year, Wellemeyer was the National League Pitcher of the Month in May.
Rick Ankiel was officially placed on the disabled list, and as I expected, outfielder Shane Robinson got the call from Memphis. The slight-framed Robinson is a plus defender with plus speed. He hits singles, turns them into doubles, draws walks, steals bases and will climb the outfield wall to make a catch.
He only had a failed pinch hit opportunity today, but LaRussa has said he will get some starts soon. I hate seeing players go down, but I love seeing them come up.
“Taste of the Big Leagues” is the theme at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City Redhawks. They opened with the Yankees. You can check out coverage of that here.
They continued with the Cubs and Wrigley field. So, I was not sure I was going to enjoy this promotion very much.
I was greeted with a poster of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, and his quote, “It’s a beautiful day for a ball game…let’s play two.”
It was a nice day. Finally, warm. Can’t argue with that logic.
The Wrigley sign was cool:
The replica ivy wall was a nice touch. I like ivy. I think the ivy wall at Wrigley is beautiful. Yet, I can not help but think about Rick Ankiel running into the padded wall at Busch. Would the outcome have been far more serious had the wall been brick covered with a bit of ivy?
The best piece of Wrigly to make its way to Oklahoma City had to be the historic scoreboard. I took a full shot of it:
Then I zoomed in on the only score on the board and was surprised (and delighted) to find the Cardinals winning. What a strange homage to the Cubs?
Finally, I purchased a Chicago Dog at the concession stand. Chicago may be terrible in the post-season, but they know how to make a championship hot dog. Good hot dog on a poppy seed bun topped with peppers, bright green relish, diced tomatoes, onions and mustard. Yum-tastic.
Back to the game, the lead singer from Korn threw out the first pitch:
But, the pitcher to talke about was Eric Milton of the Albuquerque Isotopes:
Milton had a perfect game going for five innings before giving up an infield single. The Redhawks were shut out 7-0.
It is amazing how the quickly the wheels turn. The night before Xavier Paul was playing for the Isotopes in Oklahoma City. Midday, the news broke of Manny Ramirez’s 50 game suspension for a positive drug test. By the time the rosters were printed in Oklahoma City, Xavier Paul’s was gone to Los Angeles, his name already removed from the AAA roster.
I listened to the Dodgers-Nationals game on the way home. Here in the Midwest, west coast ballgames come in handy. Dodgers were leading 6-0 when I tuned in. The Dodgers were off to a great start putting up a six in the first. Very reflective of their season so far, maybe too much so.
This season the Dodgers were setting records for their home winning streak, when suddenly their big bat is taken away for 50 games. In Thursday’s game, the Dodgers were cruising. In the six and seventh, the Nationals chipped away at the lead. In the eighth, the Nats came to bat and stayed putting up six runs and giving former Cardinal, Ron Villone, a win in his first appearance with the Nationals. The game seemed to be a synopsis of the Dodger season thus far.
While the Nationals try to hit their way of the bottom (Hello, Ryan Zimmerman), the Dodgers are going to find it hard to stay on top with the loss of Manny’s bat.
Friday, May 9th – Memorable Bombs
The St. Louis Cardinals headed to Cincinnati to face the Reds. Or, Cincyapolis, as the voice of the Cardinals, Mike Shannon called it the day before. Joel Pineiro who has pitched like a new man this year, gave us glimpses of last year. Pineiro struggled in the first two innings, giving up five runs and digging a hole that the Cardinals could not dig out of.
Probably, his biggest mistake was not a pitch, but overthrowing to first on a bunt by opposing pitcher Cueto. Three runs scored in the at bats that followed. Pujols put a stopper in the inning by catching a Jay Bruce liner and stepping on first to double off Hairston
In Pineiro’s defense, many balls, not well-hit, dropped in for base hits. Sometimes, that just happens. Also to his credit, innings three through six were flawless. Perez came in throwing a little wild and gave up the sixth run.
The Cardinal bats never really got going against the Reds’ Cueto, until the seventh when the eked out one run. In the eighth, they took advantage of Weathers, starting with rookie Tyler Greene.
McRae told him to look for a first pitch fast ball. Tyler Greene found one and smoked it to the bullpen in leftfield. His first Major League home run. The smile on his face could not have been bigger.
The Cardinals rallied behind him. Ludwick walked and stole second. Duncan brought him in with a double and later scored on a Molina single. But, that would be all the Cardinals would get. Oddly enough, Albert Pujols was 0-4 on the night. I would hate to be the next pitcher to face him. Good luck, Haraung.
I have been uncharacteristically quiet on all things regarding Alex Rodriguez. Mostly because the accusations keep on coming and I have know way of really knowing what’s true or not, and really there is a part of me that does not care. Maybe, if he were a Cardinal. Maybe, if I had watched him play regularly, I could work up the proper outrage or disillusionment. But, I got nothing.
However, I could not miss the announcement that he was returning to the Yankees lineup. With the rough start the Yankees have had this year, they could seriously use a lift. I hear Yankees fans say things like, “A-Rod is not really a Yankee”. I thought to myself, if Alex Rodriguez comes back, plays well and the Yankees start winning, all will be forgiven.
Inexplicably, I tuned in the Yankees game to see Alex Rodriguez’s first at bat. I do not know why, maybe I was expecting to see something special. I was rewarded. He came to the plate with the table nicely set with two runners on and promptly jacks the ball out of the park. Yankees beat the Orioles 4-0.
I am not condoning or condemning him for anything. It is just nice to be talking about a baseball player in terms of actual baseball.
Bedlam baseball comes to Oklahoma City this weekend when OU and OSU take over the Redhawks park in Bricktown. As a Cardinals fan, I normally where a lot of red, but as an OSU alum, I will be sporting my orange for the next two days.
The Redhawks will be home most of next week, so I will have opportunities there. The Cardinals continue division play with the Reds, Pirates and Brewers.
So much baseball, so little time!
miss Brian Barton: hitter, rocket scientist and world traveler.
Maybe it was Memphis
Maybe it was southern summer nights
Maybe it was you maybe it was me
But it sure felt right
Since I will see both minor and major league games this year, it
did feel right to start off my season seeing both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Memphis Redbirds play two exhibition games over the weekend. The match-up took place at Auto Zone Park on historic Union Avenue in Memphis Tennessee.
Walking into the ballpark, I felt I had died and gone to redbird
heaven. The entire field was covered
with St. Louis Cardinals and future St. Louis Cardinals, such a beautiful
I had heard that Auto Zone Park was even
nicer than AT&T Ballpark, the home of the Oklahoma City Redhawks. And, the ten-year-old park is nice, but I do
not think it has anything on the ballpark in Oklahoma
Ballpark managed to add historic value to a new park, by making monuments to Oklahoma born players,
such as Johnny Bench, Mickey Mantle and others.
The park in Memphis is missing
the historic element.
However, you know you are in Memphis when you are
greeted by a live band playing in the courtyard, just inside the front
gates. In the city that gave birth to
the Memphis sound, music is everywhere. Also, the courtyard is graced with the lovely Memphis Redbird Red Hots.
I knew I took a bunch of pictures, but even I was surprised when I uploaded them to my computer that there were 600+ taken over the course of two days. Unbelievable. I swear, I did not have my finger on the button the whole time. I actually kept a scorecard, too. But, evidently I was very busy. So, when I say here are “just a few” pictures, you will know I mean it.
Everybody stops to watch Albert Pujols take batting practice. I think he could sell tickets to his batting practice to raise money for the Pujols Family Foundation.
The Cardinals 25-man roster includes a number of rookies. Here are just a few getting ready to take batting practice: Infielders, Joe Thurston and David Freese, and outfielder, Colby Rasmus. I believe fellow rookie, infielder, Brian Barden was in the cage.
New Shortstop, Khalil Greene, looks happy to be a Cardinal. He had a great spring training, and hit a bomb in Memphis, so we are so happy to have him.
Yadier Molina heads to work.
One of my favorite game sights is the catcher, starting pitcher and pitching coach walking in from the bullpen, all warmed up and ready to go. The walk means it is almost game time. In the first picture are Yadier Molina, P. J. Walters and Dave Duncan. P. J. Walters, who will start in Triple-A Memphis, made a spot start for the Cardinals in Friday’s game in place of Chris Carpenter. Walters had a very fine outing, as the Cardinals won 13-1.
The second picture is Yadier Molina, Joel Pineiro and Dave Duncan. Joel Pineiro had a great spring training, and he pitched well on Saturday. He got into a couple jams, but did not loose his cool. He pitched better the longer he went. The Cardinals won 7-3.
Another beautiful sight:
I took the following two pictures, because I wondered if the kid in the #12 Aaron Miles jersey was asking John Mozeliak, “Hey, Mo. Why didn’t you pick up Miles? Now, I need a new jersey. Forget the autograph. I want a new jersey.”
Amazingly enough, another kid walked up with a #12 T-shirt. I imagined him asking the same question.
This is a nice shot of Khalil Greene , but the guy on second base got my attention over the weekend. Memphis center fielder, Shane Robinson, has a nice bat. He made a great diving catch in center, and literally climbed the wall to try to get to a Rick Ankiel home run that was long gone.
But, I found the following shot of him hilarious. From left to right (field), we have Jon Jay (5’9″), Shane Robinson (5’7″) and Joe Mather (6’4″). Mather looks like a Giant.
Chris Carpenter was scratched from the Friday start, which is fine with me. There is always a worry that he has X number of pitches left. No need to waste them on an exhibition game. He was reported to have a calf injury, but if he can cop a catcher’s squat to catch Adam Wainwright, the calf must be healed.
Before Saturday’s day game, I was at the park before it was open. So, I decided to take a little walk all the way around it. When I got to the back of the park, the gate was open. I resisted the urge to trespass. However, I could see through to the field. I was not surprised by what I saw: Third Base/Infield Coach, Jose Oquendo was hitting early morning ground balls to Skip Schumaker. Here is a picture of Schumaker warming up later.
Speaking of Jose Oquendo, late in the game on Saturday, he was sent in to pinch hit. The crowd went wild. He fouled off a couple and then drew a walk. When he took his lead at first, the crowd wanted him to steal. He got moved around to third base. He had an opportunity to tag and score on a fly ball, but evidently, he did not send himself. Ironically, he was stranded at the base he will be coaching all year.
The-closer-who-must-not-be-named, Jason Motte, pitched in the ninth inning Saturday.
Not to be outdone by the Cardinals coaching staff, Memphis Redbirds Manager, Chris Maloney, sent himself in to pinch hit. He made nice contact, but grounded out to finish the game.
Ballpark Food Note
I give the ballpark hot dog a grade of “B”. Good quality hot dog, toasted bun. Good, but not fantastic. The unique food to have are the barbecued pork nachos. Very good, but very pricy at $8.50. The hotdogs were $4.00