June 2005

It could all end today

Hey, all, Greetings from hot, hot Omaha (96 and humid). After grabbing a shake at Zesto’s (I don’t know if it’s just the locale or the heat this time of year here, but I’d put Zesto’s shakes up against any in the country), I’m ready to talk College World Series.

Texas took the first game here on Saturday, 4-2. I’m thinking they end it today. They’ve got their top starter in Kyle McCulloch on the hill and their experience in CWS play certainly helps. Florida’s pitching is in a bit of disarray. Me thinks I’m going to be trying to change my travel plans so I can get back home tomorrow instead of Tuesday. Of course, stranger things have happened…

Deep in the heart of Texas

It’s true, everything is big in Texas. From the FanFest to the game, Frisco did a big-league job hosting the Texas League All-Star Game.

Even the home run derby was entertaining, with the oddity of having the finals during the game. It seemed a bit odd when I first heard about it, but taking a break in the third to watch Andre Ethier win the title (and later the game MVP as well) was fun.

And boy is there some talent in this league. Pitching dominated the game, but there were some unreal defensive gems. Erick Aybar, Angels fans should know, made two spectacular plays and I’m told by TL regulars that what he did in this game was not unique. The ballpark is beautiful; my favorite little items were these plaques with a baseball/Teddy Roosevelt head (Roughriders, get it?). Unfortunately, they didn’t sell anything with that logo in the shop.

Good eats to be had, too. If you’re ever there, check out Tres Merides — food from Mexico, Spain and Venezuela, all which have a city called Merides in it.

That’s it from Frisco. Next stop, relieving Kevin C. in Omaha…

Leaving my heart in Frisco

Texas, that is, site of the 2005 Texas League All-Star Game. We taped "Around the Minors," set to air on Tuesday, 2-3 p.m. ET from the FanFest the night before the TL’s midsummer classic. A good time was had by all, from kids getting balloon animals from guys on stilts, to everyone rubbing elbows with the stars of tomorrow being honored today (hey, that’s a catchy marketing slogan if ever I saw one).

Be sure to check out the show, and the site, for these interviews. I had a chance to chat with players Mike Napoli, Travis Hanson, Jason Hirsh and Jeremy Brown, as well as Texas League president Tom Kayser and Frisco’s president and GM Mike McCall. A bunch will be on the show, all will be on the site, so be sure to check out MiLB.com for all of our Texas League coverage. I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on the ballpark here in Frisco.

The feeling is mutual in Omaha

I have to admit that when my boss told me I was going to Omaha, I was a reluctant. As a city, I had little interest in seeing what Omaha had to offer. Well, after two days here, I am man enough to admit I was wrong. Omaha is a cool little town. The people are friendly, the climate is great and the downtown Old Market area is as sheik and trendy as anything any big Eastern city has to offer. It has a slew of great restaurants — awesome steak — and some great little shops. And that’s just the business end, we haven’t even gotten to the baseball yet.
I’m here for the College World Series and this city certainly gets into hosting this event. Everywhere you look there is a reminder that the series is in town. The Rosenblattpeople get excited about it the series and the fact that Nebraska is playing this year makes it all the more exciting. You can really feel the energy as you arrive at Rosenblatt Stadium and today [Thursday] during the open workouts the fans were really into it, screaming and shouting, interacting with the players at every opportunity.
I’m anxious for games to start because I think this is going to be a great deal of fun. See you as the rest of the tournament unfolds.  — Kevin C.

Kevin C. from Reading

Having traveled to more than a few Minor League venues in recent weeks, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of what the ballparks have to offer. First Energy Stadium in Reading certainly qualifies as the good. The charm and coziness this building exudes is evident from the minute you set foot inside the gate. You’re close to the action and there is plenty to do if you’re a fan. There’s a nice boardwak-type setup down the right-field line and a great picnic area on the third-base side. There’s also a miniature golf setup behind the picnic area. There’s a pool just beyond the right-field fence that sits in front of another picnic area.

The weather isn’t great — it’s been raining here all day so the crowd is sparse. But it’s easy to see why Reading is leading the Eastern League in attendance. This is a great place to watch a ballgame and it has a great deal of history with the organization dating back 100 years. With Hall-of-Famers like Frank " Home Run" Baker, Mike Schmidt, Ryne Sandberg, just to name a few, having donned a Reading uniform down through the years gives an indication of just how rich the history is here in southeastern Pennsylvania.

If you’re going to make a road trip, Reading is definitely the place to go. Two thumbs up.
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