August 2005

Minors Tour of Duty

Texas Army National Guard Private First Class Stephanie Hall didn’t know if she would walk after surviving a helicopter crash in Iraq last November. Not only did she do that, but she took the mound under her own strength to toss the ceremonial first pitch prior to a game during a tour of Minor League games in Texas during the month of July.

Guardatmidlandgame_2 Hall and other Texas Army National Guard soldiers visited five Minor League baseball games during their tour, including stops at the Round Rock Express, San Antonio Missions, Midland RockHounds and Corpus Christi Hooks. Texas Army National Guard soldier involvement included throwing out the first pitch, presentation of colors and singing the National Anthem.

"We were extremely honored to have our Texas Army National Guard soldiers present during a game of America’s national pastime at a neighborhood ballpark to interact with the people of the Texas communities that we serve," Texas Army National Guard  Lt. Col. Tracy Norris said.

Everybody in attendance at the Corpus Christi Hooks game July 28 witnessed a combined perfect game by three Hooks pitchers in their 3-0 victory against the Frisco RoughRiders. Texas Army National Guard soldiers were not needed for pitching duty.

To view a recap of all the games, please visit the website of the Texas Army National Guard.

Saying goodbye to Utah

Well, as my trip wound down I finally got to Franklin Covey Field in Salt Lake City. What a beautiful ballpark. The park itself is stunning, set in a nice little neighborhood in Salt Lake. It’s clean and impressive and the view beyond the center field fence rivals the one I saw up in Ogden. The mountains are incredible — I know I keep saying that.
Franklincoveyfield
The Stingers to whom I spoke, catcher Jeff Mathis, pitching coach Bryn Smith and manager Dino Ebel were fantastic. In fact, if Ebel ever reaches the Major Leagues as a manager, he’s going to make any group of beat writers happy because he was a fantastic interview and a pleasure with which to deal.
All in all, I’d like to rate my trip to Utah just a tick ahead of the trip I took to Tennessee back in May. The scenery and the people were spectacular and there’s just so much to do when you’re not watching baseball.
See you in two weeks from the New York-Penn League All-Star game.

Utah on my mind

Well, a few more days in Utah haven’t done much to change my feelings about how I feel about it here. The mountains are incredible, point that is driven home when you go to Ogden or Orem to watch the Raptors or the Owlz play. While both have spectacular views of the mountains, the view at Lindquist Stadium in Ogden gets the nod by a hair. The mountains fill the entire landscape behind the center field fence. A pair of cathedrals sit between the park and the mountain, and that only adds to the ambiance. The view from Home of the Owlz Stadium is also spectacular but the view of the mountains trails off behind the stands along the left field line. The view in right center and right field is that of a highway and it detracts somewhat from the experience.
Still, both venues are wonderful places to visit. There is plenty to see and do around the parks, whether you’re looking for something natural or man-made. You don’t really mind driving anywhere here simply because the views are so majestic and there really isn’t any traffic to speak of, at least not the kind of traffic I see every day in New York.
When I was driving home from Orem Tuesday night there was a spectacular lightning storm up in the mountains and you could see these magnificent bolts streaming across the sky. It was quite impressive.
Oh, and I’ve got to see some baseball, too, and meet some great folks. Read all about them on MiLB.com.

Kevin C. a Pioneer (League)

I have been looking forward to taking this trip to Salt Lake City for a few weeks now and my first day here hasn’t been a disappointment. When I booked the trip I didn’t realize it was frowned upon to play baseball here on Sunday so I found myself with a free day, looking for something to blog about. Rest assured, I found it.

Since just about everything is closed in this city on Sunday, the concierge at the hotel suggested a 20-minute ride east through some stunning mountains to Park City, where many of the Winter Olympic events were held. So I hopped into my rent-a-car [The rental company screwed up my reservation so I got a Cadillac Deville instead of my Ford Taurus and I thoroughly enjoyed driving my pimp mobile] and headed East. What stunning vistas. I felt like I was in a John Ford western or walking into an Ansel Adams print. I can’t say enough about how remarkable the scenery was.

Upon reaching Park City, I was thrilled to find that it was a cool village, sort of a mix of Alpine and old west, with shops, some terrific restaurants and great art galleries. I bought the requisite amount of “el touristo” t-shirts and saw some great prints that I would have looked great in my home office. But the thought of my wife’s head exploding when I told her I dropped $3,500 on a painting just wasn’t worth the joy I’d get from looking at it every day.

Bobsled After Park City I went to the Olympic Village and this was very cool. I got to ride the bobsled and let me tell you, it was physical. Rocketing down that course at 70 miles an hour, taking turns at four Gs and defying gravity was something else. The whole thing lasted only 59 seconds but it was thrilling and something I’ll never forget.

Nor will I forget zip-lining down the a mountain, my next adventure at the village. The ski jump used during the Olympics isn’t used during the summer months so you get to ride the lift to the top of the mountain where they strap you into a seated harness and let you go, rocketing down the mountain at ridiculous speeds, several hundred feet off the ground and with the wind blowing you every which way. What a thrill.

I’m here to see some good Minor League baseball – I’ll be traveling to Ogden and Orem and staying here in Salt Lake City this week. I’m looking forward to that but if you’re ever out here for the baseball, you’ll find there’s so much more. In fact, depending on how the week goes, Salt Lake City may bump San Diego and Denver off my favorite cities to visit for baseball list. Nothing still tops Montreal but this looks like it will comes close.

Baseball in Jersey

There is always a romantic feeling about going to a New Jersey Cardinals game. Maybe it’s the field of dreams setting in the foothills and the cornfeilds of northwestern New Jersey. Maybe it’s just being out of the way and not harried like I was last week driving Californial freeways trying to get to Stockton and Modesto. Or maybe it was the great meal and service I got at The Chatterbox across the street from the park. Who knows, but I really like it in Augusta having throroughly enjoyed my last two days here.

Let’s not kid ourselves about the baseball. It is low Class-A and last Tuesday night’s game was among the worst I’ve seen in a long time. But these guys are learning and that’s what this level is about. Plus, it’s just a fun time at the game.

Prior to the game, they made an announcement that no coolers, bottles ore weapons were allowed into the park. Guess I should’ve left my switchblade in teh car (just kidding). Anyway, the Cards put on an entertaining show in between innings with a giant eyeball race, similar to the sausage race in Milwaukee. I had the blue eyeball to place and he finished a distant third. So much for scouting reports.

Rally_cow The club also trots out a live cow in the middle of the sixth inning. Afater a grand introduction, the Rally Cow — a tradition up here — is brought onto the field to help spark the home team. Only problem, the cow was a bit temperamental Tuesday night and didn’t want to come out of its pen down in the left-field corner, so they cheered for it in absencia. It’s not the same, though, becuase the Cards, sans cow, couldn’t rally for the win.

Then in the seventh inning, I saw something I had never seen work before actually work. Lowell had runners on the corners with Mark Wagner on third and Dominic Ramos on first. Jeremy Zick was pitching. He faked a pickoff throw to third, then turned and fired to first to get the leaning Ramos. When does this annoying stunt ever work? Never until Tuesday night. This is what I mean about learning.

Finally, after the game, a horrifc thunder and lightning storm swept through the area. I was in the Cards office saying my goodbyes to the very helpful public relations staff and waiting out the rain when one of the employees burst in and uttered — get it, uttered — one of the best lines I’ve ever heard: "The cow is out in the open and is going to get hit by lightning. It itsn’t grounded."

Ah, we love the Cards.

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