September 2005

All she wrote in Tennessee

Every once in a while, the team with the most talent does win. This was one of those cases as the fully loaded Jacksonville Suns took the Southern League championship in four games. Kudos to the Diamond Jaxx for battling throughout (and for having one of the cooler logos in the Minors), but they just couldn’t come up with the big hit when they needed it, scoring just 3 runs in the final 3 games. The Suns didn’t exactly pound the ball, with the exception of the eight-run outburst in Game 3, but some of their phenoms came up with some big base knocks in the finale. Just so they don’t think too highly of themselves, they still face a 13-hour bus ride back to Jacksonville tonight.

The Diamond Jaxx fans who did show up were very supportive, even raucous at the end. Too bad there were only 650 or so of them here for the game. I don’t know what the future of baseball will be in Jackson, Tenn, but I’d have to say it’s Tenn-uous, at best (get it?).

But I digress. Maybe some readers from the South can tell me what the fascination is with fried bologna here. That’s what they served here in the press box for lunch. Frankly, I haven’t had bologna of any sort since I was nine, and the thought of frying it before eating it sent me straight for an EKG. But the server swore it was very good and one of the press box contingent said his five-year old daughter loves the stuff. BUT SHE’S FIVE.

It lead one of the broadcasters here to eat a fixins sandwich — bread, lettuce, pickles, tomato — that’s it. I added cheese to that combination, taking me back to third grade when cheese on wonder bread was a good thing. I can’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure Elvis came in for some of the delicacy of the day. Then, of course, he left the buiding. Thankyaverymuch.

A Hall of a time in Ohio

Well, Game Three provided the pitching match-up that I thought would come in Game One. Wade Miller and Brian Slocum were both right on the money, mowing through the batting orders with surprising ease. The bullpens pitched well, too, even though Anibal Sanchez was tagged with the loss after surrendering a pair of runs. There were some questionable calls that fueled Akron’s rally but Portland manager Todd Claus was too classy to address them.
Saturday morning I had some time to kill so I went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame down the road in Canton. It’s a nice little museum and NFL Films are the best, especially when you get to hear the legendary voice of John Facenda. But it’s not nearly as good as the baseball hall up in Cooperstown, which still ranks as the best of the four major sports’ halls.  — Kevin C.

Suns one game away

Greetings from Jackson, Tennessee, where there’s apparently absolutely nothing to do. Luckily, we’ve got some good baseball to watch. Unfortunately, the citizens of this small southern town don’t seem all that interested.

Baseball evidently is a bit of a tough sell here, especially once football season starts. So even a championship game was no match for Friday night high school football. It’s a shame, really. Pringles Park is a nice place to watch a ballgame. And the Diamond Jaxx — in my opinion one of the coolest logos in all of Minor League Baseball — are a good team to watch, despite now being down 2-1 in this best-of-5 series.

I’m told there’s some really good barbeque near the hotel. I’ll try to check that out after Game 4, time permitting, and report back to you on the culinary front.

As for the series, West Tenn has its back against the wall. The Jaxx will need to come up with some offense (they’ve scored 1 run over the last two games) if they want to force a Game 5. But you’ve gotta love how this game works. Jacksonville is loaded with all this young talent — Joel Guzman, Russ Martin, Andy LaRoche, James Loney — and it’s a 27-year-old career Minor Leaguer in Todd Donovan who carried the big stick in Game 3. Shows to go you can never predict what might happen in this game, especially at this level. — Jonathan

All tied up in New England

We bid adieu to New England with the series knotted at a game apiece. While the score would suggest an exciting contest, Akron’s 4-3 victory in Game Two Wednesday night at Hadlock Field was a laconic, uninspiring affair. The starting pitching was once again mediocre though the bullpens for each team continued to shine. Portland will have Wade Miller going on Friday in Akron and that should make for interesting fodder as he continues to work his way back to Boston. Time to go get some lobster. See you in Ohio. — Kevin Czerwinski

A humdinger in Jacksonville

Now that was one helluva ballgame. For those of you who missed it, Jacksonville and West Tennessee played scoreless ball for nearly eight innings before the Suns Sunssnuck home a run to win 1-0 and even this baby up at one game apiece. I don’t care what anyone says about the longball. Give me this kind of game at any level, with two starters dealing, and I’m a happy man.

The series now moves to the booming metropolis of Jackson, Tenn., which I have to get to by flying to Memphis and then driving 80+ miles. It could be Jaxxworse. I could be going with the players, who actually boarded their buses postgame tonight and drove all night to West Tenn’s town so they could have a full day off tomorrow. I’ll be thinking of them as I sleep in the cozy hotel along the St. John’s river here tonight.

The river, they say, is the heart of the city. I can’t say I got a real good feel for Jacksonville, other than it was freakin’ hot today (97 degrees). The riverfront area looks kind of nice, but it seemed that just beyond that lay a city kind of wanting to be big time and not quite getting there. And it sure is football crazy. Once that season gets underway, the Suns have a hard time getting fans to come out to the Baseball Grounds (a very nice retro-style newer ballpark with some big league feel to it). Even though they led the Southern League in attendance during the regular season, they only had 2,700 or so at Game 1 and 3,300 here tonight for the final home game of the season. In some ways, the team gets hurt by playing into September. Go figure.

No time to really reflect on it, though. It’ll be time to pack up and head for Tennessee tomorrow. Talk to you from there soon. — Jonathan Mayo

Resurrecting the blog for the playoffs

In an attempt to revive a long-dormant Minors blog, Kevin Czerwinski and Jonathan Mayo will make daily posts during their travels covering the Eastern League and Southern League Championship Series, respectively. We’ll kick things off with a note from Kevin. C in New England.

Opening night here in Portland has been a blast. Despite the fact that the pitchers duel between Jon Lester and Jeremy Sowers never really materialized, the game was still entertaining. I got to see a few shots over and off the Maine L113_header Monster and enjoy what is one of the better Minor League atmospheres I’ve experienced in my travels this season. Portland is a beautiful city right on the water, giving it the classic New England fishing town feel. There is a quiet simplicity about this place that makes it very appealing. I hear the winters are brutal, but the fall-like conditions the last two nights have made this trip a delight.
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