Maryland, My Maryland
Hey there everyone. Lisa here.
While my new co-workers wandered far afield to take in their minor league Opening Day games, with Jonathan in New Orleans and Kevin in Dayton, Ohio, all I had to do was hop on the Capital Beltway and drive 35 miles to Bowie, Maryland.
And while I love to pile up my Marriott Miles and Hilton Honors points as much as the next person, I also love the fact that I am lucky enough to live an hour or so away from four different minor leagues (Eastern, Carolina, South Atlantic and New York-Penn) and a relatively easy shot down I-95 from a fifth (International), Capital Beltway ?mixing bowl? traffic willing.
The Washington, D.C. metro area is a well-kept secret when it comes to being a miniature hotbed (maybe you could call it a ?warm bed?) for minor league baseball.
When I put together my initial summer schedule of minor league games to which I could drive, watch a nine-inning game and still be home in time to crash into bed for the 11 o?clock news, I found I could spend an entire summer without taking a night off (not that I actually plan to do that, of course, but I could!)
This year I headed out to Bowie for their season opener against the Reading Phillies.
When I looked at the boxscores the next morning from games around the minors, it seemed like overall the pitching was ahead of the hitting early on and this game was no exception.
Fans were treated to a good pitching duel between Bowie?s James ?J.J.? Johnson, last year?s Carolina League Pitcher of the Year, and Reading?s Scott Mathieson, who was coming off a spot in the World Baseball Classic for Team Canada. Neither was particulat overpowering per se, but both were more than impressive, as Bowie edged Reading, 3-1.
Given the fact that the temperature started at brrrrrrrrr and dipped quickly, I was really pleased by how quickly they both worked I figure that Mathieson, coming from Canada, is used to pitching in a lot colder weather than this. I am admittedly a wuss.
I was also very relieved when both players that I interviewed beforehand had good games. As I?m sure you?ve heard, ballplayers tend to be rather superstitious types (I cannot believe I am the only person who remembers when a pre-teen Prince Fielder starred in a TV commercial with his dad for Major League Baseball where they talked about ?the lucky gravy? It was my favorite ad ? when he got drafted, I was like, ?Oh my gosh, it?s the lucky gravy kid!?).
Anyway, before I digress anymore, I?m always a little nervous when I interview a player before a game that he will go and strike out four times or make a bunch of errors or give up five runs in an inning and then never talk to me again. Like I?m a big walking Sports Illustrated cover jinx or something.
So I definitely breathed a few sighs of relief with the impressive performances turned in by Reading leadoff hitter and center fielder Michael Bourn and Bowie leadoff hitter and left fielder Jeff Fiorentino.
Bourn, who you will read more about in our inaugural ?Faces on the Field? package this Tuesday, went 2-for-5 with a stolen base and had there been a highlight reel of defensive plays, he would have been on it with his diving catch in the third inning to rob Tony Alvarez of an extra-base hit.
Fiorentino hit what proved to be the game-winning home run off of Mathieson, a two-run line drive shot to right field in the third. He is also the most energetic, effervescent, ebullient player I?ve talked to in ages. He may be even more talkative than I am. I was actually exhausted (but exhiliarated) after the interview. You can read more about Fiorentino on Friday in my first Baseball Perspectives column for MLB.com. (This paragraph was brought to you by the letter E).
I kind of wish I could click my heels together three times and fast forward to, say, mid-May when the temps will hover closer to 70 degrees as the game heads into the late innings but I know those days will be here before I know it.
Until then, I?ll just pull out the extra sweater, the packets of Swiss Miss and climb back into Penny, my reliable Honda Odyssey, and hit the roads of Maryland once more.