Baseball

Daniel Strumpf of the Wilmington Blue Rocks on life in the minors

Posted by Paul Caputo on April 23, 2014
Baseball, Baseball (Minors), Royals, Video Interviews / No Comments

Daniel Strumpf, pitcher for the single-A Wilmington Blue Rocks, a Kansas City Royals, was the hard-luck loser in a 1-0 game against the Winston-Salem Dash. He pitched well after getting roughed up in his previous start, but the team had a runner thrown out at the plate and left an armful of runners on the basepaths and couldn’t get him the win. We spoke with him briefly about his approach to the game.

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Waiting for Mr. Celery: A Visit to the Wilmington Blue Rocks

Posted by Paul Caputo on April 21, 2014
Ballpark Visits, Baseball, Baseball (Minors), Royals / 6 Comments

Blue-Rocks-celery

I made certain promises that were not mine to make, and it ended up costing me. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, we visited Frawley Stadium in Delaware to see the Wilmington Blue Rocks play the Winston-Salem Dash in a single-A Carolina League game. Every time the Blue Rocks score a run, I told my two kids and their three cousins, Mr. Celery will come running of out that door and onto the field to CEL-ebrate.

It was our first Blue Rocks game, and we waited patiently for the home team to score. After our middle-of-the-fourth-inning helmet sundaes, seeing Mr. Celery became our primary focus. Early on, one Blue Rocks runner was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on a double, later in the game, a handful of runners were stranded in scoring position, and a mere two hours and 21 minutes after it started, the game ended with the Dash winning 1-0 on a rally-killing double play in the bottom of the ninth.

On this day, there would be no Mr. Celery.

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Wrigley Field vs. US Cellular: The Chicago Baseball Experience

Posted by Paul Caputo on April 14, 2014
Ballpark Visits, Baseball, Cubs, White Sox / 2 Comments

Wrigley

I recently had the opportunity to attend two baseball games in Chicago—one White Sox game and one Cubs game. When I tell most baseball fans about this experience, they ask, “How did you like Wrigley?” and I say, “I went to a White Sox game, too,” and they say, “Oh? Wrigley’s amazing, huh?” and then I say, “Do you want to hear about the White Sox?” And then their eyes turn to little spinning computer beach balls, as though they are trying to process something and it’s not working and I’m going to have to force quit and start the conversation over. And then they say, “Did you know you can see the game from the rooftops of the apartment buildings across the street from Wrigley?”

So I thought I’d offer this point-by-point comparison of the two stadiums and see which one is really better. The result may surprise you!

The Stadium
Wrigley Field, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is iconic. (Because I am a sentimental baseball fan and a blogger, I am required by law to use the word cathedral when writing about Wrigley: cathedral cathedral cathedral.) While Wrigley is a relatively comfortable place to watch a game, old ballparks offer certain challenges. When I asked an usher in the upper deck where the nearest men’s room was, he started with “Go down this ramp…” and ended with “It’s not as far as it sounds”—which means it was far. Still, it is one of the historic cathedrals (I told you) of baseball that all fans must see at least once, along with Fenway, Dodger Stadium (to a lesser extent), and before they tore it down and replaced it with an exact replica, Yankee Stadium.

US-CellularOn the other hand, US Cellular Field, which opened in 1991, was built in an architectural style called Soviet Prison Bauhaus. It’s blocky and gray, but functional. Even with wide concourses and bathrooms right there on the same level that you’re already on, it’s basically the last of the crappy old stadiums built immediately before the nice new ones starting with Camden Yards (1993) and Coors Field (1995).

Advantage: Wrigley.

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Boog Powell of the Beloit Snappers on his name, staying warm, life in the minors

Posted by Paul Caputo on April 09, 2014
Athletics, Baseball, Baseball (Minors), Video Interviews / No Comments

On a frigid opening day in southern Wisconsin, the Beloit Snappers (low-A, Oakland A’s) lost 5-1 to the Burlington Bees in front of a sparse crowd. In his first game with the Snappers after spending last season with the Vermont Lake Monsters, Herschel Mack “Boog” Powell IV went two for four and made a nice catch in centerfield—all before meeting the host family he’ll be living with this season. After the game, Powell spoke with me about his familiar name, how he stays warm in freezing weather, and life in the minor leagues.

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Opening Day in Beloit: Frigid Baseball, Lonely Turtles, and I Sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Posted by Paul Caputo on April 07, 2014
Athletics, Ballpark Visits, Baseball, Baseball (Minors) / No Comments

Snappers-opening-night

It was opening night for the low single-A Snappers of Beloit, Wisconsin, and in more ways than one, we were a long way from the bright lights and glamor of the team’s Major League affiliate, the Oakland A’s. The game had all the trappings of a great minor league experience—Snappy-Turtle-selfieI parked for free, the food was cheap, there were fun activities between innings, and I got a selfie with the team’s mascot, Snappy D. Turtle.

The players themselves—barely older than teenagers, if that—live with host families and travel by bus from game to game as they try to scrape and claw their way from the bottom of the minor league barrel. Between the cold weather and low-A ballplayers shaking off the early-season rust, it was not the crispest game I’ve ever seen. (Though it was not appreciably worse than the White Sox game I saw in Chicago the day before.)

The team announced a paid attendance of 282, but one Snappers employee in the press box did a rough head count and came up with a number closer to 75. At one point, an activity in which children were supposed to race around the bases between innings was scratched because, as the call came in over the radio in the press box, “we don’t have the demographic.” (That is, there were no kids there.)

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