Aberdeen IronBirds vs Tri-City ValleyCats – August 8, 2015

I was able to see an Aberdeen IronBirds game for the first time in 4 years.  It’s a very nice stadium and since they were having fireworks, the game was a sellout.

I was able to get two autographs at the game from Aberdeen LF Randolph Gassaway and Tri-City P Austin Nicely.  I was surprised that there weren’t as many autograph seekers at this game as I normally see.  But at the lower levels, there aren’t as many since the players are generally more unproven.

Autographed cards of Randolph Gassaway and Austin Nicely

Autographed cards of Randolph Gassaway and Austin Nicely

The game was pretty good as Tri-City P Trent Thornton went 5 innings without giving up any walks or earned runs.  Tri-City 1B Pat Porter and 2B Brooks Marlow added home runs as the ValleyCats won 5-1.  I did see 2015 Orioles first round pick (25th overall) D. J. Stewart in this game going 2-4 with a double.

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Wilmington Blue Rocks vs Carolina Mudcats – August 1, 2015

I saw the Wilmington Blue Rocks host the Carolina Mudcats on Saturday.  I made sure to get there right as gates opened so I could get my George Brett bobblehead doll.  It’s a nice item, but I wish it wasn’t in a plain white box so I could display it while it was still in the box.

I was able to get a number of autographs at the game. I met three of the Mudcats players including 2B Reed Harper, C Joseph Odom and OF Dustin Peterson.  I also got an autograph from Blue Rocks Manager Brian Buchanan.

Autographs from Reed Harper, Joseph Odom, Brian Buchanan and Dustin Peterson

Autographs from Reed Harper, Joseph Odom, Brian Buchanan and Dustin Peterson

The game itself played out like typical Carolina League games where there aren’t a lot of offense.  The Blue Rocks put up one in the bottom of the first and the Mudcats scored three on the top of the third.  The game ended as a 3-1 Mudcats win.  Dustin Peterson had a two run double in the game, which I’m sure is because he was kind enough to sign an autograph for me beforehand.

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Reading Fightin Phils vs Trenton Thunder – July 5, 2015

I was able to see the Reading Fightin Phils today and watch them get blown out, but also get a few Thunder autographs.  I hadn’t been to a Reading game in three years, so it was good to get back.  I consider it one of the nicest stadiums in minor league baseball as they have done an excellent job to maintain the fan experience despite the stadium being 65 years old.

It is one of the best stadiums to get autographs and this time worked out well.  I was able to get signatures from Trenton Pitching Coach Jose Rosado (twice an MLB all-star) and Manager Al Pedrique (who everyone remembers from his 1988 Topps All-Star Rookie card).  And my recent attempts to collect more recent cards paid off as I was able to get Trenton Pitcher Mark Montgomery to sign his 2013 Bowman Draft card.  His stock seems to have fallen off a bit as he’s been shuffling between AA and AAA since 2012, but it’s a really nice item for me.

Autographed Cards of Jose Rosado, Al Pedrique, and Mark Montgomery

Autographed Cards of Jose Rosado, Al Pedrique, and Mark Montgomery

In the game, Reading declared themselves victims of the ten run rule and put in their second baseman Brodie Greene to pitch the 9th inning.  It started out pretty quiet as there were no baserunners until the top of the 3rd when Reading 1B Art Charles singled.  Things started to pick up in the fourth as Trenton scored twice, and then put up four in the 5th, 6th and 8th innings en route to a 14-2 victory.

Every Trenton batter had a hit in the game for a total of 18.  CF Jake Cave and C Gary Sanchez each had 3 hits and 3 RBIs, with Sanchez getting his on a three-run home run.  At the beginning of the game it seemed like people were making good contact, but just hitting the ball at someone.  After that, the ball seemed to always find a way to drop in.  And in case you were wondering, Greene gave up two hits, but no runs.

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West Virginia Black Bears Inaugural Game – June 19, 2015

Just after the first pitch

Just after the first pitch of the West Virginia Black Bears inaugural game.  Pretty nice seat, right?

I was finally able to see another ballpark I hadn’t seen before, and for its first game as well.  I attended the inaugural West Virginia Black Bears game at Monongalia County Ballpark on June 19, 2015 against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

The ballpark is shared with West Virginia University, but you need to drive through a shopping complex to get to it.  I did like how they had free parking at the Walmart though.  The stadium is fairly small as the official attendance was just over 3000.  It’s always great to see a brand new stadium, but I didn’t come away as impressed as I thought.

Maybe it’s just me trying to hold onto old times and resisting the way of the future though.  All of the seats are behind netting, which I don’t like.  I know that it can be a safety issue, but I’d prefer to have a clear line of sight of the game.  I also don’t consider the ballpark very fan friendly.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s also for college games, but there is pretty much no access for the fans to stand next to the field unobstructed.  This makes it very difficult for things like getting autographs or catching foul balls.  There are grass berms on both the first and third base sides, where foul balls would just get stuck without kids to chase after them.  The field is also turf instead of grass which caught a few of the players off guard because the earlier rain made it a little slick and they slid past the bases on a few occasions.

I did notice that the outfield wall configuration was somewhat interesting as left-center field has a big notch sticking up, as the ticket office is right behind the wall, turning some sure home runs into playable balls.  It also slopes up in the left field corner where the concourse rises to the seats.  I do think that they did a very good job with this ballpark opening and made it entertaining for everyone.

The game itself was entertaining also.  Not even sure where to start with that one.  Prior to the game, I noticed that the Black Bears Starting Pitcher would be the Pirates #1 prospect, Tyler Glasnow, who was recovering from an ankle injury.  The Black Bears lineup also included Pirates 2015 first round pick (SS Kevin Newman, 19th overall) and 2015 second round pick (2B Kevin Kramer, 62nd overall).  And yes, they did pick up on the fact that these guys have the last names of Seinfeld characters.  It’s also pretty nice to see the first professional game for a number of the 2015 draft picks.

Usually when a team has the same number of hits and errors, you think that they wouldn’t have a chance of winning.  But what if their run total was a greater number?  And the number of runs was 7?  Still didn’t matter as the Black Bears lost, 15-7.

That makes it sound like an offensive outburst, but that really wasn’t the case, although Mahoning Valley did hit back to back home runs in the 3rd inning.  The two teams combined for 22 runs on 16 hits and 9 errors.  There were also 19 strikeouts, 18 walks and 4 hit batters.  Put it all together and you have a 4 hour game.  The Scrappers were up 15-1 at the seventh inning stretch, at which point I heard a fan yell that the Black Bears need to put up at least 5 this inning.  And sure enough, they scored 5.

So overall, it was a good trip.  I was able to see stadium #118 and my 5th inaugural game.  Hopefully, I can cross another team off my list before the end of the season.

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Savannah/Columbia PDC with Mets Through 2018

I never found out about renewal of the Savannah Sand Gnats PDC, only that they weren’t changing affiliates and remaining a Mets affiliate.  Now that they are planning to move to Columbia, SC next year, it’s now been confirmed that the PDC has been signed through 2018, as mentioned on the Columbia Professional Baseball Facebook page.

http://minorleaguesource.com/pdc.html

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West Virginia Black Bears Inaugural Game

I was able to get my ticket to the West Virginia Black Bears inaugural game on Friday, June 19.  So I’ll get to add to my list of minor league teams inaugural games which currently stands at 4.  There are still a handful of tickets available if you are interested in going.  I’m also hoping to see another new team that Saturday, but I haven’t decided where to go yet. I have some time to figure that out.

http://minorleaguesource.com/baseball.html

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Savannah Sand Gnats moving to Columbia, SC in 2016

The Savannah Sand Gnats are moving to Columbia, SC for the 2016 season.  This move had been rumored since the Sand Gnats owners were building a new stadium in Columbia and it would make the most sense to move the team they already owned.  The previous team in Columbia moved to Greenville in 2005.  As the teams generally move around that same area every few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if Savannah got a new team in a new stadium in the next ten years.

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Binghamton Mets extend PDC to 2020

The Binghamton Mets have extended their player development contract with the Mets to 2020.  There have been rumors about this team moving in the past, but that’s been quiet recently.  But they would be a Mets affiliate if they moved anytime soon.

http://minorleaguesource.com/pdc.html

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Louisville Bats extend PDC with Reds to 2018

The Louisville Bats have extended their player development contract with the Reds to 2018.  This is one of the geographic pairings that I expect to remain for a while.

http://minorleaguesource.com/pdc.html

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West Michigan Whitecaps extend PDC with Tigers to 2020

The West Michigan Whitecaps have extended their player development contract to 2020.  It was expiring in 2018, so it’s a good thing that they didn’t wait until the last minute.

http://minorleaguesource.com/pdc.html

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