Astros Ending Affiliation With Greeneville

The Astros have announced that they are ending their affiliation with Greeneville of the Appalachian League.  It is expected that the franchise will remain and another major league team will take on this franchise.  The Astros have been in the Appalachian League since 1999, but decided to eliminate one of their affiliates.

After the 2006 season, the Blue Jays and Indians left the Appalachian League and they were only able to add the Royals for the 2007 season and played as a nine team league.  The Mariners did affiliate with the Pulaski team for the 2008 season bringing the league back to ten teams.  Since then, three other affiliation changes have occurred, so we’ll hope that another major league team wants to join the league.

http://minorleaguesource.com/pdc.html

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Gene Garber Former Philadelphia Phillies Signing – September 5, 2017

On September 5, I was able to attend the Bull Session Radio Show at The Blue Bell Inn in Blue Bell, PA.  The show is hosted by Dan Baker and former Phillies player Greg Luzinski and they typically have a current or former player as a guest on the show.  They advertise that the guest will sign autographs and this show’s guest was former Phillies player Gene Garber.  Normally I arrive before the show starts, but I didn’t make it there this week untl about halfway through the show. I was thinking that I would need to wait until the show ended to see if I could get any autographs, but they were kind enough to sign during the commerical break.  The show is broadcast live on Mondays and is a great opportunity to meet Greg Luzinski and another player.

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Autographs from Reading – Harrisburg Game – August 27, 2017

I’ve talked before about how Reading is a great place for autographs, but this time, I decided to go for home team autographs instead of away team autographs.  The Fightin Phils also need to walk through the concourse to get to the field, but it’s a little more controlled as they have someone manning a gate to allow them field access.  What I don’t understand is why they have an additional temporary fence beyond a chain link fence where the players walk through.  So what this does is provide two pathways to the field, one for the players and another for others who need field access.  As a result, fans are too far away from the players to try to get autographs, unless the players walk through the pathway and then come back around.  At first, I wasn’t sure which of the two paths the players would take, but every player took the players only path and a few came back along the fence to sign autographs.

On the other side of the player pathway are the stands and standing there greatly increases one’s chances of getting an autograph.  It’s tough to fit more than five people here, but it’s better than hoping the player will come back around.  I chose the Reading side over the Harrisburg side because I had more cards of their players, but it didn’t work out as well as I had hoped.  I did manage to get an autograph from Reading Pitcher Franklyn Kilome, which was the player I most wanted to meet as he is ranked as the Phillies #8 prospect.

Since I committed to the Reading side before the game, I decided to go to the Harrisburg side after the game.  I made my way over before the 9th inning started, although just after the Senators game up the game-winning grand slam.  I saw a number of people standing there waiting for the team already, which was a little surprising.  And even though the team was dejected after a tough loss, I did decide to see if anyone was willing to sign.

One thing that makes getting autographs at games difficult is that there is a fairly small window to get a player’s attention as they walk by.  I noticed that the rest of the people were making a minimal attempt if any to grab their attention, but maybe they thought the players would just see them and walk over and offer to sign autographs for everyone.  The one issue I had was that there was one fan who was asking any player that walked by for a broken bat.  I hadn’t seen anyone do that before, but it also distracted the players enough that I missed the opportunity to ask some if they were willing to sign.  I was also shocked that the Nationals top prospect, Victor Robles, walked through and nobody really made an attempt at an autograph.  Yes, that would have been me if I didn’t get his autograph at a game the previous month.  But I did manage to get an autograph from 3B Drew Ward, the Nationals #18 prospect.  Interestingly, I managed to get an autograph from him at the end of a Blue Rocks game, two years prior, but I do appreciate his willingness to sign after games.

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Reading Fightin Phils vs Harrisburg Senators – August 27, 2017

On Sunday, I went to Reading to see the Fightin Phils (still not a fan of that name) take on the Harrisburg Senators.  Reading is always a great place for a ballgame.  I think the team does a good job in providing the fan experience.

The game was exciting as Reading and Harrisburg decided that they would each score in the same innings.  I was concerned at first because it was 1-1 after one inning, then 3-3 after two innings, but after the Senators took a one-run lead in the top of the 8th, Christian Marrero broke the cycle and hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 8th for a 7-4 Reading win.  I was able to see Victor Robles play for the second time this season.  He’s the Nationals top prospect and definitely looked good again going 2-4 with a two-run double out of the leadoff position.  I will say that I’m not a fan of his Andruw Jones impression when catching the ball where he flicks his glove down as he catches it.  I mention Jones because he had the infamous mistake where he did that and dropped the ball.  I hope he starts catching the ball with two hands when the situation allows.

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Bob Boone Former Philadelphia Phillies Signing – August 14, 2017

On August 14, I was able to attend the Bull Session Radio Show at The Blue Bell Inn in Blue Bell, PA.  The show is hosted by Dan Baker and former Phillies player Greg Luzinski and they typically have a current or former player as a guest on the show.  They advertise that the guest will sign autographs and this show’s guest was former Phillies player Bob Boone.  I arrived about 10 minutes before the show started and a few minutes after I made it there, Luzinski and Boone arrived.  They were kind enough to sign autographs for fans before the show started. The show is broadcast live on Mondays and is a great opportunity to meet Greg Luzinski and another player.

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Autographs from Aberdeen – Brooklyn Game – July 30, 2017

For games in the NY-Penn League, I don’t typically have many cards because many of the players were drafted this year and wouldn’t have any cards.  And it doesn’t help that I don’t seem to obtain new cards all that quickly either.  I did have one card for an IronBirds player, so I decided to hang out on their side of the field with the hopes of getting a Ryan Ripken autograph.  Eventually, he did walk by and sign autographs for the fans.

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Aberdeen IronBirds vs Brooklyn Cyclones – July 30, 2017

On Sunday, I went to see the Aberdeen IronBirds take on the Brooklyn Cyclones.  Aberdeen is the second closest minor league team to me, so I try to see them play every so often.  The game was a 5:35 start on a Sunday, which I thought was interesting, but it worked with my schedule.  The game was entertaining as the teams exchanged lead changes throughout as the game ended with an Aberdeen walk-off win, 7-6.

The Cyclones took a 3-0 lead against IronBirds starting pitcher Tobias Myers, who was traded to the Rays for Tim Beckham the next day.  Then in the 3rd and 4th innings, the IronBirds put up four runs against Cyclones starting pitcher, Jose Carlos Medina.  Interestingly, the Cyclones have two players named Jose Medina, so they need to go by their middle names.  Also, one of the runs off of Medina was a steal of home by IronBirds LF T.J. Nichting, during a pickoff attempt to first.

I also saw two pitchers with interesting deliveries.  Brooklyn pitcher Stephen Villines has an interesting sidearm delivery that has been fooling hitters since his professional debut this summer.  The picture above attempts to capture it.  This 2017 Mets 10th round draft pick has gone 10 1/3 innings, giving up one run, which also led to his only loss.  This was his NY-Penn League debut and he struck out 5 of the 6 hitters he faced.  Aberdeen pitcher Brandon Bonilla comes up and over with his pitches getting under the ball during his delivery more than you would usually see.  This seems to be working well for him as he has a 1.59 ERA through his first 11 1/3 innings with 18 strikeouts.

The game ended with Cannon Chadwick on the mound for the Cyclones, who hadn’t given up a run in the 14 innings he pitched prior to this game, as he issued two walks and allowed the game-winning single to IronBirds catcher Ben Breazeale.

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Richard Bleier Baltimore Orioles Signing – July 18, 2017

Today I went to the Orioles store at the York Galleria Mall in York, PA for a signing by Orioles pitcher Richard Bleier.  There were fewer people in attendance than the last few signings at the Orioles store, and despite it starting a little late, everyone in line was able to get an autograph.  There are a few of these throughout the year at the Orioles store, so I’ll be on the lookout for the next one.

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Larry Christenson Former Philadelphia Phillies Signing – June 26, 2017

On June 26, I was able to attend the Bull Session Radio Show at The Blue Bell Inn in Blue Bell, PA.  The show is hosted by Dan Baker and former Phillies player Greg Luzinski and they typically have a current or former player as a guest on the show.  For this day’s show, Luzinski was not present and they had a special guest host, former player and Phillies pitching coach, Joe Kerrigan.  They advertise that the guest will sign autographs and this show’s guest was former Phillies player Larry Christenson.  I arrived about 30 minutes before the show started and had no trouble getting autographs from both Kerrigan and Christenson. The show is broadcast live on Mondays and is a great opportunity to meet Greg Luzinski and another player.

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Autographs from Carolina – Winston-Salem Game – July 2, 2017

Five County Stadium has a good area on each side of the ballpark to stand beyond the netting to get autographs from both teams.  Unlike the other two stadiums on my trip, the teams each enter on their own sides, so you need to choose which side you want to be on as the players enter.  I chose the Mudcats side because I had more players’ cards than the Dash.  There were two teenagers there also trying to get autographs and I didn’t observe anyone on the opposite side.

I walked around the stadium getting pictures and I noticed that the only coach whose card I had, Winston-Salem pitching coach Brian Drahman had entered the field and I missed him.  I was trying to figure out if there was any way around the netting near the dugout to try to get his autograph, but I didn’t see anything great.  I decided to go over to the Mudcats side at this time and I see Trent Clark walking in, whose card I had, but again couldn’t get to him.  Not working out too well so far.

So I figured I’d stay put and see which players would sign as they walked onto the field.  I was able to get autographs from Troy Stokes Jr. and Cody Ponce prior to the game.  So I’m doing a little bit better.

I thought that pretty much all of the Mudcats players had entered, so I thought that I’d walk over to the Dash side to see who was over there.  As I get to the other side of the field, I see Trey Supak, another card I had, walking in and thinking about another missed opportunity.

Shortly after that though, I saw Winston-Salem pitcher Dane Dunning going towards the dugout.  I yell out to him and he comes over, but it was in the netted area.  I was able to slide him a card under the net and pass the Sharpie through it.  I appreciate his willingness to work with me to get me the autograph.  I am also thinking that this might become more of the norm as teams talk about stretching the netting from foul pole to foul pole in an effort to keep the fans safer.

When I had first gotten into the stadium, I had noticed Carolina pitcher Kodi Medeiros throwing before the game.  He was too far away to call out to, but I was thinking that since he wasn’t pitching that day there was a good chance he would be tracking pitches from the stands.  I had a seat right behind home plate so I figured I could see if he was sitting in that area.  Sure enough, I saw him, so I decided to approach him for an autograph.  He was a little surprised to have some random guy start talking to him, but he was kind enough to oblige.  And as he was signing, someone else walked up with a card of his.  So now I’ve become that guy who looks for players in the stands.

With the big Mudcats victory, I wanted to see if I could get any autographs from the team after the game as they left the field.  Trey Supak walked by and I was able to get an autograph from him, which made me feel better for missing out earlier.  2B Isan Diaz had a big game and was signing autographs for a number of kids who had come by to see him.  He was so happy with his performance that he gave one of the kids his batting gloves.  Things like that are great to see.  After pretty everyone on the team had left the field, I noticed that Jake Gatewood still hadn’t come by.  So even though I had a long drive ahead of me, I wanted to wait a little longer for the chance at one more autograph.  Finally, he walked my way and he wandered towards me since I’m sure he knew I was going to ask for an autograph.  I was the only one left at that point and he was nice enough to sign for me.

So overall, I got 7 autographs, which was great for a single game.  I do really appreciate the willingness of these players to interact with the fans and sign a handful of autographs at the game.  These are mementos that I will always appreciate.

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