Monday, August 25, 2008

Historic Holman Stadium

All photos of Historic Holman Stadium are available on Flickr.

As you may remember from my Toledo post, a month and a half ago I moved to New Hampshire. The area has a lot of minor league ball teams and I was hoping to attend a few games. Well, with just two weeks left in the minor league season I finally made it to one. The Nashua Pride are an independent team in the CanAm League. Last season Peter and I caught a CanAm League game in New Jersey and were not impressed. Fortunately, tonight's game was much crisper than the one we saw last summer, but it was still clear there was a reason these guys were playing independent league ball.

Some fun facts about the Pride and the CanAm Legue: Rich Garces, a former Red Sox reliever, has returned for his second season with the Pride. He is nicknamed El Guapo because of his weight and has his own bobble-belly doll. Also, former Tigers and Yankee slugger Cecil Fielder, estranged father of Brewers star Prince Field, is in his first season as manage of the Atlantic City Surf.

Also, tonight was cooler bag night. The giveaway was for the first 750 fans into Holman Stadium. Now, I know teams announce attendance based on how many tickets were sold, not how many people actually come to the game. But most times its still a realistic number. Tonight the Pride announced an attendance of over 1445, yet there were still two cases of cooler bags that the staff was trying to give away at the end of the night.

I got there quite early, hoping to take in a little late season bp, but was disappointed to discover that neither the Pride nor the Quebec Capitales were hitting this evening. So, I spent some time walking around the stadium, which took about 5 minutes, looking in the team store, and getting dinner. There was also a live two-man band entertaining the early arrivals down the right field line. Holman stadium is a newer stadium built in the retro style, all brick and painted steel. It is a very nice stadium for an independent league team. In the left field corner is an Applebee's aal-you-can-eat area, that sits just beyond a low brick wall. In center and right the wall jumps up significantly and is covered with advertisements. One unique feature of Holman Stadium is that there are two sets of retired numbers. Three numbers are embedded in the outfield wall, without names to go with them. Another 5 are displayed beneath the press box.

The game itself pitted the division leading team from Quebec and the Pride who have taken up residence near the bottom of the standings after winning the 2007 CanAm League title. My seat was four rows in front of the press box and i could clearly hear the Pride play-by-play man calling the entire game. Let me just say, he is no Bob Uecker, though he did use Uek's signature "Juuuuust a bit outside" line. The Pride jumped out to an early 2-0 in the bottom of the first on an RBI double by 3B Argenis Tevarez followed by a bit from 1B Brian Duplissie, but Quebec starter Karl Gelinas settled down and went 7 innings without surrendering another run.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 6
views from park - 7 (evergreen trees directly behind the outfield walls)
view to field - 7
surrounding area - 4 (Nashua is nicknamed Trashua by folks in NH)
food variety - 2 (nothing out of the ordinary, very limited selection)
nachos - 6 (good chips and the single serving cheese cup went a lot further than I thought)
beer - 6 (Bud and Heiniken on tap)
vendor price - 7
ticket price - 2 ($7 for independent ball, and no grass seating GA? Boo!)
atmosphere - 1 (Dead except for 1 Superfan)
walk to park - 5
parking proximity - 7 (adjacent lot for free but watch out your windows dont get hit by foul balls)
concourses - 5
team shop - 5 (limited selection but 40% off end of season clearance)

best food - nachos
most unique stadium feature - party deck that was clearly just a double-wide on stilts
best jumbotron feature - scoreboard says "Quit ya jibba-jabba during opposing team mound conference
best between-inning feature - Spike, one of two mascots helps to drag the field

starters - Karl Gelinas (QUE) v. Isaac Burkett (NAS)
opponent - Quebec Capitales
attendance - 1,445
score - 9-2 L
Brewers score that day - 10-4 W

Little League World Series

On Sunday, Waipi'o, HI defeated Matamoros, Mexico in the 2008 Little League World Series to win the state's 2nd LLWS in the past 4 years. I only got to watch a couple of games this year, but as always, it was great entertainment. It's really fun to watch kids just play for the love of the game, and I'm always amazed by 12 year old kids who can already throw an off-the-table curveball and a 72 MPH heater; I think my high in the pitch-speed game is somewhere in the low 50s. When you first start watching the games and you see the 60-foot bases, the 200-foot fence, and the metal bats, you naturally think that each game is going to be an 18-16 slugfest, but this is far from the truth. These kids represent the 16 best teams in the entire world, and all of them are a lot better at defense and pitching than I ever was, even in high school. And to think that the smallest percentage of these kids, maybe 1-2%, will ever even get drafted someday, tells you how hard these kids have worked and must continue to work to make it as a baseball star, and how hard it is to not get arm problems playing ball as much as these kids do, particularly the pitchers.

The Little League World Series has been held every August since 1947 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. It is currently held on two fields: Howard J. Lamade Stadium, which has hosted games since 1957, and Little League Volunteer Stadium, which was opened in 2001 to accomdate the expansion to 16 teams. Prior to 1959, the games were held at Original Little League. Each year, 8 teams from the International division (representing Canada, Mexico, Carribean, Latin America, Japan, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and Middle East-Africa) and 8 teams from the US (representing New England, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Great Lakes, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, and West) compete in pool play. These 8 teams from each division are selected through a series of qualifying tournaments. Teams from 13 states and 7 countries have won the Little League World Series, and thousands of current and former major leaguers got their start here, at one of the only events in the world where children under 13 are at center stage. Erik and I have already tentatively decided on most of our Tour-Plus trips through 2015, but the LLWS will definitely be something that we attend someday, and we look forward to it - particularly the free admission, and tying one on in small-town Pennsylvania.

Also this weekend, I attended ballgame #44 of the year at Fox Cities Stadium. It was considerably warmer than the last time I was there in April, but the team had not gotten any better and lost 4-0. The Rattlers only managed 3 hits in the game and the post-game fireworks were weak, but I got to hang out with a couple of friends that live near Appleton and it was a beautiful Saturday for baseball. Lastly, on a bitter-sweet note, the United States won the bronze medal in what was the last time baseball is featured in the Olympic Games. The IOC will work on reinstating baseball for 2016.


Brewers 76-55, -4.5 (2 @ Cardinals, 3 @ Pirates)

Reds 57-74, -23.5 (3 @ Astros, 3 v. Giants)

Twins 74-56, -0.5 (3 @ Mariners, 4 @ Athletics)


Erik - 22

Peter - 44

Monday, August 18, 2008

Northwoods League Playoffs 2008

All photos of South Division Playoffs Game 2 available on Flickr.

The Mallards fell one game short in their bid for the franchise's 2nd Northwoods League title on Sunday, as the Thunder Bay Border Cats defeated them in Game 3 of the series. A costly error by Madison's shortstop in the 8th was the deciding play. Thunder Bay's closer Jimmy Stanley struck out the final batter of the game to nail down Canada's second Northwoods League title - the Border Cats also defeated the Mallards for the title in 2005.

I attended Game #2 of the South Division playoffs against the Wisconsin Woodchucks (coached by Jim Gantner) at Warner Park on Wednesday, which the Mallards won handily 14-5 behind a strong pitching performance by Matt Jansen. The player(s) of the game was pretty much the entire Madison offense. The Malllards had 15 hits, and scored in every inning but the first and last, including a 6-run 6th. Madison's leadoff hitter had a 4-hit night, and Luke Stewart and Drew Martin each chipped in with towering home runs. My new favorite Mallard with one of the top 5 sweetest baseball names of all time, Joe Bonadonna, also had 2 hits and played 3 positions in the game - all 5'5" of him. The attendance was only about 2600, but it was one of the more entertaining games I've seen at the Duck Pond and I was glad I went for many reasons, not the least of which was a free souvenir pint glass upon entry.

With the 2008 NWL season in the books, Erik and I are already tentatively planning a Tour 2009 trip to Minnesota next year to watch a couple of Northwoods League games, and a couple Twins games in the last year of the Metrodome as well. I can't wait to watch more Northwoods League action next year!
Brewers 71-54, -5.5 (3 v. Astros, 3 v. Pirates)
Reds 55-70, -21.5 (3 @ Cubs, 3 @ Rockies)
Twins 70-53, -- (3 v. Athletics, 4 @ Angels)
Erik - 21
Peter - 41

Monday, August 11, 2008

Brewers Undefeated Since Dugout Altercation

Wisconsin sports fans had a pretty rough start to last week. First on Monday night, Prince Fielder and Manny Parra were involved in a shoving match in the dugout (well, Prince did all the shoving). And then on Wednesday night, everyone in Wisconsin died a little as the Brett Favre saga finally came to an end with his trade to the Jets for a conditional draft pick. How would the Brewers and Packers recover? The Packers' first pre-season game is this Monday, and the Brewers have responded by going undefeated (5-0) since the altercation.

Hopefully this isn't going to become an annual tradition for the Crew. It was last year at around this time that Johnny Estrada and manager Ned Yost exchanged words in the dugout following a tough loss, and the team was temporarily inspired by this passion, but then fell out of the race in September. I don't really see this altercation as anything nearly as significant as last year's. Last year, the Brewers started out hot and slowly fell down in the standings, whereas this year it's the reverse. Prince just seemed to be letting out some frustration, albeit in a poor way, following a sweep by the Cubs and a tough loss to the lowly Reds at the GAB, where the Brewers have historically played pretty well. Prince and Manny are friends, and Fielder is a large clubhouse presence (literally and figuratively), whereas Estrada was just a jerk and wasn't really friends with anyone, nor was he a person young guys looked up to. The one thing I didn't like about it was how Yost handled it. He refused to comment, saying it wasn't our business: "If the neighbors are fighting, it's pretty rude to go next door and ask what's happening." This is true Ned, but this altercation happened in clear view, in the dugout. If I see my neighbor beating his wife on the front porch, I'm sure as hell going to call the cops and/or ask questions. And to stick with the neighbors analogy, the fight clearly woke up bench coach Ted Simmons, and if the neighbors' raucous wakes me up, I'm sure as hell going to go next door and complain.

All in all, the Brewers have played pretty well since then and have hit amazingly with runners in scoring position with the exception of yesterday. Hopefully our favorable schedule the rest of the way through, the passion ignited by this dugout scrape, and the continued dominance of our starting rotation will propel the Brewers into the playoffs. Meanwhile on the other side of the coin, after losing 2 of 3 to the Crew and getting swept by the Nationals, the Reds are looking pretty horrible now, particularly since the Griffey trade, who was clearly the heart of their team. Volquez, Cueto, and Cordero have not looked sharp since the break, Homer still looks to be a "four-A" type player, and Harang has been off all year. Hopefully Dusty doesn't run the young starting rotation into the ground and they can contend next year.


Brewers 67-51, -4.0 (3 @ Padres, 3 @ Dodgers)

Reds 52-67, -19.5 (3 @ Pirates, 3 v. Cardinals)

Twins 65-52, -0.5 (3 v. Yankees, 3 v. Mariners)


Erik - 21

Peter - 40

Monday, August 4, 2008

Take Back Miller Park

All photos of the July 29th Brewers/Cubs game available on Flickr.

Well, let's start with the good news. The Brewers extended their record sellout streak at Miller Park to 11 and are in excellent shape to surpass 3,000,000 for total attendance on the year. The Brewers have won 11 of their last 13 road games, including a 7-0 roadtrip in San Francisco and St. Louis.

However, a 7-0 roadtrip that pulled the Crew into a tie for 1st in the division didn't do a whole lot of good when they followed it up with a pathetic 1-6 homestand against the Astros and Cubs. I kind of looked past the losing series against Houston, hoping that the team was just amped up and looking ahead to the Chicago series. After it was over, I wasn't sure who made a worse showing - the team, or the fans. I don't know if it's worse that the Brewers hit below .100 with runners in scoring position in the 4-game series, or that the crowd was at least 60% Cubs fans for the week. What started out promising - Sabathia and Sheets on the mound for the first two games, and the lightest Cubs showing at a Miller Park series in a long time - ended up being a disaster. Come Wednesday, with Parra and Bush on the mound against All-Star Ryan Dempster and newly acquired co-ace Rich Harden, our chances looked dismal of even pulling out one win. Seeing Prince hit 2 solo homeruns in already out-of-reach games and seeing a plethora of Brewers fans selling their seats for triple the face value to Cubs fans in the parking lot were the final straws for me.

I, nor anyone reading this blog, can't do much about how the Brewers perform. What we can do is make our presence felt in the stands. This is a plea for Milwaukee fans everywhere to fill the seats for the final home series of the year, September 26-28 against the Cubs, even if we are for some reason NOT in the race anymore at this point, which seems unlikely to me considering our easy August schedule and home-heavy September schedule. I'm sick and tired of being outcheered and outrepresented at home - this happens when the Twins and Cardinals are in town as well, to a lesser extent. The reason there are so many Cubs fans at Brewers home games is because Brewer fans stay home bitching and moaning about how many Cubs fans there are! Does that make ANY sense?!?!? We need to start being part of the solution people! The next time Chicago is in town, no more selling your seats on stubhub, no matter how much you get. No time to be a fairweather fan. Support the Crew, this year if any, because who knows what's happening with the team next year. This is our year to win it, and despite how well the Brewers have played on the road lately, we don't want Miller Park to be "Wrigley Field 2" the next time the Cubbies roll into town with their stupid "W" flags. We've made some progress this year, but we still need to get that stadium about 80% Brewers fans next time around.

And now, to also end on a good note - I got to partake in a pretty special day at the ballpark on Tuesday, as I was invited into the company suite and got to go on the field to watch batting practice before the game! Click on the link at the top of this post to see all the pictures of Lou Pinella's gut and Alfonso Soriano's ridiculously huge bat.

Brewers 62-50, -5.0 (3 @ Reds, 4 v. Nationals)
Reds 51-61, -16.0 (3 v. Brewers, 4 v. Astros)
Twins 62-49, +0.5 (3 @ Mariners, 3 @ Royals)

Erik - 21
Peter - 39