Sunday, July 03, 2011
Within walking distance, you have Beale Street, which kind of reminds me of Nashville's Broadway, with its many fine restaurants, barbecue joints and music venues as well. If you really want to take a long hike or better yet, a trolley, there is also the Civil Rights Museum, which is housed next to the former Lorraine Motel, where Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated back on April 4, 1968. It was a surreal experience when I got to visit that place last year and to see the sight of the shooting. MLK was in town to support Garbage Collector strikers, who were unhappy with the way they've been treated as well as being underpaid. Anyway, MLK was there to support them, but unfortunately, Memphis would be the last city where MLK would also experience his last breath of life.
Anyway, let's turn the clock forward to 2011. After taking 3 out of 4 from the Round Rock Express at Greer Stadium, the Sounds hit the road and bussed it down I-40 West to the Blues City for a vital 4-game set against the Redbirds. It was a pleasant day for the trip, even though it was cloudy. We got to our downtown hotel and got to relax a bit. Around 4PM that afternoon, I headed for the ballpark and exchanged pleasantries with people whom I met last year. Melissa Rhinehart, who is the press steward, greeted me warmly and was happy to see me back. She was already getting the press food prepared for that night's event. I was also happy to see former Sounds' radio announcer and current Memphis Redbirds' play-by-play man, Steve Selby as well as his broadcast partner, former big league pitcher Charlie Lea. We immediately got to talking baseball, which, of course, is among our favorite subjects.
The first game was a pitching classic. Frankie De La Cruz, who had won his first game of the season 11 days earlier, was getting the nod for the Sounds and he was up against Brandon Dickson of the Redbirds. both pitchers threw gems and each went seven innings and both did not allow a single run and each scattered 3 hits. Earlier in the game, the Sounds had a couple of chances to score, but to no avail. In the first inning, Eric Farris led off with a single to left, but Jordan Brown immediately hit into a double play. Brett Carroll then followed with another single, but was caught stealing as he tried to go to second base and that ended the inning. The following inning, Sounds' Catcher Mike Rivera led off with another single and went to second when Redbirds' left fielder Daryl Jones misplayed his base hit. But the next three batters were retired and Rivera was left stranded at second base.
The game would stay scoreless until the ninth inning when Sounds' lefty reliever Daniel Meadows came on to pitch. He hasn't been with the club that long after he got called up from Class AA Huntsville. After Daryl Jones grounded out to start the inning, Memphis Third Baseman Matt Carpenter singled to center field. Pinch batter Aaron Luna struck out, but while he swung and missed for strike three, Carpenter took off for second and was able to steal his third base of the year. The next batter, First Baseman, Freddie Bynum, put out the lights when he singled over the head of the Sounds' First Baseman Mat Gamel as Carpenter raced home with the winning run as the Redbirds took the opener of the series, 1-0.
After the game, I strolled back to the hotel, both frustrated and excited since it was a well-pitched game. It was a Friday Night and I walked down Main Street and the streets were lively with people hanging out at the restaurants as well as on the street corners. I also passed by the Peabody Hotel, which is right across the street from the ballpark. No, we don't stay there, but I heard a lot of things about what is inside the lobby and it is kind of a touristy hotel. Perhaps the next time we visit Memphis, I will check out the hotel.
I feel for Frankie De La Cruz because he's been a victimized by the lack of run support. However, he realizes that he has no control over it, so all he can do is pitch and do whatever he can to keep the team in the ballgame. Having said that, De La Cruz still deserves a better fate.
The next night didn't fare any better because even though the Sounds took an early 2-0 lead, they couldn't hang onto the lead because the Sounds' starting pitcher, Josh Butler, continued to be inconsistent. With him, it's either giving up the walks and/or the home runs. Memphis tied the game at 2-2 in the second inning when Memphis Right Fielder Aaron Luna lead off with a home run. It was the 11th homer that Butler would give up this year and two batters later, Catcher Bryan Anderson singled to left and went to third when Second Baseman Jose Garcia doubled to center. Anderson would eventually score the tying run when Butler uncorked a wild pitch. Memphis eventually scored single runs in the 4th and 5th innings to take a 4-2 lead. The Sounds wouldn't roll over and play dead when Jordan Brown pinch hit for Butler and belted a two-run homer right inside the right field foul pole and suddenly the game was tied at 4-4. Memphis Manager Chris Maloney vehemently argued with the first base umpire Chris Segal and with him getting so animated, he eventually got tossed from the game. The Sounds regained the lead in the 8th when Mat Gamel lead off with a home run over the right center field wall. It was Gamel's third hit of the night and the Sounds suddenly found themselves in front, 5-4. They would get an insurance run in the 9th inning when Third Baseman Zelous Wheeler lead off with a single to center field. Brandon Boggs walked and after Taylor Green moved Boggs to second with a sacrifice bunt, Brett Carroll was intentionally walked. The Sounds picked up an insurance run when Mike Rivera singled to right to score Wheeler to make it a 6-4 ballgame. Unfortunately, Gamel then hit into a 3-6-1 double play to end further threats.
Going into the 9th inning, the Sounds had the lead and a very talented reliever in Mike McClendon, who was asked to save the ballgame. Unfortunately, he gave up a leadoff double to Donovan Solano and then an RBI single to Daryl Jones and the Sounds lead was cut to 6-5. Matt Carpenter moved Jones to second on a sacrifice bunt and Aaron Luna drove in second run of the game with a single to center, scoring Jones as the game was tied again at 6-6. McClendon then got tough by striking out both Freddie Bynum and Bryan Anderson. Well, it's on to extra innings.
The Sounds failed to score in the 10th inning. So now, the Redbirds come to bat in the bottom of the frame with Zack Segovia coming on to pitch. Zack retired the first batter, Jose Garcia, on a fly to center. However, the Redbirds got a man on base on a base hit and after Jim Rapoport singled to right, Donovan Solano ended things on a walk off nature when he doubled to left and the Redbirds came back to defeat the Sounds again, 7-6, in 10 innings. Another frustrating walk off loss. You wonder how the Sounds can find a way to put teams away on the road.
Well, the Sounds finally won a game at AutoZone Park when Brett Carroll had his 2nd two-home run game the following night. However, he wasn't the only one who had a two-homer game. Brandon Boggs became the 6th Sounds player to have two homers in one game and not only that, he did it from both sides of the plate. The Sounds provided enough runs for Texas native Chase Wright, who started for the Sounds and pitched well, allowing just 2 runs on four hits and relievers Sean Green and Zach Braddock finished things off despite the fact that Braddock struggled in the ninth when he allowed a run to make it a 5-3 ballgame with the Sounds still leading. However, after allowing the first 3 batters to reach, Braddock got tough when he struck out the next 2 batters with his electric stuff and got pinch batter Bryan Anderson to fly out to right field. It was a nice way to end the night.
The Sounds are now looking for the split in the series, but Sounds' left hander Sam Narron got into trouble in the first inning when he gave up 4 runs in the inning, highlighted by a bases-clearing 3 run double by Matt Carpenter. Narron would eventually settle down after that and he would go the distance. He would become the first Sounds pitcher to complete a game, but unfortunately, Narron did not get the win. The Sounds would get to the starter Lance Lynn for a single run in the 2nd and two more runs in the 5th, but fell short and lost 5-4. The Sounds had two on and two out in the 9th, but Brett Carroll bounced into a force play to end it. Nashville would find themselves six games back of the 2nd place Redbirds and six and a half back of Omaha. The Sounds know they are in a critical part of their schedule playing teams in their own division, the American North. Now it's back home to take on another American North Foe, the Omaha Storm Chasers and after them, the New Orleans Zephyrs. The Sounds need to find that momentum. Now is the time. More to come on the next blog.
Monday, June 20, 2011
I recall a story from my friend, the late great Merle Harmon, who was a sportscaster for almost 50 years when he started broadcasting back in 1949 when he was the Radio Voice of the Class C Topeka Owls and he made his debut by broadcasting a doubleheader, which was an oddity then and an oddity now. It could not have been a more challenging experience for Merle. The temperature hovered around 103 degrees. One game of the doubleheader went 14 innings and the other game was something like 14-13. There were many passed balls, wild pitches and errors to boot as well. Not only that, Merle admitted that he was announcing the twinbill with a terrible headache! Merle felt obligated when he apologized to his audience for not going out 100 percent that day! He mentioned on the air, "You know what it's like to have a splitting headache!". Merle felt proud that he did his duty in telling his audience--UNTIL he got a postcard a few days later. It was from a female fan who tuned in to the broadcast. Merle was crushed when he read the postcard with the following message: "We enjoyed the broadcast that you did the other day UNTIL you mentioned the headache! Please don't tell us your troubles-just broadcast the game!". Eventually, Harmon got the message as he realized that people were depending on him to entertain and inform and more importantly, keep people from thinking about their own problems. He thought that someone might have been either sick in bed or in the hospital and then understood that people had worse experiences than he and that he shouldn't complain about his own problems. Put people ahead of yourself. That is something that stays with me to this very day. I never uttered about my condition on the air because NO one needed to hear about my dilemma. I had a job to do and a broadcast to do and I was determined to do it no matter what the situation was for me! People were looking up to me and I had a responsibility.
The Sounds won a squeaker in the opener on June 13th when they nipped Round Rock, 7-6. The Sounds led 7-2, but had to sweat it out since the Express' offense continued to persevere. They scored three runs in the 5th inning off Josh Butler, the eventual winner and scored another run in the 6th on a lead-off home run by another Butler, Joey Butler. Sounds' Reliever Sean Green closed out the game with 2 superb innings of relief as he retired all six batters that he faced and fanned 4 of them. It was a badly needed victory after the Sounds had blown a 14-9 lead only to lose 16-14 to the Isotopes in Albuquerque the day before. Going back to the game, the Sounds' home run barrage continued as Brandon Boggs lead off the first inning with a home run and Mat Gamel belted 2 homers in the game, including a 2-run shot in the 3rd inning. It would be the 2nd time this year that the Brewers' top prospect would have a 2-homer game against Round Rock!
The next night, Gamel's hot hitting would continue as he collected three hits and drove in what appeared at the time was a big run-and it was as the Sounds increased their lead to 4-2 going into the 9th inning. Unfortunately, Sounds Lefty Reliever Daniel Herrera could not hang onto the lead. After a scoreless 8th and not allow a run at all since joining the Sounds/Brewers in May, Herrera proceeded to give up a game-tying pinch hit 2 run homer to Matt Kata. It was the first 2 runs that Herrera had allowed since joining the Brewers organization after he was picked up on waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. The Sounds would bail him out in the bottom of the 10th as Taylor Green doubled with one out and after Brandon Boggs was intentionally walked by the Express' flame thrower, right hand reliever Pedro Strop, Sounds Second Baseman Eric Farris came through with an RBI single to drive in Taylor Green with the winning run. Green had almost held up at third, but when Express' right fielder Joey Butler bobbled Farris' batted ball, Green would eventually score the winning run as the Sounds won their first extra-inning game of the season by defeating Round Rock, 5-4 in 10 innings. The Sounds appeared as if they are getting revenge from Round Rock after the Express swept the Sounds during their first trip to Texas in early May.
The next night, though, the Sounds would fall short of their sweep attempt as they lost the 3rd game of the series to the Express, 4-3. The Sounds did grab the lead, 2-1 in the 6th inning against former Brewer and current Round Rock Pitcher, Seth "Big Red" McClung, who did not allow a run in the game until giving up a 2-run single to Sounds Catcher Mike Rivera in the inning. Round Rock would respond with two runs against Sounds Starter Sam Narron, after the first 2 Express Batters were retired in the inning. Express 3rd Baseman Brian Barden homered over the right field fence to tie the game at 2-2 and then Joey Butler doubled and scored when former Sound Luis Cruz would single to left field to give the Express a 3-2 lead. It would stay that way until the 8th inning when Sounds Center Fielder Brett Carroll would tie it with a homer just inside the right field foul pole. It was Carroll's 8th homer of the year and suddenly the score was 3-3. The Sounds had a golden opportunity to win it in the 9th inning. Taylor Green lead off with a double to right and Jordan Brown then sacrificed Green to third. Round Rock Manager Bobby Jones then summoned reliever Cody Eppley into the game to face Sounds 3rd Baseman Zelous Wheeler, but unfortunately, the young Alabama native struck out and after Brandon Boggs was intentionally walked, Sounds Second Baseman Eric Farris struck out and two runners were left stranded. Round Rock would win it in the 10th inning as the usually reliable reliever Sean Green would come into the pitch in the game. Unfortunately, it was not Green's night as Julio Borbon reached on a bunt single with one out. After Brett Kata walked, Rangers' Top Prospect Chris Davis sinlged home Borbon from 3rd to give the Express the lead for good. It was also a tough night for Davis, who had gone hitless in his first four at-bats and had fanned 3 times. But not so in the 10th inning and collected his 32nd RBI of the year. Brett Carroll lead off the bottom of the inning with a walk, but Eppley retired the next 3 batters, including 2 on strikeouts to get the inning. It was a frustrating loss for the Sounds who played and won 2 tough games against the Express at the start of the series.
For the Sounds the next night, it would be a great comeback as Amaury Rivas hurled seven scoreless innings and walking just two and fanning 8 as the Sounds won the ballgame, 1-0. It was a great bounceback for Rivas who walked six batters in 4.1 innings in his previous start against the Isotopes in Albuquerque as the Sounds lost that game 5-2. At one stretch, Rivas retired 9 in a row and had everything working. Scott Feldman, the Express starter who had spent time in the past with the Rangers, would exchange goose eggs as well. Derek Hankins relieveed in the 6th and had a scoreless 1-2-3 inning. However, the next inning, Brett Carroll would pretty much decide things when he homered over the left field wall for his 9th homer of the year and the Sounds won the game. It was the ONLY hit the Sounds had all night, but this one was the decisive one and pretty much decided things as Sounds Relievers Donovan Hand and Zack Segovia each hurled one scoreless inning in relief. It was also Segovia's first save of the year. Prior to the game, I spoke with Carroll and like myself, he was under the weather. He felt flu-like with a terrible headache. I told him that if one is sick, they usually relax more since they are so pre-occupied with their illness. Anyway, he came through with his screaming line drive over the left field wall to clinch the Sounds' win.
The Sounds took 3 of 4 from Round Rock and sort of gain revenged against the Express, albeit the Sounds didn't sweep them. It gave the Sounds hope and promise going into their next series with the Memphis Redbirds at AutoZone Park. It was going to be a vital series since the Sounds would begin to play a stretch of 9 straight games against teams in their own division: first the Redbirds and then second with the Omaha Storm Chasers at home. It gave the Sounds a chance to think and to reflect and it gave them some much needed confidence. There were more than 6,200 fans for the 1-0 win since it was Taco Bell Throwback Night with Fans enjoying reduced prices of concession items at the ballpark and the Sounds wearing their 1980's style retro jerseys. This is a promotion the Sounds have every Thursday night and we encourage you to come out. The next blog will involve the important games against the Memphis Redbirds at AutoZone Park and then back home against the Omaha Storm Chasers at Greer Stadium! Can the Sounds continue the momentum? You'll find out more on the next blog. Until then, thank you for checking in as always!
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
It was a road trip for the ages. There were at least three players who had two homer games. On five different occasions, the Sounds scored six runs or more in one inning. They also had two four-homer games. No question that this was not a boring road trip by any means.
For the Sounds' first leg of their road trip, it was their final trip to New Orleans this season. Whew, it was great to great away from the combined heat and humidity and not to mention those annoying cicadas that flew around Nashville during the last homestand. The previous homestand ended on a positive note with the Sounds not only winning their last 2 home games against the Iowa Cubs, but for the first time in my life, I witnessed a triple play-LIVE! Not only as a fan, but as a broadcaster. It was in the 7th inning and the Sounds were winning when the I-Cubs had two on and nobody out. Scott Moore was the batter and he proceeded to hit a sinking line drive which Sounds' Shortstop Edwin Maysonet grabbed! He was so close to the bag at second that I sensed something special would happen. I was right. The base runner at second base, Bryan LaHair was way off the bag at second and Maysonet proceeded to step on the bag there to double off LaHair. Then I'm thinking that the rarity would happen. A TRIPLE PLAY! Maysonet threw onto first and the base runner there, Ty Wright, could not get back to the first base bag in time, so it was a 6-3 Triple Play! The crowd, needless to say, went nuts! The triple-killing occurred in the seventh inning on Friday, June 2nd at Greer Stadium as the Sounds gained a split in their 4-game set by winning over Iowa, 5-1.
Then it was on to New Orleans and Sounds' veteran left hander, Sam Narron took the mound and continued to pitch well. He hurled 5.2 scoreless innings as Nashville won the opener, 6-1. Narron didn't disappoint with the bat as he collected a single and a double in the game. It was also great to see Erick Almonte do what he always does well. Erick came off the bench and delivered a big two-run double in the 8th inning to ensure the Sounds' victory over the Zephyrs at Zephyr Field.
The second game of the series was a relief for Amaury Rivas. It seems like whenever he pitches against the Zephyrs, he owns them. On that night, Rivas won for the first time since April 22nd and at, of all places, New Orleans. Rivas had his command despite giving up a run in the first inning. At one stretch, Rivas had retired 8 in a row, despite throwing a season high 110 pitches. He got huge help in the first inning when Taylor Green hit a tremendous grand slam home run over the right field wall. No one in the Zephyrs outfield had to move as the ball left the park as it soon it left Green's bat. It was the first grand slam for the Sounds this year as they scored six of their runs in the first inning and won it, 7-1.
Monday, June 6th was one game for the ages as the Sounds pounded out 18 hits and scored a season high 19 runs in their 19-1 win over the Zephyrs. It was a big night for Catcher George Kottaras, as he joined the elite group of 2011 Sounds players by belting two home runs in that game. Third Baseman Zelous Wheeler got into the act with a 3 run homer of his own. It was great to see Wheeler back in action as he missed two months of the season due to a leg injury. Erick Almonte had a career high seven runs batted in, which included a 2-run single, a 3-run homer and a two run double. It was also a night to remember as Sounds' starter Frankie De La Cruz FINALLY picked up his first win, but pitched as if he didn't need all of those runs. In fact, he didn't. De La Cruz hurled seven scoreless innings and got relief help from Chase Wright and Sean Green as each threw one inning to seal the deal. The win was also the Sounds' fifth in a row, as they had their longest streak of the year.
The Sounds were hoping to get their first sweep of the year and yes, I was kind of getting real greedy with the team building up such momentum, but unfortunately, the Sounds couldn't pull it off. Josh Butler started and he had his ups and downs. With the score tied at 3-3 in the 5th inning, Butler proceeded to walk the first three batters and it has been the walks that have been the Sounds' occasional downfall this year. Two of the Zephyr players who walked, would eventually score and gave New Orleans a 5-3 lead. Taylor Green would hit his 2nd homer of the series in the 8th inning, a solo shot over the right field wall. It would turn out to be the Sounds' final run of the season as they came up short, 5-4 in the finale. Oh well. At least three out of four wasn't bad at all. In fact, it was great.
The Sounds would have the evening off since it was a day game and they wouldn't have to fly to Albuquerque until the next day and that was an off-day. As much as I would have liked to travel the night before, I still couldn't complain. We flew to Albuquerque the next morning and knowing we would have a day off. It was also nice to meet up with an old friend of mine, whom I have not seen since my high days growing up in Brooklyn, New York City. My friend has lived in the Albuquerque area for almost 20 years and did mention to me about the smoke that was coming to New Mexico because of winds blowing it toward his state. It just so happens that a wildire was taking place in Arizona and he warned me about it. Luckily, the skies were clear the following day, so we made it to Albuquerque without any problems. On Thursday night, we would start a 4-game set against the Albuquerque Isotopes. I was enjoying a nice dinner with my friend on Wednesday night when we notice the smoke coming in. You could not see the mountains. In fact, when our bus driver picked us up at the airport on that Wednesday, June 8th, he mentioned to us that the conditions were much worse a few days earlier. However, that night, at 8PM in the evening, you couldn't see the mountains like you normally do and the smoke was bad! Not enough to choke me, but bad enough. I even smelled it in the hallway of our hotel that I decided and had to put a towel at the crack of my door and that seemed to work as the smoke STAYED OUT! I had no trouble sleeping that night because of my idea of covering the crack. The smoke did not seep in, but the smell of it did!
Anyway, there was more smoke, like I said, the next night and it came from the Sounds' bats. They won their 2nd lopsided game of the road trip, 14-1 over the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Sounds tied a season-high record with 20 hits and Caleb Gindl joined in the two homer in one game act with a two run shot in the first inning and three run shot in the third. Both blasts went over the left center field wall. Gindl told me that he never hit 2 homers in one game in his life prior to that particular night. George Kottaras had his third homer of the road trip in the first inning. Mark DiFelice made his 2nd start of the year and he showed WHY he earned his spot in the rotation. DiFelice threw five scoreless innings and allowed four hits while walking just one and fanning five. If he keeps it up, he will definitely earn another shot at the big leagues! I was praying for a shutout, but it was not to be as Albuquerque Outfielder and Dodgers' prospect, Trayvon Robinson extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single with two outs in the 9th, but the Sounds still won it and they had a 4-1 start to the road trip.
Unfortunately, that opening win would turn out to be the last win for the Sounds on their road trip as they proceeded to drop the next three games. The following night was tough because the Sounds trailed, 6-3 in the 7th inning when they tied it with 3 runs in the inning and that included a two-run homer by Sounds' First Baseman and Brewers' Top Prospect, Mat Gamel. Sean Green came on in the 10th inning and--you guessed it--Trayvon Robinson won the game with a walk-off homer. The round-tripper would extend his hitting streak to 12 games! The guy is a machine! Amaury Rivas pitched in Game 3 and started off well by pitching quality ball in the first two innings. However, he proceeded to walk six batters over the next 3 innings as the Isotopes prevailed, 5-2. Trayvon Robinson, who was really starting to become the Sounds' main nemesis, walked in a run to give the 'Topes a 3-2 lead and then he added insurance with a two-run double in the 7th inning off the usually effective and reliable Mike McClendon, who just didn't have it that night and everyone has those nights. In fact, McClendon was caught up in a numbers game at the big league level when Zach Braddock was activated on the Brewers' big league roster and since McClendon hadn't pitched much for the big club in recent days, was the odd man out. As always, McClendon showed the grace, positive attitude and professionalism that has made him a class individual and not to mention, he has the talent to pitch in the majors for years to come! McClendon is always willing to adapt to the situation and that's why he is an outstanding professional! Mat Gamel continued to show why he is on the Brewers' radar as he belted a home run in the 9th inning, but it wasn't enough as the Sounds lost, 5-2. The game was pushed up to 4:35PM Mountain Time because of the report that more smoke would come in from Arizona that night. Later that night, it wasn't the case, but I don't blame the Isotopes' management for making the decision. It showed how responsible and professional they are because they wanted to be on the safe side. You can't blame them for that. The Isotopes wanted to ensure the health and safety of the players as well as the fans and everyone else who was at Isotopes Park that night. They still had a great crowd and also had a nice fireworks show, even though it was not completely dark.
The final game was on Sunday, June 12th and it was ONE FOR THE AGES. The Sounds lost a wild one, 16-14, but were up 14-9 in the seventh. However, the bullpen could not hang on to the lead as the Isotopes scored 5 runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie it at 14-14 and then they scored twice in the following inning to take the lead for good! The Sounds had the lead at least 3 times, but they were not able to hang on to the lead.
The Sounds had their 2nd 4-home run game of the year and Taylor Green had his 2nd two-homer game of the year. His 2 run shot in the 7th game the Sounds a 14-9 lead. The inning was also highlighted by Erick Almonte's pinch hit home run leading off the inning and giving Nashville a 10-9 lead. It was a tremendous blast as it cleared the bullpen and left field bleachers. Edwin Maysonet also had a bunt single that also knocked in a run in the inning. Caleb Gindl would extend his hitting streak to 12 games with a home run in the third inning. It was preceded by Taylor Green's first homer of the game. In the bottom of the 7th, disaster struck as the Isotopes scored five times with two outs to tie the game at 14-14. Albuquerque took the lead for good in the 8th inning when Jerry Sands doubled home Eugenio Velez and Sands scored when Russ Mitchell collected his fifth RBI of the game with a base hit to left. It was also a big day for Trayvon Robinson again, as he went 4 for 5 with four runs batted in.
The loss was a disappointed end to what started out as a promising road trip as the Sounds finished up their journey at 4-4. It was a memorable road trip as the Sounds still managed to pound out 15 home runs. Then they would head home to take on the Round Rock Express at Greer Stadium on Monday, July 13th. I will have another blog coming up on the series with the Round Rock Express. Until then, I bid farewell. I hope you come on out to support the Sounds when they play Round Rock as they look to gain revenge after being swept by them in Round Rock earlier this year. As always, thank you for reading!
Monday, June 06, 2011
The first couple of games did not fare well as the Sounds dropped both of those games. The Cubs had Casey Coleman, who was just demoted from the parent club, the Chicago Cubs. During his start in the opener, Coleman showed why he made it to the major leagues in the first place. He had a dazzling curveball that night as he struck out the first 2 batters. He also held the Sounds to just two hits through the first five innings. The Sounds finally got to Coleman for a couple of runs in the 6th inning, but in the top of the inning, Sounds' right hander Amaury Rivas coughed up four runs in the top of the inning as Iowa increased their lead to 6-0. Mat Gamel tripled in one run and Edwin Maysonet singled in another run. Coleman picked up the win in the game while Rivas took the loss as he gave up 6 earned runs in 5.1 innings. He had not won a game since he defeated New Orleans on April 22nd at Zephyrs Field. The loss was the Sounds' 2nd in a row.
Game 2 was more competitive, but it was too little, too late as the Sounds lost a tough game to the I-Cubs, 7-5. Frankie De La Cruz started for the Sounds, but got himself into a deep hole very early as he gave up a 3 run homer to Scott Moore in the 1st inning and the Sounds were trailing, 3-0 and then Marquez Smith hit a tremendous home run over the left field wall as the Cubs increased their lead to 4-0. Single runs scored in the 4th and 5th by the Cubs made it a 6-0 lead after five innings. Bobby Scales got into the power act with a home run just inside the right field foul pole. The Sounds didn't get on the board until the 7th inning when first baseman Mat Gamel lead off with a double to right center and then scored on an RBI single by Catcher Mike Rivera. In the 9th inning, the Sounds made things interesting when both Rivera and Third Baseman Taylor Green hit two-run homers to cut the I-Cubs' lead to 7-5. Unfortunately, that would turn out to be the final score as the Sounds came up short and dropped their third straight!
Game 3 of the series between the Sounds & the Iowa Cubs didn't start off so nicely for the Sounds since they fell behind 8-2 early in the game. Josh Butler started for Nashville and after escaping a shaky first inning, the roof collapsed on him when I-Cubs Catcher Wellington Castillo lead off with a home run over the left center field wall and then later on, Butler walked two straight batters and Fernando Perez took advantage of the offensive opportunity when he doubled to right field and the Cubs lead 3-0. Iowa scored five more runs in the 3rd highlighted by a two run double by Bobby Scales.
Later on the Sounds would be trailing 10-6 going into the bottom of the 5th inning when the Nashville came back with five runs in the bottom of the 5th inning to take the lead for good. Brett Carroll lead off the inning with a bunt single and then Mat Gamel homered over the right center field wall for his 9th homer of the year. Later on in the inning after the Sounds tied it up at 10-10, Edwin Maysonet put the Sounds on top for good with a looping single to right center that scored Brandon Boggs, who was a pinch batter early on in the inning and reached base with a walk. The Sounds would score 3 more runs in the 6th inning and one insurance run in the 7th when Carroll lead off with a home run over the left field wall. Carroll would go on to have a four for four night with 3 singles and the home run. The Sounds won it 15-11 and pounded out a season high 22 hits in that game.
On Friday, June 3rd, the Sounds wrapped up their homestand with a unique moment. Sounds' right hander, Mark DiFelice got the nod to make his first start of the year since Pitching Coach Rich Gale had mentioned to me in the interview that the Brewers want to see DiFelice get involved in a multi-inning outing. Milwaukee had a desire to see DiFelice increase his innings and as usual, Mark did not disappoint. Although he is now 34 years old and no longer possesses a 92 MPH fastball like he did earlier in his career, DiFelice continued to utilize his off-speed stuff and showed why his maturity, experience and talent are assets to the Brewers. Mark was on a 45 pitch count limit and proceeded to hurl 50 pitches. Despite giving up a home run to Scott Moore (who would be part of the "unique" situation later on), DiFelice was outstanding as he allowed just the one run and hit in the 2nd inning and struck out four and did not walk a batter. DiFelice retired 12 of the 13 batters that he faced. Chase Wright, who piggybacked for DiFelice, continued the great pitching as he hurled 4 scoreless innings himself and allowing just 2 hits while Sean Green continued to be on a hot streak by hurling a scoreless 9th and the Sounds won it, 5-1.
Now for the "unique" situation. Against Wright in the seventh inning, the Iowa Cubs would threaten. Bryan LaHair lead off with a double to left center field and then Ty Wright walked. Now Scott Moore stepped up to the plate. What did he do? He hit a line drive right to the Sounds' Shortstop Edwin Maysonet who was playing near the bag at 2nd base. Maysonet proceeded to grab the line drive, then stepped on the bag to double off Bryan LaHair and then threw on to Mat Gamel at first to triple off Ty Wright! A TRIPLE PLAY!! It was the first kind of play that I have ever called in nearly 30 years of broadcasting. The crowd went nuts! It was that kind of a night! Nashville gained a split in the 4 game set with Iowa after taking 3 of 4 from Oklahoma City. It was a nice way to kick off a road trip that would see the Sounds travel to New Orleans and then Albuquerque. I will have my New Orleans blog coming up and so far it's been a whale of a time in the Big Easy. Until next time, thanks for reading and enjoy your day!
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
The Sounds were happy to end their last road trip in Tacoma on a positive note, when they won the nightcap of their doubleheader with the Rainiers by a 3-2 score. Eric Farris singled home the winning run from second when Taylor Green scored to break a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning! Our reward was a 2-3 hour sleep in our hotel before we had to check out of the Hotel Murano at 4:30 in the morning! As I mentioned in my last blog, such the life in the Pacific Coast League. Still, I enjoy flying and since we don't have to wake up that early every day, it doesn't really bother me. I count my blessings every day because I get to broadcast sports, especially a baseball game on a daily basis during the spring and summer!
On Friday, May 27th, we made our way onto the plane at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport for our 4 hour trip to Chicago's Midway Airport, where we would connect to our flight back to Nashville. I was able to get some shuteye, except there were a couple of times that the couple sitting next to me had to excuse themselves to either walk around or go to the restroom! Of course, I didn't want to be rude to them, so I still picked myself up and let them go through. Had I been asleep, I don't think they would have been able to communicate to me. Still, I was able to get as much sleep as I could and as a result, it really didn't feel like a four-hour flight. Anyway, from Chicago to Nashville, where I picked up my luggage bag and hopped on the bus that would take the team, including myself back to the ballpark.
I didn't know how I was going to feel when I got to the ballpark. Normally, I would go home first and unpack my bag, check my mail and put my laundry in my washer/dryer as soon as possible. Having arrived at the ballpark at 4:30PM, I knew that there was no way that I would have time to go home and get settled since the start of the game was only two and a half hours away!
The Sounds would have the first leg of their homestand against the Oklahoma City RedHawks, a team who was on their LAST leg of a 4-game road trip having started out west in California and playing in Sacramento and then Fresno. Since both teams were travelling two time zones to the Music City, there was no favorable advantage for either team with the exception that the Sounds were back home in the friendly confines of Greer Stadium.
As it turned out, it was a great night for a ballgame and I didn't feel tired at all nor had I experienced any after-effects of the long flight. I knew that I had my job to do and I was NOT going to disappoint. I took the night like I would take any night and I felt so relaxed and was excited when I saw broadcast booth again and was ready to go to work as well as a nice crowd assembling at Greer Stadium. The booth is my office and it literally is since I also use it as an office whenever I make calls during the day so I can get businesses and fans involved with the ballclub. I grabbed my equipment and got everything set up. As it turned out, it was a well-pitched ballgame on Friday night when the Sounds' starter Frankie De La Cruz and former Seattle Mariner Ryan Rowland-Smith locked heads in a fine pitching duel with the Sounds winning the opener, 3-1. Despite giving up a run in the 1st inning, De La Cruz settled down as he did not allow another run through the 6th inning, which turned out to be his last for the night. The Sounds' bullpen did a fine job as Jim Henderson won it in relief! Sounds' 1st Baseman Mat Gamel showed why he is a top prospect with the Brewers as he belted a home run over the right field wall to tie the game at 1-1. Nashville would win it when they broke a 1-1 tie in the 8th inning when Caleb Gindl scored on a wild pitch and then Brendan Katin added good measure with an RBI single in the inning for insurance. The Sounds would win the next 2 games, 8-3 on Saturday and 4-2 on Sunday. Gamel added two more homers in the game on Saturday as the Sounds wore special pink jerseys to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Night as the Sounds and the Nashville Chapter of the American Cancer Society continue the war on this terrible disease. I had a woman named Jennifer Purdom who was representing the Society in my booth for one inning and we discussed the many ways on how funds are raised and what the Society is doing to improve the quality of every cancer patient's life. She is an inspiration since she is a breast cancer survivor herself.
During the game on Sunday with the Sounds winning, left hander Chase Wright escaped trouble in the 1st inning despite giving up a couple of walks and hitting a batter. He then settled down after that in picking up his 2nd win of the year. Relievers Donovan Hand, Zach Braddock and Sean Green did a nice job in relief. Braddock struck out the side in the 7th inning in his only inning of work. Braddock is on a rehab assignment since he was placed on the Brewers' Disabled List due to a sleep disorder, but it was no secret that his stuff put the RedHawks to sleep in the inning. Sean Green, who had been struggling when he got sent down to Nashville, continued to pitch like he is capable of doing as he picked up his 2nd save of the year. Normally, that role would go to Mark DiFelice, but unfortunately, early in the game, DiFelice was tossed for expressing his disbelief on the umpire's call of a drive that Erick Almonte hit to the left field wall in the 1st inning and drove in a run. DiFelice and Manager Don Money both thought the ball went off the upper wall of the double-decked wall in left field and if that was the case, that should have been ruled a home run. It was the umpire's judgement and he had the best view of anyone although from any spot in the stands, you can see the double-decked wall. DiFelice apologized on my pre-game interview with him the following day. Mark is a class individual who doesn't seem to be the type that would get so vehement on stuff like that. Apparently, he just got caught up in the emotions of the situation and those things do happen. Both Almonte and Brandon Boggs were with the club and earlier in the season, they had spent time with the Brewers as reserved players, only to be caught up in the numbers game when Josh Wilson was picked up by the Brewers on waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Nyjer Morgan, the former Washington National, was activated on the big club's roster. Boggs and Almonte each contributed with 2 hits in Sunday's 4-2 win and both showed why they made it to the show. Both are veterans who are experienced, professional and disciplined hitters who never beat themselves at the plate. I wish both Erick and Brandon the best just like I do with everyone else.
On Memorial Day night, the RedHawks took the finale with a 3-2 win over the Sounds at Greer Stadium. Nashville didn't go down quiet since Jeremy Reed doubled in a run and Mike Rivera, who was also returned to the Sounds from the Brewers, also added an RBI with a single in the 9th. Even though the Sounds didn't sweep the series, taking 3 of 4 is nothing to sneeze at and this Sounds team showed they can bounce back. Now that Iowa is in town, hopefully things will change for the Sounds. They are now playing a team in their own division and these games are just as important as well. I will have a blog on the Sounds-Iowa Cubs series coming up. Until then, I like to thank you for reading and your loyal support of Sounds Baseball and we hope to see you out at the ballpark. Happy Reading as always!
Monday, May 30, 2011
On the previous road trip, it was my first visit ever not only to Salt Lake City, but to the state of Utah. I can't say enough on how impressed I was with its cleanliness and the friendliness of the people. Everyone greeted me very warmly like you were a part of them. The first couple of days were unpleasant weatherwise because it was overcast and rainy. Fortunately, on the Saturday that I was in Utah, I got the chance to really explore downtown, especially in the Temple Square area. I was able to see one of the most famous churches in the Tabernacle. It looked like a castle from either Disneyland or Disney World. The gardens were well kept and saw some neat flowers and there was a large congregation inside the fences of the church. Everyone was well-dressed and were just outside waiting for the services to start. The carvings were very clear with the words being so legible on the outside walls. There was the Lion's house, where there were plenty of people doing gardening outside the building.
The streets of downtown Salt Lake City are so amazingly clean and every other block, I saw men riding around the cleaning machines with rollers and I can see why it's so immaculate. The people in Salt Lake City have pride in their city and want to preserve it as best as possible to make sure that visitors in town will give the city a rave review. They already got one from me. There is a TraxTrain that goes downtown and it reminds me of the ones I've seen in Memphis, New Orleans and Sacramento.
From the city streets, we move along to the ballpark. The mountains from beyond the outfield walls are breathtaking and you can't beat the snowcaps on top. I can imagine how cold it can really get with that altitude. Spring Mobile Park is a nice double-deck park and from the third base side, you can see a nice glimpse of the city's downtown with the mountains in the background. It's too bad that the Sounds go to Salt Lake once every other year since the Bees and the Sounds are in different conferences.
The Series with the Bees was a great one as the Sounds took 3 out of 4. George Kottaras, one of the Sounds' Catchers, caught fire as he hit his first home run of the season at Spring Mobile and kept spraying the ball to the gaps in the outfield. Kottaras was among the hottest Sounds as he collected six hits in the series!
Anyway, after the Salt Lake series, it was on to Tacoma, Washington, where we would play a four-game set against the Tacoma Rainiers, the Seattle Mariners' AAA affiliate. This is a perfect marriage for the Rainiers and the Mariners since the two teams are so close together and it is just a 20 to 25 minute drive from Seattle to Tacoma. The Tacoma Franchise has had many great players passing through such as Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Jesus Alou, Burt Hooton, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, etc. From 1960 to the present day, the Tacoma franchise has been the only team to play in the Pacific Coast League every season on. The franchise used to have the same nicknames as the major league teams until the Tacoma Tigers, who were a longtime affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. When the Mariners became the parent club, the nickname was changed to Rainiers, in honor of Mount Rainier which happens to be in the area.
The longtime minor league team in Seattle used to be nicknamed the Rainiers before that city became a major league town in 1969 when the Seattle Pilots played their only season there. Without their move to Milwaukee, you wouldn't have the Milwaukee Brewers, whose franchise was purchased by then young auto executive and dealership owner Bud Selig, who now reigns as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Eight years after the Pilots played their only season in the Pacific Northwest, the Mariners came of being when they were an expansion team in 1977 and have been there since.
This trip was also my first trip to Cheney Stadium, which has been around since 1960. I can tell right away that the folks did such a marvelous remodeling job. It was freshly painted and instead of having the pressbox on the roof, it was on the second row and off to the third base side. The pressbox, visiting radio booth, the tv booth and the home radio booth, were in separate compartments and my booth was a little bit off the third base side, but right at home plate. I was told that in the past that you had to climb a stepladder to get to the pressbox during the pre-modeling days and the ladder would sway if it got windy. Fortunately, I didn't have to experience that. There were a collection of pine trees beyond the right field wall and from what Don Money told me, they lowered the height of the walls, so it wouldn't be as high as the batter's eye wall, which is approximately 20 feet! I do tip my cap to those who fixed the park up. It looks great!
One unique experience about the hotel where we stayed in downtown Tacoma, sort of reminded me of an art museum. It is the Hotel Murano and every floor you go on there are displays of different artwork and the name of the artist that created such masterpieces. We would walk into the lobby and continue to see many other artwork pieces as well. What was also unusual is that you had to use your room key and slide it into a card machine when you get on the elevator or you won't be able to get on your floor. If someone else uses his/her card, then you can be able to press the button in the elevator and get on your floor! As you go down Broadway Plaza, there are a few eateries, but not that many. The Varsity Grill is a great choice and their burgers are outstanding, especially the black and blue burger with its cajun and blue cheese dressing! The onion rings that come with it are great. I got to also see the NHL and NBA playoff games on the screen! I highly recommend it whenever you're in Tacoma!
Unfortunately, the Sounds lost 3 of 4 in the series, but did take the finale on a single by Eric Farris that broke a 2-2 tie! Since we are in Triple-A and the Pacific Coast League, it was a short night as I slept only 2 1/2 to 3 hours the night before we had to check out of our hotel at 4:30 in the morning. Such the life of travel in the PCL, but I didn't mind at all. I knew that we would be on a plane for a while and I can catch some shuteye, which I did. We flew into Chicago's Midway Airport and then we flew home. The only thing is that we had to play Oklahoma City that night and we couldn't feel too bad because the RedHawks were flying in from Fresno, California after they concluded their Californ1a portion of their road trip with Sacramento and Fresno. I didn't feel tired at all as the Sounds won, 3-1 on that Friday night and the broadcast went well. Normally, I would go home first to drop my luggage off and unpack and drop my laundry into my washer/dryer in my apartment. A nice perk to have since I don't have to find a coin-operated laundromat as well as leave to try to find such a place. I wash my clothes in the privacy of my own home! This time, I left my luggage bag in the trunk of my car and as soon as I got home the previous Friday night after starting the homestand, I loaded my clothes in the washer and cleaned them. I dried them the next morning and they are good as new! Even though we ended up at 4-4 on the last road trip, it was better than the previous one when we went 0-8 in Oklahoma City and Round Rock. So far, we've won our first 3 games vs. the RedHawks here at Greer Stadium and hope to complete a sweep of the series with a win tonight. I will have another blog on the Sounds-RedHawks series. Before I sign off, I want to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Holiday weekend! Hope you have fun, but above all, be safe! Also, please let's not forget the men and women who have sacrificed their lives and continue on to do so to keep this country and this world a safe haven to be in! Amen! Until next time, thanks for reading!
Thursday, May 05, 2011
I've seen Corey Hart, Manny Parra and Zack Greinke pass through Nashville and even though it's a thrill to see guys from the parent club, you never like to see them have to come back to the minors to rehab. Having said that, Triple-A Nashville is the best option for guys like these since they need to try to get back to being 100 percent. Nyjer Morgan, the former Washington National has also spent time with the Sounds, but has since been called back up to the Brewers. One can certainly hope that these guys will be healthy again and can do what they can to help the Brewers, who have had an up and down season.
As of this writing, I am on the first leg of a two-city road trip, starting in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and then it's on to Round Rock, Texas, where the Sounds will begin that series this Friday against the Rangers' new Triple-A farm club, the Round Rock Express.
Going back to Oklahoma City, I had the chance to walk around downtown and the city has really grown. I can't believe how much the Bricktown part of downtown has developed. There are plenty of restaurants and not to mention a riverwalk as well. I had lived in San Antonio, Texas, for a decade and that city was always famous for its riverwalk. Even though Oklahoma City's Riverwalk is not as big, it is still nice to walk around. In addition to the many fine restaurants it has to offer, the walls on the riverwalk are covered with wonderful murals to give it a scenic charm. A lot of time and effort was put into the artists' work.
This week has also been a busy sports week for the city because not only are we in town to play the Oklahoma City RedHawks, but the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder was in town to host the Memphis Grizzlies for Games 1 and 2 of their post-season series. After losing the opener of the series, the Thunder came back to win Game 2 at the Oklahoma City Arena. The Arena is only a block from our hotel and needless to say, after the Thunder had won Game 2, it was pandemonium outside of our hotel with people cheering, car horns honking. Fortunately, the noise didn't last too long, but people were excited. There was even a giant screen outside the team's arena for those to see the game and who could not get tickets.
I was hoping to eat at Mickey Mantle's, right across the street from AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, but it was only open for dinner and since we have all night games, it would be virtually impossible for me to dine there. I did get to eat at Coach's, which is at the ballpark. It's a popular restaurant around Oklahoma. Their burgers and wings are out of this world and inside, there are plenty of Oklahoma Sports mementos, including a picture of three of the greatest baseball players in Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, all of whom have since sadly passed away. They will never been forgotten. There is an area in the restaurant where you can look out at the field and whenever one can, that person can eat and watch the ballgame at the same time. Speaking of Mantle, there is a statue of "The Mick" swinging a bat outside the ballpark and other monuments of Oklahoma's greatest players including the late Bobby Murcer, the Oklahoma City Native, who would be a great player with the Yankees, Giants and Cubs as well as a fine broadcaster with the Yankees. There's "Big Poison" and "Little Poison", Paul and Lloyd Waner, who were both hitters in their day. Across the street from the ballpark, there is a Pizzeria, a Movie Theatre and a bowling alley as well as other small restaurants. Earl's Rib Shack offers great BBQ Food, so I recommend going there if you are into barbecue. Two of the best italian restaurants, are also situated there in Zio's Italian Kitchen and the Spaghetti Warehouse. Both are in my old haunt in San Antonio and the Spaghetti Feast is something I highly recommend.
It was also great to see former Oklahoma City RedHawks Broadcaster and current radio broadcaster for the American Hockey League's Oklahoma City Barons, Jim Byers, who was an official scorer for one of the games. Jim and I go way back since we also both broadcast professional hockey in the Central Hockey League. Jim has been a fixture in Oklahoma for years and is a multi-talented and versatile announcer, who also has broadcast Horse Racing, one of the toughest sports to cover. Jim has done it all and I wish him well with the Barons.
Going through downtown Oklahoma City, I had a chance to check out Myriad Gardens except that there were plenty of construction workers who were re-doing the park, so I didn't get a chance to see a whole lot. Maybe next time. I got a nice glimpse of City Hall as I entered the Business District and saw the Courthouse and the Oklahoma Tower. The Santa Fe Plaza also featured a nice garden and statues in the area as well. I even got to visit the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Unfortunately, the top 2 floors were being renovated, so I visited the first two floors. They featured an exhibit from George Nelson, who was a great city planner and designer in his days during the first half of the century and featured many office furnishings from the 1950s, although they looked like furniture that was created in the 1970s. Nelson was before his time. I even saw many great paintings as well.
I even got to see the sign that pointed to the Oklahoma City National Memorial from the tragedy that took place on April 19, 1995 when scores were killing during the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building attack. I didn't get a chance to go to the Memorial and Museum, but I plan on doing so during my next visit. I can imagine how surreal things had to be for Oklahoma City during that fateful day 16 years ago.
As for the baseball, it has been a frustrating road trip. The Sounds have lost the first 3 games of the series, with two of the games being decided by one run. Nashville's usually reliable pitching has turned out otherwise. There have been way too many walks and the Sounds' clutch hitting has continued to be lacking. As of this writing, they are 9-16, but of course, one winning streak can cure all ills. I felt for Sounds' reliever Donovan Hand, who had just got called up from Class AA Huntsville yesterday. He was happy to see me and he came over to hug me. One of the most congenial players on the team. Well, in the 10th inning of last night's game, he got thrown into duty. He struck out the first batter he faced and the 2nd batter grounded out to 2nd. However, pinch batter Drew Locke abruptly ended things with a long home run over the left field wall to clinch the victory for the RedHawks, who are now 5-2 against the Sounds this season. I felt bad for Hand since he pitched real well for the Sounds last year. Of course, giving up a home run can happen to any professional pitcher, but except that Donovan just re-joined the Sounds and wanted to impress. Still, I'm not worried about Hand because he is one of many great relief pitchers that the Brewers have in their farm system as well as at the big league level. I know that Hand will rebound from this and I look to see Nashville rebound from their disappointing start. Well, we have one more game here in Oklahoma City tonight and then it's on to Round Rock, Texas, where the Sounds start their 4-game set against the Express at the Dell Diamond tomorrow night. It will be nice to be back in Texas, where I have lived for years, but I would anticipate that the weather will be hotter there than it is here and the weather here in Oklahoma City has been nice this week.
Tune in to nashvillesounds.com for tonight's broadcast at 6:50PM and throughout the entire series with Round Rock. I will try to get another blog update in regarding the series with Round Rock. Until then, so long and thank you for your continued support. Happy Reading!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Before I go further, please accept my apologies for not presenting this blog sooner. Whew, with a few rainouts that turned a few games into doubleheaders and some early morning day games, I had to take care of some priorities and not to mention to get adjusted to a new format when it comes to writing this blog.
Now that I am caught up, here are my first experiences with the 2011 season. Opening Night between the Sounds and the New Orleans Zephyrs started off with a bang on the field as well as in the stands. It was so nice to see more than 7,100 fans come into the venerable Greer Stadium and get to see some great baseball. It was nice to see Mayor Karl Dean throw out the ceremonial first pitch during opening night. Mr. Dean is up for re-election this coming fall and one of the projects that Nashvillians as well as the Sounds organization is hoping for is spearheading a campaign for a new ballpark. There has been a case study of either having the ballpark at the old Sulphur Dell site or downtown near the Cumberland River. If it was up to me, I would prefer having the new ballpark at the downtown site since it is so convenient to many fine restaurants, night spots, office buildings and the highways are not too far away. Whenever I've been on the road, it has always been nice to walk to and from the ballpark in Oklahoma City, Memphis and Sacramento. Through my walks, I explored so many places where you can find things to do before and after a game and in my opinion, having a new downtown stadium is a no-brainer. However, I'm going to let the powers-to-be to decide on this. I hope the concept does turn into fruition and a new stadium becomes a reality down the road.
Anyway, going back to opening night against the New Orleans Zephyrs, two of the newest Sounds came through. Sounds' righthand pitcher, Amaury Rivas, made the start and was outstanding. Despite giving up a run in the first, Rivas settled down to retire 14 in a row at one stretch and induced many Zephyrs players to hit the ball on the ground. Even though it was only the first start, Rivas showed what a great future that he has in the Brewers' organization. Former Texas Ranger Brandon Boggs supplied the fireworks as he belted a three-run homer over the right field wall to give the Sounds a 4-1 lead. Boggs was designated for assignment by the Brewers after being with them during Spring Training and Brandon accepted it. I certainly hope he will eventually earn a spot with the Brewers down the road. Another newcomer, former Astro Farmhand, Edwin Maysonet, added a home run of his own, so it is nice to see guys get off to a great start with their new organization. The Sounds wound up winning, 5-1 and wound up taking 3 out of 4 from the Zephyrs.
The Oklahoma City RedHawks came in with a new look as well as a new broadcaster. The RedHawks are now the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros after being affiliated with the Texas Rangers for so many years. This is not the first time, however, that the Oklahoma City Franchise has been affiliated with Houston. From 1962 to 1972 during the Colt .45s/Astros existence, the top farm club was the Oklahoma City 89ers and produced eventually major leaguers such as Jimmy Wynn, Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub and Jerry Grote. Former Nashville Sound Tony DeFrancesco is the new manager for the ballclub and joined the Astros organization after managing in the Oakland Athletics farm system for so many years. I certainly wish Tony the best. J.P. Shadrick is the new announcer for the RedHawks after spending five seasons with the Class AA Jacksonville Suns, which was one of the clubs that I used to work for. Shadrick is also in charge of handling Media Relations for the ballclub and we certainly welcome him to the Pacific Coast League. He is a class individual who also won the 2008 Southern League Broadcaster of the Year, so I know he will do a great job with the team. He is replacing the very talented and versatile Jim Byers, whom I've had the pleasure of knowing for more than a decade since our days broadcasting professional hockey in the Central Hockey League. Jim joined the new American Hockey League's Oklahoma City Barons and he will be missed. Hope to see Byers during my subsequent visits to Oklahoma City. In fact, many former RedHawks front office staff members and execs are working for the hockey team, so at least Jim will still be working with old and familiar faces. Keep up the great work, Jim!
After the Sounds had a 5-3 start on their first homestand, they travelled to the Omaha area and became part of history when they were the first opponents in brand new Werner Park, which is located southwest of Omaha in Sarpy County. The ballpark is located in the town of Papillion, Nebraska, which is one of the largest bedroom communities of the Omaha Metropolitan Area. Contrast to playing in the antiquated Rosenblatt Stadium, which seated 24,000 fans, Werner Park is more compact and seats 6,400., but can draw as many as 10,000 fans to a game with grass berm areas in left center and right center fields. There are amusement and fun zone areas with basketball courts, a merry-go-round and wider concourse spaces.
It kind of reminded me of a mini Dell Diamond in Round Rock and I mentioned this to the Chasers' Vice President and General Manager, Martie Cordaro. He was very humbled and flattered by the compliment. Cordaro has always made me feel at home whenever I come to Omaha and I wish him nothing but continued success with the Storm Chasers!
I had the liberty of taking some pictures of the new facility and I hope you enjoy them! It was such an honor to be the first opponents against the brand new Omaha Storm Chasers! Yes, you read that correctly! The Omaha Storm Chasers! After being the Omaha Royals for so many years, the franchise decided to brand their new ballpark with a new nickname, especially with the unpredictable nature of storms in Mid-America. Hall of Famers George Brett and Omaha Native Bob Gibson were part of the ceremonial first pitch with Brett ironically pitching to Gibson, who's fiery fastball befuddled many major league hitters in Gibson's 16 year career as the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals. Brett came close to hitting .400 one year back in the pennant-winning season of 1980 for the Kansas City Royals as he wound up batting .390 and would punch his ticket to the Hall of Fame with his great play at third base. The Sounds lost the game, 2-1 and eventually lost the series to the Chasers, 3 games to 1. We were originally supposed to open up in Nebraska on Friday, April 15th, but due to heavy rain and winds, the ballclub elected to postpone the festivities the following night. A wise decision because the next night the weather was great and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was nice to see a couple of old familiar faces as well. Mike Feigen is the new media relations director for the Storm Chasers. I got to meet Mike when he interned for Texas League President Tom Kayser back in 2009. Part of his internship was to assist former Missions Media Relations Director and current Fresno Grizzlies Media Relations Director Noah Frank and Feigen did a nice job. Glad to re-connect with him as well as a longtime friend, Brett Pollock. Pollock is no stranger to the Brewers' organization as he was the Radio Voice of Huntsville Stars for five seasons. He knows a lot of the current Sounds and manager Don Money as well as coach Sandy Guerrero and Trainer Dave Yaeger since Brett worked with them in Huntsville. He is now the Number 2 Radio Broadcaster to Mark Nassar, another great broadcaster and class individual. It was nice that a triumvirate of former Syracuse University Alumni in Nassar, Pollock and myself call the action on opening night. Pollock left the Stars after 2009 and was out of baseball last year. When former Omaha Royals announcer Kevin McNabb decided to leave the ballclub, the spot opened up for Pollock and I'm happy for him. I was sorry to see McNabb go and I wish him the very best. In fact, he succeeded me after I left the Jacksonville Suns many years ago.
Well, after playing a morning game yesterday, we flew to New Orleans and go in very late. Still, it was nice to get some shuteye before starting a new series against the New Orleans Zephyrs tonight. As of this writing, the Sounds are 6-6 and they need to have better clutch hitting in order to compete in the PCL's American North Division. It was nice to walk down Canal Street in downtown New Orleans as I headed for lunch and didn't have to wear a jacket. It was about 75 degrees and I realize that being back down South that the weather would be a contrast to the chilly midwest winter and people in that region are accustomed to this time of the year. Anyway, I better get ready for tonight's first game of the series with the Zephyrs at Zephyrs Field at 7:05PM. Don't forget to tune me in on nashvillesounds.com. I'm glad to be back for my 2nd year with the Sounds. It has been a great experience. Thank you for your support during my time in Nashville so far and I wish you the best as always. Until next time, so long! Enjoy tonight's game and broadcast!
After experiencing a treacherous rain and wind storm in the Nashville area this past Monday, Mother Nature made a 360-degree turn and yesterday (Tuesday, April 5th), no one could ask for a better day, weather-wise. The sun was out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the players as well as Nashville Sounds Manager Don Money and his staff were on hand to prepare for the new Pacific Coast League Campaign.
Before I go any further, I was glad to see things started off with a bang as I would like to congratulate former Nashville Sound, Erick Almonte, on making the big league club with the Milwaukee Brewers. Erick is now 33 years old and had played professional baseball for more than a decade. His previous (and only big league experience up to this point) was playing for the New York Yankees in late 2001 as well as early in 2003. He was at the right place at the right time in March, 2003 when Yankees' shortstop and future Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter injured his shoulder, sliding into third base in the 2003 opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 31, 2003. It was obvious that Jeter would be out for an indefinite period of time and Almonte came in and took over for Derek at shortstop, even though it would be only on a temporary basis. Almonte filled in admirably, but he also realized that once Jeter would be taken off the disabled list, his playing time with the Yankees would be limited or he would be sent back to the minors.
Almonte then bounced around with several organizations, including the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs. He was invited to spring training with the Cubs a couple of years back, despite not being on the 40-man roster. He didn't make the Cubs, but it was nice to see that he got a good look with them. Erick played for teams that were overseas as well as independent ball. He was with the Sounds for a few years and had a great year last year, hitting over .300 and was invited to join the Brewers for spring training this year even as a non-roster invitee. Almonte's discipline and approach at the plate, wowed new Brewers' manager, Ron Roenicke as well as other members of the Brewers' brass and he earned himself a spot on the big club as a pinch-hitter and utility player. What will happen with Almonte this year remains to be seen, but personally, I wish him the best and hope he stays in the major leagues for the rest of his career. Perseverance is a major key to success in life and Almonte's story is remarkable and admirable. Even when I spoke with Almonte from time to time last year, I can tell how much passion and enjoyment that he's had for the game and he deserves the honor. I also must mention a friend and a guy whom I knew from the San Antonio Missions, who finally made the major leagues last September with the Dodgers after toiling in the minors for so many years. His name is John Lindsey and he has been one of the best hitters in the PCL in recent years. As a member of the Albuquerque Isotopes last year, he continued to smack the cover off the ball and he is one of the classiest people I've ever met. Yes, I realize he is not a Nashville Sound nor a Milwaukee Brewer, but like Almonte, his story is also a great one and it only goes to show what can happen if you NEVER GIVE UP!
Now that I've mentioned these success stories in such lengthy detail, it is on to discussing the 2011 Sounds. Of course, I have yet to see the new guys who've never been here, but it's so nice to see a lot of familiar faces when I walked into the Sounds' clubhouse yesterday.
Of course, Manager Don Money is back and so is the rest of the Sounds' staff from 2010. Last year, he continued where he left off in needling me. Don had a very impressive major league career and is good at teaching the young prospects in the minor leagues on how the game is supposed to be played. As much as he jokes around, he is the ultimate professional when it comes to teaching baseball. It was also nice to see Hitting Coach Sandy Guerrero, Pitching Coach Rich Gale, Trainer Dave Yaeger and Strength and Conditioning Coach Andew Emmick back as well. All of those gentlemen are so dedicated in working hard and do a tremendous job to ensure the success of the Sounds as well as the Brewers' organization and they were all very helpful to me last year. I certainly look forward to be working with them as well as travelling with them this year. I even got to see Guerrero up in my hometown of New York City when I went up there to visit friends and relatives and my hometown since I was on vacation. I was so happy to see him and quite a few Sounds get the call-up to the majors late in the year. I even caught a game between the Brewers and the Mets at New York's Citi Field and it was great to see a few former Sounds in the Brewers uniform. I even had a laugh from reliever Brandon Kintzler when he spotted me in front of the team's New York hotel. He was surprised to see me and asked me what I was doing in town and I did explain that I was home visiting. I asked him if this was his first trip to New York and it was! I told him how much I enjoyed growing up in his city. I also got a laugh when he quipped to me, "No wonder why you walk so fast!" I couldn't stop laughing when I then responded as saying, "Welcome to New York, Brandon!". I don't think he's ever been in such a fast-paced and very energetic city like New York. I wished him well and I know he will have a great future in the majors with his stuff and his approach to the game!
Based on last year's stats, it seems as if the Sounds will rely more on pitching and defense and not as much power as they had last year. Brendan Katin is back and we all know what power numbers he is capable of putting up! He and former Sound Joe Koshansky were tied for the club lead in homers with 26, despite the fact that Katin missed much of the early part of the season with a knee injury that he sustained in the home opener against the Iowa Cubs at Greer Stadium last year on April 15th. I wish Katin the very best since with his power, he does have the potential to still make it to the show. It was nice to also shake hands with returnees such as Eric Farris, Tim Dillard, Sam Narron, Mike McClendon and the rest of the last year's squad that has returned. McClendon was one of those who got called up to the majors last year. He did a very nice job in the bullpen in 2010 and even though he got called up in a numbers game, I am confident that he will get called up again to Milwaukee because of his talent and work ethic!
I look for bigger things out of Eric Farris, especially after he was out for a few months due to a knee injury in 2010. The Sounds started off well and then when Farris went down, the team started playing inconsistent ball. With a sound knee, Farris can wreak havoc on the basepaths and with his hitting being even better after returning last year, I see him as a prototype leadoff hitter. Best of luck to Eric.
Mat Gamel is hoping to make it back with the Brewers and he is getting a good look at first base this year. A third baseman by trade, I know that Gamel is looking to expand his game by playing other positions and the key for him is to 1) stay healthy and 2) have the Brewers find a regular position for him. It was great that Prince Fielder signed with the Brewers once again in 2011 and he has been tremendous. However, with Fielder's long-term status to remain with the Brewers is still up in the air, Gamel realizes that it is up to him to step up and to keep improving. I know he will continue to work hard and I know that Don Money and Sandy Guerrero will keep a sharp watch on Gamel to make sure he continues to progress.
The Sounds are also in good hands with a fine catching corps with the likes of Martin Maldonado and veterans Patrick Arlis and Mike Rivera, who has played for the Sounds in the past. Maldonado was called up to Nashville during the middle of last year and displayed a tremendous throwing arm and whenever he hit a home run, he crushed the ball! I know he will continue to progress and of course, Arlis and Rivera will also work hard to help as catchers as well.
I know that I can go on and on, but there will be plenty of days that I have a chance to report on this edition of the 2011 Sounds.
Yes, this was a long blog, but with all the excitement and things that have developed, I felt that I needed to bring all of this up.
I encourage all of you to come on out for opening night, which is tomorrow night, Thursday Night, April 7th at Greer Stadium when the Sounds take on the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Marlins' AAA affiliate. The Sounds will also have their first Throwback Thursday Night with some concession items being offered at reduced prices. If you can't make it to the game, you can certainly tune in to yours truly on 104.5 The Zone and on nashvillesounds.com, to listen to the action! I'm excited about another year behind the microphone and it was a pleasure to deliver the games to all of the loyal Sounds Fans. I look forward in continuing where I left off last year. I hope that all of you enjoy the season and whenever you see me at the ballpark, please don't hesitate to come up to me and say hello. I always enjoy chatting with the fans and to talk baseball with them.
Please stay tuned for more future blogs, especially since I will also be making my first trips to Salt Lake City, Utah, Colorado Springs, Colorado and Tacoma, Wash., and I will mention about the ballpark and those cities when I visit them!
Until then, so long and Happy Reading! I look forward to seeing all of you out at the ballpark for the 2011 season! Thank you for your continuous support of Sounds Baseball!