Friday, July 3, 2015

Snorting Bull Baseball Tour Day 2: Burlington Royals vs Kingsport Mets

It was a rainy fifty minute drive west on I-40 to Burlington, North Carolina to check out a Rookie League game between the Burlington Royals and the Kingsport Mets.  I have lived in North Carolina for almost ten years, and been within an hour or less driving distance of this ballpark, but have just never been to game here.

Burlington Athletic Park is small park.  It's about 20 years newer than the Durham Athletic Park, but there are many things about the two parks that seem pretty similar.  Small dugouts, shape and layout of the grandstand, and the proximity of the fans to the field.  Tickets are readily available and the best seats in the stadium cost less than $10.

One of my initial surprises was access to the players.  They were literally just walking around the stadium with the fans.  Pretty awesome to see......


These two Mets players were really involved with a phone call while I was waiting to get into the stadium and did not move once the gates opened.  Other players sat next to the fence and talked with fans, signed autographs, and even bought food from the concession stand.


I am not sure where the Royals clubhouse is in the stadium, but we can see above that the players walk through the concourse to get out onto the field.  A very unique feel to the stadium, but cool to see the players up close.

The stadium is painted royal blue and there are former Burlington Royals players hanging up on the outside structure of Burlington Athletic Park.  There is even a 2014 American League Champions banner on the top of stadium.





Now, here's my only gripe with the Burlington Athletic Park.  It's hosted a Royals team for the past 8 seasons, but before that it was a minor league site for the Cleveland Indians for about twenty years.  During that time the team had Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, CC Sabathia, and Bartolo Colon all roll through town.  How are they recognized?


With their jerseys hanging above urinals in a bathroom.  Not very classy....... More on this later this week.  

Inside the stadium fans have a great view of the field and the action.  


There is a large amount of foul territory around the field, so you are not right on top of the batter, but the extra room created several cool foul pop chases during the game.  You don't see those at every park.  Here's a look at the stands from the side.  Note: more players hanging out talking to fans....



Now, onto the game.  The best prospect on either side was Royals Ashe Russell, the Royals number 1 draft pick last month, but he was not pitching.  I watched Brandon Dulin, first baseman, for the Royals along with Mets first baseman Patrick Mazeika.  Mazeika hit a home run in the first inning to give the Mets and early lead, but Dulin hit a two run blast in the eighth to give the Royals the win.  Here's the box score.



A little more on Dulin.  He's actually from the Kansas City area and is a pretty nice hitter.  He's already put up 5 home runs this season and has only been playing in Burlington for the past two weeks.  Could be a promotion soon.  Here's a look at one of his at-bats.....





I also watched Colton Frabasilio.  You do not see too many players from Saint Louis University in the minors, but their baseball program has come a long way the last few years.  




Overall, if you are looking for an inexpensive game where we can get close to the players this is a good stop.  I am not sure I would go out of my way to go to another Burlington Royals game, but maybe if the right player made an appearance there it would be a cool place to go and watch them play. 


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Snorting Bull Baseball Tour Day 2: Burlington Royals vs. Kingsport Mets

When I first moved to North Carolina I lived at the first Durham exit off of I-40 really close to Duke University.  It's not a far drive to Burlington and I often considered running over to check out a game.  At the time the Burlington team was an Indians minor league team known as the B-Tribe.  Somehow I never ended up there and after almost ten years of living in North Carolina I have still not attended a game in Burlington.

I ended up going to a wedding near the ballpark last August actually sparked the idea to get to a game there.   This evening I am crossing it off of my list.  Here's a look at the pitching match-up for the game between the Burlington Royals and the Kingsport Mets.....


The Royals are throwing Matt Tenuta.  He was a late pick (25th round) in the 2012 draft out of Apex High School in Apex, North Carolina.  I know all of my social media stuff alludes to the fact that I live in the Raleigh-Durham metro area, but Apex is the town I actually live in.  Pretty cool to run into a fellow Apex resident.  I am not sure how serious a prospect the left-handed pitcher is for the Royals, he is not on any prospect lists, but I guess you never know how some of these guys will turn out in the long run.  I like a good low draft pick time spent toiling in the minors story......

Here's a quick look at the rest of the players on the Royals Appalachian League entry.....

I know there has been a lot of excitement about Ashe Russell, this year's number one pick, but I am obviously not getting to see him tonight.  Dulin and Bailey were late draft picks the couple of years who are off to outstanding starts with the team.


The Kingsport Mets are starting Darwin Ramos who has had one good start under his belt this season in a game against the Bluefield Blue Jays going 6 innings, striking out 6, and allowing just one hit.


The Venezuelan righty is not on any prospects lists for the Mets, but his past statistics look decent.  He's still just 19, so I am curious to see him pitch and see what's there.  Here's a look at the rest of the Kingsport Mets:


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Snorting Bull Summer Baseball Tour Game 1: USA Baseball versus Cuba

I ventured out for the first stop on my baseball summer tour this evening to the town of Cary, North Carolina for a USA Baseball College team game against Cuba.  The venue is about five to ten minutes from my house and hosts all kinds of cool amateur baseball events.  The best of the events tend to be the National College Team games.  The team is filled with really good up and coming baseball talent and they usually play some pretty decent teams.  

During my game preview post I had talked a little bit about some of the players I was eager to watch at the game tonight, but I did not know much about the Cuban team before I arrived at the park this evening.  Here's a look at their roster......

Sorry for the blurriness, but you can see from the right hand column on their roster page that the players on these team are actually professional players in Cuba.  I'm not going to debate the quality of the Cuban National Series, but they are professionals playing against college kids.  On to other things......



This was the first game of this series between the USA College National Team and the Cuban squad.  Truth be told, I am going to another one of these games in a different ballpark as part of my summer baseball tour.  The one thing that always surprises, and disappoints me, about the USA Baseball games is the lack of fan support.  This program has an excellent track record of producing top level draft picks and you can see that nobody is in the stands.  This is a pretty good baseball market.  I just do not get it.  

The starting pitcher for the game this evening was Mizzou freshman Tanner Houck.  Again, I mentioned him in my preview post as a player to watch during the game......



He did not disappoint.  Houck ended up pitching four innings against Cuba and was lights out.  They do not have a radar gun with speeds posted in the stadium, but former Baseball America, current D1 Baseball, writer Aaron Fit always pops up at all the important college games and he had the following report during the game:



The Cuban pitcher was also very good too and held the USA Baseball bats silent while Houck was in the game.  I spent time really studying three batters, again mentioned in my previous post:

Nick Banks from Texas A&M



Buddy Reed from Florida


and Bobby Dolbec from Arizona......






Again, the offense was really quiet tonight.  The team did score two runs in the game, but there were not any extra base hits or anything too sharp coming off of any bats tonight.  Dolbec in particular seemed to have trouble with the Cuban pitchers.  

Back to the pitching.  After four innings Houck was pulled from the game for Florida lefty AJ Puk.  He's big and he throws really hard.  He's one of the early front runners to possibly be a first pick of the first round kind of player.  



Puk also pitched four innings, but he allowed a base runner on a walk, and another reached on an error.  The runner who reached on the error ended up at third while the score was still 1-0, but Puk did a great job of pitching and stranded the Cuban runner there to end the inning.  Here's a better look at the Florida pitcher.....





So that takes us up to the ninth inning.  Did I mention that Puk did not give up a hit either?  So, the ninth inning belonged to Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Hendrix who came in and got the first two Cuban batters out, then.......





Pretty good way to spend a nice evening and I could not ask for anything better for my first stop of my summer baseball tour.  Next stop is tomorrow night in Burlington, North Carolina.  

Snorting Bull Baseball Tour Day 1: USA College National Team versus Cuba

Tonight marks the beginning of my first annual baseball tour.  Just something I am trying on a small scale this year.  Living in North Carolina I get a lot of chances to see baseball at a lot of different levels.  Over the next week, or there abouts, I am going to be attending a few baseball games mostly around central North Carolina.  First up is the USA Collegiate Baseball team taking on the Cuban National Team.

I did a write up on a USA Baseball game last year if you are unfamiliar with the program run during the summer in Cary, North Carolina.  Basically the team is filled with freshman and sophomore's and serves as sort of an All-Star team for the college baseball leagues.  I will be checking in on a little bit more college baseball later in the week too.  Here is a look at the current roster for USA Baseball.....


If you clicked that link above to my write up from last year and compared it to the amateur draft from last week you would see that there were several top picks on last year's squad including first overall pick Dansby Swanson.  Truth be told, if you read my write up I liked Alex Bregman better, but I was probably splitting hairs.  This year I am interested in a few players.  Here's my run down on five of them:


Buddy Reed- The Florida sophomore has been the offensive star for USA Baseball in the early part of their schedule.  He arrived late, due to the College World Series, but has been a .500 hitter and driven in five runners during his first week with the squad.  He's not considered one of the elite prospects on this team, but a good summer with the College National Team could certainly boost his stock.




Nick Banks- The Charlotte native plays his college ball at Texas A&M and is considered an elite draft prospect for the 2016 MLB Draft.  FanGraphs ranks him currently as the best college position player in the draft.  The junior to be lead the SEC in batting this year.  Currently he is one of the offensive leaders of this summer's College National Team with a .393 average.  



A.J. Puk- The Florida lefty is considered the best college pitcher in the 2016 MLB Draft.  He has already made two appearances for USA Baseball this summer giving up one run in 6 innings of work.  This spring at Florida he went 9-4 with an ERA of 3.81, but also made eight starts as a first baseman. With a mid 90s fastball his MLB Draft stock is strictly based on his pitching arm.  He seems a little raw, but when you're 6'7. left-handed, and throw hard......



Bobby Dolbec- This is another two way player in college who is going to be drafted for a very specific skill: power.  Dolbec is currently the only player on the National College Team with a home run this summer.  He actually has two.  The corner infielder lead Arizona with 15 home runs this past season and looks to be the top power prospect in the 2016 MLB Draft.  He's a big guy and a lot of people have started making the comparison to Kris Bryant with him, but I think that's not completely accurate.  Bryant was a little bit more polished as a college hitter, but Dolbec is still going to hit home runs somewhere in the near future.  



Tanner Houck- The star pitcher thus far for the US National College Team has been Mizzou freshman Tanner Houck.  He has made two appearances so far this summer for the squad including an impressive start against Chinese Taipei.  Overall he sporting an ERA of 3.12 with a win and no losses.  At Mizzou this season he was named a Freshman All-American by Baseball America and became one of the better pitchers in the tough SEC during the season.  


You can follow along with the game tonight by following my Twitter account or by checking out my page tomorrow morning.....

Sunday, June 28, 2015

#MyCardMonday

I have been thinking a lot about Albert Pujols lately, so I am going to give this week's #MyCardMonday to The Machine.  If you have been paying attention for the last few weeks you would probably know that there is no hotter hitter in the Majors right now than Albert Pujols.  He looks like he finally has his legs underneath him and he's hitting the ball like he did before he left St. Louis.

Besides his hot start Albert is also starting to close in on some cool milestones.  Just a week or two ago I watched the Angels games with intent as he was passing some great players on the all-time home run list.  It was cool to see a guy that I watched for years go past players on the all-time home run list Mickey Mantle.  Albert is also closing in on 3,000 hits, but that is likely going to happen next year.

Sadly, I feel somedays like I am in the minority of baseball fans who still watch Albert.  I tweet about Albert and I kind of get a meh response some nights.  Maybe I need more Angels fans in my Twitter feed.  Maybe.  In the meantime, if you are interested in catching up on Albert I suggest you check out this great article written by Rick Hummel in Sunday's St. Louis Post Dispatch about the historical numbers he is now reaching in his career.

And now the card.  I had to go with a rookie card.


This card is from the 2001 Topps Stars set.  I see quite a few Albert Pujols rookies, but I don't see this one too often considering it is not a serial numbered card.  That giant star thing in the background looks a little bit like the burst from the Rays jerseys.  I am not so sure about that, but I do really like the dark blue coloring with the red outline around Albert.  Very nice card and one of the more affordable Pujols rookies.  

Two New Cardinals Pick-Ups

I added two new Gypsy Queen Cardinals cards yesterday afternoon from another local collector.  I had not really gone out and tried to pick up any of the Cardinals relics/serial numbered parallels from this set, so I might have to take these two new cards as a good starting point to add a few more of these.



First up is this Wacha relic.  No serial numbers or anything here.  Just a nice looking relic card.  I do like the framed relic pieces better than the non-framed.  The frames on the cards seem a little bit tighter this year.  In past year's the cards would slide and move around inside the frame.  This year's seem to do less so.  Maybe it's just this card....



and finally a brand new Lackey card.  This is the one per box framed card that is numbered out of /499.  A nice looking card.  I have not really done much with Lackey since he was traded to the Cardinals last season.  He has pitched well and has a lot of cards.  Maybe a project for my upcoming summer break.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Two Off the List.....

Two cards are coming off my Top 10 Wanted List tonight.  I started my list a few months back and it started off slowly.  I have mixed up the cards a bit, some simple targets and a few hard ones, and the pace of cards coming off the list has really picked up.  Tonight's two are one of each: One card that has been up for a few weeks and another that has been on the list since day 1.


Let's start off with the 10th Card on the list first....


I have already picked up all of the autographed copies of the Bowman Flashback cards, but still had one of the non-autographed cards to pick up.  I pulled a few out of packs and boxes and traded for a few of the others as a lot which left me with just this Baerga.  I ended up finding this in an envelope from Tim who writes the blog I Love the Smell of Cardboard in the Morning.  I am putting together a return envelope and I thank you for crossing a card off of my list.

Which brings me to the second card on my list which has been there since the first day it was posted a few months ago.....



Justin Ruggiano is one of my favorite all-time former Durham Bulls players.  I have a ton of his cards and enjoy collecting him.  Even that year he was on the Cubs.  I love the acetate cards and have been looking for an opportunity to add one of these cards of him and I finally found one last week on Ebay.  I probably slightly overpaid for the card, but knocked more than $40 off of the asking original asking price of $60.  It's an acetate, the first one on a 2015 card, so we have to look at the back of the card....


Just an awesome piece of cardboard.  Again, thank you to Tim from I Love the Smell of Cardboard and I will update my Want List with two new cards at some point this weekend.