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Tides Win on Bell’s 12th Inning Walk-Off Home Run

Troy Patton pitched 6.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits but got a no-decision

Josh Bell did something that has seldom happened at Harbor Park.  It was not the walk off home run but it was the feat of having a home run in three consecutive games in a ballpark that is a pitcher’s paradise and a power hitter’s nightmare.  Harbor Park opened in 1993 when the Norfolk Tides were the AAA affiliate of the New York Mets.  The dimensions of the park are very similar to the Mets’ old home Shea Stadium.  The left field line 330 feet, right field 318, and dead center 410 feet.  In fact not very many of today’s Major League parks have as deep dimensions as the home of the Norfolk Tides.  Not only is it a big yard but the prevailing winds during the season also mitigate against a lot of home runs as does the air which often is heavy with humidity.  The winds usually come off the East Fork of the Elizabeth River and blow in knocking down balls hit to right or right center.  Typically the leading Tides home run leader since the team has moved to Harbor Park in 1993 hits an average 16 home runs a season and of course many of those come in other parks.  By contrast the Durham Bulls have averaged over 25 home runs a season since coming into the International League in 1997 the same is true of the Pawtucket Red Sox who have been in the International League since 1993 and the Toledo Mud Hens during the same period average 26. The Buffalo Bisons average 16 per season for their leading home run hitter over the same time period but face some of the worst weather in the league.  The truth is that Harbor Park for its beauty as a ballpark is a pitcher’s paradise and hitter’s nightmare all of which sets the stage for the story of Friday evening’s game between the Tides and the Mud Hens.

Alberto Castillo made his first appearance since returning from Baltimore

With warm and windy conditions in front of a crowd of 5943 the Tides and the Toledo Mud Hens met for the second game of a four game series.  This game was dominated by the pitchers and it was a long night for both teams because of how well the pitchers worked.  Prior to this game only two teams in the International League had not played an extra inning game and both were on the field Friday. I guess it was destiny that the game would go extra innings how could it not? In 12 innings the two teams pitchers allowed a combined 5 runs only 4 of which were earned runs.

Daniel Schlereth after the wild pitch that allowed Michael Aubry to score

After a scoreless first inning the Mud Hens took a one nothing lead in the top of the second when Max Leon singled to score Jeff Frazier. They extended it to 2-0 in the top of the third when Jeff Frazier singled to drive in Brent Dlugach but after that would manage just three more hits as Troy Patton, Ross Wolf, Frank Mata, Alberto Castillo and Jim Miller shut down a potent Toledo line up allowing no extra base hits.

The Tides offensive production also lagged as compared to the previous two outings where they scored a dozen runs per game.  Friday however the Tides hitters were contained by the Toledo pitchers who scattered 9 hits in the 12 innings.  The Tides got on the board in bottom of the 3rd inning when Josh Bell singled to drive in Robert Andino.  The score would remain 2-1 until the bottom of the 6th inning.  Michael Aubrey singled to lead off the inning and then Brandon Snyder stuck out swinging.  The Mud Hens then took out starter Enrique Gonzalez bringing in Daniel Schlereth in relief.  With Blake Davis at the plate Mud Hens catcher Angel Flores allowed a passed ball which allowed Aubrey to take second Troy Patton the Tides starter allowed two walks which placed runners on second and third.  Ross Wolf came on in relief and on his first pitch got Brent Dlugach to pop out to second.  The Tides would have a runner on second in both the 8th and 10th innings bit were unable to bring the runner home.  In the 11th the Tides threatened again. Blake Davis singled and advanced to second on a very well executed sacrifice bunt by Adam Donachie.  Robert Andino hit an infield single which did not advance Davis.  Joey Gathright grounded out to advance Davis to third and Andino to second.  Corey Patterson the grounded out sharply and the 11th inning ended with the teams still tied at two.

Tides players mob Josh Bell after his walk off home run

Jim Miller came on in the 12th inning in relief of Alberto Castillo who in his first appearance at Norfolk since he was optioned back to the team by the Orioles when Koji Uehara completed his rehab work. Miller put the Mud Hens down in order striking out Diek Scram, getting Angel Flores to pop out in foul territory to Adam Donachie and retiring Will Rhymes on a line drive to left fielder Joey Gathright.

In the bottom of the 12th the Mud Hens sent in Jay Sborz to pitch.  The first batter that Sborz faced was Josh Bell who had homered in his last two games at Harbor Park.  Bell slammed the ball to deep center and it kept going out of the park. As Bell crossed the plate he was mobbed by his teammates.

Jim Miller got the win and Sborz the loss. The Mud Hens had 2 runs on 9 hits with no errors with 8 men left on base. The Tides 3 runs on 9 hits and no errors with 13 left on base.

The teams met again Saturday night but that article will be posted sometime later Sunday.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mothers out there!

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, norfolk tides

Dad’s Gift of Baseball to Me

Note:  This is a substantial re-write of a post that I did toward the beginning of this site. At the time I had very few readers and of course it had very few views.  I think sometimes there are times in life when you have to go back to things that are important.  Revisiting the better times in the past is sometimes a way for me to get through the more difficult days of the present. My dad has been in End Stage Alzheimer’s Disease for some time now. He is down to 112 pounds and when I last saw him in May was only occasionally able to have any meaningful communication and I was blessed to get a few minutes on a couple of consecutive days where we had conversation s that bordered on better times.  The funny thing they revolved around baseball for for dad and me was a point of connection through most of our lives.  If we could talk about nothing else, there was always baseball. I have been kind of down about his condition lately as he for all intents and purposes hangs between life and death, not really the man that I knew, the man who taught me to love the game of baseball.  My mom and I talked this week and she asked when I was coming out next.  The thing is I don’t know.  I just had to tell her that we would wait and see.

Me and Lefty PhillipsMe with Lefty Phillips of the California Angels in 1970

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.” George Will

Baseball has always been a source of enjoyment for me.  I’ve noted in numerous other posts that God speaks to me through baseball.  For me there is something mystical about the game.  It extends beyond the finite world in some respects and there is symmetry to the sport unlike any other.  George Will’s quote at the beginning of this post is dead on.  Not all holes or games are created equal.

Oak Harbor Little LeagueMy First Ball Field, Oak Harbor Washington

Though I had played Little League Ball in the 1960s and well as a lot of backyard or sandlot games, it was  1970-1971 when my dad began taking us to California Angels games while stationed in Long Beach California that the game really captured me.  The seed of course had been planted long before games on a black and white TV, playing catch, teaching me to throw, field and run the bases.  We even saw the Seattle Pilots in person while stationed in Washington State. While my dad thrived on all sports, baseball was the one that he gave me as a gift.  He gave my brother golf, another spiritual game, which Zen masters love, but which is not to be compared with baseball because it is not in its purest form a team sport.

1972 Oak Park AL RamsOak Park Little League 1972 American League “Rams” I am at top left

Growing up with baseball was something that I cannot imagine have not done.  It was part of life from as far back as I can remember and this was because dad made it so.  It kind of reminds me of the beginning of the movie For the Love of the Game where home movies of a child playing ball with dad are shown during the opening credits and score.  I can close my eyes and remember vivid details of ball fields and backyards where dad would play catch with me play pepper and fungo and teach me to pitch.  He never did much with hitting.  When I had him in a brief lucid moment when I visited in May I thanked him for teaching me to love the game, told him I still heard his voice telling me to keep my butt down on ground balls and that he did not teach me to hit.  He simply said “you can’t teach someone to hit, it’s a gift, lots of people can’t hit.”

Binkley and baseballI wonder if my Dad felt this way at times?

Those days at Anaheim Stadium when it was called “the Big A” due to the scoreboard shaped like a large “A” with a halo ringing the top were magical.  I met players, got signed balls and hats, and was even selected as a runner up in the “My Favorite Angel” contest.  For that I met my favorite Angel, First Baseman Jim Spencer a Golden Glove Winner who later played for the White Sox and Yankees, and two tickets behind home plate.  I met Spence at the game as well as an autograph signing at a local Von’s grocery store.  When trying to look him up in 2003 I found that he had passed away on February 10th 2002 while I was deployed.  He wasn’t very old, only 54 dying of a heart attack. Before his death he was lending his expertise to the Naval Academy baseball team. In 15 years in the majors in which he played in 1450 games and only made 55 errors, a .995 fielding percentage, one of the best in baseball.  During the 1970’s he was considered one of the premier defensive First Basemen in the game.  He played in the 1973 All-Star Game, won the Gold Glove in 1970 and 1977 and played on the Yankee’s 1978 World Series team. He was one of my favorite players growing up. I think that is why I like sitting behind the plate in my little world of Section 102, Row B, Seat 2 at Harbor Park so much now.

jim_spencer_autographJim Spencer’s 1979 Signed Yankee Card, I have one of these

When we moved to northern California we reconnected with the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s.  This was during the A’s dynasty years and we saw a number of games including an ALCS game against the Tigers.  Seeing the greats like Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Campy Campaneris and Vida Blue was awesome.  However our first love was the Giants.  We only occasionally got to Candlestick Park where they played in those days.  Candlestick if you have ever been there is a miserable place to see a game for nothing else that it is colder than hell, if hell were cold.   One game we did see was Ed Halicki’s no-hitter against the Mets in 1975.

halicki no hitterEd Halicki’s No-Hitter, Dad took me to this

While dad was deployed to Vietnam my mom would drop me off at Billy Herbert Field in Stockton California where we lived and let me see the Stockton Ports who were then the California League single A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.  Those games were always fun.  I remember talking to Orioles great Paul Blair when he visited a military base that I was serving and he told me how he remembered playing in Stockton as a minor leaguer.

billy hebert fieldMy Childhood Haunt, Billy Hebert Field, Stockton CA, former home of the Stockton Ports

In high school and college due to other diversions I stopped playing baseball and did not have as much contact with it.  However it never completely left me, I always longed to be either playing in or watching a game.

Other major sports do not hold me captive the way baseball does.  I think there is the nearly spiritual dimension that the game has which makes it timeless.  Other sports such as football, basketball, hockey and soccer are limited to rectangular playing surfaces of set dimensions determined by their leagues. With the exception of a few old hockey rinks there are no individuality to these venues, save perhaps for team or sponsor logos.  Likewise all of the other sports play a set time clock.  If a team gets way ahead early, it is likely that the game will be over.  While it is possible that a game could go into “overtime” the overtime in these games has different rules than regulation time.  “Sudden death” “Shootouts” and truncated times show that these games are not meant to go past regulation time.  It is an aberration from what is considered “normal.” In these games a team with a big lead can simply sit on the ball and run out the clock. Earl Weaver put it well: “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”

Baseball is not like that.  In order to win you have to throw the ball over the plate and give the other team a chance to come back. The nine innings could in theory go on for eternity, as they nearly do in W.P. Kinsella’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, A story which is patently eschatological, though not in a pre-millennial dispensationalist manner.  Foul lines in theory go on for eternity, only the arbitrary placement of the outfield wall and the physical limitation of hitters keep the game within earthly limits.  I’m sure that outfields are a lot more spacious and have a wonderful playing surface in heaven.

Save for the late 1960s and early 1970s when fascists took over the design of stadiums in order to make them suitable to play football on, baseball parks have had their individuality.  Outfield dimensions, type of grass, the kind of infield and warning track soil which is used, are all determined by the team.  Some fields cater to hitters, others pitchers.  And with the overthrow of the stadium fascists at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, the baseball park regained its dignity.  Gone were the ugly, drab oval stadiums, fields covered in often shoddy artificial turf.  The unsightly and even hideous venues such as Riverfront, Three Rivers, Veteran’s Stadium and others, even dare I say the Astrodome and Kingdome were demolished and made nice piles of rubble, replaced by beautiful ballparks each with its own unique character that reflect the beauty of the game.

three run homer by fiorentinoJeff Fiorentino Hits Three Run Homer at Harbor Park, my view from 102

This year for the first time in my life I bought season tickets for my local AAA team, the Norfolk Tides who are the AAA Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. I also went Norfolk’s Harbor Park to see the Commonwealth Classic an exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.  Harbor Park was one of the first of the new generation of minor league parks and a wonderful place to see a game, or as I like to say “Worship at the Church of Baseball.”   When Harbor Park was built the Tides were affiliated with the New York Mets. As such the outfield dimensions are nearly identical to the former Shea Stadium, making it a very large yard and pitchers playground.  The outfield backs up to the East Fork of the Elizabeth River, shipyards and bridges dominate the view.  There is not a bad seat in the house. Since coming back from Iraq the ballpark is one of the few places that I have been able to consistently go where I am at peace, not hyper-vigilant and anxiety free.  In a way my season ticket has been both therapeutic and pretty essential to me getting a bit better in the past year.  Last year when the minor league season ended  it was difficult.  I am not looking forward to 6 months without a ball game here.

harbor park opening dayOpening  Day at Harbor Park: One of the few places of peace in dealing with my PTSD

With every home game the gift that my father gave me begins to unfolds again as I gaze in wonderment at the diamond.  This year is different; my dad is in a nursing home in the end stage of Alzheimer’s disease.  Last year he still knew enough of what was going on to talk about baseball, especially the San Francisco Giants and bad mouth the American League. Dad was always National League fan and he loathes the designated hitter. He used to call the American League the “minor league.”  He told me stories about the greats of his childhood and he was an avid fan of Pete Rose, he loved his high intensity play and hustle, something that he passed on to me. I can still recall him yelling at me to “get your butt down,” “stay in front of the ball,” “hustle down the line any time you hit the ball” and “don’t be afraid to run over a catcher or go in hard to break up a double play.”   Rose’s banishment from baseball for gambling hit him hard.  I guess it was for him like the banishment of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and for me the agony of the Steroid Era which was a stain on game but now is now history. Unfortunately it is being used by self-righteous politicians a bureaucrats to make baseball and baseball players look bad so they can look good.   At this point I say reinstate Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose and stop with the endless illegal leaks of documents and alleged positive tests of players whose names are being leaked out one or two at a time.  I think my dad would say the same now, if only he could.

Me and last last picMy Dad Carl and I, May 2009 Giants fans to the end

Dad gave me a gift, a gift called the game, the game of baseball.  Sure, it’s only just a game.  Right… Baseball is only a game in the sense of the Grand Canyon just being a hole in the ground and the Pacific Ocean a pond.  I’m sure that the Deity Herself must agree.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, Loose thoughts and musings