I am back from my short minor league roadtrip. I got in two games in two stadiums on Sunday. We started off in Clinton, Iowa, home of the Lumberkings, Low A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. They were hosting the Burlington Bees (Royals). Alliant Energy Field was built in 1937 but was renovated this past off season. It is a really nice park that blends the amenities of the modern day stadium with the classic style of an old time ballpark. The crowd was small but really into the game. Some of the players for the Lumberkings signed balls for Anna and Zac before the game. Manuel Pina, the starting catcher for the day, was really nice to Zac and even teased him as he warmed up the starting pitcher before the game. Tim Gudex, a lefty reliever, gave Anna a ball, so he has a fan forever. The starting pitcher for the Lumberkings, Omar Poveda, was very impressive. He had a smooth delivery and threw in the low nineties. The best player on the field was Clinton shortstop, Marcus Lemon. If the name sounds familiar, his dad is Chet, who played for Detroit. He has a good arm, good range, excellent speed, and a quick easy swing. He tripled in his first at bat and is as fast as anyone I have seen this year.
Next, we drove back down to John O’Donnell Stadium, home of the Swing of the Quad Cities, Low A affiliate of the Cardinals. There is not a more picturesque view for a baseball fan than coming over the bridge into Davenport and spying the stadium sitting next to the Mississippi. Here is a link off of the Swing website, click on the pic in the upper right hand corner. The Swing was taking on the Beloit Snappers (Twins). The Snappers feature last year’s first rounder Chris Parmelee and former Golden Domer, pitcher Jeff Manship. Manship started and the Swing could not solve the right-hander. Manship was perfect for 2.2 innings but then left with what appeared to be a groin injury. Parmelee fell just a HR short of the cycle as he pounded Swing pitching. So I got the pitcher I wanted to see from Beloit, and I lucked out and got to see the Swing tandem I was hoping for, Elvis Hernandez and P.J. Walters. The Swing players save Christian Lopez all stepped up and signed autographs for the kids. Lopez avoided the kids seeking autographs as if they had the plague. Hernandez signed for the kids before he went out to the bullpen to warmup. He was very cordial and soft spoken. He seemed quite shy and maybe overwhelmed by the attention. He was inconsistent in 4.1 innings. He gave up 2 runs on 10 hits but he did strikeout 4. He was sitting 89-91 on the gun but I truly believe that might be a slow gun. If anyone knows, I would appreciate the input. When he was zoned in, his stuff was electric. Then it seemed as he would lose focus and that is when he would get in trouble. But he is inexperienced, the roster says 22 but he looks 12, and hopefully the consistency will come with experience. The kids got the hottest hitter in the MWLs autograph, Brandon Buckman. A gentleman in the crowd asked for his autograph, but called him by a different name. He corrected the man but still signed his item. I chimed in with, “Sir, he is the hottest hitter in the Midwest League.” Buckman looked at me with a little grin/smirk, like, Yeah, that’s right. At the plate he had a slight uppercut and looked like he might be succeptible to the inside fastball. He is really smooth around the firstbase and made some outstanding plays in the field. He is also clutch, as he homered in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game 2-2. P.J. Walters continued his scoreless streak with 4 shutout innings. Walters hides the ball really well and shows superb command. Mark Shorey was another player I was interested in seeing in person. He has a nice stroke but looks uncomfortable in the field. He looks to be a firstbaseman, but he is blocked by Buckman, or a DH. Daryl Jones appeared lost at the plate. James Rappoport and Jaime Landin were two fun players to watch. Both are scrappy players, good with the glove, who seem to do whatever it takes to get on base. Chris Grossman hit a shot off the wall with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to complete the comeback victory. Kenny Maiques signed autographs for quite awhile after the game. I asked him how many saves he had and he knew without hesitation. I asked if that led the MWL and he gave a quick “No, the guy on Beloit has like 16…I don’t know how he has that many already.”
So it was a great trip, 4 stadiums in 3 days. We started out watching the Gateway Grizzlies, a rainout in Peoria, and then a beautiful Sunday in Clinton and then on to Davenport. I will have pictures of the stadiums posted shortly (shortly could be this week, but it will probably be longer).
Thanks to my wife, Christina, and my kids, Anna and Zac for going and supporting my love for this game.
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