Friday, June 23, 2017

Busy Day/Dull Night-NBA Draft

After a busy day spent running from work to home to auto service centers multiple times and the same looming for tomorrow,I expected the NBA Draft to hold my attention.
The Cavaliers didn't have selections in either round one or round two,but all week there had been so many rumors about trades with not only Cleveland being involved,but many others as well-to the point of this being thought as a night that would have impact beyond the drafted players.

Instead,absolutely nothing happened as only one big name connected to the Cavaliers moved as Jimmy (I want to play my entire career in Chicago) Butler was dealt to Minnesota,where he will play for his old coach with Tom Thibodeaux and the evening ended with a tweet from the team that basically talked about being interested,but found nothing exciting enough to pursue.
In other words,for all the bluster and rumors that had players ranging from Butler to Paul George to Carmelo Anthony to even at the draft LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green being chased by the Cavaliers-the draft was more like a one person jog around the neighborhood.
It'll be interesting to see just what the Cavaliers do or maybe even don't,but they have to do something-even if it risks what they currently have.

Meanwhile about the only thing on draft night that really interested me was the drafting of Xavier guard Edmond Sumner by New Orleans in the second round and was then sold for cash considerations to Indiana.
Sumner was the best player on Xavier last season and the late season slump by the Musketeers was directed caused by the torn ACL suffered by Sumner in late January against St,John's.
Sumner was averaging 15 points and five assists a game before the injury and Sumner was thought to have been a possible first round pick,if he would choose to be eligible following his sophomore year.
The knee injury threw a crinkle into that,but even with the injury,Sumner still made into the second round,although I think he might have been better off returning to Xavier and proving the knee was solid.
Sumner is more of a slasher than a pure shooter,but he has excellent physical tools and assuming that his knee heals properly,could have a solid NBA career...



I might be back with a Devils draft preview,but if not,the next post will be about the results of the first pick in the NHL draft.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Devils lose Jon Merrill in Expansion Draft

The New Jersey Devils finally found out what player they were losing off their roster in the expansion draft to the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights and it was one that had long been a whipping boy at the home office.

The now former Devil selected was defenseman Jon Merrill,who was a second round pick by the Devils in 2010 and never seemed to reach the level that he was touted to have the potential to be.
Merrill was selected with the then-Atlanta Thrashers second round pick obtained in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade (New Jersey had traded their first round to the Thrashers) from Michigan and was thought to be a first round talent that had slid to the second due to some off ice problems.
The Devils never had those types of issues with Merrill,what they did have issues with was uneven play and a player that was just disappointing

Merrill couldn't stay healthy (Never played more than 66 games),wasn't nearly the offensive player he was reported to be (Never scored more than 2 goals in a season) and made lots of silly mistakes on defense (never better than a -9 over the last three seasons),which is kinda a bad thing when you are a defenseman.
For a sizable blueliner ( 6'3 205),he seemed to shy away from contact,which could have been lived with had Merrill been a speedier offensive minded player,which he wasn't either.

Now,I'm not saying Jon Merrill was a huge loss,but the Devils had to be hoping that Vegas would have picked the big contract of Mike Cammalleri (Cammy would have helped the Knights in year one as long as he could have stayed healthy) or maybe even Ben Lovejoy (who in his one year with the Devils,might have been worse than Merrill at a higher cost),but I cannot imagine anyone with Devils interest being disappointed in losing Merrill.
I'm not sure which player was unprotected (Merrill or Lovejoy most likely) that would have been protected before the trade for Mirco Mueller,but both would have had advantages for being exposed.
Merrill's notes from above with Lovejoy being overpaid for two more years made losing either fine with me.

I won't miss Jon Merrill and if you had asked me about my concern on the expansion draft on the day Las Vegas was approved for entry,but told me the Devils were going to lose their seventh defenseman-I would have taken that then and there!
Not a loss that is going to severely damage the future of the franchise at all..
Back later with any Cavaliers news with the NBA draft tonight and the Devils leading off the NHL draft on Friday...



Cleaning out the inbox

Time for the remainder of the inbox cleaning and I'll start with an interview from the website Pray for Surf with Mark A.Moore.
Moore wrote the most comprehensive,well,record of Jan and Dean yet-The Jan and Dean Record.
The book looks massive in detail and in size and might be a must for every Jan and Dean fan,if not for one thing-the expense.
The book is 29.95 on Kindle and 75.00 in paperback form!
That's a bit rich for my blood,but sample the interview,that alone is massive in scope...

Some of you might have noticed a new addition
to the links column in Lipstick and Nachos-a new site started by my friend Samantha Blinn.
Now,I'm not even a remotely knowledgeable person on makeup,but I've been known to sample nachos on occasion,most notably the large nachos that Doug Hopkins and I had at the Kast Hotel in Williamsport PA!
Samantha promises Nacho recipes and makeup tips,so if either interests you,check her out on the links column!

The cable network Decades shows older television shows and a recent page on their website listed eleven little known facts about the Wild Wild West.
As I am a long time fan,I knew most of these,but there was one fact that I didn't know-can you guess which one that was???

The Toronto Sun writes of SCTV and its history in a long article on the lost TV "Network".
Several of the stars of the Canadian comedy classic are talked with in the article,but it discusses more than just the actual show as it looks at the influence it had on even today's comedians and comedy television...

Denise Nicarry sends this on the accidental creation of the world's hottest chili pepper.
The Dragon's Breath measures at 2.48 million on the Scoville Scale beating the Carolina Reaper's 2.2.million.
The Dragon's Breath is reported to be too hot to eat as an attempt to eat it,could burn so badly that it could close your airways and asphyxiate you.
Now,that's hot!!!

I'm sure if you have ever ordered a Papa John's pizza (Of the chain pizza places,I like them best),you might wonder why it includes a pepperoncini pepper with every order.
Thrillist tells the story of how it came about,why they continue to keep the pepper and what happened when they tested removing the pepper from their pizza boxes.

Adidas takes over the uniforms for the NHL for the 2017-18 season and as most of these new contracts involved do-they'll be bringing changes.
We'll see what they are soon,but here is a link looking at the lineage of the Devils franchise going back to their days as the Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies.
I've always liked the idea of a yearly heritage night that alternates between wearing the Scouts and Rockies jersey or even using those logos with the Devils colors,if someone wants to see the home team in the same colors.
Kansas City never made the playoffs and Colorado only did once (losing in the long ago best of three series in two straight games),but I still feel that those teams and towns are part of the Devils heritage and occasionally should be showcased as such.





Tuesday, June 20, 2017

David Griffin leaves Cavaliers-Jump or Pushed?

The Cleveland Cavaliers have issues  with prosperity as the team and general manager David Griffin could not come to an agreement on a new contract,so effective at the end of the month,Griffin will vacate the office and the team will be hiring another general manager.

The reports appear to lean towards Chauncey Billups as the new leader of the front office,which makes all the sense in the world because he played for the Detroit Pistons (Dan Gilbert would much prefer owning the Detroit Pistons than the Cavaliers,so former Pistons can always find a job in Cleveland),he has no experience and is a television voice,so that makes him more than qualified to replace Griffin,who helped the team to a world championship and two finals appearances.

It appears that despite some canny moves by Griffin (turning Dion Waiters into several useful pieces),making a good move for the present,if not the future (Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins) and some moves that didn't work as well as hoped (Kyle Korver and Deron Williams),David Griffin did a solid job for the Cavaliers and one that deserved an extension.
That extension was especially deserved to be given after several teams asked about Griffin for their teams and had permission to talk to him denied.
Considering that,the issues between Dan Gilbert and David Griffin had to have happened since those openings and the old standby- "different direction" appears to be the issues here.

Now,the questions begin-what is Dan Gilbert's different direction?
Is Gilbert really dumb enough to place the future of his franchise with LeBron James one season away from free agency in the hands of untested TV talking head Chauncey Billups?
Is this vision to go all in for a title for one season or the beginning of his future without LeBron?
I'm not sure what that entails,but I will say that David Griffin caught a raw deal.
He wasn't perfect,but no general managers are and he hit on more than he missed.
Is this the beginning of the end of the Cavaliers contention or is it simply the beginning of an entirely new run of Cleveland basketball?
We will see.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Father's Day in Harrisburg

I had a long and great Father's Day that saw a visit from Ryan,a trip for the lovely Cherie and I to Harrisburg for brunch with Fred and Linda Landucci,an ice cream cake from Rachel and a meeting with a should be HOF member that I'll never forget.

I've never been a person that worried much about Father's Day.
It's nice to have the children acknowledge me,but I look at that as part of the job of being a parent.
However,on this one,Fred Landucci graciously invited Cherie and I to Harrisburg for a brunch on the field before the Senators game against the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

I worked all night and had to leave as soon as I got home from work,if I was going to arrive on time,so it was a bit tiring to be out in the sun on a very hot day.
It really wasn't so bad when the cloud cover was available,but when it wasn't-it was blazin'!
The Senators only sold a handful of these packages for brunch and they placed the tables on the infield,so we were eating on the field.
Harrisburg has a terrific suite area for eating that Fred took us to last year that is prepared by tremendous chefs and they did great work again for this event.
They had a steak that just melted in my mouth and the other items (especially the potatoes) were terrific and Harrisburg's food in that area ranks at the top of food on the local minor league circuit!
A great event and thanks again to Fred and his wife Linda for hosting us!

We had about 45 minutes to kill before the gates open,but the Senators graciously allowed the people from the brunch to stay in the stadium,if they desired.
While I am sure that sounds like a small thing,it isn't.
Most teams would have rushed you out of the stadium and dumped you in line with the other fans after they collected your money.
Harrisburg didn't do that and on a hot day,it was very much appreciated.

As we sat underneath the stadium in the cool,we noticed Giants roving instructor Kirt Manwaring walking by.
Manwaring works with the catchers and I have him for my two Score sets.
Manwaring was nice enough,but he lives fairly closely (Elmira NY was on his baseball card) and when Richmond comes to Harrisburg,the usual rover is Manwaring for that reason I suppose.
I thought to myself "Manwaring again.why can't we ever have one of the other rovers".
This is mainly because the Giants have some pretty good rovers with not only cards in the sets that I collect,but excellent big league careers such as Lee Smith,Vince Coleman and Ellis Burks.
Because I try (not always possible) to see Richmond,I always carry cards with me for the Giants rovers,but it's almost always Kirt Manwaring.

Well,on this day,whether it was divine intervention,blind luck or karma-about five minutes after that thought crossed my mind,Lee Smith came out of the locker room,texting on his phone and sat down at the table beside us.
I hate to ever interrupt people when they are on the phone,so I didn't go straight over to him,but I did scurry through the box for the three Smith's that I needed for my set.
With my luck,Lee Smith was in BOTH traded sets for 1988 and 1990,so I needed four cards for him (It was actually three,as I had forgotten that Ed Loyd in Richmond had gotten the 1990 Smith with the Red Sox signed for me a while back) and that's not always an easy get with former major leaguers,let alone one with Lee Smith's resume".
Fred and I waited quietly for a few minutes and then Linda looked over at Smith and said "thanks for signing".
A puzzled Smith looked at her oddly as he hadn't signed a thing,but it did break the ice enough for Fred and I to walk over and ask him to sign-so thank you,Linda for that!!

What followed was arguably the best interaction that I've ever had with someone since I started this as Lee Smith talked to Fred and I for 15 minutes and signed everything that we had.
We talked about his days as a Cub,pitching at Wrigley Field and most of all the Hall of Fame and what he thinks has been held against him by the voters along with his feelings on the Veterans Committee,where his candidacy will be considered next.
Lee Smith has the third most saves of all time (A few players below him have less) and was the last of the old school closers that pitched more than one inning to get a save.
Smith should be in on those facts alone...
It was fifteen minutes of old school baseball talk with as Fred called him "a classic baseball man".
It's times like these that make me glad that I do this often crazy hobby...

I then watched warmups for Richmond and got some guys finished with just two other graphers.
I gained a nice addition in former major league outfielder Jerry Sands,who signed three cards and got to talk for a while with one of my favorites in Richmond pitching coach Steve Kline,who not only is a good guy,but one of the most hilarious people around!
The player that I had the most cards was Sam Coonrod,a pitcher in the system that I just never seemed to get in various visits.
Coonrod never visited Hagerstown with Augusta,wasn't with Richmond on one of their Harrisburg visits last season and I couldn't make the other.
Add to the stack of team set cards that he is in two Bowman sets and I had plenty.
I was hoping for two-his SAL prospect card with Augusta and his 2016 Richmond card.
I settled for one...

I begged off early with the heat and the 90 minute drive home after working all night,I was worn out.
It was in the second inning and I knew if I had stuck around longer,I would have stuck it out and gotten the rest of my stuff signed.
Instead,I did the smart thing for once and took Cherie home.
Once I got there,Ryan had written me and said he wanted to see me for Father's Day,which was very nice.
As I waited for Ryan,Rachel gave me an ice cream cake for Fathers Day,which was very nice.
I'm eating better (38 pounds down!),so I had just a small piece before Ryan's visit,which was very nice and welcomed.
Ryan was nice enough to get me an Amazon gift card,which I'm sure will be used someday soon!!
Finally,I went to bed,collapsing and sleeping from 7pm to 8am (with one small break in between) to complete a long day..

A better Father's Day,I cannot remember and one more thanks to Fred and Linda Landucci for the brunch,my children for visiting with me,the lovely Cherie for coming with me to Harrisburg and Lee Smith for talking baseball.

The schedule looks like this (breaking news permitting)-another cleaning out the inbox,the NBA draft (Cleveland doesn't have a pick unless they make a deal Hmmmm),the Devils picking first in the NHL draft and something else from the archives of my past....

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Boxing Challenge :More Controversy between Ward and Kovalev

In boxing,nothing ever comes easy and once again,things come with an asterisk as Andre Ward retained his WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight titles with a controversial eighth round stoppage of Sergey Kovalev in Las Vegas.

I had Kovalev slightly ahead after seven rounds (4-3),but Ward did make Kovalev wobble with a right hand and did have him in some trouble before drilling him with three low blows that sent Kovalev into the ropes,crouching in pain.
This is where referee Tony Weeks blew it as he could have either called the low blows (he later claimed he didn't see them,despite replays showing he was right in front of them) which would have given Kovalev time to recover or since Kovalev was on the ropes,could have given Ward a knockdown and began to count Kovalev down.
Instead,Weeks weakly jumped in and ended the fight with another questionable win for Andre Ward.
Ward did seem to be landing a lot of low blows in the final sequence and Kovalev was seeming to get tired,so Ward might have ended the fight anyway,but the ending still was unsatisfying and to me,not all that impressive for a knockout win.
I'm not sure where either go from here after this fight.
Ward talked about moving to cruiserweight (I don't see how,none of the fighters there are big money fights yet),Adonis Stevenson is unlikely to fight him and the other promising contenders aren't quite ready for him yet.
Kovalev will need a little rebuilding,but could revitalize himself quickly with wins over a contender or two,so he might not be finished quite yet.
Ramon Malpica and I each picked Kovalev,so no points on this one.

The undercard saw some controversy as well as Guillermo Rigondeaux retained his WBA junior featherweight title with a first round knockout of Moises Flores.
At the end of a dull first round,the bell rang and Rigondeaux clocked Flores with a left,sending Flores to the mat,where he put on an acting routine.
The punch was after the bell,but the Flores theatrical writhing routine caused him to be counted out and ended the fight.
The Nevada commission could look at the fight and change it a to a no-decision,if they feel the punch landed after the bell,which it did.
Ramon and I each added one point for the Rigondeaux win.

Light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol blew through former contender Cedric Agnew in four rounds and impressed me with a relentless attack that floored Agnew in the first along pounding over the rest of the fight.
Bivol looks to be one of many young contenders that will make the light heavyweights fun to watch in the future-other than Andre Ward that is...
I earned three points (win,KO and bonus point for the round),while Ramon earned two points.

In Germany,Tyron Zeuge retained his minor super middleweight title with a unanimous decision victory over England's Paul Smith.
Ramon and I each earned two points for the Zeuge victory.
The challenge now stands at 76-71 in my favor.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Devils trade with Sharks-acquire Mirco Mueller

The New Jersey Devils were expected to have a chance to add a player through a trade before the expansion draft for the new Las Vegas Golden Knights,but as the deadline neared,the Devils looked to be possibly skipping on the opportunity.

However,in the final hour before the roster freeze,Devils general manager Ray Shero swung a deal with the San Jose Sharks to acquire defenseman Mirco Mueller and hopefully add a solid player to a defensive corps that could use one.
Shero sent the Sharks a second rounder (Boston's originally from the Lee Stempaniak trade) and a fourth rounder (Nashville's from the Vernon Fiddler deal) in return for Mueller and a fifth round pick.

The 22 year old Mueller was a first round pick in the 2013 draft (18th) and has spent most of the last two seasons in the AHL with the Sharks farm team in San Jose (the Sharks AHL team also plays in San Jose).
Mueller played 39 games for the Sharks in 2014-15,but in the combined two seasons since has seen action in only 15 games combined for the teal and black.
Mueller scored one goal with one assist last season in a four game mini appearance with the Sharks.
The Swiss product is a sizable blueliner at 6'3 and 205 pounds and EliteProspects liked him going into the draft as a skater and puck mover,although it did wonder about his physicality.
The issue with Mueller seems to be this-Why such much time away from the big league club?
Was it that the Sharks (who have a pretty good defensive group) just didn't want to use a young player at the seventh defenseman slot (which sits much of the time) or was there something about Mueller's play that had moved him out of the plans for the Sharks?
That I cannot answer,but considering the age of Mueller,I'm ok with this-mainly because the Devils didn't trade for Mueller in order to not protect him in next week's expansion draft and it shoves a player off the protected list that would have been protected without the trade-most likely Ben Lovejoy or Jon Merrill,either of which I would trade for an autographed photo of Kirk Muller.

It'll be interesting to see if this tips the Devils hand on the first overall pick six days from now.
The two players that the Devils are considering are both centers in Canadian Nolan Patrick and Switzerland's Nico Hischier and I plan on a post comparing the two of them one day next week,but considering even minor points,could this trade for a countryman mean the Devils are leaning Hischier or is it strictly a hockey trade and just a coincidence?

Back later tonight with thoughts on the rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev...


A sad goodbye

It's a somewhat sad day here as I've decided to end the podcast for now.

The main reason is financial,but it's more along the lines of not being motivated to do the show alone and not having the time right now to recruit guests for the show.
Also,I'm having fun here right now as far as writing and making the time can sometime be difficult for this-let alone both.

The money layout at this time of year hits the worst spot for me and it's been a self-fulfilling prophecy since losing sponsorship-You can't get sponsorship without doing shows and I didn't want to do shows with paying out of my pocket right now.

I'm sad because I did enjoy doing the show and I also got to talk and meet so many really cool and smart people as well,but I may look at this as a brief interruption.
If I can find a free host or even a cheaper cost host,I'd like to continue to do the show,but we'll have to see if that is feasible or not...

If there was something that you'd like to archive,I'd get to it quickly because I think Podbean will take everything down on the 21st,which is next week.

Before I go,I'd like to thank the terrific guests,which was the main thing that I look back and enjoyed most and thank the listeners for listening and all the feedback that I received from you.
It always is so meaningful to hear when people enjoy the things that I do and I really appreciated all the times that you did listen.
I'm a lousy self-promoter and I just don't feel right about beating people over the head with "advertising" for this and /or the podcast,so those of you that listened,did so because you wanted to and that meant more than you could know.

Thanks again and keep the faith,one never knows when this could pop up again...

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge returns this weekend with the rematch of Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev for three of the four light heavyweight titles..
I lead the challenge 70-66,but Ramon Malpica has been cutting into my lead of late...

I scored Kovalev a clear 116-111 winner in their first fight and I think that a motivated Kovalev should be a scary thing for Andre Ward.
If you read my work or listen to Fightheads,you should know my respect for Andre Ward the fighter,my lack of respect for his attitude and my extreme dislike for his fighting style,so I am rooting for Kovalev (Love the Marvin Hagler style throwback hat)but this should be a very close fight that once again could swing on the eyes of the judges...
The undercard features the brilliant but dull Guillermo Rigondeaux defending his WBA junior featherweight title against mandatory contender Moises Flores and talented light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol against former Kovalev victim Cedric Agnew.
The other challenge bout is Tyron Zeuge defending his minor 168 pound title against Paul Smith in Germany.

WBA/IBF/WBO Light Heavyweight Titles.12 rds
Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev
R.L:Kovalev Unanimous Decision
TRS:Kovalev Split Decision

WBA Junior Featherweight Title.12 rds
Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Moises Flores
Both:Rigondeaux Unanimous Decision

Light Heavyweights.10 rds
Dmitry Bivol vs Cedric Agnew
R.L: Bivol KO 6
TRS:Bivol KO 4

Super Middleweights.12 rds
Tyron Zeuge vs Paul Smith
Both:Zeuge Unanimous Decision

Friday, June 16, 2017

Road Trip:Kinston/Down East

The final leg of the trip came as we drove to Kinston,North Carolina.
When baseball returned to Kinston for the 2017 season,Kinston supplanted Hagerstown as the smallest full season city in the minor leagues and there isn't an easy way to reach it.

Lots of two lane roads and rural driving in order to reach Grainger Stadium,which as soon as you walk in,Grainger brings one place to mind-good ol' Hagerstown Municipal.
Grainger isn't quite as old as the Muni,(1949 to the Muni's 1930),but there are lots of similarities-covered grandstand,lots of backless metal bleachers and a concourse that gives you a view of the back of the grandstand as you wait for food and beverages.
The difference though is the playing surface,which is far superior to Hagerstown in both pleasing to the fan and liked by the players.

Doug wanted to do the visiting Wilmington Blue Rocks,while the Landucci's and I went down the third base line to do the homestanding Down East Wood Ducks,the new name for the new team in town-an affiliate of and owned by the Texas Rangers.
I had finished almost of the Wood Ducks when they visited Frederick,so I had just a few stragglers and we had two Starting Lineups figures for Down East manager Howard Johnson.
Johnson had been a little overwhelmed in Frederick,but in Kinston,there was just two other graphers,so Johnson was very friendly in signing the figures.
I asked him about Frederick and the amount of graphers there and he laughed a bit and said "yeah,there were a lot of them out there".

By this time,the heat and the constant walking on concrete had begun to take its toll on my back,so I wasn't quite perfect,but the others were ready to take off soon as well.
Between some being hungry,some tired and another that had to do the driving home,we didn't stay long at Grainger with the exception of watching a few batters and hitting the small and snug team shop for some souvenirs,although I didn't buy any...

We left the stadium and drove to a favorite of Doug's Kings Barbecue,a few minutes away.
I still wasn't hungry though and I settled for a large drink,although Doug gave me a little bit of the meat that fell off his massive sandwich to try the food.
It was quite good and I wished that I was a little hungry!
The ride home was long,but we had lots of fun,talking sports,graphing and of course the trip itself.

I wouldn't be against a return to Grainger Stadium,it did remind me a lot of Hagerstown-IF Hagerstown spent more money to try to upgrade and maintain the facility in a similar manner as Kinston does!
And I'd like to spend more time there next time,but it made sense to leave all things considered.

Thanks to all my friends for going on the trip with me and all the fun things we did as well as knocking a lot of signatures out.
Looking forward to the next trip in July with stops in Augusta GA,Kannapolis and Winston-Salem NC along with Danville VA!!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Road Trip;Carolina/Zebulon

The road trip continued on day two as we visited the small town of Zebulon,NC to visit the home of the Carolina Mudcats.

After an excellent breakfast at McLean's Old Time Cafe (This meal would be the only thing that I would eat all day) and a waitress that told me she was from Barberton,Ohio (we each agreed that trying to explain to others about Barberton Chicken is a futile exercise unless they have tried it),we moved on and entered Five County Stadium.
Five County Stadium is located in Zebulon,a tiny town,for one reason-Raleigh NC wanted a team and was more than large enough to handle the original Mudcats (AA),but was well within the 50 miles radius that an existing team can block a team to moving within.so the Durham Bulls could block any team from moving to Raleigh,so the trick was finding some place as close to Raleigh as possible without the Bulls being able to block the incoming team-therefore little Zebulon had itself a AA (for 11 years) team and then the High A Carolina League franchise.
The stadium looks like a late 80's-early 90's stadium-lots of concrete and little shade!
The sightlines are good,but you are farther from the field than from newer stadiums.
Still Five County is kept up well and is more than acceptable to watch a game in...

The Mudcats allow graphers to come into the stadium to autograph in far left field (Mudcats) and far right field (Visitors-Winston-Salem Dash on this day),so for a little over two hours,we had the run of the place as the staff prepared the field for the game.
Doug Hopkins and I went to the team store,which the Mudcats graciously opened for us.
I didn't buy much,just two shirts for the ladies at home,but Doug bought plenty.
I walked up a ramp to the upper deck and snapped a picture that included the water tower in the upper left of the photo that was painted like a baseball with the Mudcats written in script.
I was impressed by the way that the Mudcats allowed us to graph and walk around,I wish more teams would allow that.
The only thing is the Mudcats will ask you to leave the stadium 30 minutes before the gates open,which is very reasonable,so that the team knows that everyone in the stadium has a paid admission.
Nothing wrong with that and I'm sure people appreciate the Mudcats friendliness toward their fans.

We worked on Carolina first,mainly because their side was where we came into the stadium and there was a little bit of shade on a hot day from the upper deck.
The heat didn't bother me as much as these huge flies that kept buzzing around and being really annoying.
The left field wall was close enough for us to touch from our position to touch and that gave us an unusual perspective from a stadium viewpoint.
I had gotten all of my major needs from Carolina on the previous day's visit to Buies Creek,but I helped the guys with a few needs and filled in a few stragglers as well.

We weren't sure how much access would be allowed on the visitors side of the stadium and their clubhouse could only be seen from the right field concourse.
We went down a flight of steps and were surprised to have pretty good access as the players for the Dash had to walk across a crushed stone area from a clubhouse that from the outside looked more like an industrial sized garage!

I was able to fill in some Dash (Dashers?) players that I needed such as 2016 Washington number one pick Dane Dunning,who I had talked to in Hagerstown,but my cards were with Derreck, signed three cards for me,Luis Alexander Basabe signed the only card that I had (Chicago obtained Basabe as part of the Chris Sale trade) and we saw former Hagerstown Sun Jake Johansen,who had just been signed by the White Sox,but the player I really needed was catcher Zack Collins on his top 100 card.
Collins was the final top 100 card and obtaining him would give me 8 of 9 top 100 cards for the trip.
However,before Collins came out,it was time to leave the stadium as required by the team.
We had about a half hour to kill,so we tried to stay as cool as possible before broiling!

When we went into the stadium,the employees were giving out sample packets of something called "Bull Frog" which is sun screen of some type.
Considering it's summer time,I'm surprised more teams don't give away similar items before games!
We walked by a former Hagerstown employee and when Derreck tried to say hello,this fellow wouldn't even speak to him!
Sometimes,I wonder about people...

We went straight to the area from before to try to work on more Winston-Salem players including Zach Collins,who we all needed on various items.
As we stood there,a player walked over and asked if we "had anything for me".
I didn't recognize him and said that I didn't,he then showed his glove with #55 stitched on it.
It was White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon,who was there on an unannounced rehab assignment!
Rodon had been through the Carolina League,but not Frederick,so I had never seen him before
Rodon signed a few things for other graphers,but I had nothing for him.
Too bad for me as Rodon did have a 2015 top 100 that was residing back in Hagerstown.
Carlos did talk to us for more than five minutes and told me to send the card to him in Chicago once he returned and he'd sign it.
You never know on these things,but Rodon is reported to be a great signer through the mail,so I'll be willing to give a shot!

As I steamed over a lost opportunity,finally Zack Collins came out and I was lucky to get the top 100 taken care of,so it was a productive stop in Zebulon after all.
Collins isn't exactly what you would call overly friendly or a willing signer,but I cannot complain-I needed one and he signed it,anything else from me would sound ungrateful.
We couldn't stay much longer in Zebulon as Kinston loomed as our final stop an hour away,so we had to move quickly if we were to make that game!
We said goodbye to Derreck and Brandon,who were skipping Kinston as Derreck had to get to work that night and prepared to leave..

Next time,I'll finish the trip with our stop in Kinston NC and Grainger Stadium.
Keep in mind,we'll have the Devils draft pick Friday night and the boxing challenge coming with Ward-Kovalev II on Saturday night...



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Baseball Draft Updates

Now that the basketball season is over and I get revved up for the beginning of my concern for hockey (even though it just ended,my interest ended when the Devils skated off the ice for the last time in April) with baseball in full throttle-it's time for the baseball draft.

Some seasons I pay more attention to the baseball draft than others.
This was one of those that I didn't pay as much attention as far as research with the Cavaliers advancing,trips etc.
I pay huge attention to the NFL draft.a decent amount of attention to the NBA,as I said varying attention to the MLB Draft (that picks up once the players sign) and really just the first round of the NHL draft as I just don't know as much about those players.

The Pirates selected first of the three teams at the 12 slot and gambled on a talented player that is widely loved by scouts,but one regarded as one that that ranks as one of the more difficult players to sign in Tomball Texas righthander Shane Baz.
Baz throws in the middle 90's and is regarded to have a plus slider.
Baz has a commitment to TCU,which is said to be a strong one,so the Pirates will have to open their checkbook to land Baz.


The Giants were next at 19 and took what is regarded as a very intriguing selection in Puerto Rican outfielder Heliot Ramos.
Ramos is the exact type of player that the Giants traditionally NEVER draft-very toolsy and one that needs lots of refinement.
Ramos is projected as having plus power and speed and a slightly above average arm,yet many observers looked at Ramos being a slight overdraft.
Some don't like his swing and think he needs be more consistent and others wonder if he plays a corner outfielder or center.
San Francisco has often a different draft board than most,so their liking a player more than many others doesn't come as a surprise to me-the surprise is the type of player.
Ramos has a college commitment to Florida International,but is expected to sign...


The Indians sent their first rounder to the Blue Jays as compensation for signing free agent Edwin Encarnacion over the winter,so their first selection came in round two with New York outfielder Quentin Holmes at number 64.
Holmes is the highest drafted player from New York City in 21 years and was rated as the fastest player in the draft.
At 6'1 Holmes is projected to fill out and add more power,but the Indians will have a battle to buy Holmes out from his commitment to Mississippi State.


Now that we have some things taken care of,I hope to take care of the trips to Carolina and Kinston in the next day or two before I have the Devils draft on Friday.
I may have a short preview,but I'll definitely have a Friday post on the player that the Devils tab with the first pick.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cavaliers season ends in Oakland-drop series in five

The most likely event in sports finished in Oakland as the Golden State Warriors finished the championship reign of the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120 in game five of the NBA Finals.
LeBron James led Cleveland with 41 points,Kyrie Irving and J.R.Smith each provided support with 26 and 25 points respectively.
I won't be doing too many bullet points on the actual game,but I'll be adding comments on other issues in the league and team as well.

Swashbucklings

1) The play that most Cavaliers fans will remember this game for -the slam dunk by LeBron James over Kevin Durant that saw Durant clearly foul James for no call.
Had that call been made,it would have been the third foul on Durant,he likely would have sat the rest of the half and the Warriors wouldn't had his major role in the late first half run that saw the Warriors outscore Cleveland by 15 in the second quarter..

2) J.R.Smith played well and Tristan Thompson showed up with a strong game,but that wasn't enough to offset Kevin Love's foul plagued six points.
Love's 2 for 8 from the field was a recipe for a loss against a team of the Warriors level..

3) The role players that have been brought in just haven't done their job.
Deron Williams looks to be a spent shell of a player,Kyle Korver has one skill and when it was needed most,he came up short and it might be time for Richard Jefferson to ride into the promised sunset.
I know there are plenty of salary cap and luxury tax issues for the team and it's going to be tough,,but if you want another shot at the Warriors and have a chance to win it,somethings will need to be addressed.

4) Not sure why Derrick Williams and Channing Frye didn't get off the bench.
Especially Williams,who would have matched up well in the up and down game,I think and Frye would have added an outside shooting dynamic that the Cavaliers couldn't have hurt to try things all things considered.

5) The near fight between Tristan Thompson and David West (a long time favorite of mine going back to Xavier) was interesting,but I liked that Thompson stepped in as an enforcer since the issue was between West and Kyrie Irving.
Despite the AAU buddy buddy style that has taken over in the league,there is still room for toughness..

6) Who to add?
Of available players that are free agents,the two dream additions would be Paul George or Chris Paul.
Either would be a talent upgrade,the problem is affording them under the cap.
It's likely to get either (Or another difference maker),it would cost Kevin Love more than likely in a sign and trade deal.
Does that change the dynamic up enough to challenge the Warriors?
Or does it just create another problem?
I'm just not sure..

7) It's still a good season,the Cavaliers just lost to a team that was just a little more talented,which says a lot.
Cleveland will rue game three's loss for a long time as that would have changed the series,but there is no shame in this series loss.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cleaning out the inbox

My intent was for tonight was to do the latest road trip stop with the Carolina Mudcats,but I forgot to transfer the pictures to the computer from that stop,so look for that soon,maybe Tuesday after game five of Cavaliers-Warriors...
SO,since I dropped the ball on that,I can get the lysol out and start cleaning the inbox a bit instead.

Let's get started with a SABR baseball cards blog entry on a long time favorite of mine and maybe the most polarizing figure in baseball broadcasting-Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson.
Hawk,who whether you like him or not, is definitely the
biggest homer in the booth anywhere and certainly is a memorable person from the first time that you hear a game that he does.
The SABR article though looks at Hawk's playing career through his various Topps cards and it's neat to see the evolution through a career and hear some stories about why and how some cards look the way they do.
The 1970 Topps set isn't my favorite set,but it is my favorite Hawk card-it is one of two cards of him as an Indian,he wears a hat that I own (one of my two favorite non-Wahoo Indians hats) and I love the stadium (Yankee Stadium in this case) shots in the background!

More Hawk as the White Sox saluted Harrelson with a stadium giveaway that I want in the Hawk talking alarm clock!
The clock can wake you with one of various Hawk sayings and stuff like that are home runs to me!
Kudos to the White Sox for the clock,which was based on the Milwaukee Brewers doing a Bob Uecker clock of the same style last year...

The Hardball Times writes of a seven day offensive run by Frank Howard of the Washington Senators in 1968.
The article discusses Howard's career as a Dodger,but mainly looks at his time in Washington with the Senators,in which with the exception a surprising 1969,Howard was about the only thing to get excited about for a bad franchise that was nearing the end of its time in Washington.
It also writes of the powerful long balls that Howard hit and the three white seats that remain in RFK stadium to this day that were commemorated for Howard's blasts into the upper deck.

I've written before about my fondness for mid-major basketball and with Xavier moving up to the Big East a few years and arguably passing metro rival Cincinnati on the food chain,my main mid-major school was gone.
Wichita State under Gregg Marshall was their replacement,but with the Shockers move to the American Athletic Conference,which in basketball is not quite top notch,but above the mid-major level and leaving the Missouri Valley conference,the MVC needed a replacement and found it in Valparaiso.
Valpo had been the best program in the Horizon League (especially since Butler had left) for years and like Wichita State climbing the conference ladder up a notch with the AAC,Valpo is doing the same with its move to the MVC.
It's part of the business of college sports today-understandable.but sometimes at the cost of some of what makes college sports so great.
Mid-Major Madness writes about the Crusaders move here and the Wichita Eagle discusses it here in what will likely be one of the final articles for that paper on the MVC with the Wichita State departure of the league effective in the fall.

Meanwhile,the AAC is beginning to tout itself as the conference attempting to push its way into prominence and turn the "Power 5"conferences into the "Power 6" and this ESPN article talks about the AAC churning out coaches for the higher level in football.
The point is made when you look at Tom Herman (leaving Houston for Texas),Justin Fuente (Memphis for Virginia Tech) and Willie Taggart (South Florida for Oregon) that the AAC truly is a
a league that prepares coaches for the power five jobs and even if I'm not sure that the AAC should make the five a six,the league has some really good programs and makes for many fun fall evenings watching their teams go at it...

Steve Kim at UCNLive writes about the lack of buzz over Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev II and the frustrations by Main Events (promoter of Kovalev) with the promotion of Roc Nation (promoter of Ward) and their questionable promoting of the rematch.
Ward's questionable decision win in November meant the contracted rematch would be promoted by Roc Nation-a "promotion" that has been a disaster in their time in the boxing business.
Roc Nation hasn't pushing the fight,there is next to no excitement for a fight that should have it amid rumors that this will be the final event before Roc Nation boxing folds its tent and goes away as the latest "money mark" to think that promoting boxing is easy and leaves after losing lots of money to come to the realization that boxing isn't like any other business venture.

We wrap with the Cleveland Plain Dealer looking at two players with plenty in common-Robert Griffin and Johnny Manziel.
Two stars at Texas colleges,Heisman winners,first round draft picks,spread offense runners and disappointments with the Cleveland Browns,both players say they want to play in the NFL again,but no one has come calling as of this writing.
Should either of the two decide to try Canada and the CFL-their home would be in Hamilton as a Tiger-Cat as Hamilton holds the rights to both Griffin and Manziel.
I'd be interested to see how they would play in the CFL,which does require some mobility from their QB's,but needs a bigger arm than most American fans would think as the throws to the sideline are longer with the wider field.
When you look at Vince Young,who has much in common with the above two ( minus the Heisman,but adding a national title) and his attempt to come back to football with the CFL (Young is with the Saskatchewan Roughriders),it's not so far fetched to some day see either or even both of those players giving Canadian Football a shot...


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Adam West,Batman and me

Adam West passed away today at the age of 88.
West was,of course,most famous for his 1966 portrayal of Batman,but he had become notable in recent years for his voice-over work on Family Guy as himself as "mayor" of the fictional town of Quahog.

I've written before about the importance of those 1960's shows that were in syndication to a kid living in a rural area like me.
The three most important to me were The Wild Wild West (although that was shown less and less due to the "violent" content in the feel good 70's) and as I noted in the past-Batman and Star Trek.
Batman-the television show was played for camp and it succeeded,mostly because the characters played it so straight that kids didn't take it for comedy and yet adults could enjoy it for the hidden meanings and between the lines reading.

There were several architects for the success of Batman,but for all the writing,guest stars and gimmicks,the main reason for that show still being watched fifty years after its run is Adam West.
West's Batman is the most kid-friendly of the Batman's (Batmen?),but is able to play it in a way that made his Batman perhaps the only one that is always good for a smile or a laugh.
It's the performance of West in a role that could have meant the end of his career (although he took his lumps for a while after the show was canceled) that holds up all of these years later.
His Batman is campy,that's true,but it's played with underlying heart and caring that manages to show that you don't always have to get in the dirt with villains.
West did get stereotyped with Batman,which so many actors then and now are often afraid of being with certain roles,but he managed to make many fans happy during the 70's and 80's and did it in a way that continued to pay his bills and take care of his family-he hit the road doing events like state and county fairs,auto shows and memorabilia shows,where people that wanted to meet West/Batman (with the show still in syndication,there was never a shortage of children wanting to see "Batman" years after it left network television).
This included this memorable visit to Memphis for their local wrestling show for a appearance with/against Jerry "the King" Lawler.
I never knew about this until recently,but notice West being very careful to not use the name Batman during this entire skit,although he does mention other DC characters along with Spiderman,who is a Marvel comic character.
West also voiced Batman quite often in various animation projects,most recently in a DC comics straight to DVD Batman movie with Burt Ward returning to voice Robin as well.


What really makes me smile when watching Batman isn't just the enjoyment of the show or the comic that read for years or even the toys from the show from my childhood,it's the memories.
Remember what I wrote earlier about the importance of television growing up in the country?
Well,I have so many memories of watching Batman and just as many of "playing" Batman as a child,mainly with my brother,but occasionally others.
You see during much of Batman's heyday in my childhood,we lived in an large older house that was formerly a church.
This meant tons of hideaways,crawl spaces and nooks and crannies for kids to find and play in and when playing something like Batman,there were plenty of spots to allow imaginations to run wild.
I remember my mom making Shane and I masks and capes to run in around in and kids being kids with the villains always foiled (it might have helped that they were usually invisible),we were always the winners in the end.

Just as important as the  "live action" was the toys.
The Mego action figures were such an important part of my children with again the line of "World's Greatest Super Heroes" that included both DC and Marvel characters in the same toyline (Imagine that happening today!) along with Star Trek figures as well.
Shane and I had both the Batcave and the U.S.S.Enterprise "play sets" and both showed the wear and tear of constant play.
The Batman figure didn't really look like West (Mainly because if it did,they'd have to pay him!),but it was still "him". as he fought the Joker,Penguin and Riddler (all three of those characters had figures made,but just as with Adam West,none of the three looked like the actors that portrayed them) to victory after victory.


Such good memories from childhood and the stars that were such a big deal from those times are slowly passing away as I age,of which Adam West was always one of those.
I'll wrap up with the most memorable scene to me,which admittedly is a silly one to select.
You couldn't count the amount of times that I quoted "Bruce Wayne" from the scene below with Cherie,who by now knows what's coming and rolls her eyes and of course,my partner in arms-Ryan.
You see,in many ways,Ryan's love of tv and obscure things comes from me from all those times watching them as he grew.
Batman in the 90's and his childhood was just as big of a part then as mine in the 70's and I bet he knows nearly as much about the Batman series as I do.
Combine Batman with 1960's pop stars (again,right up my alley) Chad and Jeremy and you have a memorable episode alone,even before its final scene.
"Every era has its music,art-manner of speech"-
Indeed they do,Mr .West.
Indeed they do.







Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cleaning out the inbox:Passings

I told you the inbox was overflowing.
Overflowing to the point of not just a sports version and a non-sports version,but one just devoted to passings!

Editor's Note:I prepared this last night at work for release today.
In the interim,Adam West passed away-Had I known that then,that would have been the cover story-I plan on doing an Adam West post later tonight from the road office...

We start with one of the great racehorses that I saw during my time as a passionate horse racing fan as Holy Bull was euthanized at the age of 26.
The 1994 Horse of the Year won grade one stakes races from distances from six furlongs to a mile and a quarter and did it in the toughest manner possible-going to the front and staying there.
Holy Bull was the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby,but rebounded with wins against older horses in the Met Mile and his most brilliant performance-a dominant victory against his elders in the Woodward stakes,but his most remembered race was the Travers Stakes at Saratoga,where D.Wayne Lukas,trainer of Preakness/Belmont winner Tabasco Cat entered a "rabbit" to soften Holy Bull up for Tabasco Cat's run.
After a blazing mile,the rabbit (Commanche Trail) was far through,but so was a beaten Tabasco Cat,still the Bull had "Cause for Concern" as said by race caller Tom Durkin as Maryland bred closer Concern (who would win the Breeders Cup Classic later that year in a race absent of Holy Bull) appeared on the horizon and loomed as ready to storm by Holy Bull.
In as a courageous performance as you'll ever see,Holy Bull showed championship grit and held Concern at bay to win by a neck.
Holy Bull would sire a Kentucky Derby winner at stud in Giacomo.


Two Hall of Famers from different sports also passed recently as baseball's Jim Bunning and football's Cortez Kennedy each passed on.

Jim Bunning was elected to the Hall by their Veterans Committee in 1996 and it was long overdue as Bunning's credentials were certainly deserving.
Bunning won 224 games,two no-hitters,one of which was a perfect game in 1964 and was just the second pitcher ever to notch 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts in both the American and National leagues.
Bunning pitched for four teams,but will be remembered by most as a Philadelphia Phillie and for likely being on his way to the 1964 Cy Young award and the NL pennant before a ten game losing streak with Bunning and Chris Short being pitched every other day by manager Gene Mauch in the center of the collapse-a decision debated to this day.
Bunning also was elected to the U.S Senate for two terms from Kentucky from 1998-2010.
Bunning was 85.


Cortez Kennedy passed away at just 48 years old.
Kennedy,who spent his entire career with the Seattle Seahawks was the third overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft and was a dominant defensive tackle after his college career at Miami,Florida.
The 2012 Hall inductee was a rare three down defensive tackle as Kennedy could both plug the running game and yet provide a seldom seen talent as an up the middle pass rush from defensive tackle.
I always thought Kennedy was an underrated player because he spent so many years on Seattle teams that ranged from average to bad in a market that tended to hide great players such as Kennedy and and 2017 HOF inductee Kenny Easley,
Kennedy was the 1992 defensive player of the year with 15 sacks on a 2-14 team that would pick second in the following years draft.
Honestly,I have always thought Kennedy was a better defensive tackle than the fellow Miami Hurricane Warren Sapp,who had a bigger reputation than Kennedy and a much bigger mouth as well...


Another baseball loss as Jimmy Piersall passed away at the age of 87.
Piersall,who won a Gold Glove in the outfield and was selected to two all-star teams with the Red Sox,was more famous for his emotional breakdown in 1952 and the resulting film based on that event "Fear Strikes Out" a 1957 drama starring Anthony Perkins of "Psycho" fame as Piersall.
Piersall was known for colorful behavior (running around in the outfield during at bats),fighting with other players (most famously a brawl with Billy Martin) and his days in the booth with the White Sox announcing games with Harry Caray,which saw him fired for being too critical of the hometown team.

Wrapping up with a thanks to Brad Adams for letting me know of the passing of "Pretty Boy" Doug Somers at the age of 65.
Somers was a undercard wrestler for most of his career for several territories before getting a big run with the AWA when they were a dying territory,yet had arguably their largest national exposure on ESPN with "Playboy" Buddy Rose as the company's tag team champions.
The team of Rose and Somers were the men responsible for making two young wrestlers stars on the national scene-the Rockers or Midnight Rockers as they were known as in the AWA-Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels in a series of really good matches that saw lots of blood (one match in particular on ESPN,brought heat from an unhappy network) and a terrific steel cage match that ended the feud with the Rockers winning the championship belts.





Cavaliers stop History-Win Game Four

The Cleveland Cavaliers zoomed to the lead with 49 point first quarter and never allowed history or the Golden State Warriors to seriously challenge them again as the Cavaliers stayed alive with a 137-116 drubbing in Cleveland in game four of the NBA finals.

LeBron James finished with a triple double (31 pts,10 rebounds,11 assists) with Kyrie Irving supporting James with 40 points and Kevin Love adding 23 more.
Golden State continues to lead the series at 3-1 and the Warriors can end the season Monday in Oakland.


Swashbucklings

1) To say that the Cavaliers were inspired to come out firing early would be a severe understatement.
49 first quarter points-NBA finals record for points in a quarter.
86 first half points-NBA finals record.
That says more than I can type....

2) LeBron James continued to show why he is the best player in the world still-no matter the eventual result of this series,
The overall play of James is what makes him the games top player.
He's not the shooter that Stephen Curry or the pure offensive force of Kevin Durant,but he's good enough at both to dominate on the right night and the other gifts in his game that James possesses far outweighs anything that Curry or Durant does beyond what their strength is.

3) Kyrie Irving's 40 points led the team,but his 15 of 27 was more important (seven three pointers made as well).
Irving is an offensive machine and when he's clicking like he was in this game,few are going to be able to defend him..

4) Loved the ball movement in this game by the Cavaliers.
The ball was kept moving and the Cavaliers didn't fall into the trap of constant isolation of James or Irving going one on five.
Ball movement creates open looks and open looks make complementary players much more likely to contribute..

5) Kevin Love fired in 17 points in the first half and even was a help on defense.
Combine Love with the resurgent games from J.R.Smith and Tristan Thompson and that goes a long way toward a victory.

6) The whole technical foul on Draymond Green/Not on Green thing is the type of thing that makes casual fans,some of which already question NBA basketball being on the level,cringe and wonder.
Put aside whether the technical that was called on Green or not,it looks bad...

7) Nice work by Zaza Pachulia,who will likely miss game five by suspension,for punching Iman Shumpert in the groin.
Add in the resume of Draymond Green and it's no wonder that the Warriors are so disliked.

8) When you are down 3-0 in a series,each game is the most important.
Cleveland came up with a huge effort to avoid the sweep,now they have to have another one in Oakland where they have been blown out twice in the series.
It's unlikely and will take another game of dazzling play to win,but for a second imagine this scenario-If Cleveland wins in Oakland,the series becomes 3-2 and the thoughts of last season has to be on the Warriors mind as they return to Cleveland for game six,where they 'should' have lost both games.
That takes it to game seven and then who knows what happens because then the pressure is all on Golden State,not Cleveland who is playing with house money.
Chances of this happening? Not very good,but there is your road map to a miracle...

Friday, June 9, 2017

Ohio State hires Chris Holtmann

Ohio State took a few days,looked at a few different avenues and floated the obligatory unrealistic big names before getting their new basketball coach from familiar waters as the Buckeyes hired Chris Holtmann from Butler to an eight year contract worth three million dollars a season.

Holtmann led Butler to NCAA tournament bids in all three of his season at the Indianapolis based school,winning over 20 games in all three and according to recruiting services had an excellent incoming class for the Bulldogs,who are no longer a mid-major since being accepted into the basketball based Big East.
Butler was predicted to finish into the middle of the pack in the Big East in 2016-17 and instead notched a second place finish at 25-9 12-6 conference,which made Holtmann a hot candidate for several jobs and was reported to have been in the hunt for the job openings at Tennessee and North Carolina State after the season.
The 45 year old is noted for being a strong recruiter and has been doing some of his best work in the midwest since being at Butler,most notably taking top 100 rated recruit Kyle Young of Massillon,Ohio away from Ohio State,just before Young was scheduled to take an OSU visit.

My thoughts on Holtmann are these-Considering the time constraints (a issue created by Gene Smith's ridiculous decision to wait until June to fire Thad Matta),I'm not sure that Ohio State could have done better unless the huge names would have been brought in.
At 45,Holtmann is young enough to be in Columbus for years,should he do what he seems to be capable and young enough to have the energy that recruiting at a high level takes.
When you hire a coach that is untested at the highest level of the game,there is always a risk and for every coach that moves up successfully,there is one that reaches a plateau and cannot do as well after a move up the ladder,but hiring a coach from Butler is not the risk that it would have been years back.
Some coaches do better as the underdog than they do when they have the resources that so many schools don't have,so we will see if Holtmann can make the best of having the type of program that has the ability to write the check that can cover most amenities and facilities.

I certainly preferred Holtmann to the other coach that was reported to have gotten an offer from Columbus in Creighton's Greg McDermott.
Both would have came from similar sized schools from the same conference,but Holtmann is almost ten years younger and McDermott was unsuccessful at Iowa State,which makes me think that he might be one of those "underdog" type coaches as mentioned above.

Ohio State is certainly not loaded (just nine returning scholarship players)for the upcoming season and they are behind a bit in recruiting for the next class,so Chris Holtmann has his work cut out for him in the immediate future and it'll take a little time to turn the Buckeye basketball program back into a perennial tournament team-we'll see if he's up to the task.

For a very interesting column written by from the Butler/Indianapolis perspective on what the Buckeyes are getting and what the Bulldogs are losing,read this by the Indianapolis Star's Greg Doyel.




Road Trip:Durham

The little over an hour drive from Buies Creek to Durham went by quickly and we would arrive in the early portion of the game between the homestanding Bulls (AAA Tampa Bay) and the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA Boston) to meet Derreck and Brandon.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park is turning 20 this year,but through consistent upkeep and the occasional renovation to keep things fresh,this looks like a ballpark that is no more than a few years old.
Wide concourses and plenty of food choices,the home of the Bulls reminds one of a big league park,which a AAA park should be-a smaller version of a beautiful major league field.
Sorry for the crooked pic,the Kindle is sometimes hard to hold evenly

Entering the stadium with a standing room only ticket as the game was sold out otherwise for a fireworks night,it was a pretty sight walking up the ramp to see the field itself.
The field is one of those that hits you in the face upon arrival and for a 20 year old field is quite amazing.
The famous Bull sign stands tall in left field above a high wall and in right field,there is a large grassy area for lawn seats and a roomy spot down the right field line to eat and drink from one of the many stands.
As noted in the Buies Creek post,I didn't eat,so I'm not sure how the food there was,but there were plenty of choices to choose from.

Since for the most part,I (and Fred too) didn't feel like standing,the two of us with Derreck walked around the park for various pictures and sightlines.
Doug hit the team store,while Michael & Brandon moved around the stadium doing whatever as the game played on.
After that,we sat in the area with tables in right field and watched the remainder of the game from chaired seats.
The heat was starting to get to Fred a bit,so the relaxed setting allowed him to get his bearings a bit along with giving us a seat,which we didn't have otherwise.

After the game,there are many exits,so you don't have the clog of so many parks and we moved to the outside to make our only attempt to graph in Durham.
Derreck,Doug, Brandon and Michael decided to stay in the front of the park and attempt to acquire Pawtucket players,while Fred and I moved to the first base side of the stadium to work on the Bulls.
I had done the Bulls last season in our visit to Syracuse,so I had a few guys already and with AAA,I try to stick to a few targets that I want most rather than do a team set or bring cards for most of the team.
In this case,since I rarely do AAA or Tampa Bay affiliates,I wanted to concentrate on Top 100's-2 from the 2016 set (Blake Snell and Jose DeLeon) and 3 from the new 2017 set (DeLeon,Brett Honeywell and Willy Adames).
I didn't have anything for Casey Gillespie,since I had him sign a card at Syracuse last season,but Fred needed him and Gillespie was far from polite as he stomped by everyone without signing,although as he walked down the street,he did stop once reluctantly before moving away.

The first of the group to come out was Brett Honeywell,who was easy to pick out because of his long hair and cowboy boots,that Fred pointed out that he wore when we saw AA Montgomery last year in Tennessee.
Honeywell was quiet,but nice enough as I added his top 100 to this years set.
Blake Snell was easy to pick out as well because he pitched for my fantasy team before being sent to Durham,so I knew what he looked like.
Snell likes to joke around and mess with you as he signs and was very friendly in chatting while he signed his 2016 100-2 for 2.
Jose DeLeon was the only player that I had two top 100's for and I was hoping to get lucky and have him sign both.
I didn't and chose the 2017 with Tampa over his 2016 with the Dodgers because I saw him with the Rays organization.
Derreck and Brandon are said to be returning to Durham in a few weeks and hopefully,they can get the other DeLeon for me.
Willy Adames was the final 100 and due to help from my traders,I only needed the new one after the 15 and 16 were done in the past.
Adames came out with three other players and started walking,by the time that I realized that it was him,he was halfway down the street-the race was on and for a fat guy and when motivated (remember Chance Sisco?) I can move,so I managed to run Adames down,get him to sign on the move and finish the night strong!
4 for 4 in players,4 for 5 in top 100's,which is an excellent batting average for AAA.
Combined with the three from the Carolina Mudcats,the total for the day was 7 of 8 in cards,7 of 7 in players-Not bad.

The ride back to the hotel was about an hour and we were welcomed with a really bad room in Dunn NC at their Quality Inn.
I never had a bad room with the Choice Hotel chains,but this one was bad and looked like Choice bought a lower level facility (think Super 8 or Econolodge) and just slapped the Quality Inn name on it.
The room had 1970's decor,which wouldn't have been bad,had it not come with 70's bed linen complete with cigarette holes.

On the overall,I liked Durham.
Nice park,graphing pretty good for AAA and Derreck ranked it at the top of his AAA list above Nashville,which we both really liked from last year.
I'd rank it as competitive with Nashville and Columbus,but my gold standard for AAA parks is still Louisville as my top choice.

Good run and a great time,but two more parks and stops ahead,so stay tuned for the next stop in Zebulon,NC for the Carolina Mudcats (cleaning up stragglers) and the Winston-Salem Dash.





Thursday, June 8, 2017

Road Trip:Buies Creek

The latest road trip features several people,several towns,several ballparks and lots of fun.
I'll be splitting each stop into a different post over the next few days,but they might not be consecutive as I have a lot of inbox buildup and one never knows when news breaks...

The first stop was Buies Creek NC,a small town that makes Hagerstown look like Washington DC and best known for being the home of Campbell University,one of the smaller Division I athletic schools in the country.
We left around nine in the morning and arrived at Campbell early in the afternoon with only a stop at Ralph's BBQ,a buffet filled with Southern BBQ (a North Carolina specialty) and other local delicious items.
Ralph's was a excellent stop and if in the area,Ralph's should be on your radar-make sure you use the house sauce,a vinegar sauce with some peppery taste tossed in....
The Landucci's (Fred and Michael) along with Doug Hopkins were in one car with another car with Derreck Chupak and Brandon Diehl skipping Buies Creek and another person as well.
We would meet up with that party in Durham later in the day in part two of our recap.

Jim Perry Stadium was named after the former pitcher,who won 215 games in the bigs,won the 1970 Cy Young award along with being the older brother of Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.
The stadium holds just 1,000 people,which I would guess makes it the smallest stadium in professional baseball,but it was the best stadium available for the Carolina League,which expanded by two teams for the 2017 season and one of them was awarded to Fayetteville,NC,which is building a new stadium for the team.
The problem was that Fayetteville didn't have a facility good enough to play in for two years.
Enter Campbell and Buies Creek with Jim Perry Stadium and in return for the Houston Astros installing new artificial turf and a state of the art scoreboard,the two year deal was struck.
This situation made Buies Creek one of my two "Must Have's" to check off my stadium list with a later trip to Augusta GA,who are in their last year in their current stadium.

We arrived around 3ish for a 6 PM game (better early than late) and we were greeted by a team employee,who welcomed us and allowed us to go and look around the stadium.
I was impressed by the tiny,yet immaculate park and when looking at the new turf,you could actually see the "steam" coming off the turf on a humid,yet not beyond what I would guess as normal humidity for the area.
Very few teams in the minors use turf anymore (the only one that I know of currently using turf are the West Virginia Black Bears,Short Season Pittsburgh),but it makes sense for college teams that have to play games in late February and into March/April and need to get games in that just couldn't be played on a natural surface.
We watched BP and got a few players to sign that came out very early,but mainly just enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of Buies Creek.
There were a few small table with umbrellas and we sat watching the field,enjoying the scenery and company.
Prices on food and drink were super low compared to other places and the other guys took advantage of that fact.
Me? I'm still cutting back,so I took it as easy as possible (actually,I wouldn't eat after Ralph's until the next morning's breakfast),but the prices were right,if you needed a bite or a swig to beat the heat.

The team being such a temporary tenant didn't add a team store,they just used a small trailer for various souvenirs (it brought to mind Pulaski Va and last years visit!) and we did buy a team set.
I hadn't planned on buying one since Buies Creek had already made their one visit this season to Frederick,but since we could work on it while there and it was the first ever team set,I decided to work on one,despite the top prospect in the Astros system,outfielder Kyle Tucker having just been promoted to AA Corpus Christi,a few days before.
Tucker,a powerhitting outfielder,was one of the more impressive prospects that I've seen so far this season and will likely be the Astros most asked about young player as the trade deadline nears and the Astros begin to scan the market for potential upgrades for a playoff run.
Doug Hopkins did almost all of the work on the Astros,although I did call some numbers out to him.
The Astros had far less access than the visiting team,so we had to be much faster in figuring out who was who when they walked by.

As much as I wanted to work on Buies Creek,the visiting Carolina Mudcats (High A Milwaukee) were more important to me.
The Carolina League had once had the best schedule in baseball as you could count on the teams like clockwork-they came to town in order three times and then the season ended.
But as often happens in business,someone decided to fix what wasn't broken and ruined the whole thing.
Carolina hit Frederick twice in the first month and then would not return,so the recent release of the top 100's put all the pressure on me to knock the three players on Carolina out on this trip.
Corey Ray was easy as he's one of the nicest players I've met in years and he signed after finishing batting practice.
Ison Diaz doesn't seem to like signing as much,but he did sign his top 100 and another card.
Diaz hates when his name is mispronounced "I-Son" rather than the correct "E-Son",so I made sure I got that part correct.
Trent Clark was the final Top 100 player to get and I didn't think I was going to get him as when I asked he stepped into the dugout.
I began to shuffle cards and evaluate how best to get another shot,when Michael,who was right beside the dugout,shouted to me "Give me your cards,he's coming back".
Clark was indeed coming back,but there were a few kids in front of me,so I handed the cards off to Michael,who was able to get them to Clark for the signature.

With the most important cards finished,we had to prepare for the run to Durham to meet up with Derreck and Brandon,so we watched an inning or so before the "run TO the Bulls",but I wish we could have spent more time in Buies Creek.
Perhaps we can make a run there next year in the Astros final season there and be able to settle in and enjoy a game.
I liked the cozy park and small community that much and I'm hoping that maybe Buies Creek could land an Appalachian League team down the road for their community as a payback for their help and cooperation in a time of need for the minors.
Thanks to the Astros and their terrific team of employees for extending kindness and help for our visit.
When you consider the work involved for any temporary and imperfect situation,their employees are doing a great job in making things go so smoothly.

Next road trip stop will be our time in Durham,which is the plan unless something breaks in the Ohio State search for a new basketball coach or I decide to clean the overflowing inbox!