Ahh, the life. Surrounded by Father's Day, I am on the verge of attending three games in four days, each at different ballparks but all within driving distance of home.
On Friday night, I joined Rob McMillin, his wife Helen and his Dad at the Angels game in Anaheim. We met Mat Gleason (aka Rev Halofan) and his girlfriend plus Sean Smith and his wife prior to the game at Fresca's, a Mexican quick-service restaurant across the street from the stadium. We talked about the Angels past and present, including David Eckstein, Darin Erstad, and Jarrod Washburn, while we ate before making the five-minute walk across Katella, through the parking lot, and into the ballpark just in time to get seated for the first pitch.
Rob, wearing an Angels hat, and Helen, sporting a Cubs cap, kept score the entire game. I haven't kept score at a major-league game in ages although I was known to keep track of Jered Weaver last year pitch-by-pitch. The Angels beat the Marlins, 3-2, in 11 innings on Big Bang Friday. Chone Figgins had the first big bang of the night when he homered to lead off the bottom half of the first inning. Figgins made a diving catch in left field for the second out in the top of the inning and had the presence of mind to quickly throw the ball to second to double up Luis Castillo. If it wasn't a Web Gem that night (are games on the West Coast included in these highlights?), it should have been.
When Figgins strolled to the plate, I turned to Rob's Dad and mentioned the adage about always leading off an inning after making a great play in the field. I only said that in passing as I am not a believer in such things. It just so happens that we choose to remember those instances while conveniently ignoring the other times. Kinda reminds me of the myth that celebrities die in groups of three. Speaking of which, has anyone died since Anne Bancroft? Or was she the third?
On Saturday night, my son Joe and I went to the San Diego Surf Dawgs-Fullerton Flyers Golden Baseball League game at Cal State Fullerton. Stephen Roney, President of the Allan Roth Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), organized the outing. I also had the pleasure of meeting Dick Beverage, the President of SABR, and Andy McCue, a member of the Board of Directors, among others. Interestingly, Barry Mednick of SABR is the official scorekeeper for the Flyers.
About a dozen members and their guests met with Flyers Manager Garry Templeton before the game. He was cordial (signing a few autographs and allowing a couple of photo ops) but complained about losing the night before when the home plate umpire awarded Rickey Henderson a base on balls rather than ringing him up on strikes. Templeton even mimicked Henderson's crouched stance and first step toward the third base dugout to add color to the presentation. The former All-Star shortstop, while generous with his time, wasn't happy about that particular call, the long road trip the Flyers just completed, or the lack of suitable replacements for injured players.
Heck, other than Rickey, I didn't think the starters were even suitable. The defense was inadequate and the last-place Flyers seemingly emptied their bullpen while getting routed by the first-place Surf Dawgs, a team managed by Terry Kennedy. I thought Scott Dierks, the Surf Dawgs second baseman, had good hands and was deft at turning two, but I was less than impressed with the defensive play as a whole.
Although the contracts of three GBL players have been purchased by Major League Baseball franchises thus far, most of the players are on their way out rather than on their way up. As such, for my money, I would prefer watching a California League (high-Class A) game, primarily featuring 20-23 year-olds over an independent minor league dependent upon mostly 24-26 year-olds who were unable to make it to the next level.
The player drawing most, if not almost all, of the attention was the oldest on the field by at least 15 years. Henderson (.299/.489/.403) flied out weakly to center in his first trip to the plate, blooped out to short in his next appearance, and got on-base three times via a hit by pitch, a groundball double down the left-field line, and a hard-hit single. Rickey didn't walk or steal a base, but he scored a couple of runs. He has lost a couple of steps over the years but still runs better than most major leaguers. Baseball Toaster's Ken Arneson saw ol' #24 walk, steal bases, and hit his only home run of the year last month on a family trip to San Diego.
The good news is that we were able see Henderson bat five times. We would have gotten an opportunity to witness the future first-ballot Hall of Famer hit a sixth time except for the fact that I tipped off the Flyers third baseman Sean Walsh by yelling "appeal" in reference to the fact that a Surf Dawg baserunner had tagged up from second base a tad too early on a fly ball to center. Walsh, who is hitting the snot out of the ball in the early going (.462/.538/.754), heard me (hey, I was sitting on the third base side and was one of only about a thousand fans in attendance), tossed the ball to second, and the umpire called the runner out.
Shame on me because Henderson ended up in the on-deck circle when the final out was recorded in the top of the ninth. To my surprise, Henderson jogged out and played center field in the bottom of the inning even though the game was all but over. To Rickey's credit, he loves to play and entertain the fans. Rich Lederer (a little third-person humor) can't fault him for that.
Speaking of the California League, my next outing involves driving to Lake Elsinore to catch Jered Weaver's professional debut Monday night. The Four-Million-Dollar-Man is scheduled to pitch for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes vs. the Storm. I'm not sure if he is supposed to start or relieve, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to be there so I purchased four tickets in the front row behind home plate.
According to Mark Saxon of The Orange County Register, the Angels' 2004 first-round pick "will make his professional debut Monday night pitching for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga at Lake Elsinore. Stoneman indicated Weaver likely will pitch just two innings or so, as he missed spring training because of a contract holdout."
I am also looking forward to scouting Quakes 2B Howie Kendrick and SS Brandon Wood, Bryan's 62nd and 63rd top prospects, respectively. Kendrick, who is leading the league in batting average (.376) was recently activated from the disabled list. The 20-year-old Wood has hit 22 HR, three more than anyone else in the league. Unfortunately, I won't be able to see Kendry Morales swing the bat as he was promoted to Arkansas (AA) a week ago. The folks in Arkansas apparently haven't seen him do much with the wood in his short stint there (4-for-23, .174 with no HR, 1 BB and 6 SO).
Angels. Marlins. Flyers. Surf Dawgs. Quakes. Storm. Major league. Independent League. California League. They all have one thing in common. Baseball. Ahh, the life.
OFFICIAL WEAVER WATCH
The Storm Will Host Rancho Cucamonga
#27 Javier Martinez RHP (4-2) vs. #34 Jered Weaver RHP (0-0)
WEAVER ACTIVATED, MAKES PROFESSIONAL DEBUT MONDAY NIGHT
Rancho Cucamonga @ Lake Elsinore
Jered Weaver, the Angels' first-round draft pick from 2004, will make his professional pitching debut tonight in Rancho Cucamonga, but it is not expected to last more than a couple of innings.