Here’s how I see baseball on this April Sunday. Yesterday’s Mets game at Citi Field was not one to write a column about, a frigid 1-0 loss to a Phillies’ team that might challenge the 1962 Mets’ record for futility. But down on the farm, way below the radar of the casual fan, a few Mets’ dreamers have cause to be proud of themselves and their team this morning.
The Columbia, SC Fireflies, the Mets’ low A-ball team in the South Atlantic League saw 3 of their pitchers combine for a no-hitter in the team’s first ever win.
Until this season, the Mets’ low A-ball team had been the Savannah Sand Gnats, playing in Savannah, Georgia in a quaint ball park where the broadcasters had to walk across a catwalk on the roof to get to their booth, which I may add was not air-conditioned. Such things weren’t invented when Savannah’s Grayson Stadium was built. But starting this season the Mets relocated their team to Columbia, SC as the Fireflies. The Mets had a team in Columbia known as first the Columbia Mets and then the Capital City Bombers. That ended in 2007 when the Mets began playing in Savannah. Last night in Charleston, SC Thomas McIlraith, Alex Palsha and Johnny Magliozzi combined to not allow a hit to the RiverDogs as the visitting Fireflies won 9-0. McIlraith was the starter. The Mets took him in round 20 of last year’s draft from University of Oklahoma. He went 6 innings in a league where pitch counts are rigidly enforced over individual glory. He walked two men in his first start. Neither Palsha nor Magliozzi allowed a base runner, and the duo struck out 7 of the 9 men they saw.
Much has changed since the last broadcast I did in Columbia as a member of the 20002 RiverDogs. At the time the Bombers played in the city’s Municipal Stadium, a poor park even by minor-league standards. The Bombers did not broadcast on radio and their ballpark food was inedible. Now their games are carried live on radio and this week they open a brand new ball park in the state capital. It’s about twice the size of the old park and management will have to wake up early in the morning to get people. The old Bombers’ were poorly attended and for good reason. With an eye-catching performance like the one last night, the home fans have something to think about when the team comes home to open its new stadium. None of last night’s 3 pitchers were among the 4 men considered prospects by the Mets’ organization when the season opened. But don’t tell them that this morning at least.
There was another minor league game with an odd twist this weekend. The story goes back to Wednesday, when the entire 4-game series scheduled at Syracuse between the AAA Chiefs and the Phillies’ team the Lehigh Valley IronPigs was postponed as the Syracuse field was unplayable. A decision was made to play at least one of the 4 games at Allentown, where the IronPigs call home. Here’s the snapper-their_ park is undergoing construction and it was deemed unsafe for anybody to attend the game. So, to an audience of 0 the Chiefs and IronPigs played a doubleheader Friday. The Chiefs, playing as the home team took both games in silence.
I guess if you’re the Giants and Dodgers, turnabout is fair play. Friday night it was the Giants ambushing the Dodgers for a late win in extra innings. Yesterday the Dodgers, who have still not played a home game returned the favor in the city by the bay. The game, delayed by rain for 41 minutes got off to a bizarre start when Madison Bumgarner, yes that MadBum who pitches so well-launched one nearly 400 feet to give his team a 1-0 lead over the Dodgers and their ace Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers leveled the game in the visiting third only to see the Giants take a 2-1 lead on a fifth-inning home run. But a run each in the 9th and 10th made winners out of the Dodgers and pitcher Chris Hatcher, who had given up the game-tying home run Friday night. Charlie Culberson doubled home what would be the game winner. Meantime, the gloomy weather prediction I made yesterday came off in Baltimore and Washington, causing postponements in those two cities while the Mets and Phillies managed to get their game in. After being shut out their first 3 games the Padres can’t stop scoring. They put up 13 runs Friday and 16 more yesterday in a 16-3 demolition of the Rockies at Coors canaveral. But even in winning the Padres lost. Their opening-day starter Tyson Ross had to be shelved owing to shoulder inflamation.
Charlie Culberson who had yesterday’s game-winning hit for the Dodgers is 27 today. He had originally been a draftee of the Giants in round 1 in 2007. He made the show with them in 2012 but was sent to the Rockies at the trading deadline. The Dodgers signed him to a minor league deal and he made the team this spring.
Chris Heston is 28 today. Last June 9, he no-hit the Mets. This symbolized the ineptitude of the Mets before the moves they made at or near the trading deadline last season. Heston, who played college ball for the Pirates of East Carolina is an 11-9 pitcher with a 3.59 ERA overall. He was a 12th-round draft choice in 2009. By late August he was back in the minors and is barely mentioned on the team now.
Corey Kluber is 30 today. He won the Cy Young award with the Indians in 2014 and led the league in wins a year ago. He’s been with the Tribe since 2011. The Padres took him in round 4 in 2007 despite having two screws permanently in his elbow from an earlier surgery. He was traded to the Indians the same week he was named pitcher of the week in the AA Texas League. That’s baseball. He’s with the Indians now until 2019.
Andre Ethier is 34 today. He’s put up a .286 average in 10 years with the Dodgers. He was an All-Star in both 2010 and 2011. The Oakland A’s drafted him in round 4 in 2003 out of Arizona State and traded him to the Dodgers in late 2005. Both Dustin Pedroya and Ian Kinsler were teammates of his at ASU. As I write this he’s on the shelf with a broken leg and will be out as long as mid-July possibly.
Ken Griffey SR. is 66 today. He and Bobby Bonds are the two most prominent baseball dads to be totally overshadowed by their famous sons. The Griffeys are from Stan Musial’s home town of Donora, PA. In late July the father will go to Cooperstown to see his son inducted into the Hall of Fame, having garnered an unheard-of 99.3% of the possible votes. The dad had nearly a 20-year career in his own right, hitting .296 and getting to play beside his on in the outfield at the end. He was an All-Star 3 times between 1976 and 1980. He was part of the 1975 and 1976 Big Red Machines that won the World Series both times.
Bob Watson is 70 today. He had a long career, mostly as an Astro as early as 1966, when the song said it made a fella proud to be an Astro. He lasted until 1984. He is erroneously thought to have scored baseball’s one millionth run. He put up a .295 average and was an All-Star twice as an Astro in 1973 and 1975. He was the Yankees’ general manager in 1996 when they won their first World Series in 18 years. For a dozen years he was MLB’s “lord of discipline.”