July 2009

FIELD OF NIGHTMARES

The soggy saga at PNC Field in Moosic Pennsylvania is causing more than a few people to lose sleep.  Local newspapers fired on the Yankees organization after Saturdays’ game with the PawSox was postponed due to unplayable field conditions.  The finger pointing has begun and it seems that it could get really ugly before the odyssey is over.  Despite beautiful weather on the 4th of July, the game was called off because the drainage system at the park has not been able to handle the abundance of precipitation over the last three weeks.  Managers Ron Johnson and Dave Miley inspected the field with Yankees brass and league officials before deeming the field unsafe.  The same took place on Sunday afternoon, even though the sun has been out since we arrived in Scranton.  Furthermore, the Yanks made a bunch of enemies by not publicizing the fact the game had been postponed.  Thousands showed up late Saturday afternoon, only to find they’d not see a game, just the scheduled postgame fireworks.  You do the math.  No game, it won’t get dark for a few hours and fireworks.  Stay at the park and buy as many hot dogs, soda, and beers as you can, SUCKERS!  That was the message Scranton fans got on Independence Day.  According to team president Kristen Rose- “We’ll explore other options, but if the weather worsens, the field conditions worsen, we will have to look at playing at other venues.”  Those possibilities include, potentially, Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse and Coca Cola Park in Allentown, Pa.  Fans aren’t happy. According to a source who requested anonymity, at least one angry fan called the team office and physically threatened staff members if games weren’t played soon.  In fairness to the Yankees, they have worked feverishly to try to get the surface ready, even going so far as to rent a helicopter and have it land in right field to let the rotors act as a dryer.   The postponement Saturday was the third in the last two weeks because the field was too wet to play, even in bright sunshine.  The drainage system seems to be the culprit.  In 2007, the Yankees replaced the artificial turf with real grass.  They didn’t bother to update the drainage system because according to the anonymous source- “They were hoping to get a new field built in the next couple of years.”  Well, the weather has conspired to create (if you’ll pardon the pun) the “perfect storm”.  Rose said- “We knew that the drainage system was getting close to the end of what it was built for, but nobody expected this much rain.”  In a statement issued after Saturdays’ postponement, the Yankees said they’d already replaced 14,000 square feet of sod in the outfield.  Holes have been drilled, they’ve aerated the surface and installed draining tiles.  According to a separate source, also requesting anonymity, there was also a very real fear that with over 10,000 fans using the restroom facilities at the park, the already overburdened system would “explode”.  Just before word of Sundays’ postponement, PawSox players stretched and played catch in the outfield, wondering if and when this series would ever get started.  According to the Yankees, we’ll try again on Monday, with a doubleheader scheduled to start at 5:35 p.m.

 

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Congratulations to the six members of the Boston Red Sox named to the American League All Star Team.  Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, Tim Wakefield, Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon and Kevin Youkilis.  Pedroia, Youk, Wake and Papelbon are former PawSox stars.  Another former member of the PawSox is on the N.L. team.  Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates is joined on the Senior Circuit club by another former Red Sox farmhand, Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins. 

HOTFOOTING IT OUT OF HAVANA

21 year old Aroldis Chapman is considered by many to be the top rated left handed pitching prospect in the world.  Earlier this week, Chapman quietly walked out of his hotel in the Netherlands, into a waiting car.   Presumably, the destination is the Major Leagues.  Chapman is defecting from Cuba, in essence, thumbing his nose at Fidel Castro and all he stands for.  The Cuban National team was in Rotterdam for the start of an international tournament.  Chapman, left without luggage, telling no one about his plans.  He becomes the most prominent Cuban baseball player to defect since Jose Contreras in 2002.  Chapman, who boasts a 100 mile per hour fast ball could really cash in.  He is free to negotiate with every organization, although there are probably only a few who will be able to afford to bid for his services.  The usual suspects, The Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and perhaps a couple of others will promise to shower Chapman with riches that at this point, he can probably only imagine.  Boston and the Yankees are usually the front runners in situations like this, so we’ll probably either really love the kid or we’ll want to send him back to Havana.  It brought to mind the story of former PawSox lefty Michael Tejera.  Tejera, defected from Cuba at the age of 17, back in 1994.  As a member of the junior national team, there was a stopover in Miami on the way to a tourney in Connecticut.  Tejera, who had relatives in South Florida, called his uncle, who encouraged him to defect.  “They told me about the opportunities, how things were in America, the freedom.”  Upon arrival at the airport, his uncle brought Tejera and a teammate, Hansel Izquierdo to a police officer and told him the pair sought asylum in the United States.  Tejera said it was a scary moment, leaving everything he knew behind, including his family.  Things worked out well for Michael.  Eventually his entire family escaped oppression, sneaking over on a crowded boat.  Professionally, Tejera won a World Series ring with the Florida Marlins in 2003.  “I wanted to be a free person.” Tejera said.

 

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Looking forward to our first trip of the season to Scranton, although I was told there was a decent chance that Saturdays’ game was not going to be played because of poor field conditions at PNC Field.  The rain that has pounded the northeast has left its’ mark in Moosic.  An insider with knowledge of the situation told me that when the Yankees put a new grass field in the ballpark, they didn’t bother updating the drainage system because they are hoping to build a new stadium in the next couple of years.  We’ll see.  The hotel where we stay is legendary in baseball circles.  The Radisson  Lackawanna Station Hotel, a former train depot, is purported to be haunted.  It is almost comical to hear veterans “warn” newcomers about the old hotel.  I don’t buy into the baloney for a split second.  A couple of years ago, Dustin Pedroia animatedly told me about his experience of the night before.  “Hyder, I swear.  I saw the ghost of a little boy in  my room.”  The future A.L. MVP continued “He was wearing a Giants jersey and a top hat.”  Later that day when manager Ron Johnson heard Pedey’s story, he had a quick response.  “Heck, that was no ghost, Pedroia was just looking in the mirror.”  

ALL STARS DID WHAT ALL STARS DO

On the day Clay Buchholz and Fernando Cabrera landed All Star berths for the upcoming Triple A All Star game in Portland Oregon, they did exactly what you’d expect- they lead the PawSox to a 4-3 win over first place Scranton.  Buchholz improved to 6-1 despite one shaky inning.  The thin Texan allowed three runs in the fourth, but nothing before or after. Buchholz went 7 innings, turning in a quality start for his club.  Cabrera, the 27 year old Puerto Rican registered his seventeenth save in as many tries.  Since the promotion of Daniel Bard to Boston, Cabrera has fluorished in the role of closer.

 

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Former pitcher Frank Viola was nicknamed “Sweet Music”.  That’s exactly what you can hear on any given day in the Pawtucket clubhouse.  Guitar players abound.  No fewer than 6 men in PawSox uniforms play.  Buchholz, Bubba Bell, Billy Traber, Hunter Jones, Dusty Brown and manager Ron Johnson all play to varying degrees.  On the day of his start, “Buch” was jamming at his locker with Bell and vocalist Travis Denker, who has a pretty fair “bluesy” voice.  Throw in Marcus McBeth and his prowess on the keyboard and we might be able to form a pretty good group.  I’d even be willing to dust off my old trumpet and join in.

 

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Interesting name on the Scranton roster.  Lee Tressel is the strength and conditioning coach for the Yankees.  If you’re a college football fan, the name should sound familiar.  Tressel is the nephew of Ohio State head football coach, Jim Tressel.  Lee’s other uncle Dick is the Buckeye’s defensive coordinator.  Lee Tressel played at Baldwin Wallace, where his grandfather was an extremely successful coach in his own right. 

 

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Congratulations to 4 members of the Portland Sea Dogs.  Lars Anderson, Junichi Tazawa, Jorge Jimenez and T.J. Large were all named to the Eastern League All Star team.  Large has briefly pitched for the PawSox (2006).  Chances are that all 4 will appear at McCoy Stadium somewhere in the near future.

 

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Speedy recovery to my friend Mike Logan.  Logan underwent shoulder surgery and was unable to fill in for Dan on Thursday night.  John Meterparel did the game with me and did a great job.  It is tough to jump in mid-stream, but John, who is the voice of Boston College football and is a part of the Dennis and Callahan show on WEEI radio was smooth in his delivery and added a great deal of humor.  He’d be unbelievably good if he did baseball on a more regular basis.  Fun to work with.  “Meter” knew that neither Scranton right fielder Shelley Duncan nor DH Eric Duncan were related to actress Sandy Duncan, star of the early ’70s sitcom “Funny Face.” 

 

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