Archive for August, 2008

Now Batting For The Toronto Blue Jays

Been awhile since I’ve done one of these…

About six weeks ago, I watched Travis Snider crush pitch after pitch after pitch – something like ten in all – over the right field wall at Manchester’s Stadium.  It was obvious the kid, who I rechristened “Wayne” after realizing that he wore number 99, could hit the ball a long, long way.

Shortly thereafter, Snider was summoned to Syracuse, where he played eighteen games, and on Thursday he made the final leap, receiving the call from the Blue Jays.  His arrival in Toronto caps a meteoric rise that began this season at Class A Dunedin and ends on the turf at Rogers Centre.  Not bad for a 20-year-old kid.

To make room for Snider, the ageless Matt Stairs was designated for assignment (and, from the tone of that article, handled it very professionally) and is likely  be traded.

You Can Run, D’Avilia, But You Can’t Hide

You remember the old show “Unsolved Mysteries”, right?  The one hosted to perfection by Robert Stack?  Every so often, they would go through a case, present all the weird details, Stack would wrap it up…then, out of nowhere, the word “UPDATE” or “SOLVED” or something like that would flash on the screen and we would learn that what we had just seen was, in fact, no longer an unsolved mystery.

Tonight’s Nashua Pride game featured the long awaited UPDATE on the D’Avilia situation.

To recap: prior to the season, the Nashua Pride hung numbers on the front of the press box to commemmorate important players in team history.  Glenn Murray and Butch Hobson are honored for their contributions to Nashua baseball; several others, including Curtis Pride, performed admirably in the city before returning to the major leagues.

During my two years in media relations with the Pride, I became reasonably well-versed in the team’s history, so it was surprising when I didn’t recognize the name on Number 11: the one-named “D’Avilia”, who was involved with the team in some capacity back in 1999.  I knew he wasn’t a player – a coach, maybe?  The mystery was enticing, the team staff utterly useless.  They’ve changed over almost entirely since I left in 2004, but I still made a point to ask at the last couple games I went to.  My query was always met with a blank stare and, “You know, that’s a good question, I’m not really sure.”  I realize they’re busy trying to sell the team to local businesses and fans so it can stay in business, but if you’re going to put a piece of information out there like that, wouldn’t it make sense to have a story behind it in case anyone asks?  Even the general manager didn’t know who D’Avilia was, which to me is just stupid.  Sure, it’s a small point, but it’s a small point that left me shaking my head as I walked away from at least four front office employees this season.

Anyway, the general manager (I think it was the general manager, anyway) was the least useless because he directed me to the people who could answer the question: the Boosters Club and a gentleman named Spike, who attends a good many games and used to be known for bringing a cowbell (this was before someone decided they should sell cowbells in the ballpark.  Not a good idea).  Though I had never actually spoken to Spike before, this was a no-brainer; to let the chance of learning D’Avilia’s story slip away after coming so close would have been a tragedy.

I made my move at the end of the eighth.  The Pride had just broken a 2-2 tie with a six-run rally (the eventual game-winner was hit by Edgard Clemente, nephew of Roberto) and Spike was sitting in a lower row in my section, so I figured what the hell.  I walked down, made my approach, and told the small group that I had a question and thought they were the guys to answer it.

Turns out, the name on the circle, D’Avilia, was incorrect; the actual name was Davila, with a little accent above the first “a”, and the player in question wasn’t a player, but a coach: Angel “Papo” Davila, the pitching coach early on in the Pride’s tenure.  Spike thought he had gone on to the major leagues as a coach for the Reds, hence the special circular honor.  I don’t know where he is now – he did a one-year stint as the manager at Laredo in 2007 and Google doesn’t want to tell me where he is this season.

So ends the mystery of D’Avilia.  Like many things associated with the Pride, the resolution was, in my opinion, a bit underwhelming.

The rest of the ballpark experience was typical.  Chris was invited, but unable to join us, and our friend Colleen’s invite got lost in the mail (i.e. I started sending a text but fell asleep before it was finished, then didn’t realize until later that the message never sent), so it ended up as family night: me, Vicki, and Joey.  As usual, Joey was a hit – he’s big enough to sit in the seats now, so he did that for awhile, then he turned around and hammed it up for the older couple sitting behind us, then the teenage girls sitting behind them.  And, not to get too crazy personal or anything, for the first time in awhile, my wife and I actually talked, just shot the shit about her mother and some work and other little stuff.  I called her Vicki Leigh at one point (long story) and got an actual real laugh and threat to my life, which is always nice.  So that was good.

On the down side, the concession stands were predictably light on food items.  It was the last game of the season and they had obviously ordered a bit on the low side.  When I went in the second inning, they were out of all chicken-related items and fast approaching the end of the french fries.  The reason for it was understandable – you don’t want to leave money in the freezer, especially with the team’s status up in the air for next season – but it’s still too bad that fans had to be left with a negative memory (although I DID get my italian sausage sub.  Not sure what I would’ve done if I hadn’t downed one more before the offseason).

Another thing about the concessions, and this doesn’t have anything to do with the team: when you’re in line, spread out.  Please.  The guy behind me tonight was so close I thought he was either gonna try to steal my wallet or wanted to spoon.  When he turned around every so often to check out the action on the field, he would actually bump into me.  That’s how close we were.  I felt like we were slow dancing at a junior high dance, only there was no principal nearby to stop over and slide us apart.

Anything else…Joey almost won a tricycle, but it went to an older kid a couple rows back…Monkey Boy was on hand to provide entertainment, but no other on-field promotions were held; it’d be easy to say that they were mailing it in on the last night with a subpar crowd, but I think the truth is that they never really figured out how to handle that aspect of their game presentation…once again, the Pride may not be back next season – the owner, John Stabile, claims to have lost $500,000 on the team this year and is looking to sell.

The Minor Links

You WILL send me your tips (…

Yankees minor leaguer Austin Jackson, who I believe is the number one positional prospect in their organization, has a bad back (

New Hampshire’s finest Bus Leaguers could be invading the majors in just a few days (The Union Leader)

Roger Clemens’ very presence brings peace and harmony to all those around him (FanHouse)

Getting hit by a foul ball at a baseball game is among my greatest fears (FanHouse)

Sickels poses a question: Maybin vs. McCutchen (Minor League Ball)

Portland Beavers vs. Tacoma Rainiers, 8/24/08

This week I’m visiting a friend in Portland, Oregon (who just told me to take my feet off the coffee table). (And it’s not even his coffee table; we’re in a café.)

Naturally, I went to see the AAA Beavers, opting for Sunday afternoon’s battle against the Tacoma Rainiers. It looks as though Salt Lake has the Pacific North Division more or less locked up, but I couldn’t wait to kick back in the stadium nestled in this jewel of a city, plus I was excited to see some of the guys we’ve been hyping here: Jeff Clement, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Charlton Jimerson for Tacoma, and Matt Antonelli for Portland.

Well, it turned out that none of those guys were playing except for Antonelli, who hit .213 this year. I mean, there was Mean Paul McAnulty and his 1.202 OPS, but…no matter. I bought myself a pint of Lagunitas IPA and headed for my field-box seat, eagerly anticipating the emerald-green grass, the open air, the contours of the ballfield and the ivy on the wall.

As a New Jersey native, I must confess pleasure in saying that this place is no Trenton. In addition to the artificial turf and apparent Death Star in right field (actually the Multnomah Athletic Club), there’s an overhang that wraps around the grandstand to protect fans from Oregon’s winter drizzle: The stadium was originally built in 1926 to host football games, and still is home to Portland State football and whatever the professional soccer team is called. But you would think 2001’s $38.5 million renovation might have made the place feel a little bit less like Veterans Stadium West. Seriously, this is the Bus Leagues! Who cares about the 38 new luxury suites?

The effect of the overhang is domelike. It’s dark, and fans, should they try to toss out a cheer or a heckle, sound weirdly disembodied, echoes in a mausoleum. And while Sunday’s announced crowd of 9,491 would be a double sell-out for most minor-league clubs, it felt like just a drop in the ocean in this 20,000-seat joint.

To be fair, the left-field wall, brick and ivy-covered, is a lot nicer than the right-field one, and there’s a handsome hand-operated scoreboard. But by now, with Portland behind 4-0 in the fifth, I figured I’d walk around a little.

Clearance sale on old merch. Red-and-black caps with a Phillies-like P, a meaner-looking Beaver, and a few remaining souvenirs from 2001’s Portland Rockies.

The garlic fries were good.

Lucky the Beaver was the most invisible minor-league mascot I’ve (failed to) come across. Normally those guys are impossible not to find, what with their three-foot heads and accompanying gaggle of kids. Not so with Lucky, who I saw on the field once, and off the field never. Maybe the garlic fries put him off. In his place, I did manage to get a shot of Bullwinkle.

But all my carping aside, all was well as far as the important stuff went. Families sat in the picnic areas while little kids hacked at Wiffle balls mysteriously suspended on a jet of air. And once I stepped outside the gates, I was downtown, mere blocks from the best bookstore in the country. Now to find a book about the evils of Astroturf…

Minor League Merchandise at ESPN: the Magazine

As you may know, one of your intrepid Bus Leaguers has the good fortune to write a little for the ESPN: the Magazine website. This week, minor league merchandise managed to sneak onto the pages for the mouthpiece of the Worldwide Leader, and we wanted to share it with you:

Tina Gust is the Director of Licensing for Minor League Baseball. She has seen merchandise sales grow along with record-setting ballpark attendance over the past four years, as teams and retailers have paid close attention to what customers want. “Baseball fans and card collectors enjoy following young stars, hoping to catch a game or pick up the card of the next all-star shortstop or Cy Young award-winner.” she says

“Team operators are becoming more attuned to their fans’ merchandise needs—expanding the product selection to satisfy both casual and die-hard fans.” Minor league gear has shown up in on film, in music videos, and even on high-end retail shelves at Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue.

[ESPN: the Magazine]

Also quoted in the article is Bus Leagues contributor Will, who waxes nostalgic about the Brooklyn baseball scene.

Hope you enjoy!

In addition, Rick Reilly wrote a piece about minor leaguers who missed their shot because they refused to take steroids. Read it here.

The Z-Meter: 8/26/2008

The Z-meter tracks the story arcs of 25 top prospects (or players we just like) on their way to the bigs. It is named after current Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman, who made the transition from anchoring the University of Virginia to starring in MLB in one year.


Evan Longoria, 3B, Durham (AAA) to Tampa Bay Rays (MLB)
Luke Hochevar, RHP, Omaha (AAA) to Kansas City Royals (MLB)

Max Scherzer, RHP, Tucson (AAA) to Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB)

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Jacksonville (AA) to Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB)
Jay Bruce, OF, Louisville (AAA) to Cincinnati Reds (MLB)
Homer Bailey, RHP, Louisville (AAA) to Cincinnati Reds (MLB)
Ian Stewart, 3B, Colorado Springs (AAA) to Colorado Rockies (MLB)
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Sacramento (AAA) to Oakland (MLB)
Chase Headley, 3B, Portland (AAA) to San Diego (MLB)
Eulogio De La Cruz, RHP, Albuquerque (AAA) to Marlins (MLB)
Joe Koshansky, 1B, Colorado Springs (AAA) to Rockies (MLB)
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Iowa (AAA) to Chicago Cubs (MLB)
Nelson Cruz, CF, Oklahoma (AAA) to Rangers (MLB)

Justin Masterson, RHP, Portland (AA) to Boston (MLB)

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Tennessee (AA) to Iowa (AAA)
Luke Montz, C, Harrisburg (AA) to Columbus (AAA)
Wade Davis, RHP, Montgomery (AA) to Durham (AAA)
Kila Kaaihue, 1B, Northwest Arkansas (AA) to Omaha (AAA)
Travis Snider, DH, New Hampshire (AA) to Syracuse (AAA)
David Price, LHP, Montgomery Biscuits (AA) to Durham Bulls (AAA)
Mat Gamel, 3B, Huntsville Stars (AA) to Nashville Sounds (AAA)

Antonio Bastardo, LHP, Clearwater (A) to Reading Phillies (AA)
David Price, LHP, Vero Beach (A) to Montgomery (AA)
Matt Weiters, C, Frederick Keys (A) to Bowie Baysox (AA)
Lars Anderson, 1B, Lancaster JetHawks (A) to Portland SeaDogs (AA)

Travis Snider, OF, Dunedin (A-Advanced) to New Hampshire (AA)

Ian Gac, 1B, Clinton (A) to Bakersfield (Advanced A)
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Asheville (A) to Modesto (Advanced A)

Josh Vitters, 3B, Boise (Short A) to Peoria (A)

Huzzah! Over-the-hill power hitters rejoice! Our very own Crash Davis, Oklahoma slugger Nelson Cruz, has been called up to The Show. Let’s hope it’s the best damn 21 days of his life. I hear the ballparks are like cathedrals, you never handle your own luggage, and the women all have long legs and brains.

In his place, welcome 18-year-old Madison Bumgarner. He’s 14-3 for the Augusta Greenjackets. Which is nice. Oh, and one hundred and fifty five strikeouts. Which is bleedin’ phenomenal.

Mat Gamel got the bump up to the triple-A Nashville Sounds, so he’s technically advancing faster than the traded Matt, LaPorta. Then again, LaPorta was in the Olympics, so that’s a whole different kettle of fish heads.

Let’s see who else is hot this week:

The top level. These prospects are in AAA in the prime of their youth, and ready for the call that will change their lives.

Andrew McCutchen, CF – Indianapolis Indians (Pirates): .280 – 72R – 9HR – 46RBI – 31SB – 66BB – .391 SLG – .763 OPS

Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B – Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners): .266 – 78R – 12HR – 67RBI – 47BB – 2SB – .434 SLG – .788 OPS

Colby Rasmus, LF (rehab assignment) – Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals): .249 – 56R – 11HR – 36RBI – 15SB – 49BB – .395 SLG – .741 OPS

Luke Montz, C – Columbus Clippers (Nationals): .242 – 15R – 2HR – 18RBI – 10BB – 0SB – .349 SLG – .638 OPS

Wade Davis, RHP – Durham Bulls (Rays): 7GS – 3W – 2L – 3.07 ERA – 19BB – 40K

Kila Kaaihue, 1B – Omaha Royals: .341 – 22R – 9HR – 17RBI – 16BB – 0SB – .671 SLG – 1.122 OPS

Travis Snyder, DH – Syracuse Chiefs (Blue Jays): .333 – 6R – 1HR – 14RBI – 3BB – 1SB – .463 SLG – .836 OPS

David Price, LHP – Durham Bulls: 3GS – 0W – 1L – 4.85 ERA – 6BB – 12K

Mat Gamel, 3B – Nashville Sounds (Brewers): .000 – 0R – 0HR – 0RBI – 0BB – 0SB – .000 SLG – .000 OPS

These guys also have the potential to skip straight to the majors, but may get promoted to AAA first.

Austin Jackson, OF – Trenton Thunder (Yankees): .287 – 74R – 9HR – 68RBI – 55BB – 19SB – .425 SLG – .782 OPS

Dexter Fowler, OF (Olympics) – Tulsa Drillers (Rockies): .337 – 86R – 9HR – 61RBI – 61BB – 20SB – .514 SLG – .944 OPS

Cameron Maybin, CF – Carolina Mudcats (Marlins): .278 – 68R – 13HR – 46RBI – 56BB – 20SB – .465 SLG – .838 OPS

Elvis Andrus, SS – Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers): .295 – 78R – 4HR – 63RBI – 35BB – 50SB – .374 SLG – .724 OPS

Trevor Cahill, RHP (Olympics) – Midland RockHounds (Oakland): 7GS – 6W – 1L – 2.19 ERA – 19BB – 33K

Antonio Bastardo, LHP – Reading Phillies (Phillies): 12GS – 2W – 4L – 3.43 ERA – 32BB – 49K

Matt Wieters, C – Bowie Baysox (Orioles): .357 – 35R – 11HR – 48RBI – 35BB – 0SB – .626 SLG – 1.081 OPS

Lars Anderson, 1B – Portland SeaDogs (Red Sox): .307 – 25R – 5HR – 25RBI – 20BB – 1SB – .535 SLG – .942 OPS

Matt LaPorta, CF (Olympics) – Akron Aeros (Indians): .277 – 60R – 21HR – 73RBI – 48BB – 2SB – .534 SLG – .915 OPS

Fernando Martinez, CF – Binghamton Mets (Mets): .279 – 45R – 7HR – 37RBI – 23BB – 6SB – .412 SLG – .741 OPS

Alcides Escobar, SS – Huntsville Stars (Brewers): .332 – 92R – 8HR – 74RBI – 30BB – 32SB – .440 SLG – .807 OPS

These guys have vast potential but need to work out some kinks in A-ball before they can advance.

Ian Gac, 1B – Bakersfield Blaze (Rangers): .264 – 26R – 11HR – 42RBI – 16BB – 0SB – .450 SLG – .770 OPS

Jhoulys Chacin, RHP – Modesto Nuts (Rockies): 11GS – 8W – 2L – 2.35 ERA – 11BB – 57K

Rick Porcello, RHP – Lakeland Flying Tigers (Detroit): 23GS – 7W – 6L – 2.80 ERA – 32BB – 68K

Mike Moustakas, SS – Burlington Bees (Royals): .269 – 71R – 21HR – 67RBI – 38BB – 6SB – .466 SLG – .796 OPS

Madison Bumgarner, LHP – Augusta Greenjackets (Giants): 23GS – 14W – 3L – 20BB – 155 K

Prospects chosen from Diamond Cutter’s Top 25, Baseball America, and my own irrational sense of whimsy.

This Week in Bobbleheads Part 14

September is near, which means rosters expanding to 40 men in MLB, minor league baseball playoffs are upon us, as well as their promos coming to a screaching halt. MLB still has September as a major player in the bobble world. Follow all the action here as well as the only accurate bobblehead trading board in the hobby today at .

Here is the week leading up to Labor Day:

Auburn Doubledays 8/25/08 Jerry Koosman – Famed 1969 Met in his Single A jersey.

Portland Seadogs 8/25/08 Clay Buchholz – First 2000 – How convenient that the Red Sox dropped him to AA in time for this promo.

West Michigan Whitecaps 8/26/08 Lew Chamberlain/Denny Baxter Double – First 1,000 – These are the guys that brought baseball to Western Michigan.

Atlanta Braves 8/27/08 Tim Hudson -First 15,000 – Huddy’s first NL bobble.

Houston Astros 8/29/08 Brad Ausmus – Late season fan vote bobble. No outfit with this one.

Brockton Rox 8/27/08 Armand Columbo – First 1,000 – Famed High School football coach gets his due.

Everett Aquasox 8/27/08 “Fitz in the Morning” (Radio DJ) – Everett Washington’s favorite morning DJ.

New Hampshire Fishercats 8/27/08 Clay Buchholz – Another Lowell Spinner piggyback with a NH local sponsor no doubt.

Norfolk Tides 8/27/08 BJ/Justin Upton, Michael Cuddyer (Set of 3) – The set of Hometown Heroes gets given to a lucky 200 fans in attendance.

Rochester Redwings 8/27/08 Joe Altobelli/Cal Ripken Double – First 2000 – The Redwings celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Orioles World Series win with a double bobble of the Ironman and his manager.

Lansing Lugnuts 8/28/08 Travis Snider Bronze Statuette – Could possibly be a September callup by the Jays.

Delmarva Shorebirds 8/29/08 Nick Markakis -Delmarva is the only Orioles team besides Bluefield in the Appy League that hasn’t done Markakis yet.

Missoula Osprey 8/29/08 Hal Fraser – Local Bankworker gets the honor.

Oakland A’s 8/29/08 Jack Cust – From Newark to Bobble Legend, go figure!!!

Pittsburgh Pirates 8/29/08 Richie Zisk – Another Lumber Company series bobble.

Williamsport Crosscutters 8/29/08 Boomer (Mascot) – I wonder who’s bigger, Boomer or Rhashan the customer service guy?

Cleveland Indians 8/30/08 Asdrubal Cabrera -Back in the Indians good graces to play out the string and get a figure.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans 8/30/08 Dinger/Deuce Double (Mascots) – They entertain the fans now both get on a bobble together.

Quad Cities River Bandits 8/30/08 Rick Ankiel – Pitcher turned outfielder continues his great comeback as a bobble.

Sacramento Rivercats 8/30/08 Presidential Bobble Election – Fans Vote – Late add-on of a non Goldklang Group poll.

Tampa Bay Rays 8/30/08 James Shields Figurine – Leading the AL Division winners to their first playoff birth.

Wilmington BlueRocks 8/30/08 Michael Tucker – Won the fan vote poll.

Boise Hawks 8/31/08 Scott Dorval – Winner of the Hawks online bobble poll.

Brooklyn Cyclones 8/31/08 PeeWee (Mini) (Mascot) – Named after the former Dodger Pee Wee Reese.

Trenton Thunder 8/31/08 Joba Chamberlain Statue – Follows the Wang in statuette form.