Friday, April 14, 2006

Just Gets Better

This season has been good, now it's great.

I've seen Earl Snyder play.

Day game Wednesday, sunshine, a Hoffman's hot dog, a Saranac Black & Tan, and the Duke of Earl playing third.

For once he wasn't the Taco Bell K-Man. That honor was bestowed on former B-Met Rob Stratton. Back in the day, when Earl played for the B-Mets, he and Rob were the one-two power punch in the middle of the lineup. It's cool to see them batting back-to-back again. (Yup, Rob struck out, once, tacos for everyone.) I loved that there were other fans at the game loudly rooting for Earl; he has a following in the minors besides me.

Earl can pick it at third, made several barehanded stops, and only one of them didn't result in the batter being out at first, a play that couldn't have been made by any third baseman. His batting average is low, not surprising with less than a week of the season gone, but his walks are up and his strike outs down, good, good signs. And he hit his first homer of the season Wednesday. Thanks, Duke, for letting me see it.

I also got to see Wayne Lydon's first homer as a Sky[gak]Chief. Wayne was another of those gemstone centerfielders that parade through the B-Mets, but he's with Syracuse now, still has that funny walk that's instantly recognizable.

Speaking of recognizable, my dad just got a tourism book from New Hampshire, and in the section about the Merrimack area, (the New Hampshire Fisher Cats play in Manchester on the banks of the Merrimack) there's a photo taken from above, of a player at the plate and the catcher, the righthanded batter twisting away with his swing. It's patently clear that the catcher is a Fisher Cat and that the batter is a PawSox player, and while the numeral on his back is a 7, it's more than that that makes me think it's Earl. The grip, the stance, they look like Earl's. And that tickles me.

One Down, Eleven To Go

Liviana gave me a list of dates she and the girls would come to the ballpark with me, four Sunday games, but before individual tickets went on sale she came back with the announcement that Grace wants to see every team in the Eastern League at least once this season, the new list had twelve dates. In past seasons, Liviana's usually picked Altoona or Trenton games, but the baseball bug has clearly bitten Grace. What she didn't expect was that there's gonna be a quiz each game: who is the opponent (team and city), where is the team located, what is their major league parent team (city and name)? What until I ask her AL or NL parent team and why that matters in the Eastern League.

Their first game was Sunday, against Akron. Sunny afternoon, but cool, cooling, cold breeze, and by the time the game was finally over, we all had sunburns and windburns.

The game went 15 innings. The B-Mets scored three runs, but then through brain freezes or inexperience or partying the night before, they managed to throw three runs back at the Aeros. Somebody on the field thought he was Mike Schmidt or something, flinging the ball vaguely in the direction of the catcher and home plate only to have the pitcher corral it near the dugout. Akron tied the game in the top of the eighth, and from that point forward it seemed like Brett Harper led off each inning for the B-Mets, followed by Jay Caliguiri, Bobby Malek, and Jorge Padilla. And it seemed that one of the first three got on base each inning, the other two drawing outs, and Padilla put an end to any possible rally. I know the box score says other players came to the plate between their at bats, but it didn't seem that way. Grace is proud of herself because she predicted the final play. Almost. She predicted a home run, but she didn't predict that it would be with one on and that it would come off the bat of the rally quencher, Jorge Padilla.

A long game, nearly two for the price of one, but it never got boring, something that occasionally happens in a nine inning game.

Mellow still qualifies for a child's admission, which means not only a reduced price for her seat, but on Sundays she gets free food.

The excitement of the day didn't end when the game did. Sunday was Grace's first foray onto the interstate, and into the "big city".

Off to a Good Start

The 2006 season is off to a good start as far as I'm concerned.

Opening Day I had hoped to turn into a day-night doubleheader, but it was too cold. I knew I was going to be cold and possibly miserable, and while in the shower to get ready to head to Syracuse I kept running through the logistics of how much clothing I was going to have to wear to keep warm through that game, skip out before it ended to make it to Binghamton before the first pitch, with a stop somewhere in between to add more clothes because it would be colder after the sun went down. I had visions of trying to wrestle into layers at a rest area, stripping off the outer layers to add under layers, and I said the heck with it. Eight hours or so of being cold, with a wardrobe update midway, nope. Besides, there was another day game in Syracuse less than a week later.

The evening turned out to be surprisingly mild. The "official" temperature at game time in Binghamton was 50, and it fell no lower than 48, and there was absolutely no breeze. I wouldn't call it balmy, but I was perfectly comfortable with my thermal underwear, three layers of shirts, and leather mittens.

Being back at the ballpark was wonderful, most of the regulars, my "summer family", showed up. The team was mostly new, as expected. Brett Harper is back, yet again, at first base. Jay Caligiuri is back at third as well, his previous season shortened by injury. Rags, Corey Ragsdale, is at short again. Jonathan Slack and Bobby Malek are the corner outfielders again. Centerfield, the gemstone position with this team, has yet another new hot prospect who appears to have the goods, Carlos Gomez. I'll be keeping track of him this season as he goes for the stolen base record.

A handful of the pitchers are returnees, but as they were introducing the team on Opening Night, it seemed like the pitchers kept pouring out the dugout and I was wondering just how many players the B-Mets have on their roster.

The B-Mets won Game 1 of 2006, beating the Akron Aeros 3-0.