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UK Father/Son Baseball Camp

University of Kentucky/Nutter Field House-Lexington, KY:  What a weekend this was, the first annual Father/Son Baseball Camp hosted by the Kentucky Wildcats baseball program.  After a small nap Saturday morning, Brian and I made the trek to Lexington.  Upon arriving on campus and heading into the Nutter Field House, we were greeted by Wilcats’ head coach Nick Mingione.  He introduced himself, and let us know where to go to get checked in.  After getting all checked in and playing some catch, coach gave us all a quick run down on the weekend activities before we separated into our groups and got to work.

We started out with some fielding, which went well, then onto throwing.  Brian has always had a bit of trouble with some throwing mechanics, but some of these drills really seemed to help him out.  It’s fun to see the smile on his face when he does well.  Same thing with the hitting drills, as Coach Fanning gave him some pointers and he was hitting off the tee really well.  It was nice to get the camp off to a good start.

Marshall Gei gives shows some hitting fundamentals

 

Coach Fanning working with Brian

After the first set of drills were completed, we broke for some pizza and rest.  Pizza is always a hit with the kids.  When our bellies were full, the fathers and sons were separated into groups.  The coaches talked to us about the family atmosphere of the Kentucky baseball program, as well as the joys and struggles of raising baseball players.  The kids were taken by the players and they wrote us ‘thank you’ letters that I look forward to receiving in the mail.  After a few more drills, we walked over to check out the Wildcats clubhouse.  As you can imagine it was a very nice facility.

When the tour was completed, we spread out our sleeping bags on the turf and tried to get some sleep. Tried being the key word.  I was really tired and drifted off, but since Brian couldn’t sleep at first, he wasn’t about to let me get any shut-eye, either.  We did finally get a little sleep, and woke up to a breakfast of sausage biscuits and donuts, which wasn’t all that bad.  The team provided us with a church service right there in the field house, also, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that just about all of the families attended.

Our group started the morning with a Fathers vs. Sons ballgame.  This was a lot of fun, and it felt good to hit and play the field like I was a kid again, also.  Brian hit the ball well and made some good plays, so he was happy.  No one was keeping score, but I’m sure the Fathers plated a few more runs, at least that’s the story I’m sticking to…  After some wall-ball and base running, we ended the day at the batting cages.  Brian hit the ball well, and it was good to end the camp on a positive note.

Brian hitting in the cage

I’m very grateful to the University of Kentucky, and feel blessed that I could experience this weekend with Brian.  He did have fun, and I hope he looks back on this experience one day as a positive one.  Camps like this just reinforce that our move to Kentucky was a good one.  Also looking forward to seeing at game here this spring, as Coach Mingione seems to have something really special going on with this program.

Brian with fellow Michigander Brad Schaenzer

Promotion courtesy of Kentucky Wildcats

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

 

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R.I.P. Myron Noodelman

The Minor League Baseball community lost a staple at the ballparks this week, in entertainer Myron Noodleman.  Born Rick Hader (Noodleman, or course, was a stage name), he lost his battle with an aggressive form of cancer on Wednesday.  He started performing at ballparks in 1994, and in 2004 was christened the fifth ‘clown prince of baseball’.  Trevor and I had the pleasure of seeing him perform last season at the Frontier League Y’All-Star Game in Florence.  His act was amazingly funny, leaving us in tears every time he took the field or interacted with fans in the stands.  A friend of mine told me a couple of years ago, that I had to see him at a ballgame, and I gave the same advice to other baseball fans after seeing his act.  The ability to make people laugh is an extremely powerful gift.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to him, his family, and friends.

Video and photo property of Minoring In Baseball

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Movie Night

Louisville Slugger Field-Louisville, KY:  The Louisville Bats had a great idea to wrap up the 2017 for their fans, hosting a movie night at the ballpark.  Sitting in the stands or laying out on a blanket on the field with a movie up on the video boards is definitely a promotions most fans were excited about.  The only thing that wasn’t exciting, was the movie selection the Bats posted on Facebook that fans could vote on.  I honestly can’t even remember every movie listed, but I voted for the ‘Lego Batman Movie’, while the new ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was the big winner out of the four.  I was a little confused why no baseball related movie was listed, especially ‘The Sandlot’, which I thought would be a runaway winner as far as family baseball flicks go.  In fact, there was so much outcry to show ‘The Sandlot’ by myself and other fans, the Bats replied on Facebook stating that wasn’t a movie that they had the rights to show.

In all honesty, however, it really didn’t matter what movie they showed.  Brian was able to bring a friend to the event, and we laid some blankets and pillows out to enjoy the show.  For me, I was just happy to be on the field, and was more intrigued by how perfect the grass was than anything else.   I went to buy the kids some popcorn and pop, and was really pleasantly surprised at the great turnout for the event.

The kids also had a chance to play on the park and ride the carousel.

This turned out to be a really fun event, and the movie wasn’t all that bad, I guess, but the kids enjoyed it and that’s what counts.  I think in all there was a lot of positive feedback from the fans, so I’m confident the Bats will hold more of these events. Maybe ‘The Sandlot’ next time, though…. What family baseball movie would you all like to see on the big screen at a ballpark?  Poll is below!

Promotion courtesy of the Louisville Bats

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

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2017 Frontier League Championship

Florence Freedom vs. Schaumburg Boomers (Frontier League)

UC Health Stadium-Florence, KY:  I sat at my desk at work last Friday night, keeping an eye on the score on the computer, hoping the Florence Freedom would pull it off.  Already down two games to none, another loss would mean the series would be over, and the Schaumburg Boomers would be champs of the Frontier League.  Worse for me, it would mean no baseball game to attend the next day.  Lucky for me, and the Freedom, I guess, Florence prevailed in 12 innings to keep the series going. So Saturday night, Brian and I made the trip up to see what could be a championship for the Boomers, or another game for the Freedom.  I was a little shocked to see the game tickets at $20 a piece, even for a championship series.  You’d think the home team would really want the local fan base to fill the park (not a huge crowd for such a big game…).  At least Brian was able to get a photo op with Y’All Star as soon as we entered the stadium.

We sat down the third base side by the Schaumburg dugout, and the Boomers soon became one of Brian’s favorite teams, as I still rooted for the Freedom.   The Boomers took the lead in the second inning, however, on a solo home run. Taylor Oldham tied the game for Florence with an RBI double in the third.  In the fourth inning, Rock Shoulders hit a monster home run to put the Boomers up 2-1, quickly followed by another Schaumburg dinger.  An RBI double put the Boomers up 4-1.  Rock Shoulders is an awesome name.  Like this guy wasn’t destined to be a professional athlete…

About this time we needed a treat, so Brian landed on the Funnel Cake Deluxe.  This was served in a helmet, and consisted of a funnel cake, a crap load of ice cream, whipped cream, sprinkles and Oreo pieces.  It was amazing, and both of us together couldn’t even finish it!

The sixth inning added more runs for Schaumburg.  They hit another home run, and a sacrifice fly scored another to take a commanding 6-1 lead in the game. Florence came back with a two-out run in the bottom of the inning, to cut the lead to 6-2.  Andrew Godbold paced the offence for the Freedom, going 2-3 with a run scored.

Between innings, Brian was supposed to participate in an on-field race, but back out once he learned he would be wearing over-sized underwear… Oh well, at least he did run across the field during the seventh inning stretch.

On the mound for Florence,  Cody Gray got the start and took the loss.  He tossed four innings, giving up four runs on seven hits, while striking out six.  He would be replaced by Tony Vocca, who gave up two runs on two hits in 1.1 innings of work.  Kit Fowler started for the Boomers, pitching three innings and giving up a run.  Michael Wood would earn the win, tossing 4.2 inning, giving up one run  and striking out four.  FINAL:  Freedom 2, Boomers 6.

After the final out, it was time for celebration for the Boomers.  I don’t care what age you are or what level of ball you play, when you win a championship it is a big deal.  Congratulations to Schaumburg, they definitely deserve it.  And congratulations to the Florence Freedom on a great season also.  We’ll be back at UC Health Stadium next season.

And of course they got to pass around the Frontier Cup and hold the Frontier League Championship banner:

As Brian likes to celebrate with winners, I found him out on the field celebrating with the Boomers! A few of the players were nice enough to take a photo with him.

I’ll leave off with a very short video of Brian getting a game ball from his new favorite player Kyle Ruchim of Schaumburg.  This is what makes the sport we love so great…

Video and photos property of Minoring In Baseball

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Color Labor Day Red

Cincinnati Reds vs. Milwaukee Brewers (National League)

Great American Ballpark-Cincinnati, OH:  Oh, Labor Day.  When most people are smart enough to take a day off and relax, we decided to head up to the Queen City for some Reds baseball.  As usual, we parked in Newport and took the boat over to the ballpark.  Since the boat always drops us off at the back of the park (duh, like, it can’t travel down the street and around the corner…), Trevor and I decided to walk around and check out the façade.  I took a photo of some of the statues featured out front, such as the greatest catcher ever Johnny Bench and ‘Charlie Hustle’ himself, Pete Rose.  The Rose statue is new to the ballpark this season.

I thought we had great seats again, in the bleachers, but the front row which gave us a great view of the field.

The game started a little slow, and the Reds finally took a 1-0 when Joey Votto took a walk in the third inning to drive in a run.  Not very exciting, I know, but a run is a run.

Trevor wasn’t happy in the hot sun, so we found some seats with some shade, and a little closer to the action.  The Reds scored another run in the 6th, when Eugenio Suarez earned a walk.  Yeah, I know.  Yawn.  But then Tucker Barnhart hit a double that plated two, so business was picking up.  The Reds were up 4-0, and I was feeling pretty good about the game.

The Brewers came storming back top of the seventh, however.  Homer Bailey got the start for the Reds, and he pitched a solid six innings, giving up three runs and striking out four.  A pair of home runs tied the game at four going into the late innings.

Still tied at four bottom nine, it was hero time for Billy Hamilton.  He hit his first right-handed home run of the season to set off the fireworks and give the Reds the win!  Relief pitcher Raisel Iglesias got the win for Cincy.  This was a great way to spend Labor Day, even though I only got a half-hour nap in before working all night.  It was worth it for a fun day of baseball with Trevor.  FINAL: Reds 5, Brewers 4.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

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Fall Ball Starts

Walsh Park-LaGrange, KY:  Despite the fact that practices started in the summer, and, wait, I think technically it still is summer, but fall baseball has started at North Oldham Little League.  After a disappointed spring, I had to really convince Brian to play here in the fall.  Being this is his first experience with other kids pitching to him, I thought this was a very important step to prepare for next spring.

The Navy blue team, dubbed the Navy Seals, are 1-1 so far in the young season.  As one would expect, there was a lot of adjusting in the first couple of games, but really toward the end of the second game, the kids were getting used to being pitched to and hitting the ball.  Brian as well was a little hesitant at first, and looked to take a step back at just about every pitch.  Now he’s starting to hang in there and hit the ball, though. In the field, he’s been splitting time between left field and second base, but as also seen an inning at the hot corner.  With so many walked batters, there’s not a lot of action yet, but as the kids start hitting more the field will become more adventurous and more fun.  I think he’s liking second base, which is good, because that’s where his old man patrolled the field through Little League, high school, and into church softball.  Brian is also lucky to have some of the very best coaches this season in fall ball.  If he opens himself up and lets them help him, he has the potential to really improve.  Most of all, though, I hope he has fun and realizes how lucky he is to be able to put on a uniform and play baseball every week…

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

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Meeting the Bats

Louisville Bats vs. Rochester Red Wings (International League)

Louisville Slugger Field-Louisville, KY:  This was such a bitter-sweet game, as it was the last Bats game for us this season.  It’s hard to believe the season, and summer, has gone by so quickly, but here we are, ready to say goodbye to Louisville Slugger Field for a while.  A good way to send us off, though, is the Bats held their autograph day for their last weekend home series.  Brian was excited to meet the players and get his baseball signed.  Most of the players were good with the kids, coach Jody Davis was great with the fans, while new-comer Scott Van Slyke skipped over some kids to sign a folder full of cards (look them up on eBay!!!).

It was another warm day, so we made sure to get seats out of the sun.  While the weather was warm, the Bats’ bats were hot.  Alex Blandino and Brandon Dixon hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning, while Scott Van Slyke hit a RBI single to put Louisville up 3-0.  Dixon had a career game for the Bats, going 4-5 with three home runs, a double, and seven RBI’s in the game. He was a big part of the Bats’ seven run fourth inning, chasing top Twins prospect Stephen Gonsalves.

35893487403_81963cb181_zOn the mound for Louisville,  Rookie Davis earned the win, throwing six innings, giving up five runs on six hits, while striking out four.  Evan Mitchell came in to take care of the last three innings, giving up one run and striking out one.  FINAL:  Bats 13, Red Wings 6.

36679070836_341d3f5479_zAgain, a fun day, but sad that it’s our last Bats game of the season.  Hopefully this isn’t the end of baseball season as a whole for us, though.  Brian starts fall ball this week, the Florence Freedom are in the playoffs, and we hope to catch another Reds game this fall.  The Bats are also hosting a movie night next month which should be fun.  I’ll leave off with a photo of Brian up on the #BatsBoard after the autograph signing.  Remember to add me on SnapChat @minorbaseball to follow the live game action.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

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