Nutter Field House-Lexington, KY: Brian simply woke up one day and declared: ‘I’m a UK fan, dad.’ Uh, ok, that’s fine, I guess. When I asked him ‘why’, he simply replied: ‘I just am.’ Again, ok. Kids are funny like that. I might not ever really know what event turned his loyalties to the Big Blue Nation, but at least it gave us an excuse to travel to Lexington for the Wildcats inaugural Fan Day hosted by the university’s baseball and softball teams.
They day started with a short clinic for the kids, then the teams split up for an autograph session. The players were separated by position (INF, OF, P, C), which made it easier for the kids to jump from table to table, and maybe converse with a player or two they share a position with. Brian even got to chat with a fellow North Oldham Little Leaguer (an alum, anyway) in Connor Heady, who is a senior infielder:
We’re still a big fan and supporter of college softball so Brian wanted to meet some of the girls and get some autographs from them, also. They were super nice to him and of course signed his poster and hat, as well as posing for a few photos. We’ll definitely try to catch some Wildcat softball games this spring. A baseball-softball double-header sounds like a good day to me, anyway.
In all, this was a great way to start out the 2017 baseball (and softball) season. College baseball is less then a month away, and we look forward to being in the stands. Oh, and Brian ran into more players in the parking lot he needed pictures with. After all, as he told them, he is the biggest Kentucky fan…Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Promotion courtesy of Kentucky Wildcats/NCAA
Black Cardinals vs. Red Cardinals
Jim Patterson Stadium-Louisville, KY: This past weekend has to be one of the busiest in this town that I have seen since moving down this way, since the Derby weekend, anyway. Since this is a baseball blog, I’ll be moving backwards and start with Sunday. Brian and I decided to check out a little Louisville Cardinal fall ball scrimmage, and it was a lot of fun. Simply a beautiful day and there’s not too many places I’d rather be than a ballpark. Granted, this was just an inter-squad scrimmage, and most may protest that these games don’t mean anything, but I disagree. To the kids trying to either earn a walk-on position, or a spot in the starting lineup, there games can mean plenty. I felt bad for the left fielder, who made a couple of errors, and we were within ear-shot to hear his frustrations loud and clear. Take this for what it is, just something to do, watching something we love, spending time with my little buddy. Final: Black 10, Red 4.
Now, on Saturday, there was some kind of college football going on, and I guess this could be considered the busiest day of the weekend. That’s probably why we stayed away from town. I think the whole ESPN College Gameday crew was in town, also. Although not a big football fan, I did watch some of the Louisville vs. Florida State game on TV, and was happy for a big Louisville win (63-20). It’s always good for the town and the school, and I’ve never cared much for the Seminoles much in any sport, anyway.
KFC Yum! Center-Louisville, KY: Friday was a fun day for the boys and I, also. This was both Trevor and Brian’s first WWE (I still call it WWF) show. Brian was happy to see his two favorites Bayley and Roman Reigns fight. It was a pretty good show, as the U.S. Championship, Tag-Team Championship, and Universal Championship belts were all defended. I’d much rather attend a ‘house show’ than a TV event, as all they do is talk and you don’t see as much action. We all had a great time, and will probably come again when the WWE is in town. As well as baseball, Louisville is a decent place for a wrestling fan to live, also. We have the local Ohio Valley Wrestling which is a lot of fun, and some other indy promotions in southern Indiana.
Video and photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Louisville Cardinals vs North Carolina State Wolfpack (NCAA/ACC)
Jim Patterson Stadium-Louisville, KY: Well, I thought it would be a little bit warmer here in Kentucky, but last weekend was a little bit cool. With cold, nasty, rainy weather blasting the Midwest lately, I guess I can’t complain too much, as I’m sure we have it better than others. While the temp was a little on the cold side, the Louisville Cardinals baseball team stayed hot. Hosting ACC rival North Carolina State, we were able to get downtown and see the middle game of the series. I brought the boys with, and as usual Brian decided to head to the playground.
So, we’re back in the outfield, and that’s where we watched most of the game from. The first half of the game was definitely a pitchers’ duel. On the bump for the Cards, Drew Harrington picked up the win to improve his record to 10-1. He pitched seven innings allowing two runs, walking one, and striking out seven. Zack Burdi can in to pitch the ninth and earn the save, striking out all three batters!
Louisville was led offensively by Brendan McKay, going 2-4 with an RBI. Drew Ellis went 2-2 with a run scored and a RBI. All the Cards runs were scored in the fifth inning. Final: Cardinals 4, Wolfpack 2.
U of L is currently on a 19 game home winning streak, counting there win over Indiana last night. They ended up sweeping 10th ranked NC State, winning 2-0 on Friday, and 6-1 on Sunday. They don’t have any more regular season home games scheduled, but I’m hoping they’ll host a NCAA Regional after the ACC tournament is over. I didn’t make a video during the game, but Trevor and I did make it on TV! I re-watched the game after we got home, and found us in the upper left hand corner:
Louisville Cardinals vs Cincinnati Bearcats (NCAA)
Jim Patterson Stadium-Louisville, KY: Brian had to make his first appearance at a Cardinals game sooner or later, so we just decided sooner. Louisville hosted the Cincinnati Bearcats in a non-conference game, and this was a good chance to see our top-10 team in action. Brian loved the façade of the ballpark, with the arc and the big bats (we haven’t made it to the Slugger museum yet). We found seats for a little while, but migrated to the outfield so he could play on the playground.
It was a decent vantage point to watch the game, and the Cardinals were playing solid ball against the Bearcats. The home team had their Louisville Slugger warmed up for the game, scoring seven run. The Cards were led by Will Smith, who went 2-4 with a home run. Colby Finch pitched in going 2-2 with two runs scored, while Blake Tiberi went 2-4 with 2 RBI.
Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
Louisville Cardinals vs Princeton Tigers (NCAA)
Jim Patterson Stadium-Louisville, KY: While down in Louisville doing some business, we had time to take in our first Cardinals baseball game. The weather didn’t feel a whole lot different than Michigan, in the high 30’s and cool, but I’m definitely not going to complain if I’m able to watch baseball in March. Jim Patterson Stadium is a great college facility, and I honestly can’t believe that the games are free here. We settled in behind the Louisville dugout, and watched about half of the game from there. The netting extends to the end of the dugout, so it was hard to get any great pics from this vantage point. We moved to the other side of the stadium, and I was able to get a few from that angle. I’m not a huge fan of too much netting, but that’s another story altogether. Despite the cold (which I’m used to) it was a fun game to watch and a good distraction from everything else that’s going on in my life right now.
On to the game itself, I was happy to see that Kyle Funkhouser was on the bump for the Cards. He ended up with the win, and tied his career-high with 12 strikeouts on the afternoon. He allowed two runs on four hits, and only walked one batter. Funkhouser also retired the last 11 batters that he faced. In relief, Lincoln Henzman came into the game and pitched two shutouts innings to earn the save. Louisville was led offensively by sophomore third-baseman Blake Tiberi, who was 2-4 with an RBI. Sophomore DH Brendan McKay pitched in with a double and a pair of RBI’s himself, while junior second-baseman Nick Solak had a single, RBI, and two walks. It was a fun afternoon, and good to get our first game in. I’m sure there will be plenty more that we’ll attend with the quality of baseball and free admission. I’m hoping to make at least one game in Michigan before we get down here and settled, but the next couple of months will be crazy for us, for sure. Final score: Louisville 4, Princeton 2.
With time winding down on 2015, it’s time to look back and reflect on this past year. Due to a personal loss, we didn’t get to take in a ballpark tour this season, but that didn’t stop us from having some great times, and making some unforgettable memories. Every moment spent with my kids and dad are special, and it’s always difficult to narrow a list down and do every event justice.
9) Meeting Joey Pankake: Picking the #9 slot is sometimes harder than the #1, as it usually means that one special event is left out. I decided to go with Brian meeting his favorite player in Whitecaps’ second baseman Joey Pankake. We watched him on TV last year when he was playing his college ball with South Carolina, and were excited when the Tigers picked him up in the draft. Every Sunday home game the Whitecaps let the fans on the field to meet the players, so we took advantage of that. Joey was really nice to Brian, as he signed a program for him and got a picture. Times like this is what makes baseball fans.
8) Back in Jax: While I was down in southern Georgia doing some training for work in April, I was able to take in a couple of Jacksonville Suns games. The Suns have a great venue, and a game here is always a great experience. Back in 2005 when I was down training for 18 weeks, I went to many games, and the Suns were a positive distraction from missing my kids back home. It was good to be back after a decade, and I hope I don’t have to wait that long to catch another game in Jacksonville.
7) Baseball in Michigan in March: This is an odd pick, I guess, for different reasons. For us, being able to watch live baseball in the month of March is amazing, and we were definitely lucky to be able to take a game as the Central Michigan Chippewas hosted the Ohio Bobcats. On a more somber note, this game was a chance for my dad and I to get out of town and away from things for an afternoon after my mom passed. She loved baseball and CMU, so this was a good place rehash some good memories of her.
6) Star Wars Night: Although Star Wars Night usually ranks higher on our list, it shouldn’t take away how much fun we had. This season we were back at Fifth Third Ballpark to watch the Whitecaps and see some of our favorite Star Wars characters (we were in Lansing last season). Most of the main guys were there, except Boba Fett, which is a favorite of Trevor and I. This was our fifth year in a row for a Star Wars event, so I’m glad that we are keeping up the tradition. It will be interesting next season to see if any of the characters from the new movie show up. After all, the 18th is coming up fast…
5) Playoffs in West Michigan: In September I was able to cross one more thing off my baseball bucket list, attending my first ever playoff game. The Whitecaps were hosting the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Midwest League finals, and were down in the series 1-0. We were able to witness a late come-from-behind victory as the ‘Caps evened the series. It was one of those exciting, high-fiving-total strangers type of game, and it was amazing! West Michigan went on to win two out of three games in Cedar Rapids to secure the championship, and I feel privileged I could be part of the play off run.
4) BTTF Night: This was a great night, and ranks so high probably because this was our first ever Back To The Future night event. Brian had an awesome night, and loved that he was able to sit in the Delorian, pretending to be bolted back to 1985. There was a BTTF theme throughout the Great Lakes Loons game, also, with music and games all relating to 1955, 1985, and 2015. Dow Diamond is one of the best ballparks in the minors, also, so just watching the ballgame is very enjoyable. And with a three hour drive before and after the game, was had plenty of time to watch all three BTTF movies during our trip.
3) Brian’s Lugnuts Clinic: For a Little Leaguer having the chance to play some ball on a professional field is quite the experience. Brian was a little intimidated at first when he stepped onto the big field, and the fact that we live so far away he didn’t have any friends in the clinic. Once things got going, though, he was able to relax and just play and have fun, which is the important thing. I hope this was a good experience for him, and that one day he can appreciate being taught the game by professional ballplayers and coaches. If nothing else, the Lugnuts certainly made another fan.
2) Loons Fantasy Camp: This summer I was also able to live out a fantasy I’ve had since being Brian’s age, and that was playing baseball in a professional stadium. The Great Lakes Loons held a drawing to be able to play in a fantasy game at Dow Diamond, and I was lucky enough to secure a slot. The game was a lot of fun, and I hit the ball well each time up going 1-3. In the field at least I didn’t make any errors and a couple of plays. This was an amazing experience, and having the kids there to cheer me on was just awesome. If any other fans have the opportunity to play in one of these games, I highly recommend it.
1) Coaching the Cubs: As usual, being able to coach one of my kids in Little League is always number one. Brian and I were members of the Cubs this season, and this was a great team full of great kids. Being able to spend time with him like this is a dream come true, and I love this age level, as I can nurture the kids love of the game while teaching them the basics. No matter how long Brian decides to play this great sport, I will hold on to these years with all my heart and soul. Merry Christmas everyone, and God Bless in the new year!
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Ohio Bobcats
Theunissen Stadium-Mt. Pleasant, MI: Madness. Sheer Madness. Attending a baseball game in Michigan in March, one would have to be classified as mad, or crazy, or whatever. The weather actually wasn’t that bad, however, and dealing with a personal loss, my dad and I decided to use baseball as therapy. This was the Chips home opener, so there was a decent crowd on hand (until the sun disappeared, anyway).
The game itself was a rough one for the Chips. Sophomore Nick Deeg took the loss one the mound, but two unearned runs didn’t help his cause. CMU had a couple other defensive lapses that could have been errors, also, so a tough day for the left-hander. Five times during the game the Chippewas had at least two runners in scoring position, and stranded 13 total for the game. Nick Regnier and Alex Borglin had two hits and an RBI each to lead CMU offensively. Logan Regnier and Joe Houlihan each legged out doubles, and freshman Zach McKinstry added a hit and an RBI.
The Chippewas bounced back to beat Ohio the nest two games, but we were left with the lone loss in the series. Still a fun day, and getting to a ballgame really helped take our minds off things for a little while. We’ll try to see the Chips play again this season for sure. Final Score: Chippewas 4, Bobcats 6.
Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium/OSU-Columbus, OH: Well, tonight’s the night, when the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Oregon Ducks for the NCAA national football championship. Not having a horse in the race, I did think it was a good chance to show off a few photographs from my visit to Buckeye country this past summer. We had plenty of time to kill before our Columbus Clippers game, so we decided to check out the campus, and that included their baseball stadium. Bill Davis Stadium is really one of the nicest collegiate baseball stadiums that I’ve had a chance to see, though I haven’t been to too many. They have the artificial turf that many of the NCAA teams are going to now, also. I was lucky that they were doing some maintenance work and that the stadium was open for me to poke around and take some pictures. I almost got locked in, though, and I really wasn’t in the mood for climbing fences. It’s too bad I didn’t get to see a game here, as, again, it’s a really beautiful college ballpark, and I’m sure the atmosphere would have been great, especially if they were playing a rival. Our trip was in mid-June, however, and the only college ball being played at the time was in Omaha. I hope to make it back to Columbus for more baseball to catch a Buckeye game, and another Clippers game, as ours was shortened by some rain. Have fun watching the football game tonight.
Wake Forest Demon Deacans vs. Miami Hurricanes (Atlantic Coast Conference/NCAA)
Gene Hooks Field-Winston-Salem, NC: We were blessed with another beautiful day, as we headed north from Charlotte up to Winston-Salem for some college baseball. You might be wondering how a kid growing up in northern Michigan can become a fan of the Miami Hurricanes. Then again, you might not be. Anyway, I became a fan of the ‘U’ in the 80’s, while watching their sports teams win with attitude and swagger. You can understand my excitement, then, when I realized that the Wake Forest Demon Deacons would be hosting the ‘Canes during the very weekend we would be down there. The game took place at Gene Hooks Field, which is located just off campus next to the football field. It’s formerly Ernie Shore Field, that at one time hosted the Winston-Salem Warthogs of the Carolina League. With the Deacons taking over after the Warthogs became the Dash, and moved to their new stadium, Wake Forest inherited a nice venue for college baseball. I spent most of the game chatting with a fellow Michigander, who now coached football and baseball in the area. It was also senior day for the Deacons, with a pre-game ceremony celebrating their last home game. The rubber match of the series went to the home team, with the ‘Canes giving up six runs in the bottom of the eighth inning that broke a 3-3 tie. Despite the loss, the future looks bright for Miami as freshman David Thompson and sophomore Garrett Kennedy both hit home runs in the loss. It was still a lot of fun for me, and I really wish we could have squeezed more college games into our trip. Final score: Wake Forest 9, Miami 3.
Cooley Law School Stadium-Lansing, MI: Last Thursday we gambled…and lost. As mother nature continued to punish us in Michigan with freezing rain, sleet, and snow, the 7th Annual Crosstown Showdown, pitting the Lansing Lugnuts against the Michigan State Spartans, has been postponed. The Lugnuts announced that the game will be made up on May 1st, as a seven inning game. We won’t be able to make it to that one, but the Lansing ticket office staff was more than helpful in helping us exchange our tickets for a game that we will be able to make it back down for…weather permitting. The kids and I still had a fun day together, though. We took a tour of the State Capitol building that was very enjoyable and informative. Lily and Trevor have been studying government in school, and it’s good for them to actually see where and how it’s applied. Our love of cars also took us to see the R.E. Olds transportation museum. We love to see the old cars and memorabilia. So much pride and workmanship went into the classic vehicles. The most fun the kids had was at the Impression 5 Science Center. This is a hands on play area for kids to build, do experiments, and encounter science and nature first hand. They could have spent all day there, and we’ll probably visit this again after the Lugnuts game here in a couple of weeks. It does get you down a bit, waiting for the weather to clear up to see some baseball games, but we still had fun, and the kids were able to spend some quality time with their Papa for his birthday. We also had dinner at one of my favorite sports bars, the Nuthouse Sports Grill!