Category Archives: Kram’s Korner – From the Club Level

2015 IronPigs Schedule Released: Good, Bad and Ugly

2015_IronPigs_Schedule_k0ljic2o

THE GOOD

  1. Opening Day at Coca Cola Park
  2. Closing Day at Coca Cola Park
  3. Plenty of Weekend games
  4. No home stand longer than 8 games
  5. A nice, busy June
  6. 12 games in 14 days at the end of July/beginning of August
  7. Plenty of April Games
  8. Shorter road trips for the players
  9. Fewer 2-game sets–Mr. Brundage should approve.
  10. A couple good candidates for vacation weeks in August, and one in July–for the fans.
  11. 222 game at Coca Cola Park April 7.
  12. With all 1:35 games on Sundays, plenty of chance to continue the post-game tailgate tradition–and plenty of chance to get over to the SteelHawks games if they’re smart and go for evening kickoff on Sundays when the ‘Pigs are home.
  13. Not listing the playoffs on the schedule is probably a good idea.  We’ll figure that out later….
  14. The late start to the season should ease conflicts with SteelHawks (somewhat) and Phantoms, and the late end to the season should flow into pre-season hockey quite nicely.

THE BAD

  1. Season doesn’t start until April 9!  We’re going to be champing at the bit, I’m telling you.
  2. With the season extending to a late Labor Day, September 7–could be a week without the best players as they could be called up September 1.
  3. New, uneven schedule has 18 games with Scranton–10 in Moosic, 8 in Allentown!
  4. Fewer games with Western and Southern opponents–some only in town for 3 days instead of 4.
  5. The busy April is good for baseball fans like myself, but tough on the attendance race.
  6. No 5:35 games on Sundays in the summer.

THE UGLY

  1. Only 8 games in August!  Unbalanced!
  2. The RailRiders get home field advantage in the race for the IronRail!

But, I’ll be there,

@Kram209

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“I Called It” The Story of a Walk-Off

Except I didn’t.

Franco, following the obligatory pie in the face.  Photo courtesy @AngelsforMark

Franco, following the obligatory pie in the face. Photo courtesy @AngelsforMark

But let me step back a minute.

Junior calls all kinds of stuff.  He called a walk-off last night when we were down 5-0.  He’ll call anything, knowing that eventually he’ll be right in some kind of way.  Tonight, he called “three straight strike outs–because we’re horrible.”  I figured it would be something more crazy–like a line-drive double play to get Spears off second.

But you know, walk-offs are among my favorite things to see at the park.  A no-hitter?  A perfect game?  Never saw them.  Not yet.  A cycle?  I remember Michael Taylor’s night like it was yesterday.  And walk-offs?  Love ‘em.  Hanzawa had one earlier this year.  Castro’s had a few over the past two years.  Franco had one before, on a single to right. The home run variety are the best.  I’ve seen them from Blanco and Castro over the past couple years.

I thought about calling for the HR with Galvis at the plate.  It would tie the game and energize the crowd.  It would probably knock the closer out of the game.  But I just didn’t feel it…

However, with one run in (Galvis singled to right, scoring Spears) and Franco strolling to the plate, I felt it.  I turned to Junior and said, “I’m calling it.  Walk-off home run.”

He replied, “Baahh.”

But Franco was having a good at-bat by now.  He stayed away from some garbage pitches and crushed a foul pull-side.  The four adults in front of me were still enjoying their 32-oz beers and chatting about who-knows-what.  One of the women in the group answered her cell phone–which she had stored in her cleavage.

I’m not kidding.

I wondered if they knew what was coming.  A nice crowd was still on hand for an early-evening Sunday game.  The Kiddos got duffel bags.  A buddy had the IronPigs Suite.  (BTW, they should do more 5:35 games in the summer.  And, the IronPigs Suite has been re-done:  nice hardwood floors and brick wall facing.  Classy.  But I digress.)

The long drive off Maikel Franco’s bat wasn’t a surprise to me.  I knew it was coming.  Heck, I called it.  But, I did worry that it might hang up too long and get caught at the warning track in Left Field–where all manner of bad things have happened this season (injuries, phantom balls, etc.).

But it didn’t.  It went into the bull-pens, and the place erupted.  As it should.  Congratulations and high-fives all around.  Junior screaming, “YOU CALLED IT!”  I looked up, and Franco was only at second!  Powder-blue jerseys flooded the field.  How many players do we have?  25?  Seemed like 50 of them on the field waiting for Franco.  And I called it.

Except.

I didn’t.

Not first.

A whole inning earlier I received the following text from Cheryl Pursell:

“I left..  There will be a walk off now.  Let’s hope.”

Yup.

Cheryl called it.

 

See you at the park,

@Kram209

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Winding Down: Podcast, Roster and IronRail

We're "This Close" to contending... Photo: Cheryl Pursell

We’re “This Close” to contending…
Photo: Cheryl Pursell

While things are winding down over at Coca Cola Park, I’m still paying attention.  Here are some things you should know about as the 2014 season comes to a close:

  1. ICYMI, I had the opportunity to be a guest on the APhilliated Podcast, hosted by IronPigs Radio Producer Mark Perlman-Price.  It came out good, I think, and he certainly has access to better recording equipment.  You can listen to it here if you like.
  2. Tony Gwynn, Jr. is with the IronPigs now.  He’s starting in CF again tonight.  He’s a lot of fun to watch, and leading off this evening.  He’s hitting .474 for the ‘Pigs so far–over only a short time, I know–but worth catching.
  3. If you’re a season ticket holder, don’t forget to renew your seats or at least collect on your renewal award:  Some “loaded value” is available for the last home stand starting next weekend, but you have to ask for it.  Contact your ticket rep!
  4. I know it’s way too early to start thinking about next season, but that never stopped me before.  Of course, some free agent signings will impact the opening day roster.  But here I go anyway.  Here are some names to remember for 2015–even if they don’t start the season in Allentown:  Pitchers:  Adam Morgan, Jon Pettibone, Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, Severino Gonzalez, Hoby Milner, Nefi Ogando, Adam Loewen.  Catchers Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle.  INF Carlos Alonso, Brock Stassi, KC Serna, JP Crawford.  OF: Cameron Perkins, Aaron Altherr, Kelly Dugan.  Player/Coach Jake Fox.
  5. IronRail:  There are four games remaining with Scranton–two here and two up north.  The ‘Pigs lead the season series 8-4.  The evil RailRiders must win all four games to retain the coveted IronRail trophy via the totally arbitrary tiebreaker.  It’s our only chance to take home some hardware for this season, so…

See you at the park,

@Kram209

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Farewell, Clete

In today’s transactions, Clete Thomas was released by the Phillies organization as they activated pitcher BJ Rosenberg.  Clete hadn’t been getting much playing time lately, as the Phillies continue to evaluate Leandro Castro and Tyler Henson as potential call-up candidates, and young Cameron Perkins gains experience.  Now, with the addition of Tony Gwynn, Jr., Clete becomes the roster casualty.  Here’s hoping he can hook on somewhere with the possibility of a September call-up as a defensive, base-stealing OF.

Alas, I feel like we got cheated out of as much Clete as we could have had–I bet he does, too!  As the season began, this year, Clete was our most productive and consistent player and was leading-off games quite reliably.  He had always played well against us in the past, and I saw a little “Richie Thompson” in him:  He was a rangy lefty, leading off, stealing bases and playing excellent defense in CF.  I know, Clete has more MLB service time, but as a Coca Cola Park regular, Richie’s who he reminded me of.  It was just that aggressive play which resulted in his injury in left field.  “Thanks for diving into the wall for making that catch, Clete.  Here’s your two broken ribs.  Also, get out there and hit one more time.”

Well, that’s not how it went–but it’s how it ended up.  By the way, I think maybe the IronPigs need to take a look at the left field wall and corner after all the injuries and ball-mishaps of this season.  That could be a nice off-season project for them.

But I digress.  A thank you to Clete, today, for his hard play and effort.  And, well-wishes as he continues on from here.  Hopefully he doesn’t come back to haunt us in future seasons.

Here are some Cheryl Pursell photos from the “library:”

See you at the park,

@Kram209

Clete Thomas taking one for the team. - Cheryl Pursell

Clete Thomas taking one for the team. – Cheryl Pursell

Clete Thomas  Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Clete Thomas
Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Clete Thomas celebrating his HR. - Cheryl Pursell

Clete Thomas celebrating his HR. – Cheryl Pursell

Clete Thomas' Lead off Homer! - Cheryl Pursell

Clete Thomas’ Lead off Homer! – Cheryl Pursell

Clete Thomas - Cheryl Pursell

Clete Thomas – Cheryl Pursell

  Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Photo: Cheryl Pursell

From Spring Training:  @CherylPursell

From Spring Training: @CherylPursell

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Hockey Update: Phantoms News Trickles Forth

It might be only August, and it might be 90 days until the home opener for the Phantoms, but things are moving ahead at the downtown arena as they prepare for the Eagles concert in early September.  Here’s the latest on the Phantoms:

From the Phantoms' Twitter Feed

From the Phantoms’ Twitter Feed

  1. A New Mascot:  I’m not sure what happened to the Beaver Named Dax, but our new mascot is meLVin–with the big ‘LV’ representing the Lehigh Valley.  He’s a crazy, one-of-a-kind creature who should do fine as long as they don’t redesign him with a llama neck.
  2. Partial Season Ticket Plans Go On Sale:  Single-game tix are on sale for the two preseason games, but partial season tickets are on sale too.  Here’s a photo summary from the Phantoms Twitter feed:
  3. partial season tickets
  4. Installation Continues:  The seats are almost completely installed, and the huge, 4-way, center ice score board is being constructed and installed.  The dasher boards arrived yesterday and are already appearing in the live photo feed from inside the arena.  Go to the arena web site to check it out!  www.phantomsarena.com
  5. A Sneak Peak at the Schedule:  the following schedule details have been released:prelim sched More schedule detail will be forthcoming as the AHL finalizes things.  Stay tuned!
  6. We’re starting to study our prospects lists:  I’m no Flyers fan, but I’m going to have to learn.  I’ve been monitoring some sites like this one to learn about the players in the Flyers’ system.
  7. We’re Still Nervous About Traffic and Parking:  Yes, traffic studies have been done.  And, folks are working night and day to install new traffic lighting which will allow for more efficient access and egress.  As specifics become available, we’ll pass them on right here.

 

Stay tuned!  We’re ready to support the Phantoms!

@Kram209

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Concert(s) Preview: PPL Center Arena

Not a complete departure from our normal sports coverage–just that I’m excited about the new arena.  I’m excited about hockey and I’m looking forward to the concerts.  So, a couple things to get you ready:

 

First, a quick look at the events that have been scheduled so far.  (The PPL Arena folks remind you to purchase tickets from the authorized site and not a re-seller, if you can help it.)

 

September 12:  The Eagles

September 15: Cher (Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo)

September 16: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Steve Winwood)

September 26: Rascal Flatts

October 1 and 4: Phantoms Hockey Preseason (single games on sale now $12-$15–included with full season tickets)

October 3: Harlem Globetrotters ($24-$96)

October 5: WWE Live

October 10-11: Professional Bull Riding ($15-$100)

October 15: Judas Priest ($32.50-$52.50)

December 20: Penn State vs. Drexel (Men’s College Basketball)

—-

Here are some set lists for the first couple shows.  I used a couple on-line sites to research their current tours–keeping in mind that artists sometimes change things up, improvise, and the like.  Check at setlist.fm if you’d like to do further research on your own as the shows approach.

EAGLES (July 2, European Leg)

How Long

Take It to the Limit

Tequila Sunrise

I Can’t tell You Why

Lyin’ Eyes

Heartache Tonight

Those Shoes

In the City (Joe Walsh)

One of These Nights

Life’s Been Good (Joe Walsh)

Dirty Laundry (Don Henley)

Funk #49 (James Gang/Joe Walsh)

Life in the Fast Lane

encore:

Hotel California

Take It Easy

Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh)

Desperado

CHER (Western Leg, with Cyndi Lauper in July)

Woman’s World

Strong Enough

Dressed to Kill

The Beat Goes On

I Got You Babe

Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves / Dark Lady

Half-Breed

Welcome to Burlesque

You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me

Take It Like a Man

Walking in Memphis

Just Like Jesse James

I Found Someone

If I Could Turn Back Time

Believe

encore:

I Hope You Find It

STEVE WINWOOD (Aug 5)

I’m a Man (Spencer Davis Group)

Fly

Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith)

Medicated Goo (Traffic)

Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic)

Empty Pages (Traffic)

Higher Love

Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic)

Gimme Some Lovin’ (Spencer Davis Group)

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS (Aug 5)

You Wreck Me

Mary Jane’s Last Dance

American Dream Plan B

Into the Great Wide Open

Forgotten Man

I Won’t Back Down

Free Fallin’

Fault Lines

Tweeter and the Monkey Man (Travelling Wilburys)

U Get Me High

Rebels (acoustic)

Two Gunslingers (acoustic)

Yer So Bad

Learning to Fly

Shadow People

I Should Have Known It

Refugee

Runnin’ Down A Dream

encore:

Don’t Come Around Here No More

American Girl

 

Have Fun!  And, I’ll see you at the arena,

@Kram209 (soon: Kram106)

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Field Trip: Crosscutters at Renegades (Game Report and Stadium Review)

It’s August now, and a lot of things are “old hat:”  We know the team.  We know we’re not going to be in the playoffs.  Further roster excitement is doubtful, and the IronRail won’t get decided until final weekend.  But yesterday was a kind of important day in the Phillies’ system:  2014 First-round pick Aaron Nola was making his AA debut in Reading, 2010 first-round pick Jesse Biddle was returning from injury with the Clearwater Threshers, and IronPig favorite David Buchanan was making his first start in his second stint with the Big Team.  So which game did I go to, with the IronPigs off for the day?

Williamsport Crosscutters at Hudson Valley Renegades, of course.  The teams are part of the Short-Season ‘A’ New York Penn League, with the Crosscutters as the Phillies’ affiliate.  It’s a great place to get college players acclimated to “every day” baseball games, as well as a destination for players who may be struggling in ‘A’ ball or getting a late start due to injury or other difficulties.  This season, I’ve been following the team quite closely–from afar–as it is stacked with could-be prospects given the Phillies’ recent concentration on college-age draft picks.  I was thrilled to get the opportunity to see the team in person.

We made our way to Duchess Stadium, just across the river from Newburgh, NY after having spent the day at West Point Military Academy.  (Trust me, Junior and I needed our tour tickets to get in there.)  We arrived early, with the thought of grabbing a bite to eat at one of the restaurants across the street from the stadium.  However, traffic, and the line forming at the gate, led us to bag dinner outside the park in favor of a shot at the giveaway, and stadium fare.

The line was forming because of the evening’s giveaway:  The first 1,000 adult fans (13 and over!) received replica jerseys.  They were inexpensive, light-weight, gray poly mesh jerseys, with sewn on teal piping and a stamped on Hudson Valley logo on the left chest.  There was also a stamped-on radio ad on the right sleeve, and a large stamped-on advertisement on the back.  They were made by match up promotions , who also do work for the Renegades’ Major League affiliate, Tampa Bay Rays.  It was interesting how they conducted the giveaway:  Two main lines divided into four as we approached the security check-point prior to entering the gates.  Once inside the stadium, all four lines had to approach one table to claim the give-away.  The mob made it difficult for the staff there to regulate who received a giveaway and who didn’t–and how many.  Jerseys were available in sizes ‘M’ and ‘XL’ only, as far as I could determine.  The woman in front of me–who looked like she could play linebacker for the Bears, or at least win bids at the old-fashioned clipboard-centric jersey auctions–claimed five jerseys.  She had a fist-full of tickets, but there was no saying how many of them were for kiddos under 13.  But, that’s an important point, too.  It was nice that Junior, who never gets an adult giveaway at the IronPigs games despite his full-season club ticket, was a candidate for the jersey.  I think most teens would prefer the adult-level giveaways to the kiddo trinkets–but we’ve been over that before.

Here’s another thing we’ve been over before:

photo (8)

Photo: @Kram209

Yup, even in short-season A-ball they’ve got a special gate for the season ticket holders.  Giveaways at that gate were available right up until game-time, from what I could observe from inside the park.  I think we’ll revisit this again in the off-season; It really does seem like it’s a perk that season-ticket-holding Minor League fans expect these days.

More on the stadium:  It was really nice compared to what I expected for the NY-Penn League.  Capacity was 4,000–with 3,758 in attendance last evening.  It didn’t feel crowded at all–I suspect a few no-shows, but the stadium also held it’s crowd well and they had good fan support.  The two concourses stretched from Left Field to Right Field both “inside” the stadium, and under the stands.  In Left, was a kids’ play area, and a pic-nic patio/buffet area.  In Right, a Mexican-themed concession with several menu choices and several Mexican beers–along with a couple seating options.  Under the stands were the main concessions.  They were very impressive for a stadium this size:  two main concession areas, one on each baseline anchored the offerings.  Each had an “express” line for beer, and standard stadium fare with a few extras, such as waffle-cut sweet potato fries (could have been crispier, and saltier, but tasty nonetheless).  An Italian-themed stand on the third-base line had pizza and a couple different pasta choices.  A “build your own burger” stand and a “healthy choices” stand were on the first base line.  Junior built his own burger from five different roll choices, four different meat choices and a multitude of topping choices.  Of course, they didn’t have the one topping he requested–but still his burger rated “very good” he reported.  The healthy stand had four different salads, a panini of the day, and several wraps including gluten-free.  My panini was outstanding.  Each was $6.50.  Beer was everywhere.  Every stand seemed to have a couple different choices, and there were a couple portables and a roving in-stands vendor as well.  A small corner under the stands near first base was fashioned as a “beer garden” with at least 12 different choices on-tap.  All beers seemed to be $6.50 for a pint cup, everything–whether Miller Lite or Micro-Brew.  16-oz cans were available near the entrance.  A beer special at the aforementioned Mexican “Cantina” in Right Field had $4 options.

All-in-all it was a nice place to watch a game.  It felt a lot like “Poor-Man’s Reading,” for those familiar–but well-done and friendly all the same.  Ticket prices were $5-$14, depending on several factors.  We sat near the ‘Cutters dugout, in a section similar to 115 or 116 at CCP.  Many seats in our area were STH seats.  We paid $14 each plus fees–$33 for two tickets.

The game:  The ‘Cutters went down 1-0 in the bottom of the first, as highly-regarding catching prospect Deivi Grullon chucked the ball to the center-field wall on an attempted steal of second base.  To be fair, it seemed that the infielder covering and center-fielder Aaron Brown could have made better plays on the errant throw–to at least limit the damage to a stolen base rather than a run.  Also of note, Grullon has an outstanding arm:  He cut down a runner trying to advance on a passed-ball and caught another trying to steal later in the game.  On the passed ball (or wild pitch) he chased the ball half-way to the backstop, then fired a laser to second to get the runner.  On the CS, the runner got an outstanding jump; I didn’t think Grullon had a chance.  But, the rocket was right on target–the runner was out on a close play.

An error by first-baseman Rhys Hoskins didn’t help young pitcher Feliberto Sanchez, either, added to the 1 BB and 7 hits he yielded.  Overall, though, he was rather poised amid the chaos created by the Renegades–the top team in the New York-Penn League.  Sanchez got the loss in the 6-2 game.  We left at 4-2 for the commute ahead of us.  The Cutters had men on base throughout the game, but often could not capitalize.  the manager coaching third was also hesitant to send players to the plate in cases where they probably could have made it. Perhaps he wanted to avoid contact plays or perhaps he just wanted to get more guys to the plate with RISP.  Whatever, but it resulted in poor run-support for the 21yo Dominican RHP.

The Players:  Below, I’m going to make some comparisons (or “comps”) to players you know. It’s important to note that these are for recreational purposes only–for IronPigs fans to form a mental picture of these players as we begin to follow them through the system until they hopefully reach AAA–where we can see them again.  No one ever asked me to be a “scout.”  I’m not interested in putting in the time and effort to pretend to be one, either.  Who knows how good these players really are, or will become?  Certainly not me.  So take these “ratings” with a grain of salt.  Let’s not even call them comps.  Let’s call them “Kram Komps.”  Another good point is that I saw (most of) only one game.  Lots of times, when I’m making observations about IronPigs’ players I’m doing it with dozens and dozens of games watched–both in person for home games and via MiLB.TV for away games.  So, keep that in mind and don’t flame me for anything below–and don’t quote my observations as anything more than a fan enjoying one game:

Cord Sandberg RF:  He’s a big, strong athlete who has the ability to play CF now, but will probably move forward in a corner spot.  He was recruited to play QB in the SEC–and he looks it.  The lefty looked good last night, with two hits and a couple other hard-hit balls.  I don’t have a comp for him–he’s a “toolsy” guy the Phillies snagged in the draft last year not knowing if he’d sign or go to college.  He really does look like he could play QB.  He should be fun to follow going forward.

Jiandido Tromp LF:  The speedy outfielder from Aruba reminds me–a lot–of Leandro Castro.  He’s currently second in the league in home runs.  He’s in his second turn at Williamsport–having done less-well at Lakewood.  But the 20-year old looked like the energetic, powerful athlete we know in Castro.

Aaron Brown CF:  The Pepperdine product was a two-way player in college as an OF and a pitcher.  He’s a lefty who can run and throw.  Comps?  A speedier Joe Savery?  A homeless-man’s Mike Trout?  I’m not sure.  He didn’t have a great night at the plate, but did run down two drives in center field which looked like they were ticketed for the wall when they left the bat.  Did I mention he can run?  I’d like to see more of him.

Rhys Hoskins 1B:  The big RH Cal-State product doesn’t have the average to show it, but has hit the ball hard according to Williamsport media reports.  It’s tough to move ahead as a 1B prospect, so we’ll see how he does.  The “Kram Komp” is Cody Overbeck.  Or, a RH-batting, 1B version of Cody Asche.

Wilson Garcia DH (C):  The switch hitting catcher from Venezuela served as the DH last night.  He squared a couple up, and really hustled down the baseline despite running like a catcher.  I don’t have a comp for him having not seen him play defense–but he did look competent from both sides of the plate.  He did look pretty big, too, for his listed 5’11″/160lbs.

Derek Campbell 2B (INF):  He’s a grinder and you could tell it.  The righty is a Berkeley product who reminds me a little of Kevin Frandsen. He dove at a couple grounders where he didn’t really have a chance.  Still dove, though.  100% effort.

Jan Hernandez 3B:  The youngster (19yo) from Puerto Rico has struggled a bit at the plate in both Williamsport and Lakewood this season.  He looked taller than his listed 6’1″.  I don’t have a comp, exactly, but he did look to have a Franco-esque arm at third.

Deivi Grullon C:  I wrote about him a little above.  He’s only 18yo, out of the Dominican.  He looks to have both defensive and offensive tools to be an above-average catcher.  Junior felt he could have done a better job blocking the ball, but I thought he was nicely active behind the plate trying to help his pitcher face one of the top-hitting teams in the league.  He looks shorter than his listed 6’1″.  I could watch this kid play every day–no doubt about it.  His “Kram Komp”?  Carlos Ruiz.

Emmanuel Marrero SS:  The Alabama State product who was born in Puerto Rico was billed as a “glove first” shortstop.  He played well in the game as I observed, but the switch-hitter did not impress at the plate.  He appeared smaller than the 5’11” listing.  I don’t have a “Kram Komp” but I’d expect him to advance based on his defense, for now.

So that’s it.  Get out there an enjoy a game at another park while the ‘Pigs are in Ohio.  I’m sorry I didn’t take more pictures, but that’s how it goes with me sometimes–and why we enjoy the stuff we get from Cheryl and Jim and Steve.

See you at the park (11 games left)

@Kram209

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