Category Archives: Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Lehigh Valley Professional Sports: Holiday Wishbook

Do you remember the Sears Christmas Wishbook?  Boy, I sure do.  I don’t remember exactly when it was delivered each year, but between Thanksgiving and Christmas I had that thing all but memorized.  Page by page, I knew the cool stuff and what was on my list.  I don’t remember ever GETTING any of it, but I remember I wanted stuff.

There’s no real Wishbook anymore, though.  The Wild West of the internet has replaced the old Wishbook tradition.  Heck, we’ve got stores open on Thanksgiving Day now, and overnight delivery and all of that.  It’s quite a change from 1981.

But, that doesn’t mean I don’t still want stuff.  I’ve learned by now I probably won’t get everything on my list.  I know it’s the season of giving, but I’ve already spent all my money on season ticket packages.  So, this is a list of the stuff I want from my sports teams:

SteelHawks:

I’ve given up on my wish for a green field–just like those walkie talkies I never got.  So instead, I wish for a home playoff game.   The SteelHawks have been in the playoffs the past two seasons–even made the championship last year–but we haven’t had a home playoff game yet.  It’s just the thing the ‘Hawks need to solidify their place in the Lehigh Valley Sports-scape.  With the move to the PPL Center Arena in Allentown, the SteelHawks will be attracting new fans, and hopefully creating the same exciting atmosphere we had in Bethlehem–and more.  I think a home playoff game (or two? I’m getting greedy…) is just what we need.  It would be easy for me to just put “winning” for each and every wish, but here, specifically, home playoffs.

Velodrome:

People keep telling me what a great time it is at the Velodrome in Trexlertown on summer Friday nights.  But, for some reason, I still haven’t been.  So from the Velodrome, I wish for an invitation, and good weather on Friday nights.   No, they don’t need to personally invite me–they don’t owe me anything.  But, they should keep on plugging away, advertising, and letting people know what a great time it is.  Excellent food and drink options are just what I need–and they’ve got it!  It’s the cycling capital of the United States, and it’s two miles from my door.  I have no more excuses.  This one is on my New Year’s Resolution list as well:  I’ve got to get there this summer!  You should too.

Phantoms:

For the Phantoms I wish good health.  There are a bunch of young and highly-regarded players on the team, and we’ve already experienced some injuries with Gostisbehere, Hextall and Alt.

From the Phantoms I wish for competitive and action-packed games to kick off their inaugural season in the Lehigh Valley.  Just a few night’s ago, both Mrs. Kram and NoiseNation Dan attended their first-ever hockey games.  Both enjoyed it and said that they’d be back.  It was a 3-2 win for the Phantoms.  I’m not so sure both would feel that way would it have been a 5-0 loss.  We’ve already had a bunch of good home games; I hope they continue.

IronPigs:

The IronPigs are like that rich Aunt who can afford to buy you whatever you want.  Will she?  That’s another matter.  But in this case, we’ve already seen the IronPigs invest in their stadium and invest in their brand in the past.  We’ve seen new seating areas, tiki bars, whole new uniforms sets and other cool stuff.  And, we’ve gotten a little kicker–in the form of loaded ticket credit–as season ticket holders.  It’s all good.  What could I possibly want?  I wish for a new scoreboard.  I know it’s a luxury.  We have a perfectly good, working, scoreboard right now.  But technology moves forward.  Big gorgeous boards in Philly, Reading, and Moosic–not to mention 7th and Hamilton–have passed Coca Cola Park by.  As the number one destination in minor league baseball over the past several years, the park–and the fans–deserve the best new scoreboard Aunt Kurt can afford.  And while we’re wishing for stuff, let’s hire an additional intern who’s only job is to get replays up on that new board so that we can see what the heck just happened.

What do YOU wish for, from our professional franchises?  Leave your wishes in the comments section, and I’ll make sure they get to the proper “Santas.”

 

See you at the North Pole,

@Kram209

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Filed under Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Phantoms Hockey, Steel Hawks

“The Band Stays Together” IronPigs Coaching Staff to Remain Same

The Phillies announced their “Minor League Development Staff” assignments today.  For the IronPigs, there’s not so much to announce:  The staff will remain the same, with our four coaches:

Dave Brundage, Manager

The discussion, Photo: Cheryl Pursell

The discussion,
Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Sal Rende, Hitting Coach

 Photo by Cheryl Pursell

Photo by Cheryl Pursell

Mickey Morandini, Bench Coach/Infield

MORANDINI TSHIRT

Ray Burris, Pitching

Ray Burris, in a lighter moment. Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Ray Burris, in a lighter moment.
Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Now, if we can just get the early over/under for the opening day Anthem…

See you at the park,

@Kram209

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IronPigs News: Phillies’ 2015 MiLB Sign-ees with Invites

Official announcement today of Phillies’ MiLB contracts with MLB Spring Training invitations.  Some of these have leaked out in previous days, but today we got the official word on all eight–including some surprises:

SS Andres Blanco:  

I feel like those dudes from Animal House when they walk into that bar and see Otis Day and the Nights:  “He loves us!”  OK, I don’t know whether he does or not, but I know he’s heard the cheers:  “LET’S–GO–BLAN–CO!” (clapclap–clapclapclap)  Good to have him back.  Always good to have a solid shortstop on the roster.

OF Brian Bogusevic:

He spent last season playing 82 games with Miami’s AAA team, and had 47 games with the Cubs in 2013.  .263/.352/.420 with seven HRs in the PCL last year.

1B/DH Russ Canzler:

We had a feeling Russ would be back.  He really added a spark when he came over from Moosic–and by all accounts enjoyed his time with the ‘Pigs and enjoyed staying close to home in Pennsylvania!

SS/3B Chase d’Arnaud:

I’ve seen him play with both Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.  He hit .250/.313/.356 with two home runs last season in the International League, having played 118 games.  A quick and dirty extrapolation has him as our 3B, with Franco and Asche both in Philly and Howard in Seattle.  ;-)

RF Jeff Francoeur:

“Frenchy” comes aboard having played 115 games with the Padres’ AAA team last season.  He hit .289/.320/.450 with 15 HR.  The former Brave has kicked around the past few years with the Mets, Royals, Rangers, Giants and Padres.

C John Hester:

The Angels–>IronPigs pipeline remains open as the veteran catcher comes over having played 71 games for the Angel’s AAA team last season.  He has MLB experience with both the Angels and Diamondbacks.  He comes eastward having hit .261/.338/.411 with six home runs last season in the PCL.

OF Darin Mastroianni:

He made it to the Show with both Toronto and Minnesota last season, but hit .277/.354/.379 in the International League last season with Buffalo and Rochester.  He had 20 stolen bases.

OF Xavier Paul

We’ve met him before, too, with Norfolk, Syracuse and Louisville.  He has MLB experience with Arizona, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the Dodgers.  He split last season between the IL and the PCL hitting .251/.311/.425 with 12 home runs from the left side over 82 AAA games.

A Couple Thoughts:

I’m kidding around with the Asche/Franco stuff above, but it’s probably true:  Both will probably start in Philly.  Franco has been playing really well in the Dominican this winter and certainly didn’t embarrass himself last season in his first action with the big team.  It really sounds like they’re gonna move Howard and eat his contract as long as they can get something/anything in return.  I believe Duran re-signed as well, but he is probably headed back to Reading to start, backing up phenom JP Crawford there.

I am a little surprised with the number of OF signed, given prospects Cam Perkins, Aaron Altherr, and Kelly Dugan on the way.  Altherr has been ripping it up in Venezuela this fall, but I suppose Dugan could start back in Reading given the time he missed due to injury last season.  And, there’s always injuries, opt-outs and PCL-nonperformance cuts.  So, yeah, depth is necessary.

I still don’t have a definitive answer on Leandro Castro.  Most places I look still have him as a Free Agent–and I do remember hearing that his MiLB deal last season was for one year.  One source told me that he has re-signed with the Phillies organization, but you’d think they’d give him the MLB camp invite if that were the case.

Stay tuned, looking for some pitching…

@Kram209

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Finding a Rhythm

My view from 106  Photo: DiPro

My view from 106
Photo: DiPro

As a fan, do you ever get that “gameday” feeling?  Can you feel the energy as you make your way to the stadium?  I can.  I first felt it many years ago, at one of my first NFL games.  Everybody’s walking in the same direction approaching the stadium.  Almost everybody’s cheering for the same team.  Who knows what will happen on this day?  There’s a palpable excitement in the air as you approach the gates, find your seat, and wait for the action to begin.

Once you become a season ticket holder for something, you begin to anticipate that electricity a bit.  At least, I know I do. If it’s a game day, I wake up a little easier.  Fix coffee a little quicker, and find my way to work a little better.  My day moves along a little smoother because it’s GAME DAY!  Perhaps it’s just me, but I get that way even for the minor league sports we enjoy so much here in the Lehigh Valley.

Over the years, as a full season ticket holder for IronPigs Baseball, I get in a rhythm of “home stand” and “road trip.”  When the ‘Pigs are at home, I’m accustomed to scheduling,and anticipating each and every game.  Yes, things get put off and neglected (sorry, kids) but that’s what road trips are for.  When the team’s away, there’s a chance to catch up on the housework, the lawn mowing and talking to the family.  There’s an ebb and flow to it, and the season moves along quite nicely.

The SteelHawks are football.  And football means once per week.  Once the game is over, you know there will be another next week and it will be either “home” or “away.”  Anyone who’s been an NFL fan knows how to fall into the rhythm of a football season quite easily.

But now there’s hockey.  I admit I’m not the biggest hockey fan in the world, and tend to start paying attention around the time the NHL playoffs start.  I know, I know.  But now I’m excited for Phantoms hockey, and I’m ready for more of that hockey action!  But hockey isn’t “every day” like baseball.  And, it’s not “next weekend” like football.  It’s fits and spurts, and I’m having trouble finding a rhythm in this young season.  I need more “game days.”  I know the players need a break. I know they have to play ‘away’ games.  But now I’ve got to wait all the way until Friday for another game.  Then, there will be two road games and another at home on Wednesday, then Saturday, then TWO WEEKS without a home game.  There will be a point in November-December where we’ll go 19 days without a home game.  There’s another two-week stretch in March.  I’ve got to learn to adapt, I guess.

Or, the arena’s gonna need another tenant.  Not this season, but perhaps next we’ll be able to add D-League Basketball or MASL-Soccer.  I think that would help me.

News and Notes:

  • From the previous post:  SteelHawks Schedule Release news conference and party, starting Wednesday at 2:30PM at the arena.  Food and Drink specials in Chickie’s and Pete’s following.  A NosieNation contingent is planning to attend.  Join us, won’t you?  Can’t get out of work?  Stop by after for the social event.
  • Forward Scott Laughton (@Laughts21) was named CCM/AHL Player of the Week!  His four goals in two games earned him the recognition.  Good job, Scotty!  We’re looking for more!
  • Monday is “Phantoms – Breaking the Ice” show on SECTV-2, which films live at 7PM (I believe) at Chickie’s and Pete’s.  Tonight’s guests are expected to be:  Forwards Brett Hextall and the aforementioned Scott Laughton!  Stop by C+P or watch on SECTV-2.

Waiting for ‘Game Day,’

@Kram209

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Phantoms Announce Opening Roster

Seven players were assigned to the Reading Royals of the ECHL today, from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms roster.  That brings the roster to 22, which is about what it should be this time of year, with most relatively healthy.  Recall, there is no roster limit in the AHL, just however many players you can afford to pay…

At any rate, the players sent to Reading were:

Forwards: Andrew Johnston, Marcel Noebels, and Matt Hatch

Defensman: Max Lamarche

Goaltenders: Connor Knapp and Martin Ouellette

Here’s the official roster from the Phantoms.  It’s a photo file–I’ll attempt to size for one sheet of paper for printing:

Phantoms Roster

 

I’ll try to get some player capsules and pictures up later, in advance of the road opener on Saturday in Wilkes-Barre.  Anyone going to that one?

 

How ya doin’

@Kram209

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Phantoms Game Report: “The More Things Change… “

“Change changing places
Root yourself to the ground…”

 

–Yes

The Phantoms lost to the Albany Devils last night, 2-1.  It felt eerily familiar.  

A face-off--seen from the 106. Photo: @Kram209

A face-off–seen from the 106.
Photo: @Kram209

Let me take you back to 2008:  Politicians and business-people alike were thrilled and amazed by the gorgeous new baseball stadium.  There wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and we had affiliated baseball for the first time since the early ’60s.  The Phillies even came up to get a practice game in.

Then, the season started.  11 straight losses.  I remember speaking to folks early on who refused to go over to the brand new facility because the team was so hapless.  “Why bother?” they said.  “Buch of losers.”

Full Ice View, from the Miller Light Loft-- Photo: @Kram209

Full Ice View, from the Miller Light Loft–
Photo: @Kram209

Fast forward to 2014:  Politicians and power-brokers are thrilled with the new multi-million-dollar arena facility in downtown Allentown.  Revitalization is in full-swing.  Arms are being sprained, as folks congratulate themselves on the arena and (poorly written) legislation which made it all possible.  Downtown Allentown is a-buzz.  And, yes, I think it’s great, all things considered.

But our rag-tag hockey team is 0-3 on the pre-season.  Are we headed toward another 0-11 start?  Is this the 2008 ‘Pigs all over again?  One can’t help but wonder….

Gostisbehere leads the charge.  Taken from the Miller Light Loft. Photo: @Kram209

Gostisbehere leads the charge. Taken from the Miller Light Loft.
Photo: @Kram209

Here are my thoughts, as the Phantoms wrap up an 0-3 preseason:

  • I might need to call for an emergency meeting of the “SuperFans.”  Look for the “Pig Head” Bat-Signal in the sky near you…
  • Don’t get me wrong:  I’m not really that worried.  Some, yes.  But my experience with Minor League sports over the past seven years is:  Talent always wins in the end.  And this Phantoms team does have talent.
  • And this team has some veteran experience, too.  Guys like Zach Stortini and Jay Rosehill will make sure that this team won’t get pushed around.  That reminds me…
  • …. after the game, one of the Devils asked the big forward Stortini if he had any goals scored in the game.  This was his response:  “No. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you… I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.
  • Just kidding.  That was from “Taken.”  But let me just say, that other teams best not mess with Zach, his family, or his teammates. He’s just not going to take it. I don’t think Jay Rosehill will, either.
  • The Phantoms are getting shots, though.  And, to my eye, they are reasonably good shots.  They’ll go in, eventually.  The young, talented defenders will set things up better from the blue line.  The fore-check will improve.  The power play will improve.  I have faith.
  • But, no matter how well you shoot and how well you control the puck, at the end of the day:  You’ve got to put the biscuit in the basket to win games.  I hope we have some scorers on this team.
  • I say “No Timmies” if we lose.  That’s the punishment fellas.  ;-)
  • This losing makes me want to throw my glasses on the set…
  • Chickie’s and Pete’s had a “soft” opening after the puck dropped yesterday.  It’s nice in there.  I wish we could have heard the post-game show over the dance music.  It was too loud.  Also, get off my yard you whippersnappers.  Perhaps the pre-game show will be more useful for game-goers, and old cranky guys.
  • Just short of 6,000 in the stands yesterday. Still really comfortable amount of people.  It’ll be a zoo for the opener, though.  I think when it gets up over 8K is when it’ll feel really “tight.”
  • Radio reception in the arena via FM-89.9 worked well from the Miller Light Loft.  Radio voice Bob Rotruck said it might not work as well in the main concourse under the press box.  I didn’t get a chance to test it there, yet.  Stay tuned.  I did enjoy listening during the game, though.
  • There were A LOT of on-street parking spaces available on my commute in.  This could be a pattern for weekend games.  And, since they don’t run meters after 6PM–it’s a real option for saving some money. More to come on that issue.
  • 24-oz “bomber” cans of beer are available on the main concourse near section 103.  They’re $9 and available as Yuengling Lager and Coors Light.  An extra buck or two for Heineken.  At concerts, they had Miller Lite, too, but it hasn’t reappeared.  This is the best beer-deal in the arena, I think.
  • Miller Light Loft has mixed drinks and wine.  They’ve got beer, too, and I think they might stay open throughout the game–where other outlets may close following the second intermission.  Please don’t drink and drive.  And, be careful:  No matter how much you drink up there, you’re going to have to traverse a few sets of stairs to get down out of there–unless you have a ticket in the suites, where there are elevators.
My guy Gostisbehere.  Gonna be a good one, I think.   Photo: @Kram209

My guy Gostisbehere. Gonna be a good one, I think.
Photo: @Kram209

“Capitalize on this good fortune
One word can bring you round
Changes”

 

–Yes

How you doin’

@Kram209

 

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2014 IronPigs Season Postmortem, Vol. 1: “A Season of Change”

smells

As I start to reflect on the 2014 IronPigs season, the theme that comes to mind is “change.”  It all started in February with the organization’s “Smell the Change” campaign.  As we know now, it was all about some new uniform designs.  We kinda knew it was coming, going back to November of 2013 when some of the old, traditional on-field merchandise started getting deep discounts at the Majestic Clubhouse Store.  New Era Hats don’t expire.  The only reason to discount that on-field stuff is because new designs were going to be coming out.  Little did we know how far they would go.

In addition to the new Saturday cap, new away cap and new Sunday cap, we also got a new Friday uniform set (pants too!), and a complete new Saturday set with a bacon theme.  The team did a great job with the design choices, and it was indeed time to freshen up the on-field appearance a bit.  I wasn’t high on the bacon stuff–too goofy.  Boy, was I wrong!  I’m sure the team is still filling orders and counting money, as that bacon design is now available in multiple formats:  several New Era fitted designs, and multiple fashion designs.  I even relented and bought the powder blue version.  We’ll see if further change is to come.  It seems like the team could mix and match sets a little better if they could figure out something to do with those black pants.  Plus, the black pants look silly with red shoes, and are generally disliked by the players and coaches–we have asked them.

But the change that occurred this season wasn’t limited to off-the-field:  The extreme number of transactions that impacted this team ultimately resulted in a sub-par showing on the field.  This could be felt quite obviously at home, where the IronPigs reached only a 31-41 record, among the worst in AAA.  In fact, the road record was among the best in AAA for much of the season.

For the 2014 season, the IronPigs were subject to 166 roster transactions!  That’s more than one transaction per game, home and away!  In 2013, the ‘Pigs had a then-high 128 transactions.  Players often would arrive and leave from the team while at home, given the proximity to Reading and Philadelphia.  Injuries and the need for support in Philly are always going to result in change on the AAA roster.  However, this year’s rate was unprecedented, and with much of it happening at home, it’s no surprise that the product on the field was often searching for an identity.  It doesn’t mean the players couldn’t play or that the coaches couldn’t coach–just that they were often trying to find their way with the lineup and defense constantly changing.  On the road, they were able to settle into a routine a little more, and the record shows it.

I never felt that the team gave up, or stopped playing hard.  Certainly part of the turnover had to do with an MLB team looking for answers.  That created opportunity for players to get to the big leagues, and I’m certain all of them played with that goal in mind.  Here’s hoping that next year, some youth and perhaps some veteran leaders, can settle in and create a more stable core.  A left-handed power bat might be nice, too.

While I’m at it, a look back at previous themes:

2008:  The inaugural season:  everything was shiny and new, and the organization was still feeling it’s way along.  A horrific start on the field and some roster turnover overshadowed a rather competitive team at times.  Meanwhile, Philadelphia was on their way to the World Series, and many couldn’t worry about AAA records.

2009:  Losing vol. 2, but the team did have a winning record at home!  Three players changed dugouts that summer as the Indians’ affiliate Columbus was in town during the first Cliff Lee trade.

2010:  The team that quit.  July and August were horrible as the team didn’t seem to be playing hard or correctly.  The manager expressed open disdain for his roster.  It wasn’t pretty.

2011:  The golden era begins:  winning under Hall of Fame manager Ryne Sandberg also resulted in a team who played hard and did the little things.  For the first time, a winning record in 1-run games!  And, an occasional pitching change in the middle of an inning.  To think!  And the first (and to date, only) playoff appearance by the “lovable losers.”

2012:  The bonus year.  No one thought we’d have Mr. Sandberg for a second year.  Ultimately, we didn’t have the players down the stretch to make the playoff run, but it was again a fun team to watch.

2013:  The start of the Brundage era continued with a team in first-place for a good portion of the early season.  However, a struggling team in Philly and a then-high number of transactions led to a team that again faltered down the stretch.  Starting pitching was inconsistent as well.

Stay tuned for vol. 2:  Kram’s Memories of the 2014 Season.

@Kram209

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