Category Archives: Lehigh Valley IronPigs

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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A Few Words About Maikel Franco

Franco with an RBI, from the final home stand.  Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Franco with an RBI, from the final home stand. Photo: Cheryl Pursell

 

Word leaked out, as the ‘Pigs close out the 2014 season in Moosic, that Maikel Franco will indeed get the call to the Phillies after the game today.  In fact, rumor has it, he’ll start tomorrow for the Phillies in Atlanta.  It’s been debated for weeks, and I’m happy it’s finally official.

I’ve been a strong supporter of the call:  I think it will get the young man some experience that he can use to challenge for a spot in Spring Training.  It’s not that I think he’s been ready during the season–too much inconsistency and some flaws in his game.  However, the naysayers think I’m wrong.  Let me address the concerns:

  1. He won’t get any playing time.   I don’t care.  He won’t get any in Allentown, either (the season’s over).  He won’t get any at home sitting on his couch.  Winter ball (It’s been reported that he’ll play, although not where) doesn’t start for a while.  He just played an entire season of AAA baseball.  Why not let him get some exposure to the Phillies big team, and let the coaches there see him now that he has a season of AAA under his belt. They haven’t seen him since March in Clearwater.
  2. He’ll develop bad habits.   How can he develop bad habits if he’s not getting regular playing time?  The first two concerns cancel each other out.  It’s September.  The Phillies are out of it.  It should be a nice relaxed atmosphere for him to learn what he needs to do to take the next step.
  3. It will ruin him.  Just like they did to Dom Brown.   Nope.  First, Maikel is a different guy.  I know neither of them well–I’m just saying that the personalities and psyches might be different.  Secondly, Dom was called, demoted, called again, and sat the bench for a team challenging for the pennant.  This is a different team.  With a different manager and a different outlook on the future.  Plus, this is happening AFTER the season.  The routine of AAA is over.  Whatever development and experience Maikel was to receive at AAA has been completed–at least for this year.  It’s not interrupting his season or taking away experience he could receive by playing every day, because that is over.

It’s a bonus and it’s a reward.  I think everyone knows that Maikel is not the savior of the Phillies.  It just makes sense.

Part of making room for the call-ups is making room on the 40-man.  To that end, the Phillies yesterday traded with the Blue Jays:  John Mayberry Jr for an A-AA 3B.  This concludes JMJ’s time in the Phillies organization.  I think he’s spent time with the IronPigs over more different seasons than any other player.  And, as I said yesterday at the RailRiders game:  I’ve seen enough.  I mean no disparagement, but I’ve seen what he can do at AAA and in the Majors, and I’ve had it.  Time for a fresh start elsewhere, Junior.  It’s been real.  It’s been nice.  It hasn’t been real nice.

And as I finished typing, the season has officially ended.  Tyler Henson strikes out with men on first and third and two outs, and the IronPigs lose to the RailRiders 4-1.  They lost the continuation of yesterday’s game in a 2-1 walk-off, as well.  They’ll finish in last place.

More to come on the 2014 IronPigs as we empty out the “drafts” file:

  1. Scranton is a Trip:  A look back at our time in Moosic in 2013-2014.
  2. 2014 IronPigs Postmortem vol. 1:  “A Season of Change”
  3. 2014 IronPigs Postmortem vol. 2:  “Memories of a Season Gone By, Quickly”
  4. 2014 IronPigs Postmortem vol. 3:  “The Season in Pictures”
  5. 2014 IronPIgs Postmortem vol. 4:  “A Look Ahead:  Players and Rosters for 2015″

See you at the arena, I guess,

@Kram209

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Close This Thing Down: IronRail, Pigs Finale, Tailgate, Trough

The IronPigs 2014 home season comes to a close tonight, following an exciting 6-5 win versus the RailRiders last night.  The win secured the 2014 IronRail Trophy for the IronPigs–our first of many I assume.  Tonight, we put the season to bed the best way we know how:  relax and have fun!

From Right: Kurt: "Here it is! We won!" Brundy: "Cool.  It's kinda heavy." Uncle Ray:  "Groovy" Sal: "Would you guys put that away, there are three more games to play." The Mick: "I can't believe we have to wear black pants."

From Right:
Kurt: “Here it is! We won!”
Brundy: “Cool. It’s kinda heavy.”
Uncle Ray: “Groovy”
Sal: “Would you guys put that away, there are three more games to play.”
The Mick: “I can’t believe we have to wear black pants.”

Tailgate!

We’ll be at the LSI spot today 3:30 or so setting up.  Menu: Thai Shrimp, Sausage Sandwiches, Hot Dogs, sodas.  Look for the flag(s).

Trough!

Assuming there will be an “after party” tonight, we’ll be hanging out in the trough until they make us leave.

Tomorrow!

A couple of us are making the trip up to Moosic tomorrow.  See you up there, maybe.  Most likely will sit out Monday, though.

Stay Tuned!

I’ve got a couple baseball posts still in the works, and we’ll do some season retrospective.  I’ve got a couple Arena things going, too, as well as some hockey preview.

 

See you at the park, one more time,

@Kram209

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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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