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:
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)