Sunday, July 31, 2011

Byways Goes Psychic

Seattle, meet your newest Mariner—by way of Boston—the man who started for the Triple-A affiliate of the Dodgers just last night, Trayvon Robinson. I figured him to be on the move, but nothing quite so transcontinental.

Photo: Joel Dinda, cropped by UCinternational 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friends and Family Plan

MCU Park light pole at dusk, as Melvin gets arty

Two weeks ago today—yes, that is a Byways record—I joined my friend Ryan at MCU Park for his eighth annual ballpark gathering of friends and family.  At 54 tickets, it was record-sized and one professional colleague set another record by bringing a three-week old baby.  Coincidentally, Melvin was in town for a couple days and he tagged along for the game between the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Lowell Spinners.

Forgive Me, Curt Flood

...but I love the trading deadline. I've been refreshing the sports news pages every several minutes for days now, and each little tickle of a rumor is kind of a thrill. I can barely tell you who Doug Fister is, let alone how he's doing this year, but dang it, he must have something going for him for the Tigers to want him.

I don't think anyone we've come across recently in the minors has been in any of the deals yet, but there's time, Trayvon Robinson, there's time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Short Man's Rise

We were fortunate enough to catch last year's meteoric minor-league player, Starlin Castro, before he hit the big time, but this year we've missed out. Then again, we're hardly alone, as the man in question—who is one part Castro (for his youth) and one part Tim Collins (for his height)—began the year at High-A Lancaster and spent all of 35 games at Double-A Corpus Christi before making the leap.

I'm speaking, of course, of Jose Altuve, whom Kevin Goldstein called "one of the strangest prospects in the game." Altuve got the call after the Astros decided to ship their incumbent second baseman, Jeff Keppinger, to the Giants. By all accounts, all the team sacrificed was seven inches and about 45 pounds—seriously, go look at the picture on this page.

I'm not sure what my more-or-less father-in-law, who has an unexplained horror of little people, would make of this development, but I like to think that Gary Oldman might play Altuve, should there ever be a movie of his life.

Altuve is playing in his second and (I presume) third and fourth major-league games at Wrigley this weekend. I missed today's game, but Rob took the afternoon off to catch the broadcast from a cooperative bar in Brooklyn. We wish the tiniest Astro all the best.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Prosecutors Throw Game

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors allegedly introduced inadmissible evidence in the perjury case of Roger Clemens with the intention of causing the mistrial that resulted.  Legal experts, or perhaps it was satirists, speaking on the condition of anonymity, made comparisons to the 1919 Chicago White Sox, eight members of which conspired to lose the World Series.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Satan Is Teal

Before it all went horribly wrong
I have an existential problem with the Florida Marlins, and I don't think I'm alone. In fact, I think I'm in good company in saying that the Marlins are the least interesting and least authentic team in baseball. Created to serve a market that doesn't want them and owned by a cynic who has shown no interest or aptitude for running a baseball team rather than, say, a downmarket grocery store, the Florida Marlins serve no earthly purpose save to "balance" the schedule.*

Aesthetically, they don't work either. How many teams are named after sea creatures? There are no Boston Lobsters, Houston Swordfish, or San Diego Spiny Crabs. Sure there are some minor league teams that use "Sharks" in one form or another, but Marlins? Oh, grrr, a fish, eek. Also, they wear lots of pale blue. Has a team in pale blue ever won anything of note? (This sounds like a job for Uni-Watch!)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

God Created Derek Jeter

Midwest League Awards (Western Division)

Modern Woodmen Park—best stadium in the MWL Western Division

You might think, with all the teams we've seen in our decade of traveling, that Rob and I might be a little closer to finishing up specific leagues or individual team systems. No such luck. Nearly every system has some far-flung outlier, and some more than one. For every Boise Hawks, there's a Tennessee Smokies (both in the Cubs system). Our failure to cover California and Florida yet is a real problem in this regard. We've hit all the teams on the Great Plains and in Texas, as well as many teams in the Deep South (depending on how you define it), but there are still gaps aplenty.

So it's nice to be able to say that with the conclusion of our Chicago–Omaha trek, we have now made it through the entire Western Division of the Midwest League: Beloit, Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Kane County, Peoria, Quad Cities, and Wisconsin. The only hiccup in there is that we saw Beloit separately—I went in 2002 (with our old friend Red) and 2008 (with Watson), Rob went last week. Red and I went to Peoria in 2003 as well, and Watson and I saw the Cougars last year, too.

So with that all behind us, here's a highlight from each; the winners all receive an imaginary Golden Corn Weenie (you know, like a corn dog):

Rattler Riddle

How can the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers claw their way back when they don't even have hands, or paws, or whatever?  Yet that is what the team did against the Beloit Snappers, hosting on Independence Day the 31st game of their 30th Season.

Not that the home team didn't put up a fight.  The mascot may be named Snappy but the team could be called "scrappy."

Chicagoland Double-Header

Last Sunday, Melvin and Watson woke up in their own bed (and I woke up down the hall in the guest room).  Melvin and I had a relatively easy day planned.  We would head first to Wrigley Field for an interleague game between the Cubs and White Sox, then drive west to see the Kane County Cougars take on the Quad City River Bandits.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Apocalypse Iowa

It was hazy, hot and humid on the Saturday of Independence Day weekend; arguably a beautiful summer day in the Midwest.  And yet, something seemed not right.  Melvin, Watson and I would not fully understand until we attended that evening’s game between the Clinton Lumberkings and the Quad City Bandits.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Is Anyone Out There?

Outbound from Cedar Rapids on Friday morning, we drove around in the woods northwest of North Liberty, Iowa, before we found the Very Large Baseline Array antenna shown above. This is one of a dozen or so across the country, most of which are at the main location in Socorro, New Mexico, which we drove through in April. Here, we got up closer. The antenna itself is operated from Socorro, and there was no one hanging around the maintenance shack here. Collectively, the antennas are used to simulate a 5000-mile-wide telescope (hence the "Very Large" part of the name). The project website claims that its power is equivalent to being able to stand in New York and read a newspaper in Los Angeles. The mission statement says absolutely nothing about military or espionage capabilities. We probably won't make it to all ten antennas, but Owens Valley, California, is a possibility....

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Many Fields of Dreams

Many of the destinations Melvin and I visit are somebody’s dream. The attraction can be rational or unbalanced, well-executed or ragged, but they are part of the cultural landscape because someone had a dream. “If you build it, they will come.” We heeded the call, then towards the end of the day went to see the Cedar Rapids Kernals take on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.