Sunday, August 28, 2011

Myrtle Beach Trip Report

After my trip to Phoenix, my dad and I flew up to Myrtle Beach and met up with my mom, sister, grandma, and granddad, at my grandparents’ condo in Myrtle Beach. My family goes up there once every year, and I always really enjoy the trip. This week I have posted my trip report.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans:

A couple of days before the end of our trip, my dad, granddad, and I went to see the Myrtle Beach Pelicans play. The Pelicans are, for the first time, the High-A affiliate of the Rangers this year (in previous years they were a Braves affiliate). We go see a Pelicans game every summer, so I was very excited to see the Rangers’ prospects there.

It ended up being an amazing night.

I had gotten to know Chuck Greenberg, the Pelicans’ owner, from his days with the Rangers last year (my interview with Chuck last August is at I shot him an e-mail the day before I went to the game to see if he would be there, and while he said no, he wasn’t in town, he did get me in touch with the Pelicans’ GM, Scott Brown. Scott was extremely nice and set me up to be on the Pelicans’ pre-game show on the jumbotron. However, since it was raining that day (causing a 40 minute rain delay), the pre-game show never happened. Instead, I talked with the Pelicans’ radio play-by-play broadcaster, Tyler Maun, who also does the pre-game show, before the game. He told me that he’d like to have me on the radio for part of the game, which is broadcast on the Myrtle Beach ESPN radio station. Obviously, I was excited.

He told me to come up in the bottom of the 2nd, so I watched the first inning from our seats. At the top of the 2nd, we made our way up to the press box and found the radio booth. After the top of the inning, Tyler invited me into the booth, gave me a headset, and started interviewing me when the inning resumed. I was on the air with him through the end of the 3rd inning, so I got to be on the broadcast for an inning and a half. It was so much fun and I really, really enjoyed it. While I was on air, I realized that Tyler Maun was a very good play-by-play guy, with a good voice for it and skilled at providing descriptions of the plays. He is also a very nice person with deep baseball knowledgeable. I think he should be considered for the open broadcasting spot for the Rangers this off-season.

I put a couple of segments of my time on the radio broadcast on YouTube here and here.

A couple of innings after we got back to our seats, Scott Brown (the Pelicans GM) came to our seats to introduce himself. He is really great guy and very friendly. We talked with him for a little while, and then he took me down to the gift shop and gave me a Pelicans t-shirt (actually, a shirt from the Rangers spring training game in the stadium earlier in the year), which was really nice of him.

We also realized that Jon Daniels was at the game, as we saw him sitting a few rows in front of us. I said hello to him and was able to talk with him for a few minutes between innings. He was in the area for a few days, watching Hickory and Myrtle Beach.

It was just an all-around great night. I would like to thank Chuck, Scott, and Tyler for all of their friendliness and hospitality. I was amazed at how generous everyone was.

However, while my night was great, the Pelicans’ night wasn’t so great. The Pelicans lost to the Kinston Indians 9-3, and Kennil Gomez had a very poor start for Myrtle Beach, going 4.2 innings, allowing 7 runs, 4 earned, on 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 hit batsmen. The offense didn’t do much either, as Vincent DiFazio was the only one who had a good night at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a home run.

If you’re ever in South Carolina, I recommend seeing a Pelicans game. They have a very nice ballpark. It’s one of the better minor league parks I have been to. They have very wide seats there, which is nice. They also have a good amusement area out in left field for small kids, with a bounce house. They have lots of Pelicans history along the concourse, including a spot where they have a plaque for every Pelican who has ever played in the major leagues and banners showing every Opening Day line-up the Pelicans have ever had. It’s always a fun experience.


Every year when we go down to Myrtle Beach, my dad, granddad, and I have a putt-putt competition. Myrtle Beach has what has to be about the best putt-putt in the world. This year we went to 9 different courses, which were:

1. Mutiny Bay – a pirate-themed course with a show in which a pirate ship on the water and a fort shoot cannonballs at each other, making big splashes in the water, and in which the fort eventually gets hit and shoots up fire.

2. Mayday – an airplane-themed course with some very tough holes, and lots of much-needed shade.

3. Dinosaur Adventure – obviously a dinosaur themed course, which really isn’t all that good, as there is no shade, and just a few dinosaurs, only one of which moves.

4. Dragon’s Lair – a medieval times themed course, which is really awesome, as you play in a castle with turrets for some of the holes. There is also a hole with a jester that makes jokes and laughs at you, and there is a show with a dragon.

5. Molten Mountain – this one is volcano-themed, and has half of its holes indoors and air-conditioned, which makes it fantastic.

6. Lost Treasure – in this course you go through ancient ruins and dinosaur fossils and old pirate towns, and kind of follow in an archaeologist’s, named Professor Hacker, footsteps. You start every game by taking a small ride on a mine train through caves, where you see explorers digging for gold. The ride drops you off at the first hole.

7. Captain Hook – a Peter Pan themed course, in which you play holes in the Lost Boys’ cave, or in Captain Hook’s boat (complete with an audio-animatronic Captain Hook and crocodile), or by an audio-animatronic Peter Pan. It is a very neat course. In one cave, you can hear Tinker Bell calling out for help. If you follow the voice, it takes you to Captain Hook’s cabin, where you can see an animated Tinker Bell trapped under glass, asking you to free her.

8. Jurassic Golf – this one is themed after Jurassic Park and is very, very neat, with many moving dinosaurs, and almost every hole is by either water, a dinosaur, or some sort of rock formation.

9. Hawaiian Rumble – another volcano-themed course, but this one only has 18 holes.

The competition was great this year, especially since I won. We use a point system, based on first and second place finishes. I was down by 1 point on my granddad going into the last day, but I had a great putting day to come back and win the tournament for the second straight year.


When we first arrived, our first meal was Georgio’s Pizza, like it is every year. Georgio’s is probably the best pizza I’ve ever had. I ate sausage and pepperoni pizza.

Staying with food and pizza, we also ate at Ultimate California Pizza on our trip (which is not associated with California Pizza Kitchen). We also go there every year, and their pizza is great, too, although not quite up to Georgio’s caliber. I got the Hollywood, which is a pizza with 4 different meats.

Obviously we went down to the beach every day, since we were staying in Myrtle Beach in a condo with an ocean-view. We normally would do putt-putt in the morning, hang around in the afternoon when the beach was packed and hot, and then go down to the beach in the evening. Most nights when we would go down to the beach, my 6-year-old sister, Kate, and I, would play in the sand, jump waves, and then go into the lazy river before going back up to the room.

One afternoon, my mom, dad, sister, and I went to Pirate’s Voyage, a dinner show where pirates have competitions. Unfortunately, our side lost, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the outcome was decided beforehand. Anyways, the food was good, and my little sister really enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, it was eventually time to come home and start school again. But it was a great way to end the summer.

Come back next week for my August Awards.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Phoenix Trip Report

Last week my dad and I took our annual baseball trip, this time to Phoenix. While there, I got to see games at the Diamondbacks’ stadium (Chase Field) plus a couple of Arizona Rookie League games.

Sunday, August 7th:

My dad and I had an extremely early flight that left at 6:00 in the morning, which forced me to wake up at 3:30 AM, which is always loads of fun. We got to the airport around 4:30, and everything went very smoothly, with no delays or anything. Due to the time difference, we arrived in Phoenix at 6:30am local time but were lucky enough to be able to check into our hotel, Embassy Suites, early. We also got to eat breakfast there, and their breakfast is amazing. They have outstanding omelets, very good bacon and sausage, and good potatoes.

We left the hotel around 10:30am to get to the Diamondbacks stadium when the gates opened at 11:00 for a 1pm game. The D-backs stadium is Chase Field and is very nice. When we got there, we walked around the outside of the stadium to see if there was anything interesting to see. The west side of the stadium has a plaza with a large number of plaques set in the ground detailing big moments in baseball history. There are also a few plaques detailing big moments in Diamondbacks’ history, including their first game, their first win, their first playoff appearance, and their World Series appearance and championship. Personally, I think they should only have their franchise’s history, as it seems a stretch to me to have plaques’ about baseball history that has nothing to do with their team. Also, there are lots of other big Diamondbacks’ moments that they don’t mention, such as their 2002 and 2007 playoff appearances and Randy Johnson’s perfect game and Cy Young awards. I’d rather see that information when outside the D-backs’ stadium than information about Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters for the Reds, which happened decades before the local team existed. The history is a nice touch, I just think it could have been executed better. Another idea would be to include information about Cactus League spring training history, sort of like the Rays have leading up to their stadium in Tampa.

We went inside when the gates opened. I was very impressed by their ballpark. It was nice and it was air-conditioned, as they have a retractable roof, and has lots of nice little touches. Out in right field, where we came in, they have Uptown, named for their star player, Justin Upton. They have lots of Upton pictures and Uptown signs. As we walked around the outfield we saw the pool in right-center field, and walked behind their ginormous scoreboard, which is out in dead center. Out in left field, they have a burger stand called Fatburger, which is a burger franchise that hasn’t made its way to Dallas yet. We stopped and ate there. My dad and I both agreed that it was a good burger. They also have open concourses, which means you can see the game even when getting concessions, and wide concourses. As we were walking around, we saw a great variety of food, almost all of it good. The ballpark also had a very good old-timey feel to it with the brick walls. When we went to the upper deck, we took a look at the kids play area, which had a wiffle ball park, batting cages, and a couple of other things. Right next to the play area, the Diamondbacks had Baxter’s house. Baxter is the Diamondbacks mascot, a bobcat, and his house was very detailed. They had a hole in the wall for his mouse, a fridge stocked with food, and lots of other small details. There is an area out front for the kids to meet Baxter in.

The team did a good job displaying their playoff appearances and championship. In the entry plaza, there’s a display case where you can see their championship trophy from 2001, along with other memorabilia from those games (jerseys, bats, balls). There’s also a TV above the display case showing highlights from the 2001 World Series. Inside the stadium, their four division championships, their NL pennant, and their championship are prominently displayed and easy to see and read. Compare this to the Rangers ballpark, where the Rangers fly tiny flags for each of their playoff appearances, including an AL championship flag that cannot possibly be read from the stands.

The one thing that I didn’t like about Chase Field was how cavernous it felt. The upper deck probably went up about 50 rows, and it felt a little like a football stadium because of that.

We also got to see a very good game. The Dodgers were in town to play Arizona and the pitching match-up was Clayton Kershaw vs. Ian Kennedy, both teams’ aces. The Diamondbacks scored two runs in the bottom of the first on a Kelly Johnson 2-run home run to take the lead. The 2-0 score stayed that way until the top of the 5th, when a Dodgers solo home run by James Loney cut the lead in half. Kennedy would struggle in the next inning, too, allowing 2 runs, both earned, in the 6th. Ian also pitched the 7th, and his final line was 7 innings, 3 earned runs, 3 K. The Dodgers didn’t hold their 3-run lead long, though, as Cody Ransom hit his 1st home run of the season on a 2-run shot in the bottom of the 7th off of Clayton Kershaw, which sent him to the showers. David Hernandez and JJ Putz each pitched a scoreless inning to finish the game.

With this game, I have now been to 26 of the current 30 major league ballparks (plus a few retired ones). All that I have left are the Marlins, Mariners, A’s, and Giants.

After the game, my dad and I drove to the Pink Pony, a very good steak place in Scottsdale that has some baseball memorabilia. But they were closed on Sundays, which was very disappointing, as we were both looking forward to it. We then ended up eating at the Embassy Suites manager reception, and got a quesadilla, which was mediocre. After dinner, we went and hung out in our hotel room.

Monday, August 8th:

When we woke up on Monday morning, we once again got to eat the awesome Embassy Suites breakfast. They may just have the best breakfast anywhere, and it’s at a hotel.

After we ate, we drove out to Surprise to see an Arizona League Rangers rookie game. It felt like Spring Training, driving up to Surprise and going to the Rangers’ backfields. It was a really fun and very different experience. They played the game at one of the Rangers backfields at their Spring Training complex (Nolan Ryan Field). We were the only fans there. All of the players who weren’t playing in the game were just sitting in the stands watching it. The Rangers won the game 4-3, and the star of the game was definitely Luis Mendez, the Rangers shortstop who not only played great defense, but homered and drove in 3 of the Rangers’ 4 runs. Like Mendez, Jimmy Swift, the second baseman, played outstanding defense in the game. The Rangers’ starter, Abel De Los Santos, also played a very good game, going 5 innings and allowing no runs, while striking out 5.

After the game, we stayed in Surprise to eat lunch at NYPD, New York Pizza Department. We go there every year during Spring Training, and we always love their pizza. Like normal, the pizza there was great, and as always, we ordered pepperoni and sausage.

When we got back to Phoenix, we stayed at the hotel for a couple of hours, and then went to the movie theater to see Captain America, which was great. It was one of the best, if not the best, movie this summer, in my opinion. It was a very old theater and didn’t even have stadium seating, but that didn’t end up mattering, as it was my dad, me, and only one other guy in the theater.

Tuesday, August 9th:

We woke up fairly early on Tuesday morning for a 9:30 AM tour of Chase Field. We got there earlier than we wanted to, which was fine, since we got to watch this neat contraption they had in front of the entrance. It had all sorts of ramps, with lots of balls going around them. Sometimes, the balls would trigger movement, like a circle of fans doing the wave or making a baseball player swing.

Only two people besides us went on the tour. The tour took us around the lower level, up to the club level, which was very nice, into the press box, into a suite, down into the tunnels, and into the dugout. We learned a lot about the ballpark on the tour. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes. After the tour, we ate lunch at Friday’s, which is actually in the ballpark, and got a table overlooking the field. It’s always cool eating at a restaurant that overlooks the ballpark. I wish the Rangers still had one. We just got an appetizer as we weren’t really that hungry.

After we ate, we drove to Goodyear to see an Arizona League Reds game. It was also played on the backfields, but this time the Reds’ ones. My dad and I walked around some, and the Reds have some really nice backfields. We got to the game at about the 4th inning and stayed there until it ended. The Padres beat the Reds, 7-3, with all of the games runs being scored in the 6th inning or later.

Once the game was over, we drove back to the Phoenix area, and after a couple of hours at the hotel, we headed back over to Chase Field for a Diamondbacks game. This time we sat in the club level, and the Diamondbacks have a great one. It is very old-timey looking, with bricks and powdery looking glass windows. It is also very comfortable, with nice furniture and lots of comfortable places to sit and eat. The concourse of the club level is basically a large air conditioned hallway, meaning that it’s always climate controlled, even when the roof is open. They definitely have a better club level than the Rangers.

This time, Arizona hosted the Astros, and had Jason Marquis pitching against Jordan Lyles. This one was a really good game. After the Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning, the Astros dominated innings 2-4. They scored 1 in the second, 3 in the third, and 3 in the fourth. JD Martinez and Brian Bogusevic each homered in the 3rd, while Carlos Lee and Humberto Quintero also picked up RBI singles in innings 2-4. Bogusevic also had an RBI double. However, from that point forward, it was almost all Arizona, as they scored 4 in the bottom of the 5th, on a Justin Upton 2-RBI double and a Miguel Montero 2-RBI single. The Diamondbacks also scored 4 runs in the 6th inning, and Upton was a big contributor again, this time with a 2-run homer. Earlier in the inning, Willie Bloomquist had hit a 2-RBI single. The Astros did score a run in the top of the 7th, though, to make it a one-run game on a Jimmy Paredes home run. The Diamondbacks weren’t done scoring runs though, as they scored 2 runs in the 8th inning with RBI doubles from both Ryan Roberts and Kelly Johnson, making the Astros’ lone run in the 9th unimportant. The final score was Diamondbacks 11, Astros 9, and it was tied for the biggest comeback in franchise history.

Wednesday, August 10th:

We once again had a very early flight, this time at around 7:00. We had to wake up at 4:15 and it was too early to enjoy an Embassy Suites breakfast. Once again, the flight went very smoothly. It was a great trip overall.

Come back next week for a Myrtle Beach trip report.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Rangers Trade Analysis - Deadline Deals

This week the Rangers made two trades before the trading deadline, and I will analyze both of them.

On July 30th, the Rangers acquired RP Koji Uehara and cash from the Orioles in exchange for 1B/3B Chris Davis and SP Tommy Hunter.

Evaluation: I really like this trade. Koji Uehara is a fantastic relief pitcher, one of the best in all of baseball, and the Rangers desperately needed relief help. Koji has a 1.72 ERA on the year, following up a good year last year in which he posted a 2.86 ERA. He has also struck out 64 batters in 48 innings this season and has held opponents to a .150 average, which is incredible. He will probably also be a Ranger next year, as his contract vests with about 10 more appearances this year for 2012. He has a 3.01 career ERA.

Meanwhile, the Rangers didn’t have to give up a whole lot to get him. I don’t think Chris Davis would ever have been a consistent role player for the Rangers, and I think if he plays well for the Orioles, it will have happened due to the change of scenery. Chris has a career .247 batting average, but has not had a good year in the majors since his rookie year in 2008 when he hit .285 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs. In 2009, he hit .238 with 21 homers and 59 RBIs. In 2010, he really struggled, batting .192 with just 1 home run and 4 RBIs in 120 at-bats, and before the trade this year, he was hitting .250 with 3 home runs and 6 RBIs.

Tommy Hunter is a bigger loss than Davis, but I don’t think he will be missed too much. Tommy was a solid pitcher, with a 4.36 career ERA, but I think that he has reached his ceiling. I don’t think he’ll ever be much more than a #4 or #5 pitcher in a rotation, and the Rangers’ starting pitching is really stacked right now. The Rangers have Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, and Neftali Feliz as young pitchers with lots of potential in the majors right now that could be in the rotation next year to go along with Colby Lewis. Also, there is a good chance they re-sign CJ Wilson out of free agency, and they also have Martin Perez, one of the top prospects in baseball in Triple-A right now.

Grade: A+, the Rangers got a lot in this deal, but didn’t have to give up much to get it

On July 31st, the Rangers acquired RP Mike Adams from the Padres in exchange for SP Robbie Erlin and SP Joe Wieland.

Evaluation: I’m not as sure about this trade as I was about the Uehara deal. I really like Mike Adams, and think he is a great addition, but the Rangers gave up two major prospects to get him. However, Mike is arguably the best setup man in baseball, with an unbelievable 1.13 ERA in 48 innings this season. He has struck out 49 batters and held them to a .155 batting average this year. Mike has been dominant each of the past four years, posting ERAs of 2.48, 0.73, 1.76, and 1.13. Also, he has closer stuff and is an obvious candidate to step into Feliz’s closer role if Neftali goes to the rotation next year, as Adams is signed through 2012, which is another key part of this trade.

But while Mike Adams is a big addition, Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland are very significant losses. At this point Erlin and Wieland were probably the Rangers’ #2 and #3 pitching prospects, and while neither probably will ever be an ace, they are pretty surely going to be very solid #2-4 guys in a good rotation. After a great season in 2010, when Robbie Erlin had an ERA of 2.12 and struck out 125 batters in 114.2 innings, all of them with Low-A Hickory, Robbie started off 2011 with High-A Myrtle Beach. Erlin dominated with the Pelicans, and quickly got called up to Double-A Frisco after just 54.2 innings in which he had a 2.14 ERA. Since the call-up however, Robbie has struggled a bit, with a 4.32 ERA in 66.2 innings with the RoughRiders.

Joe Wieland, on the other hand, has been fantastic ever since he was called up to Frisco earlier this season, with a 1.23 ERA in Double-A before the trade. His last start in the Rangers organization was a no-hitter against the San Antonio Missions. He was called up earlier this year after starting off the season very well with Myrtle Beach, posting a 2.10 ERA in 85.2 innings of work. 2011 was a big improvement from last year for Joe, who pitched well in Low-A Hickory in 2010 with a 3.34 ERA, before struggling in the hitter-friendly California League with High-A Bakersfield, where his ERA spiked to 5.19. With his performance this year, Joe has quickly climbed most prospect rankings.

Grade: B, this was a great deal for the next couple of years, but the Rangers gave up two very good pitching prospects to get this deal done

Come back next week for my July Awards.